The last enemy

We fight many battles in our life and so can make or have many enemies, including our enemy the devil, who goes around like a roaring lion seeking to devour us. Our nation is divided over many important issues and people are going to battle verbally and physically. We often demonize those who oppose us and use every weapon we have to defeat them. We feel strongly and so we fight hard. Many battles must be fought, but there is one enemy we are certain to face and it is imperative that we be prepared to face it.

I was reminded of that battle yesterday as a twenty year old friend of my grandsons faced that enemy.  I have watched Ian do battle on a high-school wrestling mat and cheered for him on many occasions, but this time I took his side by joining with others to pray for him as he fought for his life in a hospital bed with his family at his side. He lost that battle with death yesterday evening – or did he? This battle was different than the times he faced an opponent one to one on a wrestling mat. This time he had someone by his side fighting alongside him, and there is more to the battle than what could be seen in that hospital room.

Jesus Christ came to this earth to do battle on our behalf. He dealt with sickness, with injustice, with bigotry, with poverty, but we think most about that battle he fought on a hill outside of Jerusalem called Calvary.  There he faced that enemy we will all face – death itself. It would appear that he too, lost that battle because he died on a cross in that place. His battle over, and his defeat seeming sure, the crowd that had gathered left except for a few who stayed to put him in a tomb. Just one more man who died and was buried.

Of course, as you well know, the story did not end there. Following his death on Friday Jesus rose from the grave on Sunday. He defeated death! He did so we are told not just for himself but for all who put their faith and trust in him. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul talks about Christ’s resurrection and tells us that those who are “In Christ” have life – eternal life!

Even Jesus battles his and our enemies. He will continue to do so until he defeats each one of them and we are told; “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor. 15:25-26 ESV) Death is real and each of us have an appointment to do battle, ” But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:57 ESV)

The question for each of us is simple: are we prepared fo the battle we will inevitably be called to fight? Some at a young age, more of us at an old age, but all of us for sure will battle death. We have a choice. We can fight in our own strength and be defeated or we can rely on our Lord Jesus and have victory. he fights for those who are his. Are you?

In Christ,

Pastor Nord

What I needed to hear

I love the Bible – the Word of God! As I turn to it day by day I always find what my soul needs. It truly addresses all of human need. It is a source of wisdom that can be trusted and it is always profitable. I was reminded of that today as I turned to the little book of James. James is that book we turn to when we just need some practical instruction on living well. It is where we go to learn and relearn how to live in relationship with God and other people.

The verse that popped into my head just when I needed it this morning was; ” Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; (James 1:19 ESV).” I had spent a few minutes on social media and as I observed others talking past each other – brothers and sisters in Christ divided and angry, and I was heartbroken. I wanted to shout this verse to them, but realized that I was the one in need of its instruction.

I so need to develop my listening skills. All too often, instead of focusing on what someone else is saying I am formulating my response as they speak. I don’t try to understand what they are saying because I assume I already know their thoughts. If they use some overused or trite slogan (the kind that tweets well), I almost immediately load it full of baggage that they may not have meant at all. Of course, that tendency comes from a prideful heart that feels he has little to learn.

I need to listen to other people, but the heart of that verse and passage is not just that. The context is clear that most of all I need to listen to the Word of God. Verse 21 commands us to “receive with meekness the implanted word,” and verse 22 elaborates that we must be “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” While I need to hear what other people are saying, most of all I need to hear what God is saying and act upon His word! This isn’t just an instruction in being a better conversationalist – it is command to listen to my creator.

The second instruction is that we must be “slow to speak.” It is not a command to be silent, but rather to speak only after listening and considering what we have heard. We are often too quick to give our opinion or advise. Verse 26 puts it very directly when it says: ” If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” Just as a horse needs to be bridled, my words must be kept under control. Later, in chapter three James warns that not too many should become teachers because we are judged with “greater strictness.” For those of us who speak as a major part of our calling/occupation there is a higher risk of talking too quickly and that is matched with a higher accountability which we must always be aware of.

The third instruction is that we must be “slow to anger.” There is such a thing as righteous anger and we are not told to never be angry – we are to be slow to anger. I must never confuse my anger with God’s. I must also be aware that my angry response will  not change my or another person’s heart. Those who know me well know that I am capable of responding harshly to those whom I differ with strongly. I often need that reminder of verse 20; ” for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

Well, those are the words from God that I needed to hear this day. Perhaps you needed them also. If not, you will find what you need this day in the Bible. Be sure to spend some time there.

In Christ,

Pastor Nord

My Name

I have an unusual name. When I introduce myself to someone I often say “I’m the only Nord you ever met, and maybe the only Zootman.” The Zootman family is small and I have truly never run across another person named Nord. It has its advantages – I never have to ask which Nord people are talking to, and it is easily remembered. That raises an interesting question though: why do I care if people remember my name? The answer of course is that it feeds my pride. We like it when people know who we are. It makes us feel important that our name is recognized by others.

There is something good about having a “good name,” that is, a good reputation. Ecclesiastes 7:1 says; “A good name is better than precious ointment.”  Because we recognize that truth we often in subtle or not so subtle ways promote our name. We like to have others note our good works, and when others get credit for something positive we have done we are less than happy. That happened to me just the other day when someone was given credit for my work and accepted praise that I thought should go towards me.

I found myself immediately feeling peevish. (I know, it was a childish reaction, but that is where we sometimes are in our thinking). I didn’t say anything, but found myself quite irritated. That is when the Holy Spirit reminded me of a verse I used just last week. In Psalm 103 God is glorified for his ongoing mercy, grace and love and mankind is placed in contrast because of our short lifespan on this globe. Verses 15 and 16 say: ” As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” It was that last phrase that got my attention. There are a lot of places where people have never heard of Nord Zootman, but at Lockport Church everyone knows my name. I have been pastor here for 34 years and they know me in this place.  

As I read that verse I realized afresh that someday people won’t know my name even in this community. As time passes we are forgotten. That shouldn’t sadden us as Christians, because it is not our name that we should be promoting; rather it is the name of Christ Jesus that we pray is impressed on people’s minds and hearts. Scripture says; “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (Phil. 2:10 ESV)” and ” there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 ESV)”

I am glad that He knows my name, but it really isn’t a big deal if you do. He knows the things I have done to serve Him and He knows when I did those things for his names sake or for my own. My name is unusual, but there is no name like his! May we learn to promote the name of Jesus and not our own!

In Christ,

Pastor Nord

A Pattern for Peace

I have several Bibles that I have used heavily over the years in ministering to hurting people. They all have a few pages that are worn more than others. Places they just fall open to if you open them close to those particular texts. There are passages like the 23rd Psalm, or Psalm 121, or the end of Isaiah 40 that bring great comfort to God’s children so we read them to each other when we are hurting or fearful.

There is a passage in the New Testament that not only offers comfort in stressful days; it also gives clear direction for coping and moving forward when we face fearful things. Philippians 4:4-9 is a passage that every believer in Christ should know well. If you take time to study and learn it, you will find it is repeatedly helpful as you face the trials of life and the anxiety that results from those trials.

There is a logical pattern to be followed if we want to overcome fear and serve Christ well in this broken world. The first thing we must do is expressed in verses four and five. We must rejoice in the Lord, and do so in a way that is evident to others. It is not referring to some made-up fake happiness, but the joy that is evident when we focus on his great love, his great sacrifice on our behalf, and his great gift of salvation. Thinking about him actually changes our demeanor in a way that others can observe.

The second step in this process is to pray. Having found joy in him it is natural that we should talk to him. We give him thanks for who he is and what he has done and then we ask for his help. We articulate what we want. We are in no position to make demands of our creator, but he has asked us to share our requests with him, knowing that he will deal with them appropriately.

Having prayed, we will experience a peace or calmness that only he can give. It is in that peace that we recognize that we are not going to go crazy. We should acknowledge the reality that his peace will guard our thinking and our emotions. We find relief from our inner struggles.

That sense of well-being and confidence should be used as an occasion to consider what around us is good and wonderful and right. We can get so caught up in the conflicts and struggles in life that we stop seeing the goodness that exists as well. Start by finding it in little things and move to bigger ones. This is not simply sticking our head in the sand to escape the evil in the world and in our hearts. It is a means of recognizing that the evil has not and never will overcome the good. Pain, fear, grief, and frustration may cloud our vision but if we look around we will still discover the goodness and beauty of the Lord.

Too often people reach this level and stop. For us to do well in hard days there is one more instruction found in verse nine. Paul uses himself as an example and calls us to follow his lead. He knew pain, suffering and injustice, but he continued to serve his Lord and proclaim the good news of the gospel to the broken world in which he lived. He promises that if we do the same the “God of peace” will be with us. It is only in actively living for Christ that we experience his presence and peace!

Please take some time before this day is over to read through that passage slowly and determine to follow the pattern laid out there. it will strengthen you and enable you to help those who do not yet know the joy of the Lord.

In Christ,

Pastor Nord