“A Brief Christmas Devotional”

December 24, 2018

Imagine this. We receive a text from God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. It says: “I will be coming to be among you as a sinless man. Please arrange for my arrival in every detail. I will get back to you just before I arrive. God.”

Ok. We can do this! First, we arrange for Him to arrive on Air force One. He will ride in a stretch limo with six doors on each side. His motorcade will include a hundred motorcycles and dozens of armed guards and soldiers. We will have Him arrive in New York and be taken to Trump Tower where platoons of servants will cater to His every need. A fabulous room overlooking the Hudson and attended by formally dressed servants ready to respond to His smallest wish. A beautiful suite that will include every imaginable comfort. A medical team on stand-by and room service that will be second to none. Or…we could arrange for him to arrive in Chicago and be driven to the Ritz Carlton or to Pebble Beach to stay at the La Playa. Other alternatives may be considered.

Now, we text back to God with our preparations. We expect his Divine approval. And He responds:

“Friends. Scrap your plans. I would like to arrive after a long journey through the desert with my earthly mother riding on a donkey. There will be no entourage. Only Joseph and Mary. In Bethlehem, there will be no room to stay with family or at any local inn and Joseph will have to beg for the use of a shed so that Mary can give birth. My incarnate self will have the company of sheep and goats and a bed of straw. After the child is born, visitors will arrive and bring gold and frankincense and myrrh but the celebration will be short-lived. Joseph and Mary will have to literally run towards Egypt because a madman serving as the king will want to kill the child. If you find this plan surprising…I am not surprised. I will come into your world as the humble Christ. I will be misunderstood from day one. But don’t be concerned. This is how I want it. God.”

Merry Christmas and Blessings! Pastor Alberta


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“Another Thought About the Suicide Problem”

December 17, 2018

Ephesians 4:15 (NIV) “Instead, speaking the truth in love…”

I received a thoughtful note regarding my recent blog post about suicide. In that article, I reminded God’s people that suicide is not the unforgivable sin and that God’s grace is surely extended to the Christian who despairs and ends their life. One reader made a good point. Namely, how can we be sure that comments such as mine might not actually encourage a person to commit suicide. It’s a fair question and the answer is simply that we cannot be sure. There is always danger in preaching and teaching; our words might serve a destructive purpose.

We might be misunderstood. Over the years, I have taught that while God hates divorce it is not the unforgivable sin. But someone might proceed to a divorce because my words “gave them permission.” I have preached that drunkenness is forbidden in the Word of God, but alcohol is not condemned per se. What if a person hears that and returns to drinking? That might happen.

The preacher/teacher must weigh the value in his or her words. My point in the suicide blog was to remind Christians about spiritual warfare and reassure others that God’s grace will cover their lost loved one who belongs to Christ. In short, I think truth must be told even though it comes with a risk.

Over the years, I have preached that God’s Word considers the homosexual lifestyle to be abominable to God. It does, and it is. Some left the church. Some blamed me because their gay son or daughter left the church. Dealing with the truth is a challenging business.

Many years ago, an emotionally disturbed man insisted that I drop everything and drive several hours up into Canada and meet with him as he was in despair. I was quite willing to do that, but I literally could not do it that night because of a commitment to my family. (A Pastor who allows everyone to dictate his or her schedule will burn out within a few years.) Anyway, that night the man ended his life. I was bothered but I did not blame myself. He made a choice. In any case, I trust the Lord Jesus Christ who said: Matthew 10:29 (NIV) “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.”

God allowed the man to take that step. I was sorry he did that, but I cannot serve the Lord if I let the Devil accuse me of everyone else’s sins. So, when ministering to others be assured that we will do it imperfectly. Thus, we must pray that the intent of our words will be blessed, and no harm will come from them.

Blessings! Pastor Alberta


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“Suicide and a Spirit of Despair” December 15, 2018

John 8:44 (NIV) “You belong to your father, the devil…he was a murderer from the beginning!

Ephesians 6:10-12 (NIV) “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

It seems to have reached epidemic proportions. A highly ranked Navy Admiral takes his life leaving everyone in his family and in his command in shock. A celebrity chef with scores of friends is suddenly gone from suicide. A beautiful and accomplished young newscaster with a husband and young children ends her life too. An evangelical pastor leaves his flock stunned when he ends his life. A young high school football player, popular and bright, is gone in a moment. A fine husband and father overloads from stress and succumbs to suicide as the solution. We are not just reading more about suicide. It is on the increase.

As reported in the Washington Post on June 7, 2018: “Suicide rates rose in all but one state between 1999 and 2016, with increases seen across age, gender, race and ethnicity, according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Forty years ago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn gave an address at Harvard where he predicted that the godlessness settling in on the western world would eventually yield a crop of despair. Hopeless and helpless people without any confidence in eternity. Seduced by endless materialism that would promise to give them peace and joy. Indeed, we have entered fully into a re-paganized world complete with radically decreased church attendance and a wholesale mocking of all things Godly. Hence, people of faith and no faith are often victimized by the Spirit of Despair. He … that … whatever this Spirit is … is an actual being sent forth from the evil one to scream into the darkness with a message OF DESPAIR! And he salivates over each image-bearer who gives up on life. He could not kill Jesus so he is glad to kill us!

This makes less sense when a Christian ends his or her life. Despite the horrible sermon recently preached by a theologically challenged Priest here in Michigan, the saved are saved and salvation is not lost when the Christian succumbs to intolerable pain and ends his life. Is it a sin? Yes. Is it the unforgivable sin? Of course not. To suggest that is to make salvation into “works.” The good shepherd might allow one of his own to despair, but he will never lose track of that person’s spirit; they are secure in his keeping.

Is there an answer to all this work of the Devil? How shall we deal with his demons sent out to bring on death on demand? Well, as always, the answer is in genuine revival. As with our endless political acrimony and the tidal wave of terrorism and evil and genocide in the womb … the answer is in revival. Our western world is too sure of itself and filled with godless hubris. Our world needs true revival.

Yet, this is also true. During the great revivals in New England in the 1740’s, Jonathan Edwards reported multiple suicides in his parish. Teen agers and older members of his church. Suddenly and without explanation taking their lives. The Evil One was incensed. With revival came the devil throwing a spiritual tantrum that was visible to all.

What shall we do as Christians? Pray for our families and friends. By name. Specifically. Demanding the evil one leave them alone in the name of Jesus. Communicate with them often and ask about their well-being. But first make sure that we are in tune with the Holy Spirit. We must not neglect our times with God both in prayer and in the Word of God. As Paul said:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

When a godless person ends their life, it is tragic. But for Satan that is not enough. He Really hates God’s people. HE TRULY HATES THOSE WHO PREACH THE GOSPEL. He does everything possible within his powers to destroy and murder. Including sending people within the church to distract and discourage the Pastor. Even push THEM to despair. Therefore, our Lord taught us to pray:

Matthew 6:13 (NIV) “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”

Current discussion has focused on the idea that “lead us not into temptation” should not be in the prayer because God would never do that. Not so. All the text means is “Please keep us from ever being overwhelmed by temptation.” And we do need deliverance from the evil one. That means we must be careful what we watch and what we find entertaining and whom we are with.

There is a genuine “Spirit of Despair” roaming the earth right now. Probably hundreds of such spirits. Maybe hundreds of thousands. We who have Christ need to pray God’s mercies into our homes and communities. And above all, we need to stay covered by Jesus!

Blessings! Pastor Alberta



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“What Happens to the Christian at Death?”

December 11, 2018

2 Corinthians 5:6-8 (ESV) ” So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,  for we walk by faith, not by sight.  Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Several times lately, I have been asked about the state of the Christian after physical death. More than a few people have been confused and discouraged by some bad teaching on this topic. Namely, some say that at death the believer enters into some kind of “soul sleep” and will remain at rest until the final resurrection. Whereas, in the hundreds of funerals over which I have presided, I always say that the departed Christian is “more alive than we are and would not come back if we could arrange it!” That hardly seems to be a reasonable assertion if they’ve gone off to some great place of sleep only to be roused back to life when God gives us new physical bodies. In fact, that word picture is downright boring to contemplate. Yet, it is taught by certain writers and theologians. Why?

One reason seems to be the use of the word “sleep” as a way of saying death. When Jesus spoke of Lazarus we read:

John 11:11-15 (NIV) 11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Sometimes the Jews spoke of death as sleep. A sort of gentle way of referring to physical death. Some who believe in soul sleep point to the thief on the cross. You’ll remember that our Lord told the man:

Luke 23:43 (NIV) Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

That should settle the matter but it does not, in the minds of some preachers. Why? Because the text literally says: “Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise.”

In other words, according to some minority theologians, Jesus was not saying that the man would be with him THAT DAY but eventually. As if Jesus was saying “Today I tell you the truth…” That would suggest that on other days Jesus did not necessarily tell them the truth? Absurd. No, the emphasis is on the truthful promise that THAT DAY the penitent thief would be with Jesus in paradise. It would hardly be paradise if Jesus just took the man’s spirit to a place of sleep. As if the Son of God is minding a great nursery of sleeping spirits.

Aside from those thoughts, what evidence do we have that the Christian at physical death is nonetheless alive in the spirit and alert and filled with joy at the presence of God? Let me suggest several factors:

FIRST, our eternal life does not begin when we die but when we are saved. The shedding of a broken body simply frees our spirits to enter into God’s presence as we await a new body. But we were already eternally alive while on planet Earth.

Remember, Jesus said: John 5:24 (NIV) “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” For the true Christian, death is simply a physical event; he or she has already “crossed over” and death is simply a change of zip code! That is why Jesus said to Martha:

John 11:25-26 (NIV) Jesus said to her, “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. Do you believe this?” Our spirits cannot die … so why would they “sleep?”

SECOND, we do not need a physical body to be alive. Notice that God is very much alive without a body as we know bodies to be. He has some “form” and perhaps in that in-between state, we will have a “form also” … I do not know.

THIRD, as mentioned above … why would Paul say it would be better to be away from the body and present with Christ if all that “presence” meant was a long boring sleep!

FOURTH: Jesus said “I will come back for you!” (John 14.3) This promise makes no sense if all Jesus does is scoop us up like sleeping toddlers and carry us to some divine nursery. Rather, he promises conscious and delightful life in that “in between state.” Remember the promise of our Lord only makes sense if our spirits, out of these physical bodies, are alive and alert and aware: “Well done good and faithful servant” found in Matthew 25.21 This clearly teaches a review of our lives when we come into his presence.

Finally, the Apostle Paul had several dramatic visions of the world beyond and he could not wait to get back there. And it was not sleep that excited him.

Philippians 1:20-24 (NIV) “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

This is why I always say that the Christian who has left the body behind is more alive than we are. Don’t worry about “soul sleep.” Departing these bodies is “better by far!”

Blessings! Pastor Alberta


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“Grasping the Gospel” (In an Age of Discount Discipleship)

Part Six: Two Critical Requirements: Patience and Productivity” 12.08.2018

Matthew 25:1-5 (NIV) 1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.”

Matthew 25:14, 19 (NIV) “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them… After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.”

“What? Would my Master find me idle when he returns?” John Calvin

It is May of 1564. In Geneva, John Calvin is quite old and sickly. His Elders and friends urge him to reduce his schedule of preaching and shepherding. “Get more rest!” they say. His response is bewilderment. For the great reformer, there is no time to lose and as long as he can be productive, he will be. Even on his deathbed, he is writing letters to distant places to encourage others in the Christian faith. Actually, he is probably a bit of a work-a-holic but at least he is passionate about the Kingdom of God. Yet, the story has greater value than one man’s actions. It touches on a critical question. Namely, how are we to conduct ourselves as we await the return of our Lord? In short, with patience and productivity.

Consider these two parables found in Matthew Twenty-Five. Parables always have a central meaning, but they also have sub-themes. Little hints of other truths that are revealed by Jesus. Ideas that speak to us in this in-between age. I mean by that we are a strange people living between the first and second comings of Jesus. Often called the period of “Already But Not Yet.” The Kingdom of God has already broken into humanity with its power and might. Jesus has conquered death and opened the way to eternal life. But the Kingdom of God is not yet fully in place when sin will be no more and the redeemed will live in paradise in His presence (See Revelation 21.1-5) So … how shall we then live in the “in-between?” Again, in short, with patience and productivity. Consider the first of these stories. Sometimes called “The Parable of the Ten Virgins.” We read:

Matthew 25:1-5 (NIV) 1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.”

These “virgins” were the bridesmaids expected to be ready with their lamps. A groom might well come in the dark and they would lead him to his bride. So, they needed to be ready! But readiness requires planning and thought. Five of them were “foolish.” Literally, they were “moronic.” Rather harsh but think about it. They did not have enough forethought to allow for any “delay” or the idea that the groom’s plans might be different from their expectations. The early church struggled with this also. Many obviously thought Jesus would return very shortly. We might not find anyone in fifty AD who would have thought the world would go on to the year 2018! The wise disciple does not have a “timeline” for our Lord’s return. He or she must simply be ready.

Now, this parable is about many other things. Including the frightening realty that the door will, at some point, be shut! It’s a hard word picture:

Matthew 25:6-13 (NIV) “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

This reminds us to share the Gospel whenever possible. To be ready and in possession of extra oil for our lamps. And it reminds us that we are to be patient. Just because our Lord is a long time coming does not mean that he is not coming! Those who are not ready for him will be told “I don’t know you!” What a terrible thought to contemplate. Hearing that from Jesus would be the worst experience of one’s life. Anyway … we are to be patient and keep ready.

PATIENT. The following parable is about being PRODUCTIVE. The time in between should never be spent just goofing off waiting for Christ to take us or return. That was Calvin’s point. Our Lord portrays a person who had used his time wisely. We read:
Matthew 25:19-21 (NIV) “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Interesting that once again, Jesus says there was a “long time.” By now we really should get the idea that it may be much, much longer than even today before he returns. Until all the elect from all the ages have been gathered in, his return will be on hold. But he will return.

This raises a practical question. “What can I do to serve the Lord and advance the Gospel at this point in my life?” Still working for a living or retired, there are many opportunities to serve in the Bible-believing church and in the community. Nurseries and grounds keeping are always in need. Teachers and sweepers and drivers. Etc. I’m working as a part time chaplain in an assisted living facility. I try to find ways to share Christ daily. Donna is working for “Love, Inc.” (Love in name of Christ helping to assist the needy.) Everyone can serve him with patience and productivity. A very old person without much physical strength said to me “I have a full-time ministry … in prayer!” Her notebook was bursting with entries that she prayed over daily.

I hope this provokes much thought to us as disciples lest we take the discount route. Are we patient and productive?

Blessings! Pastor Alberta


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Hello Blog Friends!

Friday 12.7   5 PM

Hello Blog Friends,

Pastor Alberta here.  I did not forget about all of you.  Here’s the deal: a few weeks ago, I took a position as the Chaplain at Woodland Village in Brighton.  A retirement home.  It’s a half time pastoral slot and I’m enjoying it very much …  but it’s been busy getting started.

THEN. I came down with the flu that laid me out for nearly a week!  So, I’m way behind on my writing.  At the moment, I’m working on a discipleship article for tomorrow … Saturday … and I’ll try to get it out I promise.

Thanks for your continued encouragement.  Blessings!  Pastor Alberta


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“Grasping the Gospel” (In an Age of Discount Discipleship)

Part Five: “Arguing With Jesus” 11.22.2018

Matthew 16:21-23 (NIV) “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’”

When I was a kid, we all called my father “Pop.” One day, he wanted to do something nice for a carpenter who worked for him. The man always had a cigar in his mouth. So, my father pulled up to the corner store and sent me in with these instructions: “Tell the man that you want five one-dollar cigars” and he handed me a five-dollar bill. Well … when I got inside, I saw that they had perfectly “nice” cigars for a dime each! So, thinking I knew better than my dad, I bought five ten cent cigars and proudly returned to the car with them and four dollars and fifty cents change left over. I mean … I thought “A cigar is a cigar, right?’” Actually no. But I was sure I knew better than he did about the matter.

Pop just looked at me. Shook his head. I said, “I found nice ones for ten cents apiece.” And he said “But that is not what I sent you to do! You don’t know what this is about! Let’s go back into the store!” He talked with the guy inside, traded in the cheap cigars … bought the expensive ones and we went home. All the while I’m thinking “Why did he do that?” I just could not understand Pop that day.

Much of the time, the people who went around with Jesus did not understand him or what his purpose was. They liked him and even loved him. But they had their own ideas about what he should be doing. Getting rid of the Romans who ruled over them. Re-establishing the Glory of the Kingdom of Israel. Making sure the Gentiles understood that they were not wanted. Not offending the ruling classes among the Jews. Probably all the early disciples had their own agendas for the Messiah and none of them got it right. They all thought they knew better than Jesus. Especially Peter.

We often find ourselves quite ready to argue with God or at least suggest to Him that He might be on the wrong track. That’s what Peter did. He had been with Jesus nearly three years, but he really had no idea why Jesus had come. Why did God take on flesh and live among us without sin? Why would Jesus go to the Cross to pay for our sins? Peter did not know and worse, he thought that Jesus had it all wrong! A disciple telling his teacher that he does not know what he is doing.

How often God leads us in ways that seem nonsensical. Remember the Israelites being led thru the wilderness after leaving Egypt? No doubt they thought that Moses was a complete failure as their leader. We read their accusation against him:

Numbers 16:13 (NIV) “Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the desert? And now you also want to lord it over us?”

Moses did not even want the job of being their shepherd/pastor/leader. But one thing Moses knew was that God was exactly sure of what He was doing. But the curious reactions to Jesus were more puzzling because his disciples had seen him at work teaching and healing and even raising the dead. Yet, they could argue with him. Why? Because they had absolutely no idea what he was about! When Jesus told them that he would be abused and put to death, we read:

“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’”

The text says he “rebuked” Jesus! Really!? The word used means to “bring a charge” against someone. Peter is going to set Jesus “straight.” Interesting how often we would like to do that in our Christian walk. We want to say “Lord, you should not have allowed so-and-so to die.” Or “Lord, you’ve brought the worst possible circumstances into my life!” We are like Job, thinking we know as much as God does. Forgetting that He does know all things and has even ordained the days of our lives. Consider His words to our beleaguered ancient friend:

Job 38:4-5 (NIV) “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?”

Job ended up speechless before God. Apparently, so did Peter. Jesus was harder on Peter than God the Father was on Job. Our Lord said this to him:
“‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’”

Just imagine as a disciple of Jesus having him tell you that you are not only thinking like Satan but acting like him? The word used by Jesus … “Satan” literally means “accuser” or “adversary.” Unless Jesus meant that at that moment Peter had been possessed by Satan. That’s doubtful. The point was that he was making Satan’s argument and taking his side. There is a terrifying thought. That when we reject the will of God or question it and dare to say “Never!” to Him, we are thinking like a mere human without any real knowledge. And worse … Peter’s opposition to God’s will was causing Jesus to stumble. Oh my … if we were disciples when Jesus was in the flesh would he have found us helpful or people who got in his way and wanted to lecture him?

Anyway, what my father wanted when he gave me the “cigar assignment” was obedience. He expected me to trust him and do what he said. Not slow him down. That’s what Peter did with Jesus. Complicated his mission. So … we want to be more than true disciples. We want to be humble and trusting disciples because much of the time we have no idea what he is planning. After all, He is God. And we are not.

Peace. Pastor Alberta


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