March 6, 2022

In my quiet times, along with reading through God’s Word, I’ve been savoring a book titled, The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ by Dr. Ray Ortland, Jr.  Here’s some timely words about our mutual association as believers. The doctrine of grace creates a culture of grace where good things happen to bad people.  A gracious church culture proves that Jesus is the Holy One who forgives sinners, the King who befriends his enemies, the Genius who counsels failures. Gospel doctrine and gospel culture do not coexist by lucky chance.  The doctrine creates and sustains the culture.  The way we live together in our churches grows out of what we believe together.  So the gospel must land on each of us personally.  You and I must believe the gospel for ourselves, first and foremost.  But the gospel also creates a new kind of community - a gospel culture called a church. What is a church?  A church - not the church but a church - is a body of believers in Jesus, together drawing their life from Him in regular, practical, organized ways that accelerate their progress for Him.  You and I are one with all true Christians throughout history - Augustine, Martin Luther, Johann Sebastian Bach, and many other amazing people.  That’s exciting.  But the unity of the church becomes our actual experience in the unity of a church.  In our local churches, what we share goes beyond our experiences with Christians in general.  Being part of a church frees us from a vague idealism and gives us traction for real gospel advance that will matter forever. Your church is more than a collection of people who happen to get together on Sundays.  You could go to a professional football game on a Sunday afternoon for a mere get-together.  The fans of a team might sit together, wear the team colors, and cheer in unison when their team scores.  But when the game is over, they walk out of the stadium, drive home, and get on with their separate lives.  You could even attend a big Christian event for a mere get-together.  There might be wonderful magic in the air, but does anything corporate last once the event is over and everyone walks out? Let’s say you meet someone at that Christian event.  You really like the person.  Two weeks later you happen to run into that person at a coffee shop.  That’s heartwarming.  But it isn’t a gospel culture.  It is only in a church that we are members of Christ and of one another, moving forward together like a well-coordinated body (1 Cor. 12:12–27).  It is together that we suffer and thrive.  It is together that we worship and grow and serve, according to the Word of God.  That’s what your church is - ground zero for the new kind of community Christ is creating in the world today for the display of his glory.  That is a gospel culture. Obviously, we pay a price to give our lives to a real community.  We lose some of our space, time, and freedom to do as we please.  But the Bible tells us to submit to one another (Eph. 5:21).  That requires us to adjust, to fit in, to always look for the win/win. So let me ask you a simple question: To whom do you submit?  Every one of us should have a good answer to that.  The Bible goes so far as to say, “Respect those who … are over you in the Lord” (1 Thess. 5:12). Scripture is clear.  Christians have to choose between isolation, which is easy, and belonging, which is costly - and much more satisfying. Here is why our belonging to a church matters so much to God.  We are living stones in the spiritual temple that he is building in the world today (1 Pet. 2:4–5).  He wants to dwell among his people, and we as living stones find ourselves when we are built into the spiritual temple.  There is no churchless Christianity in the Bible.  We individualistic Americans need to face that.  God is building a new community, and it’s worth belonging to. In John 3:16, we saw that God so loved the world in general that he gave his only Son.  In Ephesians 5:25b–27, we see that Christ loved the church in particular, so that He gave Himself for her.  That is the gospel doctrine. … Pastor Pat 

 

 

February 27, 2022

Psalm 27:14 (NASB) Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.      Psalm 52:8 (NASB) But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.  9 I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it, and I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones.      Psalm 130:5 (NASB) I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.      Isaiah 40:31 (NASB) Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.      Among all the virtues that the Spirit of God provides for the believer, one of the hardest to understand is patience.  Perhaps our difficulty began when we were little and our parents said, “Just a minute” and we knew that was code for “Never.”  Putting things off to another day seemed to stretch on to eternity.      Over 100 times, the word “wait” appears in our English translation of the Bible.  Yet, if we see delay as negative and to be, at best, endured then how does God see delay?      Waiting is never a thoughtless condition with God.  He doesn’t forget about us or our needs and leave us standing alone on a corner.  He doesn’t “ghost” us when we pray and ask for wisdom.  Our requests are always answered with a “yes,” a “no,” or a “wait.”  So, what does He want us to do when He says “wait?”      May I humbly suggest that this is not an indication of God’s displeasure or His anger or His indifference.  Instead, He uses “wait” as a tool to stretch us and train us.  What we do next with “wait” tells the heavens where we are in our relationship to God.  Do we really trust Him enough to hear His “wait” and then trust Him that it is for our own good?      You’ll find elsewhere in this bulletin information about our “Night of Prayer” coming on Friday, March 4 beginning at 6:00 p.m. here in the sanctuary.  Our Elders, Staff, and Pastor Search Team have called us together as a church to pray through God’s response of “wait” in our desire to have a new permanent senior pastor.      I mentioned this opportunity to pray to someone who jokingly replied, “Oh, no!  Has it come to that?”  My friend was implying in his tongue-in-cheek manner that prayer is never a last resort.  Rather, it is the first step.      We have been praying as individuals and in our small groups.  We have been praying on Sunday morning.  Now, we want to show our trust, our dependence on God the Father by setting aside a specific time to worship Him and present ourselves before Him.  We are not trying to coerce Him or manipulate Him.  We are not trying to leverage a positive response to our petitions by having a special time set aside for prayer.  Instead, we have listened to God and discerned that this is the next step to take.      Now, I have no expectation that when we say the final “amen” on Friday that the heavens will open and “Pastor Next” will descend to HCC on a cloud.  But, what I do expect is the pleasure of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit that His children would respond in such a mature and trusting fashion.  I expect God to provide new resources as we face the days ahead.  I expect God to settle troubled hearts and mind, turning them instead to the fields that the Son describe as “white for harvest.”      I fully expect us to come away with rejoicing.  Time spent with one another acknowledging the presence and purpose of God is never wasted.  It is for His joy and our strengthening that we set aside this time.  We hope you will make every effort to join us! … Pastor Pat 

 

February 20, 2022

ON THE RUN … Exodus 3:1 (NLT) One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian.  He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God.  2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush.  Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up.  3 “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up?  I must go see it.”  4 When the LORD saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”  “Here I am!” Moses replied.  5 “Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned.  “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.  6 I am the God of your father - the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.      Have you ever “stepped in it?”  We usually use that line when we’ve trod in something disgusting.  In Moses’ case, it wasn’t something nasty into which he stepped, rather, it was something beyond his wildest imagination.      By this time in his life, Moses had spent nearly four decades living in the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula.  The promise he had shown in Egypt was but a memory.  The finest in education and knowledge was now useless as he herded sheep on the backside of the desert.      I must admit that if I saw a burning bush (or a burning “anything”) I don’t know if I’d have the courage to go and look at it.  Sure, I’d call 911 but stay far back behind the lines as I let the First Responders deal with the conflagration.     But, not Moses.  He was curious and walked forward.  Again, if a voice came out of a burning bush … I’m on the first bus out of town.  But not Moses.  He stepped closer and said “Hinani” (pronounced hi-nay-nee).  That’s a Hebrew phrase that means “Here I am!”  It implies readiness and even eagerness.      What came next was a game-changer in his life!  Moses suddenly discovered he had “stepped in it.”  This was no ordinary bush planted in ordinary soil.  This place had become holy because of the presence of Yahweh – the “God of your father - the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  And Moses response was the only possible one - When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.      I know I talk a lot and preach a lot about the accessibility of God the Father.  The Creator and Sustainer of the universe has given His children the privilege of calling Him “Father.”  In fact, He insists on it.      Yet, at the same time, I need to remember that I am on holy ground.  My standing as a child of God is not because of what I’ve done, rather it is because of what was done for me by Jesus Christ.      Paul wrote about this in 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB) He [God the Father] made Him [God the Son] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  I can only stand and cry “Hinani” because of what Jesus Christ has done on my behalf.      It was never said to me Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh.  You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”  But over these almost seven decades, the Father has led me into some tremendous adventures with some wonderful people.  He has stretched me beyond that which I thought I was capable.  He has supplied everything I have needed for the journey.  I have discovered other holy places with holy people who also responded with “Hinani.”  And I have delighted in each one.      One of Pastor Dave’s insightful phrases around the office is “There’s never a dull moment in ministry!”  We usually say it when the wheels have come off and we’re trying to cope with the unexpected.  Nevertheless, we have never tackled anything alone.  The God of the burning bush, the God of the Fathers, has always walked with us.      And, we can hardly wait to see where He leads us next! … Pastor Pat 

 

February 13, 2022

ON THE RUN … They are called the “Psalms of Lament.”  They honestly reflect the emotion and even confusion of God’s people when the ways of God seem mysterious and hidden.  We read of some of them in Psalm 13:1 (NASB) How long, O LORD?  Will You forget me forever?  How long will You hide Your face from me?  2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day?  How long will my enemy be exalted over me?      Psalm 80:4 (NASB) O LORD God of hosts, how long will You be angry with the prayer of Your people?      Many of us were taught early in our Christian experience to sanitize our prayers.  We pray like we’re filling out our annual tax form, trying to put everything in the right place so we don’t get audited.       Instead, biblical prayer has a place for healthy emotions.  Adult relationships are a sharing in not only what one is doing and thinking, but also what one is feeling.  God is not offended or put off by our emotions.  The psalmist writes in Psalm 56:8 (NASB) You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle.  Are they not in Your book?      I write about this because time continues to pass in this period of transition and we are without a permanent senior pastor.  In some churches, this becomes like a pebble in a boot, causing the church to limp with blisters.  Other churches start pointing fingers.  Blame is spread to staff, leaders, pastors, or even God.  We settle into our discontent and confusion rather than settling into God the Father.      I do not know why it has taken more than 19 months to find a permanent senior pastor.  I know that we are not outliers in having to wait.  Of the 81 churches that Interim Pastor Ministries serves almost half of them have waited as long or even longer for God to provide a permanent pastor (We even have some pastors who have been serving churches since 2017 and 2018).      But, I would call you who are partners in ministry with Hydesville Community Church to do two things with me.  The first I take from a book written in 1980 by pastor and author Eugene Peterson with the interesting title A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.  I would call us to the implications of this title.  I rejoice with many who have discovered that ministry does not cease because someone is not permanently sitting in the “big chair.”  They continue to be gospel-influencers both in the church and outside.  They bring the life of Christ into their homes, their neighborhoods, their schools, their workplaces, and this church.       In high school, we had a basketball team that was of championship caliber.  We not only won our league, but continued through to win the CIF 4A Championship.  Their secret was that each person on that team was ready to step up when called upon.  In fact, a little known substitute from the end of the bench was called upon in the championship game to contribute.  And, Andy did!  After barely getting into games during the regular season, Andy exploded off the bench to boost the team to victory.      The second thing I would call us to is prayer.  Our modern churches have the benefit of using all sorts of resources – computers, consultants, databases, social media, and more.  Yet, the only sure resource that is mentioned in Scripture is prayer.  Yes, we are taking advantage of modern tools, but we must be first focused on this ancient practice and privilege given to God’s people.      I hope you’ve got a copy of our Pastor Search Prayer Bookmark that you can keep in your Bible.  There are prayer prompts for each day of the week in regard to the search process.  If you didn’t pick one up, look at the display rack at the far end of the lobby and you can find one.      And, along this line, I would like to again call our church to prayer both individually and as a body of believers.  We are putting together a Night of Prayer scheduled for late February or early March where we can come together as a church family to pray and be encouraged in this process.  This is not a “magic bullet” that forces God to do our bidding.  Rather, it is an admission that we are totally and completely dependent of God the Father and Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Church.  This is exactly where we want to be.  There will come a time and place when we look back on these days and see our prayers and our obedience to the call of Christ is rewarded.      I would echo Paul’s words to another church in transition from 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NASB) Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.   Pastor Pat