Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Hand of God - the Face of God

Long ago I heard someone say that we should fix our eyes on God’s face, not God hand. I’ve never forgotten that statement. Let me explain what that means. When life is chaos and pain and waiting to see if a fire might consume everything we own, we don’t look at our circumstances and say, “God must not love me to treat me like this.” That’s looking at God’s hand.

Instead, faith looks at the face of God – His unchanging character. James said He is “the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” He is always who He is, and He is always for us because He sees us in His Son. Every day in every circumstance God is smiling on His children. He is working all things together for good in their lives, conforming them into the image of His Son, whether it’s through miracles and deliverance, or through pain and suffering. His countenance never changes toward His own. This is God’s face toward His children—

The Lord your God is in your midst,
A mighty One who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by his love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

We will never understand God’s hand in our lives. The outworking of His providence is way beyond us. But keep looking at His face. And “when darkness veils His lovely face,” then “rest on His unchanging grace.” And keep singing, “Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Babette’s Feast and the Grace of God

I don’t watch too many movies. I’m just too antsy to sit that long. And my kids have always teased me that when I do, the movie always ends up as an illustration in my next sermon. That happened a few years ago when I watched a Danish film called Babette’s Feast. It was one of the most touching portraits of God’s grace that I’ve ever seen. I want to give you a summary. And even though you will know how it ends, you should still see it—

It’s a story about a small group of Christians who lived in a small, bleak village on an island off the coast of Denmark in the late 1800’s. They had been founded by a very strict, Puritanical pastor who had since died, but they kept his memory alive in their traditions.

Their idea of godliness was to live simple, meager lives with limited pleasure. One day, a French woman named Babette showed up at the door of the pastor’s two spinster daughters. She had lost all of her family in the Napoleonic wars in Europe and she wanted to know if she could work for these ladies as their maid and cook. They said they were sorry but they had no money with which to pay a servant. Babette said she would gladly work for them in return for room and board. So Babette stayed with these ladies for 14 years, served them faithfully, and cooked the few plain dishes that they would eat, including smoked cod and beer soup.

During this time, the little group continued to shrink as members died, and it became more and more ingrown and legalistic. Babette watched them bicker and backstab--but they still kept their traditions. One day she got a message from France. A relative of hers had bought her a lottery ticket and she had won 10,000 francs--she was rich! The two sisters she had lived with were very happy for her, but they were sad because they assumed she would be going back to France.

Babette said that she had never asked the sisters for anything, but now she had a request. The 100th anniversary of their pastor’s birthday was coming up, and would they allow her to make a French feast for their celebration dinner? The sisters asked the group, and they agreed.

Babette sent a list to Paris of all the supplies she would need, and a few weeks later, a boat arrived with crates of dishes, glasses, linens, and strange exotic foods, fruits, vegetables, wines, champagne, and even live quail!.

When the sisters saw what she was doing, they were horrified! They called the group together and said that it looked like a banquet for Satan himself was in the making. They agreed that the loving thing to do was to allow Babette to prepare the feast, but they would not say a word about any of the food or drink. They would eat it, but they would make sure not to enjoy it.

The evening finally came, and a special guest arrived, a decorated general who years earlier had sought the hand of one of the two sisters--but was turned down. They all sat down—all 20 of them—to a table set with the finest china, crystal, and linens, and Babette began to bring out course after course after course of the most exquisite food you could imagine. The people ate it without any expression or emotion, while the general was exclaiming as each dish was brought out. What was wrong with these people?

Finally, they began to sample the champagne—they thought it was lemonade—and they began to loosen up and enjoy the meal. The general finally stood up and said, “My friends, I don’t think you appreciate what has been set before us! I have only eaten one other meal like this in all my life, and it was at the Grand Hotel in Paris. Surely the meal that we have just eaten must have been prepared by the same Master Chef of the Grand Hotel! What a gift you have been given!”

And of course, it had been prepared by the former Master Chef of the Grand Hotel in Paris—Babette.

Her identity didn’t seem to sink in, but that one meal transformed the group. It was the first time they had allowed themselves to experience any joy in years. They began to reconcile with each other, they went out into the street and began to sing their old hymns at the top of the voices.

The next day, the two sisters went to tell Babette how very much they had enjoyed the feast, and they wanted her to know how sad they were that she would be returning to Paris. She said, “Oh, but I’m not returning to Paris.” They said, “But why not?” She said, “I have no money!” They said, “But how could that be, you won 10,000 francs!” She said, “A meal for twenty guests at the Grand Hotel in Paris, like the one I prepared for you, would cost 10,000 francs!” She had spent it all on her friends.

God has given us His all that we might share in His Feast. So enjoy!

 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish
but have eternal life.”

Saturday, May 27, 2017

MBC Picnic! Saturday, June 10th

MBC Family Picnic

Come and join us for a relaxing and fun evening under the pavilion! It’s a luau theme, so wear your Hawaiian duds (think Don Ho, or Don Owens!)

When: June 10th, Saturday

What time:  5pm to 7 pm

What to bring:  Church will provide hamburger patties and hot dogs.  Sign-up at church for a side dish, buns or hamburger toppings.

Middletown Christian School Boosters will be selling desserts for a fund raiser at the picnic.

Program:  We will have games and face painting for all as well as some music.

We have men to cook, but we could use two ice chests with ice, a set-up and clean-up crew and a canopy or 2 for shade.

Call Janice, Jennifer or Donna with questions or to sign-up!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"And you - but God"

This day, fight to remember the gospel.

The devil will be ruthless to bring every sin to mind, but preach the gospel to your own heart: "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." If doubts arise and dark feelings seem ready to engulf you, claim the words of Paul: "God made [you] alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses." You are not the same person you once were. You are a new creation. You are in Christ.

I was blinded by my sin,

had no ears to hear Your voice;

did not know Your love within,

had no taste for heaven’s joys.

Then Your Spirit gave me life,

opened up Your Word to me;

through the gospel of Your Son,

gave me endless hope and peace.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The tomb was empty.


But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them,
“Why do you seek the living among the dead?
He is not here, but has risen.”
Luke 24:1–6

Friday, April 14, 2017

On Good Friday: Jesus, My Substitute

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered,
Was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But Thine, the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
‘Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor,
Vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

* * *

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood—

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in heav’n exalted high.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

* * *

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,

And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,

And claim the crown,
Through Christ my own—
Amazing love!
How can it be?
That Thou, my God, Shouldst die for me?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

On the death of little Molly

Dear flock,
The picture above is of little Molly, a precious little one year old, the day before she drowned in a pool. Her mother Charissa was part of the youth group at Grace Bible Church years ago when my own kids were teens. They all hung out together, went to student conferences together, and had youth parties at our home. At the time, none of them ever dreamed that such unspeakable tragedy could ever enter their lives. Charissa and her husband Jordan are solid Christ-followers, as well as their families. Grandma Cathy wrote the piece below. Read it and weep with those who weep, and pray.
--Pastor Doug
The Crucible of Pain and Suffering
Before the loss of Molly, I had been undergoing a mini trial (because everything seems mini after this), and a couple times I'd prayed, "Lord, change me!" I was almost afraid to pray that way because of what it might yield.
And then Molly happened. And the grief and anguish of soul served to undo us. But God has been here. Jesus has cried with us. And we are all changing. In small ways He has opened our eyes to problem areas in our lives. My precious Gene, who prefers to live a quiet and private existence, wrote a letter to all the staff where he teaches. He talked about Molly, but he shared our hope in Jesus. He would have preferred to remain under the radar, but he felt compelled to be public with his heartbreak, and invite the staff to the service. One teacher wrote that they would be there. Others, who don't know Jesus, wrote that Gene's faith would help him. A door of witness has opened because Molly's death has allowed opportunities to share Jesus. Her little life is a beacon of hope and light. How we miss her! But we are praying many will be brought to Jesus because of what has happened.
Our church has been changed. Trials have that effect. Our local church body is growing stronger in prayer and encouragement.
We have heard of some who've not yet been drawn to Jesus make reference to the faith we have in God. Our faith is a gift from our glorious God, outside of ourselves. We can't muster it up on our own.
We've been privileged to share Jesus with those who were by our side on the day of Molly's home going. Several in our family (and close friends) baked lots of sweet treats, and, yesterday, took them to the staff at the hospital where Molly was treated, and to the police dept who responded. The treats were accompanied by thank you notes with the message of the Gospel, and an invite to the service.
We keep going back to the well where unlimited grace and mercy can be had. And we are finding help--so much more than we knew possible--is there. And we are forever changed. It's not the script I would have written, but I'm not in charge. A life of mediocrity will not do. Part of me is afraid of what might happen next, but I continue to be bolstered by Jordan and Charissa. And I think of verses that pop in my head about what Jesus did for us, and how our suffering is but a microcosm of what He endured.
Lastly, we have the hope that He'll lead us safely home. And that makes this present life more doable.
What follows is an excerpt from my darling husband's letter to the staff. I hope you find encouragement from what he's written.
"Our family has been devastated by this loss, and yet without despair. We’ve been comforted by the overwhelming love of extended family, church community, and others, many in far-flung places, who have surrounded us with their presence, tangible kindnesses, and prayers. We rest on the promises of God, and the words that will be etched on Molly’s grave marker, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die (John 11:25-26).' We long to see her again."