Tuesday, February 14, 2017

This Is Love

Today is Valentine's Day and I have been meditating on a verse from 1 John 4:10, "This is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." I have been drawn to those first three words, "This is love." In our culture we define love in a very conditional way. People spend a lot of money and figuratively speaking "go overboard" to demonstrate their love to another person. But what happens after the day is over? All the tokens that mark Valentine's Day do not last. Flowers wither and die, greeting cards may end up in the trash or a recycling bin, and chocolates disappear eventually ending up around our waistlines. If greeting cards are saved, they often end up in a box on a shelf or in a closet only to be looked at as one is downsizing their living space or a relative is cleaning out a home after someone's death. Then, there are all those who have no one to share love with them. They may be homeless, or perhaps they are not involved in a relationship of any kind. Some may be divorced or have lost a spouse or significant other to death. The Scriptures define real love in the purest and truest sense of the word. It is the unconditional love of God demonstrated in the ultimate sacrificial gift, the life of His Son. God's love is for all people regardless of race, creed, color, or ethnic background. There are no expectations or pre-requirements on our part. We can be rich or poor, healthy or ill, employed or unemployed. We can live any where in the world under good conditions or difficult circumstances. We can be law abiding citizens or sitting in a jail cell for a crime. The bottom line is that Christ died for all and God loved us with a love that is everlasting and does not change or end. We as humans can never really love well enough. Even after Valentine's Day we are still constantly trying to prove our love in one way or another. Our love can even fail us at the time of death. Doctors have observed a phenomenon referred to as "broken heart syndrome." When two people are strongly emotionally bonded, the death of one individual can then trigger the quick demise of the other sometimes within weeks or even days. People are still shocked over the death of actress Debbie Reynolds two days after the passing of her daughter Carrie Fisher. Debbie Reynold's son shared that after his sister Carrie passed away, his mother reportedly stated she wanted to "be with Carrie." Bereavement experts report that the first stage of grief after someone dies is anger. Perhaps there is an underlying feeling on the part of the surviving relatives that the person didn't love them enough to stay alive and not leave them abandoned. God has promised He will never leave or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5b) Indeed, God has kept His promise because Jesus did not remain in the grave but He was raised from the dead and one day will come back for us. (Revelation 22:7,12,20) Furthermore, in His absence Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to not only be our strength, comfort, and support but also our guarantee of what is yet to come. (John 14:16-18; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14) This indeed is love! It is a true, pure, and unadulterated love. So for all of those who are feeling left out or abandoned on this Valentine's Day, know this, You are loved and always will be! From the Father's heart to yours, Happy Valentine's Day!
In His Love,
Pastor Sheree

Monday, February 13, 2017

God Is A Patriots Fan!

February 5, 2017 in the sports world will be a day not soon forgotten. It was Super Bowl Sunday and one of the most historic comebacks in the game of football. The New England Patriots faced the Atlanta Falcons in the final showdown of the football season. Both teams were in pursuit of the coveted Lombardi trophy as well as bragging rights of being the best team in football. There was a lot on the line for both teams. This was Atlanta's second attempt at trying to win the Super Bowl and the young team lead by quarterback, Matt Ryan, was on a winning streak. Their opponents, led by quarterback Tom Brady were on the verge of making history as the team sought to clinch their fifth Super Bowl title after a very difficult season. The game was the talk of the sports world as commentators and pundits placed their bets on who would emerge victorious. New England already had the reputation of being known as "Patriot's nation" and fans of the team are at times characterized as "fanatics." Many agreed that the Falcons would pose a great challenge to the Patriots and the final score would be close. However, there was no doubt in Patriot's nation that their team would emerge triumphant. What was unexpected was the manner in which the Patriots won the game. After the first half, the outcome was looking fairly bleak as the Falcons appeared to be running away with the game. At half time the Patriots were down approximately three touchdowns and many became pessimistic that the Patriots could come back and win. In fact no team in the history of football ever came back to win in the second half after being so far behind in points. However, when all was said and done, the Patriots mounted an unbelievable comeback to clinch the win, go down in history, and leave many shaking their heads including the Atlanta Falcons as to what had just happened. I must admit I was one of those head shakers. It felt like I had just witnessed a miracle. Yet there are times when I doubt God's ability to answer a specific prayer in a seemingly impossible situation. On Thursday, February 9th, New England experienced its first major snowstorm of the winter season which dumped over a foot of snow in many areas. It happened to be my day off and I had the daunting task of clearing our driveway of snow so that my husband could get in after he came home from work. Our driveway slopes slightly upward and shoveling can become a challenge, especially with each year that I grow older. Although we own a snowblower, it is often difficult for me to get it started and it is very heavy and awkward to manage. I happened to be texting with one of the lead pastors at our home church and telling her about my dilemma. She responded by saying she had just prayed for a snowplow to come along "in Jesus' name." I must confess I was skeptical about her prayer. As I began shoveling, I kept thinking to myself, "that was a nice prayer but it's never going to happen." I was almost to the end of the driveway, when my husband came home and said he would take care of the rest with our snowblower. Just as he was about to get the snowblower from our shed, a man drove up in a truck with a plow attached. He asked us if we were all set and my husband responded,"Yes!" In my mind I was thinking to my self, "No, we're not all set. Our answer to prayer just rolled up!" What was even more unbelievable was the snowplow driver's truck had the Patriot's logo on the passenger's side door. It was as if God were reminding me to believe in the impossible! Realistically, I know that God did not favor one football team over the other as Deuteronomy 10:17 states, "For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes." However, He is God of the impossible. When Abraham's wife, Sarah, laughed at the idea of having a child in her old age, the angelic messenger God had sent to deliver the news responded, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14a) Jeremiah affirms God's greatness as he prayed, "Ah, Sovereign Lord, You have made the heaves and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for You." (Jeremiah 32:17) The Lord responds to Jeremiah's prayer, I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Me?" (Jeremiah 32:27) Jesus states that ".....with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26) Furthermore, in addressing a father who was desperately seeking Jesus to heal his son, the man confesses he is struggling to believe that boy can really be healed. Jesus responds, ".....everything is possible for one who believes." (Mark 9:23) Additionally, it goes without saying that the greatest miracle, the greatest "comeback" from seemingly impossible odds was performed by God when He raised our Lord, Jesus Christ from the dead. I have to admit when I think of that snowy day, I often smile at the way God chooses to communicate His point in interesting ways and once again I am left just like with the Super Bowl game shaking my head and declaring with the psalmist, "Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom; The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does." (Psalm 145:3;13b)
Pastor Sheree