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A note from Pastor Unke

Christians, Pay Attention.

 
 

We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.     2 Peter 1:19-21
 
Picture a man buckling under the weight of a cross, the Roman device of torture and death.  As he marches toward the place of execution, people who love him weep and wonder why he had ever let it get to this.  The scene looks familiar to Christians.  It was just about 30 years earlier that the Savior Jesus had taken a similar walk toward his death.  That’s what started all this.  Jesus died on that hill outside Jerusalem, but he was only dead for three days.  Christianity stands firmly on the truth that Christ’s tomb could not hold him—and he rose.  But this man who carries this cross is is far from Jerusalem—almost 1500 miles—in the capitol of the Roman Empire. 

Is this really worth dying for, Peter?  It’s been more than 30 years since Jesus left this earth!  Maybe he’s not coming back.  Can it really be true that simply believing in that Galilean Rabbi means you’ll live forever in the presence of God, even though you face death here?

Simon Peter reaches the place of execution and makes a simple request.  Put the cross in the ground upside down.  In deep humility, Peter concludes that he is not worthy to die the way Jesus died.  The Romans like the idea.  The great pillar of the early Church dies with his head dangling beneath his feet, and his heart firmly planted on the completely reliable promise of God’s Gospel.

Frankly, the picture of Peter’s execution moves me to shame.  Peter—and thousands of other martyrs of the Christian faith—made severe sacrifices for the privilege of growing in and sharing the Gospel joy of Jesus.  Some lost their homes—some lost their lives.  And what have we “forfeited” for the cause of the Gospel?  A sunny Sunday stroll?  A kid’s track meet?  A morning at the cottage?  Kickoff? (Sad to say, many times we opt out of the opportunity to gather around the Gospel, unwilling to make such a “sacrifice.”)  Seldom are we even inconvenienced because of our faith in Jesus! 

So what’s the point?  Are we supposed to try to be persecuted so that we can be more like Peter and make some great sacrifice for the Gospel?  No—thankfully we live in a place without persecution like that.  But that’s where shame comes in!  It seems to me that we take for granted the freedom to gather in worship and to share the message of Jesus so much that we think that other things are more important!  Christians in the Roman empire under Emperor Nero met secretly in the Roman underground cemetery just to be together around the name of Jesus!  Can you imagine what they’d do if they could meet in a 30,000 square foot, air-conditioned house of worship on the main road through town?  What do you think the Apostle Peter would say to us about shunning worship and Bible Study in favor of picnic or a shopping fling or SportsCenter?

“You would do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place…”  and by “pay attention to it” he means devote yourself to it; explore it; inwardly digest it.  Why?  Because the Bible is not just a great literary work from legendary authors—it is directly from the heart and mouth of God.  Disagree with it—and you’re at odds with your Creator.  Question it—and your challenging the Omniscient One’s wisdom.  Ignore it—and you’ll walk blindly into darkness.  BUT… sit down around it with other Christians—and you’re tapping into the mind of the Lord!  Explore it—and you’ll grow to understand the deepest mysteries that have troubled darkened sinners since time began!  Grow in it by the Holy Spirit’s power—and you’ll be strengthened to take on any enemy; even death and the devil himself! 

So let me ask you: How could we EVER take that for granted?  Clearly, this calls for repentance.  The Third Commandment is one tenth of the summarized law that we have broken time and time again.  But God’s amazing, living Word grants us insight into the forgiving Grace of the Lord.  As we gather around the Word, we hear his proclamation of forgiveness through his Son.  And we have peace.

So let me ask you: Is that worth sacrificing for?  Peter and other martyred Christians considered the Gospel more worth it than life itself, because this life ends…but the love of Jesus lasts through life and into eternity!  So yes, it’s worth everything to us.

So let me ask you: Are you, in true repentance and peace, willing to dedicate yourself again to growing in the Word and putting God’s ways first?
I ask you this question one last time, simply because my time of guiding and encouraging you and your family as your pastor has come to an end.  Our congregation has been so blessed by God, primarily because so many have committed themselves to worship and Bible class attendance—and the Holy Spirit has delivered on his promise to help us grow to strong, mature faith!  If you come regularly to worship and Bible Study, you already know how powerful the Holy Spirit is in the Word to prepare you for life’s trials.  You already know how precious is the book divine!  On the other hand, if you are someone who has declined the invitation to WORSHIP AND BIBLE STUDY, I humbly as you to reconsider.  Accept this invitation as if it is from Jesus himself!  You will do well to “pay attention to” the Word of God—and grow in your understanding and faith.

My dear Christian family at St. Paul’s—it will not be an easy thing for me to leave this place…and all of  you.  I have lived with you, grown with you, worshiped with you, and shared the love of Jesus with you for more than ten years now.  I’m convinced that the Lord is leading me and my family to serve in Las Vegas, and I’m also convinced that his powerful Word will remain at the center of all that you do at St. Paul’s in the future.  There is only one thing that is truly needed.  And you have it.  Cherish it.  Celebrate it.  Share it.  And never—NEVER—take it for granted. 

Oh—and if you are ever challenged to make a sacrifice to hold on to it, do it.  It’s worth everything!
 
With heartfelt thanks for the privilege of serving at St. Paul’s for all these years
          and heartfelt love in Christ Jesus,
                  -Pastor Unke
  
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