From the Pastor

Following Jesus Together - September 28, 2021

Dear Friends,

In seminary I had a missions professor from Brazil, Elias Medeiros. The man exuded love for Jesus and for the world. It was contagious. One of the phrases Medeiros used repeatedly when he prayed and preached was something like this: “Jesus sends us with the gospel across the street and around the world.”

As we kick start our sermon series on “Hope for the World” – it is helpful to stop and meditate on that reality. God really does love the world. Jesus’ kingdom is bigger than Ballston Spa and the United States.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) 

I can put it another way. When we are seated at the great feast at the end of all things, we are going to find ourselves seated with all kinds of people not like us. They will be from every tribe, tongue and nation – all rejoicing in the abundant grace and goodness of God to us, in Christ Jesus! The story of the Bible is training us to see our neighbors across the street AND around the world!

In light of God’s love for the world, the Session is adding a prayer for particular nations each week to our Shepherding prayer. We are going to start with Afghanistan, which has been in front of us the last several weeks due to the chaos that took place when the Taliban took over. We plan to share information with you to inform your prayers as well. 

You can listen to a prayer for Afghanistan here, by an Afghan Christian. It’s beautiful prayer for the well-being of this country, asking King Jesus to make Himself known. And fair warning, there is a brief scene of violence in the prayer video.

https://prayercast.com/afghanistan.html

Wednesday - Leadership Training Continues – 6:30-8:30pm – You are welcome to join us in the sanctuary whether you are in training or not!

Sunday School 9:00am – “A Glimpse into the Heart the Master” – Sinclair Ferguson is leading a meditation on Jesus and His teaching in John 13-17, the night before He died in love for us.
Worship 10:15am – Genesis 1-2:4 – “In the Beginning” – We are going to spend the next few weeks in Genesis 1-2 looking at the goodness of God and His creation. If we do not understand the goodness of God and the goodness of creation, we will not fully understand the Fall and Tragedy of Genesis 3, which unleashed massive rebellion and chaos into God’s world. 

Here’s one big idea to think about. Did you know that one purpose of Genesis 1 was to persuade Israel and the world that God alone is Creator? That there is no God like the God of the Bible? Genesis 1 is persuasive poetic historical narrative. Here’s one example:

Egypt, where Israel was enslaved, had a creation story – it began with Atum, their god. And Atum, created himself out of the chaotic waters. He emerges from the darkness and the endless watery abyss. And then Atum goes about the work of creating lesser gods in strange to us ways to order the chaos and evil. Go read Genesis 1:1-2 again. Do you hear the overlap of darkness and waters?

Here’s the point: Genesis 1:1-2 is the beginning of the good news for the nations that the God of the Bible is not like other gods. He is the Maker of Heaven and Earth. He is the immensely personal and powerful King of Creation, who creates all things by the word of His power. And His Spirit is hovering like a mother bird over the waters. 

What difference does it make to believe this?

1 - Our non-Christian friends are being confronted with a God who is personal, who is the source of every good gift in their life. We feast on God’s abundance (Psalm 36). Genesis 1 is still meant to be persuasive and evangelistic. The universe did not self-generate. It is created. This God is good news for the world.

2 – What is God’s canvas to bring order and beauty into the world? The canvas is the abyss, the darkness and the waters. A.K.A. chaos. His canvas includes all those things that the ancient world saw as terrifying and untamable. The living God speaks and by His word order and beauty are formed.  We Christians are being confronted with our God who is showing His ability and power to make order out of the chaos of our lives. How? His powerful word. We see clearer than Israel. For God’s Word became human and dwelt among us. The powerful Word that is bringing order and beauty into our chaos is Jesus Christ. 

“Know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.” (Deuteronomy 4:39)

See you Sunday! Grace and peace, 

Nate Thompson
www.hopechurch.us

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Following Jesus Together - September 17, 2021

Dear Friends,

Due to leaving for Presbytery this week, I’m a bit behind on my email. This Sunday we are finishing Peter – commanding us to humble ourselves. I leave you with some good meditations on pride from other Christians in the last century:

Dorothy Sayers: 
“But the head and origin of all sin is the basic sin of Superbia or Pride. In one way there is so much to say about Pride that one might speak of it for a week and not have done. Yet in another way, all there is to be said about it can be said in a single sentence. It is the sin of trying to be as God. It is the sin which proclaims that Man can produce out of his own wits, and his own impulses and his own imagination the standards by which he lives: that Man is fitted to be his own judge. It is Pride which turns man’s virtues into deadly sins, by causing each self-sufficient virtue to issue in its own opposite, and as a grotesque and horrible travesty of itself…

From an article on Humility written for missionaries – 
“With support from texts such as Isaiah 14:12–20, theologians have generally agreed that the mother of all sins—Lucifer’s folly—is pride. We human beings have proven sadly receptive to the Great Deceiver’s DNA. Pride of race, nation, clan, religion, profession, and accomplishment flourish in the fertile soil of individual and collective egocentrism. Perhaps, as Sayers suggested and as Jesus’ encounters with the professionally pious of his day proved, it is especially the prestigiously pious among us who reveal pride’s most hideously debilitating malformities….Whatever the thrust of Christian missionary labors—whether incarnation among Muslims or disembodied voices over the airwaves—genuine humility is not only appropriate but essential (Mark 10:41–45). Mission, in line with the wise counsel of the late David Bosch, is a life of adventure that requires bold humility.”

Speaking of bold humility on the part of Jesus followers – there are Americans who do not want to leave Afghanistan – Check this article out - https://www.jenoshman.com/jen-oshman-blog/2021/9/12/the-americans-who-dont-want-to-leave-afghanistan

C.S. Lewis: Today I come to that part of Christian morals where they differ most sharply from all other morals. There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves…the vice I am talking about is Pride or self-conceit…

For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.”

The alternative of course is the gospel – summarized by the ego crushing statement from the Heidelberg Catechism question 1 – “That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. 

Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.”

See you Sunday! 

              Sunday School at 9:00am
              Worship at 10:15am 

Grace and peace,
Nate

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