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December 2015

Dear Members and Friends,

In music, it’s the rhythm that keeps us all singing together. With Bethann on the drums, David on the bass, and a strumming guitar or two, we know when to come in and when to breathe. Music is a complicated audible dance. With rhythm, it holds together; without it, we break down and fall apart.

Our lives have rhythm as well, and if we don’t pay attention to that rhythm, we break down and fall apart. God has graciously built rhythms into our days – structures that mark time. The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening; we work and we rest. God designated one day a week for Sabbath rest – a time to gather together, draw near to God in corporate worship, and enjoy His presence as a body. Six days we may work, but the seventh is a day of rest.  Without Sabbath, we either work all the time or rest all the time, neither of which is good for us. Every day ends up running into the next and we lose track of time. Without rhythm, we fall apart.

Having rhythm in life helps us know when to “sing,” and when to breathe. Sometimes our rhythms must change, and sometimes it takes time to find a rhythm; but when we find it, it’s a good thing.

As most of you know, my wife, Bobbie, and I just returned from a three month sabbatical – a fruitful time of study and rest. For our study, we learned lots about Healing Prayer ministry; for our time of rest, we went on a long backpacking trip in the mountains. We imagined that God would use our time in the mountains to teach us more about healing prayer, but we were wrong.

On the trail, we fell into a lovely daily rhythm. Rise in the morning and make breakfast over the cook stove; do a little reading or writing and have some prayer time; pack up our tent and hit the trail, which meant good exercise all day; find a place to camp, set up the tent, and make dinner; cleanup and dive into the tent by dark – around 7pm; read aloud, study maps for the next day, and to sleep around 9pm. Wake up before dawn feeling well rested and cozy in the warm sleeping bag; rise at first light and do it all over again.

God knew we needed rhythm to enjoy our time away. In the rhythm of the day, I believe God was saying, “This is for you. Fall into the rhythm, and enjoy this time of rest.”

I want to thank the church for our time of sabbatical. God set a rhythm and we found it, and it was good.

Now we’re back and trying to pick up our rhythm again. Rhythms change as seasons change. How’s your rhythm? Has it changed? Does it need to change? Are you listening for it?

Without rhythm, we break down and fall apart. May God help us all find our rhythm.

Trying to walk to the beat of His drum,

Pastor Tim

March 2012 

August 2012

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church, 

I remember the comment my friend Pete made years ago when he first met my children: “Boy! The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree!” In other words, my children resembled me and it was clear to him whose they were.

The same principle applies to those who are called children of God. By spending time in devotion and service to Jesus, people ought to say of us, “Boy! The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree!” More and more, as we walk a life of faith as children of God, we ought to resemble Jesus. This is, after all, God’s stated purpose for us: “…to be conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:29)

What is true for us individually, is also true for us corporately, as a church – the body of Christ. Churches are a little like people – they have a history, a set of values and convictions, and a personality. As a body, we make choices and decisions, just like individual people. This winter at our annual meeting, our church decided to begin a “Fresh Start” process. Part of that process has been to try to articulate who we understand ourselves to be, and who we believe God is calling us to become. In other words, to come up with a stated vision.

The Church Council appointed a group of six of us, and we met several times to work on a vision statement for our church. We began by looking at the values we see in our church – those things that are evidently most important to us as a body. With that in mind, we thought and prayed and talked about what God might be calling us to become in three years time. The result is the following proposed vision statement for our church:

“Ordinary people worshiping an extraordinary God, 
               Resting in the Word of God,
                        Following Jesus by sharing His love in word and deed, 
                           Welcoming others into the family of God.”

A vision statement says something about who you are, what’s important to you, and the direction you’re going. This September or October we’ll be calling for a vote to decide whether we adopt this statement, as a body.

Individuals live their lives in a diversity of ways. Churches do, too. The question I think we need to ask ourselves, as a church, is this: Who are we and who is God calling us to become? And as we pursue that, will it help us become more and more nearly like Jesus, changed into His image? That’s God’s stated purpose for us as a church and as individuals.

May we grow, together as a body, more and more into the likeness of Jesus; that those around us may remark to our Father in heaven, “Boy! The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree!”

Being changed,

            Pastor Tim

Pointing Us to the Word

“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"-- and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”

- Psalm 32:4-6

“You forgave the guilt of my sin.” This is perhaps one of the most important declarations in the bible. On the one hand, it acknowledges our need – that we are not okay with God and we need to be forgiven; on the other, it is an expression of relief – that God indeed grants forgiveness. God forgives even when we imagine that the thing we have done could never be made right; this psalm is a comfort in that regard! It is attributed to King David, and its presumed inspiration was David’s grievous sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband Uriah. If God can forgive that, surely he can forgive us!

You might say one way to summarize the overall message of Psalm 32 is this: “We are blessed when we confess.” We are forgiven when we acknowledge our need and confess our sin. But what does it mean to confess? What does it look like? When I preached on this passage earlier this summer, I outlined what makes a good confession. I thought it might be helpful to include that here. It’s taken from Ken Sande’s book, The Peacemaker. I hope you find it useful!

  1. Address Everyone Involved

Ask: Who is involved?

God first; Person offended; Others present

  1. Avoid If, But, and Maybe

Do not weaken or destroy a confession by adding qualifiers. For example, “I'm sorry if I spoke harshly to you, but it's just that you really annoyed me.”

  1. Admit Specifically

It's not very helpful to simply say, "I'm sorry," or “I'm sorry if I hurt you…” Sorry about what? It doesn't mean we need to confess every single detail but we need to demonstrate that we understand our offense and thus how we have hurt the other.

  1. Accept the Consequences

Sometimes people have trouble forgiving because the one confessing fails to accept the consequences for their offensive behavior. If you take something that you shouldn't have taken, you need to give it back and it may take some time before the other person will trust you enough to let you borrow it.

  1. Alter Your Behavior

If we have wronged someone in some way, there needs to be assurance that we are turning away from that behavior and will try to do better. If I lied to you, I need to demonstrate that I'm not going to lie any longer by making a pledge and then consistently telling the truth (to prove it).

  1. Ask Forgiveness

It's not enough to simply say, "I'm sorry for ___________.” we need to ask for forgiveness: "Will you please forgive me?" Because by asking, we recognize and acknowledge that we do not and cannot forgive ourselves. We must ask another to forgive us since our offense was against another, and that person alone can release us from the debt of our wrong against them.

  1. Allow Time
When we make a good confession, sometimes we need to allow time for the other person to forgive. God's forgiveness is immediate; it takes people time to work through their feelings.

March 2012

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church, 

Spring is a time of new beginnings – the snow melts away, the days grow longer, and new life springs up all around us as trees bud, flowers bloom, and the sound of song-birds fill the air. Spring is a time of new beginnings and Spring has apparently come early this year. It was the mildest winter in living memory and the string of warm days we enjoyed in the middle of march made us all feel like we were already to May!

Our church is in a season of new beginnings as well. We voted at our annual meeting to approve three motions (see details in the News section) which mark the beginning of a “fresh start.” This past month, many of us began a study together to discover what spiritual gifts God has distributed among us, and it’s been enlightening, encouraging, and exciting!

Learning about spiritual gifts and discovering what gifts God has given us is an important first step, but it is all for naught if we don’t follow it up by trying to exercise our gifts. We’ve learned that God doesn’t give us gifts to be squandered or kept to ourselves – they’re to be used to build up the church and advance the kingdom of God in some way. Figuring out how to do that and what God’s unique call is for each of us takes thought, discussion, and lots of prayer! This is why studying the gifts in a group setting is helpful – we can listen to each other, brainstorm together about how we might use a particular gift, and learn from one another. It’s been a delightful process so far.

Armed with this knowledge of our gifts, we need to step out and try to exercise our gifts. We also need to encourage each other to step out and try new things.

Every gardener knows that if you want to grow things, you need to be willing to till the soil. That means removing the old growth and preparing the ground for the new seeds and seedlings. The same principle applies to our “fresh start” as a church. We want to encourage one another to try new things, launch new ministries, and take some risks trying out the gifts we’ve identified. Some of these new things will “fail” -- that’s all part of the learning process! But some of them will bear fruit and the kingdom of God will expand here in central Vermont. I’m looking forward to what God will do through us!

Please pray for our church as we move into this new territory and embark on these new beginnings. Starting something new is sometimes a daunting prospect, but with God’s strength and one another’s encouragement, we’ll discover together what God has  in store for us as a church.

Looking forward to what Jesus will do in and through us,

            Pastor Tim

Pointing Us to the Word

“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had anything on it. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it… 20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.

– Mark 11:12-14,20

This is a somewhat perplexing passage of scripture. Why would Jesus look for food on a fig tree if it was not the season for figs? And why such a harsh judgment against it for having nothing on it but leaves?

There are two points, one grammatical and the other agricultural, that help us understand what Jesus is doing here; but then there’s one very big and obvious interpretive key to understanding this passage.

First the grammatical point: when the text says, “for it was not the season for figs.” there are two possibilities for what that is explaining. It could be explaining why Jesus found nothing but leaves – it wasn’t the season for figs! But the grammar in the original language also allows that it may be explaining the earlier statement; it may be giving the reason why Jesus went to see  if it had anything on it. He went to see if there was anything to eat on the tree because it was not the season for figs. I think it’s explaining why Jesus went to look, and the reason I think that is because of the second point, the agricultural point. Early in the season, before it is time for figs, a fig tree produces buds, which are edible, but not visible. It’s not reasonable for Jesus to expect to find figs when it is not the season for figs; but it is reasonable for him to expect to find buds on the fig tree. But in order to discover whether the tree has anything on it to eat, Jesus needed to go and inspect it, because it was not the season for figs.

Finding that there is not even the promise of fruit in the barren fig tree, Jesus curses it, and a day later the disciples notice that the tree is withered from the roots. The curse for unfruitfulness is destruction. But it was not merely unfruitfulness that invited Jesus condemnation; it was that the tree didn’t even have the promise of fruit on it – there weren’t even any buds.

So what does this mean for us? This is where we need to notice the big and obvious interpretive key to understanding this passage. It is this: Mark tells this story in two parts – verses 12-14 tell of Jesus’ initial encounter with the fig tree and his cursing of it. He doesn’t tell us the rest of the story until verse 20, where the disciples discover the next day that the tree is withered from the roots. We’re meant to understand this event in terms of what goes on in the intervening verses. The intervening verses are where Jesus clears the temple of the money changers and pronounces a prophetic word of judgment against those who are the keepers of the temple.

The fig tree is a picture of the unfaithful people of God, who are not bearing the fruit of the kingdom of God, and have invited the judgment of God because they do not even show the promise of fruit in their lives.

Let this be a warning to us. Our lives cannot be like the fig tree – showing a leafy and life-like exterior, all the while harboring not even the promise of fruit beneath them. Thanks be to God that the remedy is to continually draw near to Jesus and follow him, listening to his voice and obeying his word. When we do that, God promises to produce in us the “fruit of the Spirit” which is, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22) That’s the kind of fruit inspection Jesus will be looking for – may we draw near to him and allow him to cultivate it in us!


At our annual meeting in February we voted to approve the following motions, which are part of our “Fresh Start” process. The motions are given below. In March, 33 of us began a study to help us discover and implement our spiritual gifts. This will be an ongoing project and will take some time to try out exercising the gifts God has given to each of us with the goal of building up our church as we minister in our world. Here is the text of the motions that were approved:

1) Appoint an ad hoc committee for the purpose of developing a clear and measurable vision statement to be presented to the church for vote on June 3, 2012.

2) The church shall temporarily suspend the following portions of the by-laws. The suspension will be three years, ending at the annual meeting in 2015. The purpose of the suspension is so that we may function in the short-term, and it is done with the intention of rewriting the by-laws at some point over the next three years so that they reflect the current life and ministry of the church. The rewriting process will not begin for a year –  roughly February, 2013. Naturally, any changes to the by-laws will need to be approved by the congregation. Temporarily suspend:

    a) Any requirements for the number of people serving in leadership on the various committees.

    b) Any term limits imposed on various positions.

    c) The requirement that states that changes to the by-laws must be “read before the congregation on three consecutive Sundays.” (see Article XI – Amendments). If we re-write the by-laws, it will be too much to read all the changes; we should only need to summarize them and have written copies available.

3) The church will embark on a spiritual gifts discovery/assessment and implementation process, with a goal of at least 50% of the church taking part by August 2012.

Ask Anything! (We’re glad you asked!)

At the back of our church sanctuary we have a box labeled “Ask Anything.” You can jot down your question on a slip of paper and Pastor Tim periodically addresses them from the pulpit. We’ve decided to put your questions (and Pastor Tim’s answers) in the newsletter. Here are the latest. They’re good questions!

1)      What is the “Helmet of Salvation”? This term comes from Ephesians chapter 6 where the Apostle Paul is describing various aspects of a Christian’s “armor”. He has written that we are to “be strong in Lord and in his mighty power” and that we battle “not against flesh and blood… but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Then he begins to use the equipment of a Roman soldier as a metaphor for the way a Christian is equipped for battle. For example, the belt that a Roman soldier wore held everthing together, so the Apostle Paul refers to Christians in battle as wearing the “belt of truth”. The truth is what Christians are to wear that holds everything together. The helmet on a soldier protects the soldier’s head – this is arguably the most important piece of protection since a blow to the head is often a lethal blow. Thus, Paul refers to the “helmet of salvation.” It is the most important piece of a Christian’s armor, since salvation in Jesus Christ is the starting point of faith – without it, we are vulnerable to a spiritual “lethal blow” by the enemy. Two interesting observations about this metaphor: 1) The only offensive equipment referred to in the metaphor is the sword – every other piece of equipment is defensive. Paul refers to the sword as the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”. When we do spiritual battle, we are to use the Word of God against the enemy. 2) Paul may have been chained to a Roman soldier when he penned this passage, and so had opportunity to meditate on the equipment and its correspondence to spiritual warfare. However, he may also have been reading the prophet Isaiah, and found inspiration there. Look up Isaiah 59:17 and the surrounding context.

2) Why does God reserve peace for his kingdom of heaven? Do we not have means to earn true peace on earth? The Hebrew word for ‘Peace’ is “Shalom”, and it means being in right relationship all around: with God, with others, with our environment, and within ourselves. Sin has wrecked – and continues to wreck – peace on earth. It separates us from God, from one another, from our environment, and even from ourselves. Jesus came to establish peace – he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” (John 14:27) Jesus restores true and comprehensive peace among us by paying the penalty for our sin so that we may be reconciled to God, and live in right relationship with God. We cannot earn peace; peace comes from God. The bible teaches us that Jesus himself is our peace. Jesus is the one through whom we receive peace. God reserves peace for his kingdom of heaven because that is where the only true and comprehensive peace exists – in Jesus. C.S. Lewis once wrote that: “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” I couldn’t agree more. As for earning true peace, we cannot do it, because of our sin; however, Jesus has provided the means for us to obtain it, because He earned it for us when he went to the cross. The degree to which we experience true and lasting peace on earth is the degree to which we draw near to Jesus while we walk the earth.

April 2011 

November 2011

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

Five and a half years ago, our three children persuaded my wife, Bobbie, and I to build a small barn, fence off a part of our property, and purchase a couple of dairy goats.

People who write about homesteading – living off the land – often refer to the dairy goat as the Queen of the homestead. Dairy goats tend to have sweet personalities and curious dispositions; they are quite entertaining, but not too difficult to manage (by the way, they’re actually quite picky eaters and none of ours have eaten tin cans or shirts off the line!).

Besides building the barn and financing the project, having the goats has been our children’s enterprise. Almost every morning and evening for the past five and a half years they have been the ones milking and feeding and caring for the goats. They’ve learned lots about responsibility and have truly enjoyed having goats. Our family has been blessed with fresh milk, home-made yogurt, and plenty of goat cheese. And along the way, our children have learned a little about running a small business. Our children love the goats and having them has been an enriching experience all around.

But now things have changed. Five and a half years ago, our children were all still at home. The burden of care for the goats was distributed over three sets of eager hands. But things have changed. Abigail has now been away at college for over two years and Emily plans to follow her steps next September. As Jonathan has entered high school, his focus has shifted as well – away from the farm and towards music and sports. Our situation has changed, so we’re beginning to talk about letting our goats go to another farmer.

That’s hard, because we love the goats and they’ve been such an integral part of our lives. Deep down we don’t want to let the goats go, but things really have changed about our station in life, so change is inevitable. It’s hard, but we know it needs to happen and we know it’ll be for the better. Letting them go will be like closing one chapter in our lives and beginning a new one.

Making decisions that promise to bring change is hard; but when your situation changes, change is inevitable. I think there’s a close parallel to the life of our church. Our leaders are looking around and acknowledging that our culture has changed; our situation as a church in East Barre has changed. The community of East Barre is not the same as it was 40 years ago. Our situation as a church calls for change, so that we can better serve our community and the Kingdom of God. It’ll be hard, especially for some. But the good news of the gospel is that even though there is change all around us and we are called to change, Jesus Christ remains the same forever.

May we draw nearer still to Jesus and find our rest in His unchanging nature, even as we begin a new chapter in our life as a church.

Resting in the unchanging nature of Jesus,

      Pastor Tim

Pointing Us to the Word

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven…Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock… But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”

– Matthew 7:21,24,26

Jesus ends his most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, with a stern warning. We often remember the word picture he uses because it’s so graphic. The wise man builds his house upon the rock, but the foolish man builds his house upon the sand. When the rains come down and the floods come up and the winds beat against those houses, there are two very different outcomes. The house built on the rock stands firm, but the house built on the sand falls “with a great crash.” Many a young child has delighted to sing a song based on these words and end the song with THE GREAT CRASH!!!

Sometimes we remember the image of the two houses, but forget what Jesus was talking about. We get caught up in the drama of the result of the storm and forget the point; we forget what the houses where meant to be a picture of. The two houses are pictures of two ways we can go in life. The only difference between the two houses is the foundation they rest on. The good foundation does not simply consist of Jesus’ words – rather, it consists of hearing Jesus’ words and putting them into practice.

Jesus’ point is that it does no good to listen to what Jesus says if we’re not going to put it into practice. Putting Jesus’ words into practice means obeying them; it means following them and allowing them to make a difference in our lives. If we don’t, our lives will be like a house built on sand. When the storms of life assail us, we will fall with a crash.

Jesus’ warning at the end of the Sermon on the Mount is really quite stern. Jesus begins by declaring that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Simply affirming that Jesus is God… simply stating that we believe in Jesus is apparently not enough. Entry into the kingdom of God does not depend only on giving lip service to Jesus; Jesus wants us to show that we take his words to heart. Trusting Jesus begins by confessing him with our lips, but it’s proven by living according to what he said.

The good news of the gospel is that as many times as we fail to live up to what Jesus calls us to, Jesus is willing to forgive us when we turn away from our ways and turn back to his. Let’s hear his words and put them into practice!

April 2011

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

I’ve been told that at the turn of the 20th century, approximately 90% of the land in Vermont was cleared and cultivated. In other words, only 10% was wooded. While walking on my brother Brian’s property last deer season, he showed me evidence that this was the case. High up on the ridge filled with maple and beech trees, lay scattered an orchard of ancient, struggling apple trees. Even the land up high on the ridge had been cleared and cultivated. These apple trees were no mere bushes, but tall and lanky, reaching up to the sky. In their day, I imagine these trees produced much fruit and blessed those who kept them; but today these trees were struggling.

Brian explained that the apple trees needed to be “released” – by that, he meant that they needed someone to come and cut down the trees around them so that they could get light. “Releasing” also involves clearing out the brush beneath the trees because the brush competes for the nutrients in the soil. There is, of course, other work one can do to make the apple tree fruitful again; for example, pruning excess branches so that the life flows into the remaining branches.

As I looked at the gnarled, constricted, fruitless trees I envisioned them “released” so that they could drink in the sun, and neatly pruned so that they bore much fruit.

One key ingredient to having a fruitful tree almost goes without saying: the tree must remain rooted in the ground. Once a tree is cut down or uprooted, it’s obvious it won’t produce fruit, so indeed that point almost goes without saying. But Jesus didn’t let that point go without saying when he spoke of vines and branches and fruitfulness. Using the vine as a metaphor, Jesus said, “I am the true Vine, and my Father is the gardener…” and then he stated the obvious. “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15)

The kind of fruit we’re meant to produce is the fruit of the Spirit, which is “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” We can’t produce these things on our own – we need to remain closely connected to Jesus. The good news is that Jesus’ words came with a promise. Jesus said, “If a person remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit….”

May we remain close to Jesus and continue to allow God our Father to “release” us so that we may drink in the Son, and so bear much fruit and bless all those around us.

 Remaining in the True Vine,

            Pastor Tim

Pointing Us to the Word

"The heavens declare the glory of God…
The law of the LORD is perfect...” – Psalm 19:1,7

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 19. I think I was first drawn to it because I love nature and this psalm begins by calling Creation as witness to the glory of God. “The heavens declare the glory of God!” But half-way through it seems to make an abrupt shift and turns our attention to the words of the LORD. “The law of the LORD is perfect…” So abrupt is the shift that some commentators have suggested this may have originally been two separate psalms which were simply glued together. But I don’t think so.

The theme of Psalm 19 is “words” and there are three sections, not two. The first section focuses on the “words” of Creation – the testimony of the heavens that declare the glory of God. This section speaks of “God” in a generic sense, without using God’s revealed name, Yahweh (translated in our English text as LORD, all in capital letters). Creation can tell us that there is a God; but to know this God personally, we need this God to reveal himself to us by name.

The second section begins in verse seven and focuses on the “words” of the LORD: the law, the statutes, the precepts, the commands. These are not the words of some generic God, but the words of the God whose name is the LORD. “The LORD” is how the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush: his name is Yahweh (the LORD). We can’t know God personally unless he reveals himself to us. The LORD does this through his words, and we are blessed by his words. The words of the LORD “revive the soul… make wise the simple… give joy to the heart… and give light to the eyes.” (vss. 7-8)

God reveals himself to us through his word. When Jesus came, the apostle John identified him as “The Word [of God] become flesh.” The author of the letter to the Hebrews called Jesus “the exact representation of God.” (Heb. 1:2) God reveals himself to us through his words, and most perfectly through his living Word, Jesus. By him we are blessed, when we know him personally and by name.

The second section of Psalm 19 is all about the special revelation of God to us through his words. Finally, the third section -- which is the shortest -- gives attention to our words. The psalmist writes, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Creation declares the glory of God; but God reveals himself to us through his special words to us, which we wouldn’t know otherwise. So wonderful is this revelation that it inspires us to watch our own words, that we might please God. May we do so.

March 2010  July 2010

November 2010

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

When I was growing up, we had a small work-shop where we made plenty of saw-dust and lots of memories. It was not an elaborate shop, but adequate to meet our desire to fashion book shelves and other simple objects for Christmas gifts or birthday presents. In addition to various hand tools, we had a table-saw, a joiner, and a mounted belt-sander. It’s amazing how much you can do with just a few power tools. Our father took the time to show my two brothers and I how to use the power tools, each in our own time as we came to an age he judged we could safely use them.

I have many fond memories of hours spent in the shop crafting Christmas or birthday presents. Thanks to our father’s careful instruction and the time he took to make sure we knew what we were doing, none of us lost any fingers. And my father passed on to each of us his own attention to detail, so that we were all moderately successful in our projects. My younger brother excelled in the work and has gone on to amaze us all in his chosen line of work of finish carpentry and cabinet making. And even though my older brother and I are not as proficient at work-working as our youngest brother, that training by my father has stood us all well in being able to build and/or fix many things around the house or on the farm.

Our father passed on to us what he knew and he took the time to invest in us so that we could enjoy the simple pleasure of creating new objects or mending old ones.

I think there’s a lesson for us here in the way we pass on our faith to those who look up to us. Just like training in wood-working, passing on the faith takes instruction and an investment of time. Jesus didn’t simply arrive and give instructions; he came along-side his disciples and called them to follow him. Jesus gave instruction, but he also invested his time. Like my father, Jesus passed on what he knew and took the time to invest in his disciples so that they (and we!) could enjoy the pleasure of growing in our walk with God.

Have you been learning from someone else what it means to walk with God? Is anyone investing time in you? If not, and if you’d like to have someone who’s further along in their walk with God to come alongside you, then talk to me and we’ll see if we can identify someone who’d love to make an investment.

And if someone is investing in you, it may be time you thought about passing on what you know to those who are coming along after you. That’s the way discipleship is meant to be – following one and leading another. In this way, the faith is passed on and the family of God is built up. May we all enjoy the pleasure of growing in our walk with God as we follow and learn from Jesus.

Following the Great Discipler,

            Pastor Tim

Pointing Us to the Word

“Now a man named Lazarus was sick…” – John 11:1

The story of the resurrection of Lazarus is a familiar one to many of us. Lazarus is sick; his sisters, Mary and Martha, send for their friend, Jesus. Jesus arrives, but he’s too late – Lazarus has died and has already been buried in a tomb. Much to everyone’s joy and astonishment, Jesus calls Lazarus from beyond the grave, and returns him to his sisters.

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead only after first declaring, “I AM the resurrection and the life…” Jesus’ raising of Lazarus is a clear demonstration of the truth-claim Jesus has just made. Jesus is the resurrection; Jesus has the power of the resurrection.

But there is much more to the story of Lazarus than what first meets the eye. John wants us to see something more in this story of Lazarus. To understand that, we must first understand that the gospel of John is highly symbolic. For example, Jesus is described by John as the Word of God, come in the flesh. Jesus is the “true light that gives light to every man…” Shortly after Jesus declares, “I AM the light of the world…”, Jesus heals a man born blind – bringing literal light into the man’s world. John’s gospel is highly symbolic and it’s arranged in a way to teach us many things.

In structuring his gospel, John records a number of Jesus’ amazing miracles, but he saves the most dramatic miracle, the raising of Lazarus, for the climax. The resurrection of Lazarus is in chapter 11 of the gospel of John and chapter 11 is the turning point. Everything leading up to chapter 11 is Jesus’ ministry and work; immediately after the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus heads to Jerusalem for his own most dramatic work of death and resurrection. The resurrection of Lazarus is the climax of the public ministry of Jesus. After Lazarus’ resurrection, there are no more miracles, apart from the cross itself.

So what are we meant to see in the person of Lazarus? In the person of Lazarus, I believe we are meant to see a picture of humanity. What do we know about Lazarus? Let’s trace out what we know from chapter 11 and the beginning of chapter 12.

1)      Like all humanity, which is sick and dying because of sin, Lazarus is sick (11:1).

2)      We learn that Jesus loves Lazarus (11:3), just as Jesus loves all humanity.

3)      We learn that Lazarus is certifiably dead – he’s been dead four days (11:39). In the same way that Lazarus could do nothing about his condition, so also we can do nothing about our condition. We are dead in our sins – dead to God and in need of outside help.

4)      Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead by calling him from beyond the grave. The One who is himself the Word of God, gives the word and raises Lazarus to life. So it is with all humanity: we need Jesus to come and call us to life.

5)      The next thing we learn about Lazarus is that he is enjoying table fellowship with Jesus (12:2). Once we have been called to life, we are able to enjoy free fellowship with God himself.

6)      The next to last thing we learn about Lazarus is that many people came to Jesus because of the work Jesus had done in Lazarus. When Jesus has called us to life, others will come to Jesus because of the work he’s done in our lives. We’re meant to bear witness to the work of God in our lives.

Some of you may remember that I preached on this topic two years ago. But when I preached on it, I left out the final thing we know about Lazarus, that tells us something about ourselves as well. One of you pointed it out at the end of the service; the last thing we learn about Lazarus is in chapter 12, verse 10: “the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well…” Anyone who puts their faith in Jesus and to whom Jesus gives new life can expect to be treated like Lazarus. We enjoy fellowship with God through Jesus, but we can also expect to be persecuted.

July 2010

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

I don’t like weeding, but sometimes it’s what needs to happen. My latest bit of weeding was a first for me: I spent time last week weeding our pond. Over the years, water plants have begun to take root and choke the life out of our pond. It’s gotten so bad that it’s hard to swim in some parts of the pond.

I’m told that part of the problem was the trout we had in the pond. Apparently what the trout leave behind makes fertile soil for underwater plants. So last year we fished all the trout out and put in some crayfish, who feed on what the trout leave behind. But it was too little, too late. The weeds continued to grow.

The only remedy was to get out there and pull the weeds. I suppose we could have tried chemicals, but then we’d have chemicals in our pond, and dead plants as well – fine food for future weeds to feed on. So I put on my bathing suit and went to work pulling weeds. Weeds themselves are living things, which seem good and natural, but if we let them go unchecked, they choke the life out of the pond and make it pretty useless for swimming.

Our lives need weeding, too, sometimes. In Jesus’ parable of the soils, he warns us about the weeds that can choke out the seed of God’s word which is sown in our souls (Matthew 13). The weeds Jesus refers to are things like the deceitfulness of wealth and the cares of this world.

Like the weeds in my pond, the weeds in our lives may seem good and natural – things like sports and work and activities that fill our schedules. They may seem good, but if they get out of hand they can choke out our life.

Just like in my pond, no quick “chemical” fix will take care of the weeds in our lives. It just takes diving in and getting to work – decisions to remove the clutter and the things that choke out the word of God in our lives. 

      The good news of the gospel is that God is willing to help us cultivate his life in us, if we turn to him for help. How’s your life this summer? If it’s cluttered with things that crowd out time with Jesus, maybe it’s time to do a little weeding!

Serving the Gardener of our Souls,

      Pastor Tim 

Pointing Us to the Word

“When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town… When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus' feet, dressed and in his right mind…” – Luke 8:27a, 35b

The story of the healing of the demoniac is dramatic. Luke tells us that the man had not worn clothes and that he had lived in the tombs. The demoniac is not a man who is controlling his own life. Luke writes that the demoniac shouted at the top of his lungs, and though he had been chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and been driven into solitary places. The man was an outcast, rejected by society. And Jesus healed him.

What Luke doesn’t tell us is precisely how Jesus healed the man. Luke simply writes that the demons begged Jesus to let them go into a large herd of pigs which was nearby, and Jesus gave them permission. How did Jesus heal the demoniac? How does Jesus heal anyone?

The rest of the gospel teaches us that Jesus heals us by trading places with us. Jesus traded places with us when he went to the cross in our place and got what we deserve, in order that we might get what He deserves. Jesus heals us by trading places with us.

So in what way does Jesus heals the demoniac by trading places with him? N.T. Wright points out that the healing of the demoniac is a striking illustration for how Jesus brings healing by trading places with us.

Consider Jesus on the cross. Like the demoniac, Jesus on the cross is not a man controlling his own life. Like this demoniac who shouts at the top of his voice, Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!" Like the demoniac, when Jesus went to the cross, he wore no clothes; the guards had stripped him and divided his clothes by casting lots. Like the demoniac, Jesus was naked and exposed. Like the demoniac, Jesus was rejected by society. Like the demoniac, who was bound hand and foot, Jesus’ hands and feet were nailed to the cross. When Jesus went to the cross, he traded places with the demoniac. He traded places with you and me.

But also just like the demoniac, who could not be contained by his bonds, neither could Jesus be contained by death! God raised Jesus from the dead! Luke tells us that the demoniac was alive among the tombs; so also, Jesus went into a tomb… and was alive! 

Jesus heals us by trading places with us. The only way to be healed is to allow Jesus to trade places with us.

May we worship the One who was willing to trade places with us and receive what we deserved, in order that we may receive what He deserved!

March 2010

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

Rarely am I left speechless. But since I arrived in India two days ago, that is what I am. It’s not because of the culture shock of being in a foreign land, ten and a half time zones ahead of Barre, Vermont. It’s not because of the cacophony of sounds of blaring horns, fighting dogs, and begging people in this city of 5 million, where daily temperatures are in the mid-90s. Nor is it because of the titanic disparity between the rich, who live in luxury and have the world at their beckon call, and the poor, who find semi-permanent shelter under corrugated tin roofs supported by cast-off bricks, cook over open fires, and eke out a living as day laborers or beggars. All this I had heard of, read about, or seen portrayed in movies like Slum-dog Millionaire.

I am not speechless because of India. I am speechless simply because the head-cold I contracted just before I left Barre has moved into my throat and rendered my vocal chords silent! I am well fed, well rested from the trip, and well cared for at my host’s house. But I am not yet able to fulfill my stated purpose in coming, which is to teach the pastors who have gathered together from all over Northern India what God has laid on my heart to teach them. My notes sit gathering Indian dust while I try to see God’s purpose in delaying the restoration of my voice.

Sometimes life is like that. We have a stated purpose – perhaps we believe it is even a God-ordained purpose – and then we find our purpose thwarted. I have many theories in my mind as to why I am speechless this day. And I suppose it’s good to consider them and to ask God what it is I am to learn. But for now, I sense that he has called me to this noisy place to be silent before Him. To pause and take this day in stride, trusting God to accomplish His purposes. His purposes cannot be thwarted.

My wife and I knew – and even prayed – that God would teach me something on this trip. On this trip, in which I have come to teach, we had prayed I would learn from the great Teacher. So I sit silent amidst the noise of the city, and quiet my heart and mind as I try to listen to Jesus’ voice.

God’s blessing in the midst of this waiting is that I do not feel panic and concern; rather, there’s an odd sense of peace as I still my heart and wait for my voice to return. I think that must be the power of God in response to your prayers for me on this trip. Thank you for entrusting me to His good care.

I may never know God’s purpose in leaving me speechless in the land where my purpose was to come to speak. But whatever it may be, I know God’s purposes are never thwarted, and His purposes are always much greater than mine. In the meantime, I’ll be content to wait in silence.

Serving the One before whom the whole earth is silent,

      Pastor Tim 

P.S. I emailed from India to ask for prayer. My daughter Abigail sent me this fitting prayer;

Before Prayer (Celtic)

I weave a silence on to my lips
I weave a silence into my mind
I weave a silence within my heart
I close my ears to distractions
I close my eyes to attractions
I close my heart to temptations.
Calm me O Lord as you stilled the storm
Still me O Lord, keep me from harm
Let all the tumult within me cease
Enfold me Lord in your peace.

Pointing Us to the Word

“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” -- Genesis 12:3

“[Goliath] said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.” -- 1 Samuel 17:43

Most of us are familiar with the story of David and Goliath. David, the young, courageous shepherd boy volunteers to do battle with the giant Philistine, Goliath. David is armed with a sling and some stones; Goliath is an experienced fighting machine who is armed to the teeth. David is the underdog, if ever there was an underdog! We know the story: David is victorious and Goliath goes down to the dust.

But did you ever wonder why Goliath went down to the dust? This second verse listed above gives us a clue: Goliath cursed David just as they were about to engage in battle. To pronounce a curse on someone was to invoke God’s anger and punishment against them. Goliath made a big mistake when he did this, because the God of heaven and earth had made a promise to David’s ancestor, Abraham. When God blessed Abraham, he told him:

“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3) By cursing the one who was a chosen son of Abraham, Goliath was unwittingly invoking a curse upon himself.

God always keeps his promises. Goliath was laid low in the dust and came under the curse of God because he dared curse a son of Abraham.

The immediate lesson from this is to be careful whom you curse! Cursing anyone who has the faith of Abraham -- which is faith in God’s promised Son, Jesus -- puts us in danger of pronouncing a curse on our own heads!

God doesn’t delight to send anyone down to the dust, but God must keep his promise. God must curse any who curse those who are children of Abraham. I don’t know about you, but that puts me in a rather uncomfortable position. I know that in the course of my life, I’ve cursed at least one son or daughter of Abraham. Especially if I consider my life before becoming a Christian! How many times did I unwittingly condemn myself by uttering a curse? (e.g., “Damn them!”)

What’s a person to do? Thanks be to God for Jesus, the Son. Jesus willingly bore the curse in his body when he went to the cross in yours and my place (“Cursed is anyone hung on a tree.”). And because of what Jesus has done for us, bearing for us the curse we deserve, we are motivated to follow his lead.

Instead of invoking a curse on others, Jesus commanded us to “Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:28) The apostle Peter followed his master well. Peter encourages us, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9) May we also follow our master, and speak blessing instead of cursing, since He bore the curse for us – otherwise, we may expect to bear it on our own!

March 2009   July 2009
November 2009

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

It was 1989 and I was hunting the big woods of Averill, Vermont, where you can walk all day and not cross a road or meet a hunter. It was close to dark and had been snowing hard all day long. It was cold and I was looking forward to the warmth of the camp. But now the logging road I was following back to camp took an unfamiliar turn and petered out – it was not the logging road I thought it was. I was lost, but didn’t know how lost.

Early that morning, before we parted ways, my younger brother and I had watched a large bull moose shake the dusting off his rack and plow off through the deep snow. I headed south and onto the east side of a ridge with a plan to hunt over the ridge and back down to camp. But I apparently went astray in the blinding snowstorm and, without realizing it, ended up on the west side of the ridge. So now the ridge I climbed was not the ridge I thought it was, but the snow had changed all the landmarks and so I convinced myself I was where I thought I was.

But I was wrong; I was lost, and now it was dark.

When a hunter is lost, our camp follows a protocol of firing signal shots between the camp and the lost hunter so that we can find him or help him get back to camp. Even still, it wasn’t until about 2:00 a.m. that my father and younger brother finally reached me. I still remember how surprised I was to learn my actual location. I was lost, but I didn’t know how lost until my father and brother found me.

People can be spiritually lost without realizing how lost they are, too. Do you know someone who, like me, has parted ways from their “brother” and gone astray? Or maybe you yourself have been following a “road”, like I was, but now it’s taking some unfamiliar turns and seems to be petering out.

The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that there’s a protocol for lost souls so that they may be found. It involves signaling for help by crying out to God, and calling to a “brother”, who knows the Lord. When we do that, we can rest assured that our Father in heaven will come find us, even in the midst of a storm. In the snowstorm in the woods of Averill, my father involved my younger brother in my rescue; in the same way, very often our Father in heaven will involve one of our “brothers” in the rescue of one who is spiritually lost.

Do you have a friend who has gone astray and is on a road going nowhere? Our Father in heaven may be enlisting you to help in the rescue of your friend. Send out a signal from “camp” so they may hear the way to the Father, and then go to them with the Father.

And if you yourself feel like you’re at the end of a road that’s petering out, or feel like darkness is falling around you, cry out to the Father and to a “brother” -- either me or someone else who knows the Lord. We’ll help you find your way to the Father, and into the warmth of the “camp.”

Serving the One who Seeks us in the Storms of Life,

      Pastor Tim

Pointing Us to the Word

For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.” - Galatians 4:22-23

Abraham was close to 100 years old; his wife, Sarah, was close to 90. They had never been able to have children, even though, twenty-five years earlier, God had promised Abraham that they would have a son and that through him, all peoples would be blessed. After waiting eleven years, Sarah, at that time 77, presented her maid-servant to Abraham as a wife, hoping to build a family through her maid-servant (her “slave woman”). Her maid-servant did bear Abraham a son, but God made it clear that this was not the son of the promise; the son of the promise would be born of Sarah.

Why do you think God insisted the son of promise be born of Sarah? Sarah was an elderly, barren women. Do you know any women in their late 80’s who have never borne a child? It’s hard to imagine them bearing a child, isn’t it? It would take a miracle.

I think there are at least two reasons why God insisted that the son of promise be born of Sarah. The first was to make it clear that this child was no ordinary child; that this birth was a supernatural birth, a birth that could only be accomplished by God. It was a miracle. God was preparing His people to recognize Jesus, whose birth was also supernatural and miraculous, as Abraham’s ultimate Son of promise. Jesus is the eventual son of Abraham through whom “all peoples will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).

The second reason I think God insisted that the son of promise be born of Sarah is that Sarah was the free woman, while her maid-servant was the “slave” woman. The son of promise needed to be free, because Jesus, the ultimate Son of promise, was free.

And the good news of the gospel is that even though he was free, Jesus, the ultimate Son of promise, allowed himself to be bound (“enslaved”) when he went to the cross. He did this to pay our debt of sin and so purchase our freedom.

There are two ways for us to live on this planet – as children born only in the ordinary way and therefore as slaves to our fallen nature; or as children born as the result of a promise by God.

The promise of God is that Jesus can set us free from sin and death and that anyone who identifies themselves with Jesus will be free from the bondage of sin and will be raised from the dead. God’s promise is that when we commit our lives to Jesus, God does something of a miracle: he gives us new birth -- a supernatural birth – a birth into the family of God where we become children of the promise. Free from sin and free to live for Jesus.

God wants us to be free and he gave us the story of Abraham’s two sons so that we could see that there are two ways to live on this planet. Are you walking in freedom?

You can read the whole story of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 12:1-18:15, 21:1-21. The apostle Paul’s interpretation of the story is found in Galatians chapter 4.

July 2009

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

“I think I saw some old guy building an ark… and all these pairs of animals have been gathering!” So joked an acquaintance of mine the other day. We’ve had so much rain through May and June, it is remarkable and our thoughts are turned to Noah and the Flood.

Talk of the Flood reminded me of a story a friend, Walter, told me about his feeble attempts to talk to people on the street about Jesus. Walter was having no success, even with the excuse of Easter coming, which was right around the corner. Then Walter’s partner, Joe, tried a new approach. The first person he came to, Joe asked, “Do you think God will destroy the world in a great flood again, like he did in the time of Noah?” The man on the street replied, “Well, things are pretty bad, so I suppose he might!” When Joe showed the man how God had promised to never destroy the world by a flood again (Genesis 8:21), Joe said, “Hey! If you don’t know about Noah, then you probably don’t know about Jesus. Let me tell you about Jesus and the promise God made about him!” And there they were, talking about Jesus.

God always keeps his word and always fulfills his promises, whether it be through Noah, to never again destroy the earth by water, or through Jesus, to rescue those who put their trust in Him. The promises of God are sure. And people all around us need to know about Jesus, that God promises to save those who would follow him.

So the next time someone jokes about building an ark, ask them if they think God will destroy the earth by water again, and then point them to God’s promise to Noah, and his greater promise through Jesus.

Serving the One who is our Shelter in the Storm,

            Pastor Tim

Pointing Us to the Word

So from that day on they plotted to take his life. Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.” - John 11:54

Jesus was making his way to Jerusalem, where he knew he’d suffer greatly as he carried out the work he was sent to do – to suffer death on the cross in order to save us from our sins. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were plotting to kill Jesus. “Therefore,” John writes, “Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews… he withdrew… to a village called Ephraim.” Ephraim was a tiny village of almost no significance. Have you ever wondered why John bothers to include this little detail, the name of the village that Jesus went to? I think John had a purpose. I think John included this detail because he saw that, even in the movements of Jesus, there was a message for us about God and Jesus’ ministry.

Ephraim first shows up in the bible in Genesis 41, as the name given to Joseph’s second son. Joseph, you may remember, was the favorite son of Israel, but he was sold into slavery in Egypt by his jealous brothers. Because Joseph’s brothers hated him and plotted his destruction, Joseph suffered greatly in Egypt. But God lifted Joseph out of his suffering and he rose to become the most powerful man in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh.

Joseph named his second son Ephraim, because ‘Ephraim’ sounds like the word which means “twice fruitful.” Joseph said, as he named his second son Ephraim, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” (Genesis 41:52)

In spite of the fact that Joseph’s brothers persecuted him and plotted to kill him, God made Joseph fruitful in the land of his suffering; so he names his son Ephraim. When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy grain during the famine, their powerful brother, Joseph, revealed himself to them. They were afraid, but instead of condemning them, Joseph had compassion on them and told them, “You intended (plotted) to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen. 50:20)

There’s a parallel between Joseph’s and Jesus’ lives. Jesus’ brothers plotted (same word in Gen. 50:20 and in John 11:53) to kill him and drove him away, where he goes to a tiny village named Ephraim. God the Father will indeed make Jesus “twice fruitful” in the land of his suffering, as he makes his way to the cross, and because of Jesus suffering on the cross, God’s purposes are accomplished, “the saving of many lives.” Just as Joseph was lifted out of his suffering in Egypt and rose to become the most powerful man in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh, so also, in the resurrection from the dead, God lifted Jesus from his suffering and made him the most powerful man on earth, second only to God the Father.

     What can this connection teach us? One thing for sure: though we may suffer in this land and be persecuted, God is in control and is able to bring us through, and even make us “twice fruitful” in the land of our suffering.

March 2009

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

I saw him first out of the corner of my eye one morning just at first light a few weeks ago. I couldn’t tell what he was, but then later I saw him again. The Barred Owl was being chased and harassed by a Blue Jay. The owl landed on a branch in one of the big pine trees behind our house. We’d heard owls across the marsh, but this was the first one we’d seen up close to the house.

“He’s hungry,” my brother remarked when I told him the story. All the snow we’ve had has been a hardship on the owls; as the snow has gotten deeper, hunting’s been more difficult and this owl was no doubt forced into new areas to try to satisfy his needs.

Sometimes hardship forces humans out into new areas, too, as we try to satisfy our human needs. I’m thinking of the economic slowdown and all that that means to folks in terms of putting bread on the table. Lots of folks have lost their jobs and for those who haven’t, many are anxious about the possibility.

While I do not wish economic hardship on my fellow Vermonters, my prayer during this time is that many would turn anew to the One who can satisfy all our needs. Like the owl that came near to our house, sometimes people have to feel hungry before they move out into new areas, and draw near to Jesus.

Please join me in prayer for our neighbors, that their needs would be satisfied by coming to the One who said, “I AM the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

Invite your neighbor to our Food Give-Away (March 28th) where they can get food for their stomachs. Invite them to the ALPHA Course (March 18th) where they can get food for their souls. Or invite them to our Sunday worship service, where they can get both, and be introduced to the One who delights to meet all our needs.

Serving the One who is the Bread of Life,

            Pastor Tim

Pointing Us to the Word

"Yes, Lord," Martha told Jesus, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." John 11:27

Martha’s confession that she believed Jesus to be the Christ is rivaled only by Peter’s confession. When asked by Jesus, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Martha’s confession is the same and comes on the heels of Jesus’ declaration, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

Martha and her sister, Mary, were friends of Jesus. They had called to Jesus when their brother, Lazarus, was sick and dying. But by the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days. This of course proves to be no obstacle for Jesus, as he calls Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead. Jesus had just said, after all, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life.”

One thing that interests me about this passage, though, is Martha’s confession. She’s got the right words and the right theology, but her actions later in the passage betray her true beliefs. When Jesus arrives at the tomb, he orders them to take away the stone, which was an enormous round disc rolled in front of the tomb to seal it. But Martha, the one who had just made this great confession of faith, is the first to object: “But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life; Martha has said she believes he is the Christ, but her actions betray a heart that’s not so sure. I’m glad for the example of Martha, because Jesus still raises her brother, Lazarus, from the dead, even though she had doubts. And Jesus clearly doesn’t give up on Martha, since we find him dining at her house in the next chapter. That gives me hope, because I think I may have said the same thing Martha said if I’d been standing at the tomb.

What about you? Who do you say Jesus is? Is he “the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world?” And if you say so, do you live like you believe it? May we live like we truly believe, and may we not object to Jesus when he wants to do something miraculous in our lives. He is, after all, the Resurrection and the Life!

July 2008   March 2008

November 2008

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

It sure got dark in a hurry. The moment we turned those clocks back, it seems like we had to brace ourselves for winter. The disc jockey on the radio I was listening to was none too happy about it. He had a lot to get off his chest about daylight savings time and the abruptness of the darkness.

It occurred to me that sometimes it can seem like darkness has closed in on our lives pretty quickly, too. It may be a notice about your company down-sizing, and suddenly how you’re going to provide for your family becomes murky; or it may be a report from the doctor that it’s cancer, and abruptly your future looks dark. Or you may be one of the many who suffer from bouts of depression, and immediately you dread the shortening of the days, which can trigger another round.

All this should serve as a reminder to us of our need for the one who said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) In the vision God gave to the apostle John, he was shown that in the end, “There will be no more night. They [God’s people] will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5) Thankfully, God’s promise of eternal life in light floods into the present when we draw near to Jesus and seek him whole-heartedly.

Even the darkness can serve God’s purposes, since it is in the darkness that the Light is most visible. I think that’s part of the reason the early church chose to celebrate Jesus’ birthday when they did. No-one knows what day he was actually born on – they rarely kept records of that kind of thing in the first century. So the early church picked a day, and the day they picked was just a few days after the darkest evening of the year. The Light shines brightest when the darkness is the deepest.

And that’s our hope, is it not? That even in the dark passages of life – or perhaps especially in the dark passages of life – the Light of the world shines best. May we let Jesus shine in and through us, that this dark world may see.

Lighting up this dark world with Jesus,

      Pastor Tim

Pointing Us to the Word

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything;

what counts is a new creation. Galatians 6:15

Circumcision was the external mark given to Abraham by God to identify God’s people. It was the sign of the Old Covenant, borne by the male members of the people of God, the Israelites. When Jesus came, he ushered in God’s New Covenant and it was up to the early church to sort out how the sign of the Old Covenant related to the New. Should non-Jews who come under the New Covenant be circumcised? Does circumcision count for anything anymore? Several of the New Testament letters devote space to addressing these questions; the conclusion is that the sign of the Old Covenant is superseded by the sign of the New, which is baptism.

So the Apostle Paul can write that “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything…” any longer. God looks at the heart, and his gospel message is not just for the Jews, but for all people. In truth, God has always looked at the heart. Paul writes in Romans chapter 2 that “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit.”

Once the work of Jesus was finished, God poured out his Holy Spirit on anyone who would identify themselves with Jesus, regardless of their nationality. This fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham that “all nations on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). The external mark, identifying single nation of people as the people of God, is no longer important.

So if circumcision no longer counts for anything, what does count? Three times the apostle Paul answers that question, and each time it’s put a different way. Here they are:  

“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” (Gal. 6:15) “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Gal. 5:6) and “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts.” (1 Cor. 7:19)

Is Paul contradicting himself? I don’t think so. Then how do these statements relate to one another? I think they form a kind of progression. To begin, what counts is identifying oneself with Jesus Christ and becoming a new creation. Paul writes that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17) The message of Jesus Christ is a message of a brand new beginning -- a new life, forgiven and set free. What’s this new life look like? That brings us to the second statement: “faith expressing itself through love.” This new life is a life of faith -- trusting in God – which shows itself as love: love for God and love for neighbor. What does it mean to love? The third statement makes that clear: “Keeping God’s commands.” God’s word to us is for our good, and God’s commands to us are how we’re meant to live a life of love, a life of faith – trusting God. It’s how we prove we’re a new creation, following Jesus wherever he leads.

July 2008

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

We discovered first-hand that they have a lot more history in England than we have here in America. This spring my family and I took a long awaited vacation to England and Scotland, and we drank deeply of the history of the isle of Britain. We visited Stonehenge, which is some 5000 years old; we ate dinner in “The Haunch of Venison”, an inn that dates back to the 13th century; and we traipsed through cathedrals which are far older than our country. One of the most impressive historical sites we visited was Hadrian’s Wall.

Hadrian’s Wall was commissioned by the Roman emperor Hadrian in the early 2nd century. At over 70 miles long, it stretched from coast to coast across the island and served to mark the northern boundary of the Roman Empire. As a fortified wall that stood 12 feet tall and whose top was wide enough to drive a small cart on, it served its purpose of keeping the Scots and Picts from invading the south.

In its day, it was an imposing tower of strength. But by the time we visited, it had been mostly broken down and covered over by the silt of time. In fact, by the time we visited, most of what we saw was the result of much archeological excavation. Archeologists had to dig away the buildup of dust and soil to uncover the wall. My family loves history because it’s fascinating to see what people have done in the past, and we can learn lessons from history. One lesson from Hadrian’s Wall is that building projects, no matter how impressive, don’t last forever.

That’s a sober thought for our church, which a few weeks ago celebrated the restoration of our historic building. It caused me to wonder how far into the future our beloved church building would last. It’s hard to imagine it not being here, but the lesson of history teaches us that it likely won’t last forever.

The good news of the gospel is that even though building projects don’t last forever, the Church itself does. The Church of God is the people of God, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to the world; and that’s not tied to any building. When the Romans abandoned Hadrian’s Wall and eventually left England in the 4th century, the wall began to fall into disrepair. But the Church had been established on the Isle of Britain – the gospel message took root in the soil of England, and the Church lives on to this day.

How does the Church weather the winds of change and the silt of time? How can we be sure a gospel witness remains in East Barre, regardless what happens to our beloved church building? In truth, we can’t be sure of the future of the Church in East Barre – the Church continues in any given place only by the grace of God. All we can do is be faithful in the present. That means doing our part to proclaim the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that future generations may look back and see that the gospel took root in the soil of East Barre, regardless how long our beloved church building remains.

Everything eventually changes – everything but God, that is. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) The Church that is rooted in the unchanging message of Jesus Christ will remain until the end of time, building or no. May we be that kind of church, rooted in the unchanging word of God.

Building up the Church which endures,

      Pastor Tim

Pointing Us to the Word

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” James 1:2

How can James exhort us to count it pure joy when we go through hard times? When most of us face trials, we feel more like complaining than jumping for joy. Yet James tells us to count it “pure” joy. How can he say this?

I don’t think James means for us to get all giddy whenever difficult things come up. I don’t think he means for us to look forward to heart surgery, or cancer treatment, or strained family relationships. I think James wants us to look beyond what we are facing and consider that God often uses hard things to draw us closer to the source of pure joy, in other words, to draw us closer to Himself.

As many of you know, my brother-in-law, Andy, and his family have been living with us since October. They had been living in Japan when Andy got very sick – it was a difficult trial for them. As they’ve been living with us and God has been at work bringing healing, we’ve often asked the question, “What do you think God might be trying to teach you through this difficult time?” It’s a question we should ask ourselves whenever we face trials of many kinds.

James knows that God uses tough times to reveal more of Himself to us. If we’re open to God and willing to learn, God does some of his best work in the “furnace of affliction”. Precious metals are made more pure -- that is, refined -- by passing them through the fire. As the hymn writer has said, “When through fiery trials, thy pathway shall lie, My grace all sufficient, shall be thy supply: The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”

My brother-in-law, Andy, and his wife, Keiko, have experienced a refining through their trial and they now rejoice for what God has done in this difficult time in their lives. Last month, as we gathered to pray, Keiko actually gave thanks to God for the illness, because she saw what God had done through it, drawing them closer to Himself.

The next time you face a difficult trial – of any kind – ask God what he might be trying to teach you through it. When we do that, God will refine us and we’ll find ourselves drawn nearer to God; and that’s something we can surely count as pure joy.

March 2008

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

As a church, we’ve been working on developing a more “outward” focus – a missions oriented attitude in who we are and in all we do. One very tangible example of that focus is Abigail, who returned last week from a short term mission’s trip to India. Together with Wilson and Aruna, an Indian pastor and his wife, Abigail and ten other team members from the Barre area ran several vacation bible school sessions for children who live in the slums of a large city in Northwest India.

Each VBS session welcomed over 100 children, who got to hear the good news of Jesus Christ through bible stories, games, and songs. India is hot and noisy and crowded. And the children do not speak English, so it’s fair to ask, “How could Abigail and the team teach the children about Jesus?” The answer is that God provided a translator. Aruna and her daughter-in-law translated everything that was said so that the children would understand.

That simple fact got me thinking. God can speak directly to each person’s heart, but when it comes to bringing the good news of His Son, God chooses to use a translator – someone to speak face-to-face with those who haven’t heard. Reflecting on that, it occurred to me that this is simply the pattern Jesus set when He came and brought God’s message to us in the first place. Jesus became a man so he could bring the good news to the world face-to-face. By coming in the flesh, Jesus translated God’s message so we could understand.

The message of Jesus is very translatable. In keeping with the pattern of using translators, even his teaching was translated, right from the start. Jesus spoke and taught in Aramaic, but God chose to have it translated into the common language of the day – which was Greek. Jesus taught in Aramaic, but the New Testament was written in Greek. Jesus’ teaching was immediately translated into the common language of the day, so the world would understand.

God can speak directly to each person’s heart, but he chooses to work through translators. He sends some of us, like Abigail, half-way around the world to bring His good news. God has called most of us to stick close to home, but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a translation project for you and me. God has given us neighbors and friends who need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. God can speak directly to their hearts, but he chooses to use us to translate. May we be good translators of God’s grace and truth wherever God has called us!

Translating the good news of Jesus Christ,

      Pastor Tim

Pointing Us to the Word

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:27-30

When Jesus calls us to come to him, he promises us rest for our souls. Do you feel rested in your soul? So many times, it feels like we’re missing something. Like Jesus handed out keys and said, “Ok, start up the car,” but somehow you didn’t end up with a key. Something’s missing. “Come to Jesus.” Yes, but how? How do we receive the rest Jesus promises?

I think the answer lies in the command we often overlook. Jesus says, “Take my yoke… for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus calls us to himself and commands us to take upon ourselves a yoke. Literally, a yoke is a harness placed on one’s back to distribute a load. Jesus is using the term figuratively – he doesn’t have a literal yoke he expects us to wear when we come to him. But Jesus does expect us to work, and he promises that his “yoke” will fit well and distribute the load so that you won’t be worn out. Jesus expects us to bear a spiritual “yoke”, and engage in spiritual work in order to find rest for our souls.

There are two instructive things about yokes we ought to remember. First, when a yoke is placed on an ox, it is only a tool, a harness which is used by the master. It is not the master itself, but the willingness to bear the yoke demonstrates the willingness to submit to the master. Second, the yoke not only distributes the load so the ox can work, it also gives the master a means for guiding and directing the ox. The ox comes under the control of the master.

So what is the work Jesus expects us to do, in order to find the rest for our souls? What is the yoke we are to come under?

The yoke Jesus expects us to bear is the yoke of spiritual discipline. A spiritual discipline is a habit that you intentionally practice in order to train yourself to submit to God. There are many spiritual disciplines we see Jesus practicing in the gospels, as he trained himself in submitting to the Father: prayer, worship, fasting, study, and solitude, to name a few. To follow a discipline is to submit to practicing the discipline on a regular basis. It takes work and commitment.

We all say that we want to come to Jesus, but unless we take his yoke upon ourselves, we won’t find rest for our souls. In truth, we have a hard time actually submitting to God – by our nature, we resist it. It’s easy to give lip service; what’s hard is actually taking the yoke. But taking the yoke represents our willingness to submit to God; and when we bear the yoke, we give our Master a means to guide and direct us. When we bear his yoke, we come under the control of the Master. Have you taken his yoke?

May we come to Jesus and take the yoke of spiritual discipline, that we may find rest for our souls. If you'd like help in taking the yoke, don't hesitate to ask Pastor Tim.

July 2007                 March 2007
November 2007

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

The first time I laid eyes on our church building was a stark and gray November day as I drove north on my way to deer camp in 2002. The leaves were gone and the clouds hung low in the late afternoon sky as I detoured through East Barre to get a look at the church I’d heard was looking for a pastor. The brown shingled siding and white clapboard body helped the church building blend in with its surroundings. I prayed, “Lord, is this the place you’re calling me to serve?” Three and a half months later I had my answer.

Today, the church building no longer blends in with its surroundings! As we near the completion of a larger project to restore our historic Queen Ann style Victorian building to some of its original color, people can’t say enough about how attractive they find it. As an historic church proclaiming the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can hope and pray they find the gospel attractive as well!

Church Being Painted      It’s exciting to be able to add some exterior color to our little corner of the world. It’s even more exciting to invite our neighbors to see the vivid interior color of a life lived with God in Jesus. This second kind of color only shines in our lives when we allow God to do His restoration work in us. A friend of mine is pastor in a church in Boston which is also going through work on its exterior. I liked what they printed on a large banner outside their church. It went something like this:

        Exterior Restoration Work – July through November.
 Interior Restoration Work – Sundays at 10:30 and through the Week.

It’s good to add some color to our world here in East Barre. But of course, exterior color eventually fades, and buildings eventually fall apart. The good news of the gospel is that the interior restoration work that God does in our lives will never fade. Indeed, when we draw near to God and worship Jesus, He does a work in us that produces lasting color, which our neighbors and friends can’t help find attractive.

As we delight in the success of our exterior restoration, let’s not forget to give continual attention to God’s work on our interiors. When we do that, we allow Jesus Christ to paint us as living colors in a stark and gray world.

Coloring the World by the Grace of God in Jesus Christ,

            Pastor Tim

Pointing Us To The Word

When Nicodemus came to Jesus at night (see John 3), he confessed that he believed that Jesus had come from God. Jesus declared right up front, “I tell you the truth, unless a person is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus’ response puzzled Nicodemus and so he asked, “How can a man be born when he is old?” The term, born-again, still puzzles people. Sometimes I’m asked, “What is a born-again Christian?” According to Jesus, a born-again Christian is the only kind of Christian. Jesus said, “unless a person is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” So what does it mean?

First of all, it has nothing to do with re-incarnation. Re-incarnation is a Hindu idea that we live and die and are then born again into the world in a different form. “Born-again” cannot mean re-incarnation, because Hebrews 9:27 declares that, “man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” We do not cycle through death and birth numerous times.

When Jesus spoke of being born again, he was talking about a different kind of birth – a spiritual birth. In fact, the Greek word which we translate “again” is more often translated “from above.” To be born-again is to be born from above. It’s a spiritual birth involving the Spirit of God at work in our hearts. When we first come into the world, we’re born of the flesh and we inherit our parent’s nature. That nature, since the Fall (see Genesis 3), is sinful – turned away from God. The only way back to God is through Jesus. When we renounce our old nature, our sinful nature, and ask Jesus to save us from sin and death, God gives us a new start. It’s a new life; a life lived by the Spirit of God, not by our old nature. We’re born again, from above.

About 600 years before Jesus, God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel about the new era which would be ushered in by Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Speaking of that new era, God said in Ezekiel 36 that “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you…” God said he would replace our old (sinful) heart and give us a new heart and a new spirit. This is why the apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians, could write “if anyone is in Christ [that is, identified with Jesus], he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” It’s a new start! It’s a new life lived for God.

None of us chose to be born – we weren’t around when our parents made the decision. So it is with being born again; it’s really a decision of our heavenly Father. Nevertheless, if we are not yet born-again, Jesus urges us to cry out for mercy from the Father and to seek the kingdom of God. Remember that he promises: “everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” If you are not yet born-again, do not give up asking, because, as Jesus said, “unless a person is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

July 2007

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

Dennis showed me a report of average rainfall in Barre that claims, surprisingly, that August is the month that gets the most rain. I sure hope that isn't true this year! If we have more rain in August than we've had so far in July, the road crews will be busy repairing washouts into October.

Water can be a destructive force. It seems that everywhere you drive here in Central Vermont, there’s road damage. Driveways were washed out, road shoulders were eroded, undercutting the road itself in many places. The gravel and smaller stones washed away, leaving only boulders in some places. The flood damage to the houses and buildings down by The Dugout on Route 302 reminded me of the damage my parents suffered nine years ago, when two or three feet of floodwater filled their home.

Disasters like that test us. They cause us to evaluate what's really important in life, and they test what foundation our lives are built on. Sometimes disasters that test us don't come from the storms of weather, but rather from the storms of life. A report from the doctor that the tumor’s malignant; news from our spouse that they're leaving; word from our employer that our job’s been eliminated. The storms of life rock us and test what foundation our lives are built upon.

At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared that anyone who heard his teaching and put it into practice was like a man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7:24ff). When the floodwaters struck that house, it remained because it was built on a good foundation. Conversely, anyone who heard his teaching but did not put it into practice was like a man who built his house on the sand. When the floodwaters struck that house, it came down with a crash. It's important to note that in Jesus’ parable, both the house built on the rock and the house built on the sand were struck by the storms of life. The implication is that we all can expect to be tested by the storms of life.

I was talking with a new friend the other day, and Joe -- not his real name -- shared with me how he had been rocked by the storms of life. Some years ago, Joe’s wife of more than 20 years left him for a younger man and Joe lost everything. Joe had not built his life on the rock of Jesus Christ, and his life came down with a crash. When he saw that he had lost everything, he despaired even of life. Joe said he was ready to end his life, but God, by His grace, intervened. A friend of Joe’s pointed him to Jesus and Joe began to re-build his life, this time on the solid rock of Jesus Christ.

Today, Joe says he's come full circle -- not only did God rescue him, but as Joe built his life on the rock, God has restored what Joe lost. Joe is now prepared for the future storms of life – Joe is setting his foundation on the rock of Jesus Christ.

Have you checked your foundation lately? Everyone knows that the best time to anchor your foundation to the rock is before the storms come. May we each hear the teaching of Jesus and put it into practice.

Building on the Rock,

      Pastor Tim

Pointing Us To The Word

In chapter six of the book of Ephesians -- the last chapter, the apostle Paul exhorts us to put on the full armor of God. Paul tells us to do this so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes. He reminds us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil. Paul elaborates on the picture of our armor in a creative fashion, assigning spiritual values to the various pieces of armor. The belt is the belt of truth – on a soldier, the belt is what holds everything together; so it is with the truth. The breastplate is the breastplate of righteousness – protecting our vital organs, the breastplate of righteousness is a reference to the righteousness of Jesus, which protects us vitally. The shield is the shield of faith – our faith, our trust in God through Jesus, is the piece of equipment we hold up to defend ourselves from the flaming arrows of the devil. The helmet, that part that protects the most critical part of our body, Paul calls the helmet of salvation. Our salvation comes from God when we entrust our lives to Jesus Christ. Without a helmet, a soldier is fatally exposed to the enemy.

Whenever we read the New Testament, it’s a good idea to ask whether the passage is alluding to something in the Old Testament. When we look at this passage through that lens, we see that Paul wasn’t actually being so creative. Like any good writer, he was borrowing from others. This armor imagery is used by the prophet Isaiah in chapter 59. The difference is that there, in Isaiah, it is the Lord Himself who puts on the armor and goes to battle. Seeing that there was no-one to intercede for His people, he determined that his own arm would “work salvation.” Indeed, in the coming of Jesus, God Himself “worked salvation.” But now, as we see from our passage in Ephesians, we who identify with Jesus are called to join together with God in working salvation – that is, in bringing justice and standing against the enemy of our souls.

Life on earth is life in a war zone – a spiritual war zone. God calls us to join together with him in working out our salvation (Phil 2:12). For our protection, we need to put on the armor of God. Did you notice that each of the pieces of armor listed above is defensive? They’re all for our protection in the battle. There’s only one piece of battle gear that is used for offense against the enemy of our souls. That is the sword, which Paul calls the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” We need to put on the armor of God every day, for our protection. But God also calls us to join in the battle and to take up the sword. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense! Let’s take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, the bible. Let’s equip ourselves for battle by daily meditating on God’s Word. It’s the weapon Jesus used when he did battle with the enemy of our souls in the wilderness (see Luke 4:1-13). May we be prepared to do the same.

March 2007

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

One cold night in February, my son, Jonathan, and I were flooding the ice on our pond. I remembered when I was Jonathan’s age, flooding the ice on the pond next door. Back then, we had to run the garden hose way over from our house, and it was quite a production; we had to piece together enough hose, climb the fence, and sometimes the left-over water in the hose would freeze before we were ready to start. But now, all Jonathan and I had to do was hook up the hose to the pipe that fills our pond. I turned to Jonathan as we watched our ice begin to shine in the moonlight, and said, “You know, we don’t know how good we’ve got it.”

When the well driller went to work three and a half years ago, we never imagined we’d hit so much water that we’d have three gallons per minute overflow from our artesian well. He knew just where to drill the well. My brother suggested we put in a trout pond and it only took an extra day of work by our excavator to put in the pond after cleaning up the rocks, stumps, and brambles behind our house. Sometimes we forget how good we’ve got it. We’re blessed by God with a pond to raise trout in, to cool off in in the summer, and to skate on in the winter. We’ve even got an easy way to flood the ice. All because of an overflowing well.

When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well (John chapter 4), he asked her for a drink. She was surprised that a Jewish man would deign to speak to a Samaritan woman. His reply is astounding: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Jesus goes on to say, “whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” A spring of water welling up, like an overflowing well. It becomes clear from John’s gospel that the water Jesus promises is the Holy Spirit, welling up within those who trust in Jesus; the Spirit who gives life and blesses us beyond what we can imagine.

Sometimes I think we forget how good we’ve got it. For anyone who commits themselves to following Jesus, God drills a well deep in the heart, and the Spirit wells up to overflowing. If you thirst for this living water, but haven’t yet experienced it, turn to Jesus, and ask him to come drill a well in your heart. Be patient and persistent; Jesus is a good well driller – he knows just when and where to drill.

Let’s not forget how good we’ve got it. Let’s thank God for his many blessings upon us, but most of all, let’s thank him for his Son, Jesus, the well driller, and for the Holy Spirit, who is the source of the spring that overflows from within.

Overflowing with the Spirit,

      Pastor Tim

Pointing Us To The Word

“Among the lampstands was someone ‘like a son of man,’ dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.” Thus is the description of our Lord Jesus as he appeared to the apostle John, and is recorded in chapter 1 of the book of Revelation. The book of Revelation is not easy to understand – it speaks of things which are to come and is rich in symbolic language.

Whenever we look at God’s word and try to understand its meaning, it’s good to see if there’s a connection to another part of God’s word, especially those parts that come earlier. So, for example, if you’re reading a passage in the New Testament, it’s good to ask whether the author has made a direct connection to an Old Testament passage. These connections are sometimes direct quotations (we see the Psalms and Isaiah quoted directly quite often in the New Testament); other times, the author just alludes to another passage. For example, when John begins his gospel, “In the beginning…” it’s easy to recognize that he’s alluding to the beginning of the book of Genesis, which also reads, “In the beginning…”

So what about the passage from Revelation? Does it allude to anything in the Old Testament? If so, what does that teach us? If you look in the margin of your bible, you may see a note to look at Daniel chapter 7, verse 13, or possibly verse 9. In verse 13, there’s a reference to one “like a son of man.” In that Old Testament passage, the one like a son of man approaches the Ancient of Days, who is God and sits on the throne in verse 9. The one “like a son of man” is “given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (verse 14) Does that sound familiar? It’s what Jesus says in the gospels about himself.

But as we look at this passage from Daniel a little closer, it gets more interesting. In verse 9, Daniel describes the “Ancient of Days” who is seated on the throne and he writes that “the hair of his head was white like wool.” That’s the same language used to describe Jesus in our Revelation passage. What does this mean? That Jesus, the Son of Man who is given all authority, is the Ancient of Days. At the end of Revelation (Rev. 22:1,3), we see this connection confirmed. The throne there is “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” No-one sits on God’s throne but God; what we learn from looking at these connections is that Jesus is God, and always has been the Ancient of Days.

July 2006                   March 2006
November 2006

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

We got goats this summer and our children have been busy doing the milking morning and evening, drinking goat’s milk, and making goat cheese. Goats are curious animals that seem to love to investigate anything you put within their reach. When they first arrived, my friend Shavki, a Turkish refugee from Russia, came to see them. He told me that, where he’s from, goats had the reputation of being clever animals, while sheep were regarded as pretty stupid. I was inclined to agree with this assessment, especially since we happened to be the proud new owners of two goats. But now that we’ve had them a while, I wonder. Sometimes they seem pretty thick, themselves.

I’ve read that in our culture, sheep owe their reputation of being stupid, at least in part, to cowboys, who were used to herding cattle. Cattle are fundamentally different from sheep. Cattle must be driven from behind, but sheep need to be led. When cowboys came upon a herd of sheep, they’d try to drive them like cattle; whereupon the sheep would scatter and try to fall in behind the cowboys. The result was chaos. Since they didn’t know how to handle sheep, the cowboys simply assumed the sheep were stupid animals. In fact, sheep just need to be led, not driven.

Sheep recognize their shepherd’s voice. If sheep are led by a good shepherd, they can share a watering hole with other herds; when it’s time to go, the shepherd calls and leads his sheep. Though they are mixed together with other herds, the sheep don’t need to be sorted – they will follow the voice and leadership of their shepherd. They sort themselves by listening to and following their shepherd.

Jesus said that he is the Good Shepherd, and that his sheep know his voice. I don’t really know much about the relative intelligence of sheep and goats and cows. But I do know that in the bible, God likens his people to sheep. We’re called to listen to the Good Shepherd and follow him. Do you recognize the Good Shepherd’s voice when he calls? Are you following him? Or are you more like the lost sheep, who needs to come into the fold? The bible teaches that we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each to his own way, and need to come into the fold.

Thanks be to God, the bible also teaches that Jesus, who is God the Son, is the Good Shepherd, and he is seeking his wayward sheep. May we listen for his voice and follow him this day.

Following the Shepherd,

            Pastor Tim

Pointing Us To The Word

The next time you read through the gospel of John, take note of where Jesus makes “I AM” statements. Maybe you’ve notice them before. There are lots of them. For example, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” He said, “I am the good shepherd.” He also said, “I am the light of the world,” “I am the resurrection and the life,” and “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” There are other “I AM” statements, but the one that almost got him killed before his time comes in John chapter 8. Jesus was having a debate with some of the Jews, and he said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” They replied that Jesus must be out of his mind because Abraham lived a long time ago. Then Jesus pulled out the big gun: he said, “Before Abraham was, I AM!” John tells us that immediately the Jews picked up stones to kill him, but Jesus slipped away.

Why were the Jews ready to kill Jesus for such a statement? Very simply, because by saying what he said, the Jews realized that Jesus, who they thought was a mere man, was claiming to be God. That’s blasphemy, and God’s penalty at the time was death by stoning.

Why did the Jews think Jesus was claiming to be God? Because the words Jesus chose were the exact words used by God in the Old Testament to reveal himself to Moses. When Moses asked God who he should say sent him, God replied, “I AM that I AM… tell the people that I AM has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14) Jesus used these exact same words to speak about himself. It was ok for him to say “I AM the true vine,” but to say, “Before Abraham was, I AM!” was going overboard. Here it was clear to the Jews that Jesus was saying, “I’m the LORD.”

In fact, if we look at just about every place Jesus deliberately says “I AM,” we see that these are things no mere man could claim, unless he was God. And this is one of the main points John wants us to get in his gospel – that Jesus was not merely a man, but that he was the great “I AM.” And so John introduces his gospel with these words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:1,14) May we worship Jesus, the great “I AM”, the Word become flesh.

July 2006

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

I can’t say I feel any different since you ordained me a week ago Sunday afternoon. There’s been no significant change in my ability or power to do the work our Lord has prepared for me to do. At least none that I can tell. To tell you the truth, even though your ordaining me is the culmination of a journey I began back in 1997 when I entered seminary, I didn’t really expect anything spectacular, like a change in my voice or radiance streaming from my face.

Sometimes we pine after more spectacular evidences of God at work, but most of what God does in our world He does by quite ordinary means. Like a local congregation of the people of God formally recognizing and setting apart for ministry their pastor. I must say that while I may not have been endowed with any spectacular signs or powers because of your ordaining me, the service itself was indeed spectacular. I saw no fire from heaven, but the Spirit of God was clearly in attendance. From the powerful words that were spoken, to the thrilling sound of the singing, to the solemn vows we took, to the mighty prayer and laying on of hands… God’s Spirit was present and we who were there got to witness it.

Perhaps that’s one of the most important effects of the ordination – we got to witness and experience the power of God in our midst. And that always changes things, for all who take part.

There was one other thing I came away with, from the ordination. There have been few times I have felt more loved and honored. I want to thank you all, each and every one, for your part in making it a special day for me and for our church.

God delights in using ordinary means to accomplish his purposes. If we can continue to grow in our love for one another and if we can call upon the Lord to be present in our midst, that we may see and experience His glory, we will be well on our way to advancing the kingdom of God in our corner of the world. May our gracious Lord and Savior enable us to do these things.

In service to Jesus,

            Pastor Tim

Pointing Us To The Word

Recently I challenged the congregation to memorize the Sermon on the Mount, which are chapters five through seven of the gospel of Matthew. Memorization is one way to internalize God’s word, so that we may be reminded of it, live by it, and allow it to guide and protect our hearts. The Holy Spirit delights in using God’s word to guide and direct us. When we’ve hidden God’s word in our hearts, we give the Holy Spirit a tool for speaking clearly to us, by bringing to our minds a particular verse when we face a crisis, a decision, or a confrontation.

In addition to the personal benefits of memorizing portions of God’s word, we can bless one another by being able to speak God’s word to each other. That’s because the Holy Spirit not only delights in using God’s word to guide us, but also delights in using brothers and sisters in Christ to guide us. When we put the two together – God’s word and the family of God – we’re just asking for God to be at work in our midst!

The Sermon the Mount is like the Reader’s Digest version of the bible. It’s a condensed version of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, delivered in the form of a sermon that’s only 107 verses long. No doubt Matthew’s record of this sermon is itself a summary, but it is the inspired Word of God and will serve as a guide for how to live a life as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Here are some helpful tips for memorizing God’s Word:

  1. Memorize it in chunks of 4-6 verses at a time. If you take three days to memorize each 4-6 verse chunk in the Sermon on the Mount, you’ll have it memorized by the end of the summer!
  2. Speak the verses out loud – when we hear the words in our ears, we remember them better.
  3. Link the memorization of chunks by memorizing the last verse of the previous chunk together with the current chunk. That way, you don’t have to work to remember the order of the chunks.
  4. At least a couple times a week, rehearse what you’ve memorized so far. Reciting what you’re memorizing lays it firmly in your memory.
  5. Ask someone to memorize it with you and recite what you’ve memorized to each other once or twice a week. This helps you check your accuracy, but more importantly, it gives you motivation to keep on a schedule.
  6. Once you’ve memorized it, practice reciting it from time to time – once a week in the beginning, but later on, once a month should do. Our memory is like a muscle – it gets stronger when we exercise it.

      There are small booklets of the Sermon on the Mount at the church where I have broken the sermon up into 4-6 verse chunks. During worship services each week this summer, we’ll be reciting the next week’s chunks for memorization. Please don’t feel like you must begin memorizing at the beginning of the sermon – you can begin where the rest of the church is, and memorize the earlier parts later. May our Lord bless our efforts at internalizing His Word.

 March 2006

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

We had to go north to find winter this year. My family and I are snow lovers, so this winter has been a bit of a disappointment. It seems we’ve had nothing but the false promise of Spring – several times this winter has looked an awful lot like mud season. Toward the end of February, we’d had enough. My wife Bobbie looked at me and said, “Let’s drive north and find some snow!” So we checked the forecast, tossed our X-C skis in the car, and drove to Averill, where my family has a deer camp.

Happily, we found snow and for the first time this winter I strapped on my X-C skis. Our camp has no electricity or plumbing and it’s ordinarily about a three mile walk – or ski – down a logging road to reach it. But during the winter, Canaan Hill Road – the dirt road that leads to the logging road – becomes part of the VAST trail system, so our three miles turned into six. We had a wonderful time getting there, but didn’t arrive at the camp until after dark. The stars were out and it was cold – it was winter!

We lit the Coleman lantern, started a fire in the wood cook stove, and used the iron bar to break through the ice covering the stream to get water. At first, the crack and pop of the fire in the stove gave only the promise of warmth. It takes time for a wood stove to chase the cold out of an un-insulated camp. But after a bit, because we faithfully fed the fire with good fuel, the camp warmed and chased the cold out of our own bones.

Our lives are a little like our camp. Without a fire burning within our hearts, the cold and darkness closes in around us. God supplies the fire: when we commit ourselves to following Jesus Christ, God gives us His Holy Spirit, which He likens to a fire. God also supplies the fuel, which is the Word of God. Our part is to feed our hearts the fuel to keep the fire burning.

Some winters are colder than others, but every winter is a reminder that this world we live in can be a cold place. Sometimes it feels like it takes a bit to chase out the cold, but the warmth will surely come if we will faithfully keep feeding the fire of our hearts. As we look forward to the coming of true Spring, may we faithfully tend the fire in our hearts, by feeding on the Word of God. By so doing, we’re sure to chase the cold out of our bones, and be more alive to God.

In service to Jesus, the only One who can chase the cold out of our lives,

      Pastor Tim

Pointing Us To The Word

The following is an excerpt from the daily devotional guide, “Our Daily Bread,” which I read and our deacons make available to our church. I thought this devotion – from December 28, 2005 – was perfect for this edition of “Pointing Us to the Word.” It was written by one of my preaching professors, Haddon Robinson. I hope you enjoy! Today’s Verses: Proverbs 2:1-9

“Profitable Bible study involves more than just opening to a chapter and reading what's there. Here are seven guidelines to help you make the most of your study of the Bible.

  1. Set aside a regular time. Unless you schedule it, you'll neglect it.
  2. Before you start reading, ask God for help and understanding.
  3. Carefully think about what you are reading. Not all of the Bible's treasures lie like pebbles on the surface. To mine the gold, you have to dig.
  4. Seek to understand what the author was saying to the first people who read the book or letter before you decide how to apply it today.
  5. Write down at least one truth or principle you can put into practice.
  6. Try different translations of the Bible. If you find yourself skimming over familiar words, a new translation may focus your mind on the passage in a new way.
  7. Don't get discouraged. Some parts of the Bible are more interesting than others, and some you may not under­stand at all. But there's enough that you can understand, and it will revolutionize your life if you apply it.

Now read today's verses again with these principles in mind. Then try it again tomorrow. You will begin to discov­er the treasures in the Bible.”

Haddon Robinson, Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries, Copyright December 28, 2005, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission.

July 2005 Issue                          February 2005
 November 2005

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

Our glorious summer is past and winter seems to be knocking on our door quite loudly. Looking out my office window, I can see the damage ten inches of early wet snow can do to a tree when it comes in late October. Since the tree still held on to many of its leaves, the frame of the tree could not bear the weight of the snow. The trunk broke up high, and the top of the tree hangs down. The weight of the snow was a crisis for lots of trees here in Barre; some lost enormous branches, some simply broke, others were uprooted. Their frame could not bear the weight of what was laid on them.

Just before the snow came, we visited some friends who are still rejoicing over the birth of their son, Lukas Alexander Otterman. Babies are always a wonder to me – and Lukas was no different. I marveled at his tiny hands and miniature fingernails. At three weeks, Lukas mostly slept and ate, as infants do, and proved himself to be utterly dependent on his parents. Unlike a newborn foal, which is up and running next to its mother within hours of being born, human beings are completely dependent on their parents for years.

With the early snow and baby Lukas, I suppose it’s no surprise that my mind turned to Christmas, that time of year when we rejoice over the birth of our Savior. This is where my wonder at babies takes a quantum leap. How is it that the One who set the stars in place could come and dwell in a body with tiny hands and miniature fingernails? How is it that the One upon whom all life depends, could become so utterly dependent upon his parents, Joseph and Mary? And how was it possible for a human frame to bear the weight of the One upon whom the foundations of the world rests, and not collapse like the snow-laden tree out my window?

Wonder of wonders, the Word of God declares that the frame held – “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The weight and glory of God did not crush Jesus’ human frame. Jesus’ human frame was not in crisis when the glory and weight of God filled it.

Rather, it takes a different kind of crisis to crush the human frame. That crisis is the crisis of our sin, which Jesus bore on the tree that is the cross. Jesus willingly took the weight of our sin upon his human frame, and no human frame can bear that weight. Our God did for us what He knew we could never do ourselves.

And further wonder of wonders, because it was not his own sin that Jesus died for, God raised Jesus from the dead and gave him a new frame – a resurrection body that can never be crushed. When we put our trust in Jesus, God promises to come and inhabit a human frame again – our frame. And because Jesus has weathered the storm for us, the weight of our sin no longer need crush us; neither will the weight and glory of God crush our frame when He comes to dwell in us.

May the wonder of God fill us as we consider this God who comes and bears our sin for us, that He may fill our frames with His Spirit.

In Service to Jesus, the One who is the Glory of God,

      Pastor Tim


Pointing Us to the Word

“When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them…” So Matthew introduces us to the Sermon on the Mount in chapter 5 of his gospel. Just as Moses delivered God’s law from a mountain, so Jesus delivered the law for his followers on a mountain.

Jesus did not give us a new law; he simply ratcheted up the existing law by giving his authoritative take on it. Jesus interpreted God’s law as God intended it to be. For example, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” In other words, the heart attitude is what matters. Again and again, Jesus makes clear that the law was meant to show us our hearts. God looks at the heart, and wants us to look at our hearts, and measure them against God’s law.

I was reading Psalm 119 the other day. Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in the bible and it’s subject is the glory and goodness of God’s law. Over and over, the Psalm reminds us that God’s law is not a spoiler, but is meant for our good. But as I read the first part of the Psalm this day, I was struck by the plea in verse 5: “Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!” Right at the start, the Psalmist confesses that, though he sees God’s law is good, he is not able to keep it. The law pointed at his heart; the Psalmist saw his heart and his need, and cried out to God. The law shows us our heart and shows us we fall short of God’s standard.

This is just what we find Paul teaching in Galatians 3. There Paul gives us the purpose of the law: “the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ.” (vs 24). The purpose of the law is not to save us, but to lead us to Christ. The law cannot save us; it can only show us our need. None of us can keep the law perfectly… certainly not if the command “Do not murder” really means “Do not be angry with your brother.” We cannot keep the law so it cannot save us. Only God can save us. The law is good, but it’s purpose is to show us our need and point us to the Savior.

The good news of the gospel is that God has not left us with the law alone; he has left us with the One the law points us to, who is Jesus the One who is able to save. As you read God’s law – the commandments we find in the bible – remember the point of the law. It’s purpose is to show us our need, our inability to live up to God’s standards, and thereby lead us to Christ. May it be effective in it’s purpose in our lives!

July 2005

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

When I graduated from seminary, my parents gave me funds earmarked to fulfill a long held desire of mine: I was to get a canoe. I have fond memories from my younger days of hurtling down the Winooski River in my brother’s canoe, paddling quietly up “The Creek” in Underhill, or going on a four-day canoe trip into the wilderness of Alaska with my wife, Bobbie, when she worked for the National Park Service on the Kenai Peninsula.

I think what I like most about canoing is this: with a canoe, you can travel into remote places and you can do it almost silently, so you can hear and see the world around you. Once on that trip in Alaska, we had a moose and her calf swim right across the lake in front of us; later, we watched a black bear feed on the bank, unawares; still later, we drew near to a bald eagle sitting on her nest.

Those are not the kinds of things you think of when you think of Boston, which is where we lived when I finished seminary. There’s not much place for a canoe in Boston. So instead of getting the canoe right away, we waited until we knew where God was calling us to serve.

Now here we are. We’ve been here two years, and while I haven’t forgotten my parents’ gift, life has been full with the church, my part-time work at the software company, and finishing getting moved into our house. I’ve had no time to research getting the canoe. I hadn’t forgotten about my parent’s gift or my long held desire. And apparently, God hadn’t forgotten either. God provided me with one of you, who had a canoe, and was wanting to sell it. It’s a perfect fit, at just the right time. Isn’t that just like God?

God delights to give us our heart’s desire, when it’s good; and He does it all in good time. We took the canoe out near the mouth of the Lamoille River a few weeks ago, quietly paddling along, listening to the sounds around us. God is good.

For me, canoing is a little picture of something God calls us to. It’s a reminder that God invites us daily to quietly slip away from the busyness of life in order to better listen to Him. Taking time on a regular basis to get away from the crush of life, and paddle around in God’s word, listening to what He wants to speak to us, is like going on a mini-canoe trip. May we each find a way to paddle around in God’s word this summer, and listen to what God says.

In Service to Jesus, the One we listen to,

      Pastor Tim

Pointing Us to the Word

In our Thursday evening bible study we’ve been looking at the New Testament letter from James. On the one hand, James can be hard to read because he doesn’t mince words; on the other hand, I don’t think anyone except Jesus uses more analogies from the world around us.

In twelve short verses last week, James managed to use more than six different illustrations. In our passage (James 3:1-12), James warns us of the power of our tongues – our words. He writes about the disproportionate power of the tongue, saying it is like the rudder of a ship or a small bit that directs the course of a horse. In his warning, James focuses on the destructive power of our tongues – “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” He goes on to say, “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue.”

If no man can tame the tongue, what are we to do? The conclusion we drew, since no-one can tame his own tongue, is that we must need God’s help to control our tongues, to govern our words.

Thinking about why God would design us with such power in our tongues, in what we say, led us to reflect that God may have done this in order to show us that the power of our words is just a reflection of the power of God’s word.

     When we listen to and follow God’s word, and allow it to control and direct our ways, we’ll find it not only has power, but is also for our good.

February 2005

Dear Members and Friends of the East Barre Congregational Church,

“Whose woods these are I think I know…” If I were to say that to you while we were traveling together through snowy woods, and had stopped to enjoy the peace, you' d probably know I was quoting Robert Frost. And you' d know that my point is not “Hey, I think I know whose woods these are.” You' d know that my point is rather the point of the poem: “the woods are lovely, dark, and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”My point would be the point of the poem, not the first line of it.

We're in the season of Lent, leading up to Easter. Before we get to Easter Sunday, we have to go through Good Friday, when we hear Jesus utter his cry of dereliction from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus is quoting the first line of Psalm 22. His point is not the question: “Why have you forsaken me?” His point is the point of the Psalm. Psalm 22 goes on to say: “I cry out… yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of God' s people…” The Psalmist then asks God for delivery – which, indeed, Jesus experiences in the resurrection from the dead –and then the Psalm crescendos into an exclamation of praise to God and an expression of absolute trust in God. That' s Jesus' point when he cries out from the cross. “Though I suffer, I put my trust in God.”

May we follow in his footsteps this day, putting our trust in the One who showed us how to trust in our trustworthy heavenly Father.

In Service to Jesus, the One we trust,

      Pastor Tim

Pointing Us to the Word

The gospel of Jesus Christ brings tremendous freedom and great joy. I don' t know if I' d ever seen Dennis Roberts get as happy as he was last Spring when I preached from Luke chapter 6. Luke 6 is where Jesus and his disciples were walking through the grain fields one Sabbath day and the disciples were picking some grain and eating it. The Pharisees wanted to know why Jesus let his disciples break the law about keeping the Sabbath. After all, it' s a pretty basic command – it' s the fourth of the Ten Commandments. They wanted to know, why' d he let them do work on the Sabbath, a day of rest?

Jesus' short answer was that he is Lord of the Sabbath – he had special privilege because of who he is, the Son of Man – the ultimate authority (see Daniel 7:13-14). The longer explanation the New Testament gives is that Jesus is what the Sabbath rest was pointing to; Jesus has fulfilled the Sabbath so we are free from the law. When God rescued Israel out of slavery in Egypt, he gave them commands to follow. One of his first was a royal declaration that everyone got to rest every seventh day. Can you imagine what good news that must have been for slaves who were used to working seven days a week? God wanted them to be able to rest, so he gave them a law to follow. But the law also pointed to God' s greater rest we would have in Jesus.

Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus is our true rest. When we come to him, we enter God' s rest. And we' re free. And, as Jesus says, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!” (John 8:36)  We' re free from the condemnation of the moral law (Jesus paid for that on the cross) and we' re free from that portion of God' s law that Jesus fulfilled –that includes keeping the Sabbath!

Maybe you can see why Dennis was so happy last Spring: fishing season was approaching and God' s word gave him freedom to occasionally skip Sunday morning services. So long as he doesn' t make it a habit (Hebrews 10:25), he' s free! If our rest is in Jesus, then God' s word says that we are free indeed.

Sunday Mornings' Ask Anything! Several of you have mentioned that you' ve enjoyed our “Ask Anything” Sunday Morning services. These are services where, instead of a regular sermon, Pastor Tim addresses questions about life, faith, and the bible that some of you have asked and put in the “Ask Anything” box at the back of the church. We plan to have our next “Ask Anything”Sunday on May 1st, so get your questions in the box!

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