Category Archives: Meditations
By Pastor Mike Gudka St. Paul United Methodist Church, La Porte City
This month, we are exploring the concept of God’s Grace (G.R.A.C.E or God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense). And we are looking at how God uses the complete work of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to bring us home.
We have looked at how God continues to reach out to us and get our attention long before we even know that we need God. We have also looked at how God uses difficult times in our lives to help us see Him and realize that we need Him. And this week we will look at that wonderful moment when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior.
This moment when we get down on our knees, admit our failures, ask Christ to come into our lives, and work to change the way we live our lives is called the moment of Justifying Grace. This is the moment when Christ’s work on that cross serves to justify, or make us right with God. Through Christ’s sinless life and sacrificial death, we are made holy. We are made new. We are reborn. And this is a completely free gift. There is nothing we can do to pay for, earn, or work to achieve this gift. It comes through belief in Christ and accepting Him as the Ruler over our lives. And when we do this, all of our past sins are washed away. We are made holy and righteous before the Father. We are brought into the eternal Kingdom. And this gift is so incredible that all we can do is accept it. To graciously give thanks for the free gift of our salvation and allow the Holy Spirit to help us love God more and more, and love each other more and more.
And now for the tough news, can we reject or lose our salvation? The answer is yes. God wants us to freely love Him. He wants us to truly accept Him and really want to be with Him. And it is because of this that we need to guard our hearts and get into a community of believers who will support us, keep us accountable, pray for us, and continue to help us grow more and more into the image of Christ. Put simply, we cannot go through this transformation process alone. We need real Christians in our lives who won’t judge and condemn. But instead, they will be there with us, as we are with them along our journeys. We need to be in the body of believers, called the Church.
Well this incredible thing called Grace is not even close to being done with us. And we will look at what happens after we accept Christ and begin the journey to become more and more like Him.
By Pastor Mike Gudka St. Paul United Methodist Church, La Porte City
We are going to continue with our journey to understand God’s Grace (G.R.A.C.E. or God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense). The wonderful aspect of Christianity is that it does not ignore the struggles and hurts that are experienced in our lives. And it is important to understand that God does not want us to hurt, get sick, be hurt by others, or experience difficulties in our lives. Instead, these difficulties come out of our fallen world. Our world is broken and our bodies are broken, so we can get in car accidents, experience illnesses, experience addictions, and be hurt by others.
In addition, evil is alive and well in our world for a short period of time. And evil reaches out to tempt us to do the wrong thing. Satan has a way of making the wrong choices look attractive and beautiful in the beginning, but then when we move in that direction the consequences can be devastating. Plus, our own fallen nature can cause us to make the wrong choices and end up in difficult circumstances.
Now for the really good news! Although God does not cause the pain in our lives, He uses it to draw us closer to Him. The way He does this is called Convicting Grace. This is when we are experiencing difficult times in our lives and God uses this to encourage us to reach out to Him. He uses these painful times to push away our pride, our self-reliance, and our reliance on things in this world, so that we become convicted. In other words, we come to the realization that we cannot do this on our own. We come to understand that no matter how hard we try, on our own we always fail. On our own, we can never be truly happy. On our own, the things in this world always fall flat and never bring us real satisfaction.
Now can these difficult times push us away from God? Can we reject God’s attempt to help us see all that He offers? Of course we can. God wants us to truly love Him. And He allows free-will and freedom of choice. But even if we push God away, He never gives up trying to get our attention and call us home as long as we are alive in this world.
So that leads us to the next Grace-filled step in our journey with God. And we will look at this next week.
By Pastor Mike Gudka St. Paul United Methodist Church, La Porte City
Grace. Have you ever thought about this word and how God uses it to bring us to Him? So what is Grace? An abbreviation that can be helpful to understand this concept is G.R.A.C.E. or God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. In other words, those who believe in Christ and follow Him have access to the unlimited and eternal riches of God, and they have access to this incredible eternal gift only because Christ paid the price, paid the cost, paid the fine that we deserved for our sin. And Christ did this on the cross. He exchanged His death, for the one that we deserve.
Now there is only one Grace and it flows from the cross. But God’s Grace acts differently, depending upon where we are in our journey with understanding and accepting Christ.
The first step in our journey is when God’s Grace reaches out when we are not even aware that we need a relationship with Christ. This is called Prevenient Grace. The word Prevenient means “to come before.” God loves us so much that He proactively reaches out to us to get our attention. And to do this, God gives us an additional sense, a spiritual sense. This sense allows us to stand before a beautiful sunset and get this inkling that there must be something out there that is bigger than us. It allows us to look at a new born baby with awe and wonder and instinctively know that this wonderful new child is here for a reason.
The wonderful aspect of God’s love is that He never stops trying to get our attention. He puts people in our lives that help us see what it means to live a life dedicated to God. God takes the trials of our life and helps us know that we are not forgotten and there is a way to be set free. God even puts ornery people in our lives that bug us, continue trying to get us to go to church, and they just won’t go away. Yes, God can even use those that bug us to get our attention. All of these events are designed to get our attention and begin to set us on a journey to find the One that is reaching out to us.
God is not one to simply stand by and hope that we hear about Him. Instead, He actively reaches out over and over in any way that He can to get our attention. And He does this because He wants to have an eternal relationship with each and every one of us. How awesome is that!
Now for a dose of reality, can we reject this constant calling from God? Of course we can. God wants us to really love Him. He reaches out to us constantly, but He wants us to respond of our own free-will and fully accept all that He offers. And even if we reject Him over and over and over, God never stops reaching out and trying to establish a relationship with us as long as we are alive in this world.
Next week we are going to look at a way that He powerfully uses the struggles in our lives to bring us home.
By Pastor Nathan Richardson, Heartland Community Church
What Desire Does
You and I are probably different in a lot of ways. I like Mac, you might be a PC person. I have a beard, you might be a woman. I have multiple tattoos, you might think tattoos are stupid. But we are similar in many ways. We all have desire. We might desire different things, but we all desire. I desire the best for my family. My wife and my son are the best things I have going for me. I desire for them to be healthy, to feel safe, and loved. I desire one day to retire while still healthy enough to enjoy retirement. I desire to impact this world and leave it better than I found it. We all desire. What is it that you desire more than anything?
A few years ago I went to a restaurant for the first time in Marion, IA. Zoey’s was known for their Chicago style pizza and it is amazing, everything from the sweet sauce to the crust. During the meal someone said, “You better save some room for dessert, the best is yet to come.” And they were right. Zoey’s only has one dessert, it was delivered to our table in a skillet, a soft, just out of the oven chocolate chip cookie, with three heaping spoonfuls of ice cream, three big globs of whipped cream drizzled with hot fudge. It was the best dessert I ever had. He was right, the best was yet to come.
The rich young ruler had desire and he sought out Jesus for the answer. The question was this, “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” This leads me to think that he must be afraid to die and that he can do something to keep this from happening. Since the only thing we know about this guy is that he is rich, he is young, and he is a ruler we know that he has everything he has ever desired but he is missing something and his life is not fulfilling him. He wants more.
Jesus tells him if he wants to enter life he must obey the commandments, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not lie, honor your father and mother and love your neighbor as yourself. We know these as Commandments #5-9 and the 2nd Greatest Commandment. The ruler says, “all these I have kept.” Jesus replies, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me. When the young man heard this, he went away sad.”
Jesus just shared the truth to what the Ruler was wanting to know, but yet it disappointed him. It was something more than the Ruler was willing to separate with. His desire for eternity was eclipsed by his temporary wealth. Desire reveals our hearts. The Ruler’s reaction revealed what his heart looked like.
I think the Commandments that Jesus did not mention can also play a role into this story. #1 says, “You shall have no other God’s before me. #2 says, “You shall not make yourself an idol in the form of anything.” #10 says, “You shall not covet.” If Jesus had mentioned these I wonder what the Ruler would have said? Could he have said he followed them since he was a boy?
The Ruler made a decision that the cost of eternal life was too great. He did not want to give up his god, of money, for Jesus. What the Ruler did not understand was that money was his temporary idol, an idol so important to him that he gave up eternal life. We find out something really important about the Ruler, while he thought he desired eternal life he was willing to let it go for something that could be gone tomorrow.
Christ wanted the Ruler to follow him but he missed it. At this point, Peter had an epiphany. “We have left everything to follow you.” Jesus must have smiled at this moment, because he knew Peter was starting to understand. Peter then asks, “What then will there be for us?” Jesus says, you who have followed me will also sit on 12 thrones…you will receive 100X as much, and will inherit eternal life.
The disciples realized that the best was yet to come. The ruler walked away before he could realize what was to be offered. He walked away signifying something was more important that following Christ. If he had let go of his god, he could have experienced something so much better, as the best was on its way. So many times it can be easier to choose what is right in front of us rather than choose what is best. Jesus was trying to show the Ruler what was best. The Ruler walked away sad when instead he could have had exactly what he was desiring in the beginning, eternal life.
By Pastor Nathan Richardson Heartland Community Church
What Anger Does
People argue. Arguments come in all different sizes, some are calm, while others are anything but, with harsh words and maybe even physical violence. Is it possible for people to disagree and not to become angry? Is it possible that being angry is okay?
In the Old Testament there are many representations of God’s anger. He becomes upset when people build idols; this is explained as a jealous anger. He is also mad with Uzzah when he touches the Arc of the Covenant. Of course God also flooded the earth to rid it of all unrighteousness. He also destroyed Soddom and Gomorrah. In the New Testament Jesus becomes angry with the Pharisees due to their stubborn hearts. They were upset with Jesus due to his healing on the Sabbath. Jesus also became mad when people were misusing the temple. Many people would call this righteous anger.
I think there are times in this world that when it is okay to become angry: watching the news or having a friend that has gone through an abusive relationship, racism, pornography, bullying or sex trafficking. I think these same things still cause God to become angry today. There is a lot wrong with the world and it should cause us to be upset. But how do we handle anger in the everyday. We cannot become angry about everything. This is no way to go through life. The end result is loneliness, as anger can drive a wedge in our relationships. The Bible addresses anger quite a bit. Look at some of these verses:
Proverbs 12:6: Fools quickly show they are upset but the wise ignore insults.
Romans 12:19: My friends do not punish others when they wrong you.
Ephesians 4:26: “When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day”
James 1:19-20: My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
1 Timothy 2:8: Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.
These verses can give us some very applicable ways to deal with anger:
Get over it quickly, do not dwell on it, and stop being angry before the end of the day. No need to have a restless night and not sleep very well. Do not hold grudges. It will affect you more than the person you are angry with.
Listen well. Most of our anger is because we do not fully understand. Let others talk and hear how they feel. Allow the person to communicate his or her thoughts and care about what they have to say.
Be quiet. Allow what you hear to sink in, think about it; you don’t have to settle the conversation that day. Come back and revisit your thoughts. When we take time to think, it allows the truth to sink in.
Slow to become angry. What are the things that anger you? If you get angry about everything, you go from a person who becomes angry to an angry person. No one wants to be defined as that.
John the Baptist lived out all of this. When approached one day by his disciples in John 3 they complained that Jesus and his disciples were baptizing and people were going to them instead of John and his disciples. I like how John responds. He tells them about the Bridegroom and how he should be the center of attention on the big day. John goes as far to say that he is more of a best man. His actions are to make this day special for the groom. John adds, “He must become greater, I must become less.”
How amazing would it be if we all had this attitude with Jesus and our neighbor? It would definitely keep a lot of arguments from ever happening.