In Need of Mercy

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I read this devotional this week and it hit home with me how much we need mercy so we can extend it to others. I thought I would share it with you.

Luke 18:13 New International Version (NIV)

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

When I complained that a friend’s choices were leading her deeper into sin and how her actions affected me, the woman I prayed with weekly placed her hand over mine. “Let’s pray for all of us.” I frowned. “All of us?” “Yes,” she said. “Aren’t you the one who always says Jesus sets our standard of holiness, so we shouldn’t compare our sins to the sins of others?” “That truth hurts a little,” I said, “but you’re right. My judgmental attitude and spiritual pride are no better or worse than her sins.”  “And by talking about your friend, we’re gossiping. So—”  “We’re sinning.” I lowered my head. “Please, pray for us.”

In Luke 18, Jesus shared a parable about two men approaching the temple to pray in very different ways (vv. 9-14). Like the Pharisee, we can become trapped in a circle of comparing ourselves to other people. We can boast about ourselves (vv. 11-12) and live as though we have the right to judge and the responsibility or the power to change others.

But when we look to Jesus as our example of holy living and encounter His goodness firsthand, like the tax collector, our desperate need for God’s grace is magnified (v. 13). As we experience the Lord’s loving compassion and forgiveness personally, we’ll be forever changed and empowered to expect and extend mercy, not condemnation, to others.

The two characters in today’s parable have similarities and differences. The obvious similarity is that both the Pharisee and the tax collector went up to the temple to pray. They both had an idea of presenting themselves to God, of communicating and communing with Him.

Each of their self-perceptions was influenced by their occupation or position in society. The Pharisees were meticulous rule-keepers, and by the law the Pharisee was likely righteous. Tax collectors were notorious for exploiting the populace and taking more than was rightly due. The difference between them is that the Pharisee viewed himself in comparison to the tax collector, but the tax collector viewed himself in comparison to God. While the Pharisee thanked God that he was not like the tax collector and judged his standing by comparison, the tax collector did not ask to be made more like the Pharisee. He could only look down and ask for mercy.

When we realize the depth of our need for mercy, we can more readily offer mercy to others.

Lord, please keep us from falling into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. Mold us and make us more like You.

Butch Stuckert, Elder

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Peek-a-boo, I See You!

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Recently I caught a few minutes of Charlie Rose interviewing Admiral William McRaven (U.S. Navy Retired). They were discussing the character traits and behavioral practices it takes for one to ‘survive’ Navy SEAL training. I learned that when a new training class starts the trainees pick the one soldier they believe will become the ‘Honor Man’ of the class – the man whose sheer force of example inspires the rest to keep going when they are ready to quit. Admiral McRaven relayed that they typically choose the biggest and toughest guy that looks the part. Invariably though they are fooled by outer appearance; their choice is one of the first individuals to fall out and the real ‘Honor Man’ ends up being a little guy with great heart.

I could not help but be reminded of the story we find in 1 Samuel 16. In verse 1 of this chapter, the LORD instructs the prophet Samuel

“Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” When Samuel first sees Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, he assumes that he is the one the LORD intends to be king. But the LORD says to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

As we read on we learn that the 7 oldest sons are bypassed. Instead Samuel sends for Jesse’s youngest son, David, and anoints him.

Have you ever played Hide and Seek with a young child?

When my niece had just turned three, I spent part of a fun afternoon playing this game with her. The first spot she picked to hide was under the covers of a bed. She didn’t understand that it was obvious to the ‘seeker’ that she was there. Of course, I played along – not just the first time she hid there, but also the numerous times she returned to that same spot! She would giggle with delight each time I found her.

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Psalm 139:1-3

Have you ever realized you were attempting to hide a behavior or a choice from others, not for fun or a challenge, but due to guilt or shame? Have you successfully fooled people due to appearances? Have you ever been temporarily deluded and thought you could successfully hide in the same way from the Omniscient One? I confess, I must answer ‘Yes’ to all 3 questions.

Reality is that we can at times fool others, but we will never be able to fool God. To Him, our attempts must seem like those of a 3-year old playing hide and seek.

Amazingly, with full knowledge of the deceitful condition of our hearts, He chose to love us…all the way to the cross.

Kristin Wevley, Outreach Director

What is God up To?

pexels-photo-108015Have you ever looked at your life, the events that are happening around you or to you and wondered, “What is God up to?” There is no voice from heaven, there is no miraculous sign, no word from an angel. You’re just left to figure it out on your own… is God doing something?

Every once in a while I like to give you a sneak peek into what I’m teaching for our High School and Middle School Gatherings. We’ve been in a year-long series called “The Story of God” where we’ve been walking through the pivotal stories in the Old Testament that take us from Genesis all the way to the prophesies about Jesus. As we near the end of the school year, we have found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the Persian Empire (4th-5th century B.C.) with the book of Esther.

Esther is a fascinating book for many reasons, but the most curious is that God is no where mentioned in the entire book. No one prays to Him. He doesn’t speak, through prophets, dreams, or otherwise. He doesn’t perform any miracles.

Does that sound a little bit like your life?

The closest thing we get to a mention of God is a statement by Esther’s cousin Mordecai. A royal edict has been issued to kill all the Jewish people in the Persian Empire, so he comes to Esther (who is Queen of Persia at this time) and tells her that she had better beg the king for mercy.

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14

Mordecai’s statement unlocks the rest of the book for us. We’re meant to see all the supposed “coincidences” in the story as having a hidden purpose and meaning. God is working behind the scenes.

The story of Esther gives me hope because, I don’t know about you, but have a hard time seeing the hand of God at work around me. Many times life feels random and directionless. Bad things happen, good things happen, “coincidences” happen. It takes faith to believe that God is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

When something unexpected happens during the next few days, try pausing and saying, “Ok God… what are you up to?” Let’s believe that God is directing the drama of human history from backstage and say to ourselves, “Who knows? Perhaps I’ve come to this time, this place, this job, this school, this family, this moment, for such a time as this.

Ryan Groshek, Associate Pastor – Students

 

Perfect Timing

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

As I read the book of Ecclesiastes I am so thankful for seasons. Seasons of change, seasons of labor, seasons of fruit and of drought. All these seasons should remind us of the overarching story of Redemption. There was a period of earth’s history where everything was perfect; everything was exactly as God designed it. Sin has plunged our world into the depths of winter, but with Jesus death and resurrection the snow has begun to melt and life springs forth into our world. One day the season of perfection will return again, and the winter of sin will finally release its grip on the Earth. We have that hope.

Seasons also give a reminder that God is in control; He has perfect timing.

The opening of Ecclesiastes 3 is full of echoes of a past and future time; a circular motion of reoccurring seasons and the promises they all hold. But the next section is placed in such an interesting spot. Here we are, learning about seasons of life and the perfect timing of God, and then a segment about work and toil. Not just work, but an encouragement to enjoy our work, for we are working for God.

What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

Ecclesiastes 3:9-15

We’re in a series right now on work and worship. We’ve learned so far that really, work and worship are one in the same. The children of God are an army of people who are capable of working for a higher cause. Our work has eternal ramifications, just as our worship spans the confines of time.

Many people view me as a hardworking, driven individual. I like to say that I simply put my whole heart into all that I set out to accomplish. I want people to hear and see Jesus in my work. Every day we all have an opportunity to show people the power and glory of King Jesus in and through our work.

Maybe in your work you’re experiencing a season of great fruit, or perhaps a season of drought and despair. Maybe you’ve recently lost your job and are in a season of uncertainty and insecurity. Whatever season you’re walking through, God is in control. His timing, and His gifts to us are perfect. We should never forget to offer Him thanksgiving and praise, no matter the season, for His timing is perfect.

Today I encourage you to pray over your meetings, your projects, your deadlines, your staff. Pray over your frustrations. Pray over your victories. More importantly, work hard. I encourage you to take pleasure in your work, and delight in the perfect timing of God.

Blessings,

Brady Lee, Worship Director

Do You Believe in Miracles?

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We recently celebrated the most wonderful miracle, Jesus rising from the dead!  When we read the Gospel accounts of Jesus, we learn about all kinds of miracles performed by Jesus.  He did many miracles that helped people physically, such as healing sick people, young and old, of various diseases. He did miracles that overcame nature, multiplying the loaves and the fishes and walking on water. He also did miracles that helped people spiritually, delivering them from demons.

Do you believe in these miracles?  I think most of us would say that we do and think they are great. We serve a marvelous God!

I recently finished reading the book of Acts which records many marvelous miracles through Christ’s followers. God heals many sick people and delivers people from evil spirits. Is says in Acts 19:11, 12

“God did extraordinary miracles through the hands of Paul so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and the diseases and evil spirits left them.”

Do you believe in these miracles? I think most of us would say that we do and think they also are wonderful. We serve a wonderful God!

Do you believe God can and will do miracles through you?  Jesus says in John 14:12-14

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I go to the Father.  I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

What miracles does God want to do through you? The Bible is full of people young and old, male and female, rich and poor that God does miracles through.  Why not you?! Are you willing to ask Him to do a miracle through you for His glory?

Maybe God won’t be healing the sick or raising the dead through you, but maybe He will!  I remember a time I prayed with someone who was bed ridden due to back issues. She had been to doctors but wasn’t getting better. After we prayed, she was healed! It was wonderful! Praise God! She got up pain free and was happy to move around and I felt blessed God used me. More recently God gave me wisdom in a counseling situation which healed a relationship. To me and them, that was a miracle! The couple was blessed and I was blessed to be used by God. We serve a great God!

So…why not you?

As Jesus tells us, ‘ask God to do great things in His name through You for His glory’! May we listen to God. May we be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. May we pick up the phone and call people God puts on our heart. May we go to people God prompts us to go and minister to.

God wants to do great things through you for His glory.  Not our glory, but for His glory.  Let’s bring glory to God and be blessed as God moves and does miracles through us.

Peter Geissler – Elder

 

 

Sunday’s Over… Now What?

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As a Christian, we mark our year by two important events; Christmas and Easter. Now that both are over, what do we look forward to? What do we do?

As a followers of Christ, our year isn’t limited to two days; Christmas and Easter. It isn’t even confined to just Sundays! Our LIVES should be daily picking up our cross and following Jesus.

You’re thinking, “Ok! I hear that, I know that, but what does that look like?”

I was recently talking with a fellow Christian, a transplant to the Green Bay area. They were talking about their up-coming move, and how even though they do not have family here in town, they belong to the GREATER family of God, and how many people have offered to help them with their move. That is putting action to our faith.

For the last seven years Spring Lake Church has provided Monday meals for the Freedom House. I have seen individuals sign up, and send out a Facebook post saying that they are serving and asking if anyone be willing to help. I’m amazed (I shouldn’t be), to watch the body of Christ step up to give and serve.

Each year Joe and I get numerous requests for summer short-term missions projects.  I would love to go on many of these projects! Because of my work commitments and family I can’t go… but financially I can help send!

Soon Spring Lake will be launching a campus in Downtown Green Bay.  Our hope is to be the presence of Jesus to the community Downtown.  What will that look like?  I’m not sure…but I am sure that this will open up whole new avenues for Spring Lake Church to be Christ’s hands and feet to Northeast Wisconsin.

How will you be a part of this?  How will the people of Spring Lake Church be more than a Sunday presence in Downtown?

Easter Sunday is over, but our mission field is wide open for Monday-Saturday servants!  What will you do with your gifts, talents and resources?

Pam Van Erem, Ministry Director | Children

The Savior who is King

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“Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, ‘Hosanna!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Mark 11:8-11 (NIV)

As Jesus rides into Jerusalem, the crowd is paving the way shouting, “save us” (Hosanna)! The people have been anxiously awaiting a coming deliverer and their hope is that Jesus is that messiah! They hope He will save Israel from Roman rule and reestablish the Davidic kingdom forever. They hope He is the coming king that will save them.

The Jews understood that the Messiah would not only save them but they knew he would also be God’s chosen king.

This week, as you reflect on the cross and resurrection, do you understand Jesus as both Savior and King?

Jesus as Savior seems a little easier to wrap our minds around. We are guilty of sin, we can do nothing by ourselves to take away that sin, so we must have a savior.

Jesus lived the perfect life we could not live. Jesus suffered and died the death that we deserve. Jesus conquered death on our behalf. In confessing our sin and putting our faith in Christ we are saved.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 (NIV)

Seems pretty straightforward, right? Jesus is our only Savior… but what about our King?

A king has sovereign rule and authority. A king has the final say in all matters. A king governs and even owns the lives of his subjects.

If I’m honest, I struggle with always seeing Jesus as King. Sure, I am perfectly fine with Jesus being my Savior. That means that I get the incredible blessings of a relationship with God Himself. It means I get eternal life. It means I am a new creation and part of God’s family. But Jesus, my King? If Jesus is truly King, I can’t always do exactly what I want in the moment. I can’t always have what I want. I am not ultimately in control of my own life. If Jesus is King, the unescapable reality is that I am no longer autonomous and can no longer serve only myself.

If Jesus is King… I am not.

King Jesus is a much harder pill to swallow. And yet, whether I acknowledge it or not, Jesus is King. That’s at least part of what the authors of the New Testament mean when they say Jesus is Lord!

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 (NIV)

So the truth is that I cannot fully follow Jesus unless I am willing to have Him not only as Savior but Lord of my life. And it’s this very fact that is an important crossroads for those who believe. Until Jesus is King of my life, I cannot experience His goodness as He directs my life. Until Jesus is my King, I cannot see the fruit of a life lived for Him and others instead of myself. Until Jesus is my King, I will always find ways to please myself and selfish desires over Him.

Jesus must be King. And as I yell “save me” I must in some sense be asking Jesus not only to save me from sin and death but from myself.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. Matthew 16:25 (NIV)

Bill Van Kirk, Associate Pastor – Discipleship Ministries