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 01-19

   A new year has dawned and with it all the uncertainties that accompany a fresh beginning. Will this year bring success or failure? Will this year bring us good health, or will it be a year of immense physical frustration? Will this year finally bring the fulfillment of a long-held dream or will it usher in dashed hopes? It would be incredibly nice if we could answer all of those questions right now so that we could be prepared for whatever may arise, but sadly we are not afforded such capabilities.
   However, there are some helpful things we can remember based around the life of Abel that I think will insure a successful navigation of 2019’s unknown waters. One, Hebrews 11:4 tells us that Abel lived by faith. Faith, by its very nature, is a darkness that we cannot navigate apart from grabbing the hand of the one who can carry us through. If we walk in faith, relying on the providence of God to steer our course, we know that even when the course is choppy, God is in control. So very often, our world is rocked because we rely solely on our capabilities and the visible to carry us through. Such actions do not meet the definition of walking by faith, but instead show us that we walk by sight.
   Secondly, Abel’s faith caused him to live a life that was devoted solely to the glory of God. The blood sacrifice that Abel offered in Genesis 4 was an acknowledgment of the sin in his life and his need for forgiveness. Cain failed to offer such a sacrifice, essentially stating that he knew best how to run his life and didn’t need anything from God. Such a course is dangerous and ultimately precipitated Abel’s murder by Cain. When we believe we are self-sufficient and do not need God or simply pay lip service to our need for Him, we place ourselves as the center of the universe instead of God. We deflect proper glory from the Creator to the created. God will never stand for that and we must be constantly on guard to protect ourselves from such mindsets that lead to our ruin.
   Finally, let us remember the last words of Hebrews 11:4 that because of Abel’s faith, though he died, he still speaks. It has occurred to me as I have reflected on this line that we all will continue to speak after death, it’s simply a matter of what will we say? Abel’s faith speaks loudly throughout the intervening centuries, as does Cain’s lack of faith. Let us live lives that speak so loudly that we will be for-ever remembered like Abel and Enoch and the assembled cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 11. Let our lives be a testament to the glory and goodness of God so that we are obscured by the image of God we present. Truly, if we do this, 2019 will be a year of success as we feast on the bounty of God.

Gifts of Hope Partners

Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’
– Matthew 25:34-40

How Does This Work?

   C.S. Lewis once asked “Can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter?” Some may find his question harsh, but we all lament that Christmas has morphed into an ungodly materialist celebration rather than one centered on Christ’s birth. The sad reality is that the Good News of the angels is now good news about where to find the best bargains.
   We want to take Christmas back from the commercialism through our Alternative Christmas Market. We propose to replace one of your gifts to a friend or family member with one of the options contained within. We will supply you with a card explaining the nature of your gift and you will not only have given one gift, but two. Herein is the beauty of the Alternative Christmas Market, your gift also helps spread the Gospel to someone in need here at home, in some other part of our nation and even our world.
   Please complete the form to choose your gifts and we will then mail you gift cards and envelopes for your selections. It should also be noted that your purchases are considered tax-deductible. If you can’t make it on opening day (November 18th) please download and complete the form HERE, and bring it by the church with your donation.
So, how about it? Are you tired of the message of Christmas being replaced with a lesson on materialism? Come join us then at the Alternative Christmas Market.

A Heart for the Heart of Alamance

   Last Sunday, we launched our new sermon series entitled “Welcome Home.”  “Welcome Home” is a phrase we see in various spots around Grove Park and so we felt it wise to explore the concept of home as it relates to our both our individual and corporate spiritual homes.   The series’ inaugural sermon reminded us of the necessity of having Jesus as our foundation and then examined the materials with which we built the walls and roofs of our homes.  We saw how our homes should be constructed with love, both for God and our neighbor.  We heard how the expression of that love is best seen through personal discipleship, dynamic worship, Kingdom service, and an extravagant love for youth and children.  These expressions also serve as the basis for our new strategy to impact Burlington and Alamance County with the reality of God’s love.  We are calling this strategy “A Heart for Alamance.”
   Our strategy is centered around the science of the human heart.  Our hearts have four chambers.  Two chambers receive unoxygenated blood and send it to the lungs for oxygen.  The other two chambers receive the now oxygenated blood and send it back out to the body for use.   We believe that faithful disciples of Jesus receive their “oxygen” through discipleship and worship and that the best way to expend this “oxygen” is through Kingdom service and ministry to youth and children.   Our desire is for everything we do as a congregation to be channeled through these four “heart chambers” thereby creating one heartbeat for Alamance County and ultimately the world.
   We will be exploring more of these four chambers over the next few weeks during our “Welcome Home” series and I hope you will make plans to join us and invite a friend.  If you are unable to make one of the services, remember you can catch them on our website, the Grove Park app, and on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts,  Spotify, Breaker, Castbox, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, and Stitcher.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me or any member of the staff.  God is doing great things in the body of Grove Park.  Let us continue to seek His face and join Him in His work knowing that with Christ our best days are still ahead of us.

August 2018

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