Cheap Replacement – by Pastor Greg

After I graduated from college, I worked in the family jewelry business. We sold, along with a variety of jewelry, Rolex watches. These timepieces were works of art – the precision and detail were stunning. Most were made of gold and steel and some were diamond encrusted. One day a man walked into the store and requested a new battery for his Rolex. The moment he made his request I knew we had a problem. You see, a “real” Rolex uses the motion of a person’s hand to move a perpetual rotor that winds a mainspring in the watch. No batteries. I informed the gentleman that his watch was not a Rolex. He was not happy and in fact didn’t believe me until I showed him a real Rolex and a comparison could be made. He had bought what he thought was genuine, only to find out it was a fake (he had spent good money, too!) He had been fooled by a deceiver and had lived with that lie until the batteries had run out and the truth was revealed.

There have been times I have been deceived and have “bought” the lie of an untrustworthy source. Sometimes it happens without me being aware that I am being duped. But sometimes I like the lie better than the truth. Either way I am relying on something that is not reliable.

The Oxford Dictionary states that idolatry is extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone (other than God). The apostle John writes at the very end of his first epistle a warning: “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” (1 John 5:21, NLT)

Why would John write that at the end of his letter? Seems like an afterthought or an “oh by the way…” When we think of idols, we often imagine some figure of stone with a pagan bowing before it. But what is idolatry anyway? Do we see it today? Aren’t we much more sophisticated than that? Well, not really. Romans chapter one shows us the pattern of idolatry. God has made some basic things evident about Himself in creation but man (that’s us) did not honor God or give thanks to Him, but came up with some really dumb ideas and exchanged these ideas in the place of God. We removed God from His rightful place and put something else in that place. In other words, a cheap replacement. So, God allows us to go our own way with all the corresponding repercussions, the spiral downward in both our minds and our morality. We see this played out in our own society where God has been replaced by a natural worldview. God is banned from our institutions of learning and government. The downward spiral of the mind and morality is on display as we move further and further away.

But this is just for those who do not know Christ, right? Unfortunately, no – this is still possible for the Christian, hence the word of admonition from the Apostle John at the end of his letter. There are many things that exist which clamor for our affections, trust and adoration. Many times, these things are not wrong in and of themselves but can take on an idolatrous form. Praise and worship belong to God; idolatry is stealing that which belongs to Him and giving it to another.

How do I know if something is an idol in my life? Well, what happens to my world when the batteries run out? I.e. when the job is lost, my team loses, or my health is threatened. On what do I depend for my security? How far do I go to maintain and control my world? What am I willing to sacrifice to keep things running well? What gets most of my attention, time and energy? I think we get the idea.

Jesus Christ is due all my trust, dedication and love. Anything that takes the place of what is rightly due Him is an idol, dear friends. May we guard ourselves from them.

July Article – Pastor Greg

Racism: Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.  -Oxford Dictionary. 

What a year we are having. First a pandemic and now riots and upheaval due to anger over racism. As I have thought about what to write I wondered if I should even broach the subject. There are so many opinions, and extraordinarily strong ones at that. What does God say about racism? Actually, not very much specifically. Race or ethnicity is mentioned in the book of Revelation under the title of “nations” or “tongues” as those who are to be saved from these various people groups. The church is commanded to go to “all the world” and preach the gospel, not excluding any group. The two groups of peoples most often referred to in Scripture are the Jews, and everybody else (gentiles). We see languages created as a result of man’s rebellion at the tower of Babel in Genesis. So, God does recognize differences in language, culture and His special calling out of a particular group of people for His purpose. But the overwhelming truth of God’s word reveals that we are all of one race – the human race.   

When God created man He said, regarding what He had made, “it is very good”. God’s ultimate creation was man, not the universe, not the earth, nor any of the animals. God created man in His image (Gen. 1:26). Humans are the image-bearers of God, though that image has been marred by sin. People are precious to God and all people are special. This fact has not diminished nor changed. In fact, we see God doing everything necessary to redeem His creation and get His family back. 

So, what about racism? What is it? How should we respond to it? In a word, racism is sin. It is the outworking of the sinfulness of a rebel’s heart. Hatred is an inherent part of fallen man and has been with us since Cain killed Abel out of jealousy. It is pride, considering myself better than others simply because they are not like me. It is not new nor will it be eradicated until the sinfulness of man is finally removed when Christ returns. The idea of people being inferior to each other is a concept completely and utterly foreign to God’s design. Racial injustice should be condemned and eradicated. The goal of seeing all people equal and treating them on that basis is noble. The goal of removing racism in our institutions is worth our best efforts and energy. Lofty as these goals are, they fall short. We as believers should be at the forefront of seeing these changes made in our society, but if this is all we do, then our best efforts are insufficient.

The solution to man’s sinfulness is simple yet infinitely profound. Paul made that clear when he stated that “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). His ministry was that of reconciliation, stating that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. The Lord has given Paul (and us) that word of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18, 19). The answers to racism do not lie with the world nor its lofty goals but with the message that Christ died to save sinners. Often this is not the answer that people want to hear, but it is the only answer that will effect real change. Our nation is one that has removed God from the public discourse. It has embraced the god of humanism and materialism. As a nation, the slaughter of millions of unborn children does not even warrant a glance except when it is highlighted by those who love life. Our nation is a pagan land worshiping at the altar of man. So, for those who know The Way, the Truth and the Life, we have a great opportunity. We are here on this earth with a commission to take the Gospel of the glorious light of Jesus to our own dark land. We must be bold and clear; our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12). The stakes are too high to do otherwise. 

-Pastor Greg

Who Am I? (June Article) – Pastor Greg

How much time do we take looking at ourselves in a mirror? Why do we do that? Sometimes it is simply to make sure our hair is not messed up or to straighten a tie. Sometimes it is because we want to change something we might not like or to see how we look. During these times we often measure ourselves by what we see and then make a judgement about whether it is good or bad. We do this daily and at times it affects how we view ourselves and our place in the world. 

Our identity is often formed in a similar way, we compare ourselves with someone or something outside of ourselves and then make a judgement whether it is good or bad. We then feel good or bad by the judgments we make regarding our view of our self. 

I read an author, Dennis McCallum, who expressed it this way; “Suppose nothing existed in the universe except you. There you are floating in a transparent bubble in the midst of infinite, empty space. What would your identity be? What would you consider important? Suppose you asked yourself, ‘Would I be considered tall or short?’ Tall or short compared to what? Ideas like tall and short or smart or dense come from your perception of yourself relative to others. The point is your sense of identity depends on definitions and values that originate outside of yourself.”

The problem with establishing our identity this way is that our reference points are also relative and finite. How do I know what the standard is and what can be considered as real or true?

Often when you meet someone for the first time one of the first questions that is asked is “what do you do?” It is a question that we ask to break the ice and to get a point of reference regarding how to relate with this new person. Most of the time the answers will be, “I’m a plumber, or I’m a banker or I’m a teacher”. We state that we are what we do. While we would not say that is the total of our identity, it is a big part. When those things are gone through job loss or retirement or any other major life change, we can lose our sense of identity. Again, this reference point is outside of our selves. 

God is an external reference point, but He is infinite and unlimited, He is also universal or absolute rather than relative. What He says about you and me matters the most since He is that perfect fixed point. For the believer, God has declared a host of things that are true of you and that define you. His view is the true view regardless of how you or I feel or what others say about me. 2 Corinthians 10:12 says, “When people measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.” So the question is, what does God say about me? Glad you asked. Here are but a few of the things that God says are true of you.

You are in Christ, that means you are identified with Him. This took place when you first believed the Gospel and trusted Christ as your savior. The Creator of the universe views you as having the same standing before Him as his Son Jesus does! This was something that God did and is now true of you as His child. This is true because God says it is true. “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Romans 6:4-5) And His opinion is the one that matters. 

Another truth is that because you have been justified (declared legally righteous), you now have peace with God. This is something that will never go away no matter what you do since you did nothing to get it!  (Romans 5:1) As a result you are now looked on with favor and there is no condemnation! (Romans 8:1)

There are so many more truths about you and who God says you are. It is a journey of joy as you investigate God’s word to discover what He thinks. Our God is a creator God, He makes all things new. The old things have passed away, behold new things have come – and that includes you and me. So embark on a journey of discovery, look into God’s Word, and learn about this wonderful new creation called “you”.

-Pastor Greg