My wife and I have counted 32 different state license plates during our first two weeks here. The number jumps to 35 if you include Canadian provinces.
If I asked anybody else in the country where I was as I wrote those last two sentences, I doubt the first answer would be "Minot, North Dakota." On the other hand, that fact probably does not surprise any one of you who have lived here for more than a couple of weeks. We live in a city where new people are constantly moving in all the time. One could probably even say that this has become the new "normal" for this part of the country.
As a new pastor in town, I am here because of all this change. But the interesting thing is that I am really here because of one thing that doesn't change. Unfortunately, this one thing is something that I see all around me, amidst the different license plates and sports insignia and sub-cultures in Minot. I know that it's in each and every one of you, even if I can't see it on the outside, because it's something that I see so clearly in myself. That one thing is sin.
Maybe you didn't wanted to read about sin today, but whether you care to admit it or not, sin penetrates every last fiber of our being. Can any one of us honestly look at ourselves and say that we are naturally good people, that we don't long to do whatever we can selfishly to benefit ourselves, that there aren't many horrible things we would do if only the ends justified the means, or if only we could be assured that we would escape punishment? I doubt it.
Some Christian churches try to combat this by promoting good works. Maybe we can overcome the bad things we have done if we only do enough good, but I don't buy it. My feeble attempts at doing good are enough to find my own way into a perfect God's heaven? No way. And this is why I need to point you to just one more thing that doesn't change. That thing is a person: your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The name of our new church is simply Grace. It's a fancy word that means "gift." I love the title, because it tells me everything I need to know. I can't possibly earn my own way to heaven, but through the gift of God's grace, I don't need to. Jesus did it for me. "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast" (Epitaphs 2:8-9).
At Grace we are all about grace, because we know in an ever-changing world, Jesus has done everything for you. No matter who you are and where you are from, Jesus has taken away all of your sins through his death on the cross. Nothing can ever change that.
Grace services are held Sundays at 2 p.m. in Immanuel Baptist Church, 1615-2nd St. SE, Minot.