Pastor’s Corner – June 2018

“Ordinary” Time

Beginning the day after Pentecost, the church calendar begins it’s longest season of the year: Ordinary Time. After the past six months of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Easter; and given that it coincides with the beginning of summer; it can be easy to think of “Ordinary Time” as “vacation time,” or “back to our regularly scheduled lives time.” But that would actually miss the opportunity that Ordinary Time gives to us, a gift the Early Church recognized in making this the longest season of the year.
 
Philip Reinders writes, “With all the big holidays and celebrations over, Ordinary Time offers us the space to find our place in God’s story. We’ve celebrated and taken in the momentous life of Jesus; now we need a long stretch of days to absorb and assimilate it. In Ordinary Time, we fully take in the gospel, allowing it to take shape in our daily living, making connections between Jesus’ story and our lives.” (Seeking God’s Face, pg 431)
 
To that end, we begin this season with a brief look at the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is a masterful book that, at first glance, can seem like a pessimistic pile of skepticism and futility. But in reality, it provides an opportunity to wash us clean of our pretensions and false spiritualities that keep us from knowing Jesus as He really is and following Him as closely as He invites us to do. After a 3 week break, we’ll then take a deep dive into a book of the Bible to see how God’s word is as applicable to our lives today as it was when it was written, 2,000 years ago. Speaking of that 3 week break…
 

“Where’d Pastor David go?”

Due to an unusual and unexpected confluence of events, the Session has been kind enough to grant me 3 Sundays off in a row, June 24 – July 8. Over those three weeks, I’ll be heading to the EPC General Assembly meeting in Memphis, celebrating my parents 50th wedding anniversary with our extended family in North Carolina, and heading back to St. Louis to preside over the wedding of one of the youth from our time ministering there. I’m looking forward to each of these events, but know that I’ll miss worshipping and partnering with you all in mission and ministry over that time as well. While I’m gone, you will be blessed with the opportunity to hear the Word of God expounded by our own Michael Babcock and Bob Mills, as well as Lowell Sykes. With their excellent preaching, you’ll hardly have an opportunity to know that I was gone!
 
Blessings,
Rev. David Garrison

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Pastor’s Corner – May 2018

After the Storm

Storms are used in fascinating ways in Scripture.  Take a look at Genesis 6-9 (Noah’s flood), Psalm 18, and Matthew 8:23-27 (Jesus calms the storm) for a couple of good examples.  But my favorite “storm story” is in 1 Kings 19.  Elijah has just won a powerful victory over the prophets of Ba’al, but ends up fleeing for his life as Jezebel and Ahab seek vengeance.  He hides in a cave on Mount Horeb (also known as Mount Sinai), and God tells him, Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”  What happens next is incredible:

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (1 Kings 19:11–13)

I think most of us would assume that God would’ve been in the storm, the earthquake or the fire.  But He wasn’t.  God was in the stillness and quiet that came after the storm.  The same is true with the story of the flood – the rainbow came after the waters receded.  And when Jesus calmed the waters?  That’s when the disciples fell down in worship.

“What are you doing here?”

That’s the question God asked Elijah in the silence after the storm.  Through your tireless acts of love and support, God’s presence after the storm has been made real.  I have been overwhelmed with the incredible response of our community in the weeks that have followed the tornado in Elon and Lynchburg.  You have answered God’s question to Elijah with your actions – by faithfully living what Paul calls us to in Galatians 5:  Serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Gal 5:13–14)  The cleanup work for those affected has just begun and will continue long after the tornado has left the news cycle.  May we continue to be God’s hands and feet as we pray without ceasing, give as we are able, and serve as the opportunity presents itself.  You can find some helpful suggestions and guides on our website at www.npcmh.com/blog. 

Blessings,

Rev. David Garrison


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Pastor’s Corner – March 2018

6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. — Romans 5:6–8
 

Too Good to be True?

On Sunday mornings the past few weeks we’ve been exploring the idea of Lent as an opportunity for us to have “Springtime for our Soul” (you can get caught up on that idea by reading last month’s article and listening to the sermons at www.npcmh.com/teaching). One of the central themes running through this series is that God loves us, delights in us, knows us, and desires for us to abide in Him (John 15). For many of us, this idea sounds good in theory, but in reality we suspect too good to be true. There’s no way God could love me that much. In fact, just the other day someone asked me, “Doesn’t God sometimes just turn His love off?” What a fantastic question! And aren’t there times when we all feel that way? Maybe God loves me in general, but he’s sure turned it off lately!
 

God is Love

Thank goodness for the apostles and the Bible! In 1 John 4:8 and again in 16 it says, “God is love.” God is entirely made up of love, so it would be impossible for God to “turn off” His love. If He were to do that, He would cease to exist. Paul writes in Romans 8, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39)
 

Yeah, But You Don’t Know…

No, I don’t know. I don’t know what you’ve done, I don’t know what’s in your heart. I don’t know the hurts and wounds you carry. But I know that God does. And I know this: that God loved you this much even before you were saved (see verse 8 at the beginning of this article). And I know that the verses from Romans 8 say that there’s nothing in heaven or on earth that could separate you from His love. How wonderful that God’s amazing love for us doesn’t depend on our believing or accepting it!
 
As the temperature slowly warms up over this month, may the warmth of God’s love saturate your heart and soul as well.
 
Blessings,
Rev. David Garrison

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Pastor’s Corner – October 2017

“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
 
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” (Matt 24:3–8)

 

 
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the “End Times” and when Jesus is coming back. Christians have been trying to figure that out since Jesus first ascended into heaven. This always happens when we have an abnormal pattern of highly destructive natural disasters, or when unusual events occur in the heavens (such as eclipses, or comets, etc.), or when wars break out around our planet. Most recently, a report made the news that the “End Times” would begin on Saturday, September 23. Saturday came and went, and all is well – if not a little bit hotter than we usually expect for late September.
 
I’ll be honest, there’s a lot about the “End Times” that I don’t know or understand. In fact, Jesus himself said that there’s a lot about this that we’re not going to know or understand: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matt 24:36) Here’s what we do know: Jesus is coming back (Revelation 22:20). When he comes back, all that is broken will be made right (Revelation 21:1,5). Until Jesus comes back, we will have suffering and persecution for His name’s sake (John 15:18-25). Outside of those things, Jesus invites us to trust and abide in Him (John 15:1-17).
 
The Thessalonians were swept up in waiting for Jesus’ return. They fully believed his return was so imminent that they stopped doing the work of the Kingdom. We should be diligent in avoiding the same mistake. So what should we do as we wait for Christ’s return? The same thing Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to do:

And we urge you, brothers & sisters, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:14-22)

Note particularly verses 23 & 24:

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

In other words, be about the work of the Kingdom, and trust in the God who’s name is Faithful. He is true to his promises, and He is true to you. Amen!


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