"The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God." Thesis #62 of Martin Luther's 95 Theses 1517
- In an age where people constantly feel the burden of proving themselves worthy, Sola Gratia – Grace Alone – may well be the sola most needed today. We can often feel crushed at having to constantly earn the love and approval of others by what we do, how we look, who we're with, what we drive, what we make, or where we live. To make matters worse, the perfect lives of our "friends" are constantly before us on social media, whispering the lie that we don't measure up. How refreshing then is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the lavish manner of God's grace. He loves us just as we are – and where we are. He knows our flaws and our pains and all our past actions and still opens His arms wide to receive us. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." All we need do is receive it by faith, but therein lies the problem. We think it too easy, so we quickly fall back into the false notion of needing to appease God by our actions. However, in Christ, we see the truth. We could never hope to earn salvation by our goodness. Such a notion is ludicrous. Every other religious tradition in the world is trying to move up to heaven by their works; in Christianity, God declares such to be impossible, so He comes down to us. God graciously accomplishes salvation for us and then invites us to freely receive it. Stop trying, stop working, and delight in God's gracious love for you.
- Related to number one, if we feel the need to constantly earn the approval or affection of others, we will naturally become boastful. Our insecurities, fueled by our relentless comparisons to others, create the need for us to say, "Look! Look what I did!" Again, social media provides the perfect forum. By grace, God saves us from that temptation. His saving work in Christ is graciously given. It has ZERO to do with us "so that no one can boast." Again, all is grace. Whatever we have in life – from life itself to our minds, our talents, our abilities, our creativity, our children and their gifts, our money, everything – is from God. Therefore, "let him who boasts boast in this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD..." Jeremiah 9:24
- THE CHURCH AT HER BEST: By definition, the church is an imperfect place because she is filled by imperfect, flawed people. Even so, I have found she is at her best in times of crisis or need. This past week, Todd and Collynn Harper, longtime servants of Christ through CRU, Generous Giving and Discovery Church, lost their oldest son, Davis, in a car accident. Davis was one of my oldest son's closest friends. I cannot fathom the pain and grief born by their family, but through the week I saw the Body of Christ carry them. I saw the Spirit comfort and love, even through tears. So many people came together to be the incarnation of Jesus to a hurting family. As odd as it sounds, its when I love The Bride the most.
- Related to number three, thank you FPCO! Last Sunday, I asked you to bring supplies to help the relief effort in Puerto Rico and, my goodness did you ever deliver! All week long, load after load arrived. As soon as we could clear the lobby, another load would come! We received so much we had to change our delivery method. What a great problem to have! Thank you, thank you – again, the church at her best!
- TAKE ONE FOR THE TEAM: FPCO needs to hear from you! As we work towards making our ministry as effective as possible, we need to know what you think – your ideas and insights and creative solutions! Take our survey by going to our website at www.fpco.org – visitors and friends can take it, too!
- As I have watched and listened to the continuing coverage of the Las Vegas shootings, it has been curious to see the interest authorities have in understanding the "motive." They keep searching for the "why" of the shootings, but they can't find "it." It's human nature. When bad things happen, we want an explanation. We want to understand it as if that makes it more palatable. Unfortunately, the reason is found in the broken nature of humanity. The reason he killed people was that he reached a place where life meant nothing – neither his nor the lives of others. Perhaps we will find that he was mentally ill – perhaps not – regardless, we can't face the thought that human beings can do such a thing to each other because it speaks to the larger problem of the human heart – the problem that lies within each of us – the problem that needs an answer – a Savior.
- I have seen several disturbing stories about lower level Silicon Valley employees who are choosing to remove smartphones, iPads, apps and social media from their lives and the lives of their family members. CEO's and high level leaders dismiss the concerns, but the people actually creating the code and making the apps see the power such technology to impact our minds, especially via addiction (i.e. the "hit" you get when someone likes your post). "As the brain grows dependent on technology, the research suggests the intellect weakens." WSJ, Nick Carr
- INTERESTING DATA FOR MEN: The most popular day for having the operation that will keep your family from growing is the Wednesday before the opening round of the NCAA College Basketball tournament each March. The second most popular day is the Wednesday before the Masters. The most popular post-operative pain relief: a bag of frozen peas. Half of respondents still ate the peas later while half threw them away. You're welcome.
- Brett Kreider, Jack Peebles – I'm pulling for the Astros!!