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We’re so glad you found our website. Whether you’re visiting us from another part of the world, or from right here in the Huntersville, North Carolina area — welcome!

Pastor Paul's Blog

Advent Attitudes Daily Devotional - December 7, 2019

Hebrews 11:32-40 The Message (MSG)
 
32-38 I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more—Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them! — making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.
 
39-40 Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.
 
Hebrews 11 is considered by some to be the Hall of Fame of Faith.  Some of the names mentioned are well known and their faithful deeds are obvious; Gideon won a battle, David killed a giant, Samson destroyed an enemy, etc.  
 
While they all may have had a single act (or season) of faith (hence the Hebrews 11 shout-out), they all also behaved in ways that were less than ideal for hall-of-famers.  Gideon “fleeced” the Lord so frequently, the very word today constitutes a negative action.  While David may have been a man “after God’s own heart”, his parenting was an absolute disaster and he’s responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people. And while Samson may have been physically strong few can argue that he was morally weak.  These are the people who made it into the Hall of Fame chapter?  These are the believers that the writer of Hebrews acknowledges as examples of faith?  These are the ones we are supposed to look up to?  
 
Yes and here’s why.  We can relate to them.  While we all have parts of our lives and past that are less than ideal, we are all capable, through Christ, to be men and women of faith.  Don’t feel like a spiritual giant?  That’s okay.  Feel like your past or failures are too great to keep you from God’s next mission?  You’re in good company.  
 
Trust in the Lord this season… and watch what God can do with that kind of faith.

Advent Attitudes Daily Devotional - December 6, 2019

Acts 13:16-25 (NRSV)
 
16 So Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak:
“You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen. 17 The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. 18 For about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. 19 After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance 20 for about four hundred fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. 21 Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. 22 When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’ 23 Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised; 24 before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 And as John was finishing his work, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.’
 
In investing, you often hear the phrase, “past performance is not a guarantee of future results.” Just because a firm, or an investor, or a fund, has made money in the past is no guarantee it will continue. That is not the way it is with God.
 
Throughout the scriptures, the Word of God rehearses God’s faithfulness in the past. In so many different places, the history of God’s working is reiterated as in this passage from Acts. The writer traces God’s salvation history and in this section he begins with the people called Israel enslaved in Egypt. He continues to retell the story of their deliverance, to settling in the land, with a King, and points to David and the promise God made to him, that God would bring one from his line who would be God’s Savior. Paul points to Jesus as the One who is the fulfillment of God’s promises, and that John, who was so influential, wasn’t “worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.” 
 
When we face our doubts and fears, and when we have our uncertainties, one of the ways we express our faith is by looking at what God has done and trusting that God’s plan, begun so many years ago, is still in effect today. God is still on “Plan A,” and there is no plan B. He is working his salvation story in the life, death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus. Count on it. It’s good news and always has been, and always will be.

Advent Attitudes Daily Devotional - December 5, 2019

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 (NRSV)  
Prayer for Guidance and Support for the King      
                
Of Solomon.
1 Give the king your justice, O God,
    and your righteousness to a king’s son.
2 May he judge your people with righteousness,
    and your poor with justice.
3 May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
    and the hills, in righteousness.
4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
    give deliverance to the needy,
    and crush the oppressor.
5 May he live while the sun endures,
    and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
    like showers that water the earth.
7 In his days may righteousness flourish
    and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
18 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
    may his glory fill the whole earth.
Amen and Amen.
 
Someone once offered a compliment to me after a sermon. “I like your sermons. They aren’t political,” they said. I did take it as a compliment for how they meant it. I don’t talk “politics” from the pulpit. In our over politicized culture, where everyone and everything is judged through the political lens, I tend to steer away from political issues in sermons. And, I usually think I am right in doing that.
 
However, when I read parts of the Bible, like Psalm 72, I wonder if I am right. Psalm 72 smacks of politics. Psalm 72 is thought to be a coronation Psalm, a song that would have been sung at the crowning of a new King, or the celebration of a King’s anniversary of his reign. It quickly turns political. “Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. 2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.” The people are praying for the new King, but praying a very specific prayer that the new King practice the Hebrew words for justice and righteousness, mishpat (justice) and zedekah (righteousness). The word mishpat denotes when we care for the “least” in our society, that justice is only justice when EVERYONE is included in the provision. Zedekah (righteousness) means living in the “right” relationship with God by living in right relationships with each other. If God is to be loved, the proof of that love is how well we are caring for the lower rungs of the societal ladder. God’s will for us to love him and love each other must be embodied in how we treat the poor and the marginalized.
 
When we read this Psalm today through the lens of our Christian faith, we quite naturally see Jesus as the true King. Jesus is the embodiment of the hopes of the people, that the true King will establish mishpat and zedekah. But, what if, as Romans 13 says, that the political leaders of our day are given their authority and are instituted of God? Does the prayer of Psalm 72 call us to pray for our President, and our Congressional representatives, and our Mayor and Council, and all elected representatives to work for mishpat and zedekah? Maybe Psalm 72 is a call to get political!?

Advent Attitudes Daily Devotional - December 4, 2019

Isaiah 54:1-10 The Message (MSG)
 
Spread Out! Think Big!
54 1-6 “Sing, barren woman, who has never had a baby.
    Fill the air with song, you who’ve never experienced childbirth!
You’re ending up with far more children
    than all those childbearing women.” God says so!
“Clear lots of ground for your tents!
    Make your tents large. Spread out! Think big!
Use plenty of rope,
    drive the tent pegs deep.
You’re going to need lots of elbow room
    for your growing family.
You’re going to take over whole nations;
    you’re going to resettle abandoned cities.
Don’t be afraid—you’re not going to be embarrassed.
    Don’t hold back—you’re not going to come up short.
You’ll forget all about the humiliations of your youth,
    and the indignities of being a widow will fade from memory.
For your Maker is your bridegroom,
    his name, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
Your Redeemer is The Holy of Israel,
    known as God of the whole earth.
You were like an abandoned wife, devastated with grief,
    and God welcomed you back,
Like a woman married young
    and then left,” says your God.
7-8 Your Redeemer God says:
“I left you, but only for a moment.
    Now, with enormous compassion, I’m bringing you back.
In an outburst of anger I turned my back on you—
    but only for a moment.
It’s with lasting love
    that I’m tenderly caring for you.
9-10 “This exile is just like the days of Noah for me:
    I promised then that the waters of Noah
    would never again flood the earth.
I’m promising now no more anger,
    no more dressing you down.
For even if the mountains walk away
    and the hills fall to pieces,
My love won’t walk away from you,
    my covenant commitment of peace won’t fall apart.”
    The God who has compassion on you says so.
 
For those of us who have fallen, failed, felt forgotten and feeble, this passage from Isaiah feels hopeful. Isaiah is writing to God’s people scattered by exile and isolation from all that they had known. Many were removed from their homeland, resettled in other parts of the world. Others were left to fend for themselves, homes and fields destroyed, futures left uncertain. Many of us can relate to these feelings of destruction though we may not have faced the exact situation of Isaiah’s first readers.
 
We hear, too, Isaiah’s words of hope and restoration. Isaiah is telling the people to look past the what has been to what can be. Don’t be afraid to dream big. Embrace the previously unthinkable. Times of failure are inevitable but need not be fatal. The only real failure is failing to get up when we fall. God is making promises of restoration to his people in Isaiah, and we can rest assured those promises still hold for us today. Are you ready to make the move from failure to fearless?

Advent Attitudes Daily Devotional - December 3, 2019

Hebrews 11:32-40 The Message (MSG)

32-38 I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more—Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.

39-40 Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson

The life of faith is not an easy life. There is no promise of protection from challenges and struggles, and, in fact, there is the guarantee that doing the right thing will bring resistance and obstacles. The writer of Hebrews in this section has listed many people who have lived the difficult life of faith. They have endured many things for the sake of faith and trust that God both makes and keeps promises to those who will receive him.

Our Advent Attitude this week is readiness. So, here’s a simple and profound question: Are we ready to walk the journey of faith? Knowing that the journey will not be easy, that it will mean difficulties as listed, yet that it will bring us into the completed whole, a family of faith, connecting us to God and to one another. Deciding to take the next step forward in this journey of faith without knowing where it will lead us is the decision of faith.

Paul B. Thompson

Advent Attitudes Daily Devotional - December 2, 2019

 

Romans 6:1-11 The Message (MSG)
When Death Becomes Life
6 1-3 So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!
3-5 That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.
6-11 Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did.
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson
 
Sin is insidious. It has a gradual and cumulative effect. It lurks and prods and waits for its chance to claim us, shame us, and name us as failures. Our sin clings to us and weighs us down and seeks to divide us from God, each other and even from ourselves.
 
But, thanks be to God, because of what God has done in Christ Jesus we can be dead to sin and alive to God. In Eugene Peterson’s translation of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he makes it abundantly clear: in our Baptism into Christ Jesus, we are not bound by the past, by the failures, by the shaming of sin. We are made alive in Christ Jesus as we are born into him.
 
Our Advent attitude for this week is readiness. Are you ready to die to your old way of being and be re-born into the new life of Jesus Christ? That’s what Jesus did, and still does. Are you ready?
 
Paul B. Thompson