2021

MARCH FROM OUR PASTORS

Staying Focused on the Work of God

March has arrived and the spiritual season of Lent is nearing its halfway point. To guide our walk with the Lord during this season, we often look to Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. The Scripture says that “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days He was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them He was hungry” (Luke 4:1-2). During this experience, the devil tempts Jesus in multiple ways to take the easy way out. “Tell this stone to become bread,” the devil says to Jesus, who is famished and would no doubt delight in a warm meal. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,” he says to Jesus, trying to convince Him to doubt the provision and care of God the Father. And then the devil offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world saying, “If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus knew the road ahead of Him would be difficult. It would require Him to give up His life. Here the devil was trying to give Jesus a way out by appealing to the desires of the flesh.

In our own walk with God, we will face temptations. The enemy works in our lives, too, just as he worked in Jesus’ life, trying to tempt us to take the easy way out. Ever have the Monday blues? Perhaps you can relate to the reluctance of getting out of bed and starting the work week. It’s a common experience. We say to ourselves, “If I had just one more day to relax, then I could handle the week ahead.” While it is Biblical to take time to rest and to press pause on our commitments, often what fuels our “Monday blues” isn’t a legitimate need to restore our body and soul but laziness and a fear of facing real life.

In our devotional and prayer life, we face the temptation to “call in sick.” Let’s face it, sitting down and watching TV often feels more enjoyable than sitting down to read our Bibles. Exercising or warming up that bowl of oatmeal for breakfast feels more rewarding than taking five or ten minutes to pray. We may even start to think, “It’s alright if I don’t pray today,” or even “Does it really matter if I pray?”

As these ideas start to creep into our head, Jesus provides us the truth and the example. Yes there is a time to celebrate, but first God has work for us to do. At one point in His ministry, Jesus looks in need of a meal and the disciples urge Him to have something to eat, but His response to them was this: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4:34). Jesus never lost sight of His calling and His purpose. It’s not that He didn’t take time to eat, but He made sure to not lose His hunger for God. Looking back again to His forty days and nights in the wilderness, by His fasting it’s as if Jesus makes the declaration, “Lord, I will not forget the work you have for me!” In His fasting He teaches us that sometimes we have to put our reward on hold for God. There are things that God wants us to do — people He is calling us to reach, needs He is calling us to pray for, time He is asking us to give to Him in service and in study. We have a purpose, and God calls us out there, even on Monday morning.

Not only does God desire our service, but He desires closeness with us. We may be tempted to think that we can do it alone, that we can do the work and then clock out and go back to our business. But again Jesus reminds us of the truth. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). In these words He was saying to the devil that even if He made food out of stones, that food would not be enough; He would still need more. We still more. The great church reformer Martin Luther once said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Prayer, reading God’s word, worship, all bring us close to our Heavenly Father who is our source of strength, who is the anchor of our soul in this dark world, who is the Great I Am who makes the impossible possible. God is our everything! As Christians, may we never lose sight of that. May we never give the devil lip service in telling us we don’t need God. We need the Lord; He is our lifeblood.

Just as the Spirit called Jesus into the wilderness, the Holy Spirit calls us to God this very day to remind us of our high calling and purpose, that we have work to do. And He draws us to Himself to remind us that He is our all in all, that in Him we find our everything. Today let us give God our praise, and let us give God our best. Amen!

Pastors Garritt & Sanette

2021

FEBRUARY FROM OUR PASTORS

Hearts After God

What is your relationship with God like? Are you just acquaintances? Do you spend a couple minutes together a week? Or is your relationship with the Lord living and active?

We recently heard an interview with professional football player Kirk Cousins, quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. Cousins, who grew up in a home where faith in God was right there with salt and pepper on the table, tells of a trying time in his life. He played on the high school football team, and it wasn’t until his junior year that he actually got a chance to play on the field. Sadly though, that didn’t last long because he suffered an injury which put him back on the bench. This hit Cousins especially hard because junior year is when the scouts come and recruit for colleges. Cousins thought it was over, his chances of playing college ball done. But his Dad was quick to put his despairing son back on track. “Remember Proverbs 3:5-6,”

he said. “‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.’”Cousin’s dad wasn’t trying to promise his son that football was still his future, but rather he was imploring him to trust in God, that no matter how this turned out, He still had a plan for him. As it turned out, Cousins did make it back on the field, and now he plays for the pros. What a miraculous turn around. “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)

For Cousins, this experience was a turning point and for him is a continual testimony of God’s faithfulness. God is real, and He desires us to trust Him and walk in relationship with Him. As we listened to Cousins’ testimony, we were moved to take our relationship with God more seriously, to walk with Him more intimately each and every day. The interview also mentioned a weekly practice of Cousins’ team and other professional teams, of having Bible study and chapel. This devotion time goes right alongside their other routines like working out in the weight room and running drills on the field. And so here are these titans on the field who also find it important bow their knees before the Lord. Again, as we heard this we were inspired to hunger after God a more deeply.

We are about to enter the season of Lent, a season which kicks off with a retelling of a prominent moment in Jesus’ life when He hungered and thirsted in the wilderness. While He was tempted by Satan to give in, His hunger for God was greater, as He declared to the tempter, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

This season, may you hunger and thirst for God in your life. He is who we truly need. Put Jesus first. Prioritize your relationship with Him, your devotions, your study of the Bible, and your honest conversation with Him. We pray that as you do this, you too will find the life and hope that Jesus, our living Savior, offers to each of us. Amen.

2021

JANUARY FROM OUR PASTORS

2021 IS HERE! 

Most if not all of us are happy that 2020 is over. 

I remember seeing a post on instagram with a dad and his baby girl who is a toddler. At the beginning of the video the dad was walking and pushing a shopping cart while his baby girl, who by all accounts just started walking, was holding onto the bottom of the cart smilingly assisting her dad to push the cart, seemingly because she probably thought she was the one doing all the work. Moments later in the video post, the baby girl was on her knees, still holding on to the cart while her dad pushed it along. I could not help but literally laugh out loud. Perhaps she ran out of steam after all, she just started walking. I thought that was it for the video but as I watched on my laughter became a belly roll because this little baby was now flat on her stomach, still holding on to the cart as her dad pushed it along. Can you imaging the scene? 

First she was walking while pushing the cart, next she was crawling while pushing the card, and finally she was lying down while “pushing the cart. Then the caption came up — “Me at the beginning of 2020, me at the middle of 2020, me at the end of 2020.” 

Most of us were excited at the possibilities of entering into a new decade. But, this decade caught us all off guard, and 2020 was turbulent all the way to the end. Many of us starting off walking, then kneeling as we tried to press on through it, and many of us ended it just flat out on our bellies. Between the tandem, the political unrest, and the racial unrest to say 2020 was crazy would be the understatement of the decade. Nevertheless, here we are — it’s 2021. 

Many of us are hoping that the baggage of 2020 will be left in 2020. The reality is, however, 2021 is not a magic number or year. Any unresolved baggage from last year and previous years will follow us in 2021. BUT, the GOOD NEWS IS, JESUS CHRIST! Jesus — the epitome of all that is good, the source of hope and amazing possibilities — is already here in 2021. Jesus Christ has not changed, and His resolve to journey into our chaos and sort and remedy our baggage for us and with us has not changed either. His love knows no bounds. 

Another good thing is that we know what baggages we are bring with us and therefore we know what to commit to our Lord Jesus Christ in prayer. Christ doesn’t want us to be oblivious to our circumstances, but neither does He want us to allow our circumstances to cause us to fear and lose hope. 

Our Lord Jesus Christ says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. 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) And in John 16:33, “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!”  We will remain upright on our feet through 2021 come what may, for we stand on Jesus Christ the Solid Rock upon which we shall not be moved. 

Welcome to 2021. To Christ be the Glory, AMEN! 

2020

MARCH FROM OUR PASTORS

God Will Supply Our Need

One of the daily devotionals we like to read to get closer to God is “Our Daily Bread.” Recently this devotional published a reading that gave us great inspiration and strength. It shared the story of a woman and her family that had just moved. After the move, life only seemed to get harder and harder with every turn. The woman wrote:

“Physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, I curled up in my recliner. Our family had followed God’s leading and had moved from California to Wisconsin. After we arrived, our car broke down and left us without a vehicle for two months. Meanwhile, my husband’s limited mobility after an unexpected back surgery and my chronic pain complicated our unpacking. We uncovered costly problems with our new-to-us, old home. Our senior dog suffered with health issues. And though our new pup brought great joy, raising a furry ball of energy was far more work than anticipated. My attitude soured. How was I supposed to have unshakable faith while traveling on a bumpy road of hardships?”

Maybe you have felt this way lately, finding yourself up against obstacles and hardship in your life. In the face of all these feelings and tears, the woman from the story above turned to the Lord in prayer. At times, doing this may seem like a hopeless exercise when all else seems to be failing. Can anything change? Can it possibly get better? But God has a way of reaching us when we look to him for strength. The woman shared that as she prayed, she was reminded of the psalmist David whose praise did not depend on his circumstances. God was speaking to her. He was reminding her that just as He was faithful to David, He was and would be faithful to her; just as David found strength in Him, so could she as well. 

David’s life is a textbook example of someone who had a pretty bad day, and then much worse. Early on in his life David found his life in danger. King Saul pursued David and tried to take David’s life several times (1 Samuel 19-26). Later, David’s own men blamed him for the loss of their family members, and they talked about stoning him (1 Samuel 30:4). Then, David’s son Absalom stole the throne from his father David, and David had to flee to protect his own life (2 Samuel 15:14). The man truly knew what he was talking about when he said, “a mighty army surrounds me” (Psalm 27:3). 

But in the face of fear and certain danger, David turned to God. The Lord was his rock when all else around him was changing and falling apart. He wrote, “Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge” (Psalm 16:1). David heard the rumors against his life all around him, yet he said, “But I trust in you, Lord. I say, ‘You are my God.’” (Psalm 31:14). 

One of the most striking things David said about the Lord was this:  “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup” (Psalm 16:5). For an Israelite like David, one’s portion was another way of referring to one’s inheritance. God gave each of the tribes of Israel a “portion” of land to inherit when they entered the promised land (see Joshua 13-21). While some might have said their greatest treasure and security was their land and their wealth, David instead said, “Lord, you alone are my portion.” It was true in the good times and especially true in the bad. Everything would be taken from David — his land, his reputation, his family. But there was something that could never be taken from him, and that was his God. God still remained with David when all else was failing. When all else was against him, even his closest companions, the Bible gives us an everlasting testimony from David when it tells us, “But David found strength in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6).

In the face of adversity and hardship in life, it can feel like there’s nothing left and no hope, but God offers to be our portion, to be our everything. Let us learn from the example of David who found all that he needed in the Lord. 

God bless you all, 

Pastors Garritt and Sanette

2020

JANUARY FROM OUR PASTORS

Dedicating Ourselves to God

As we think of firsts and new things, a Bible story comes to mind — the presentation of the baby Jesus at the temple (Luke 2:22-24). Before Mary and Joseph get too far along into rearing Jesus as their son, they do something first. In this Scripture, Mary and Joesph bring their infant son to the temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the requirements of the law which said that after a time of purification for the mother following childbirth, the parents and child were to go to the temple to offer a sacrifice to the Lord (Leviticus 12). A reason for this is that although the birth of a child signals blessing and joy, it also reminds us of the curse associated with pain in childbirth and the sin passed on from parents to child ever since the fall (Genesis 3:16). 

Mary and Joseph obeyed God’s command to offer a sacrifice that day, but they also obeyed another command of the Lord — that every firstborn male was to be dedicated to Him. Jesus represented Mary and Joseph’s firstborn son (Luke 2:7). In requiring that the firstborn be dedicated to Him, God was calling to the people’s memory the great act of deliverance He performed for them. When God struck down the firstborn of Egypt, God preserved the firstborn of Israel, not because of their own merit (Deut. 9:6), but by the blood of the lamb that they placed over the doorposts. Henceforth, God asked Israel to set aside all the firstborn males, human and animal, to the Lord as “a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with His mighty hand” (Exodus 13:16). Dedicating the firsts of their dear possessions to the Lord reminded the people of what God had done for them. 

In this act of dedication, the parents relinquished ownership of their child. The child belonged to the Lord for His service. But even here, God was gracious. He appointed the descendants of the tribe of Levi to serve as His servants in the temple in place of the firstborn sons. After symbolically dedicating their child to the Lord, parents could redeem their child — in other words reclaim them — into their household again by paying a redemption price of five shekels to the priests (Numbers 18:16). In the new covenant established through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God doesn’t require us to perform these rituals any longer. They remain in Scripture, however, as a continual reminder of what God has done. 

As we start the new year, many of our resolutions center around us. They deal with self improvement, which isn’t a bad thing altogether — eating healthier, getting more sleep, watching less TV are good things for us. But if that is where our resolutions stop, then we are forgetting the greater things to which God has called us. God says that we are a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness and into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). God redeemed us with His sacred blood not so that we could serve ourselves but so that we could serve Him. He has saved us from any empty way of life and given us a life-giving relationship with Him. How can we share that with others? How can we be Christ’s representative in someone else’s life? How can we give more of ourselves to God and less to the things of the world? This would truly be a new year’s resolution for us. 

Just as Mary and Joseph dedicated this new life in their arms to God, this new year let us resolve to dedicate ourselves to God’s service, to the God who has done so much for us and has loved us with an everlasting love. He deserves our best. 

Amen

Thanks be to God. 

Revs. Garritt and Sanette Fleming