Thursday, April 27, 2017

Gospel Better Than Life



“Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.” Psalm 63:3

Dear Congregation,
       It is very difficult for anyone to measure the value something compared to life itself. Many who speak on such matters do so without serious thought or without ever having faced the challenge. Realistically, a parent may value their child’s life above their own, a soldier may give his life to save his comrades, yet even there the choice is not without inconceivable weight. Even still it is not a constant value for every parent or soldier. We value self and life so much that for the vast majority of people nothing can take precedence. And yet, the Scripture repeatedly challenges our selfishness and directs us to that which is definitively of more value than our lives; the love of God.

            The Lord Jesus tells us to give up our lives for Him, to die to our self, to give up parents and children for His sake. He does not say this to teach that life is worthless or meaningless, on the contrary, he says it to show the value of the everlasting life that comes through Him. If you are clinging to something that is temporary, even your own existence, then you miss the power and gift of the Gospel. The Psalmist, quoted above, says that God’s lovingkindness is better than life itself. If anything is worth more than life its God’s love. If anything provides purpose, understanding, knowledge, and fulfillment, its God’s love. How can we pursue our own glory when we know that it will never last? How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? The beauty of God’s love is that it is better than life because it is eternal life.

            Where is God’s love ever made more clear than on the cross? The Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ gave up His life and suffered the curse of sin, death, and hell in your place because of His lovingkindness. That lovingkindess on his part was of more value than His own life. When the Christian dies to self, is born again, and gives up all to follow Christ, he or she gains all the riches of heaven and eternity. Certainly of more value than 100 years on earth. The Psalmist declares that he will praise the Lord for this love, for the Gospel. May we be of that mind as well. May we say with Job, that we will trust in Him even if he slays us, because there is no other. Eternal life is more precious than anything. Christ has given us that and all that comes with it because of His lovingkindness. May we always remember that this is better and more precious than earthly life.

In Christ,

Pastor Basile

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

For Such A Time As THis

4/12/17

 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

Dear Congregation,

            I will admit that when I come to the Book of Esther in my regular Bible reading, I am always tempted to skim through it really fast or perhaps even skip portions of it. Not because it is boring or because it is irrelevant, but because it is a story that I remember well. Being an account in history and not one that ever mentions the name of God, I foolishly deceive myself into disinterest.

            However, this week I took my time with it and absorbed it in a way I have not done for some years. I was struck once again with the truth of God’s sovereignty over all events and actions for His own glory. God is never mentioned as I have already stated, but everything happens at just the right time. Vashti refuses the king at just the right time. Mordecai aids the king at just the right time. Mordecai’s reward is overlooked by the king until just the right time. The king cannot sleep at just the right time. Haman is discovered at just the right time. Esther acts at just the right time. There is no coincidence here. This account does not have to mention God for him to be seen. Secular history does not have to mention God for his hand to be seen and His actions noted. The non believer even recognizes the eerie way that events very often come together for good or evil. In suppression of the truth, a non believer may make up something like karma, or luck, or the stars, or the universe. But Esther shows that all through History God’s covenant is unbreakable and His plan for all history will not be thwarted by mere humanity. If Esther did not fulfill God’s will, deliverance would come from someplace else. God wins.

            As we head into Resurrection Sunday, lets remember all the events that led up to that point. It started in the Garden of Eden and was foretold through millennia until the Lord Jesus was born at just the right time and died and rose again at just the right time. You have been saved at just the right time, live in just the right time in history for God to use you best. May we continue to live with assurance that God will move history to bring all His future promises to fulfillment. Christ in you for such a time as this and your salvation for such a time as this.
In Christ,
Pastor Basile
           



Thursday, April 6, 2017

What Doest Thou Here, Elijah?

4/6/17

“What doest thou here, Elijah?” I Kings 19:9

Dear Congregation,

            Many are at least generally familiar with the ministry of the prophet Elijah that begins in I Kings chapter 17. Elijah, the mysterious rough hewn man of God who appears out of nowhere to face the evil King Ahab and declare God’s Word. We are aware of his boldness, we are aware of his faith, we are aware of his triumphs. But when we think more deeply we also remember some of his weaknesses. Here in I Kings chapter 19 we see Elijah running away for his life and despairing that he is all alone. Some background for this is needed.

            In I kings chapter 18, Elijah is on Mount Carmel, and by the power of God calls down fire from heaven to defeat and show up the prophets of Baal. The account is a magnificent visible and tangible display of God’s reality and power. It has often been asked how Elijah could run in fear after he had just been a participant in something so magnificent. Some have suggested that Elijah had very high expectations from this display. It has been noted that Elijah may have expected all of the witnesses and people of Israel to turn to God in repentance and faith and give up their wickedness and idolatry. After all, such an outreach must garner results right? Yet, this was not the case. No one cared, no one sought the Lord as a result. It was a huge let down for Elijah and now Jezebel threatens his life. He runs, he despairs, he is exhausted.

            Yet, God has not abandoned His servant and sends an angel to comfort and minister to the broken down Elijah. God gives him food for physical strength, encouraging words for mental strength, and Elijah goes to seek God’s presence for spiritual strength. Many of us often feel alone or let down like Elijah in this passage. Many of us create goals and standards that are not necessarily of God and then are depressed by personal disappointment. We may want to run away and just give up. But be of good cheer, God has the power and strength to overcome your disappointment. Take care for your physical and mental health for a quality life, but be sure to take care of your spiritual life. Elijah goes to Mount Sinai, possibly to the same cleft of the rock where Moses was when he saw God’s backside. This puts life and ministry in perspective. What doest thou here, Elijah? I have reserved 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Seek your God, seek His grace, seek His glory, rest in Him and in His provision. Life by His Word not your own manufactured expectations and wants. God will send the encouragement, the right perspective and the reality of His constant presence and provision. You are not alone, there are more with you than be with them. What doest thou here? God has grace and purpose for you even here. Trust and walk with Him!
In Christ,

Pastor Basile

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Wash And Be Clean

3/30/17

~And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean”?” II Kings 5:13

Dear Congregation,
        I know I have referenced this account often but as I came across it in my reading again recently, I cannot help but be struck by the perpetual relevance of it for the individual and for the church.
Here is Naaman, commander of the army of Syria. Naaman is a pagan and an outsider when it comes to knowing the truth of God. However, Naaman is a leper and has a desperate need. We can imagine that at this point He has probably tried everything that has been available to him to cure his disease. All effort and trial to no avail. He is now desperate enough to seek the spiritual. His own fictional gods cannot help him, but he has heard about the great and mighty power of the God of Israel. Perhaps there is something to the stories and testimonies of divine grace. Eventually word reaches the prophet Elishah that Naaman is seeking to be healed. The cure is to dunk in the dirty muddy unimpressive river Jordan seven times. Naaman scoffs. He is too good for something so simple. There are better rivers at home, why should he subject himself to such folly? Yet the verse written above convicts him, he obeys, and is healed by the grace and power of God.
            Naaman reflects the attitude of all humanity through all ages and contexts. Men and women perform great acts and great feats of strength to try to find God or achieve forgiveness. When confronted with the simple Gospel of repentance and faith through grace, many are turned away by its simplicity and lack of merit. Yet it is that foolishness, that simplicity, that total dependence on God that alone has the power to make one right with Him. As leprosy was symbolic of sin and the dirty water of the Jordan healed it, so the blood of Christ heals our sin. This is something that makes no earthly sense, yet is true by divine power and action. Praise God for the given faith in simple dependence on His power through an offensive act.
            The Church as a whole could learn from this too when it considers ministry and outreach. If the prophet had told Naaman something great would he not have done it? So it is that the church is always looking for some great big show of force or service. Many such things are never prescribed or counseled in the Word of God. We scoff at the appearance of inaction in worship, preaching, prayer, singing, personal witness. Yet these are the means of grace God has given, wash and be clean. Let us find joy in God’s simplicity and in humble and total rest on His power to work and provide for the church and those who are truly seeking him. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. II Corinthians 1:18
In Christ,

Pastor Basile

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Encouragement in The Lord

3/23/17

“Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” I Samuel 30:6

Dear Congregation,
            The above verse describes the situation after which the Amalekites destroy Ziklag and take all the women captive including David’s wives. We can imagine that the situation is by nature a hard blow to David and that he feels somewhat responsible for not being able to do more to help in the situation. However, the situation is made even more oppressive in that the population also blames David and wants to stone him. Here we see a circumstance that demonstrates why David was a man after God’s own heart. Much is said of David’s weakness and sin but this highlights his God given strength and devotion.
            Many who are faced with difficulty from within and from without, retreat from it. When circumstances are outside our control, the temptation is to block out reality in some way either by distraction, or substance, or escape. Inward blame or outward blame handicap us to real help and growth. Some become severely depressed, some cannot live with the pressures put upon them. The Christian who is rooted in genuine faith and in knowledge of the Word of God knows that there is a power that is above and beyond all difficulty. Though all the world be against him or her, there remains the fact that God will never leave or forsake. David strengthened himself in the Lord His God. That was the cure, that was the safety, and that was the absolute sure way to cope. Our problems are small when compared to the power and greatness of God. David seeks the means of Grace and worships. He prays, he remembers God’s words, and he communes with his heavenly father. How many of our difficulties and stresses would be so much lighter if we let go of our ownership of them and gave them over to God.
            In like manner the people of Ziklag show us another side of grief to avoid. They are looking to blame someone for the catastrophe and their blame falls upon David. The Amalekites have gone and cannot be punished. Someone should pay, why not David? Such is the habit of people who do not bring their grief to the Lord. God gave, God took away, blessed be His name. Who have we to blame? Who else can provide any answer or comfort but the controller of all circumstances? We hate to be reminded that life is not about us and rather than strengthening ourselves in God we turn to bitterness and vengeance where that accomplishes nothing.
            May we always be like David in this circumstance, may we turn to the Lord and strengthen ourselves in him through worship, prayer, and Scripture. David does this when faced with the death of his son as well. Despite his faults, his ultimate priorities were often in the right place. We are not our own and we are here to glorify God and enjoy Him. Rather than retreat, mope, rage, or fear may we turn to our best friend and only advocate and strengthen ourselves in Him. His ways our not our ways, but we know that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
In Christ,
Pastor Basile

     

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Not One Good Thing Failed

3/16/17

“Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth. And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you, not one word of them has failed.” Joshua 23:14

Dear Congregation,
       As part of Joshua’s final message to Israel before His death, he reminds God’s people of the faithfulness of their covenantal Lord. They can look back upon the years since they came out of Egypt and see numerous instances where they messed up and where their sin caused havoc in the camp. However, they cannot say that God was not faithful or that God was not just, or that he ever went back on His promises. Joshua can say with confidence that not one thing has failed of all the good things God said. And yet the context shows a warning that the people will forget God’s goodness and turn to things that will cause more pain. We marvel at such an obstinate people with such a short term memory and yet this pattern has largely remained true with the Church through the ages.
            God is the source of all good. All blessing flows from God alone. Why do we seek it or settle for it in imitation from other sources? There are so many differing reasons and many are unique to the individual. One reason no doubt is perspective. Everything we are accustomed to naturally is material and physical. While we all know none of this lasts and we all know that our lives are very short in God’s sight, and we all know that what God has for us materially and spiritually is far greater than what earth can provide. We are always faced with the temporary comfort of the now. Israel faced this too. It did not matter that they ate yesterday and were going to eat tomorrow, what about now? A person can remember answered prayer in the past and praise God but if answered prayer is not given now we start to get anxious and leave God’s direction. We look for other sources of good which prove phony and we learn that the hard way as Israel did and would.
            I charge you to remember God’s promise and faithfulness. To remember who He is, what He has given you in Christ, and what you have yet to receive in Christ. Do not be distracted by the temporary allure of the immediate idolatrous now. Remember the Lord whose word has not failed, whose salvation has not failed, whose blessing has not failed and whose goodness can never and will never fail. Remember that all the promises of God in Christ are yes and amen. You may not feel them now but that is not lack of anything on God’s behalf. His blessing is eternal. Praise God from whom all blessing and goodness flows!
In Christ,

Pastor Basile

Friday, March 10, 2017

Because The Lord Loved You

3/10/17

“The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you….” Deuteronomy 7:7-8(a)

Dear Congregation,
       This is such a beautiful reminder of the grace of God. There is nothing that we have in ourselves that makes us God’s people. He loved us, we do not know why, and therefore he chose us. When you struggle to feel loved, accepted, or known, remember this verse and remember God’s free grace. Our Lord is one who glorifies Himself in the simple things, the small groups, and the weak and humble people. God loved us and gave himself for us and to us.
Another aspect of this that is brought out to me is how God looks at and views those who are in Him and are saved. He does not see our sin anymore and he does not identify us with our faults and problems. Think of the Biblical examples of how God sees His own weak people in the long run. The Lord did not cast off Peter for his denial but shows him mercy and restoration. James 5:11 tells us to remember the patience of Job. There are plenty of negative things that could be remembered about Job, but God directs us to his given grace. In Hebrews 11 Rahab is remembered for her faith, not her vocation or her lie to the soldiers. In I Peter 3:6, Sarah is remembered for her faithfulness to Abraham, not her scoffing at God. Hebrews 11 as a whole marks and remembers flawed people for Grace and faith given, not their sins. Take comfort in your status before God as justified. Do not cower in fear about the judgment seat of Christ. Your account will be for how you used what God gave you not for your sins. Despite your weakness, sin, insecurity, and mistakes, God has redeemed you and made you his own. Where sin abounded, Grace did much more abound! This is true for me, for you, for Grace Community Church, and for all who are safe in Christ Jesus. Praise His name!
In Christ,

Pastor Basile