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REDEEMER Reformed Presbyterian CHURCH

UNPROFITABLE SERVANT

So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, "We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do." - Luke 17:10

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Path of His Passion
Dear Congregation and friends,

Have you ever made a great resolution to get a hit in game of life, and then you stepped up to the plate and did a "Casey at the bat" mighty wiff at the ball?

That's what I did yesterday. I had been building up in my mind to the thought of starting a walk with my family down the path of Christ's passion using the devotional guides I have been handing out at services and in the neighborhood, and mailing to our seasonal members and friends. If you start reading the Easter Edition of "OUR DAILY BREAD - The Path of His Passion" this week, you will finish the devotional just before Easter.


Then when Monday, March 28th rolled around, what did I do?


Entirely forgot about it. It had been a full day, Lois and I had friends coming over after supper, and the teens were running out the door to the home of some of their friends. We sat down and prayed at our meal, I read a quick verse from Psalm 90, appropriate on Johanna's 18th birthday (Psa 90:12 So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom). But this much anticipated, thoughtful devotional reading together, focussing on the passion and death of Christ in preparation for Easter. . . Whoosh! It went out of my head.


And there are times when we entirely bypass devotions at supper when John's baseball or Johanna's violin lessons creep up on our mealtime, and we just have to finish the meal, NOW already !


Can I make an observation, and I hope it would be a grace-filled, godly encouragement to you.

We are not saved by the regularity of our Bible reading, nor by the steadiness and perfection of our swing at the game of life. We are saved by his love for us which I know personally, I don't deserve. As we are touched by the Holy Spirit, God wakes us up in some area of our life ! He plants a desire, or sometimes he even imports a dis-ease into our life. Some kind of disatisfaction with the way things are right now in our life. Some disgust concerning a sin with which we're too familiar.


And if it's God working rather than the devil tempting, then with the dissatisfaction He gives us hope, instead of despair that there can be no change. Our Loving Savior gives us a hunger to see change in our life. That's the hunger we get which is reflected in Jesus' words, "Whoever desires to come after me...." We have an inchoate, unformed, desire and hunger to see a change that we know in our hearts has something to do with "coming after Jesus". We hunger to come after Him, to know Him who created us, and saved us and has the fulness we long for in life, because in Him all the "fullness of God was pleased to dwell."

It's moments of "desiring to come after Jesus", in my own life, and with my family that plants in my heart a desire like wanting to read "The Path of His Passion" with my family, that plants in my life a desire to see my daughter, son, wife and me, and all of you, to experience together some of the central features of Christ's revelation in the flesh at the end of his earthly life. And in the abstract, that's all good. But then life happens. Like a school crisis, like a scheduled or unscheduled meeting, like an athletic practice, like a casserole that burnt and made you go crazy putting something else together, like a member of the family who feels burnt out or flamed out, and is operating in crisis mode right now.

And all those idealistic "desires to come after Jesus" seem to go out the window.


But do they really? Sometimes it is in the midst of those very trials that we are "denying ourself, and taking up our cross, and following Jesus". We are changing our schedule, making ourselves available to serve those around us, we are keeping our eye on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, when everything around us is going kaflueeeeey. That's self denial; that's taking up our cross.


And then finally, a moment of peace. A moment of quiet. It's then that we need Jesus, and instead of unwinding by flipping on the television, how about we grab that as an opportunity to pray. To consciously, unmistakeably call out to God. Not just the "throw it up there" prayer in crisis mode, but the quieter, more reflective, prayer on our knees in tears, "I need you now, Jesus" - - the desperate prayer of the disciple who needs to be nourished and so he "denies himself" (DOESN'T TURN ON THE TV ), "takes up his cross" (DOESN'T COMPLAIN HOW TIRED THEY ARE, BUT RESTS IN HIM WHILE READING GOD'S WORD, THE BIBLE), and "follows me"(OBEDIENTLY DOES THE NEXT THING THAT MODELS THE SACRIFICIAL LIFE OF SERVICE WHICH JESUS SHOWED US, "FOR EVEN THE SON OF MAN DID NOT COME TO BE SERVED, BUT TO SERVE....")


We are not saved by the regularity of our Bible reading, but we will be sanctified by it ! When the Bible is read in faith, asking the Spirit's enlightenemnt, we will be set apart and changed by !! It cleanses us (John 17:17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth).


Now the rest of the story. For me, after a busy day today also, when at 4:30 p.m. I realized I had hit the wiffer again, and again hadn't even started to do something I wanted to do with my family to be sanctified, it was at that moment of frustration that I simply had to GRAB the moment together with them in God's Word. I finally found that moment with part of my family at least, when Johanna was driving down the Northway with Johnny and me riding shot gun and in the back seat going to their orchestral rehearsals in Albany.


And wow, was I blessed as Johnny and I read. "We learn the lesson of trust in the school of trial" - Matthew 26:36-46. As Vernon Grounds put it, "we believe that any cup we drink is held to our lips by the Father of fathomless love and wisdom. Our prayer is that of trustful submission because we believe that even life's most bitter cup is held in the Father's hand." And in today's devotional, based on John 19:16-22, we can "have only one appropriate response - - to serve Him, He is the King of our lives." And the three of us shared in the car what "our cup was", and where all of us needed to serve Him as King more faithfully.

Dear brothers and sisters, don't be discouraged when your desire to come after Jesus seems to be derailed. It isn't just "not having your devotions". It's a score of frustrating roadblocks we run into. Simply trust Him in the trial, and GRAB the next moment to go to God, alone, or with those you love, and read His Word prayerfully, to get re-oriented, back on track, that you may take up your cross and follow Him from that moment on, for the rest of your life. You've got to GRAB those moments, so that your desire for change is channelled into real change through the reality of the hearty, hope-filled revelation of Jesus Christ shown to use in the scriptures.


Try walking "The Path of His Passion" with the Redeemer Reformed Presbyterian Church family leading up to Easter. If you need a copy of the devotional book, let me know. And if you are touched by something that you read, let me know, and let me know if I can share it with the church family. That goes for those of you reading this in Florida, the Carolinas, New Jersey, wherever. . . . I'd like us to encourage one another in this process !


Sincerely,

Pastor Ned
9:25 pm edt          Comments

Friday, March 11, 2011

Self-Denial for Liberty
Dear Congregation,
As we take in the devastation that swept across the Pacific when a tsunami hit Japan after the massive earth quake 80 miles offshore, I share the following prayer requests from Mission to the World, our Presbyterian Church in America mission agency:

"We write to request urgent prayer for the nation of Japan. You are, no doubt, watching the crisis unfold following the 8.9 Richter Scale earthquake that hit on Friday afternoon local time. We are grateful that our missionaries and their families are safe, but they are also grieving for this country whose people they love. MTW will be working with them in preparing a response, and as soon as that is clear, we will make that information available. Japan is 14 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, so we hope our missionaries are getting much needed sleep at this moment. One missionary has said that their family is sleeping in their clothes (as much as sleep is possible) in case they need to flee their homes in the midst of powerful aftershocks.

 

For prayer:

  • Praise for the safety of all MTW missionaries
  • Love and comfort for grieving families
  • Rescue for those who may be trapped
  • Safety from aftershocks, which have been quite large
  • Shelter for those whose homes are destroyed
  • Wisdom and clarity for MTW regarding our response
  • Restoration of power and communications
  • Most of all, however, pray this will be an open door for the gospel, that missionaries and national believers will be able to show the love of Christ to those around them. Relationships are critical in Japanese culture, so pray this crisis opens new doors that could make many more relationships possible."

As I think and pray for those across the Pacific, I want to take you back to another generation, and events in the Pacific as they relate to the heroic defense of freedom against AXIS tyranny during World War II.   Because of two meaningful visits I had this week, I am reminded of a generation of World War II soldiers, sailors and airmen who are still among us, but who in twenty years may not be, just as we observed this month the passing of Frank Buckles, the last of the World War I doughboys.   And as I share these things, I ask us all, are we willing to do a 18T, a 180 degree turn around at the cross (T) of Christ, turning away from selfish inclinations, in order to serve our Lord?

The Navy men I met with this week are Carlton Davis and Nelson Drew.  Tuesday I visited with Carlton and Lee and Nancy Smith at their homestead in eastern New York, sharing Christian fellowship, discussing Lee's new ministry as a chaplain in nursing homes, and catching up on their lives and our life at RRPC.  We read the words of Jesus, Mark 8:34, "Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me."  As we seek to do that spiritually today, we observe the sacrifice and self denial of men like Carlton who put life and limb at risk to oppose the Axis powers of Germany and Japan who would have overrun Europe and the Far East without the resolute resistance, standing firm, of the Allied powers.

Carlton was an ensign in the Navy, a replacement pilot who went in to serve in the dangerous places, the places where other pilots had just been shot down.  He flew off of aircraft carriers, first the Lexington, and then the Yorktown, using the F-6 Hellcat, a workhorse of World War II.  He saw action all over the Pacific theatre, including the Phillipines and Japan.

Nelson Drew was a sailor in WW II who served on a destroyer, the Champlin, which accompanied President Roosevelt to Malta on the way to the Yalta conference of the Allied leaders.   He also served on another destroyer which was part of group of ships at the signing of the surrender of Japan on board the aircraft carrier Missouri.  I met Nelson last evening as he is regaining strength after having kidney problems and electrolyte imbalances at Glens Falls Hospital.  He is Mark Beilstein's grandfather on his mother's side.

Because Carlton and Nelson sought the blessings of liberty won for us by our founders who established a constitutional republic on these shores, they were willing to follow after others who had won that fight for liberty, denying self, taking up their cross of patriotic responsibility.

I also learned that Carlton denied himself, took up his cross, and followed Christ, upon his return from World War II, when a fellow pilot who was a Christian witnessed to him.  The man who witnessed to him was his Navy roommate, a man known to Nancy Smith, Carlton's daughter, as "Uncle Dick", because Dick not only introduced Carlton to Christ, he also introduced Carlton to his sister whom Carlton married ! Dick led Carlton to the Lord, and Carlton realized it is not enough to deny yourself as an American citizen.  We must deny ourself, and take up our cross and follow Christ as citizens of heaven, if we are to know spiritual liberty, eternal salvation from sin through the atonement won by Christ at his cross.

Both the men's and women's Bible studies have covered Ephesians 6 in the last few months, and we find there these verses:

Eph 6:12  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 
Eph 6:13  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 

We are in a battle, against spiritual forces of darkness.

Will you do a 18T ?  Will you recognize that God requires of you nothing to be saved, it is totally of grace, and yet as a result of his sovereign salvation, he requires everything?  Self-denial, opposing the heart's selfishness and sin.  Practical, every-day, suffering service, "our cross" by which we identify with Christ and his sacrifice.  If we take up our cross, it means we are willing to do anything, up to and including dying for Christ, in order to follow him.   As I heard a fellow pastor, Ed Hart, say recently there are many of us who are willing to die, to do the "big thing" like martyrdom.  We're ready for that, partly because we don't think it will ever happen here in America.  We are ready for death, but are we ready for inconvenience?  Are we ready to interrupt the schedule of our days, the routines that we feel comfortable with, in order to serve Christ? 

I encourage you to follow Jesus in faithful discipleship.  Walk this path, and learn from the examples before us.

Please pray for Nelson Drew with his hospitalization, and Carlton Davis, recently diagnosed with macular degeneration.

God bless you all !
Pastor Ned Suffern
3:18 pm est          Comments


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Redeemer Reformed Presbyterian Church
548 Luzerne Road * Queensbury * NY * 12804 * 518-798-9794