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By Every Means – Pastor Mark Coughlin

Posted by on Dec 1, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

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During the Advent season I like to use Advent Readings to guide my preparation for Christmas.  One of the meditations

I read this week comes from Rick Richardson, a professor at Wheaton College.  I share part of this meditation with you.

 

If you have ever wondered what kind of means God uses to draw people to Him, a quick look at scripture tells us the answer is “nearly every means!”  Talking donkeys, fire from heaven, parting seas, to name just a few…but in the birth narrative of Jesus, we find another interesting pathway to conversion and worship: The stars.

In Matthew 2:1-2 we read, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?  For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’”

It is debated whether these wise men were kings or not, but what we do know is this:  they were not Jews, and likely Zoroastrians or Persians – men who didn’t know the Hebrew God!  And what method did God use to draw them to Himself?  Reading the stars.  God drew an unlikely people through an unlikely means to Himself.  It was the first story of conversion in the Bible!

With Advent upon us, and people more open than at any other time of year to faith conversations, we have the opportunity to reach people in new and creative ways.  We can look around us and ask, “Who are my non-Christian friends and neighbors, and what are their interests and passions?”  Maybe they read science fiction novels or play chess.  Maybe they bake or play video games.  Maybe they’re movie junkies or lovers of animals.  Regardless of their passion, God can use their interests as entry points to point them to Him!

And God can use your interests too!  Do what you love to do.  It might be snowshoeing or knitting, playing video games or baking, being crafty or going to new restaurants.  Do them with people who don’t know Jesus yet, asking good questions along the way.  You will have a good time and in the process find out that God is already at work in their lives in ways you didn’t know.

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Electing Love – Cassi Piper

Posted by on Nov 28, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

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The election is over and I am disheartened. My dismay has nothing to do with exit polls or election results, but rather with how poorly many Christians conducted themselves leading up to November 8th. Men and women on both sides of the aisle who profess to follow Jesus used their words to tear down not only unbelievers, but their Christian brothers and sisters as well. Facebook. Blogs. Letters to the Editor. The comments section of every political post, article and survey.

Unfortunately, the vitriol has only continued now that the election is over. Elated winners are bashing the losers. Angry losers are bashing the winners…

Church! Stop! This must not be!

Where is our witness? Where is the love and grace of Christ? I confess I too have fallen short. No, I did not physically write any scathing remarks, but throughout this election cycle I have harbored ill will in my heart towards those who do not think or vote like me. I have struggled to understand and feel empathy towards those across from my aisle. And I have been convicted in spirit and in truth that this cannot continue.

But how? How in a world so determined to crucify the other side do we love our neighbor? How can we stop the cycle of hurt? The answer is simple, but it is hard. We must follow Jesus. Jesus did not come to unify believers in their politics but rather to start a new kingdom altogether – a holy city defined by the love of its people for God and for each other.

When we extend love across the aisle we show a hurting world a different way. A way leading to peace, joy and rest. A way paved by the cross because while we were still sinners Christ died for us. The world will not love Jesus because His people won some political arguments with strong rhetoric. But it will fall on its knees when we sacrificially love.

It is my prayer that believers on both sides will put down their angry pens and keyboards and put on the love of Christ. On November 8th, we all cast our votes. The world is watching. Will we now elect to love?

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But I Say to You…

Posted by on Nov 10, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

But I Say to You…

One of the best things about living in America is our access to Christian resources and information.  If you want to read a book about the various Jewish festivals, all you have to do is hop on to Google books and you will have libraries of information at your figure tips.  If you had a question about a specific Greek word, just hop onto lumina.bible.org.  If you want to be encouraged, pick up one of the gazillion books pastors write every day.

Living in the English-speaking world provides us with historically unimaginable resources.  One can think back 500 years to the reformation when Martin Luther and his compatriots would painfully print off pamphlets describing their Biblical positions and challenged/encouraged many believers.  Most Christians, however, couldn’t read the pamphlets let alone the Bible.

Here’s the danger with having a cornucopia of Christian information—we can focus so much on resources that we forget to go directly to the Word of God.  I have realized, at times, I’ve read more about the Bible then the actual Bible.

Is it more important to be familiar with popular Christian authors, or the Bible?  Is it more important to read about the insights of others, or finding your insights from scripture?  Is it more important to have an intimate knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, or know what God has said?  There are many professors and teachers who know lots of information about the Bible, yet they don’t know the first thing about the living Word.

During the time of Jesus, it was popular for people to follow certain teachers.  These teachers were not much different than our teachers today.  They were insightful, smart and excellent communicators.  But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says over and over, “But I say to you.”  In other words, Jesus is clarifying what the law actually means.  The teachers were the experts in God’s Word; yet, Jesus reveals their mistakes.  When our favorite author or speaker says something wonderful, let’s not forget Jesus’ words, “but I say to you.”

I’m certainly not advocating throwing all of C. S. Lewis’ books or Jesus Calling away.  Reading insightful Christian authors is one of my favorite pastimes.  But C. S. Lewis and Jesus Calling are not scripture.  They can reveal truth, but they cannot bring the true transformation of the Holy Word.

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One-Eyed Badger

Posted by on Nov 3, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

One-Eyed Badger

Have your reactions ever surprised you?  Have you ever said to yourself, “this is not like me”?  Have you ever driven happily down the highway, and a loathsome inconsiderate cuts you off?  Does your reaction portray your identity in Christ?  Or does your reaction portray that of an eye poked badger?

The irony, of course, is that our reactions—not matter how unpleasant—come from within us.  We still have actions that betray our sinful hearts, even if their infrequency gives us hope they don’t exist.  What gives?

Romans 12:2b says “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  How is one truly transformed when exterior circumstances poke that old sinful badger right in the eye?

The vast majority of our reactions are “spill-over” from how we live when things aren’t filled with stress.  This begs the question, how are we living the transformed life when things aren’t going wrong?

God doesn’t just want to transform the parts people see; he wants to transform the whole person.  This means that if God is calling us make changes in environment or routines or calendar or friendships or entertainment, we make those changes.  Even if they seem unimportant or inconsequential,  they are the little things that make the whole of you.  If you are unwilling to change the little things, there should be no surprise when you see a surly one-eyed badger in the mirror.

The reality is, our reactions show us who we are.  The good news is that our reactions are symptomatic of the needed transformation.  We can choose to ignore them, or we can go badger hunting.

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I’m Afraid – Joel Ericson

Posted by on Jun 15, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

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There’s plenty for us to fear in these unusual and volatile times and just as we are   encouraged to count our blessings, the evil one can do a pretty effective job of making us count our fears. Sometimes it’s hard to escape those fears and Satan rejoices when we fall into that dark pit. We forget to pray; and we forget Gods promises. The devil continues with his conniving tactics to try to make us believe his lies and, sometimes, the images we form in our minds are so believable that we tend to reflect on the negatives instead of what we know God has prepared for us. We might ask:  Does God really hear my prayers? “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” 1 John:14-15

Are our prayers worthy of God’s attention?  “However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day.” John 6:37-39

We present ourselves as wretched and unworthy. “You are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, everything he has belongs to you” (Galatians 4:7). Would you deny your child anything?  Be very careful about the words you speak. Words possess spiritual power. Death and life are in the power of our words. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” Psalm 19:14  And when we say to ourselves, ”I’m afraid”  “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

I read a book recently called “A Year of Living Prayerfully”, by a man named Jared Brock who spent a year on a quest to improve the effectiveness of his prayer life. In his quest he examined and experienced all manner of prayer styles, locales, and practices and while some of his experiences can be described as “tongue in cheek” his journey, filled with deep insights and surprise encounters can help you can learn how to experience God and re-ignite your prayer life.

We need to face the fear or the uncertainty with bold faith and the confidence that our God hears and acts as a result of our prayers. It may be hard. When we are aware of other’s needs, we must intercede for them (more about this next time). When we are in need we need to seek intercessory help. God truly is all powerful.

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Mix It Up – Matt Ragain

Posted by on Jun 1, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 12.23.33 PMThe start to a new season can bring all types of sentimental and hopeful feelings.  The sentiment comes from remembering the joy and new experiences of seasons past.  The hope comes from the excitement of what is yet to come.  The beginning of summer brings both sentiment and hope to me every year.  I remember summer’s past traveling the world or driving thousands of miles cross country to call a new state home.  I mark many of my summers by my reading.  One such glorious summer, I took a class on the theology of C. S. Lewis.  I read his entire corpus in a period of 2 months—glorious indeed.

The very nature of summer is extraordinary.  In other words, there’s very little that is ordinary about it.  Our schedules are perhaps the most unusual.  They can be filled with family adventures, meals with friends alfresco and the magic that comes from a hot night with even hotter fireworks.

Romans 12:2 says, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Summer does not just hold the promise of new adventure and experiences, but it also is a great opportunity to mix things up spiritually.  This is a good opportunity to participate in a small group, go through a Christian book with a friend, learn how to play worship music on the guitar or challenge ourselves with purposeful prayer.  One of the great things about summer is that it shifts us out of our norm.  Let’s move with the shift and think outside the box as we approach our salvation and our father.  Let’s try those things that we have always wanted to try and when we don’t “preform” the way we think we should, let’s remember it’s not about preforming, it’s about getting in God’s presence.

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