Thoughts From The Journey 02-2019

Photo of Marc Sanders

Rev. Marc Sanders

I don’t know of many of us who are eagerly praying for another snow this year. The confinement that the snow and cold has forced upon us this winter has created a longing for the warm climes of summer. Yet, let us sit for a while longer in winter, for there are a couple of lessons to learn that I think will be beneficial to us.
   I adore the beauty of freshly fallen snow. Its pure and spotless surface covers over the barren dankness of winter turning everything into a glistening wonderland. If the snow is deep enough, it is almost impossible to deter-mine the sloping contours of the yard thereby leveling out the entire landscape. Sadly, this beauty is destroyed by the first footprint as often the desire to go and play around in the snow wins out over the urge to maintain the snow’s purity. I cannot think of anything that is more bleak than dirty snow. Snow is not supposed to be dirty, it’s too pure for that, my heart screams. It occurs to me that dirty snow though is a great description of our souls. God’s forgiveness leaves our souls as pristine as newly fallen snow. We choose to mar it by going out and playing around in sin. I can hear you say, “but playing in snow is so much fun!!” Yes, I know, and I know of many who say that playing around in sin is just as much fun. Yet, just as we are told to stay off the roads for our own safety after the snow, so too does God’s Word instruct us to do the same with sin in our own lives. The question is why are we willing to listen to fallible authorities and ignore the infallible Creator of all?
   Secondly, the saddest thing I see in the days after a snow are snowmen. The temperatures rise to much warmer ranges and here are these frozen reminders that seem completely out of context to the world around them. It seems to me that we often find ourselves in the same predicament. We become frozen in our thoughts and actions and fall out of step with where God would have us be at the present. The snowman was great for that day, but its joy and beauty creates an air of sadness on those later days that bear little resemblance to those now past. We can long for them to come back and protect us, but sadly the chances of that happening are slim. The snowman at this stage is but an ever-decreasing picture of its former glory. Beloved, let us never become snowmen of faith, but let us always set ourselves to the task to grow in the grace and witness of our God. Let us not be where God has us to be yesterday, but where He wants us today as we seek out where He would have us be tomorrow.

Thoughts From The Journey 12-18

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned in a Sunday sermon that as a church we were the front door of Heaven which necessitated that our composition looks like Heaven. I referenced Revelation 7 which states, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” To be sure, if our worship is to look like Heaven then it requires us to reach out to the multitude of ethnicities that populate Alamance County.
Something that is required of us before we engage in such an effort is to have some understanding of the cultures we are attempting to reach. To that end, I will be speaking on the global face of Jesus during Advent. It is important for us to remember that other cultures do not always view Jesus in the same manner that we do. However, just as the four Gospels each give us a different witness to Jesus’ life and work that deepens our understanding of Him, so too does studying the various ways the rest of the world’s Christians relate to and worship Jesus expand our relationship with Bethlehem’s babe.
One of the things that I have enjoyed doing throughout my life is learning about other places and customs. It has enabled me to take the best that I have gleaned from my studies and apply them to my own life. I sincerely hope that our Advent worship will enable each of us to do the same thing with not only our discipleship, but our witness. I pray that it will enable us to reach out to all with whom we come in contact and let them know that Christmas is a celebration of just how great God’s love is for each of us and invite them to experience that love for themselves. I also pray that each of us would experience that love afresh in new and powerful ways this Christmas as we give thanks to God for His great love for us.
Merry Christmas,

Thoughts From The Journey 08-18

I recently heard one of the most unique reasons behind a sports loss I have ever known as I caught the end of the World Cup match between Sweden and England. The announcer stated that Sweden’s loss was due to “insufficient imagination.” Now, as a Carolina fan I have come up with some interesting theories as to why we lost but was not nearly imaginative enough to blame “insufficient imagination.” I am afraid I do not know enough about soccer to know whether the Swedes having a sufficient imagination would have secured them victory, however I do think an “insufficient imagination” is a condition from which a lot of Christians suffer.

One of the prayers we will be studying this month during our Sunday evening Bible study is Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3. His prayer concludes with one of the greatest challenges to a Christian found in Scripture: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we can ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” I confess I have always read this as a challenge from God to see just how big I can pray. It’s almost like He is nudging me saying, “Come on, I can do things bigger than you can cook up in your head, pray bigger.” The wonderful thing is that as I have found Him faithful to answer these ever-increasing prayers, I have seen what I thought to be impossible occur repeatedly. It is helpful to remember sometimes that we serve a God who majors in doing the impossible because then only He gets the glory.

So, let me ask you how big is your imagination? Do you ever day dream about what God can do here at Grove Park? I believe that God is ready to do unbelievable things for His Kingdom through Grove Park. He is simply awaiting us to dream and pray. For instance, can you imagine what it would look like if we were blessed to baptize an adult every week for a solid year? Let us take it a step farther and imagine if you were the one who led a particular week’s baptism candidate to faith, how would that impact your prayer and faith life? Now, let us acknowledge that God can do “far more abundantly” than that and pledge ourselves to pray bigger such that our service to God may never be labeled as “insufficient imagination.”