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  • Scripture Various
  • Date Sunday, 04 March 2018
This is the third in a series on fasting & prayer.
Last Sunday, we studied Nehemiah, looking at this prayer & fasting.
Nehemiah was saddened by the condition of the old city of Jerusalem. He was so disturbed by the condition of the city and the people there, that he began to fast and pray. More than just that, he lays out a formula for coming to God when we are in times of severe distress and need to petition God. Rather than just leading off with the request, we need to consider Nehemiah's process.
We'll study another example today. Daniel is also an example of this same process of fasting & prayer leading up to the petition. Is this process unnecessary in our lives? I suppose if it were only in Nehemiah, one might make such an argument. But, the same model exists in various locations of Scripture -- including in Daniel. So, there must be something to this -- to following this process. Fasting & prayer is step one.
But, we live in a quick culture - get it done quickly and get it done now. This carries over to how we approach God. Got a request? Just shoot it out to God and move on. Why doesn't God answer our quickie prayers, we wonder. Maybe God wants us to put a little more into it. Maybe God doesn't want a casual, quick, cheap relationship with His creation.
  • Scripture Various
  • Date Sunday, 24 December 2017
Christmas Eve is on a Sunday. We worship in the morning and many congregations have an evening service, also. It is a time of joy and glad tidings. We are happy ... or perhaps lonely ... maybe even more depressed because of Christmas.
Yet, when one observes the children attempting to re-enact the story of Jesus' birth, one cannot help but to smile. The sheep cannot stop scratching; the shepherds missed their que and enter along with the Magi. Someone stumbles in their costume and falls. The angel wings fall off. We smile.

No matter how one celebrates the Christmas story, one should recognize that we've made the story peaceful & safe & sometimes, funny. We don't consider the pain and concern of Mary ... the uncertainty of Joseph ... or the smell and noise of that event. We sterilize the Christmas story in the same way we sterilize the cross on which Jesus died. The Cross is clean & spinter-free. The barn is a clean, quiet, safe place. Baby Jesus just appears, clean and without pain. It is safe; it is organized.

Do something for me -- describe the birth of Jesus as you read it from scripture. Just the birth, that is the coming. What sounds do you 'hear' as God came into this world?
OK, got a list of the sounds? Probably not a long list, unless you really put a lot of thought into this - good for you, if so!
Now, make a list of the sounds of Advent - no I'm not repeating myself. The Advent is "The Coming" and Jesus has already come. The Coming that is yet to be is the return of God to earth. Look at scripture again. What are the Sounds of Advent?
A bit different, huh? List a little longer?

It is too bad that we sterilize both the birth of Jesus and the death of Jesus and prefer not to think about the return of God.
God will return. It'll be noisy. It'll be filled with chaos and confusion. Don't sterilize these major events. They are dangerous - each one holds its own danger. Think about it this Christmas. Are you ready for the next time God comes to earth?
  • Scripture II Peter 3:8-16
  • Date Sunday, 10 December 2017
The people to whom Peter was writing were beginning to doubt this whole Jesus is God and He will return thing. I mean, they had waited, through generations now. Nothing was happening. Since their timing was not being met, they made the human assumption that it was all false - that God would not return. The next part of this for human reasoning is a lack of interest, a lack of care, because there is nothing but this life, so why should I live according to Jesus' teachings ... why should I be a Follower of the New Way?
Almost sounds like something you would hear today, doesn't it? Why not? God hasn't returned yet and generations have passed each believing the same thing. So, why should I be careful how I live? God will never come back.
It is a slippery slope one gets on with this belief. So, Peter warns his hearers and warns us likewise today. We watch our clocks and live by the minute. God has a completely different clock -- very different! He will wait until every opportunity has been exhausted for every human to repent and be saved through the name of Jesus. That's why He is waiting.
Want to be included? Yeah, I do, too. The next Advent is going to be a whole lot scarier than the first Advent.
The first Advent is over -- now, don't you think you should be prepared for the Second, scarier Advent?
  • Scripture I Corinthians 2:1-2
  • Date Sunday, 26 November 2017
It has been awhile since I've had the time to communicate with you all. I've missed you.
Today, we continue to explore the 'sola' foundations of the Reformers. I covered all these very quickly on one Sunday morning, received much input, so decided to explore each more fully individually.
This brings us to the 'sola' on which most of the others rest. Christ alone (or equally correct, 'only Christ'). The Reformers considered scripture and considered the current practices of the 15th & 16th century church. They found the current-day church disconnected from the truths in scripture. When this reality was brought back to the church leaders, rather than consider conforming to scripture, they persecuted the people who challenged the church. Kind of like an employee who reports an improper activity within an organization - and rather than change, the company fires the person and pulls their pension and destroys that person through lies.
Christ alone wasn't the stance the Church held in the 15th century. It taught one would pray to the saints and to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary was also without sin (a human conception, not scriptural). Our mediator to God was through Mary and the saints. The Reformers read in scripture that Jesus was our mediator and His death on the Cross and His Resurrection fulfilled any obligation thus allowing direct access to God and to salvation. The Church said that salvation came through the Church and fulfilling actions as defined by the Church. Paying indulgences helped one get to heaven. None of this was scriptural and the Reformers called the Church on these points. For that, they were excommunicated and persecuted and murdered.
Today, our call that Christ alone is all one needs is a call that everyone needs to hear. Whether one is associated with a current-day Catholic Church or a Protestant Church or no church at all, the same acknowledgement must be made. We need no other person nor tasks nor earned merits to be heaven bound. One just needs to proclaim Jesus as the Lord of that life. Call upon the name of the Lord and you will be saved - that's what God's Word says. What it means is to find the center of your life - what is most important - what is act the center? Replace that "center" thing with God. You life will be different for the rest of your life and for all eternity.
Not difficult - just Jesus.

Jesus said to him, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

John 14:6

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Pleasant Valley Church, Holland, IA

Pleasant Valley Church

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