Some Good News – Pastor Greg

Seems like all we hear these days is bad news. Riots, pandemic stats, violence, etc.… Makes us want to shut it all off and just go away for a while. We long for some good news, something that lets us know that it is not all doom and gloom. We want to hear that someone is building up rather than tearing down, that progress is being made in something that matters. Well, do you realize that God is doing a thing on this earth that defies the very gates of hell? That lives are being saved and that the enemy of our souls is losing ground? Here is an example:

“Friday, August 7th, the Amdu missionaries (Ethnos360 in Papua New Guinea) completed the chronological teaching (Creation to Christ) for the very first time in the Amdu language. Since then, a good number of the people have shared clear testimonies about God forgiving their sin and giving them eternal life because of their faith in Jesus. From an older lady, ‘I can’t stop thinking about all you have taught us. My heart is just so light!… Jesus came and died and his blood took away my sin.’

Then, a few days later the Wantakia (Ethnos360 in Papua New Guinea) team wrapped up the teaching and presented the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. As a result of meeting with folks who attended the lessons, the missionaries are hearing new believers express their delight in and thanksgiving for what God has done through Jesus Christ.” 

– Rex Schaffner

Also, August 23rd, we witnessed the baptism of Noah, a Chinese exchange student, at Dave and Mary Lou’s pool. He has come to know Christ through the faithful witness of believers here in Jackson County! He is now a brother in the Lord and will be heading back to China as an ambassador of Christ. We also have sent out our first Cornerstone Community Church missionaries, the Bellers! They are now in the DR serving with Freedom International. I am excited to see what God does through Riley and Margaret! 

You see, it’s easy to focus on the bad news (it does sell better than good news after all), but God is not done with His work on this planet. God is still building His church. The following verses are examples of the purpose and plan of God. 

(Isiah 55:11) So is my word that goes out from my mouth It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

(Matthew 16:18) And I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

These verses and many others give us hope. Hope that the evil and darkness of this world will not overcome the light and beauty that God desires to bring to a fallen humanity. We have hope because He IS building His church, and His word WILL NOT return to Him empty. The awesome thing is that we get to participate with Him. We have been given that message of hope and reconciliation. We are to be bearers of the light in this dark place and as things get harder our light will shine brighter.

What is the goal?  Read this:

God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  Revelation 21:3-4

Amen?! What good news. These are words of hope and expectation as we move forward in time. So let’s not grow weary in doing good. God has promised that we will reap a harvest at the right time if we don’t give up (Gal. 6:9). I just thought we could all use some good news in the middle of a lot of bad news. 

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