Christmas Thoughts from an Alleged Scrooge

“You are such a Scrooge,” my dear wife said to me this past week, though I am sure she must have meant it in the most edifying of ways. But as much as she thinks she really knows me, I am pretty sure she is missing it on this one.

I love Christmas. It’s truly the most wonderful time of the year–especially when they cancel the competition (March Madness). Whether it’s the season to be jolly, I am not sure. But it’s certainly a special time, and with childlike anticipation I look forward to it every year. You’ll hear no “Bah humbugs” from me. There are so many things I love about Christmas.

For instance, I love the fact that this time of year the whole world stops to focus on our Jesus. Yes, I realize they have gone to great lengths to “secularize” our holiday, but as much as they try they just can’t keep Christ out of Christmas. I am still amazed that you can go into stores or watch movies where they are playing music about our Savior. From George Bailey and the gang of It’s a Wonderful Life singing, “Glory to the newborn King!” to Clark W. Griswold and his family belting out “Joy to the world, the LORD is come!” in Christmas Vacation, they are proclaiming that Jesus is King and Lord of this world!

I love the reminders about giving, and the opportunities to give to others who are in need. Some of the greatest blessings of my life have come at Christmas, giving to others–even in something small like an Operation Christmas Child shoebox. Probably the greatest gift I ever received was when my kids pooled their money to pay for a child to go through a malnutrition program in Haiti–likely saving that child’s life. Several years ago, one of my daughters “gave me” a Compassion child which she sponsored for my Christmas present. I took over that sponsorship not long after, and now five years later I still have the privilege of giving every month in support of a little boy in Kenya who is growing to be a godly young man! And I love that my kids always gathered their money to give a big tip to whoever waited on us at the pizza restaurants we went to on Christmas Eve. God so loved the world that HE GAVE…and those of us who follow Him get to do likewise.

I love the nostalgia and the memories of Christmases past. There’s no holiday that has such an emotional attachment as Christmas. From trinkets from my childhood Christmas that come out this time of year, to the ornaments on our tree made by our children when they were small, there are so many sweet memories connected to Christmas. And those memories are so easily brought to mind through sights and sounds and even smells this time of year.

I love the church fellowships and parties and celebrations associated with Christmas, even if this year those will be limited because of this pandemic we are in. What a joy it has been to watch over the years at TCASC as children who were singing in our preschool choir moved on to the kids choir and then to the youth praise band, and now they are adults leading us in worship. I am sure glad we found a way to have our church Christmas program anyway, even if it will only be online. But the good news is, since it will livestreaming, we can share it with friends and family far and wide.

But there are some things about Christmas that I don’t like, which bring out the accusations of my Scrooge-ness from my better half. And at the risk of you thinking less of me too, I’ll share a few of those.

I don’t like obligatory gift giving. There’s something about exchanging names, or trading gift cards with a family member you haven’t seen since last Christmas, that get on my last nerve. It bothers me when one person who has just about everything they could ever want or need gives to another who has just about everything they could want or need, while there are so many others out there who have little or nothing. I don’t think that’s what “it’s better to give than to receive” is all about.

I don’t like the hustle and bustle of Christmas, where we tend to get busier and more stressed and frustrated than at other times of the year, because we are trying to fit everything in, or have the perfect Martha Stewart Christmas. It often causes us to lose our focus, and miss the “peace on earth” that Jesus came to bring. And one of the crazy ironies that pastors have discovered about church life is that you can’t get much ministry accomplished between Thanksgiving and the end of the year because people are too busy with Christmas (supposedly celebrating the birth of Christ).

I don’t like the “Disneyfication” of Christmas, as someone has described it, where the whole holiday turns into something akin to a fairy tale instead of the story of God sending His Son to save humanity. This could probably go under the “over-commercialization of Christmas” complaint, but I would be sure to add that it also includes the mythical “magic” of Christmas. I hate to burst any bubbles out there, but there is no such thing as Christmas magic.

Which leads me to the point of all of this, as we give our attention to Advent and make our way toward Christmas. 2020 has been a tough year for many of us, on several sides. But if you are expecting some sort of holiday magic to make it all better and turn the year around in the next three weeks, I suspect you will be greatly disappointed. That’s just not reality, and it never was intended to be.

As pastor Scotty Smith tweeted this week: “Let’s not settle for a ‘merry little Christmas.’ Advent reveals the depth of our need; Christmas, the cost of our redemption. Joy is for the desperate, not the bored. Grace is for sinners, not the disappointed. Jesus comes to make all things new, not all things cute.”

And if we will place our faith in the One who was born that first Christmas day to an unwed teenage mother on the run, we can find a peace and hope and joy and love that this world can’t offer. It won’t make all our troubles go away, but it will change our perspective, and even better, it will change us. Because that’s why that little baby was born–to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. To save us from our sins. To give us a hope and a future, and secure our eternity.

So here’s hoping that your Advent season is filled with “tidings of comfort and joy,” as you give your full focus to our Lord Jesus, who came to set us free from this crazy world. Glory to God in the highest!

–Pastor Ken

It’s Your Move

I have shared an old “preacher story” before that I am sure you have heard–and since I am an old preacher I thought I’d share it again. I remember hearing it first many years ago and it has stuck with me over the years, however corny it may be. It’s a good reminder for all of us, especially in this crazy and chaotic year we call 2020.

An older married couple was driving down the road in their old pick-up truck. The wife turned to the husband and said, “What’s happened with us?”
“What do you mean?” the husband asked.

She said, “We’re not like we used to be.”

“How did we used to be?” the husband asked.

“We were closer. More connected. We held hands all the time. In fact, here’s a perfect example right now. Remember back when we’d get in this old truck, and we’d sit right next to each other real close?”

The husband looked at her, and looked at the seat of his truck, and the room between them on the bench seat. He looked down at where he was sitting, in the driver’s seat, and then looked back across the front seat at her one more time.

Then he asked, “Who moved? 

The story has an obvious spiritual application. If you’re not as close to God as you used to be, who moved?  I’ll give you a hint. It wasn’t Him. And the solution is just as simple: If you want to get back to where you were, you need to move in His direction. For that matter, if you want to be closer to God than you’ve ever been, and reach a new level in your relationship with Him, all you need to do is move in His direction.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8).

That’s a calling, and a promise. It isn’t just a one-time event, but also a lifestyle. The first time, and every time, you draw near to God, He draws near to you. In fact, the exciting part about the whole process is that the one we would pursue is already (and always) pursuing us.

Try it today. Move toward Him. Turn off the TV and take a few minutes to read His word. Step away from life’s distractions and sit in His presence. Stop for a moment and sing a praise song or hymn, and make the words your prayer. As you take steps in His direction, He takes steps in yours.

If you want to get closer to God, it’s your move.

I hope you had a safe and blessed Thanksgiving. I am praying for you, that you will be growing closer to Him than you’ve ever been before. I hope you’ll pray the same for me. I look forward to seeing you this Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Give Thanks…Even in 2020

“In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:17

So, does that verse from the apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica still count in 2020? Or do we get a pass from being thankful when times aren’t so good. How about what Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:20: “…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”?

As we head into Thanksgiving week, 2020, those are more than just rhetorical questions. In a world that continues to remind us how bad things are in this year of pandemic, hurricanes, crazy elections, and on and on, are we still expected to give thanks always, in everything, and even for everything?

I wonder if, back when the calendar turned from 2019 to the new year, if you had known what 2020 held, would you have given thanks even then, trusting that the Lord had a plan through it all? Or do circumstances dictate that it is okay to live ungratefully, and join the constant chorus of complaining that is so normal in this “new normal” that we are living in?

Now, we know that the American holiday of Thanksgiving has its roots in Scripture. In the Old Testament, God’s people had special feasts where they celebrated God’s agricultural bounty. In the New Testament Christ fulfilled those ceremonial feasts so that there were no more official days of thanksgiving. And that’s where verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and Ephesians 5:20 come into play. We don’t just offer our thanks at a certain season, or even on a certain day–or even just when everything is going our way. But we give thanks “always,” and we do so “for everything.” Which means, for the follower of Christ the “season” of Thanksgiving lasts from January 1 to December 31 each year. And yes, even in 2020.

But here’s the reality. We live in a world that is characterized by discontent, always wanting more and rarely grateful for what we have. Even when everything moves along smoothly, you certainly hear a lot more complaining in our world than expressions of gratitude. But that’s nothing new either, as evidenced by the reminder from last Sunday’s sermon about how the people of Israel “grumbled,” and were destroyed by the destroying angel (1 Cor. 10:10). To be truly thankful and to live like it always has been a choice to go against the flow.

That’s why, in some ways, Thanksgiving is the quintessential Christian holiday. It is a statement of contentment in God’s providential provision, it is a recognition that there our blessings originate outside of ourselves, in a God who is good to us, and it is making the intentional effort to express our gratitude to that God for His faithful provision. Even when, on the surface, things don’t seem to be going our way. Because we know that God loves us and that He is ultimately good to us.

So, let us give thanks always, for everything, anyway. Especially in 2020.

Here’s wishing you a blessed Thanks-giving, this week, and all the year round. I am grateful for each of you, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken  

Weird Conversations…and a Pandemic

As a pastor, sometimes you have weird conversations.

Before the pandemic, there were times when I would be out at the store or in a restaurant and see someone from our church who hadn’t been with us in worship for a while. I would exchange pleasantries as we all do, and then usually say something like “We miss you.” Inevitably, the person would begin telling me all that has happened to them over the past few months they had been away–they were traveling, got sick, had family in town, the dog ate their homework, and just about every other excuse they could think of for not attending. For whatever reason, “We miss you” was interpreted as “Why haven’t you been at church?” and they felt the need to explain themselves.

Maybe that’s just part of being the pastor, and people feeling guilty for not being with their church family in worship. Or maybe they were just trying to justify themselves, because they too had read the sign on I-65 north of Prattville: “Go to church, or the devil will get you.” And no one wants to get got by the devil.

I share that in this time of the COVID pandemic, as I have discovered that one of the most difficult things to communicate to those who have not been able to worship with us in this difficult season is, “We miss you.” We have tried to give people their space, and take the pressure off of explaining your family’s decisions about public involvement, while providing as many opportunities on-line for engaging in “normal” church life, despite the pandemic.

Certainly most of our church family members who have not been able to gather with us for in-person worship each week have made those decisions because they have accessed the risks for themselves and their families and determined that for them it was best to stay home. There are many variables that each family considers as they make their decisions, but as the virus and the pandemic has been politicized, everyone is on edge to explain their “side” of things. And it creates more weird conversations when the world seems to get divided between those who go out, and those who don’t.

And so, just like the conversations with wayward church members before the pandemic, sometimes the “We miss you’s” these days can be interpreted as “Why don’t you come to worship with the rest of us?” That is never the intention, to put someone on the defensive for making whatever decision they need to make. But unfortunately, it has also led a few times to neglecting the “We miss you’s” altogether, to avoid making people uncomfortable. And that is something I regret.

It has been encouraging that our attendance continues to increase, and we seem to have someone “new” come back to worship each Sunday. But that doesn’t mean that we are past COVID. We have taken the virus seriously, and tried to be responsible and careful to make people feel that our church gatherings are a safe place to be. Most have found that to be true.

Over the last six months since we have been back to in-person worship, we have had several people within our church family who have tested positive for COVID, but none who have come to worship and infected others. And all have come through the virus without any major lasting health issues. If you have been paying attention to the COVID numbers lately, you know there’s been a surge of positive tests of late. I know a number of people, including several of my own family members, who have tested posted in the last few weeks. Fortunately, none have really been that sick, but it certainly is a cause for concern as we head into the winter season.

All that to say, we will continue to be cautious and careful in all of our services and activities, every time we gather. But we will also understand that some are not yet ready to join us for in-person worship, so we will continue to try to “be the church” to all, whether we are gathered or scattered.

But please know, if you have not been able to be with us these past several months….We love you, we miss you, and we’re praying for you. No explanations–or weird conversations –necessary!

We will get through this thing together, and I am grateful for the privilege of being your pastor. I hope to see you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Post Election Blues

As I write this, we are still not really close to deciding this year’s presidential election, even though it’s been a few days since the final votes were cast. Many of us were hoping that if we could just get through Tuesday, life could back to “normal,” whatever that means. But it looks like this is when the real adventure is going to begin, with accusations of voter fraud and challenges to election results that could stretch on for months. And because of that, many of the people I have talked to this week seem to have the “post-election blues.”

I, for one, can’t wait for this election cycle that seems to have been going on for more than two years to finally be over. The never-ending news cycle and the constant barrage of highly-charged political posts on social media– with a little pandemic thrown in for good measure–has brought a new level of negativity and divisiveness to American politics.

I don’t know if these numbers have changed, but I found interesting what pollster Frank Luntz discovered prior to the 2016 election, from surveys of people on Facebook. He found that 94% of Republicans, 92% of Democrats and 85% of Independents say they’ve never been swayed by a political post on Facebook. But obviously, that doesn’t keep people from posting their opinions, memes, accusations and “end of the world as we know it” proclamations if one or the other candidates are elected. And most of us are just sick of it all.

As you probably expected, I have a couple of thoughts on this matter:

First, politics have simply become too important in our country. They were never intended to drive all that we do, especially for those of us who follow Christ. We have allowed politics to consume us, and divide us, and we have put too much stock–and hope–into what we think politicians can do for us. Which in the end is really not much.

Secondly, whether your candidate wins or loses…this too shall pass. That’s one of the lessons learned from growing old, which I am. When you’ve been through this a few times, you come to understand that it’s really not nearly as big of a deal as you thought it was. I remember some past elections from decades ago when I was so distraught when my candidate didn’t win, and I bought the idea that the whole world was going to change. It didn’t, for the most part. And it won’t this time around, as much as we have been told otherwise. Our fate does not rest so much in politicians or governments as in a Sovereign God who at last check has not yet descended His throne. As John Piper has said, “One day America and all of its presidents will be a footnote in history, but the kingdom of Jesus will never end.”

And finally, I guess we should be grateful that we have the privilege of living in a country that allows us as citizens to participate in the political process. Throughout human history, and even around the world right now, this is more than the exception than the rule. You sure can’t find any precedent for it in Scripture. The closest parallel to a vote in the Old Testament was when Israel demanded a king, and God finally relented and gave them what they wanted, and they got Saul. And that didn’t work out so well. In the New Testament, there never was even a consideration that anyone would have a voice or a vote in a democratic political process. I can only imagine Jesus campaigning for His followers to vote out Herod; or Peter or Paul, facing Roman persecution under Nero, suggesting that Christians should vote for the outsider candidate for emperor.

Instead, Jesus taught that we should render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and Peter and Paul both wrote of the Christian’s responsibility to submit to governing authorities, because God in His sovereignty uses human governments to maintain order. And neither of those apostles added asterisks when they wrote, just in case you don’t agree with the politics of those in charge. Of course, there is the argument for civil disobedience from Acts 4, when the disciples were told to stop preaching about Jesus, and their answer was, “We must obey God rather than man.” But I don’t know that we’re there quite yet, especially as it pertains to the election.

Ultimately, as many have pointed out, the last few elections in particular have revealed the bigger issues in our nation, and for that I am grateful. The problems are not political, as big of a mess our politics may be. They are clearly spiritual. And the candidates aren’t the problem, they’re just a mirror that reflects the state and soul of our nation. Sometimes I think that, in the same way that God used the Assyrians and the Babylonians as instruments of judgment on His people, so too these candidates are His means of discipline on us as a nation. And perhaps, this may be a good thing, if it brings us to our knees and we turn and seek Him again.

I continue to pray for my nation, and I hope that when the dust clears from the chaos of this election we as God’s people will get back to our Father’s business of living out the gospel to our community and our world, with Christ-like compassion, no matter who is elected. For no matter who our president is, Jesus will still be our King.

May He reign over your life, in 2020, and in the years ahead, until He returns. I am praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

For God…and Country

You probably already know that Tuesday is election day. I hope you are planning to exercise your constitutional right and responsibility to vote.

This election cycle has been unlike any I ever remember. I certainly believe we are at a crossroads in our nation’s history, though we probably have said that the last several elections. We are so sharply divided, and on so many sides it seems that we have lost our way. And, as all the polls continue to show, Americans at large are angry and frustrated, both with the political parties and the process as a whole, and many feel disenfranchised altogether.

I am not sure that we are going to see the kind of change we need through political means, but we are fortunate, in our country, that we still have the right to be involved in the political process, by casting our votes. Many people cynically believe their votes do not matter, and still others would say that Christians shouldn’t be involved in the political process at all.

What is our Christian responsibility, as dual citizens of heaven and earth, as we live “in the world, but not of it”?

The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13 that government is ordained by God, and Christians are responsible, for conscience sake, to live as law-abiding citizens and supporters of our civic leaders. (In fact, government is one of only three institutions God has ordained: the others being the family and the church.) And remember that when Paul wrote that, he was writing to citizens of Rome living under the dictatorship of a maniacal emperor named Nero.

Paul wrote elsewhere that not only are we to obey the authorities that God has sovereignly placed over us, we are also to pray for them as well (1 Timothy 2:1-2). And the apostle Peter also wrote that Christians are to “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men” (1 Peter 2:13-17). Jesus said that we are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). That is, we are to be influencers of our culture, and surely that includes the political world as well.

For those who do vote, I am surprised at how many people who profess faith in Christ tend to check that faith at the door when it comes to casting their votes or their involvement in other civic responsibilities. I have heard a few folks say loudly that we are not electing a pastor, but a president, as if that precludes the candidate from being a person whose life should demonstrate the Biblical virtues of morality, honesty, integrity, conviction, faith and Godly character. Without question, I believe such character traits are required of a genuine and trustworthy leader, and all the more I would hope that we would make the choice of supporting someone who fears God and seeks to follow Him–even if our choices from the two major parties are pretty slim.

I will not dare suggest in this space which candidate or even which political party I think you should vote for. I do hope your Biblically-informed Christian worldview weighs heavily on your vote, and that you will prayerfully consider whether the candidate you vote for seeks to live a life to honor God. Ultimately, that should be the goal of every Christian citizen.

More than anything, I urge each of you to pray–for yourself as you vote, for the candidates, for God’s will to be done in this election and in our nation. Truthfully, the future of our country will be decided less by our vote than by our prayer, and the greatest need of our nation in this hour is a spiritual awakening of her people. As the hymn-writer of old wrote, “Lord, send a revival, and let it begin in me.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

–Pastor Ken

Even in Dark Places

A little boy was afraid of the dark. One night his mother told him to go out on the back porch and bring her back the broom. The little boy turned to his mother and said, “Mama, I don’t want to go out there.  It’s dark.”

The mother smiled reassuringly at her son. “You don’t have to be afraid of the dark,” she explained. “Jesus is out there. He’ll look after you and protect you.” The little boy looked at his mother real hard and asked, “Are you sure He’s out there?”

“Yes, I’m sure. He is everywhere, and He is always ready to help you when you need Him.”

The little boy thought about that for a minute and then went to the back door and cracked it a little. Peering out into the darkness, he called, “Jesus? If you’re out there, would you please hand me the broom?”

That’s how we want to handle difficult situations sometimes, especially when it’s dark and scary outside in the real world. I’ll stay here, God, and you hand me the broom. We don’t really want to walk where we can’t see, even if we know the Lord is there beside us. We’d rather He just handle things for us, sparing us from ever having to “walk by faith, and not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)

However, genuine faith usually requires that we walk through trials and tribulations of some kind, because we aren’t always inclined to cling to God unless we have to. It is very often frightening, but it’s where God grows our dependence on Him. Even in the dark places.

The secret, I believe, is learning to live our lives daily in the presence of the Lord, so that He becomes more to us than a superstitious good luck charm when we’re afraid. I hope and pray that your relationship with God is vibrant and growing these days, even through this crazy pandemic, and that He is building your faith as you learn to walk with Him in whatever circumstances that come your way.

Have a blessed weekend!
–Pastor Ken

Being Jesus

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  –Matt. 20:28

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin 5, and Ryan 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake.

Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.'”Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus!”

I’ve discovered that it’s not just 5-year olds that come up with such logic. As much as we all may believe that Jesus has set up an example of servanthood, and taught us to follow “in His steps” in putting others first, we often wait for the other guy to be Jesus. 

Whether it’s two little boys arguing over breakfast, or two supposed grown-ups, married to one another but posturing to see who gets their way, it’s easy to expect somebody else to be Jesus. We’d rather not have to give up anything, and we’re always afraid that if we don’t take care of ourselves first, who will? It’s the way of the world, you know.

But we are not of this world, and we must never forget that. Jesus turned our world’s thinking upside down, as He taught that that greatness comes not through power, but through serving others. However, if we just hear it, or theorize over it, and don’t put it into practice in the difficult struggles of real-life relationships, then we no more believe it than the world that would think the whole idea absurd.

Here’s the challenge this week for those Christ-followers who seek to live out your faith where you are, be it at home, or at church, or in the marketplace. You be Jesus. Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk. Love others unconditionally. Give your life away. Serve them, selflessly. Let them have the first pancake, even. Reflect the character of the one who gave His all for you, as you live a life of grateful obedience to Him.

I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you this Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Ignoring the Warning Signs

If you know me, you know I am not a big fan of spending lots of money on automobiles. I’m kind of a “point-A-to-point-B” kind of guy when it comes to cars. So we always buy cars for cash, and that usually means we get them after someone has driven them for many miles already. At last count I think we as a family had had eight different vehicles that had passed 200,000 miles on the odometer, and we have two now that are rapidly approaching that milestone.

One thing I have discovered is that even a car that is in pretty good shape, after it has a lot of miles, will usually have some kind of sensor issue that triggers the “check engine light” to come on. So, most of the time, with most of our cars, there is a persistent light on the dash, always lit up, telling me to check the engine.

So I did, and it’s still there.

Actually, if you go down to the auto parts store where they check the “check engine” diagnostics for you, you often find that the light is warning you of something that, in the big picture, is not that big of a problem. We could spend lots of money to fix it–more than the car is worth–or we can just get used to the light shining every time we turn the engine on. Which is the option we usually choose.

The problem with that scenario is that if something else goes wrong–something that may be more serious–the light doesn’t give us any additional warning. It doesn’t flash or turn a different color to tell us, “This time we REALLY mean it….you REALLY need to check your engine!” So, I’m always wondering if there’s something more sinister going on behind the scenes that I don’t know about. One of these days there will be, I’m sure.

I read about a guy who woke up in the night to a loud beeping sound coming from his smoke detector. His wife sent him to check on it, and when he couldn’t get it to stop beeping, he just pulled the battery out of it so he could get back to sleep. When he came back to bed and his wife questioned what he had done to stop it, he told her he just removed the battery. Her reply: “You can’t do that. There could be a fire in the house somewhere.”

“We’re upstairs,” he explained. “There’s no smoke, we can’t smell anything, there’s not heat coming from any place. Do you smell smoke? I don’t smell any smoke. It was clearly a battery problem. Trust me. I took care of it.”

The next morning he went to work, and shortly thereafter was interrupted from a meeting with a message that he needed to go home immediately. As he pulled up in his cul-de-sac he saw several fire trucks at his house, and smoke billowing from beneath his roof. It turns out that birds had built their nest inside the chimney casing, which eventually started smoldering and set off the smoke alarm. Because he didn’t do anything–other than remove the battery from the smoke detector–a fire started behind the wall and did extensive damage. Just because he wanted to get back to sleep.

The smoke detector wasn’t his enemy. The fire was his enemy. The smoke detector was simply trying to help.

There are many things in our lives that the Lord uses to get our attention, and alert us that something is amiss, that under the hood or beneath the surface, there are problems. We can try to ignore them, but we will likely end up regretting that decision. We would do well to deal with the issues before the smoldering nest turns into a blazing destructive fire.

It may be with your health, with your finances, with your marriage, or with other relationships. It may be emotional “check engine” lights–as you struggle unnaturally with worry or fear or bitterness. All of those things indicate something is not right with your faith life, with your walk with Christ. Or, perhaps the flashing light on your dashboard indicates guilt, that you would just as well ignore. The light–the guilt–is not the enemy. The sin behind the guilt is the issue, and there are always consequences to our sin, especially if it goes unchecked, and un-repented of.

So here’s a friendly exhortation to not ignore the warning lights and beeping detectors that the Lord has placed in your life, for your protection. He loves you, and He doesn’t want you to break down on the side of the proverbial road, or come home to smoking ruins. He is trying to get your attention. He warns you, because He wants what’s best for you.

May He always have our attention, and may we respond with faithful obedience. I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

The Solid Rock

I didn’t watch the presidential debate on Tuesday night. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I did tune in to Twitter to read everyone else’s takes as they watched it. And the more I read, the more I was glad I didn’t watch.

I have since read many of the expert analyses of the debate debacle, and quite frankly, nothing really happened that we didn’t expect. Though dedicated followers of both candidates seemed to claim their man won the debate, from all indications there really wasn’t a winner. And when it was over, it felt to most people that we all lost. The question I keep hearing repeated over and over is, of 330 million people in our nation, are these two the best we could do?

But I am not here to talk politics. On the contrary, I would like to invite you to move away from the politics that seem to have invaded every facet of our lives. Really, the debate was a mirror of our current society, how we react to one another online, the culture of polarization and pettiness. And that mirror reveals that some things desperately need changing.

I’ll share a couple of tweets that seemed to capture the night for me. The first, from a pastor in Florida named Tom Ascol: “If there was any doubt that our nation is under divine judgment, this ‘debate’ should go a long way to remove it.” I agree completely.

The other, which was a little more comforting, came from Gospel Coalition editor Matt Smethurst: “If God’s plan for the universe depended on America, we would have every reason to panic. But thankfully, His plan no more depends on America than it did on the Holy Roman Empire. The gates of hell may one day prevail against our nation; they will never prevail against His church.” That’s true; it’s a promise from Jesus Himself.

As for me, I do not find my hope in any political party or candidate. Those on the right and the left–and even those in the middle–have continuously let us down over the years, offering empty promises, and in the end showing more concern for furthering their political careers than looking out for their constituents. We have every reason to be cynical about politics and politicians; but we have every reason to be hopeful as we trust in the Lord.

The hymn writer Edward Mote said it so well:
My hope is built on nothing else

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock, I stand,

All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.

I hope you are standing securely on Christ the Solid Rock today. He is trustworthy, faithful, dependable…and rock solid. And just in case you may have forgotten, He is still on the throne. I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken