Saint Valentine: Who Was He?

Valentine’s Day is a day that we celebrate our love for one another, and God’s love for us. In the Bible John 15:13 reads “Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends” And that is what Saint Valentine did.

Saint Valentine was a priest near Rome in about the year 270 A.D. At that time the Roman Emperor was imprisoning Christians for not worshiping the Roman gods.  During this persecution Valentine was arrested.  Some write that he was arrested because he was performing Christian marriages, but others say it was for helping Christians escape prison.

During the trial they asked Valentine what he thought of the Roman gods Jupiter and Mercury. Valentine said they were false gods and that the God whom Jesus called father was the only true God.  So the Romans threw him in prison for insulting the gods.

While in prison, Valentine continued to minister. He witnessed to the guards.  One of the guards was a good man who had adopted a blind girl.  He asked Valentine if his God could help his daughter.  Valentine prayed and the girl was given her sight.   The guard and his whole family, 46 people, believed in Jesus and were baptized.  Because these people had come to know Jesus, Valentine praised God right there in his prison cell.  When the emperor heard about this, he was furious that Valentine was still making converts even in prison, so  he had Valentine beheaded.

Valentine knew that he might get caught in his Christian activities. He knew that if he told the court the truth about the Roman gods that he would be thrown in prison,  And he knew that if he continued to witness of Christ in the prison he would make his captors angry.  But he continued, because he loved the Lord and his fellow humans.  He was willing to risk his life to free the prisoners and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who needed to hear it.

The Bible say: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” (John 15:13) God showed us this love by coming in Christ to die for our sins. And Saint Valentine demonstrated this love when he died for his friends.  This is the kind of love that Valentine’s Day is really about.

The Angels

On that night of nights when Christ was born, the shepherds in the fields keeping watch over their flocks were in an enviable position. For such a night as this, ambition would make one desire to be among those shepherds by Bethlehem.

These were no ordinary shepherds. It is believed that these shepherds kept dedicated flocks destined for the Temple sacrifices and the Passover feast.  These sheep and lambs then were typical of the “Lamb of God,” whose birth the angels announced to their shepherds.

The Good Tidings and Great Joy was this: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). They were instructed as to how they might recognize Him by these words, “… wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12)

Suddenly, with the announcement to men, the hosts of heaven’s angels could not contain their praise and burst forth in a “Gloria” never before or since heard on earth, but to be echoed in heaven in the day all the saints sing together at their Redeemer’s feet, “… Thou art Worthy  … for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

May we join the angel chorus in praise to the Son of God.

Bless You Who Serve

 

Bless you who arrive early on Sunday to open doors and turn up the AC or heat for pleasant conditions during worship.

Bless you who begin Bible study on Monday night to prepare for a lesson of teaching truth the following Sunday.

Bless you who sing, who usher, and who work the sound and do things behind the scenes so that Sunday services run smoothly and point to Christ.

Bless you who phone our guest to see if they have questions about our ministries.

Bless you who serve in Sunday School and spend time showing a Christ like example, even when exhausted.

Bless you who handle the financial decisions of the church dispersing money both here and around the world for the cause of Christ.

Bless you who respond when you hear of a dip in offerings or a special need in the missions or building fund. Bless you for your generosity.

Bless you who visit the shut-in or drop a card of encouragement, or who express thanks for years of ministry.

Bless you who faithfully represent Christ where you work, lead a Bible study, or pray that your fellow workers will seek a reason for the hope that is in you.

Bless you who take time each day to pray for your church and its leadership team, who give thanks to God so that we stand with appreciation as a family of believers, and who pray for our future, our vision and wisdom.

Bless you … and thank you!

Pastor Jim

Summer Time

Summer is arriving, people are graduating, schools are letting out for summer and people are moving. When people move, both good and bad things happen. The negative part is that wonderful people are transferred or move away.

The positive side is that there are many new people moving into our area. I want us to be aware that there will be new faces showing up in church over the next four months. I invite you to join me in doing whatever you can to make them feel welcome. I hope you will introduce yourself to people, and greet them with a smile and a handshake. I encourage you to invite them to your Sunday School classes and fellowship time.

May I offer a specific suggestion? Take the first five minutes at the end of the worship service and look for people you don’t know. Introduce yourself to these people.

DID YOU KNOW … – 80% of those who become part of a Church do so because they are specifically invited by someone? – People who come to know Christ within an ongoing friendship with another Christian are much more likely to follow through on their commitment to Christ?

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association researched why people did not return to a specific restaurant. They discovered the following: 1% did not return because they died, 3% moved, 5% formed other relationships, 9% preferred a competitor, 14% didn’t like the product, and 68% did not return to that particular restaurant because they felt there was an attitude of neglect and indifference. People respond to churches in similar fashion.

One of the characteristic of God’s people throughout the Bible is the hospitality that they showed. I hope that we will create a warm, welcoming environment. May others sense our joy as they come to worship with us.

Pastor Jim

Pentecost

Roald Amundesen said, “This is the place.”  For the first time in history, a human voice broke the awesome silence of the world’s southernmost point.  After a sixty day journey by dog sled, on December 14, 1911, the Norwegian fag was raised at the South Pole bringing fame to Amundsen and his men.

Since the age of fourteen, Amundsen had wanted to be the first person to reach the North Pole.  His explorations were delayed by World War I , but he did reach it by plane, but only after Admiral Richard Bird and Robert Peary had both claimed to have reached the North Pole.  Amundsen was the first man to ever reach both poles.  And he was the first to locate the magnetic North Pole.

As Amundsen and his six crew men flew over the North Pole, they dropped three flags, Japanese, American, and Norwegian.  He also released a homing pigeon that made its way safely back to his home in Sarpsborg, Norway.  Imagine the joy of his wife to see the pigeon circling he home and coming to roost.  The bird was confirmation that he was alive.  She read the short message from Amundsen,  “Pole attained.  Safe.  RA.”  Today, the small piece of paper can be seen in the University Museum in Oslo.

On Pentecost, May 24, may we celebrate the birthday of the church and the confirmation that what Jesus taught and promised are true.  The Holy Spirit that came as a dove upon Jesus, now came upon the disciples in tongues of fire as a reminder that Jesus was alive and ascended to the right hand of the Father in glory.  May we as God’s church say “this is the place” where the Spirit’s power is demonstrated in our lives.
Pastor Jim

  A Mother’s short Prayer
borrowed from a prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Dear Heavenly Father,
Where there is doubt, let me show faith.
Where there is despair, hope.   Where there is sadness, ever joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console,
to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love!  Amen

The Cross of Christ

As we progress through the month of March, we think of Easter and Good Friday and The Seven Last Words of Christ.  They teach us not only how He died but also how we are to live.

MERCY   “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” [Luke 23:34]  May the Lord grant us grace to follow in His steps of mercy.

GRACE   “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” [Luke 23:43]   There’s no bottom to God’s ocean of grace.

COMPASSION   “Dear woman, here is your son … Here is your mother.” [John 19:26, 27]   Compassion is, after all, an unmistakable sign of the presence of Christ.  Hear Him as He speaks to us, “Take My place until I come.”

ANGUISH   “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” [Matthew 27:46]   Because of our sins, He is forsaken by God, so that we might one day declare in astonishment, “My God, my God, why have You NOT forsaken me?” And the only answer is the cross.

NEED   “I am thirsty” [John 19:28]   He will use suffering. You may not see how, but He will.  He will use it to bring glory to Himself, and He may even bring others to faith through you.

VICTORY  “It is finished”   [John 19:30]  The fruits of His victory won at Calvary can be tasted by every believer who is willing to wait on Him in dependence and confidence in His wisdom, power, and love.

TRUST   “Father into your hands I commit My Spirit” [Luke 23:45]   If we place ourselves in His hands, we are always secure.  It is the privilege of trusting Him that we might ultimately triumph through Him.

In His Grip,
Pastor Jim

 

The Love He Gave

February is a great month to speak about love – obviously the coming of St. Valentine’s Day brings our thoughts to the people we love and cherish.  Because we exchange messages of love, people probably think that St. Valentine was quite a romantic person.  Yet this man’s greatest accomplishment was his love for people.

He showed great love by protecting the Christians in Rome from persecution.  For this crime, he was imprisoned.  While in prison, he became a Christian himself; behind bars he met the greatest lover – Jesus.  In prison he met the one who would set him free.  Because of his conversion, Valentine was sentenced to death.

While in his cell awaiting death, he found that he could reach through his window to pick some violets.  He would pin messages of love to these flowers and send them to his friends and family.  Often the message was just a simple “I love you.”  Sadly, this man who had shown so much love, was brutally clubbed to death in his cell on February 14, 269 AD.  Yet today his legacy lives on.  As he was loved by Jesus Christ, he became a great lover.  The love he gave flowed from the love he experienced.

We have a ministry of passing on the love of Christ which flows through us.  “We love Him because He first loved us.”  As we exchange messages of love, may we embrace the source of our love, Jesus Christ.  Come hear a message of love this Sunday in church.

Pastor Jim

Holiday Humor

 

  • The Wise Men were truly wise men. Unlike most men, they stopped to ask for directions.
  • Question: Why was Jesus born in a stable? Answer: Mary and Joseph were enrolled in an HMO.
  • A first-grade class presented a Nativity play shortly before Christmas.  When Joseph came to the inn and asked if there was room at the inn, the little boy playing the innkeeper replied, “You’re lucky.  We just had a cancellation.”
  • A woman went to the Post Office to buy stamps for her Christmas cards.   “What denomination?” asked the clerk.  “Oh heavens! Have we come to this?” said the woman. “Well give me 50 Catholic and 50 Baptist ones.”
  • In 1690, a teenage boy complained to his father that he found most church hymns boring and tedious.  The father replied, “If you think you can write better hymns, why don’t you try?”  Issac Watts then composed “Joy to the World.”

Marlene and I celebrate 42 years of marriage this month and 42 years of good humor.  She took me in sickness and in health, in good jokes and in bad jokes.  Even though we’ve experienced loss, there is still joy in our hearts because of the angel’s announcement.  “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.”  Luke 2:10   And that joy is a Savior, Christ the Lord.

  • How joyful I am to have a Savior in my life.
  • How joyful I am to have a godly wife who has loved me for 42 years
  • How joyful I am to have four humorous kids, one is in heaven, and now four humorous Grandchildren.
  • How joyful I am to experience the love of God’s people at this Christmas time.

Have a Joyful and Merry Christmas,
Pastor Jim

 

Burger King Theology

Most of us are familiar with the Burger King jingle that urges us to “Have it your way”. Have you ever noticed how similar our faith is to a Burger King life style?  Recently, I observed several ways in which our spiritual beliefs and practices resemble a Burger King lifestyle.  Join me in taking a little test to examine your spiritual life by agreeing or disagreeing with the following statements.

True or False:  I want my religion my way!   “Have it your way” was the Burger King slogan for 40 years.  Frank Sinatra, old Blue Eyes himself, voiced this same philosophy of life with his theme song, “I Did it My Way.”       These two popular phrases are in direct opposition to true Christianity.  Jesus Christ said, “I am the way the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6)  Jesus taught that there is only one way to reach God and eternal life, and that is by a personal commitment to obey Christ.  “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.  For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.”  (Matthew 7:13-14 NASB)  True Christians cannot have a relationship with God on their own terms.  We must come to God through Jesus Christ; He and He alone can give eternal life!

True or False:  I get my spiritual food on the go, like a fast food restaurant.  Have you noticed how hurried people are who eat at Burger King?  They rush into the parking lot, wait impatiently in line, scarf down their food, and hurry on to their next destination.  So it is with the way many people get spiritual nourishment.  They get up as late as possible on Sunday morning, rush to church, and slip in just as the service starts in order to get there spiritual food, then rush off to the next activity of the day.       We can never get to know God that way.  The Lord tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  We must spend time reading His Word, meditating, and worshiping Him.

True or False:  My spiritual involvement occurs only at certain key times.
If you watch the local Burger King, there are certain times when it is busy.  Early in the morning, at noon, and around dinner time, cars jam into the parking lot and line up at the drive-up window.  Not much activity occurs during the rest of the day.  In the same way some people go to church only on Easter Sunday, Christmas, and maybe a wedding or funeral.       By contrast, true Christianity involves daily obedience to Christ.  “If anyone wishes to come after Me,” said Jesus, “Let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

True or False:  I select the parts of the Bible I want to believe and obey.
At Burger King was can say,  “Hold the onions, give me extra ketchup.”    We can take what we want and leave the rest.  In the same way, many people say, “I like the part of the Bible that says ‘God is love.’  But I don’t’ believe it when it says ‘It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment’. (Hebrews 9:27) and they’re not too crazy about ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you …’ (Matthew 5:44)
We cannot pick and choose the parts of scripture we like.  The Bible says of itself, “All scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16).  Jesus said, “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me” (John 14:21).  The entire Bible is the Word of God and we must obey all of it.

Does your spiritual life resemble a Burger King lifestyle?  Do you want to “have it your way”, or will you accept the challenge to live God’s way?
         Pastor Jim

Learning to Praise God

As the time for summer vacations draws to a close and the excitement of a new school year of learning begins, let us also be excited as believers in God, of learning to draw closer to Him.

I praise God because He is a personal God. He gives us the honor of knowing Him and being in His presence.  Ten of my favorite scripture verses of praise are:

  1.  God the Creator:  “Creator God, I praise You because you made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship You.” (see Nehemiah 9:6)
  2. The Only God:“God, I praise You because You are the Lord, and there is no other. Apart from You there is no God.” (see Isaiah 45:5)
  3. The Almighty God:  “O Lord God Almighty, who is like you faithfulness surrounds you.” (see Psalm 89:8)
  4. The Everlasting Father, The Ancient of Days.  “I praise You, Lord, as the Ancient of Days (see Daniel 7:9), the Everlasting Father who lives forever and ever.” (see Isaiah 9:6)
  5. A Loving God:“I praise You because You are a loving God, whose very nature is love.” (see 1 John 4:16)
  6. A God of Justice.  “Lord I magnify You because You are just and You justify those who have faith in Jesus.” (see Romans 3:26)
  7. A Faithful God.  “Heavenly Father, I give You my adoration, because You are a God, keeping Your covenant of love to a thousand generations of love You and keep Your commands.” (see Deuteronomy 7:9)
  8. A Merciful God.  “You are gracious and merciful God, and I praise You for your great mercy.” (see Nehemiah 9:31)
  9. God, My Rock, and My Refuge.“I praise You, Lord, for You are my mighty rock, my refuge.” (see Psalm 62:7)
  10. A Patient, Persevering God.“Father, I praise You because You are  patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but wanting everyone to come to repentance.  Thank You for Your patience with me.”  (See 2 Peter 3:9)

Let’s gather to worship and praise Him, on these end of summer Sundays with a Bible in your hand and a friend at your side.     Pastor Jim