Lent Blog – Luke 15:11-32

“A Father and His Two Sons” – Luke 15:11-32
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. 

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 

31 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” 

     When I first read the parable of the Prodigal Son, as a new believer, I found myself relating to the prodigal and even resenting the figure of the self-righteous brother. Years later, as I found myself a bit more self-righteous in my faith, I could relate to the second brother – resenting the father for not giving me the credit I felt I was due. Now, that I am a father, the parable seems much more clear.

     Although Jesus told this parable so that we can find ourselves in the shoes of the two sons, his goal is more about our response to the father – the person this parable is actually about.

     You might be able to summarize this parable by saying, “A son who wants to take, a son who wants to earn, and a father who wants to give.” The first son is dissatisfied with what he has taken, the life he chose apart from the father. The second son is resentful because he can’t earn more, disregarding what he has with the father. As the story shows, the father has always given both sons everything they need and more. They lack no possessions, they lack no position, and they lack no profession of his love. As the story implies, they focus on themselves – while the father is focused on them.

     Now that I’m a dad, I can see a little more of the story. Is there anything I wouldn’t do for my daughter? Is there anything she could do to earn more of my love? Is there anything she could do to lose it? Absolutely not. She will always have all that I can give her. She will always have a place at the table. And I will always welcome her, and call her back when she leaves. How much more is this true of a perfect Father? Of a Father that doesn’t run out of patience?

 I can see now that I am like both sons. When I am wayward, Jesus always welcomes me back with arms wide open. Not only does he accept me back, he celebrates and is filled with joy. When I am self-righteous, he asks me to see through his eyes and his joy. Now matter what, he is calling me to communion. He is calling me back to unity, to friendship, to intimacy with the Father (my God) who lifts me up and seats me at His table with honor that I cannot earn or lose. If I cannot earn it and I cannot lose it – if His love for me is so unchanging, then maybe the moral of the story of the Father and His two sons is simple. No matter where you are, who you are, or what you think you’ve done – come home. Come home, stay home, and welcome your brother home as well.

Tom Clark

Lent Blog – II Corinthians 5:16-21

Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

We can no longer see ourselves as chaplains of a society. We are now missionaries in this culture.”

-Jeff Roper

I graduated from the University of Sioux Falls with a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in drawing and sculpture. Which means for the next 8 years I worked in retail. At the end of every shift we would do something called “reconciling the till”. The cash register would print out a receipt telling us how much cash we’d received. We’d count every bill and coin, taking note of any shortage or overage and put that into a bag for the bank. What was left in the cash drawer was the amount we started with every morning. It was never less and never more than we originally intended…it was always the right amount. The mistakes of the day before were wiped out.

And this was what Jesus did for us on the cross. He looked at our messiness, mistakes and inability to achieve perfection and wiped it all away. He set our nature back to the way God had originally intended…new, untouched and without blemish. It is the same nature Adam and Eve had before the fall. Interestingly enough, that isn’t all He did. He didn’t just die on a cross for our sins. He didn’t just rise from the dead to defeat death. He sent an advocate, the Holy Spirit, to dwell within us so we can do as He did.

He has given us the ministry of reconciliation.

My wife and I are about to embark on one of the weirdest, scariest, bumpiest, faith and hope filled journeys with Jesus to date. Our next season involves selling our house, moving to Snohomish, WA and opening Center Public House: Washington State’s first nonprofit pub. As we look across the landscape of the Pacific Northwest we see that, to many people, church has passed being irrelevant and is quickly becoming the issue. Their view of the Church is not one of reconciliation but rather one of agitation. We see a large exodus from the standard contemporary church model. That’s not to say the contemporary model is wrong it’s saying there are droves of people falling through the cracks and never having the opportunity for reconciliation.

Initially we believed we were planting a church but the more we prayed about it the more we realized we were planting something much different. Many people go to bars for the very same reason many people go to church; to lament, to celebrate and to build community. A large number of these people (people created by our God to be loved and cherished) will never walk through the doors of a church. Most have never had a deep relationship with a Christ follower and only know what Christians believe by hearing sound bites on the news. They have no idea what real followers of Christ believe. They don’t know that we believe that God does not give us a spirit of fear but one of Power, Love and Self Control. They have no idea that the real evidence of a Christ follower is not our bumper stickers or the way we vote but by our Fruit and that Fruit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness and Self Control. They’ve never heard the Good News, only the bad news.

So we are raising funds right now to open this vision from God. Not only will we be able to speak reconciliation into people who will never darken the doorstep of a church right from behind the bar, we’ll also be bringing reconciliation to other nonprofits by giving away any profits to a series of local to international nonprofits. In addition to all of that, we’ll be setting up a fund to specifically bring reconciliation to the restaurant industry in our city. We have audacious goals. Some people will even call it ridiculous. Even others might say it’s dangerous. But we serve an audacious and ridiculous God who is rarely concerned with being “safe”. He’s called us to “go!” He’s called us to set the captives free. That looks different from person to person but one thing is for sure, we can no longer do that from the church pew. We must be a Church who take the ministry of reconciliation to the people. Sometimes that means feeding the homeless and other times that means having a pint.

Scott Wetzel

Check out more info the Wetzel’s non-profit pub plans at:
http://mynorthwest.com/874/2915347/Snohomish-could-be-getting-nonprofit-pub-that-plans-to-donate-all-profits-to-charity

Lent Blog – Psalm 32

Psalm 32 Blog Post

32 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up[b] as by the heat of summer. Selah

5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

6 Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.

7 You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.

11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

When I was a young boy, one of the grocery stores in my hometown sold bulk candy. One day when I went grocery shopping with my parents, we wandered through the different sections of the market. Eventually, we made our way to the bulk section that had many items like flour and seeds. What caught my eye was a small rectangular shape of brown, white, and pink stripes wrapped in cellophane. At the time, it may have reminded me of Neopolitan ice cream. There and then I decided I wanted a piece of that candy. So, I took one. I slyly put the piece of candy into my pocket without my parents seeing me. We finished our shopping and made our way home. By the time we got home, I could barely contain myself in the anticipation of eating the candy. I carefully unwrapped the candy’s cover and gobbled the candy in one bite. It was disgusting! I ran to the bathroom as the horrid taste of coconut covered my taste buds. Oh, the horror! My parents heard my commotion and quickly ran to find out what was happening to me. At that moment, I realized the situation I had put myself in. I had stolen a piece of candy and now I had to tell my parents. We sat down as a family and had a lengthy conversation. I explained to my parents my rationale: I saw the candy, I wanted the candy, I took the candy. But what I was realizing was the consequences of the decision I made. My parents saw the despair in both my explanation and my writhing reaction to coconut. They showed me grace by telling me if I wanted something, especially as small as a tiny piece of candy, all I had to do was ask. Ask and it would be given to me. In all of my scheming and plotting to take what I wanted, if I had listened to the instructions my parents gave me I would never have encountered the pain of my decision. Instead, I chose to take what wasn’t mine, cover up my discretion, leading me to seek forgiveness of my wrong doing. This is the forgiveness God gives each and every time we acknowledge, confess, and turn from our sins.

On one hand, we’re talking about a one cent piece of candy. On the other, we’re talking about breaking a commandment. David’s Psalm 32 is an instruction for us to comprehend sin and forgiveness. The first step in understanding the implications of forgiveness comes with finding an appropriate place for guilt. In verses 2 and 3, David lays out what guilt can do to you, both physically and mentally. Bones wasting away, groaning all day long, and strength drying up are just the beginning of the turmoil guilt can drive into your very being. In a society that is bound by keeping people innocent until proven guilty, Christians find themselves being instructed to confess your guilt so you can be shown to be innocent. Guilt has an appropriate place in a healthy relationship with God. When I am convicted of my actions being wrong, when that reminding feeling in the back of my mind nags at me, reminding me that something is off, it is there that guilt can lead me to a deeper understanding of what I’ve done wrong. This is a good place to start. This is a terrible place to end. By allowing guilt to reside within ourselves we let the guilt direct our decisions. Instead, let that guilt be a wake-up call, a realization that what you did was wrong and something needs to change!

Where did my guilt come from? Through the progress of my candy thievery, waves of guilt came over me as I realized the outcomes of my decision. I still to this day dislike the taste of coconut. Perhaps it’s a gentle reminder of this early episode of my sin. Then came the fear of my parents realizing what I had done. I didn’t want to tell them I had stolen the candy. Finally, the loneliness of knowing I had nowhere to turn because of my decision. All of these reactions were different levels of guilt that God used to convict me of my actions. When I asked for forgiveness of stealing the candy, I was forgiven because, as verse 5 says, I confessed my sins and my iniquity was not covered up anymore. If I would had allowed my guilt to fester within me and hound me over and over again, this would not have been from the Lord. It is Satan that continues to remind us of our sins, even after they are forgiven. When we hold on to our sins, we drive deeper and deeper into them, many times making us feel we have no way out.

In the moment my parents found out I stole the candy and they showed they loved me by forgiving me, my heart was crushed. I was completely humbled to the point of no escape, because I realized how wrong my actions were. I knew what I had done was wrong and in my grief displaying the understanding of my guilt, my heart was contrite. Contrition is the deep, sorrowful acknowledgment of wrongdoing in light of God’s law and love. Simply saying “sorry” doesn’t fix the hurt guilt can bring. It is through contrition that we can feel and understand the magnitude of our sin and through that understanding receive forgiveness.

For those who trust in the Lord and acknowledge, reveal, and confess their sins, God will instruct and teach in the way you should go. Be glad in the Lord! Rejoice in the Lord! Find joy in the Lord! This is what David says we should do and God will surround us with his love. Listening to God may not always be our first reaction. We may even have a nagging voice that says to turn from what what’s right to find a path that is easier and presumably safer. It is in these moments that we need to cling firmly to the Lord and listen to his words. By confessing our sins, we are free of our guilt. It’s gone. It is no more. There is nothing better than the feeling of complete and total forgiveness which is offered freely to those who confess and ask for forgiveness from the Lord.

Matt Boushey

Lent Blog – Joshua 5:9-12

Remember and Tell

Joshua 5:9-12

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the shame of your slavery in Egypt.” So that place has been called Gilgal to this day.

While the Israelites were camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, they celebrated Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month. The very next day they began to eat unleavened bread and roasted grain harvested from the land. No manna appeared on the day they first ate from the crops of the land, and it was never seen again. So from that time on the Israelites ate from the crops of Canaan.

In the first five chapters of Joshua, we find the Israelites crossing the dry bed of the Jordan River and creating a memorial right there in Gilgal. Now they were preparing to fight the battle of Jericho. But first, a pause. God tells Joshua to circumcise all the men, since none of fighting age were left from the disobedient ones, save Joshua and Caleb. After Joshua circumcised all the men, the Lord pronounces a new beginning, a renewal of covenant between Himself and His people. He reestablishes this covenant relationship between them with the celebration of Passover.

The Lord spends a lot of time in Scripture exhorting us to remember. In Gilgal, they memorialized the place where they crossed the dry riverbed so when their children saw the stones and asked the meaning, they could tell them. (Joshua 4:21ff)

We’ve always been told Passover is a time to reflect and remember. God had taken care of the needs of His children and He wanted them to tell the story of His provision to their children. Jesus celebrates Passover in the New Testament and becomes our Passover Lamb for the same reason: so that we will remember what He has done for us and tell the story. The Apostle Paul tells us when we take communion, the mark of the new covenant, we do it in remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

This past year has unveiled a new understanding for me of why God wants us to remember these stories. Yes, He wants us to understand who He is, how He cares for us. Yes, He wants us to obey Him. Yes, He wants us to remember His many miraculous as well as everyday provisions in our lives. But there’s another reason for us to remember.

When we remember what God has done for us, we never have to be afraid.

The remembrance of the past is often an excellent preparation for the trials of the future, and as often it proves a remarkable support under them.1

It’s when we forget how He has cared for us in the past, through storm, desert, and hardship that we languish in fear and anxiety. The children of Israel often lost their way because they forgot their stories of the Lord. But in repeating the stories of what He has done over and over, we remember that He continues to provide.

If you’re struggling through a storm, remember what God has done for you and tell the story. If troubles are so deep that you can’t remember your own story, read the story of Joshua today and tell it.

Debbie Lagassé

Lent Blog – I Cor. 10:1-13

March 4, 2016 1 Corinthians Chapter 10 vss 1-13
       1 For I do not want you to be unaware; brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea.2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.3 and all ate the same spiritual food;4 and all drank the same spiritual drink; for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.6 Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved.7 And do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play”.8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction ,upon whom the ends of the ages have come.12 Therefore let he who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.

         These letters from the apostle, Paul, to the church at Corinth were a general warning against sin, an educational reminder of the rescue of God’s Old Testament church (Israel) and specifically addressed the abuse of Christian privilege in the eating of meats that were offered as sacrifices to pagan idols. (covered in detail in the second half of chapter 10) The church at Corinth used the Old Testament scriptures as did all the early church, but were mostly gentiles, so Paul was reminding them of the rescue and redemption of Israel from their captors in Egypt . If you go back and read the account from the book of Exodus, that the cloud, also referred to as the pillar , was with them from the time they fled Egypt. This was much more than just a cloud as it offered protection from the sun during day along with humidity, and at night was a pillar of fire, giving light and heat. The sea was the Red Sea that was parted allowing them to cross over.

         In the next few verses, Paul , using the word all a lot, parallels Israel with the New Covenant Church. Why am I pointing out that he used the word all a lot? The reason is that he was emphasizing that all the people were redeemed, they all ate manna , all drank from the spiritual rock identified as Christ. The water food and water they were eating and drinking were real food and real water, provided to them spiritually (supernaturally). 

          Verse five cannot be ignored , such a sobering convicting statement.”With most them God was not well- pleased ; for they were laid low in the wilderness.” Laid low in the wilderness means died and were buried there. Of all who were freed from Egyptians, only two reached the “promised land”.

           The next verse , six, tells us that these things happened as an examples for us that we shouldn’t crave evil things. Most of us that grew up in the church have been warned by a parent, a Sunday teacher or a Pastor of dwelling on a particular sin , then indulging leads to it becoming easier and easier for us to commit, and then justify..  

            Many other translations identify the immorality, in verse eight, as sexual immorality, leading to the destruction of twenty-three thousand in one day.

             Verses nine and ten warn against trying God and grumbling.

             Verse twelve says be careful to those who believe they stand (on their own) you are probably going to fall. For the people of Israel , they were circumcised , kept the Sabbath , didn’t break any commandments. For the Christian, was dedicated , confirmed, baptized taught the Sunday School class. You see where I am going with this. None of the above things that were mentioned are bad or wrong .most absolutely essential, until we start to look at them the wrong way. 

              Is this relevant in the church today? Yes we face the same temptations and failures that Israel and the church at Corinth faced. We are bombarded with all these distractions each and everyday. Verse thirteen reminds us that, we don’t have to face temptation alone and God has provided a escape from it. I truly believe that Jesus should be our focus, not sin. Easy talk, not so easy walk.

              Father, we give you thanks today for your many blessings, your loving kindness and your faithfulness. I give you praise and honor for who you are and the life you’ve given through your Son, Jesus. I pray that you will restore our first love and give us a clean heart and a burden for those who are lost and dying within our community and the world. Let your light and love shine through us. We pray in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus.
– Jack Hubbart

Lent Blog – Isaiah 55:1-9

In the way of inspirational scriptures, Isaiah 55 is at the top of its game. It is literally called “Invitation to the Thirsty”, indicating that it is for those in need of something life giving. There is a lot that could be pulled from this scripture, but reading it today what is the most striking to me is the way that these verses call out how terribly equal we all are.

Come ALL you who are thirsty.”

This is a call to anyone in need of the life giving water that can only be given by Christ.

This is a call to every single person who has found themselves at the bottom of the barrel, the end of the rope, the end of themselves.

This is a call to anyone and everyone who is willing to put their pride and selfish interests down in order to receive until their cup runs over from the only being who can fully satisfy their hearts anyhow.

In these 6 words we see that God is no respecter of persons. He shows no favoritism or partiality. In these words he is simply offering every last one of His kids the opportunity to know Him and be known by Him. Not only that, but also that He wants to quench the never ending thirst of the soul, meaning any and every battle, struggle, stronghold, fight- all the anxiety that seems to come as part of the package of life, He wants to relieve that pressure for us!

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’” -Matthew 11:28

As important as it is for us to understand and remember this for ourselves, I think it is just as important to remember and apply them to the guy in front of you in traffic, who didn’t use his turn signal. The woman on the same corner she was on yesterday with the same sign asking for the same thing, namely your money. The irrationally rude Walmart clerk who seemed to be on a mission to make you just as miserable as him.

I could go on and on, but what I am trying to say is that we are all thirsty. Some of us may not know it, we may not have any idea why we are so hurt or how to make it better, or why we are so angry, or why we just cannot seem to get some portion of our lives together after ALL THESE YEARS. Christians are generally quick to talk about the beauty of God’s grace towards us, and receive it like fiends when it is poured out, but as humans find it much harder to give that same grace to the people we find in our lives on a day to day basis.

We aren’t Jesus. We are not always going to get it right and that is more than okay. But the more we grow in relationship with God, the more aware we should be of the fact that we are ALL on the same playing field. Rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight, Muslim, Jewish- we all have a soul that is yearning to be in relationship with our creator and how YOU interact with that soul may be the only thirst quenching interaction they have all day, or week, or month, or year.

You never know who you are walking past or talking to, but you can know without a doubt that they are thirsty, and you have an opportunity to honor God by giving them a drink in the form of love and kindness.

Brooks Decker

Lent Blog – Psalm 63:1-8

PSALM 63: 1-8Oh, God, you are my God. Early shall I seek You. MY soul thirsts for you. My flesh longs for you. In a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your Glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live: I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul shall be satisfied with marrow and fatness, and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You. Your right hand upholds me.

This is an intense Psalm penned by King David when he was on the run and hiding from his son, Absalom. Absalom had taken over the kingdom through sneaky dealings and turned many people (some of whom David had reason to believe were loyal to him) against his father. David was devastated by the betrayal of his son and friends and knew just where to go during this time of sorrow: The LORD.

Though most of us will never experience this level of betrayal and fear of losing our life, we all experience loss, sorrow and sometimes wonder just what-the-heck God is doing.

I love David because no matter how bad it gets he always turns to and trusts God. This particular Psalm vividly demonstrates the exceedingly deep, personal relationship David had with his LORD.

His soul thirsts, his flesh longs. This was true physically because he was hiding in the wilderness, but it is a perfect picture of the stress and exhaustion he was experiencing. He really needed God. He was dying without Him.

True to his own heart, David did not wait for rescue to praise God. David knew that the quickest way to come into God’ presence was to praise the LORD. He knew that God’s lovingkindness was better than life, that his soul would be fatly satisfied with his LORD, and that as he dwelt under the shadow of His wings, God’s right hand would uphold him.

Praise and rejoicing were the keys to David’s calling out to His God. No pleas for help (that would have been my first thought), no self-pity, no bargaining: just praise.

By this time David was an old man and had learned a thing or two, after all, this wasn’t the first time David fled for his life. He knew God loved him, had called him to be king, would provide for him, and would never leave or desert him. He knew Yahweh intimately, loved Him deeply, and trusted Him implicitly.

So comes his Psalm. He blesses God, he praises God with joyful lips, he lifts his hands to Him, he remembers all the times God has rescued him and he meditates on Him. All the while, in the midst of one of the worst times of his life.

We need to take a page from David’s songbook. Praise, thank, extoll and trust our LORD, no matter what is happening. Peace, joy and a grateful heart are just some of the rewards that come with trusting the Almighty.

 For the rest of what happened to David and Absalom, read 2 Samuel 1—-19: 8. It’s a pretty hair-raising story.

Carol Rhodes