Jesus Christ our Savior. His Cross our Message. His Word our Guide.

June 2017

Hope in God

Psalms 42 and 43 (which come together to form one psalm) are written by someone with a heavy heart because of adversity. Here it is an enemy who taunts and oppresses, but it could be any adversity we are enduring – broken relationships, ungrateful or resentful children, an overbearing boss, loss of a spouse or any family, deteriorating health, and the list could go on and on with the stuff of life.

In the midst of adversity, our joy is challenged and our hope in God can be questioned. I go to these two psalms often, because in them I find the realities of life and a direction to orient for genuine hope. I will share a few verses, but the best thing you could do is pull out your Bible and read these psalms in their entirety.

It begins with an emptiness, or at least a desire for more of God, something we all experience.

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, 

O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

 Then we see the pain of the psalmist. We can easily identify.

When shall I come and appear before God? 

My tears have been my food day and night.

 Three times we find this deep and personal question:

Why are you cast down, O my soul, 

and why are you in turmoil within me?

 Three times he immediately responds to his own question:

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

 The author points to the way God provides his hope and salvation.

By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,

and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; 

let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!

 May the Light (Jesus) lead you in truth to God’s holiness. May the steadfast love of God be His song to you when you need it most. May your hope in God be a constant reality in the midst of the hard things in life which you must endure. May you say with the psalmist:

Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, 

and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

 Hoping in God with you, Pastor Ron

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May 2017

Let Us Press On

Two of my favorite Bible verses fit well together. Hosea offers images that we can well relate to and the Philippians verse completes the thought with the fulfillment in Christ Jesus.

Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth. (Hosea 6:3)

 Not that I have already obtained this (the resurrection) or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (Philippians 3:12)

 We press on to know the Lord. Knowing God is much more than merely filling our brains with information. It is the intimacy of relationship. The deeper the relationship, the more we want to know and thereby enjoy the other one.

We press on because we are not yet in God’s presence and we are not perfect in faithful relationship with the Lord. So, we press on, that is, we make it our aim in life and pursue it with all our being.

But since we are not perfect, that is, our ability to truly know God is flawed and carries an inability to be fully faithful, how can we press on? Our own efforts will be incomplete and ineffective.

Here is the beauty of the grace of God that is revealed in both the Old and New Testament. In Hosea, we have images of God’s initiating grace and ongoing faithfulness. God is as faithful as the sun rising every day. It has happened every day in recorded history. There is every reason to believe it will continue to happen until God creates the new heaven and new earth. God is also as faithful as the spring rains that refresh the earth and provide what is needed to sustain life. So, God is the one who will help us press on.

In the Philippians verse, Paul helps us to see God’s work in the light of Christ. We are able to press on because Christ Jesus has made us His own. God sent His own Son to redeem us so that we could be His own. This profound statement means we can be in an intimate relationship with God through Christ! Christ’s work doesn’t end with the cross or the resurrection. That’s the starting point for restored relationship. What grace that Christ doesn’t stop there! He has made us His own and continues through faithful relationship to help us daily to press on to know Him better.

Pressing on with you, Pastor Ron

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April 2017

Resurrection Certainty

Some in our age think, as modern people who understand science and psychology, that the resurrection of Jesus is merely a myth. Some consider that the disciples, other eyewitnesses and early church converts could only explain events through their simplistic, ignorant and superstitious world view. Some modern thinkers in the church might add that behind the myth there was a spiritual truth being taught: that when we imitate Jesus we are made spiritually alive. I see problems with these thoughts on many levels.

Philosophical – Their way of thinking automatically excludes the miraculous work of God. If they believe there is God, God is somehow bound by His own creation and can’t do anything outside of the laws of nature. (A rather anemic view of God.) This view is not at all based on facts, but on one’s own pre-conceived ideas.

Theological – The miraculous event of the physical resurrection of Jesus is consistent with the revelation of who God is in all of Scripture. God is infinite and eternal. God is not bound by the laws of His own creation. Even God’s own nature is beyond anything we can fully grasp. Further, the plain reading of the account of the resurrection fits well with the gospel message of the New Testament. When any element of the message is changed, it ceases to make much sense as a whole.

Historical – The idea these views are modern lacks a total understanding of history. It was present in the early church 2000 years ago. That is why Paul writes about Christ’s bodily resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. Variations of the view that denies the physical resurrection of Jesus have arisen many times in the past 2000 years. Church councils have repeatedly rejected and condemned these ideas as heresy because they undermine an essential of the gospel.

Psychological – The disciples and about 500 other people saw the resurrected Jesus. (1 Corinthians 15:6) Mass hysteria does not fit here. It was on different occasions. Deception does not fit. Their status in the community, membership in the synagogue, even their very lives were at stake. To continue to assert that Jesus rose from the dead in bodily form would have been at a great cost. Nobody recanted their story. Indeed, the Apostles and many others suffered and died for their eye-witness based convictions.

Trusting in the certainty of Christ’s resurrection, Pastor Ron

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March 2017

Restitution and Responsibility

In the fall of 2013, while our property settlement with our former denomination had almost tripled, we also had several weeks of costly vandalism. Windows were broken to the sum of about $5,500 and well over 100 hours of clean up was supplied by our members. But God was very good to us. The vandalism stopped and we had reserves to cover the cost. We raised the money for the property settlement and joyfully transferred into the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

When we were first hit with the vandalism, I asked for us to pray, not only for it to stop, but also for the well-being of those doing it. Early in 2014, the two boys responsible were caught and again we were called upon to pray for these boys. We believe their eternal destination is more important than the windows they shattered.

The legal system convicted the boys of felony vandalism. Their record would be wiped clean if they satisfied all the requirements, which included community service and full restitution of the vandalism costs.

In late 2014 and early 2015 we received one check for $50 and another for $100. I honestly thought that would be the only money Parkway would see from them for many years. Again, this was a reminder to pray for these boys: for them to grow up to be responsible citizens and, most importantly, for them to know Christ.

A few weeks ago, a letter came from the Superior Court of Pierce County and included a check for $5,337 for the vandalism restitution. I was utterly amazed! God is so very good! Good to us to refill our reserves. Good to these boys to give them a clean start.

But that is not the end of the story. In fact, there is really never an end. We still have a wonderful responsibility to pray for these boys. Indeed, we are to pray for all children and youth in our neighborhoods, throughout the nation and all over the world. We are also to share in whatever ways we can the good news of Jesus Christ. The world offers fleeting pleasures and false hope. The gospel offers genuine hope and eternal life of immeasurable blessing.

Let us rejoice in the unexpected restitution for Parkway. Let us even more be committed in prayer and ministry to the next generation. And may all glory be to the God of grace.

Rejoicing and praying with you, Pastor Ron

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February 2017

Being Still before God

We are all very much aware that life brings us many challenges, trials and tragedies that can cause us sorrow, anxiety and fear. The sufficiency of God in the midst of any trouble anywhere on earth is the purpose Psalm 46 was written. Psalm 46 begins:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

And it ends:

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Truly finding God to be our refuge, strength and fortress comes through trusting in God’s sufficiency (He has no needs) and sovereignty (He is limited by nothing outside of His own character). The psalm describes this trust in what might be an unusual way. Speaking on behalf of God, it says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Let’s take a closer look at the two things God is asking of us.

First, “be still.” This is not merely talking about sitting quietly in a time of reflection for morning devotions, though it could include that. The verses just before this command are about God stopping human war. Engaging in conflict is our way of trying to control life.

Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.

God’s people are to respond to turmoil with being still. In other words, we will not serve God’s purposes by trying to control the outcome of any conflict or difficult situation. We turn it over to God. This runs against our nature that wants to act and solve problems.

But, we do this because of the second command to “know that I am God.” This means we not only acknowledge with our minds but with the way we act that God alone is God – sufficient and sovereign. God has the foreknowledge, wisdom, power and grace to do what is right for our good in the best timing. God’s decrees never fail and God “will be exalted in the earth!”

Seeking to be still before God with you, Pastor Ron

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January 2017

Value in Delayed Gifts

Perhaps you have in the past or will this Christmas receive a gift late that was delayed in the mail.

God’s people waited long for the Messiah and even had 400 years without God’s voice through a prophet.

It was one year ago that my reflections thanked the congregation for the pledges for our elevator.

All of us have significant prayers where we are still waiting for the answers to come.

Sometimes delays are frustrating and unwelcome. But what if we view delay in a different light? What if we see the delay as part of the gift? Let me offer a rather incomplete list of reasons for finding value in delayed gifts (projects, prayers, etc.).

  • Reminds us we don’t control any circumstances. God does. Frustration often comes when we think we can control. Trusting in God’s sovereign power and goodness brings peace.
  • Gives us time to clarify our values. Is this godly? Is it necessary? Where does it fit in my priorities? How does it serve God? How does the gift and my attitude in waiting point to God’s glory?
  • Keeps our joy alive through anticipation. My mom always wanted to know months in advance when I could visit her because the anticipation was a daily gift.
  • Creates deeper appreciation through delayed gratification. When we go without something, we see its value more clearly and have greater gratitude in the end.
  • Draws us into God’s timing and plan. My desires and expectations are extremely limited. Yielding to God’s perfect wisdom and design draws me into the infinite and glorious.

We start a new year in one week. I suggest that we train our minds to seek the value found in delays. How is the delay in what we are waiting for (the gift) a gift itself? What is God teaching us? How do we respond to people around us, especially when our expectations are not being met?

The Apostle Paul wrote to his friend and colleague Timothy,

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1Timothy 3:14-15)

Seeking value in delayed gifts with you, Pastor Ron

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December 2016

The Enormity of Christmas

We are now in the season of Advent, a time of preparation, as we look forward to celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In our sermon series on the Gospel of John, we saw that John starts off with some astounding truths. Jesus (the Word) was with God the Father from all of eternity and is Himself God. And this Jesus, the Son of God, took on human flesh and chose to live among us to reveal the grace and truth of God.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2) 

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) 

What we proclaim at Christmas is no small thing. In fact, it is enormous in its claims and in its impact on all of humanity. To think that the almighty and infinite God chose to enter this world as a helpless little baby. The perfect joining of two natures, God and man, to become the utterly unique Lord and Savior of all who trust in Him.

Hollywood movies and songs on the radio bring us a radically different message of what Christmas is all about. Santa, Christmas magic and star-crossed lovers getting together might be cute and momentarily heartwarming, but they are shallow and have nothing to do with Christmas.

God has revealed Himself through Jesus. Deep and abiding love, joy, hope and peace are found in Him. Many around us are seeking for these things in all the wrong places. We have the joy of sharing Jesus with the world.

This year Christmas is on a Sunday. It is also a communion Sunday for us. This is appropriate because the Christmas story ties into Calvary and the resurrection and Christ’s future return.

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Cor. 11:26)

May the enormity of Christmas fill your soul. May Christ reign in your hearts. May this shine forth for others to see and embrace.

In awe of Christ with you, Pastor Ron

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October 2016

The Church’s Cover of Protection

 Scripture has a unified and clear message about the role of God’s people in watching over the widow and those who are in need of protection. In Exodus 22:22 God commands us, “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.” This arises out of the heart of God which is declared in Psalm 68:5, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” In the New Testament, James writes, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (1:27)

I think of the number of widows we have at Parkway and how we can provide a cover of protection. One area is that there are many scammers that target widows and those in their golden years.

  • I heard about one this morning where parents or grandparents are contacted by phone by someone claiming to have kidnapped their child or grandchild. They have believable personal information about the child which they found on social media on the internet.
  • Most of us have received calls from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or Windows International, telling us our computer is running slow and they can help, but we must allow them to take control of the computer. These are all bogus.
  • Some calls claim to be from the IRS and harass for payment. The IRS does not contact people by phone.
  • All kinds of charities call. Some might be legitimate, but many are not, or very little money ever gets to the cause.
  • I recently heard of someone who hired a worker at an agreed upon amount. Upon completion, the cost had almost tripled.

It is important that you never give out personal information, credit card numbers or bank routing numbers over the phone unless you initiated the call and you are positive this is legitimate.

If you hire someone to do work at an agreed upon price, hold to it. They might find additional problems, but if you are unsure, call me or someone in the church to help you discern if the work needs to be done and to eliminate any subtle or overt intimidation.

God’s justice will ultimately prevail over scammers, but in this world, we, as the church, can provide protection for one another.

Seeking the heart of God with you, Pastor Ron

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September 2016

Bells of Blessing

I could write or talk for hours about Bells, the gray and white cat that Josh brought home to live with us temporarily – seven months ago! Bells is afraid of everything. It’s possible she was yelled at by her previous owner because she reacts as though she is in trouble for making a mess or going outside. I meet her daily needs and treat her in a gentle and loving way. We are developing a wonderful bond, though the trust is not complete. Both Bells and I are being blessed. I love to talk about Bells, but I want to tie this together with an email we received from someone in the neighborhood of the church.

To whom it may concern;

I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for continuing the time honored tradition of the community church bell calling the faithful to worship.

In today’s hurry up world so many have isolated unto themselves and have no sense of the local community and the interests of the whole instead of only the individual.

The history of the church bell has been community oriented in so many aspects. Not only a call to worship but an alert to trouble or to announce special events and seasons.

At 10:00 am every Sunday morning I step out onto my balcony and listen to that beautiful ringing of the bell. It was such a special bonus to discover when we moved to this community in May.

Once again, thank you for carrying on this tradition. If there is ever a need for maintenance or any other help when it comes to your cherished bell, please let me know.

Bells bless a community by reminding people that worshipping God is important. Our words and actions can bless a community. Sometimes people we encounter will not be as receptive as the neighbor who wrote the email. Sometimes the hurts of the past make people leery or afraid, like our cat, Bells. Trust and friendship bonds can be developed over time through gracious words and kind acts. We have a great message of hope and life in Christ to share.

Seeking to be a blessing with you, Pastor Ron

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June 2016

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

This old adage reminds us that when we decide on and desire for something to happen, we are usually able to make it happen. I want to add a second meaning to this, referring to a legal last will and testament.

On April 21, the musician, Prince at age 57 suddenly died. He spent years crafting his art and trying to control how it was recorded and sold. He was on the forefront of making sure that artists received royalties from their music sold on the internet and also trying to prevent the free distribution of their music. How ironic that all of this is now totally out of his control, not because of his death, but because he never had the will to make a will. His fortune and the control of his music will be the center of a long and contentious legal battle. If only he had made a will!

If there’s a will, there’s a way to protect your assets and the ones you love. If there’s a will, there’s a way to keep things from contentious legal battles. If there’s a will, there’s a way to keep the government involvement to a minimum. If there’s a will, there’s a way for your voice to be heard and your directions to be followed. If there’s a will – well, I think I made my point.

This is a very real and practical matter that is important for everyone age 18 and older. Everyone age 18 (legal adult age) and older!

We find in the New Testament times that wills were important.

For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. (Hebrews 9:16-17)

Legal matters and wills have gotten more complicated in our culture and era. It is much more important now than ever for every adult to have a will. The best way is to have a will created by a lawyer. They have the expertise to know the best way to do things. Even though this is the most expensive way of making a will, it might be even more expensive for your estate if the will is not crafted well.

There are other alternatives for making a will, like services found on the internet. Dave Ramsey has partnered with LegalForms.com to provide discounted packages. One includes a Living Will and Power of Attorney forms. You can find links at daveramsey.com. (Couples should also explore a Community Property Agreement.)

I am not offering legal advice, nor am I endorsing any product. My pastoral concern is that you have a will to make a will.

Christ’s peace, Pastor  Ron

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May 2016

Pentecost and Presbyterians

One of the great events of the Christian church is that first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus. Pentecost (or the Hebrew name Shavuot) was one of the major Jewish Feasts and traditionally was a joyous time of giving thanks and presenting offerings for the new grain of the summer wheat harvest in Israel. The celebration is also tied to the giving of the Ten Commandments and thus bears the name Matin Torah or “giving of the Law.”

Jesus promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would come and give power to be witnesses for Him. God gave the Holy Spirit in a demonstrable way on Pentecost. Miracles and speaking in tongues accompanied the proclamation of the good news of forgiveness of sins and life in Jesus.

Pentecostal and charismatic churches emphasize the miraculous signs and wonders and speaking in tongues. I too pray for miracles and the many charismatic gifts of the Spirit, like prophecy, healing, and speaking in tongues, though I have not experienced those gifts yet. I think we need to be very much aware of the Holy Spirit and depend on the Spirit for all aspects of faith and ministry.

As those in the Presbyterian tradition, we affirm the Holy Spirit is fully God, part of the Trinity or triune nature of God. We affirm that when we confess Jesus as Lord, giving ourselves to Him completely through faith, we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives as a sign and seal of our new life (2 Corinthians 1:22). We believe the Spirit fills us with His presence in powerful ways and also sustains us in our faith.

Not all Presbyterians are in agreement about which ministry gifts of the Holy Spirit are available to the church today. I believe that all the gifts mentioned in the Bible are still present in the church today. The Bible says that these gifts are given at the will of the Holy Spirit and they are for the common good for the sake of serving Christ. (Romans 12:1-8,                         1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4:11-16.) While the Spirit dispenses ministry gifts according to His will, we are still told to seek the gifts, especially to prophecy, which is linked to the proclamation of Christ. All gifts of the Spirit are meant to point to Jesus.

May we at Parkway seek the Spirit with abandon. May God grant us great signs and wonders as we seek to fulfill the ministry He entrusted to us.

Seeking the Spirit daily with you, Pastor Ron

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March 2016

The Ripple Effect of the Resurrection

I want you to imagine throwing a rock into the center of a pond of water. Think of the ripples that move out from the center to eventually reach the edges of the pond.

The ripple is strongest at the center. This is the moment of the resurrection of Jesus when the infinite power of God was made known in a miraculous way to conquer sin and bring the victory of life over death. It is the apex and fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation. Forgiveness, restored fellowship with God and new life are possible because of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The ripples of the resurrection begin to move out and God’s grace transforms human hearts and all types of ministry is accomplished through the power of God. The ripples continue until all of God’s purposes are completed and Christ returns and the fullness of the Kingdom of God is realized with a new heaven and new earth established forever.

No analogy or image is completely accurate. The ripple effect of the resurrection also went back in time to forgive and justify those that trusted in God before Jesus died and rose to life. God is simply not bound by time or space.

Here are some of the blessings and benefits to being in the ripple of the resurrection right now.

  • Experiencing the gracious love of God through Christ
  • Finding true joy in God that will only grow in eternity
  • Having the Holy Spirit to indwell us
  • Knowing our eternal future is with God and assured
  • Facing death without fear and as a transition to greater life
  • Feeling peace when a believer dies, knowing they are with God
  • Receiving comfort in the midst of grief from loss
  • Living with hope instead of despair in any trial or tribulation
  • Becoming part of the church – the resurrection people
  • Seeing life and people through the lens of God’s will
  • Having purpose in Christ that is eternal in consequence

Rejoicing in the ripple with you, Pastor Ron

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February 2016

The Power of God’s Promises

Peter writes about the precious and very great promises of God that help us to defeat sinful desire and gain godliness.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

When I first began full time pastoral ministry, I experienced two unrelated stressful circumstances at the same time which caused anxiety and isolation.  I turned to the promises of God to give me hope, strength, joy and perseverance through that time.  One promise that was especially powerful for me was Jeremiah 32:27.

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh.  Is anything too hard for me?”

I remember quoting the verse and then answering , “No Lord, nothing is too hard for you.”  I would repeat quoting the verse and giving my answer of trust in God over and over.  Little by little, God renewed my spirit and brought me through the adversity.  God’s promises are indeed precious and very great.

The context of the verse from Jeremiah is that God next says that he will deliver Jerusalem into the hands of the Chaldeans (Babylonians) because of their unfaithfulness.  They did not trust in God alone to give them safety.  Rather, they trusted in their own wisdom by making alliances that failed.  God follows this up with a promise to gather his people at a later time and give them safety and be their God.

Back to my situation of many years ago, I thought I was using the promise a little out of context.  Now I know that I was not.  God was using the adversity to refine my faith.  How easy it is for us to say we trust God, but look to our own education, training, position or strength to solve an issue.

Sometimes adversity comes upon us because of other’s actions and sometimes as a consequence of our own actions.  No matter the cause, let us look to God to strengthen and guide us as He refines our faith, helping us to trust Him more and more.

Trusting in God’s promises with you, Pastor Ron

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January 2016

Rejoicing in the Blessing of an Elevator

I think that almost all of us are blown away by the giving for the elevator project. It seemed so unattainable and, at best, a project that would need a financial drive for at least a few years. But God works in the minds and hearts of His people to do things that are far beyond what we might imagine. As it was announced in worship on December 13, the project is fully funded.

What happens next? I am really just putting in writing what Jim White and Gary Hauenstein shared on the 13th.

Early in January we will contact the contractor who will file for the permits. We were told it could take eight to twelve weeks for the plans to be approved.

The manufacturer of the elevator will begin construction of the elevator about ten weeks before the construction of the enclosure is completed.

If all goes according to our timeline, then we will have the elevator by the end of June. But we are not in control of plans and permits and construction schedules and the availability of materials and whatever unforeseen things that can happen.

So, we will trust in God’s timing. We are confident that part of God’s plan for Parkway is to have an elevator to help all people to have access to the entire church facility.

Now a word about the giving for this project. On behalf of myself and the elders, thank you to all who are able to give. We hope you feel blessed in being part of this project.

We are indeed grateful for the person who is able to give the remainder of what is needed. That is a great blessing. However, it is still possible to pledge and give to this project, which would reduce that needed remainder.

We also recognize that there are some, though their amount is less, who are giving sacrificially. Every gift to this project is a faithful response to God and received with gratitude and joy.

Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way. (Psalm 85:11-13)

Rejoicing with you, Pastor Ron

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December 2015

Renewing Our Hope

In the past day I have encountered two people who appear to be without hope. Life is hard for them and their circumstances seem to be insurmountable and unchangeable. From a human perspective they have every reason to lack hope.

Proverbs 13:12 captures a truth we all either experience firsthand or we have seen in ones we love.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Without hope our hearts are sick and the zest for living is sapped right out of us. Hope is the key to a life that has purpose and experiences love, joy and peace.

But how do we get hope? And how can we get others to see there is hope? I wish there were easy steps that we could follow and hope would immediately appear. The following are not steps, but truths to understand and embrace that will yield hope.

We cannot generate hope in ourselves or in anybody else. The source of hope is outside of us. It is in God through our Lord Jesus.

Our hope cannot be dependent on our circumstances. That is, hope does not appear when things get better. Hope is needed and found in the dark and difficult times.

Hope might not be immediate. It will probably take time, but it will grow and bring about change within us.

We need daily encouragement to live in hope. This can be through other people who speak grace into our lives. It is also certainly communicated through the scriptures. Romans 15:4 says,

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

We have entered into the church season of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent literally means ‘coming’ and refers to both the first coming of Jesus (his birth) and the second coming of Jesus when God’s purposes on earth are brought to a completion. Both of these ‘advents’ speak of hope. The birth of Jesus gives the hope of forgiveness and reconciliation. The return of Jesus reminds us that even though the world or our lives seem to be spinning out of control, God is in control of all things and will work out His purposes fully and unfettered.

Growing in hope with you, Pastor Ron

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November 2015

Let Us Offer Sacrifices of Thanksgiving

In our culture we focus on November, specifically on Thanksgiving Day, for counting our blessings, so I usually offer a reflection on giving thanks this time each year. However, we know as Christians that every day is the appropriate time for giving thanks to God. Psalm 107:21-22 captures the unbreakable connection between God’s acts, our joy and our expression of thanksgiving. We can say that offering thanks to God is one way of rejoicing in God and that when we rejoice in God it includes a heart of gratitude.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

God’s greatest work is to give grace and allow us to be at peace with God. Through faith in Christ, God not only cancels our sin but also declares us to be justified, which means that the legal requirement of perfectly fulfilling God’s law has been met in Jesus. In Romans 5:1-3, Paul says this moves us to rejoice in hope of the glory of God. This rejoicing comes with a heart of thanksgiving.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

One of the lessons God has been teaching me is that my thankfulness and rejoicing are not only for when I clearly see His blessings, but also in the circumstances that are hard and bring frustration and suffering. Paul continues in Romans 5:4-5.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Hard times come. Many of you are experiencing this now. The Ganzer family is in the midst of it. I am learning to look at what can be produced through the difficult circumstances when I embrace any form of suffering and rely on the Holy Spirit to carry me through it. I am seeking to grow in endurance, character and hope and express it by rejoicing in God. Slowly, I am learning to be thankful and rejoice in all circumstances. May God also grant you this grace.

Pastor Ron

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October 2015

I Was A Stranger And You Welcomed Me

Can you remember how you felt when you visited Parkway or another church for the first time? When I visit a church I usually feel a little displaced, somewhat awkward, and sometimes a bit overwhelmed. Do I know the songs? When do I sit and when do I stand? Are there people here I can relate to? Will anyone talk to me (other than the greeters)?

Most people visiting a church are a little shy and looking for others to reach out to them. It can be easy for us to bypass a visitor. We don’t do it on purpose. We see friends we haven’t talked with in a while. Perhaps we are a little shy ourselves, and it is difficult to engage a stranger in conversation. Yet, there are few places as safe as a church to introduce ourselves. Reaching out to visitors is important ministry. Here are a few suggestions to try out this Sunday.

  1. As you go to church, try to remember what it was like for you to attend as a visitor.
  2. Look around the sanctuary. Observe the people you know, and those whose faces are familiar (but you don’t know them), and those whom you have not seen before.
  3. After worship, introduce yourself to someone new. You don’t have to ask if they are first time visitors. (They might have been attending for a while.) You could simply say, “I don’t think we have met, my name is ______.” In the rare event of someone not volunteering his or her name, you can say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.” Even though it might be awkward to meet someone new, take the initiative. The other person will appreciate it. You can sense how long and deep he or she wants the conversation to go.
  4. Invite that person or persons to join you for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate in the entry way to the Sanctuary or in the Fellowship Hall (if there is a special event).
  5. Next week look for them again and continue the friendship. Also, keep your eyes open for others who are new, and begin new friendships.

 

Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” In welcoming a stranger, we welcome Jesus! This is a simple ministry, but think of the implications.

Welcoming others with you, Pastor Ron

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September 2015

Waiting on the Lord

At least once a month someone will say to me that they are struggling with patience. They usually joke about praying for patience – and wanting it now!

Most of us can relate to this. It is frustrating to wait. I always get a chuckle, though, when someone complains about a half hour delay for a six hour cross-country flight. It wasn’t that long ago in history that if you covered only one hundred miles in an entire day it was considered good fortune. At a grocery store, look at the frustration on people’s faces for waiting in a checkout line for ten minutes to purchase foods not even available in most of the world. Going the speed limit on the freeway causes people to wave at me, though not with courteous gestures.

What compounds matters are that we live in a time and culture where almost everything is fast: transportation, food preparation, communication, computer transactions of any kind, and the list goes on. We expect fast and we want even faster. How is it I know these things, yet I get impatient at times? In the end, the underlying reason for our impatience is that waiting runs counter to our nature. It has always been the case. That is why scripture reminds us and even commands us to wait on the Lord.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:14)

What is this waiting? It is trusting in the Lord for something that is yet in the future. The Bible calls this hope.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. (Psalm 62:5)

What is the focus of our hope? Is it in our own desires and goals? No, it is in the word of God revealed in scripture.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope. (Psalm 130:5)

Waiting on the Lord isn’t easy and there really is no secret trick to it. We are simply called to trust in God’s gracious goodness and perfect timing as we pray and wait.

Waiting on the Lord with you, Pastor Ron

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August 2015

Make a Joyful Noise!

This summer I am preaching from the Psalms, so I thought I would stay with that and reflect on one of the more well-known and beloved psalms. Psalm 100 is so uplifting and draws us right into the heart of worship. Read through the psalm. Take note of the poetic structure, God’s characteristics, our relationship to God and our response to God.

       Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

  Serve the Lord with gladness!

  Come into his presence with singing!

       Know that the Lord, he is God!

  It is he who made us, and we are his;

  we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

       Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

  and his courts with praise!

  Give thanks to him; bless his name!

       For the Lord is good;

  his steadfast love endures forever,

  and his faithfulness to all generations.

     Let’s look at what it says about God. First of all, the Lord is God. There is no other and all the earth is under His rule. He is the creator and cares for us like a shepherd cares for his sheep. He is good, so all He does is directed for our welfare. God’s steadfast love will never diminish or end. God is and always will be faithful to the promises He has made.

Our special relationship with God when we acknowledge Him as Lord of our lives is that we are His people. So, His care, love and faithfulness is given in abundance.

Worship is our response. Not just on Sunday mornings, but every day we should come to the Lord with great joy and thanksgiving. Our serving the Lord should also be worshipful, with singing and gladness. Start and end each day blessing the name of the Lord!

Rejoicing with you, Pastor Ron

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April 2015

Pastor Ron’s Reflections

Why Christ’s Resurrection Matters Every Day

Certainly the greatest blessing of Christ’s resurrection is the sure hope of our resurrection and the fulfillment of eternal life in the presence of God. Jesus affirmed this when he said,

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)

But there is so much more to the resurrection of Jesus for us. The resurrection is God’s display of power of life over death. That means it affects us right now. It means it has an impact on everything in our lives. And it means that it matters every single day.

Death is at work all around us. The resurrection is proof that death does not have the final say. Death is not merely in the physical sense when we no longer have breath or heartbeat. Death is experienced in marriages that are stressed and dissolving. Death begins to embrace us when our children and grandchildren make choices that push away the “abundant life” offered by Jesus. Death squeezes us when we view work with dissatisfaction and dread. Death finds a foothold in our dreams that will never come to fruition. Death is found in retirement that lacks significant purpose. Death is felt in our ambivalence and inactivity and through our pain and suffering.

We can let these types of death slowly kill our hope and joy or we can choose to embrace resurrection life. The Apostle Paul considered his own suffering as sharing in the sufferings of Christ.

“…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” (Philippians 3:10)

When it comes to knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection, Paul is not talking about an intellectual exercise but about personally experiencing Christ’s power. Suffering then takes on a new focus. Despair is replaced with hope. Death, in all the arenas of life, ceases to hold its sway. Life begins to work in us and through us. Each day takes on new significance and deeper purpose as we live for Christ, who died and rose to life for us. All of this is only a part of why Christ’s resurrection matters every day!

Living with you in the power of Christ’s resurrection,

Pastor Ron