Have you ever watched the T.V. show Long Lost Family? I love to watch it because they always show these touching stories of kids and adults who have been reunited with a birth parent or birth family. Maybe I like it because I feel a personal connection to the show. I was adopted from Children’s Home Society in St. Paul Minnesota when I was nine months old. I don’t remember the first time my parents told me that I was adopted, but I know that they told me ever since I can remember. I have never met my birth parents, so I wonder from time to time, where did I come from? Why was I put up for adoption? Did my mom and dad love me?
In a spiritual sense, many people have the same question. Is there a God? Does my life matter? If there is a God, does this God even know who I am? These are the questions that come up again and again and until we settle them, they surface and resurface at different periods throughout our lives. Often people stop short of searching for God because of three common misconceptions. These misconceptions actually keep people from developing a deep and meaningful relationship with their heavenly Father.
The first misconception is that God doesn’t even know me. I remember lying on my bed growing up wondering about God. I thought that will the billions of people on the planet how could he possibly know who I was. How could God possibly know who I am? Do you ever feel like God doesn’t even know you?
The second misconception is that God doesn’t care about me. Even if God knew me why would He care? The world has much bigger problems than I do. I figured that for the most part I flew under the radar and that God didn’t really care about me because of all the other stuff going on. Have you ever thought that your life and problems are so insignificant that God they don’t even hit God’s radar?
The third common misconception is that God wants to punish me. One friend had a series of bad things happen to him. He lost his job, couldn’t pay his bills, wound up getting sick and was hospitalized when he didn’t have any insurance. As we talked he said “I think God is punishing me.” I said for what? He said “For all the stuff I did in the past, it finally caught up with me.”
Sometimes God does let us reap the consequences of our sins. But other times bad things happen to good people. Good people get flat tires. Good people get sick. We live in an imperfect world and people hurt people. Evil is rampant and sometimes good people get caught in the crossfire.
My friend Nate is a police officer. Every week we ride to hockey together where we play in Chaska. When I am in the car with Nate I am not tense or nervous because he is a cop. I drive the speed limit and if I go over by a few miles an hour or turn without using my blinker he doesn’t yell at me or scold me. He might notice but he doesn’t harp me because we are friends, we have a relationship. In my mind, he’s not a cop trying to bust me for every mistake I make, he is a friend who plays on my hockey team. I give you that picture because God is not like a Super-Cop in the sky who wants to punish you for everything you do wrong. If you fear God and think that all he wants to do is punish you for every little thing you will grow to resent him not respect Him.
It is possible for you to go deeper in your relationship with God if you know why God wants to adopt you. There are three realities that explain why God wants to adopt you.
The first reality is that you are wanted. God wants you to be a part of his family. God wants to adopt you and put your picture on his refrigerator. Sometimes I imagine how big God’s refrigerator has got to be with all these pictures of His family there.
The second reality that explains why God wants to adopt you is that you are loved. God is pursuing a love relationship with me that is real and personal. God is not some unknowable force, God is knowable and we can see God the Father manifest in God the son, Jesus Christ.
The third reality that explains why God wants to adopt you is that you are a child of the King. You come from royalty. You did not come from random chance, you did not evolve, you were created in the image of God and God adopts you into the family making you a child of the King.
Last week I was in Haiti with a team from Freshwater. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. We spent a week building a classroom for seventh grade kids. We also spent time with orphans at “Hope For Life” where we have been doing a lot of work. These kids are so awesome so we wanted to treat them to a day at the beach. When we arrived at the beach with all the kids we were all responsible for three kids which made it manageable. None of them know how to swim and several had never been to the beach or seen the ocean. But they were all eager to get in the water. When I stepped into the water all three of my kids were holding tightly to me. I had one on each hand and one was holding my shorts. I looked at the other guys and their kids were holding tightly to them too.
The further I went into the ocean the tighter they held onto me. They had no idea how deep the water was or what was lurking beneath it, but they knew that as long as they were holding onto me I was never going to let go off them. The truth is, I loved the fact that they trusted me and wanted to be with me even as I went further into the ocean.
In the same way, God wants us to cling to Him. He has adopted us as His own. We are His kids. He takes great joy when we hold on tight by faith to his promises. He loves it when we go deep with him and enjoy just being with him. So today will you cling to the king? If you believe in Jesus you have been adopted into the family of God.
The Bible says this: if you believe, you belong. If you believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins and is the Savior of the world, God adopts you into His family. Knowing that you are wanted, loved, and a child of the king changes everything. You are part of the family of God so Cling to the king and don’t be afraid of going deep. The deeper the water, the tighter the grip you need to have. Amen.
Salvation is a mostly-Christian word. Sometimes, the Bible uses the words saved or salvation to refer to temporal, physical deliverance, but more often, the word “salvation” concerns an eternal, spiritual deliverance. Jesus equated being saved with being part of the kingdom of God on earth and receiving access to heaven in the hereafter.
So what are we saved from? In the Christian doctrine of salvation, we are saved from God’s judgment of sin. Sin separates us from God and this separation from God results in spiritual death and eternal separation from God. And if you are not saved it is impossible for you to follow God’s will for your life now because you don’t have a relationship with him.
The question is, once you are saved, are you saved forever or can you lose your salvation? I have known a lot of people who say they believe then later in life then walk away from God and others who love God and are constantly questioning whether or not they will be in heaven for sure.
When it comes to salvation, God doesn’t give us a pro-rated warranty that runs out over time. God gives us a guarantee that is forever. God doesn’t promise us salvation and then when we die and meet him face to face he says “I’m sorry, you were doing so good, but I changed my mind and you didn’t do enough service projects to get into heaven so you just get to sit outside the fence.” Or “You did pretty good you can stay in heaven with all expenses paid for a week, but then you have to leave.” God doesn’t say “You can stay in the guest house for a few months.” God doesn’t mostly guarantee our salvation if he thinks we are good enough at the time, he completely guarantees it. He doesn’t move the goal post.
Your salvation is secure. This is important because if you think your salvation is at risk or comes and goes based on what you do, it will leave you feeling incredibly insecure always wondering where you stand with God. What if you didn’t confess all your sins or forgot one, will you lose your salvation? What if you slip up? Will you lose your salvation? What if you lose your mind due to disease, will you lose your salvation?
Jesus promises that it is the will of his heavenly father that every single person who believes in him will be saved. Not one single individual with saving faith will be lost. Later Jesus added that the sheep will “never perish,” and that “no one shall snatch them out of My hand” John 10:27-29.
The fact is that you cannot lose your salvation. I have lost my keys and I have lost my cell phone and both were because I forgot where I put them. We lose things all the time and it’s usually because we can’t remember where we put them or someone takes something and doesn’t return it. Nothing makes me more upset than when my wife or kids takes a tool from the garage and leaves it someplace where I can’t find it. Several years ago my kids took an entire socket set out of the garage and lost it. I could not find it anywhere for a whole week. Then on Saturday I mowed the lawn and found all of my sockets because I ran them over with the lawn mower. The kids fixed their bikes on the lawn and the grass grew around the sockets. By the time I realized I was mowing them they had ruined my lawn blade and shot a few sockets into the corn field.
We don’t lose our salvation like we lose our phones or tools. Within evangelical theology there are a couple common beliefs concerning the possibility of a believer losing or “forfeiting” their salvation. These are the main views:
The first view is that once you are saved you are always saved. Some believe that no matter what you do, even if you deny knowing Jesus and turn your back on him, you are saved. So once you believe and are sealed by the Holy Spirit, it’s an irrevocable agreement between you and God.
The second view is known as the “perseverance of the saints.” This belief is that if one really is a true believer, they will never turn away from God no matter what. You may still sin and slip up, but if you really are a believer, you will not walk away from God. You might sort of walk away for a time, but deep down inside you are more or less just pouting and not abandoning your faith.
Today, I want you to leave here knowing for sure that you are a child of God. If you have messed up in the past or even in the present, you are still loved, forgiven, and wanted. God has not left you. Your salvation is secure. Just repent of your sins and get right with God again by asking him to forgive you and he will.
If today you are not sure if you are saved, you can be. If you have never come to a place of faith when you wanted to invite Jesus Christ into your heart and life, then today is the day that you should put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ so that you may know for sure that you have eternal life.
Faith in Christ involves an intellectual understanding that you have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All of us need to be saved from sin.
So if you call on the name of Jesus and believe in your heart that he is the savior of the world and that he has been crucified and resurrected and is now seated at the right hand of God in heaven, you will have eternal life. This is God’s promise, his guarantee. Once we are saved we have eternal security and are empowered to live each day for the glory of God with our eyes on eternity because one day we will see God and be with him forever. And in heaven there is no pain or sorrow or sadness, just love and peace and abundance. I want that. I look forward to heaven and while I am still on earth I want to do God’s will for my life. I hope you do too. We were created by God for God, so let’s live for his glory and look forward to eternity. AMEN.
Is your marriage in trouble?
I often ask couples this question: On a scale of one to ten, with ten being awesome and one being terrible, what number would you give your marriage? Here are five questions to help you assess your marriage right now:
1. Does it feel like your spouse is more of a roommate than a soulmate?
2. Do most of your conversations revolve around finances, the kids, and tasks?
3. Do you and your spouse enjoy leisure activities together on a regular basis?
4. Do you and your spouse have mutual friends that you enjoy spending time with?
5. Do you have a circle of friends who you can share with and care for?
These five simple questions will help you assess your marriage right now. Often husbands and wives rate their marriage significantly different. Chances are, one may think everything is good and the other everything is very bad. This is not uncommon and it tells me that at least one person in the relationship is not connecting on an emotional level. The truth is marriage is tough and takes work to keep it healthy. Studies show that couples generally rate their marriage satisfaction high when they are first married which is to be expected, but add a few kids, a little debt, some work pressure, and you have a recipe for stress. Most couples marriage satisfaction ranking goes down over time if they have kids, but once the kids are gone, most couples report that the satisfaction level skyrockets back to where it was when they were first married. I am not sharing these facts to scare you, I am sharing these facts to prepare you.
Part of our five year vision includes lowering the divorce rate by 5% in our community. The only way we will see this vision realized is if we are bold enough to take an honest look in the mirror to see how we are doing. We did a recent study of the congregation at Freshwater to give us some solid data to use as a starting point. Part of the survey included questions about marriage satisfaction. This is what we learned:
1 out of 9 couples are in a bad or struggling marriage
1 out of 4 couples are at best in a “fair” marriage.
1 out of 3 couples do not know where to get help.
So if we want to lower the divorce rate by 5% in five years, we had better start helping couples now. The stronger marriage you can develop now, the better off you will be later, it’s that simple. That is why we have developed multiple resources to help strengthen couples. Here are the resources we currently have in place:
1. Marriage mentors. We have seven couples trained as “mentor couples.” If you would like to meet with a mentor couple, just send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or connect with one of our pastors to get started. All of our couples are solid, friendly, and care about helping you to have a better marriage. Most of the time our mentor couples meet over diner or coffee for three or four times to help you work through a sticking point. There is no cost to work with a mentor couple but there is a fee to take the marriage assessment. If you can’t pay the fee, we will pay it for you.
2. Professional counseling. We work closely with two counselors who use the St. Boni campus to meet with people. You can send us an email to connect you to them. Both counselors take insurance.
3. Small group support. We offer a wide variety of small groups that meet during the week. Several of the groups are doing marriage studies right now and we can help you get connected to one if you let us know. We also have a Celebrate Recovery group for people healing from bad habits, hurts, and hang-ups that meets on Thursday nights. Check our web site for more info.
4. Pastoral counseling. All of our pastors are great at working with couples. If you want to schedule a meeting with one of them, contact them directly. You can access their emails on the web.
5. Books. We have an extensive resource list for you to use. I keep several copies of a variety of marriage books in my office because I give them away on a regular basis. If you want to order a book on marriage yourself, here is what we recommend:
a. “His Needs, Her needs” by Willard F. Harley. Bill is a friend of mine and this is a great book for all couples.
b. “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. This best-selling book is worth the read even if you have a great marriage.
c. “Love and Respect” by Emmerson Eggerichs. This is one of my all time favorite books on marriage.
If your marriage needs a little work, don’t wait and just hope the problems go away. Do something about it now. Set up a time to talk with someone, buy a book, give a shout out to let us know you need some help and we will gladly help you. This is nothing to be embarrassed about. Kathi and I have had counseling in the past. We didn’t do it because our marriage was falling apart, we did it because we both wanted it to be better. Our counselor helped us to work through some tough times and I am glad we did it. You will be glad you did something too. If you need help go get it now. It is available to you or someone you know. By focusing on building stronger marriages we are ultimately strengthening our community and helping kids grow up in healthy families. This is a cause worth fighting for. So if your marriage is in trouble, we are here to help it get better. Our vision involves lowering the divorce rate by 5% in five years, we have committed to helping couples in tangible ways right now. No judgement, no shame, just love, grace, and the encouragement you need to find hope and healing.