December 01, 2019: 1st Sunday in Advent

Let us pray: Dear Lord Christ, as we begin a new church year, focus our attention on what awaits us—not only this coming Christmas and new year, but the larger issues having to do with the eternal future that awaits us.  Equip us to cast aside the deeds of darkness and its attendant temptations and walk into the Light of your grace and mercy.  Yes, sweep our hearts clean of sin so that we have room for your forgiving love.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR COMING CHRISTMAS KING!

TEXT:  Romans 13: 11-14

Dearly Beloved in Our Coming Lord Christ: 

          About 10 years ago our country’s Secretary of State was the point person for a new campaign to improve relations between Russia and America.  That official met with the Russian government in a televised press conference and spoke about a new “reset” of relations.  She even pulled out a giant “reset” button as a prop—kind of like you might see in a Staples ad.  Then she hit the button, expecting it to light up.  Nothing happened!  It was a dud.  It didn’t work.—And so we still find ourselves today at odds with Russia.

          Advent is a Godly time for us to hit a “reset” button in our own lives.  Hopefully, peace and harmony with God and ourselves will come out of it.  And today’s lesson gives us a blueprint to accomplish this, otherwise your life will turn into a dud….

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          Advent is our “present time.”  Advent 2019 foretells snow storms on the horizon, a cold winter, people spending far more than they can afford, superpowers squaring off against each other, superbugs which will lay many low, and basically more problems than we can count.  It will feature evil’s intrusion into our lives and cause us to question the meaning of life.  So what are any of us going to do about it?  Listen to Paul: “And do this, understanding the present time.  The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.”

          Most would say that the Christian Church is outmoded and time has passed it by.  Most would say it is comprised of stodgy, boring people who live in the past and cling to ancient ideas of right and wrong, along with a morality that doesn’t fit our fast-paced world.  Most would say that the Church is an anachronism, a concept that time has left behind.  Paul tells us to throw off your blanket of accepting this view, to rouse yourself from the slumber of complacency you often indulge in, and to get ready for big things, cosmic events leading up to Christ’s 2nd coming and the end of the world.  Can you imagine eating a big turkey dinner, engaging in self-congratulations around the table, shuffling off and going to sleep—right through the evening news—and missing out on the “breaking news headline” which announces the end of the world?! Christ is coming.  The future of God’s power and judgement is very close by.  And Christmas, in 24 days, will inaugurate His 1st coming in preparation for His 2nd coming.

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          It’s time to reset ourselves.  “So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.  Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

          The word: holiday means “holy day.”  Anything holy is associated with God, isn’t it?  And yet the holidays, including Christmas, usually revolve around selfishness, greed, drunkenness, illicit sex, and generally almost anything that isn’t “holy.”  Because it is the modern American way, even Christians get caught up in this web of evil.  From now until Christ’s birthday the headlines will scream about how holiday sales are up.  It will reek of materialism.  The vast majority will spend most waking hours “thinking how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”  And then in the hard, cold light of January, the bills will come due with a thud.  Likewise, God’s bill will someday soon come due, too, concerning our life and the future of our soul.

          And so we are to ponder all these issues during Advent and hit our own reset button!  Elsewhere, Paul tells us this: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things, and the God of peace will be with you.”  If you do that, these days leading up to Christmas will be full of meaning, none of which will cause you a sleepless night.  And you can do that by focusing on the Baby Jesus Who is coming to win your freedom from the inroads of evil by triumphing over it on a cross and by handing you His victory—all wrapped up and lying in a simple manger.  Most would call that a quaint, delusional dream; but by His grace, we call it: a promise of God!  So hit your reset button starting today and see the beauty and timelessness of that promise fulfilled in your life this very year!  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH…..

Pastor Thomas H. Fox

Dec. 1, 2019 

November 24, 2019: Christ The King Sunday

Let us pray: Dear Savior, You alone are the King of all creation.  You alone know everything and shape and mold everything so that Your name will be hallowed and Your kingdom of grace may flourish.  Today give us a glimpse into Your greater truth that surrounds and protects us.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR LOVING KING!

TEXT:  John 18: 34-38

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          I watched a little bit of the spectacle in Washington over the past 2 weeks.  I watched various witnesses being sworn in, declaring they would recount: “The truth, the whole truth.”  And it brought to mind the question of Pilate to Christ: “What is truth?”  Let’s ponder it.

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          Is it the truth to declare “the sun is shining?”  Well, not today in Burlington, MA.  But somewhere in the world it is.  So, that truth is therefore dependent on where you live and what time of day it is.  Such truth is relative.  How about: “Today is November 24, 2019.”  Is that true?  Again, it depends on the calendar you’re following.  Here’s another one: “I love you.”  How?  In what way?  Does your love ever waver or fade?  Such truths are relative.  Some will say: What about the truths of science?  I answer: How do you know gravity exists throughout the universe in the exact same way we understand it?  Maybe there’s an alternate universe where it doesn’t exist?  By now you’re a bit exasperated.  Truth, human truth, is relative, dependent upon our understanding of something at that time and in that situation.  Is it any wonder Pilate was a cynic and mockingly asked Jesus: “What is truth?” 

          What precipitated this exchange between the Roman governor and Christ, the King of all creation?  It was Jesus saying: “You are right in saying I am a king.  In fact, for this reason I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

          This whole exchange brings up a reality-jarring problem all humans face.  That is the difference between subjective truth vs. objective truth.  Subjective truth is whatever is true for you.  So, color blind people see red whenever most others see green or blue.  What is “true” for one may not be “true for the other.”  Likewise, a sociopath may adopt a murderous lifestyle as “truth” whereas most others would say: “That’s horrible and wrong!”  If you boil it down, most of what is called: “truth” in this life, is utterly subjective.  That is, it’s right for me but not necessarily right for anyone else.  And of course, this breeds chaos, so we try to ignore the problem and sort of let the majority rule. 

          Then there’s objective truth, or “it’s true whether you believe it or not.”  Or, it’s true and correct even though you may not understand or grasp its correctness.  Let me ask you this: “What happens when you die?  Where do you go?  What do you do?  Do the same rules of earthly life apply in the hereafter?  And how and from what source do you know anything about this?”   By definition time isn’t timeless.  So, is truth timeless? 

          Pilate was what we’d call a modern man.  He was a cynic.  He questioned everything and believed only in what he had experienced: The power of might makes right and money buys anything.  His question: “What is truth?” stems from all that he could not quantify.

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          Jesus’ answer to Pilate is intriguing.  “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”  That’s a stunning statement.  It presupposes that Jesus knows real truth.  He presupposes that Jesus possesses knowledge far beyond mere human comprehension.  It presupposes that He possesses knowledge, wisdom and understanding which is timeless and infinite.  Pilate was a smart cynic and he grasped a portion of what Christ was saying.  No wonder he responds with: “What is truth?” 

          Jesus’ response is grounded in the truth that God exists, that He alone knows truth, and that Jesus is God in human flesh.  Recall Him saying: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  That would make Him the King of the universe, answerable to no one.  And because Jesus is God’s Son and there’s unity in the Trinity, all this is True! 

          Jesus tells us about Himself in the Bible.  Here’s another passage: “God Word is truth!”  So, whatever the Bible says is correct across all ages and stands the test of time and human relativity.  So, when Scripture tells us not to: cheat, steal, lie, murder, or commit adultery—those truths are always in force.  Thus, whoever breaks those rules sins against God and “the soul that sins it shall die.”  Such truth is black and white with no extenuating circumstances.  Otherwise God’s truth isn’t true.

          But there’s another great truth in the Bible.  It is this: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them anymore.”  That truth is the Gospel.  It is encapsulated in Jesus’ own words from the cross: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  God is light and him dwells no darkness at all.  God is love.  Those truths show and tell us how He conquered the untruth of Satan’s lies.  They tell us that Godly truth won an eternal victory over sin and evil on the cross and confirmed it by rising from the dead.  So, even that commonly accepted truth: “When you die, you die” is false!  For Christ died but came back to life!  He did it for you and me.  And when we believe in Him, or as Jesus says here: “Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me” well, God’s truth trumps human relativity. 

          My friends, Christ is our King!  He knows the truth, gives it to us through faith, and it sets us free!  It sets us free from the silliness of human understanding about all the great issues of this life and the one beyond.  It provides us a paradigm for living: “If you continue in My words, then you are my disciples; and then you shall know the truth and that truth shall set you free!” 

          Truth is a beautiful thing in that it is never wrong and never goes out of style. So  listen to Christ the Purveyor of real truth and no matter what occurs in this life you WILL live happily ever after!  Our King has made it so and nothing and no one can change that fact!

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH…..       

Welcome to Pinewood!

IMG_0231Sharing the joyous news of forgiveness in Jesus Christ is our chief purpose. To that end, we seek to nurture everyone we meet.

Join Us For Worship

Sunday Worship

10:45 a.m.

10:00 a.m. Summer Services

Starting June 1, 2019, we will begin our summer schedule with Sunday service beginning at 10:00 a.m. 

Note from the Pastor About Pinewood:

People often say: “The devil is in the details.”  We at Pinewood like to say: “God is in the details!”  It’s true!  God cares about our lives down to the smallest of details.  He never overlooks any of us.  He shows kindness, compassion, forgiveness and love to all from the smallest infant to the most seasoned member.  And along the way He breeds happiness, joy, and inner peace among all His children.  That’s why we’re a contented congregation.  He gives such blessings to each of us—and we share them.  We laugh together, we cry together, we praise God together, and we give thanks together.  We invite you to be  part of such togetherness.   Pastor Thomas H. Fox

November 8, 2020: Last Judgement Sunday

Let us pray: Lord, in a world awash with evil and deception, few fear Your final judgement anymore.  So, Your people cry for justice and mercy to thunder forth from heaven and free us from all evil!  Today remind us that judgement will come to all without exception.  And also remind us that as Your beloved children, we don’t need to fear it because Christ’s rightness with You extends over all of us and eternally protects us.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR ETERNAL JUDGE!

Text: I Thessalonians 5: 1-11

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          50 years ago my old math teacher, Mr. Stramel, used to say: “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”  It’s true.  Likewise, we’ve all learned that: laws  don’t really matter, what does is who enforces the law.  A current variation of that is: votes don’t matter, whoever counts the votes matters.  Humans certainly create a lot of messes, don’t they?

          I can remember when a Pastor could speak of judgement day and instill fear among most people.  That’s because they had not hardened their consciences as much as today and still held to vestiges of belief in God’s existence and His ultimate justice.  This past year in America should have taught all of us the fallacy of believing that.  Felons get a free pass, criminals are overlooked, politicians are bought off, and the beat goes on.  Fair play, playing by the rules is scoffed at.  Yes, money talks louder than justice in America.  And money buys power and power corrupts.  We shake our heads and sadly utter those words: “Where’s God?  Where’s justice?”  Such is life in this evil world.

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          Today is a graphic reminder that God exists, that God cannot be bought off by any human, and that a specific day for judgement awaits everyone.  We don’t know exactly when that will be, but God assures us that it WILL occur.  It will happen during dark times when justice seems impossible and no one expects it.  “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety’ destruction will come on them”…”and they will  not escape.” 

          Will the world end during my lifetime?  Will the universe vanish in a poof, all people raised from the dead, Christ appear and demand a truthful accounting of all lives, and then believers assumed into heaven and evil unbelievers cast into hell? YES! It is coming!  It’s called justice.  God is the Lord of complete justice and He “cannot be mocked” forever. 

Meanwhile, we all see and experience “mini-judgement days.”  Those mini-judgements  usually take the form of: death.  That’s when you’re transported out of this reality into an eternal one.  Even if you don’t believe in God, or His ultimate judgement, everyone knows death awaits, and the morally corrupt approach death with trepidation because it’s uncontrollable. 

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But we, as Christians, don’t!  For us judgement day means a completion of justice.  It means vindication.  It means our entrance into heaven.  It means a never-ending embrace by Christ, the light of the world.  Listen anew to St. Paul’s confidence: “But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day.  We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.”  Why?  Not because we’re inherently extra special good.  We’re not. We’re sinners. Our thoughts, words, and actions betray any sense of perfectibility.  No, instead we’re  children of God’s light because His Son Jesus gave us that status.  He won it for us on the cross, thus changing  our lives.  He forgave us our sins and now counts His rightness with God as our rightness.  This is all yours through faith.

This means we should not be lulled into complacency like the unbeliever, “but let us be alert and self-controlled…putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.  For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.  He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.  Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 

Judgement Day is the great unknown.  But not for us!  Right here we’re given comfort as we slog towards it all.  We know where we’re going—heaven. We know how we get there—through faith in Christ’s forgiving love.  And we know that perfect justice will prevail on that fateful day.  That might give you pause, but always remember: God’s justice was placated by Christ when He died on the cross and confirmed when He rose again.  That same Jesus Who saved your body and soul will be your final judge.  And because when He looks at you, He sees Himself, so “Not guilty of all sin” will be His sentence.

Personally, for me, judgement day will be a time of relief!  Evil won’t get away with hurting people any more and justice will finally be served.  It’s the time of real comfort for the believer.  So we approach it with humility, knowing that ‘God humbles the proud but exalts the humble.’ 

Amid all the current world chaos, keep this in mind, and never forget: God is keeping the final tally card for all people, and His vote count is perfect!  Amen THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH….

Pastor Thomas H. Fox

October 31, 2020: All Saint’s Day

Let us pray: Dear Savior. Today we join with the heavenly hosts in celebrating Your eternal victory over sin and death.  We join with all those faithful saints who have already made that journey to eternal bliss and honor You with them.  And all we ask is this: with them numbered may we be, here and in eternity.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE BLESSED HOLY TRINITY!

TEXT:  James 5: 11: “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.  You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.  The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”

Dearly Beloved Fellow Saints: 

          We have to time travel today back almost 1600 years.  That’s when a churchly celebration of the saints first appeared on the yearly calendar in some locales.  Then we’ll advance about 300 years when the church of the day in Europe made it official.  Then we’ll advance again to the early middle ages when the day picked for this remembrance celebration was fixed to November 1st

          Saint means: holy one.  So, “all saints” is a remembrance day of and for all the holy ones of God, or the living and the dead.  So, it includes each of us who have been purified by the cleansing blood of Christ on the cross.  But, again, over time it has taken on the meaning of remembering the departed holy ones of God who now reside in glory.  Historically, we employ it to recall loved ones, especially those who have reached heaven, over the past year.  We recall their struggles of faith and the victory that Christ made possible via faith.  James, in our lesson reminds us that it is not about just the saints who we knew, but about Job, who made this journey so long ago, too.  That’s why today we celebrate and learn anew from Adam, Eve, Abraham, Moses, King David, and all the other heroes of faith throughout the Bible. 

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          Did any such saint have an easy  life? No.  Adam and Eve struggled with mourning over what they had lost: perfection.  But through faith in the coming Savior, they still obtained it.  So did all the other ancient saints and all the modern ones as well.  They braved heartache, sadness, inner conflicts over their sins, and being ostracized by the masses.  They faced death without flinching all because of, as James says: “the Lord’s compassion and mercy.”  That’s code word for: grace.  It’s found only in Jesus. And it alone sustained them.  That’s because through faith they knew with certainty that Christ had also returned to heaven “to prepare a place for them” and each of you.  Today all such saints wear white robes which have been “dipped in His blood” thus bleaching out any taint of evil from their lives.  It’s paradoxical that blood makes us white, but true.  And as the Bible also tells us: “Their faces glow like the sun.”

          You and I are far from that right now, but actually we aren’t.  We also wear white robes, the spotless robe of faith which God’s grace has draped over  us.  We, too, worship and praise our Creator and Redeemer.  We, too, will live forever in heaven as elect saints of God.  We’re simply a hairs-breath away from attaining all that.  Separated from those triumphant throngs by time and space.  But remember, to God, time and space don’t really matter.

III

          When I was a little boy I focused on Halloween far more than All Saints.  I liked the excitement of dressing up.  I liked pigging out on candy.  As you get older you enjoy attending Halloween parties.  As you get older still, you begin to glory not in the unseen, scary, dark side of existence, but instead the bliss and awe and lightness of being that comes with All Saints.  You enjoy the inner glow that stems from knowing you’re heaven-bound.

          It’s fascinating how Satan’s domain, this world, has corrupted this time of celebration for God’s people.  The vast majority celebrates Halloween with witches, goblins and scary costumes while few are sober enough the next day to recall All Saints.  Paganism is alive and well in our modern world.  People are enthralled over the dark side of life and seemingly shun the light.  Moreover, the fact that no one seems to see this or care shows just how strong Satan really is.

          Yet, out of darkness comes light.  Light always wins out.  Christ the Light of the world has vanquished eternal darkness by dying and resurrecting into light.  And because He did this for us, like Job of old, we persevere so that we can join him.  All this is God’s gift to us because: “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”

          One thing I want you to ponder: The universe is dark, cold, and lifeless apart from the sun and stars.  But where those points of light appear, humans gaze upon them and life exists and the unknown becomes non-scary.  In fact, through Christ the Light of the World, the unknown becomes known, doesn’t it?  And that’s because: “God is Light and in Him dwells no darkness at all.”

          Today on All Saints we embrace the Light!  Today we join the currently unseen, the noble throng of saints and angels in glory.  Today we celebrate being winners and not losers.  Christ Jesus makes it so!  Yes, this is the reality Adam and Eve lost, but Christ regained for them and for each of you.  Fear is vanquished.  Peace-filled bliss remains.  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH……

Pastor Thomas H. Fox 

October 25, 2020: Reformation

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we humans always want to steal Your glory by glorifying ourselves and boasting of our own worthiness instead of giving You total credit.  We always seem to go back to outward acts of holiness and hold them up to You as reason for our blessings.  Today keep us away from such a trap caused by our pride.  Let Your undeserved love flood our hearts and cause thankfulness to  guide us in all we think, say and do.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST THE LORD OF FORGIVENESS!

TEXT: Romans 3: 28: “We maintain that a man is justified by faith, apart from observing the Law.”

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          Freedom is a glorious word!  But to maintain freedom people must be responsible.   Now America stands at the verge of a new election.  All sides tell us that: “It’s the most important election in our history.”  That’s because it is about freedom.  But are we free?  Censorship is taking place in social media and the press.  The information flow to voters is being stifled by the mainstream sources because they have a vested interest on maintaining the status quo.   Money is the driving factor in all  this.  And as for the education establishment, well, they have their own agenda and their own take on historical truth.  Humans, if left too long without God in their lives, will always make a hash of things.

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          This was true at Christ’s time and it was true at Luther’s time, as well.  In human terms money leads to power.  One feeds off the other.  But occasionally, God steps in and says: “Enough!”  That’s when reformation begins.

          Pope Leo X led the organized church of Luther’s time.  He was a Medici of the Florentine banking family.  Money and power were his twin drivers.  Everything was about obtaining more of both.  So, he sold indulgences, strips of paper granting the holder forgiveness before God for all their sins.  These were called: plenary, or full forgiveness.  The concept of repentance, self-denial and changing behavior was lost.  Once you bought a plenary indulgence you could basically ignore God’s commandments.  Obviously, this was popular. 

          Dr. Luther was aghast.  For it did away with all the suffering, dying, tears, and pain that Christ suffered to save us from our sins.  It did away with grace, or the undeserved love given to all by God on the cross.  So, Luther penned those famous 95 Theses, the 1st of which said: “The life of a Christian is to be one of daily repentance.”  And the Reformation began.

          150 years ago Dr.Max Mueller at Oxford set out of disprove the claims of Christianity.  As a result of his research, he became a believer.  Let’s hear it for the Holy Ghost and the power of the Gospel!  Dr. Mueller famously said: “At the end of all my copious research, I concluded that there are only 2 religions in the world: Faith and works.”  Faith is Christianity, believing and trusting in God’s love; and works is man doing something to placate and appease God by their lifestyle or actions.  One is perfect—Christ—and the other is imperfect—or man centered.  One is the result of a Godly gift, while the other results from human achievements based in pride. 

          Over the centuries, humans have so hardened their natural knowledge of God, or their consciences, that they have written God out of the equation.  In America today most people don’t fear God.  They don’t even believe He exists.  So all that’s left is power and money, or the fuel used to attain power.  But eventually all that collective evil overwhelms the system and rebellion or reformation ensues.  That’s because God will not be mocked forever.  This is where America is today.  This is where the organized church is today.  So, let’s learn how to avoid disaster from coming upon us, both individually and collectively.

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          How are we saved?  How are we made holy, right, and acceptable in God’s sight? We’re sinners like everyone else.  And our flesh often gives in to inner evil because it’s just easier.  So, if you have some semblance of conscience and desire some Godly goodness in life, you strive to live up to some sort of Godly standard.  You hold up to God the times you walked away from sexual temptations, from greed and graft, from taking advantage of others, and from physically lashing out at those who get under your skin.  That’s called: living under the Law.  The problem is: none of this is perfect and therefore acceptable to God because the “soul that sins (in thought, word, or action) shall die.”  And so you’re always living scared.  Then there’s God’s way of salvation.  That is, embracing Christ through faith.  Putting on His robe of rightness with God.  It is realizing that Godly perfection is something God did for us, God earned for us, in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for all sin.  It is humbling bowing before His throne of grace and pleading His forgiveness which He freely hands out to us via faith.  One is weighty enough to balance the eternal scale of justice and one is not.

          Money doesn’t matter to God.  Earthly power doesn’t matter to God. Only faith in Christ matters to God.  That’s because Christ and God’s love are almighty.  This is the meaning behind our text from Romans 3: “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”

          Leo X used the money raised by indulgences to build St. Peter’s in Rome.  That was his way, he thought, to insure a ticket to heaven.  Did it?  St. Paul and St. Peter himself would disagree on the basis of our lesson.  So what about America?  What will insure our survival as a nation?  Guns?  Missiles? A rapidly inflating dollar?   Or, a God-centered moral character of its people who are humble in Christ?  And what about you?  All of us have soiled God’s linens of holiness by our imperfections throughout our lives.  We might have tried, at times, to resist temptations and/or complacency, but we’ve failed.  So, our living outwardly as Godly models has also failed.  And He isn’t impressed.

          No, the only thing that does impress God is the depth of His love  and forgiveness that freely flows from Jesus!  Plead His mercy alone and salvation and peace of soul will be your reward.  Reform your heart once more today by joining Paul in reaffirming: “We maintain that a man is justified, (declared righteous and holy) by faith, apart from observing the Law.”  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD…..

Pastor Thomas H. Fox 

October 20, 2020: 20th Sunday of Petecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we know that life is a journey taken one step at a time.  Sometimes we walk, sometimes we run, sometimes we stop and rest, but the journey always continues on.  Today infuse in us a will to go forward toward the prize—heaven.  And add heavenly wisdom to our lives as we go forward.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, GOD’S WISDOM FROM ON HIGH!

TEXT:  Philippians 3: 12-21

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          When you were a kid, full of life, seemingly indestructible, and ready to go out with your friends for the night, did your parents ever tell you: “Just remember who you are?”  Mine did.  What did they mean by that?  Was it just remember your parents and relatives?  Was it simply recall your name?  Or, was it: always act as the baptized child of God that you actually are? 

          With age is supposed to come: wisdom.  With age comes seeing, anticipating, and avoiding past mistakes.  With age comes the wisdom of hearing the voice of conscience a little louder in your ear.  With age comes following God’s way instead of the allure of sin. 

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          The race of life isn’t easy. St. Paul knew that.  Think of his early life.  He was smart.  He was trained by Gamaliel, the best teacher of his day.  He was the star pupil.  His health and ability were head-and-shoulders above his contemporaries.  He was a religious Pharisee, the group everyone looked up to as the most holy folks in the land.  He became a member of the Jewish ruling council at the earliest of ages possible.  He was their “golden boy” who someday would help lead the nation and their ‘church.’  This helps explain his verve to arrest Christians and stamp them out.  He even was a cloak-holder for the mob that stoned Stephen, the 1st martyr.  He was so cock-sure of Himself!  Yes, he embraced it when others talked about him as the perfect example of Phariseeism.  He was arrogant and hell-bound, however. 

          Then the Lord found him on the road to Damascus and humbled him.  God converted him and Paul became everything he formerly loathed.  He became a Christian.  He became blinded by the awesome vision of God’s grace.  He became totally dependent upon Jesus instead of himself.  And for the next 25 years Paul learned everyday what the Bible says: “God humbles the proud and exalts the humble.”  That humbling process is history and the stuff of heavenly legend. 

          Now as a wiser man, gray haired and plagued by the aches and pains of age, Paul focuses on heaven and what awaits him resulting from God’s grace.  His humility and his Godly wisdom now shine forth all the more clearly.  He says: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  In short: when I was younger, I thought I knew it all.  Then I learned how much I didn’t know about God and about life.  And now I’m not impatient, but just thankful to walk along and learn for Him, instead of raging against His path for me.

II

          Life is about God leading us through life’s humbling process.  Part of that is learning from our mistakes and part of that is holding tight to “whatever is true, noble, excellent or praiseworthy” that He has taught us.  “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.  And if on some point you think differently that too God will make clear to you.  Only let us live up to what we have already obtained.  Join with others in following my (Christian) example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.  For, as I have often told you before and now say again with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.”—Just as mine used to be when I craved human power and human applause. 

          Very few young people understand their place in the world.  They are unsure of themselves and so they naturally follow the crowd—as Paul did when young.  Many today have health, some wealth, and all crave possessing the feeling of importance.  So they do whatever is necessary to feed their ego—even when it runs contrary to God’s truth and His guidelines in the commandments.  Yes, many baptized children of God fall for this clap-trap.  They center their minds on earthly things and think they’ve got God all figured out.  “Yeah I’m forgiven.  Yeah, Christ loves me.  Now let me get on with my life!” 

          Ah, such people forget that Christ IS THEIR LIFE!  Grace isn’t just a happy word, it’s the most vital word in this life because it bears final fruit in the life to come.  Earthly existence is spring training.  The afterlife is winning the 7th game of the World Series!

          Spiritual maturity isn’t about taking any of this for granted—even right now.  In fact, true wisdom is playing out the game of life right now and winning because you keep your eyes of the prize and don’t let your guard down.  “But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly, yes eagerly,  await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies (and minds) so that they will be like his glorious body.”

          “Act who you are.”  Whatever your age, act who you are.  Jesus didn’t die to save you and send the Spirit to work saving faith within you just so that you could throw it all away.  He didn’t give you amazing gifts of grace just so that you could forget about using them.  Keep your eyes on the prize—heaven and the glories that await—by living out the truth that ‘whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD…..

Pastor Thomas H. Fox