6TH - 12TH GRADE
Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.
-- 1 Timothy 4:12 (NLT)
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
by John Hutchison
William’s been talking about love the last couple of Sundays. He’s reminded us that Jesus commandment to us is - to love one another. I like the fact that Jesus summed up the entire law based on two commandments. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Pleasing God falls under these two commands. The concept is so simple. The youngest child could understand the ideas, but obeying the commands is impossible. It’s not just difficult. It’s not just a herculean task; it is impossible. There is only one person who has ever followed both of these commands flawlessly. In a little while we’ll celebrate his resurrection from the dead. Loving the way Jesus wants us to love is impossible.
If you think it’s not that hard, read through 1 Corinthians 13. The love described in this chapter is God’s love. It is the love Jesus demonstrated day in and day out in his life. If you believe your doing well, look at the last five descriptors of love. Love always protects. Love always trusts. Love always hopes. Love always perseveres. Love never fails.
Wow, if that doesn’t seem like a ton of bricks to haul, I don’t know what does. God’s love never fails. How do I get that? How can I achieve that? My love fails regularly. I don’t love myself like that, let alone my neighbor. I don’t even love God like that. It can leave one feeling guilty and inadequate.
As I’ve listened to William’s sermons the last few weekends. They could have left me feeling the same way. Who lives like this? Who loves like this? How do I go about it? It can seem an insurmountable task. When you read through 1Corinthians 13, the task grows. Love never fails. I fail early and often. Maybe you’re in the same boat. How do we live the Christian life?
The answer comes down to something Paul and William both remind us of regularly. Were you saved by obeying the law? Were you saved by your acts of righteousness? Were you saved by your perfect, never failing love? No, we were saved by grace through faith. It is the gift of God, not by works so no one can boast. It is by faith!
Even though we started with grace and faith, it is natural to want to continue by works. The law is easy to understand. Living to love God and love others is impossible, so we go back to rules and laws. They’re easy compared to loving others. Except that’s not what Paul tells us to do. He states that if we began in faith, we must continue in faith. You see what is impossible for us, is not impossible for God. Trusting God to work in us - that is living by faith.
Jesus put it this way in John. I am the vine and you are the branches. If you abide in me, and I abide in you, you will bear much fruit. Right after talking about this, Jesus talks about sending the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. Loving God and loving others is impossible unless we abide in Jesus and allow his Holy Spirit to work in our lives. This is a slow and difficult process. We’re Americans. We want everything instantly, but God doesn’t work that way. God works to change us as we abide in him and he abides in us. This requires studying His Word. This requires prayer and meditation on His Word. This requires fasting, giving, and living. It also requires celebration, joy, and love. It will require the rest of our lives.
God asks the impossible of us, so we will stay dependent on him. I can’t reach and encourage people on my own. Only by God’s grace can my words bring his truth to life. I can’t be proud and arrogant, because I am a failure at living the Christian life. I can no more bring his works out in my life than I can lift a tractor-trailer and carry it into DC. I must ever abide in the vine (Jesus), and he’ll abide in me. Only by abiding in Christ, can I begin to show his love to the world. Love, live, grow, trust, and abide. God isn’t finished with us yet.
Monday, February 8, 2021
by John Hutchison
There’s an old song I really love that was done by a Christian group in the 80s. They were called Sweet Comfort Band. The song talked about the Road. The lyrics went.
“The Road is so demanding Lord, I can’t give more than I have.
I know how much I need your love, but I can’t give more than you’ve given me.”
It went on from there, and I wish I could find the song because it feels like it was written for this time. It talks about how difficult things are when we live God’s way. It talks about how things are a struggle. It describes 2020 and 2021 perfectly. In Matthew 7:13 and 14, Jesus tells us to “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Pastor William has been talking about some difficult things. He is trying to prepare us for what is to come. He wants us to stay on the narrow road, so we might have life. When Jesus described the Christian life, he never called it easy. He called it abundant. He said our lives would be full. Full is not the same as busy, but there is some busyness involved. Jesus wanted to prepare us.
I also want you to notice the metaphor in Matthew 7. The Christian life is a road. It’s a path. It’s a journey. These are all ways of expressing the idea of the difficult travel. The road can be windy, and there are definitely potholes. There are scary moments when the road seems to be too thin to stay on it. Those moments seem to be in places where there is only the road and the open air leading to what seems to be an incredibly dangerous fall. We feel like if we make one misstep, we’ll fall away. It can be terrifying.
During those moments, we must remember that Jesus said, “He would never leave us or forsake us.” Jesus is in this for the long haul. When you stumble, Jesus is there. When you fall, he’s there as well. As a different song states sometimes the road is “marked with suffering, though there’s pain in the offering, Blessed be your Name.” This last year has been a difficult time. We don’t get to see each other any more. A weekly podcast is your only source of spiritual nourishment, if you don’t do some things yourself. This is a time when it is easy to fall, but Jesus is still there. Remember he’s still there. He will never leave you or forsake you. God is good, even when circumstances are not.
The pastor talked about integrity a while ago. Integrity means wholeness, but it also speaks of consistency. The Christian life is about wholeness. It is about being a full human being. Don’t forget Jesus wants us to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This encompasses all of our being. Doing this leads to an abundant life. The Christian life is also about consistency. Consistency and persistence are difficult things to achieve in this life. We need to consistently seek God, seek to do good, and seek to love others. This isn’t just difficult. Without God it is impossible.
But Christianity isn’t just about the road. It’s also about the destination. The road isn’t just an endless journey. There is a destination. This isn’t just about earth. It’s about heaven. In 1 Cor. 2:9 we read, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” One of the ways to stay on the road is to remind yourself that the Christian life is not a road leading nowhere. We have an eternal destination. The Bible doesn’t talk much about heaven. Truthfully, I think the reason why it doesn’t try is how do you explain red to a blind person? How do you explain chocolate to a person who can’t taste? How do you explain great music to a person born deaf? We can’t understand a world of perfect peace and tranquility. A world full of love and acceptance is so far outside our experience that we are blind, deaf, and unable to comprehend what God has for us.
This road is difficult, but I think it is crucial to prepare us for heaven. In our struggles and fears, God is opening our spiritual eyes. He’s tuning our spiritual ears. He’s refining our sense of touch and taste. He’s not doing this for himself. He’s preparing us to truly appreciate the awesome experience of his heavenly kingdom. As you’re picking your way along the road this year, remember two things. He will never leave you or forsake you, and this road takes us to someplace so awesome that we can’t even conceive of what it will be like. Let these thoughts give you hope in the coming year.
Tuesday, January 5, 2020
by John Hutchison
In the Psalms we read God wants to give good things to his people. I went to a concordance to look for a specific instance of God saying this and I found that he has said this many times throughout the Bible. Try doing a study of the word “Good” in the book of Psalms in an exhaustive concordance. An exhaustive concordance is just a concordance that covers every time the word “Good” is used in the Bible. You will find a study of the word good to be worth your while. God is good, and he wants to give good things to us. God’s word says this over and over again, BUT we sometimes have trouble believing it. Why is that?
Our pastor talked this week about being grateful even in the struggles of 2020. This is one of those hard lessons in the Bible. There’s a reason why William said he was working through this. I’m in the same boat. It’s easy to praise God when things are good. The funny thing is many times when it’s easy we forget to be grateful. We’re too busy being happy to take time to be grateful to God.
The funny thing is God is very gracious. Even when we forget about him, he lets us enjoy things for a season. However a life without gratitude often becomes hollow. We can chase the next new thing to come along for a long time. When we get it, we move onto the next new thing. If we spend all our time chasing the things in life it becomes extremely empty. Things can become an endless chase. This is why God wants us to remember him. This is why God wants us to be grateful. This isn’t just biblical. Science has noticed that during times of stress gratitude can help people to maintain good mental health. It is a key ingredient to good mental health. Gratitude to God puts things into perspective. The things of this world should not and cannot be the end. That road is a dead end. He who dies with the most toys doesn’t win. He realizes that toys are nothing but plastic, steel, and wires. They mean nothing. Things leave us as empty as a car that’s been on the road for hours and hours without refueling. Pretty soon the chase is over and we’ve gained the whole world but lost our soul.
Every one of you has faced very real, very personal challenges this year. You guys all know how much of a natural loner I am, but I got way too much alone time this year. For most of you, this wasn’t a thirst; it was a void. Many have fought with depression because of the extreme loneliness brought on by social distancing and COVID. People who naturally struggle with school are drowning right now. They’re just trying to pass. They’re trying, but it is now much harder. Parents are trying to help, but sometimes nothing seems to be enough. People who have health issues are worried that COVID could magnify every one of them or worse; they could die. Death shouldn’t be real to young people. You should feel like you’ll live forever, not because it’s true, but because it’s the usual way of things. You should be looking forward to a good long life. It’s frightening to think COVID could cut short your days. It’s frightening to think you could be called home to heaven before you’ve done so many of the good things in life. Many families this year are in dire financial situations. Jobs have been lost. People have been without food. Some have lost their homes. Many have taken what seems the easy way out.
In times like this we need to look not at what we’ve lost, but what we have. When I was growing up, I wouldn’t have been able to stay in touch with my friends other than by phone or letters. I have five siblings. The phone would have been tied up all day. We couldn’t have done school at all. There was no Internet. There was no zoom. As rough as it is, you have school. You have food and clothes and a warm place to sleep. Many don’t have that. Most of you had Thanksgiving and Christmas. It might not have been the same as last year, but you still had something to celebrate.
I am not grateful for 2020, at least not yet, but I am grateful for all the blessings God has given me even during 2020. I am grateful for the ways I’ve been able to help others. I am hoping my scribblings are helping you. I am grateful that God has gotten me through so many tough things this year.
Gratitude is a habit that will serve you well for the rest of your life. Remembering that all good gifts around us come from God above is something that will keep you focused on the right things. It will make all the difference. Be grateful in the good times and the bad times. Be grateful to God at all times. Gratitude reminds us that we are all God’s children. God will take care of all of his children. He always has and always will.
For those of you who have gone hungry, for those who are struggling with school, for those whose parents have lost jobs, for those who have lost their homes during this crisis, please remember one other thing. Find two someones that you can discuss your struggles with. One person should be a friend. The person shouldn’t just be anyone, but a good trustworthy person who doesn’t judge and listens. The second person you need to find is an older wiser person to speak with about your problems. Brittany, Megan, Alora, Blake, Stu, Patrick, Caitlyn, and even me, we want to help in any way we can. Talking to your parents during real struggles is a difficult thing, but may be tremendously helpful. The Bible talks about sharing one another’s burdens. Find someone to help carry your burdens and remember you in prayer during the difficult times. When you get needed it help, it gives you something else for which to be grateful. One of the most difficult things during this year has been missing all of you. Yes I miss every one of you, and I pray for you by name daily. You young people do an old man’s heart a lot of good. I’m grateful for you.
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
by John Hutchison
A Father’s Love
I think you’ve all heard the story of the Prodigal Son many times. If you haven’t please check it out in Luke 15:11 to the end of the chapter, read it before you start reading this. Don’t worry you don’t have to get this done like an assignment. Take your time. The sermon this Sunday was something important. Knowing how God feels about us can be difficult. I have so many feelings and core struggles that tell me God can’t love someone like me. I’ve had Christians tell me God can’t love someone like me. I don’t fit in the nice neat boxes we Christians like. I like things I’m not supposed to like. Like Paul, I often find myself doing things I don’t want to do and saying things I don’t want to say. Life in this world is a struggle. How can God love someone as screwed up as I am?
I keep coming back to the Prodigal Son, because I feel like the young son. Technically I’ve done all the things I’m supposed to do. I haven’t screwed up in any of the big things, but it seems like I’m always angry with God. I’m angry, because life is harsh, cruel, and really unfair. I’m angry, because I want to do something for God, but God chooses how often we can be used. You see it’s not about me. It’s about him. I have trouble dealing with that. I want it to be about me.
I sent my book to a Christian literary agent. He reacted like most Christians do to the idea of a book with monsters and creatures in it. Good Christians don’t do that. They shouldn’t write about it. They shouldn’t dwell on it. I shouldn’t be the way I am. It’s old and I’ve heard it all before.
This may be the way Christians think about me, but the prodigal son tells a different story. The son in the story is a real messed up kid. When he asked for his part of the inheritance, he was telling his father. I want you dead. I have things I want to do, and you’re in the way. In a moment that must have shocked the Pharisees, the father gives the kid his inheritance. This is a clear case of being careful what you wish for, because you might get it. The kid takes the inheritance, he cashes it out, and he starts to do what he wants to do. Before you come down on him too hard, think about what you would do if you won the lottery. Like the prodigal son many of these people who win the lottery end up with nothing after they’ve spent the money on wild living. Some call this the curse of the lottery. The prodigal spends everything. He figures even if he spends the money, he can always make more, but then life happens.
Covid happens. Wait a minute, that’s not in the Bible. Oh year, a famine happens, and the son is in need. There’re no jobs and no food in the land. The food that is available is too expensive for him. He ends up in need. Need is a great equalizer. It can help even the dimmest bulb realize what his priorities should be. The son realizes that his father’s workers are eating better than he is. He also realizes how bad he messed up. He has no right to go to his father. This is the truth. He figures maybe his dad will give him a job. He’d be happy with that. He finally goes home.
I want you to think about the phrase going home. Do you ever feel like this world isn’t home? Do the struggles you face prevent you from feeling at home? For most people this world is it. It is home. For the believer in Jesus, this is not our home. We are sojourners. We’re visitors. We’re vagabonds never feeling at home, no matter where we are. The son realized that HOME was where he wanted to be. Me TOO!
The father doesn’t make the son beg. He doesn’t remind him of everything the son has done. The father runs to him. The father hugs the son. The son has nothing. He probably stinks. Inns and baths take money. He would be half-starved. None of that stopped the father from showing his love. He clothes him, feeds him, and gives him an expensive gift. He has a celebration.
Whenever you think God doesn’t love you. Whenever you think you’re unworthy. Whenever the world starts getting to you or even Christians get to you, think of the love of the father. He runs to us. He wants to lavish gifts on us. He wants to make us like Jesus. He loves us so much that he gave his only son for us. In Romans Chapter 8, Paul says, “He who did not withhold his Son from us, but gave him up for us, how will he not also along with him, graciously give us all things.” His graciousness is not like the lottery. No God always acts for our good. God LOVES US. He knows how to give good gifts to his people.
Sunday, November 15, 2020
by John Hutchison
When I was in college, there was a song that was very popular in Christian circles. It
was called “Ordinary People.” As you know this was a long time ago. It was pre-CD. I know
LPs are making a come back, but this song wasn’t a comeback. It was released on vinyl,
cassettes, and I probably could have gotten it on 8-track. 8-track wasn’t quite dead, when the
song was popular. I don’t remember all the lyrics, as I said it was a long time ago. The chorus
said something deep and true, “God uses plain old ordinary people. He uses people who are
WILLING to lend a hand.” It left a pretty big impression. I think it’s something we need to
remember during these extraordinary times.
One of the things that can happen when we read the stories in the Bible is we can get
the wrong impression of the people in the Bible. When we see Gideon’s faith, Samson’s
strength, and Moses’ humility and the awesome things God achieved through them, we can feel
they weren’t normal every day people. We start to believe they achieved those amazing things
because they were special. We forget the God who made all of these things possible. They
weren’t the amazing ones. Their God was the amazing one.
You are living in extraordinary times. The issues facing our country and this world can
seem insurmountable. I think it would be unnecessarily tedious and depressing to list them all.
When I look at my small talents and abilities and pit them against this avalanche of impossible
circumstances I am completely overwhelmed. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone.
The world can seem very scary at times. I’m going to begin a series talking about plain old
ordinary people who were stuck in some very difficult situations. They were frightened. They
were broken. God did some amazing things through them. They changed their world in a very
real way, because they were willing. God needs willingness.
The first one I thought I’d talk about is Esther. Esther was a pretty young Jewish
woman. Her people Israel were in exile. I would suggest you read the whole story. It’s found in
the Old Testament in the book of Esther (surprise). I won’t try and tell the whole story at this
time. Esther ended up being chosen to be queen of the country that was oppressing the
Israelites. Her heritage wasn’t known.
The king had an important counselor/advisor. The man advised the king on many
different issues. He was a very powerful man in the kingdom. This counselor, Haman, got
angry with a Jewish man. In something that wasn’t coincidence, the Jewish man, Mordecai,
was Esther’s uncle. Haman wasn’t just angry. He was vindictive. He not only wanted to kill
Mordecai, but he decided to kill all the Jews at the same time. It was the original final solution
(think Nazis if you don’t know what I’m talking about).
Mordecai found Esther and told her she had to do something. The Jewish nation was in
danger. She had access to the king. Mordecai said she had to take a stand; she needed to go
before the king to plead for the lives of her people.
However, Esther was afraid. She had good reason to be afraid. As queen she couldn’t
visit the king whenever she wanted. The king had to send for her. If she wasn’t called before
the king, she could try to approach him. But if he didn’t extend his scepter toward her, she
would be killed. Approaching the king on her own could mean her death. That’s a pretty good
reason not to approach the king. Mordecai told her something that has been repeated in the
church for a long time. I want you to think about these words. “Who knows? Maybe God
raised you up for just such a time as this.”
Esther wasn’t super smart. She wasn’t a great warrior. She was a pretty woman. Like I
said, I won’t tell you the whole story, but God used her to save Mordecai and the whole Jewish
nation. Haman ended up suffering the same fate he’d planned for Mordecai. God used her in a
mighty way. She was brave enough to face possible death to do what God planned, and the
Jewish people were saved. It’s a pretty awesome story. It’s definitely worth reading. Take the
time to look it over, and it might give you the courage to face your own struggles. Remember
God uses plain old ordinary people to achieve amazing things.