From the Pastor… The Word March 2023
Time to check in on how you are doing with your faith based resolution for the year 2023. We’ve talked about the importance of staying in communication with God through our daily prayers and devotions. We’ve discussed the importance of staying in God’s Word by reading our Bible’s every day. I even made some suggestions on how to go about including daily scripture into your routine. How are you doing with that?
I know that in my experience with reading the scriptures, I find my self with lots of questions about what I have just read. As if I am reading it for the first time…again. Does that ever happen to you?
I recently shared in my Bible Study class that I learned something new during the class I am currently taking where we are studying the Gospels in the New Testament. This new knowledge, if I am to be honest, shook me and had me questioning things…doubting things…to include my faith. Don’t be alarmed. I was able to snap out of it relatively quickly…just a couple days of intense prayer and meditation was all I needed to recover. The class, however, is not over and there is still lots to learn as I dive even deeper into the Word of God. Will my studies lead to more doubt? I’ve still got questions…do you?
When we are seeking to understand something as big as God, it’s normal to have doubts along the way. We don’t typically have much choice in whether we struggle with some doubts in this process, but we do make choices in how to deal with the doubt. My claim is that doubt, when handled properly, leads to truth. Even if it turns out that we change our beliefs, we have presumably come to a more rational place as a result of the doubts. But if Christianity is true, as we lean in and find answers to our questions we grow in our knowledge and come to a place of even greater faith. Let’s talk about how to handle doubt properly.
When you doubt your faith, you often feel like you’ve been beat up. It’s not usually fun to feel like one of your beliefs might be false, especially when it’s one of your cherished beliefs. This can be a lonely place. Sometimes it feels like you have stumbled on something people either have never seen or are just ignoring. You wonder why no one else is talking about the issue you’ve found. What adds to the isolation is you might be brave enough to share your doubts with another Christian only to have that person dismiss your doubts as insignificant. Too often when it comes to doubting, pastors and well-meaning Christians are telling people to, in effect, knock it off, as if doubting is nothing more than a bad choice we are making.
Here’s a ticking time bomb: you have some questions, and these questions are causing you to doubt, but you can’t find a safe place to address those doubts. If you’ve also been told by someone that faith requires absolute certainty and anything short of that is sin, you will find yourself in what may feel like a hopeless struggle. Since no one is willing to take the time and effort to provide answers to your questions, it can feel like there are no answers.
The great shame is this couldn’t be further from the truth.
When it comes to questioning Christianity, there’s nothing new under the sun. We stand in a long tradition of Christians asking deep and difficult questions and pressing Christianity for its truth. Consequently, virtually every question we may have has been asked in one form or fashion at some point. It might feel like you’ve discovered something brand new. But chances are excellent that it’s been at least thoughtfully addressed by someone at some point.
This is not to make light of the questions you have. I, in fact, want you to take your questions very seriously. But just don’t let them have their way with you. And don’t give in to the feelings of isolation. You are not alone. There are a lot of us out there. Chances are others have wrestled with the very same questions you have, and you should have a careful look at what they say.
Allow me to conclude with this disclaimer: I don’t have all the answers! I am a student of God’s Word and I don’t think that I will ever stop learning. We are all on this journey towards Christ together and if I can ever help you along the way – I feel as if that is my job. So…what questions do you have? Do any come to mind right now? How about this…starting today (today=whenever you are reading this for the first time) – starting today, as questions come up in your mind relating to scripture, the church, our theology, our faith, etc.. I encourage you to write your questions down and bring them to church. They can be completely anonymous, or you can include your name. I will then do my best to answer your questions during the service. As I stated earlier, your question has likely been asked before – and others in the church may have been wondering the same thing as you.
If you don’t feel like waiting, you can always text me your question or email your questions to me and I can respond quicker. If NOBODY submits a question, I will be happy to report to the conference that MY church people already have this Christianity thing figured out and my job is complete. 😊
I’ve got 3 questions for YOU!
- Are you loved?
- By whom?
- Is there anything you can do about it?
Answer out loud…
February 2023 Word
From the Pastor –
Last month, I wrote about New Years Resolutions and suggested setting faith-based intentions that you could follow. I highlighted the importance of including prayer in your daily life. So…how’s that going? Have you made an improvement in your prayer life?
This month, I would like to highlight the importance of reading your Bible and forming a routine of being in the Word every day. Now if you’ve ever wanted to create the habit of reading the Bible every day but you don’t know where to start, you’re not alone!
The Bible is a huge book with lots of intimidating names and places and things we don’t understand in 2023.
But it is possible! And you can do this.
First thing you need to do to create this habit is to choose a time where you can sit down and not be disturbed. Even if it is just 5 minutes a day at first – at least you are in the Word. After you have chosen a time and a place, I would suggest starting small. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when introducing a new habit into your life is trying too much at once. So, when you first start reading the Bible regularly, start small!
But where do I start?
Let me suggest that you start in the New Testament with the Gospel of Mark. The Gospels, or the first four books of the New Testament, are great because they are all about the life and death of Jesus Christ, and Mark has a way of getting right to the point.Reading Mark will help you get a full understanding of Jesus’ life.
Next, try reading the book of Acts. That is the fifth book of the New Testament. This is all about what the church was like when it first started.
Following these suggestions is a great place to start a great new habit. There are Bible reading plans that you could get into that you could get through your phone, tablet, or computer. I would recommend the YouVersionBible App that you can download for FREE onto your device. If you ever need help getting this app downloaded – please let me know and I would be happy to help you.
You will likely have questions along the way. Trying to understand what the scriptures mean can be challenging…and I believe they are supposed to be. But as with everything else in our faith journey – we are not called to do this alone. I encourage you to join one of our Bible Study / Small Group classes that we offer on Sunday’s at 9:15am where we can work towards a better understanding of the Word together. If you are not ready for that – you are always welcome to send me a question you are struggling with, and I will do my best to help you work through it. If you’d like to remain anonymous, simply write out your question on a piece of paper and place it in the collection plate.
When starting something new like this, it is common to forget sometimes. You’ll likely miss a day or two. You will probably forget on the weekends sometimes. It happens. Make it a goal not to miss two days in a row! And when you forget…don’t beat yourself up. Pick up the Bible and start again. You can do this!
From the Pastor – January 2023
Every January, people around the world set New Year’s resolutions. Lose weight. Read more. Learn a new skill. Etc., etc. While these are admirable goals, they aren’t specifically New Year’s resolutions for Christians. This year, how can you set faith-based intentions that you will actually follow?
While the bible doesn’t explicitly say anything about New Year’s resolutions, it does offer clear guidance for Christians. Consider the two greatest commandments:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31
Do you follow these commandments, every single minute of every single day?
I know that I fail daily to live up to these commandments, but I also resolve daily to do better. When I fail, I ask God for forgiveness. Then I pray that God will equip me to do better.
New Year’s resolutions for Christians are similar to this daily prayer practice, but for the entire year.
New Year’s resolutions date back to both the ancient Babylonians and the Romans, both of whom made promises to their gods.
New Year’s resolutions for Christians, however, have their own history. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, established the Covenant Renewal Service in 1755. This is an opportunity for Christians to recommit themselves to God.
While the first service was held on August 11, 1755, the Covenant Service is now typically held early in January.
Today, people make New Year’s resolutions for all sorts of reasons, religious and otherwise. While every day is a good day to form new habits, I find it easier to start something new in a season of newness. A new week, a new month–and especially a new year–encourage me to become a better version of myself.
This year, I would encourage you to make a resolution that will bring glory to God. For example: Consider the common resolution to lose weight.
Do you struggle with the sins of gluttony and sloth? Do you want to improve your physical health in order to honor the body God gave you?
Or is your motivation based on vanity, the desire to look a certain way?
Maybe you already live an active, healthy lifestyle, but you’re tempted by the insidious lie that you must be thin to have value.
Three reasons to resolve to lose weight. The first honors God, with the intrinsic motivation to better serve God. The second still stems from intrinsic motivation, but the motivation is selfish. The third is based on external pressure.
How about simply resolving to begin and end each day with prayer…
Ask God for guidance. Ask God to reveal His will for your life. Prayerfully consider how you can better serve God in the new year.And consider praying the following…
Lord, make me what you will.
I put myself fully into your hands:
put me to doing, put me to suffering,
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and with a willing heart
give it all to your pleasure and disposal.
Two of the greatest commandments…that should be our goal every year and every day.
May your New Year be full of blessings and may you be a blessing to others.
God loves you, and I love you – and there is nothing you can do about it.
Pastor Toby Guill219-850-3768 (cell)
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