on Heaven

As the dust continues to settle from last week’s presidential election one overarching truth has been the dominant force in the societal narratives these days: our country is extremely divided. We have the left digging their heels in, and the right not wanting to budge either. Words such as anxious, fearful, and nervous can be used to describe many of us during these days, even those who are in Jesus Christ are nervous! I’ve been experiencing many emotions, but I will say as I write this post I’m at peace. In looking at Heaven I’m reminded that God is in control and are future is set. One big teaching moment during these days for us as the church to look at: have we put WAY too much hope in flawed human beings we call politicians and not enough hope in Jesus Christ?

1) Let Heaven blow up your expectations about what good is.

I love what Louie Giglio says, “We don’t think a lot about Heaven, because we often equate Heaven to our best day here on earth.” I’m writing to remind you, Heaven will be better. Heaven will always be better than our earthly existence. There are many reasons to always choose Heaven and always fix our eyes on Heaven, but one reason trumps them all. In Revelation 5:12 John writes that the angels were singing, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Heaven is better because of Jesus. There is nothing that this Earth can bring our way that will be better than being in the presence of Jesus for all eternity.

Heaven will always be better. We fear often on earth because we fear this is as good as it will get. I want to remind you that Jesus has prepared a place for us, and He will come to take us to that place. (John 14:1-6) One thing I can bank on, Jesus always keeps His promises.

2) Stop trying to work your way into Heaven.

Many of us hold true to the promise of scripture: we are saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) We quote this scripture, talk about it, preach on it, but there are  many of us don’t live this truth. We either fall in one of two camps: 1) we try to work our salvation out tirelessly or 2) we don’t take the promise of our salvation and the need to produce spiritual fruit seriously enough.

So, where does that leave us? Well, if you’re like me I’m an action guy, and here is what I encourage you to do: 1) Know your salvation without a shadow of a doubt. Many of us have this amorphous time when we prayed a prayer when we were young, and we think we’re saved. No, no, no know the time and the day when Jesus entered your heart and reconciled you to Him. If you don’t know the day or time, make today a HUGE priority to recommit your life and ask Christ to save you today.

2) Understand who you are in Jesus Christ. What I mean in saying this is you are beloved. You don’t have to prove yourself, Jesus will always point to the Cross to remind you, you are beloved. Live as a beloved Son or Daughter. Pray out of love not obligation. Worship freely and joyfully because you want to not because you live in fear. Allow the Holy Spirit to shift your motivation, and you will be amazed at the results.

3) Join and Go. There are many steps in your Christian journey, this in no way is an exhaustive list. But, I encourage join a church and a Christian education opportunity that allow you to explore, ask questions, and grow. When opportunities arise, especially those that correspond with your gifts, be confident and go and serve. Look to dialogue with Christian leaders and people you respect, and they will begin to show you wonderful ways and opportunities where you can live out your faith.

 

 

 

 

On Stewardship

We come to a somewhat awkward topic: stewardship. Before we dive in more fully let me be clear what we mean by stewardship: the proper and efficient way to manage resources for the maximum amount of good. In getting back to the previous sentence, stewardship feels awkward when we treat it as a sales pitch. In stewardship we aren’t trying to sell you anything, rather we are calling the church and the people of God to live into their identity as followers and friends of Jesus Christ. Here are a few things to consider as many of us not just at Second Ave. look at stewardship.

  1. Don’t get caught in the comfort illusion.

When I say this, I want you to know that you should hold on to enough to feed, clothe, and house your family. But, if we look around at much of our possessions, much of our resources I’m fairly certain the truth will emerge: we have WAY more than we need. The average American household has three television sets and over 300,000 belongings. We are blessed to be able to acquire many material possessions.

However, if we look at Jesus’ examples in the gospels people of means aren’t spoken of very positively. Jesus tells His followers that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than the rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 19:24) He tells the rich young ruler he can follow if he sells his possessions and gives money to the poor (Mark 10:17). Do wealth and Christianity mix? Well, the answer is yes and no. Many wealthy people are very devoted, generous Christians, meanwhile wealth can also become an idol or temptation that ensnares many people.

Many people desire to live comfortable lives, but always know that living comfortably doesn’t always lead a happy, fulfilled life. God is calling all of us to be faithful and generous let us look to listen always to the Holy Spirit’s leading.

2. Generous People Break Status Quos

Part of our frustration in our country right now is many of us don’t like the status quo. We want things to change, situations to improve, and people’s lives to become better. However, the sad reality is that won’t happen if we keep acting normally. To go alongside that generosity is sadly not the norm in our world today. My charge to you as you read this is to do something. Not everything. The world’s problems are too big for one person or church to do everything, but everyone can do something. Pray as a family to do something big and look to serve together. Our country is ready to change the status quo for the better and it will happen not through any government mandate but through generous individuals, families, and churches. Be blessed and always look to give what the spirit leads you to give.

 

 

 

On Politics

Many of us have politics on our minds during these days. We are walking in fear and trepidation as we fully don’t know what will happen on November 8th or in what direction our country we go. Here are a few reminders for the days and weeks ahead:

  1. Look to rise above all the noise.

We live in a culture that is filled with shouting, name calling, and belittling people all the time. We are called to be a people who live in the world but are not part of it. Jesus’ followers are called to be salt and light, and in so doing we will push back the darkness, the noise, and the chaos our world seems to be in at the moment.

Learn to respect all. Pray for those who hurt you with their words, and we need to be a people who know the truth of scripture, live the truth in love, and look to bring others to follow Jesus no matter what.

2. God won’t be surprised by the results.

I promise God won’t be surprised when CNN declares the winner. We live in a time and a day when many Christians love to talk about faith but many don’t want their faith tested or stretched. This will be a time that will test and stretch your faith especially if you did not vote for the winning candidate. Please know that God is not surprised, and God is calling the church to continually stand up and be the church during these times.

3. Don’t get distracted in the minutia.

The entire goal of our existence is to bring others to a life saving relationship with Jesus Christ and to enjoy Jesus forever. Please don’t get bogged down in the political name calling and noise of this generation. Politics are important. It is important to know the candidates and to vote your values, but please know that God raises up leaders both elected and not to accomplish His will all the time. He’s been doing it since Creation, and I know He will continue to do it until the Kingdom fully comes.

 

 

 

on 4 Prayers a Week

We live in a crazy time to be the people of God. In many moments it seems that our world is spinning out of control, chaos and violence rule the day, and we often have more questions than we do answers. God chose us to witness to Him during these days, and I cannot think of a higher honor for us.

I’m constantly floored that the God of the universe trusts us enough to make His name and mission known to the world. God also equips us to be able to succeed in this mission. We aren’t just tossed in the “deep end” of the world without everything we need to succeed. Despite our failures, ignorance, limitations, and baggage God still uses the church to accomplish His mission of making disciples and grow the church. Prayer is one of the most powerful weapons the church has in breaking down barriers and making disciples for Jesus Christ.

Prayer is very powerful and can be very effective, when used in Jesus’ name. During our looking and study of prayer we saw that many of us do pray, but our prayers our focused inward and on our own glory. The question we looked and continue to look at is what would happen if we began to pray, pray powerfully, and pray consistently for our church? Prayers move the heart of God, and we know that God is honored and glorified when His children pray first and foremost for His will to be done. What would our church look like if we committed to praying four times a week for our church, its witness, its leaders, its vision, and for the church to make vibrant, effective disciples of Jesus Christ? I don’t know about you, but I’m through wondering, and I want to see the power and glory of God exude from Second Ave. to touch the world! Let’s begin by committing to praying for our church four times a week, every week!

 

Samuel’s Steps of Faith


Samuel 3:1-10 

Samuel’s first step of faith is taken by someone else (his family) that step is bringing him to be part of the worship of God and the ways of God’s family.

The second step in Samuel’s faith journey is that he lives alongside worshipers of God, and learns to live and act like a follower of God. This is still before he comes to faith in God.

Third, Samuel is trained in the things of God. Learning how to minister before the Lord. This is also before he comes to faith.

The fourth step for Samuel is that he hears God’s call.

The Fifth step in his journey of faith is that Samuel acknowledges God  by faith, and with the help of another.

Then sixth, Samuel accepts God’s instruction and carries out the work of the God as his Lord.

Where are you in these steps of faith? Would you like someone to help, to provide a little guidance or prayer. We will be so happy to help you. If you are a woman or girl we’ll point you to a woman who can help you on your faith journey. If you are a guy, we’ll have a guy team with you. We’ll keep you in our prayers as well.

Conclusion

Below is a summary of Samuel’s steps of faith. If you are already part of our faith community you have two evangelistic responsibilities:

  1. Make sure you help live the love of God and the forgiveness of Jesus into our faith community, so people who come here can taste and see that the Lord is good.
  2. Invite friends, relatives, associates and neighbors to be part of this faith community.

Samuel’s Steps of Faith for Today

1. Become part of the faith community
2. Learn to live like a follower of God
3. Be trained to serve God
4. Hear God’s call
5. Acknowledge God by faith, with the help of another
6. Accept the responsibilities God has for you in this faith community

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Father…

On Sunday June 28, 2015 we begin a new series on The Lord’s Prayer. Jesus taught us to pray. Consequently, prayer is so central to our faith. When His disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus was specific and yet comprehensive in his response. The prayer he taught them was one he re-purposed from a traditional Hebrew prayer. When Jesus retooled this prayer he made sure it was a community prayer. We will take a number of weeks to look at the phrases of the Lord’s Prayer to understand what it is we are to be praying. and how does it apply to the circumstances to our lives today. Here is how will look at the prayer week-by-week.

  1. Our Father who is in heaven
  2. uphold the holiness of your name.
  3. Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.
  4. Give us the bread we need for today.
  5. Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.
  6. And don’t lead us into temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

Come join us on Sundays at 8:15am (traditional) or 10:45(contemporary) for worship. These are the words of LIFE.

They devoted themselves to their “shared meals”: Acts 2:42

On Sunday, I challenged us to be devoted to sharing together in the meal that forms our identity as children of God. Here are the four actions I’m proposing:

1. (Family Level) Begin now to find creative ways to retell the whole story over a meal at home.
From the Creation to Jesus’ return, be sure to stress our part in the story.
2. (Personal Level) If you don’t know the story, the whole story, It’s seriously time to learn it. Stay tuned for a Sunday School hour program of 5-6 weeks on learning to tell The Story
3. (Church Level) Don’t miss Communion! It forms you into the image of Christ.
4. (Pastor Level) It’s on me and the worship planning team to find ways to enhance the Holy Communion experience to make it more effective at building our identity as part of God’s grand story.

Let me know how I can help you.

“Do you think you are who they say you are?”

That question is a famous line from the mouth of Judas in the rock opera, Jesus Christ – Superstar. In Superstar, Judas also asks, “Who are you? What have you sacrificed?” I don’t know how Tim Rice, the lyricist for Superstar, expected us to react to those questions. However, I think these are really important questions that every Christian should ask and have settled in their own mind.

During the weeks leading to Easter, here are the questions to be thinking about and using to search the scriptures. How would you answer those questions?

  • Who did people in Jesus’ day say he was?
  • Where they right? If not how so?
  • Who did Jesus say he was?
  • What did Jesus Sacrifice?

We’ll be working on these together in worship over the weeks leading to Easter 2015.

Our 2015 Plan – Final thoughts

So we’ve seen that the “Why” of our 2015 plan – of our life-plan –  is because the King is returning and he plans to reward us all as or actions deserve. The “WHAT” of our plan is the Great Commission to go make disciples of all nations, and the “HOW” of our plan is to “LOVE” each other and the world using God’s resources to create an eternal family — a family that calls us all into God’s love. These points are not simply optional, spiritual-development goals, this IS the life of a believer as God has defined it. How will these three corners of God’s life framework be the frame for your 2015?

The best way to start is to include a bit of each of these points in your schedule and plan for 2015. Think about the challenges I made each week. (1) Be able to identify the things you are doing that count beyond this age – that gain eternal reward. Write them down and be sure they get priority. (2) Choose one mission/ministry where you will serve and one where you will invite others to join you? (3) Invite someone you don’t know well to share a meal and to create an eternal friendship together.

Take some time to intentionally plan how these three strategies will be included in your life in 2015. Then, on a monthly basis, do a self-check to see if you are on track at working the plan. Jesus Christ is your model. Turn to him often in your pursuit. And The Holy Spirit is given to you to assure that you have the power and wisdom to succeed at these Kingdom strategies. God’s blessing on your 2015 plan!! It will be amazing and the end of the year to look back and see the progress for God’s loving reign.

Bob

Plan the work, then work the plan – 2015

Plan the work 2“Plan the work, then work the plan. Have you heard this phase? It turns up where anyone really wants to succeed at their objective. In Lewis Carroll’s story, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat makes this same point in the negative, saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

If we hold our personal life-plans up to these tests, how would we fare? Have we a plan or are we just letting ourselves end up where we may? If we have plans, what are they based on?  Why are we on this planet, What is it we are to do and how are we to do it.

During the remainder of January, on Sundays at 8:15 and 10:45, we’ll look at some guidance from scripture regarding a 2015 life-plan – a plan that would come from the very center of God’s heart for us. The Why, The What, the How. – Don’t miss this! Come be part of our Worship at Second Ave.