From the Pastor's Pen


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Pastor W

September:  Pastor's Message


      

 

       The month of September begins with Labor Day, and it's good to remember and celebrate the work we and others do.  The spirit of Christian labor is embodied in the words of the apostle Paul which I keep beside my desk:  "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people" (Colossians 3:23).

 

      We run into problems, though, when we elevate work to unnatural heights.  One example is the person who strives to earn God's favor through works.  Over the centuries, some Christian traditions have taught that good works merit favors in the Divine economy.  For instance, our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters have been taught that one way to receive forgiveness for some sins is by kissing the ring of the Pople or a bishop.  But you and I can't earn God's favor.  "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

 

      Another problem comes when we overwork.  We've all met (perhaps in the mirror) someone who routinely works 80 or more hours a week, doesn't take enought vacation time, and in the process neglects family and community.  God, on the other hand, makes it clear that "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God" (Exodus 20:9).  Most Christians observe the Sabbath on the first day of the week because it is the day on which Jesus was raised from the dead (Luke 24:1), but the critical thing is to take a day every week to worship and reflect with God, to be with family and friends, and recognize that we already have a Savior and you don't need to do it all.

 

      And that points to the third problem I've seen: the attitude that we need to "do something."  Politicians love to "do something" every time there's a disaster or a terrible crime or a diplomatic or military crisis.  They seem to believe that one more rule, one more law, one more resolution, or one more speech will fix the ills of this world.  And sometimes they do...but more often, they don't.  It really is best not to rush into things.


       Jesus introduces only one new commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:34).  In fact, the New Testament features many instances of loosening up restrictions - think of Jesus saying it's OK for His disciples to pick heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8) and the Holy Spirit telling Peter that "unclean" foods are now OK to eat (Acts 10:9-16) and the Gentiles are welcome in God's kingdom (Acts 10:28).  Loving means giving people freedom - even to do the wrong thing.

 

       Billy Graham once wrote, "Today, many people are living in spiritual slavery without realizing it.  They chase false gods of money, success, personal comfort and romantic love - only to realize they still have an emptiness that can't be filled by any of those things."  I'd add to that the false god of security - believing that if we can just accumulate enough money in our retirement accounts and install the very best appliances in our homes and take away the guns and knives of all the law-abiding people, we can be self-sufficient and live in peace for the rest of our lives.  But it won't work.

 

       You and I can't achieve peace.  It is a gift from God, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you," said Jesus.  "I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27).

 

       September is traditionally a time to "gear up" and kick off a new school year and a new church program year and no initiatives at work and in the community.  And all those things are good.  But don't lose sight of the fact that the hole in your life can only be filled by God.  Take time - particulary on Sunday mornings - to rediscover His presence and His love, and the freedom He has given to you through Christ, our Savior.

 

Yours in Christ, 

~~~Pastor David Williamson

 

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