Pass the Peace

Times of Refreshment

By Pastor Ben Wedeking

In Acts 3, Peter and John, on their way into a prayer service at the temple, encounter a man lame from birth, who is begging for money. In that time, there was no disability or other services for the physically impaired, so the only way to make a living was to beg on the streets.  When he saw Peter and John, he saw them like anyone else passing through, a possible agent of mercy and compassion. He had no idea that they were about to be so much more.

Peter and John looked at him and instead of giving him some coins in his basket, spoke with authority in Jesus’ name and the man was instantly healed.  Everyone in the temple who sees this miracle are dumbfounded. Peter, seeing a crowd gathering, takes the opportunity to preach about Jesus. He shares about Jesus’ life—how He was born into the world to destroy the works of the devil through preaching, teaching and healing.  Peter also shares about His death on a cross, an unjust execution for which we are all culpable.  For you see, Jesus died on the cross, for you and me—to forgive us of our sins.

The apostle Peter goes on to explain why all this happened and what it means for our lives. He tells the crowd to repent, which means to turn around in our thoughts and actions, essentially to start over and turn towards God.  Peter says repent and your sins will be washed away and times of refreshment will come.  Think of it!  Through Jesus, our sins are washed away and times of refreshment come.

Refreshment in this passage from Acts 3 is a word that means to relieve trouble or to dry out a wound through breathing over it. It is a word that is used in the Old Testament to refer to rest for slaves in Egypt, the calming of a tormented mind, and relief from a plague of croaking frogs.

Today you stand with an opportunity to experiences these times of refreshment – to have the croaking frogs of guilt and shame silenced in your life, to have the lies of a tormented mind washed away by the love of Jesus Christ, to experience rest for your weary souls. Knowing this good news, what is keeping you from repenting right now and giving your life to Jesus? I pray that you will do just that and experience the healing and forgiveness that God has for you.

 

 

Pass the Peace

Pass the Peace

By Pastor Ben Wedeking

In church worship services, there is usually an opportunity to greet each other.  At Grimes UMC, we do this by inviting people to greet each other with a handshake, hug, high five or fist bump. The greeting time is our chance to check in with each other and meet new friends.  It is also our chance to live out what it means to be the family of God.

This idea of the church being family is nothing new. Since its’ beginning, Christians have called each other brother and sister, recognizing that we have been made God’s family through what Jesus did for us on the cross.

 

The greeting time is not new either.  The Apostle Paul, a missionary and church planter, invited the churches he wrote, “to greet each other with a holy kiss.”(2 Corinthians 13:12)  The holy kiss was the handshake of that time, so those of you reading this, who were suddenly worried that you need to “pucker up”, you can be at ease—no kissing

 

required.

This greeting time in certain church traditions is called “passing the peace” and that is a fitting phrase to describe greeting someone in church.  When you shake hands, smile, and exchange hellos, you are passing the peace of Jesus Christ.

Yet, this is not the extent of passing the peace. Passing the peace means greeting our neighbors in our community as well as in our churches. It means doing what you can to offer peace and the love of Jesus Christ, through your words and actions, to those around you.

As we head into Advent, this is a good time to remember that as followers of Christ, we are asked to pass the peace—to every person who crosses our path.  Jesus didn’t make a distinction between those you like and those you don’t. In fact, in Matthew 6:27, Jesus tells us to love our enemies.

In this divisive time in our nation, Jesus’ words are a call to remember that, when He came to the world, He came to bring salvation to all the earth, and He came to die for all. He did not exclude any person, of any race or creed, from the opportunity to receive eternal life.

And if that is how Jesus is, how should we be towards those around us?

Happy Advent, Merry Christmas and peace on earth on whom the Lord’s favor rests!

 

 

Is the Shooter in Heaven?

Is the Shooter in Heaven?

By Pastor Ben Wedeking

This last week, I have been approached by two of our church family, who had that question on their minds, so I thought it was worth addressing for you all.

When tragedies like last Sunday happen in our nation, where children are gunned down, and in a church of all places, it brings a lot of questions to the surface for us.   Why? What could have prevented it? And as we dwell on it further, and we think of the cries of children, a desire for justice bubbles up inside of us and we find ourselves filled with anger—and I would say, righteous anger.  We want justice, and rightfully so.  However, this man took his life and can’t face authorities. But we hope that doesn’t mean we won’t have to face the ultimate Authority.

And then the debate begins, the debate about whether this man will be in heaven.  The hypothetical question, “if someone repents in their last moments, are they forgiven—does he get off scot-free for his horrendous actions.” To that, I would say a couple things.  First, I can’t judge because I don’t know the heart of a person—that’s God’s role.  Only He knows if a man or woman has truly repented and asked forgiveness for His sins.

But that said, I don’t think grace is cheap.  I find myself in the Dietrich Bonhoeffer camp that what Jesus did for us was costly and therefore should result in a life of gratitude and obedience to the God who saves us.   Do I think if someone is flippant with that grace that they get to be with Christ for all eternity?  The answer is no.

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 6:1—4:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

And Jesus says in Matthew 7:

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Based on these two sections of Scripture, we can make a couple conclusions:

1)  A graced life should result in a changed life.

Those who have been forgiven for their sins, live a new life, full of love, mercy and grace.

2) You know a believer by their fruit.

Christians don’t simply give mouth service to their belief, their lives reflect their faith.

So, no, I don’t believe the shooter is in heaven.  His life did not show the fruit of a believer.

Now that said—if someone truly repents on their death bed of a life of sin, could they be forgiven and saved?

Absolutely.  The bad things we do, don’t keep us out, and the good things we do, don’t get us in.

You see, Jesus died for all sinners that all those who truly believe and repent, might be forgiven and have eternal life.

We are not judged by our deeds but by what we do with Jesus Christ.  If we believe and confess that Jesus is Lord, we shall be saved (Romans 10:19)

That is why it is good news—no one stands outside the grace of God—all can be forgiven!

Even murderers and thieves.

As Jesus was stretched out on the cross, he was crucified between two murderers, who would soon be dead.

One mocked him, the other, with a heart broken over his sin, asked Jesus to remember him.

And Jesus did.  He told that man, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”

And that same offer is before each of us.

I pray that you embrace that offer today and surrender your life to Jesus.

For He loves you and wants you to be with Him for all eternity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great is God’s Faithfulness

Great is God’s Faithfulness

By Pastor Ben Wedeking

In 1987, movie goers flocked to “Three Men and a Baby”, the Bangles taught us to “Walk like an Egyptian”, Scrooge McDuck swam in his vault of gold, and the Broncos lost another Super Bowl.  It was also the year that our church, Grimes UMC, was born.  First we met in a home, then a school, then we moved into our building on 1st St, where we weekly invite those without a place to belong to become a part of our family and serve with us as we seek to cultivate the kingdom of Jesus Christ and God.   We are family working the fields of God together and, over the course of thirty years, many of you have been a part of that work with us.

Our church has seen the faithfulness of God in many ways and marveled at the goodness of God to our church and to our community at large. Our growth as a region didn’t just happen. God is blessing us so that we might bless others.  He has been faithful to us so that we would be faithful to Him.

There aren’t many towns with such gracious, giving and kind souls as our Grimes.  All you have to do is walk into the schools, attend the churches, visit the parks and eat at the restaurants to know that this true.

Great is God’s faithfulness to us!  We have seen that faithfulness, and we can see it more, as we give over our lives to God. Each of us is invited to give our lives to Jesus, to make Him our Savior and Lord. And I pray that if you haven’t done that, you would do so today and then find a church to attend where you can grow in your relationship with the Lord.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”  ( 1 Corinthians 2:9)

God has been faithful to us in the past and present and will be faithful to us in the future. We don’t know what the top movie, song or football team will be in 2047, but we do know, in another thirty years, that we will have story after story to share of how God’s love has blessed us and how that blessing has changed the lives of others.

Great is His Faithfulness!

 

 

 

Jesus Heals All Divides

Jesus Heals All Divides

By Pastor Ben Wedeking

Take a few minutes and read this Scripture text from Ephesians 2:

14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.

17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

Having read this, why on earth, does racism persist in our world?

According to this, Jesus died to destroy the walls of hostility that separate us. And yet, walls of hostility remain despite what Jesus did to eradicate them.

Jesus’ death and resurrection didn’t simply free us from our sins, but it provided the pathway for healing of the nations, but when we don’t remember this and live it, that’s where we find racism rearing its ugly head.

As Christians, we are supposed to be ambassadors of this message, the message of salvation that saves each one, but also saves each nation.

Before Easter, Jesus’ world was a world divided too. Jews and Gentiles were on opposing sides and name-calling, mistrust and hatred were common, but with Jesus, all that changed.

He ministered to Jews and Gentiles alike. In fact, some of his greatest miracles were done for the Gentiles, those considered on the outside of God’s people.

Long before our divides over race and ethnicity, Jesus lived in a culture with one of the greatest racial divides. This is why what you read above is so monumental. Jesus united what once was vastly divided-Jews and Gentiles now a part of the same body, the same family, God’s family.

This is the power of the Resurrection and the position of the church.

We are to be a unifying force, speaking up for and fighting for the unity that Jesus died to give to our world.

I implore you to remember who you are as Christians and be part of bringing God’s healing to the divides in our nation.

Speak, act and live for what Jesus died.

 

 

Child of God

Child of God

By Pastor Ben Wedeking

On Sunday, we dove into the “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” looking at this younger son who squandered all that he had in wild living. We witnessed through the text how the Father welcomed home his wayward son.  But what of the other son? The one who stayed home?  The one who worked for the father and lived an honest clean life? What does Jesus have to say about the ones who remain loyal and stick to their father’s business? Quite a bit, actually.

When the younger son returns home, the older son, who also had received his inheritance, is working out in the fields. Word reaches him that his younger son has returned home, and that his dad is throwing a party.  They even killed the fattened calf, which was being saved for a special occasion.  We don’t know what occasion, but it is not a far stretch of imagination, that the older son might have had plans for that fattened calf.

The news of his brother’s return and the celebration makes the older brother angry, and he refuses to go in to the party. His refusal to accept his father’s invitation to the party, was another heap of shame thrown upon the father. For a family member to reject or refuse an invitation was a humiliation to the host. The older son has shamed his father just like his younger brother.

The father hears about his older son, and once again, in the parable, humbles himself, and goes out to his son.  The following conversation is very telling for us about the topic of freedom and shame.

Luke 15: 28-30 reads:

 The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’ 

Notice how the older son talks about his relationship with his father.  He says, “All these years, I’ve slaved for you” and “you never gave me even one young goat for a feast”.  Has the older son forgotten something?   We learned at the beginning that the father also gave the older one his inheritance, which would have been twice what his younger brother received.

In reality, he had wealth, honor and estate at his fingertips, all the rights of a firstborn son, but he considered himself a slave. And in that perception, had never accessed and capitalized on his inheritance, given by the hands of his loving father.

The father reminds him of that and says in Luke 15:31:

His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.

Notice how the father talks about his son. He calls him “dear son” and reminds him that everything he has belongs to his son. He refuses to receive his older son as a slave. He tries to help his boy see who he truly is, and hopefully he does see that truth. We don’t know, because the parable ends without resolution of the older son’s conflict.

This is likely on purpose. Jesus leaving that open-ended, allows us all to put ourselves in the shoes of the older son, and consider how we will respond to great love of the Father.

So many of us, say like the older son, we are slaving away, and forget our identity as children of God. And yet Scripture tells us again and again, we are children of God. We are no longer slaves. We are each a child of God, through what Jesus did for us on the cross.

Whether you are working out in the fields, or squandering your wealth on wild living, you are a child of God. Come home to your Father. Sit with Him and look around you—all that He has is yours!

 

 

The Mind

The Mind

By Pastor Ben Wedeking

A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but it is also a terrible thing to worship, and a fickle king.

We pride ourselves on our minds and our intelligence, but if these are not submitted to the God who made them, we have a big problem.

In the movie, Inception, one tiny idea gets planted in the life of one of the characters and it comes to control every aspect of her personhood in extremely tragic ways.

Ideas, either from outside of us or inside of us, can become fortresses that keep us from God’s plan for our lives.

And unfortunately these fortresses, while imposing, are not a good basis for life or what is to come.

In a brilliant scene in Inception, the thoughts of the main character are pictured as caving buildings along the shore of a vast ocean.

Our thought fortresses, are too often, faulty from the get go—fortresses built on lies, negativity, hatred, shame and other destructive forces.

In 2 Corinthians 10: 3-5, Paul urges believers to take captive our thoughts and make them obedient to Christ.  He knows that the mind is an incredibly powerful force and can either be a deterrent or a support to people knowing God.

This is why Paul calls on us to tear these strongholds down.  Human reasoning, arrogance, self-deception, negativity, anxiety, fear, shame and other thought patterns keep us from all that God wants to do in our lives.  The only way to freedom is surrender.

Paul calls this surrender, “taking captive” your thoughts.   We demolish the unhealthy thought patterns and take them captive by making our thoughts obedient to Christ.   We make Jesus the Lord of our minds and give Him free rein there as in every aspect of our lives.

Free rein to lead us into the peace and wholeness that He longs for each of us.

The journey to this freedom isn’t easy, and the battle won’t be without wounds, but it will be worth it in the end.

Jesus wants you well.   Stop believing the false thoughts that are not true about you.  Stop living by the patterns that have been destructive to you in the past.  Ask Jesus to heal your mind.

And watch the fortresses that have trapped you for so long, sink under the waves, demolished and unable to harm you any longer.

 

 

 

The Race

The Race

By Pastor Ben Wedeking

A few weeks ago I participated in my first Dam to Dam. I had never run a half-marathon before and I was both excited and nervous about the event. I trained fairly well for the race, but you never know how your legs are going to do in the actual race.

When the race began, I was doing fairly well, until the third mile when my legs started cramping. Uh-oh! When I had trained, that hadn’t started happening until the tenth mile. The third mile was far too soon!

What I didn’t know then was that our race would the 7th hottest on record. Even the best runners were falling out, needing extra breaks and walking for stretches. But as I ran I didn’t know that so I just kept going with my focus on getting to the finish line.

In the book of Philippians, chapter 3, the apostle Paul compares the spiritual life, and his progress in that life, to a race. He writes in Philippians 3:12-15:

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

In any race, you can’t look behind you. If you do, you will trip and fall. You have to keep your eye on the prize. No matter the difficulties life throws our way, we can persevere if we keep our eyes on the prize.

When we gave our lives to Christ, Jesus took a hold of us and filled us with His grace and mercy and gave us the promise to be with us always. As we run the race of life, we take hold of that grace and press on, knowing that the finish line is coming.

One day, when our time on earth is finished, we will join Jesus at the finish line, in heaven, in the place He has prepared for us and celebrate our victory and the end of the race for all eternity!

 

 

Made to Play

Made to Play

Pastor Ben Wedeking

A couple weeks ago, I was in the middle of a busy Sunday and came home for a brief reprieve in the action.  As I went by the glass door out into the backyard, I saw my two children getting ready to Slip n’ Slide.   It looked like fun so I decided to join them.

It was exhilarating!  I jumped and landed on that Slip n’ Slide like I was still thirteen. Fun fact: There are lot more bruises at 41 when you try to launch yourself at a slippery, plastic surface.  Still, I had a great time playing with my kids despite my red belly.

A few days later, I had to do some of that “adulting” stuff we dread, in this case, a call to our cable company to figure out why our bill was double the normal.  Forty minutes later, I ended a conversation frustrated and exhausted.

These two experiences, a Slip n’ Slide and a tortuous call to our cable company made me think of a quote from Mark Buchanan’s book, “The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath,” where he writes:

“Adulthood is mostly about getting things done.  Past a certain age, our existence is consumed by obligation.  Deadlines loom.  Assignments are due.  Responsibilities are mountainous…So one of the first things to die in adults is playfulness….Most grown-ups—and an increasing number of youth and children—feel that life is all work and no play.”

This quote cuts to the quick, doesn’t it?

I wasn’t always a free-wheeling red-bellly Slip n’ Slider.  I was a man who lived and breathed responsibility.

Some of that was thrust upon me by being the first born in a single-parent home, where I had to grow up fast.  I had to be an adult way before I was ready or wanted to be.  This seriousness and adult mindset was always present and when I finally did become an adult, it emerged even more severely.   I was consumed with performance—with meeting deadlines and expectation.

This all led to a breakdown emotionally that finally made me look at myself and my choices and change the way I lived for the good of myself and my family.

And that change has been mucho beneficial to me!  I have discovered that a sense and a space for play is not simply something to add on to your schedule when there is time, but that we need to make time to play.   Buchanan says, “When we play, we nudge the border of forever.” We pull back the curtain and get a glimpse of heaven.

I so want that glimpse of heaven and I bet you do too.  So let me give you some advice from one recovering “too much adulting, and not enough playing” person to another—take time to play!

Don’t live like you are too busy to play.  We need it for healthy and whole lives.  Just as Bill Hybels once wrote a book called “Too Busy Not to Pray,” we are also too busy not to play.

 

One Nation Under God

church-state-politics-web-bannerOne Nation Under God
We are fast approaching Election Day and regardless of who you are or your background, you have a horse in this race. Churches and pastors aren’t allowed to tell you who to vote for, and that is a good thing. Our pulpits are for preaching the Word of God in the Bible. Yet, it is important for pastors like myself to give guidance for all areas of life, so while I won’t tell you how or who to vote for—I will give you some thoughts on how to engage this whole election process.
You may be looking at the two options before you for president and either be extremely excited, or maybe you have just resigned yourself to picking one of the options. Regardless of how you feel towards the candidates, there is one thing we can all do.
In 1 Timothy, the apostle Paul is writing to his protégé, Timothy, a young man cut from the same cloth as Paul. Timothy is the pastor of the church at Ephesus, and the members of his church had the same concerns as we do today. They wanted to know how to function as a church, how to interact with their family including how to discipline and love their children appropriately, and they also wanted to know how to engage their government.
For them, the government was an empire and had an emperor called Caesar. Empires meant you do what you are told when you are told. Caesars, as the emperors were called, had total power and authority. Some of these leaders were decent, but others were deplorable. If you want proof, read about Caligula or Nero—these men were pretty awful and would definitely not be on your top choices for running your government. However, the people didn’t have a choice, and so they had to live with the person, whether a moral or immoral leader.
It would have been very easy for the church to justify disobedience, civil and otherwise, towards their government. It would have been justified to rise up and overthrow the corrupt regimes. However, the church didn’t do that. Instead, Paul instructed them in 1 Timothy 2:1-3:
“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior…”
The church was urged to pray for their kings, their Caesars. Men who hadn’t earned their respect or their vote; they were asked to pray for these men. We don’t live in the same type of government—we choose our leaders. This is the joy and privilege of democracy and freedom. Yet, we too, are called to pray for our leaders – for our present President and our future presidents, for all the men and women who will make up Congress and the Supreme Court, and for all of our leaders in Iowa. So let’s start there this election season — let’s pray for our leaders and pray that we will be one nation under God.
Grimes United Methodist Church is bringing in a guest speaker the weekend before the election for a seminar called “Church, State, and the Politics of God”. Rev. Tom Fuerst, Lead pastor of The Table at Christ UMC in Memphis, TN will speak of the nature of the kingdom of God and how the church relates to the state. All are welcome to attend on Friday, November 4th from 6-8:30pm and Saturday, November 5th from 8:30am-1:30pm. Childcare will be available along with the option to order lunch for Saturday. Register here.