Pastor's Corner
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?”                                                                                                                                                                                               -Matthew 16:24-26

     It seems like only yesterday.  Three years ago, I was having lunch with someone who was disenchanted.  He had left the church for a long period, and when he returned, it was to another house of worship.

     “Why?” I asked, thinking it might’ve been something I said.  It wasn’t.  He was tired and getting up there in age and all he wanted, he said, was a church that “fulfilled” him; a church where he felt warm and safe; a place to escape.

     I get his point, I really do.  We work hard during the week.  We encounter problems every now and then with family and friends.  And church might be a great place to seek an escape.


     Sometimes it is.  No, let me correct that.  Always… it is.  Just not in the way we, or our culture, generally demand it; a give-us-what-we-want escape.

     The true Christian church is an escape in that we leave the world with all its pleasures, temptations and lies to step into the world of the Lord; a world of truth and rejuvenation in that which eternally matters- union with Christ and one another.

     That is a great relief… and escape… for most of us.  Knowing that we are worshipping something much bigger than ourselves.  Knowing that it is not all about us, our needs and demands.  Knowing that the One who can “fix” everything can “fix” us… in His own way and His own time.

      But we have to turn it over to him.  We have to commit to follow him, and do so on a daily basis.

     Jesus never, ever promised this would be an easy escape from the supposed rigors of everyday life.  Instead, he promised that it would be the most challenging thing we ever attempted.  It would require that we:
Deny ourselves:  No longer do we come first.  Jesus is first and others are second and we are third.  This is the single-most difficult thing we can do.  It is to deny the internal instinct to take care of ourselves first.

Pick up our cross:  Address the burdens that face us in our walk with Jesus.  Help others with their burdens.  Lay aside desired pleasures to learn about Christ, talk about Christ and worship Christ.  Live not to ourselves but to God’s attempts to mold us into righteousness.

Lose our lives to save them:  Give up on the notion that we can achieve righteousness, or purity, or anything eternal by our own efforts.  Put ourselves into God’s hands- completely -and accept whatever He has in store for us… hoping and trusting that salvation is on deck.

Turn our backs on the world’s view of success:  We can make millions, win each argument, drive new Tahoe’s, or F250’s, or Jaguar’s or whatever; we can win the admiration of every person on the street… and yet still be dead.  “Gain,” in its best sense, is life in Christ.

     The world is full of so-called Christians who want to sit back in a building and get one hour of “fulfillment” every Sunday.  What’s more, there are thousands of “preachers” who will give it to them.

     Need some of that? Here are some sermons being preached in our region on Sundays:

“Got the Groans?”
“Capitalism is Killing Creation”
“Your Victories are Coming”
“A Fresh New Attitude”
“My Journey to a Genderqueer God”
“The Power of I Am”
“In Defense of Making Your Own Religion”
     So, where is Jesus in all that gobbledygook?  Where is God? Where is a hint of Scripture; you know, that book that we vowed to honor as the inspired word of God? 
     Why not just watch Oprah or Dr. Phil and save the gas money?  Like I said, there are a multitude of places to get fluffy fulfillment messages each Sunday.
     That’s just not the way of Christ.  He called us out.  He challenged us to grow, to bear the pain as he chiseled away at our sinful nature… engrafting us into Him that we might grow towards true joy; the joy of righteousness in Him!
     That is why I love our beautiful little church here at the end of the lane.  It is not a place for wimps, or those seeking an easy way out.  It is not a place for those who want a rubber stamp for their society-approved view of religion.
     No.  This is a church where we pick up our cross, again and again, every week; doing the work Christ calls us to do.  Offering up our hearts in sacrifice to the One who can change those hearts.
     Learning, little by little, what true sacrificial love is.  Standing up to the forces of evil; forces which threaten our nation in ways so many cannot, or will not, understand.

     Know what?  Sometimes I’m tired, and goodness knows I’m getting up there in age, but you think for a minute that I want church that “fulfills” me and my needs; a church where the emphasis is on feeling good and warm and safe?
      NO.  Heck no!  Give me Franklin Presbyterian Church any day of the week. 
     So, let’s keep at it.  Let’s get to church, to Bible Study, to Meals on Wheels, Circle meeting, Sunday school, youth group, fellowship meetings, concerts, Men’s breakfasts, Fridays on the porch, etc. etc.
     Let’s stay challenged.  Jesus wants it that way… and we can still lift big crosses… together!
                                                                                                                                           Yours in Christ,                                                                                                                                                                                               Pastor John