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1930 Boyd Avenue, Casper, WY

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Monday
May212018

June 2018

It is hard to imagine that by the end of this month, the year 2018 will be half over.  When I was young, older people used to tell me that time goes by faster and faster the older you get.  I have found that to be absolutely true.  This year has just flown by.  With the beginning of another packed summer, I do not anticipate it slowing down in the slightest.

Since we are nearing the ½ way point of 2018, it might be to our benefit to take a moment and evaluate this year to this point.  You may or may not have made New Year’s resolutions.  Personally I gave those up a long time ago.  But, if you made some and they are still intact, you deserve to be congratulated.  If they have gone by the wayside, then you are in the majority.  But, don’t be too discouraged, you still have a whole ½ year left to do better.

But, rather than judging your success or lack thereof by a resolution, I think we would be better off viewing certain areas of our lives and see whether these areas have improved.

How is your personal relationship with God?  I’m not asking whether or not you are saved. (Although if you are not, then we have something really important to talk about.)  I’m talking about how close you are to God now, compared to how close you were to Him at the first of the year.  This may not seem to be a long time given for growth, but so far in 2018 you and I have had almost 6 months of prayer time, Bible study, worship, and service.  If these things have not produced some level of growth then your assignment for the second half of the year is to develop these things in your life, so that growth will naturally happen.

Let’s take a look at these one by one.

How’s your prayer life?  I know I talk about this a lot, but this is essential to everything you do as a believer in Christ.  Do you pray every day?  Do your private prayers include praise and petition?  Are you ever simply quiet as you pray, so that you can hear the voice of God if and when He speaks to you?  A healthy prayer life will set the stage for your personal spiritual growth.  This will be foundational as you live in the Father’s abundance.

How about Bible study?  Are you a part of a Sunday School class and/or a V-group?  These are excellent opportunities that will help you learn more about God’s Word which He gave us for our daily benefit.  If you regularly participate in one or both of these forums, that is great, but it’s not enough.  Much like prayer, daily Bible study is helpful when we do it often.  The Apostle Paul teaches us to “Pray without ceasing.”  While we may not be able to study without ceasing.  We can ponder on what we have recently studied.  This keeps God’s Word in front of our hearts and minds.  Also, it is a disadvantage to stress over what you do not understand.  Celebrate what you do understand.  Then trust the Holy Spirit to reveal greater truths to you when you need them most.

Is worship a part of your daily life?  I don’t need to dwell on this here (I talked about this some last month).  God invites us to worship Him.  We need to worship Him.  And when we worship Him in Spirit and in Truth (John 4) then we will find that worship is fun.  This is true of public worship when we are with our Church family.  This is true when we worship God all by ourselves.

Where, when, and whom are you serving?  A Christian, by nature of who he or she is in Christ, must be a servant.  It stands to reason that a servant can’t serve without someone to serve.  So, go find someone to serve.  It doesn’t matter who they are or what ministry they may need.  If you can see their need for service, it is very likely that God is assigning you to them and them to you.  There are few things in life that will create faster growth than being a servant.  It is unexplainable and incomprehensible the power of serving.  Yes, those who are served are blessed by being served.  But, the servant is blessed even more!

So, here we go.  If the first half of 2018 was a time of spiritual growth for you, then great!  We need to praise the Lord for that.  But, if your growth has been slow or nonexistent, then it is time to take advantage of the second half of this year.  God is giving us this opportunity, let’s not waste it.

 

Tuesday
May012018

May 2018

Communication is an important part of our lives.  It is a desirable goal in all of our relationships, although there are times we find it difficult to achieve and even more difficult to maintain.  One of the goals that we, in the Church office, are always trying to improve is our ability to communicate.  It is one of those things that no matter how hard we try, or what new opportunities technology offers, effective communication always seems just out of reach.

One of the problems with communication that it requires two parties.  I really don’t have a big issue communicating with myself.  If I tell me something, usually, I am listening.  When I send me a memo, I not only get the memo, but I understand what the memo is intending to communicate.  But, when I bring in a second party, I find that those communication skills that I take for granted within myself, are not as well received.  And, I must confess, I often find that my statements may not communicate my meaning quite as clearly as I had intended.  Plus, I have found that the more parties that enter into attempts of communication the more difficult it becomes.

Now, you may ask, “What in the world is he trying to communicate to me?”  Actually, the answer to that has little to do with speaking, or writing, or listening skills.  Rather, I would like us to consider what we do in relation to our attempts to communicate with God?  “Well,” you may say, “he’s talking about prayer.”  If so, you are partially correct.  But, I’m actually referring to a broader concept of communication with God.  Just think about it.  Is it not an incredible thing that the creative God of the universe who is omni-everything, who is the apex of love, mercy, and grace, wants us to communicate with Him and He to us?

Yes, I am talking about having an active prayer life.  We need to come to God on a regular basis and pray.  During that prayer, we need to praise, petition, and listen.  This needs to be a habitual part of our routine.  But, I am also talking about worship.  This may sound odd to you, but I am convinced that worship is a form of communication to and with God.  In our public worship, we sing, we give, we read, we preach, and we listen.  We find these things enjoyable while we are doing them.  But, we also need to consider that for worship to be real and effective, it must be extended to God.  We are communicating to Him our reverence and adoration.  We are also opening our hearts up to receive whatever communication that His Spirit wants to deliver to us.  While this is true of our corporate worship, it also must be true of our personal worship.  If the only time you pray is when you pray in church or before a meal, it is obvious that your prayer life is in need of growth.  Likewise, if the only worship time you have is when you meet in church on Sundays, then your worship life is in need of growth. 

If you consider the breadth of these statements, then it only stands to reason, that prayer and worship are tightly wound together.  In fact they are so tightly wound together, I do not believe they can be fully separated.  I see no way to pray without including some worship.  And I certainly see no way to worship without prayer.  I think this holds true to public and private prayer and public and private worship.

So, what I would like you consider as you read this is how is your communication with God?  Is your prayer life what it should be?  Is your worship life what it should be?   These are questions that we should be asking ourselves on a regular basis.  I think all of us could use a communication check up with our Heavenly Father.  I know He would like to hear from us.  I know that we need to talk to Him.  And I definitely know that all of us need to hear from Him as well. 

 

Tuesday
Mar272018

April 2018

Easter is always a highlight of not only our Church calendar, but also of our lives as Christians.  Around the Church, Easter is a busy time.  There are special activities for the children.  Our musicians work on special numbers to be presented on and around the Easter event.  We have a special Good Friday service that reminds us of the price that Christ paid for us.  Easter is an important holiday for all of us who believe that Christ died for our sins and that God raised Him from the dead on the third day.

Over the years, I have heard a number of arguments concerning the exact timing of the crucifixion.  Several years ago, my mother-in-law brought up the idea to me that Jesus was not crucified on Friday, but earlier in the week, so that Jesus could be left in the tomb a full 72 hours, referencing Matthew 12: 40.  The simple explanation for all this is that in Hebrew culture, any part of any day would be considered the whole day.  This is the most common explanation and is widely accepted by most scholars.  However, there are those who find this timing to be a sticking point.  The 72 hour threshold satisfies our western minds and linear thinking.  I’ve heard people (my mother-in-law was one of them) aggressively defend the idea that Jesus was crucified earlier in the week than we generally think.  My personal short answer is the more broadly taken position that Jesus was crucified on Friday and that any part of any of those days was adequate to meet the Biblical descriptions.  But, if you disagree with that and hold to the concept that Jesus was crucified earlier in the week, that’s OK with me.  We can simply disagree over a timing issue.  And as a point of full disclosure, I don’t really care that much if I’m right on this issue or not.

However, the one thing in these events that we cannot disagree on is that God raised Jesus from the dead on Sunday morning. We don’t know how long it took the women to arrive at Jesus’ tomb on Sunday morning.  We are certain they left their homes at sunrise.  It probably was not a long journey to the tomb, the Scripture indicates that they arrived there as early as they possibly could.  But, the one thing we know was that when they got to the tomb, it was empty.  The stone had been rolled away, the guards had been dispersed, and Jesus was gone.  It didn’t take long for them to discover that He was alive again!  We now had a living Savior!  The Son of God had been sacrificed for our sins, and now His mortal body was quickened from the dead and He is alive again!!  So it happened just as Jesus said it would on multiple occasions:  “From then on Jesus began to point out to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” Matthew 16: 21 

You see, it really doesn’t matter to me if you see Jesus crucified on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.  What does matter to me is that you, I and all of us see Him escaping the tomb on Sunday.  For it is His resurrection from the dead that is the cornerstone of our faith.  Christianity rises or falls on the reality of the Resurrection.  If Jesus did not get out of that tomb, then we Christians are wrong and we have nothing to offer this world that it cannot find elsewhere.  But, if the Resurrection of Christ is a reality (and it certainly is) then we have a Truth that can be found nowhere else.  And that Truth is that Jesus is alive.  He was alive when the women returned to His tomb and He is alive today.

That’s the Good News of Easter.

Happy Easter!!

 

Tuesday
Feb272018

March 2018

On January 28, I received news that a very good friend and fellow pastor had died.  Jesus came to Gary Hans and carried him home.  This ended Gary’s long battle with a variety of health issues.

It is unusual for me to take this space to remember someone we have lost.  Especially, someone like Gary, who was not, nor had ever been, a member of Boyd Avenue.  But, I’m going to take a moment and share with you my personal tribute to a man who I knew and loved.  A fellow pastor whom I deeply respect.  Perhaps, this is my way of mourning my loss.

When I first met and got to know Gary, he was a deacon at Mountain View Baptist Church.  During those days, the church had a couple of pastors and it is not harsh to say that the church was having its ups and downs.  But, during the ups and downs, the one thing I always saw, was Gary, standing strong and pushing forward.  His pastors always spoke of his dependability and his faithfulness.  His fellow church members, while not necessarily agreeing with Gary, always respected and appreciated him.

In 1999, Gary surrendered to the Gospel Ministry.  He was ordained by Mountain View Church.  Almost a year later, we was called to be pastor of Sunrise Baptist Church.  To say that Sunrise was a struggling church would be a gross understatement.  They had had a series of ineffective pastors.  Turmoil was a standard operating procedure.  The church was beginning to stabilize under the leadership of an interim pastor, but everyone expected the dysfunction to return as soon as a permanent pastor was called.  Then they called Gary Hans to be their pastor.  He had no pastoral experience.  His education was limited.  The only thing he had going for him when he accepted this call was his absolute belief that this was God’s will for him and for Sunrise.  He was proven to be right!  It is no exaggeration to say that Gary saved that church.  In 2000, I had no confidence that the church would survive, much less flourish.  But, it did.  Gary simply loved those people.  He went in as their pastor, loved them and led them out of a wilderness to become a strong and effective church.  I know that I am saying that Gary did all this.  We know that really God did all this, but He used Gary.  Gary allowed God to use Him.  With all of the elements needed to be a successful pastor, if a person loves his people and allows God to use him, good things will happen.  Last year, Gary took a medical retirement from being a pastor.  He left the church that God left in his care exponentially better off than when he started.

That is what I saw God do with Gary.  But, personally, I knew Gary as a friend.  He was always happy, always smiling, always up to something.  You had to keep an eye on him or else you would fall victim to one of his practical jokes.  But, he was never mean spirited.  He just like to laugh and so do I.  Over the last couple of years, as he struggled with health issues, he would still be an encourager.  Every once in a while, he would give me a call out of nowhere.  We would chat for a few minutes, then he would give me a word of encouragement.  He would thank me for doing something I probably had little to do with, but then he would leave me with a word of encouragement.  After those phone calls, I would always feel a little guilty, because here I was, in good health, in a good place and here is Gary encouraging me.  I should have been calling him and encouraging him, but it was usually the other way around.  That was just Gary. 

So here we are now, Gary is gone from this life.  I will miss him.  Gone is a good friend.  Gone is a man who I liked and respected.  While I am mourning his death, truly, I am celebrating his life.  Gary knew and served our Lord, Jesus Christ.  On January 28, Jesus came to Gary’s home in Mills, put His arms around him and said, “Son it’s time for you to come home.  I have a mansion in My Father’s house that I have prepared for you.  Well done, good and faithful servant.”   Someday, I will see Gary in that place.  For the same Savior died for each of us.  The same Lord placed us in His service.  The same Lord will bring us back together in His presence. 

 

Tuesday
Feb062018

February 2018

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes the statement, “For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6: 21.  In other words, He is stating that if we examine what is most important to us, we will find that which we love most.  So, if w store up and collect something, it could be that this is what we love the most.  Now I’m not talking about collecting as a hobby.  It is highly unlikely (although not impossible) that stamps, or baseball cards, or rare coins could become the most important things in our lives.  Generally, people who collect as a hobby simply enjoy the ongoing pursuit of something that can be hard to find, not unlike the drive in those of us who like to hunt or fish.

What Jesus was talking about in this statement, is not focused so much on that which is collected, but rather the heart of the one who is doing the collecting.  What are you putting away in storage?   Why are you putting it there?  Are we storing stuff?  Are we storing something that is more valuable?  Don’t get me wrong.  Stuff in itself is not necessarily a bad thing.  I have quite a bit of stuff, and I like most of that stuff.  Our house for example.  We have lived in our current home for almost 15 years.  We have invested many dollars as we have been making mortgage payments all that time and still have a little way to go.  Added to that, we have remodeled the kitchen, the master bedroom, both bathrooms, and a few other places.  We have replaced the roof and about half of the flooring.  As with all houses, there is always more to do and we will keep doing things to upgrade the house.  Beth and I really like our home.  We spend a lot of time there.  We entertain on a regular basis.  We find it as a place of quiet retreat when we need a short break.  Both of us have lived longer in this house than in any other house, including our childhood homes.  But, we are well aware that it is almost certain that there will come a time, when we will choose to move out of that house.  Someday, we will hire a realtor, find a buyer, make a deal on the house, and move out.  And when we do that, there will likely be a little sadness, but we will not be traumatized.  It’s just a house, a nice house, but still just a house.

Now, on the other hand, what do we really treasure?  What is there, that if we lost it that loss would devastate us?  This is an important question.  While I cannot speak for Beth, I do not think that she would disagree with my following observations.  As I think about this, there are a few things that I treasure.  There is my family, (my wife, my children, and their children) the loss of any one of those would be devastating.  My heart would be broken.  There is the church, (Boyd Avenue Baptist Church) if I could no longer be a part of this wonderful body, I do not know what I would do.  Granted, there will come a time (no date picked out yet) when I will no longer be the pastor.  But currently, it is my full intention to remain a part of this great body and follow its new leadership whoever that may be.  So, as I answer this question, what do I truly treasure, the two things that hold my heart the strongest are my family and my church.  But, there is one more thing that as I contemplate losing it would be even more devastating than all else.  What if I lost the love of God?  Not my love for Him, but His love for me.  I cannot fathom this loss.  For if God stopped loving me, what value would there be in any of my other treasure?

Good News!!  I cannot lose that last mentioned treasure!  A tragedy could strike and I could lose any or all of my family (in this life).  An unforeseeable circumstance could arise and I could have to move far away and never see any of my dear Boyd Avenue family again.  But, there is nothing in all of creation that can separate me from the love that God has for me.  Romans 8: 35-39 asks and answers this question.  “Who can separate us from the love of Christ?”  The answer: “For I am persuaded that not even death of life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!”

So, I’ve answered the question:  What do I treasure?  What do I hold deepest in my heart?  But, of those things that I treasure the most, the only one that is absolutely enduring is the love that Jesus has for me.  Yes, that indeed is a treasure that cannot decay, nor can it be taken away.  Where is your heart?  What do you treasure?