Archive for the 'Bible' Category

The Story Conclusion

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

I have to say I’m a little sad that we have completed our latest series, The Story. For eight months we have walked through the main narrative of the Bible, one story at a time. And from that altitude we discovered that God’s Word is not just a collection of disconnected stories but in fact it is one complete story of God passionately pursuing his prized creation. From Genesis to Revelation God has been doing whatever it takes to get his people back.

For some of you, this study has changed your thinking about who God is. While God disciplines and administers justice, his motive has always been one of love for mankind. For some, you were able see the big picture of the Bible for the first time. You already knew the stories, but you weren’t sure how they all fit together. For others, the language of the upper story and lower story helped you make some sense out of life. While the lower story is what we see and feel, the truth is that there is a greater upper story that God is writing simultaneously. And the greatest mistake in life would be to trade an upper story adventure for a lower story reward.

So what do we do now as a result of having gone through The Story. At the end of our services Sunday, I suggested that you become a man or woman of God’s Word. That you take responsibility for your spiritual growth by becoming a student of The Story. Remember, you are more likely to grow spiritually in the kitchen than you are at the table. To help you with that, we handed out a bookmark that gives a simple Bible study plan that you can use with any passage or story from the Bible. Additional copies of those are available at all of our campuses.

The other thing you can do is to take every opportunity to share what you have learned with others. Bible learning was never meant to stop with us, but to be shared with others. Resist the temptation to be just a recipient of God’s Word and decide to be a distributor. The truth is that everyone can tell a bible story and through The Story you have been equipped to share it with others. I hope you’ll share The Story often.

If you missed the celebration service this past weekend, you can view a partial recording of my teaching here:

The Story Continues

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

Some days are hard, aren’t they? Some days are so full of stress and anxiety and fear and heartache that you long to get away. Maybe you were able to take a vacation this summer where you enjoyed some good food, a beautiful destination and a change of pace. No bills to pay. No deadlines to meet. No stress.

But then the vacation ended. And as soon as you arrived back home you could feel it again. The things that needed to be done. The projects waiting to be completed. The tension in relationships. Back to a world where it seemed as if Satan might be winning. But for a moment you had a tiny taste of what could be.

The Book of Revelation is a taste of what will be. It is the promise that in the end God wins and everything will be as it is meant to be. Life may be hard now. Life may be unfair now. There may be challenges now. But even now, everything is not as it appears to be. There is an upper story that is being played out. And in the end, God will demonstrate that he is on the throne and he will make everything right.

And for those whose names are written in the Book of Life, he will give a life in Paradise. The Apostle John was given a vision of the New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven. It is an immense and indescribable place. The end will be much like the beginning. The God who shaped Eden out of chaos will take the chaos of our world and shape it into something new. A New Heaven and a New Earth.

How do you get your name in the Book of Life? You have to know the Son of the Father. The Bible says, “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). So call on his name and make your reservation.

If you missed my message this past weekend on The End Times, you can view it here:

The Story Continues

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

Paul had known his share of suffering, but he did not shrink back from his calling. His own account of his hardships included floggings, lashings, beatings with rods, pelting with stones, shipwrecks, dangers from rivers and bandits and Jews and Gentiles, danger in the city and in the country, danger at sea and from false believers. He knew hard labor, lack of sleep, hunger, thirst, cold and nakedness (2 Cor. 11:23-29).

It’s a wonder that he could move at all, but move he did. From Corinth to Ephesus, from Thessalonica to Colossae, he left his footprints all over the known world of his day. When he wasn’t walking he was writing. He wrote letters to the church in Rome and Corinth and Galatia and Ephesus. He wrote to Titus and he wrote to Timothy. Letters that continue to inform and inspire. That day on the road to Damascus turned his world upside down and his life was spent telling others about it.

When you face struggles because of your faith, remember Paul and let his example motivate you to stay the course. He was able to do that because he anchored himself to a purpose that was higher and greater than his life. In his own words, he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7).

His fight did not end at death. The Apostle Paul made sure he passed the baton of faith. And he encouraged those behind him to do the same thing. “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2). Paul gave himself totally to the word of God and to eternal things.

So can you. Fight the good fight. And like Paul, finish the race well.

If you missed my message this past weekend on Paul’s Final Days, you can view it here:

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

I came across this article that Pastor Rick Brown had written about the Apostle Paul. I thought you might enjoy it at this point in our series, The Story.

If you saw her backstage you never would have imagined what fame was soon to come her way. She walked out on the stage in a frumpy dress. Slightly mussed up hair. Bushy eyebrows. Seemingly a bit old and odd for the competition. But the moment she began to sing on Britain’s Got Talent she took the world by storm. By the final note she was receiving a standing ovation from the crowd and a broad smile from Simon Cowell. The video of her performance immediately hit YouTube and within a week had been viewed 66 million times.

She eventually won second place in the competition but that did not stop her. An album was released in November of 2009 and by the end of the year she had the top selling record world wide of any releases, selling a total of 8.3 million copies.

You probably would never have picked him either. One first century writing describes him this way: “Bald-headed, bowlegged, strongly built, a man small in size, with meeting eyebrows, and a rather large nose.”

Appearances aside, he had been spending his days with a singular purpose: persecuting Christians. Pulling them from their houses. Throwing them in prison. Even having some killed.

And yet God chose him to take his story to the Gentiles. Jesus arranged a face-to-face meeting with Saul while he was on his way to Damascus to persecute his followers (Acts 9). Jesus slammed on the stadium lights and Saul began to see the light. And by the end of the encounter his name is changed from Saul to Paul as he is given a new purpose and a new lease on life.

The rest is history. Paul, a Jew, took the gospel message to the Gentiles. Paul, the “chief of sinners” spoke as a gracious firsthand recipient of God’s mercy. Paul, the well-schooled expert on the Law, became the most outspoken voice for the principle of grace.

And aren’t you glad he did? Most of us would not know Christ had Paul not traveled the world telling others about him. And most of us would not know Christ if some modern-day “Paul” not walked across the cul-de-sac or the cubicle or the classroom to introduce him to us.

Susan’s look changed. So did Paul’s. The description of Paul ends by saying he was “. . . full of grace, for sometimes he looked like a man and sometimes he had the face of an angel.”

An “angel.” The word means “messenger.” God wants to use you to take his message to your world. Your street. Your workplace. Your school. You might not think he’d choose you either. But you might just need to think again, no matter your appearance.

If you missed my message this past weekend on Paul’s Mission, you can view it here:

The Story Continues

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

In Acts 1:8, we find Jesus’ plan for his church, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The church is supposed to be a spirit-infused community of believers that takes Jesus to the world.

That mission hasn’t changed but two thousand years removed our perceptions of the church can sometimes look a little different. And so this past weekend we looked at some contemporary images and explored some common misconceptions of the church.
The church is not a movie theater where we go to be entertained and later critique the show.
The church is not a shopping center where we pick out what we like.
The church is not a restaurant where we are waited on and served.
The church is not a gas station where we swing by for a spiritual fill-up and then don’t think about it again until next week.
The church is not a gym where only those in shape feel comfortable in coming.

No, the church isn’t a place at all. It’s a community of believers doing life together. It’s a family of brothers and sisters partnering with God on his mission to pursue his prized creation. The church is where you and I intersect with the upper story and it becomes our story.

If you missed the message this past weekend from The Story, you can view it here:

The Story Continues

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

Maybe you’ve heard of Molossia. Only 14.3 acres in total land mass, it is a small kingdom unto itself. Located in three separate areas in the United States—part in Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Northern California—you can leave the United States and enter the Republic of Molossia. It is considered to be a micro-nation . . . a “nation within” our nation.

Pastor Rick Brown describes how Molossia has its own flag, its own signs, and its own boundary markers. It even has its own tourist attractions. Kevin Baugh is the president, or Sovereign, over his own little kingdom. His space program consists of model rockets. There is a railroad—model sized. The national sport is broom ball. And although his nation is landlocked, he claims a navy that is merely an inflatable boat. You can visit anytime you like. But—although it sounds fun—don’t think you can move there. He says there is not enough room. Kevin affectionately calls his nation “The Kingdom of Me.”

Don’t laugh too quickly. We may not have gone to the same extremes as Kevin Baugh, but we mostly live our lives as if we are rulers of our own kingdoms. What a surprise it is when we discover that we are living in a kingdom but it is not ours.

That’s the message of Jesus. He came saying, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). Literally he says the kingdom is “at hand.” It is that close. All around us. Within reach.

And this kingdom is different – out of the box. Jesus’ kingdom is not as a nation with armies and weapons but as a farmer who comes with seed and the seed falls on soil (Mark 4:3-9). Finding his kingdom is like finding a treasure in a field (Matt. 13:44). And his kingdom is worry-free (Matt. 6:25-34). Best of all, this kingdom has a king who is in control (Mark 4:35-39).

Jesus said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. . .” (28:18). Kings say things like that. Unlike Molassia, if you want to enter and live in this kingdom, there is room for everyone. That’s not the problem. There is plenty of room in this kingdom for everyone.

But you need to know that there is only room enough on the throne of this kingdom for one King.

If you missed the message this past weekend from The Story, you can view it here:

The Story Continues

Here is last weekend’s message video in case you missed. Thanks Ryan Fankhauser for delivering while I was out of the country.

The Story Continues

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

June 14, 2013

At the end of the Old Testament there is a period of 400 years often referred to as “the silent years.” Years without any prophets or leaders whose words or lives were recorded in Scripture. Years where there was no voice from God.

But before the silence Ezra read the word of God to the people. His desire was that they rebuild the wall around Jerusalem for protection and with the leadership of man named Nehemiah they accomplished the work in only 52 days. God’s greater desire was to rebuild the hearts of his people. The men, women and children gathered together. They heard the word. They understood the word. And then they did the word.

You can hear God’s voice in the same way these people did. Through his word. It’s his voice. When you hear it there will be a response. The Israelites in Nehemiah’s day wept. Others have repented. Still others have heard good news and rejoiced. More than building a wall, God is interested in building his people. And if you’ll listen to God through his word, it can rebuild your life.

God is still speaking today. You only need to gather open His Story and listen.

If you missed this past weekend’s message you can view it or any of the messages from The Story here:

The Story Continues

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

Sometimes you may feel like life is a big gamble. Like the outcome of your life is resting on how the dice roll for you. If they roll right, you get “lucky.” If they roll badly, your life goes down the tubes. Some call it coincidence or just luck.

Esther could relate. She is minding her own business as her people are captive in Persia. Meanwhile Haman—who has been given great authority by the King of Persia—is developing a hatred for Jews. In particular, he hates Mordecai. It seems Mordecai will not bow down to Haman whenever he parades through the streets of Susa.

So Haman decides to teach Mordecai a lesson. He gets King Xerxes to sign a decree that on a certain day all the Jews can be killed. And anyone killing a Hebrew would be allowed to keep the personal possessions of the deceased Hebrew. To determine the exact day when the Hebrews will be exterminated, Haman rolls the dice. Adar the 13th becomes the target date.

In the meantime, the king is having some issues with the queen. She refuses the king’s summons so she is released of her queenly duties. Then, because he needs a new queen, he holds the first “Bachelor” contest to find a new wife. The short story is that Esther gets the rose and becomes his queen.

After Esther, at great risk and without invitation, courageously approaches the king, he adds another edict that will allow the Hebrews to defend themselves, which turned out good for the Hebrews and bad for any Persian that attacked a Hebrew on Adar the 13th.

And Haman? Well, in a strange twist of events he wound up hung on the gallows he himself had erected for Mordecai.

Oddly enough throughout the book of Esther you will never find the name of God mentioned. Not once. There are days you may think he is not around either. But the story of Esther reminds us that he is, sometimes behind the scenes, working things out for “good for those who love him” (Romans 8:28). And when you don’t feel he is around, that’s more your perception then reality.

If you missed this past weekend’s message you can view it here:

The Story Continues

2013-1-TheStory-Header(1)

My kickboxing bag stands in the corner of our garage. Andrea gave it to me for my birthday a few years ago. I think about hanging it up every once in a while for a workout but somehow something always seems to come up.

I started a DIY kitchen project a while back. The next step was to install a tile backsplash. Andrea and I picked out the tile. I estimated the quantity. And…well that was two years ago and I haven’t gotten started.

I have a collection of unfinished projects and half-read books. Things started but left unfinished. Do you finish everything you start? Probably not. And to be honest, some things aren’t worth finishing.

But don’t think, even for a second, that you can put God in your collection of unfinished projects. For starters, he isn’t a “project.” Besides, he’s not going to sit on a shelf contentedly waiting for you to give him your attention once the kids are grown or the retirement is funded or life slows down.

The Israelites learned that lesson the hard way. They returned from Babylonian captivity to rebuild the temple. They started strong but in time turned their attention to other endeavors. They got distracted. What was important to God became unimportant to them.

Sixteen years passed without any work being done on the temple. So God allowed drought and downturns and difficulties to come upon them. And he said, “Give careful thought to your ways” (Haggai 1:5, 7).

God is either the main thing in your life or he is nothing. At the end of the day, each of us are responsible for our own schedule. There is really no such thing as partial obedience. God begins as the priority and then we schedule time with him. We schedule the things that are important to him. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God . . .” (Matthew 6:33).

The Jews eventually got back to God’s priorities and took part in one of the greatest works of heaven. You can too. There are some things worth finishing.

If you missed this past weekend’s message you can view it here:

Next Page »