• Surprise! You're pregnant! 😳

    "...the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a Son, and you are to call Him Jesus."

    Luke 1:30-31 (NIV)

    Everyone likes to get good news. There's no debate about that. What is apparently is up for debate is what exactly constitutes "good news." Clearly, the angel Gabriel thought carrying Jesus was good news. He tells Mary, "You have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son..."

    Hm. Translation: "Surprise! You're pregnant!" You can almost picture him with giant smile, hands outstretched, like, "ta da!"

    "I'm going to turn your life upside down. You had plans? Scrap em. Not quite married yet, and this might cause a bit of a scandal? You'll get over it. You're engaged and it's not even going to be his baby? No worries, I'll have a chat with him. Oh, and uh, one more thing, the reigning king wants to kill your baby so if this didn't already throw your life into a bit of a tailspin, you'd better pack up everything and make a beeline for Egypt...Congrats!" (big smile).

    This is part of the disconnect between humanity and God. We have plans. And often they're not only not the same as His, but they're not even in line with His. To us, completely turning our lives upside down to accommodate God is a hassle, a burden, frustrating, and, at the very least, not "good news." We are sentient, sovereign beings and we want a say in what happens in our lives. In fact, we want THE say. 

    The Christmas Story is a challenging reminder: however we see ourselves, to God, we are His. We are sentient because He made us that way. Whatever sovereignty we may have is provided at His discretion.

    We often look at serving God as disruptive to our lives, while God looks at serving Him as the purpose of our lives. To God, getting to play apart in the eternal plan of the redemption of all humanity is good news.

    And apparently Mary agreed. "May your word be fulfilled." she replies. No argument, no shoulder slump, no disappointed tone.

    Mary knew herself as His. As beautiful and miraculous and wonderful as the Christmas is, it's also challenging. It's filled with people who had no idea they were destined to play a part in God's plan, but willingly submitted to it when they found out. People who happily set aside their own ideas and plans for their lives in light of His. (Mary didn't even get to choose the name of her own baby!)

    And today, some 2000 years later, because of their obedience, because of their willingness, we have Christmas. The world was changed because of a baby...and the willingness of God's people to play their part in it.

    No that sounds sacrilegious but for whatever reason God constant chooses to use humanity to accomplish His plans; so much so that He actually became one! It's like He's saying over and over, "I love you! I want you!" The greatest love we show is the love we don't need. And God keep showing it to us over and over.

     The Christmas story is a reminder that God loves us, and has plans for us; and that those plans, in fact are part of His love for us. He's not trying to make life hard, but to (ultimately) make it easier, better because God's plans for you can change the course of history. The Christmas story challenges us with this thought: "What might God do with me if I was just willing?" 

    It reminds of what God can do with a life willing to be used; willing to be submitted to His plan and His purposes. 

    The reality is that while kids make their Christmas lists, and spouses hint at each other about theirs, God has one too; and we're on it. Ironically, maybe the best thing gift you could give anyone this Christmas is the one you give to the only Being in all reality that seems to have everything; you.

  • You'll shoot Your Eye Out Kid!

    Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.

    Luke 1:11-13 (NIV)

    Christmas is definitely a time for prayer, Ask any kid. Every kid knows that to get what they really want, they're gonna need the Big Guy to step in and perform at least a couple low level miracles. In the classic movie, "A Christmas Story" young Ralpie has his heart set on a a specific BB gun. "I want a Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model BB gun with a compass in the stock." And to his dismay, it's almost always returned with the familiar refrain, "You'll shoot your eye out kid."

    For many it's a familiar predicament. For many, our prayers make us feel like we're Ralphie and God is every, way too sensible adult, in the movie; like our ask is constantly being met with a divine "You'll shoot your eye out kid!"

    Prayer can be tough one those endeavoring to follow Christ and vest their faith in Him. Many prayers seemingly go unanswered. In our more cynical and frustrated moments it can feel like they've really gone unnoticed. But Christmas tells us otherwise.

    It must have seemed to Zechariah and Elizabeth that God had forgotten them, or at the very least said no to their desire for a child. They obviously wanted one because apparently they had prayed, or were praying for one. And yet they didn't have one. 

    This passage of the Christmas Story tells us us a couple things so relieving to our faith. 1) Zechariah and Elizabeth wanted a child. 2) They didn't have one. 3) They were "righteous" and "blameless" in God's sight. 4) They were old. And 5) They were beyond their child bearing years.

    And then something incredible happens. An angel shows up and says those mind blowing, faith changing, peace giving words: "Your prayer has been heard."

    And that changes everything. For them and for us.

    They get a child and we get answers to some oft wondered questions. 1) God knows what we want (even when He doesn't seem to be giving it to us). 2) No one gets what they want, whenever they want. 3) Not even the righteous. (Hey, it may not be you!). 4) Your prayers don't expire. Zechariah and Elizabeth were old! They were past their child bearing years, and they most likely weren't still praying for one. Yet their prayer was still answered. 5) There is never a time that God cannot answer your prayers, there is no limitation He cannot overcome. 

    Christmas is a story of answered prayer; and not just those offered up some 2000 years ago. Christmas reminds us that God hears our prayers. That He's listening and they don't have an expiration date. That if God wants to give us something nothing can stop Him.

    Christmas reminds us and challenges us: don't give up on your prayers; God hasn't.

  • When's Payday?

    Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

    Luke 1:6-7 (NIV)

    Ever have one of those jobs where you're always wondering, "When am I gonna get paid for this?" Ever have one of those jobs that feels like you're working harder than you're getting paid for? It's like you're constantly wondering, "When is all my hard work gonna pay off?"

    Religion can be like that. Walking with God can be like that. There are a lot of things we do "for God" that don't seem to pay too well. You'd think if God really wanted us to be good people He'd reward us immediately! Ah, gave money to a homeless person? Here's a check in your mailbox doubling your gift! Went to church this week? Here are green lights for the next week of driving! Missed the game to go to church? Your team not only won, they're going to the Super Bowl!

    Unfortunately experience shows us, it just doesn't work that way. (Harumph!) Ask Elizabeth and Zechariah. The Bible says they were "righteous in the sight of God," keeping God's commands "blamelessly." Wow! That's impressive! I mean, it's one thing to say that about yourself, but when God says it...wow!

    And yet...they were childless. For some of us in today's culture we might say, "Lucky them!" But they wouldn't have. Back then it was an honor to have children and it was considered a curse of you didn't (couldn't).

    Weird. Here were these two people that God considered righteous and blameless, and yet, they were still missing something. And thank goodness!

    The Christmas story reminds us, when we're feeling like God doesn't see, has fallen asleep on the job, has forgotten our good deeds, just doesn't care, doesn't think our good deeds are good enough; God sees, and God rewards.

    The Christmas story reminds us that people better than us (I wouldn't call myself righteous or blameless!) (and neither would anyone I know), waited longer than us; but it wasn't because God didn't see. He did see. He called them righteous. He saw their every move so He could say they followed His decrees and commandments blamelessly.

    God sees. He sees you. He sees what you've done. How you've suffered. The cost you paid, and pay. The lengths you're willing to go to, and have gone to. How everyone else is getting ahead but because you're suffering for Him, for righteousness, seem to be falling behind. God sees. And He rewards.

    The Christmas Story reminds us that the reward for faithfulness doesn't not always come immediately; not even to the best of us. But it comes. And better than we thought or wanted.

    Zechariah and Elizabeth just wanted a child, and they got one...but they also got so much more! They were seen and chosen not just to have a child, but to play a part in the most amazing thing that's ever happened since the inception of reality, a piece in God's master plan to redeem humanity and reconcile it to Himself; a part in the Christmas story.

    This Christmas, remember, the reward for faithfulness is not often immediate, but always worth it. God sees, and God rewards.

  • Misfits and Miscreants

    This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:

    Matthew 1:1 (NIV)

    For many kids the story of a certain red nosed reindeer is as much a part of the Christmas season as Santa or even (dare I say it?), Jesus Himself! (Gasp!) Rudolph is the story of a particular reindeer in the employ of Santa that didn't quite fit in with everyone else. The problem: he had a red nose. One that glowed so bright you could even say it glowed (like a lightbulb!) (you know you were thinking it.) He was an outcast. No one liked him and he didn't fit the status quo. But then opportunity struck. A problem arose that he was uniquely qualified to help with, and boom! He became a hero.

    Interestingly enough the genealogy of Jesus reads in a similar way. You probably don't know because genealogies are the parts of the Bible we skip over when reading, but it contains its own share of outcasts. People who didn't fit in. People who didn't live life the right way. You would think the genealogy of Jesus would be a list of kings, heroes, and all of the righteous people that existed. And it has those elements. But what's surprising is that the birth map for God also contains sinners and outcasts; people who didn't always live the right lives or live the right way. People who didn't seem to be "chosen by God."...at the time.

    The genealogies of Christ tell a different story: God did choose them.

    The story of Christmas is one of hope because it's not just about a baby, a couple that raised Him, some shepherds, or some wisemen; or how they played a part in Jesus's story, or in God's great plan. It's a story about how anyone can! It's a story about how God uses even the outcasts. And even in His greatest works! 

    Everyone makes mistakes. We may not have red noses but all of us at some point have had red faces; done something we're embarrased about, ashamed of, or hope no one ever finds out about. Sometimes the consequences of our mistakes, or the guilt of making them, leads us to believe we're not good enough. That God couldn't, or wouldn't want to, use us.

    Christmas says otherwise.

    Sometimes people might be given to wonder, "Why include genealogies in the story of something so magnificent at all? What with all the drama; a virgin birth, a marriage in jeopardy, angels showing up, long awaited announcements, a mad king, mysterious wise men coming from a far off mysterious land (and disappearing just as mysteriously), prophetic announcements and fulfillments; why include a genealogy at all? Just seems to slow the story down and take away from the action...except the genealogy tells an incredible part of the story.

    The genealogy is not a slow, boring addition to the Christmas Story. The genealogy is God screaming to us from heaven, "I love you! I want to be with you! I don't care that you've made mistakes. They don't take away from your value or worth to me. I've moved all of history and time to be with you and no mistake you could make could stop me from loving you!"

    This Christmas as your faced with your mistakes; the consequences from them; the guilt of them; this Christmas when the world whispers in your ear, "God doesn't/couldn't love someone who has..." Remember with hope and joy, not only did God not reject some of those very same people, but He actually used them in the greatest story ever told, and the greatest thing that's ever happened.

  • Even More than Heaven

    But He was pierced for our transgressions,
    He was crushed for our iniquities;
    the punishment that brought us peace was on Him,
    and by His wounds we are healed.

    Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)

    "You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I'm telling you why
    Santa Claus is comin' to town!" As Christmas approaches, parents urge their kids, "be good...or else!" It's tradition to let kids know that if they're not good Santa won't be dropping off any gifts for them. "He's making a list, he's checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty and nice, Santa Claus is coming to town!"

    Christmas is the story of Jesus coming to town, and, funny enough, we kinda have the same thoughts. God is coming to town and we better shape up because He's probably already mad at us. We have this innate feeling that we're guilty and God is upset. And we're right!

    We are guilty. We've all done something. At some point we all fall short of the ethic of love. And God IS upset. He hates some of the things human beings do to each other, and even themselves. And rightly so. We find ourselves hating those same things. But that's what makes Christmas so beautiful.

    We ARE on the naughty list. God is upset, and yet, He comes. Not with a sword, but with gifts. Salvation. Grace. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Christmas is the story of the God who comes with a bag full of gifts for the kids on the naughty list. Christmas is the story that sets us straight. We may be naughty and He may be mad but He's far more madly in love.

    God gives up a Son. Jesus gives up heaven. For us.

    And He didn't just come. He gave up even more than heaven. We tend to think God is coming for us with a whip, but Christmas says He came to take the whip. "He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him...and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." God answered His (righteous) anger with His love! Christmas is that story!

    Christmas is a reminder that God loves you far more than you think. That He's far more interested in loving you than punishing you! That He came to be with you and would give up everything to make that happen.

    Christmas isn't beautiful because God isn't angry. Christmas is beautiful because even His anger won't keep you from His love.

  • The Doctor is In

    For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

    Isaiah 9:6

    Remember when you were a kid and you didn't feel good? Mom would always know what to do to fix you right up. Sore throat? Gargle some salt water. Headache? Lay down and put a cold compresses on your forehead. Feeling feverish? How about a lukewarm bath to cool you down. Mom always knew what to do to make you feel better, and if she didn't a trip to the doctor would certainly take care of it.

    Wouldn't it be great if it was always like that. If whatever problem you had, mom could still fix it. Most of us would even settle for a quick trip to the doctor if it would alleviate what ails us. But we're not kids any more. Our problems are bigger. Harder to solve, even harder to fix. Sometimes we even discover we're the problem! How do you fix that?!?

    God: "I have some ideas." (in His best Buddy the Elf voice).

    Namely, His Messiah. A gift to us; for us. "A Child is born, a Son is given;" the Messiah.

    Christmas is the season of gift giving for good reason. It rightly commemorates what happened on that first Christmas night, God gave us a gift, the gift; His Son. And to date, is it still the best gift anyone has ever given ever.

    You see the Christmas story is not just the story of the giving of a baby, or even of a son, but of everything we would ever need ever. Perhaps that's why He has so many names; Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Everlasting Father, Almighty God. Whatever you need, whatever you need to be fixed, whatever ails you; this gift fixes it. Christ is God's Swiss army knife. Of the birth of Christ John chapter 1 says, "The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world." (John 1:9). A loose paraphrase might read, "The doctor is in." The Fixer is here. And this doctor is capable of healing anything and everything; even you, even death.

    This Christmas, we do not simply celebrate the birth of a child, or even the giving of a son, but something bigger; the gift of a fixer; the Fixer. Competent and capable to fix whatever ails you; even if it's you. You are not beyond repair; the Doctor is in, the Fixer has come.

  • God With Us

    Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

    Isaiah 7:14

    Being a kid at Christmastime was great. No matter how bad things were often one visit from good old Santa could fix it all. Bad behavior? No problem, "Santa is watching so you'd better be good." Didn't get what you wanted for your birthday? No problem, write it down on your list and Santa will bring it. Parents tell you they can't afford what you want? No problem Santa's budget is limitless, what with all the free labor and all.

    Ah, the good old days. Wouldn't it be great if it was still that way? It's a bit different as adults. Our problems are bigger. Sometimes seemingly impossible. Insurmountable. Often they just can't be solved with a quick gift or even a visit from Santa. (Gasp!) (Although, wives everywhere still attest that flowers, chocolates, and jewelry still fix a number of issues).

    God saw that. He looked down on the world, looked down on us, and saw our helpless state. He knew even Santa couldn't help. So He sent someone better.

    Christmas is not simply the story of a birth, but the coming of Good into our lives. Immanuel. God with us.

    Christmas is the story of God coming to us, to be with us.

    Sometimes we're tempted to think God doesn't like us. Or is mad at us. If life isn't going the way we though it should, it's because God is angry at us. But Christmas reminds us. God love you. He came to be with you. He came so you could be with Him.

    God wants to be with you. And not just on Sundays or when you've been especially good. In our good times, and even in our bad times. God wants to be with you. In your mistakes. In your misery, in your despair, in your loneliness. When no one else understands. When the doctor can't fix it. When the promotion you thought would make it all better doesn't fix it. When finally landing that person, the one you thought, "If I just have them everything will be better," can't fix it. When having another kid doesn't fix it. When even Santa can't fix it. God wants to be with you.

    Immanuel. God with us. God. With. Us. God with you.

    Christmas is the celebration of God coming to us. God chasing us down to be with us.

    In Christmas we remember and celebrate that God is not far off. He's not someone we have to chase down to find. He chased us down! He is here. With us. 

  • The Chain Breaker

    The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

    Isaiah 61:1-2

    Christmas is a story of hope. Not because we simply wish it that way, but because God wrote it that way. Long before a baby would be born in a manger God was writing His story; His life. Who He would be and what He would accomplish. God was setting out a plan to set things right, to fix what had been broken; including us.

    Every feel broken? Are there things in your life you wish were different? Things you wish were different but as much as you want it to be different you just can't seem to choose the things that would make it different? Or, maybe worse, maybe it feels like no matter what you choose, the cards are stacked against you. No matter what you try, your lot on life is your lot in life, and it will never change no matter what you do. Join the club.

    We all feel tied to something; chained even. We've all felt the powerlessness of our own choices to free us from whatever darkness has chained us. Christmas is not just the story of a baby being born under miraculous conditions but a baby born to do miracles! Jesus came to break chains. Christmas is the story of the Chain Breaker.

    This Christmas, when you feel the pull of your chains, remember, this season we celebrate the birth of the Chain Breaker. They may hold you now, but not for long. Jesus came to set you free; once and for all. No wound won't be healed, no chain won't be broken, no prison will hold you. Not the ones of your own making, and not the ones life has made for you. Jesus has come and He's got good news.

  • Waiting is the Hardest Part

    “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah"

    Jeremiah 31:31

    Ask any kid and they'll tell ya, the hardest thing about Christmas is the waiting. First you wait all year long for the season to come, and then, even when the season arrives, you have to wait until Christmas day to open your presents!

    There has always been an element to Christmas that's been about waiting. Ever since evil entered the world, ever since human beings became separated from God; humanity, the world, creation itself, has been waiting. Waiting for God to fix it. Waiting to be fixed.

    Christmas is not just a holiday we decorate in red and sprinkle some religion into, it's the story of the salvation of the world, the reconciliation of humanity with God. It's God's plan coming into fruition, beginning to take shape. That's what we celebrate, that's part of why we worship. God's plan has begun! Christ has come! God's plan is unfolding.

    And yet He's not done.

    And so we wait. Theologically we wait for Christ to return. That moment signals the heralding of the final stages of God's plan to fix everything; that moment when everything that is broken will be put right, fixed. Christmas is about looking back at a what God has done and begun, and looking forward to that beautiful moment when it will all be fulfilled.

    In the meantime we wait. We wait for the brokenness of the world that breaks our hearts to be fixed. We wait for the darkness that is death, that great curse that casts a shadow on our best days, and haunts us unceasingly, to be vanquished. We wait for those things on the news that make us wonder, "Is anybody going to do anything about that?" to no longer show up. We wait for the things inside us that we wish were different to be made different.

    We wait. But not as people who don't know. Not as people who are unsure. But as people who have seen God at work. People who know what the coming birth of a particular baby 2000 years ago means to us today, and what it will mean for our tomorrow. Jesus came. God is at work. His plan is unfolding. It's Christmas time!

  • The Longest Labor

    So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.”

    Genesis 3:14-15 (NIV)

    If Christmas is the story of Jesus's birth, the prelude definitely begins in the Garden. Yes that garden. Christmas is the story of the longest labor in all of history.

    Genesis chapter 3 tells the tale of man's separation from God, our choice to try to live life apart from Him; a choice that introduced insecurity to the human dilemma, indecision to our purpose, evil to our morality, and death to life. In Genesis 3 human beings create a separation between themselves and God that ultimately led to death.

    But God wouldn't have it. Almost as soon as death enters the picture, God hatches a plan for redemption; "He will crush your head..." Many biblical scholars call this passage the "Protoevangelium," the first gospel. It's a foreshadowing of what is to come and the first mention by God of His plan for redemption. From the very beginning of evil in the world, at its very first introduction, God has a plan to vanquish it. At our very first separation from God, God has a plan to b being us back. As soon as we become sick, God begins a plan to heal us. This is the story of Christmas. This is at the core of the season we're entering into.

    This season, do not just enter into a season of decorations, fake smiles, and lots of eating; enter into healing. Take hold of what God has done and is doing in birthing the longest labor of all time, the birth of Christ. Conceived so long ago in the Garden and brought to birth a little over 2000 years ago, all with the purpose of healing what had become sick, fixing what had become broken, vanquishing evil and death.

    This season, enjoy Christmas for what it is. Rejoice in the longest labor, and God's plan of redemption; for you, and for everyone else too.

  • Post Featured Image

    Be a Good Steward of Relationships

    Christianity offers us both the challenge, and the opportunity, of the most comprehensive view on love we’ve ever encountered.

    It’s hard to love an enemy; but follow’s God’s direction and you’ll soon find you don’t really have any.

    Be a good steward of EVERY relationship. 

  • Separation anxiety?

    “And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it...”

    ‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:43‬ ‭ESV‬‬

    At some point we’ll all forget Jesus, or leave Him behind, sometimes even intentionally. The question is, will we go back for Him?

    He’ll always be waiting. If there’s some area of your life where you’ve left Him, forgotten Him, go back. Reconnect.

    “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

    Lamentations 3:22-23

    He’ll always be waiting.

  • Your Pain Matters

    "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” He asked.
    “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
    Jesus wept.
    Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”
    John 11:33-36 (NIV)

    One of the hardest truths of our reality is the presence of pain. In fact, so sure is the presence of pain in our loves that no one escapes it...not even God! And that fact, while it may not be enough to alleviate our pain, may at least comfort us in it for these three reasons:

    1. GOD FEELS PAIN. "Jesus Wept." We learn He is not an absent cosmic dictator, living a perfect life in a perfect reality, unaware of or uncaring of our pain; but rather a God who is down in it; embroiled so deeply in the muck and the mire with us that it affects Him, He feels it, He is "human." He's is not simply an impersonal, ethereal force, or a some form of spiritual energy, which cannot feel or relate, but He is related through our experience of pain. He feels, and so therefore is touchable.

    2. GOD FEELS OUR PAIN. "Jesus saw her weeping...He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled." It's not just that He feels pain, He feels our pain! He is touched by it! the things that hurt us hurt Him too. He joins us in our pain. It's not just ours to suffer through and wish it were different, but God hurts with us, hurts for us. He cares. It is our pain that moves Him to weeping!

    3. GOD ACTS ON OUR PAIN. God doesn't just feel pain. God doesn't just feel our pain. It affects Him SO DEEPLY that He acts on it. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead! He sees the pain of Lazarus' family and He answers a prayer they haven't even spoken! Our pain affects God. And not just in that He feels it and sympathizes with it, but it moves Him enough to act. He feels it so strongly, He loves us so much, that our pain, changes reality.

    In this reality, no one escapes pain, not even God. But in our pain we can be comforted to know that we are not alone. God feels pain too; even ours. He is hurt by what hurts us. And that our pain matters to Him; enough not just to catch His attention, which is something, but enough to act upon it, enough to even twist the boundaries of reality as we know it. All of which tells us that in our pain, God cares; and even more so, cares for us.

  • What's Hell Got To Do With It, Part 1

    The first step to understanding Hell is making sure we understand God.

    "...I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to answer and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity." Jonah 4:2b

    Hell is tough concept for modern Christians to understand, and all the more to reconcile it with a belief in a loving God. This is made especially hard given our predisposition to focus primarily on God's love, and especially His love for us...and while that makes it hard to think of, understand, or reconcile Hell, that also is the very thing that's key to understanding it.

    Whether it's Hell as the biblical concept, a place of eternal separation from God, or Hell as a symbol for the challenges, hardships, and tragedies of our life of our lives ("My life is Hell!" "I'm going through Hell" "This ____ is putting me through Hell"), the key to understanding "Hell," is first understanding God.

    "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:8 (NIV)

    What the Bible's contending is that God IS love. That's what He *is,* it's not just an emotion He has or a thing He does, or even a thing He does well. He IS love. What that tells us is that all of His attributes and actions are birthed in love, flow from love; even the ones hard for us to understand, even the ones hard for us to believe, even the ones that seem painful to us.

    If we want to understand Hell, we must start by understanding God. God IS love. Beginning there is a tool for seeing reality, and all its components, clearly, because we finally begin to see its Author clearly.


    #whatsHELLgottodowithit #jonah4two

  • Back To School: The Fundamentals, Part 1



    THE FUNDAMENTALS: Recap, Part 1

    While it's wildly popular to start your child's education at home and before they get into some type of formal schooling, everyone seems to start at the same place: the fundamentals; recognition of letters, colors, numbers, etc. It's a good place to start with our faith as well.


    You wouldn't try to start your child's education with Algebra, right? No, you'd want them to at least recognize numbers before you started telling them what to do with ...them right? This is true of our faith as well. Often our faith raises difficult questions about how we live, how we should live, the nature of humanity, the nature of eternity, the nature of God, the nature of reality, and so on, and so on. What's important to understand is that our answers to those deep and often difficult questions are far more rooted in the fundamentals of our faith than the length of time we tend to it.


    While we often yearn for our pastors to "teach us something new," the reality is that it's difficult to have a proper perspective of our God and our faith without a clear understanding of how we should view them. This is where the fundamentals come in.


    The fundamentals are the foundation on which we build our belief system. They are the solid ground the structure that will be our faith will be built on top of. If the foundation is shaky, chances are, so is our picture of God and our faith.


    What are your fundamentals? Are they "solid?" Are they biblically based?


    Over the course of this week we'll share 5 of the most important fundamentals of our faith. Make it a point to check in and see if yours match up. God bless!

  • "Dawn of The Planet of The Apes"

    At first blush "Dawn of The Planet of the Apes" is just another end of the world movie; except it's not, it's an end of *our world* movie...except it's not; it's an end of our *way of life movie.* And in that, it's our story.

    Sure. Crazy, right? Apes? Apes plotting to take over the world? Ridiculous. Cats, yeah. Of course even. Its a given, they're evil. But apes? And TALKING apes no less!

    However it may be dressed up, at it's core "Dawn" is the story of two worlds that collide; an old world, and a new world. And *that* is our story.

    The Bible tells it this way: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God..." (Revelation 21:1-2a)

    As I heard one pastor has describe it, "Its like the new world is crashing into the old one."

    It's our story. The story of the old world and it's way of life, ours; being eviscerated by the new world and it's new way of life, His.

    Its the hauntingly inescapable echo of every truly Christian message, "The old way is coming to an end."

    "See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind." (Isaiah 65:17)

    It's our story.

    Maybe that's why we are so fascinated with the end times, doomsday, the apocalypse, Armageddon. Maybe that's why we keep telling this story over and over and over and people keep paying money to see what amounts to an incredibly horrific reality unfold. Because it's our story.

    Written in the stars, in the prophecies, in the holy books...written in our hearts. Written into creation and our hearts *not just* to frighten us, but to warn us; to plead with us. To make us aware and coax us to a new life, a new way.

    Maybe its the story that bleeds out from those hearts as we focus our eyes, our intellect, and our unrelentingly honest and unceasing critique of humanity at what is, and strain our tear filled gaze to glimpse our future.

    "Dawn" is our story. A dressed up sci fi version of the passing of the old world and the rise of the new one.

    The question seeing our story dressed up in theirs, whispers quietly, but urgently to our hearts is: "When that moment comes; when the old world stumbles for the last time to rise no more and we look up to find ourselves in the eclipsing shadow of a new world descending to take it's place; which world will be the one we call home?"

  • X-Men:Days of Future Past, Part 1

    In the comics and the movies the X-Men are a collection of people who have "evolved." They are the next evolution of humanity. They have the "X" gene which produces transformed humans.

    In the same way the Bible calls us to be a people transformed; to evolve. "Do not conform to the pattern of this world any longer but be transformed by the renewing of your minds..." (Romans 12:1-2)

    The transformation God asks for from us is not dependent on our DNA but our choices. He says, "I'll renew your minds with new knowledge. It'll provide a new perspective on life, on creation, and the reality that surrounds you, and the way you should live in light of it all. You choose to allow that renewal to produce transformation in your actions." In short, evolve. Become different.

    The Bible says it a different way when it tells us, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I put the childish ways behind me." (1 Corinthians 13:11). Evolve.

    Christianity is not just a religion, its a choice. Not just a mark for some census, but a collection of choices that, together, define a life that's...different. Evolved. A transformation from the basic, animalistic, me first, instincts all of humanity is prone to, to a better way of living. One which demonstrates a knowledge of the inherent connection between everything and everyone, and one which honors that connection by moving through it guided by the higher ideal of love.

    Like to the X-Men, God is asking us to evolve. To become different. Only, the next evolution of humanity is not produced by DNA but by choice; to choose to break free from the animalistic desires that guide us, and *choose* a higher way of living; an enlightened way. To become different, to evolve. Will you?

  • Being Thankful for The Past (Part 1)

    Our past. Some people run from it. Some people try to hide it. Some people try to hide from it. But maybe this year, we should simply be thankful for it.

    This year, as we approach Thanksgiving and reflect on what it is to be thankful and what we have to be thankful for, maybe our past should be high on that list.

    Not all pasts are bright and shiny. Not all pasts are suitable for putting into frames and putting up on the living room wall. And we certainly shouldn't misinterpret "being thankful" for our pasts to be the same as being proud of them, but here's one thing we should understand: if you have one it means you're no longer in it.

    This means, on some level, you have come through it! And that, more often than not, is reason for thankfulness.

    Maybe a key to be thankful this year is not avoiding our pasts, but rather reflecting on it. Reflecting on what we've been through. Taking stock of where we've come from...and where we're going. Celebrating the victories; even those that have been hard fought; even those that have left scars.

    The nice thing about a past, no matter how ugly, is that its always behind us. And that is a reason to be thankful.


    by Michael Holmes

    Lead Pastor

  • God Made Me A Patient Man

    "Looking back on the last few years I have come to understand something about myself.
    It is this:


    God has made me into a patient man.


    On the inside at least.

    There are those who would disagree.


    I know this because the year before I was a person who could have made very rash and stupid decisions. This last year I wasn’t that kind of man.


    Patience is something I’m pretty sure I have never consciously asked for. Mainly because in asking for it I know that I will be faced with something that will cause me to have to be patient.


    It is a very painful process.


    And God made me a very patient man.


    I know that I am patient because I did not make a lot of decisions that I wanted to. Decisions that would have changed my life, and maybe the lives of others, in a less than positive way. There were so many times when in the midst of my fear or anger I was so tempted to do something, and God would whisper, “Hush. I have given you another day to live. Tomorrow will be different from today, and better than it looks right now. You have another day to see the difference. Wait, and I will show you a better way.”


    So I waited. And He did.


    And God made me a very patient man.


    I used up a lot of Grace. Boatloads, as a matter of fact. Supertankers even.


    It is my abundant good fortune that God does not put a quota on it.


    It was in making me patient that He allowed me to see that I was, in fact, extending His Grace to others through me. Because Grace is all about Christ bearing the consequences of our sin, is it not? And I am not in a position to extend the consequences of someone’s sin on to their shoulders am I?


    Many things did not go according to my plans or expectations. Maybe someone didn’t do something the way I wanted, or circumstances turned against me. So, I made other plans to make up for it, and once again found that my ability to control anything is insufficient. So things went differently, and wound up being just as good, or better, in the end.


    And He said, “Hush. I have given you another day to live…"


    So I just moved forward and did what God needed me to do instead.


    And God made me a very patient man.


    I discovered that the only real things of any value I have to offer anyone, and that I have any control over, are my love and my own integrity. I realized this year that my patience kept these things intact.


    Years ago a friend once told me, “The things God calls us to do are very often those things that are the exact opposite of what we are naturally inclined to do.”


    Patience has never been an automatic, or natural, response for me. It is something I learn on a continuous basis. I think the difference now is that I expect to learn it. I already know that I will be “naturally inclined” to do something differently, and so I will wait and look at the opposite response.


    In the coming year on those occasions when I find myself sitting in that room of unfulfilled desires and failed expectations, and I spread my tears upon the dusty floor, God will whisper once again that ever present refrain, “Hush. I have given you another day to live. Tomorrow will be different from today, and better than it looks right now. You have another day to see the difference. Wait, and I will show you a better way.”


    And I will continue to be the very patient man God made me to be.


    By Dan Bode
    Board Member, Elder


  • I Don't Ask Why

    At the end of June my 5-week old son was diagnosed with cancer.  Since that the diagnosis, many people express to me that they do not understand why God would give my child cancer or not heal him in some miracle fashion. Others try to comfort me by telling me that even though we don't know why, God is good, and He has a plan. I appreciate people trying to put a voice what I may be feeling or help me with what they guess I am thinking, the problem is, I don't God why. 


    My main reason is because it's not going to change what is happening. Knowing why God doesn't take away my child's cancer, won't cure Him. It won't change the current situation. And on top of that, I don't have the time or emotional energy to try to guess an answer to a question that we will never know the answer too.


    Above that, we are not called to ask why as Christians. It's a natural reaction but in the end, it's not what Jesus is asking of us. 


    Why was that person mean to me? It doesn't matter, forgive them anyways (Matthew 18:21-35).


    Why is that person making bad decisions? It doesn't matter, love them anyways (Matthew 5:43-48).


    Why doesn't that person appreciate what I do? It doesn't matter, help them anyways. (Galatians 6:10)


    Now I understand that is an over simplification. Many times it helps to know why someone is doing something helps you can address the root issues, and better help that person. The main point for Jesus is that why is the not the goal, how we treat others is.


    In this case, asking God why He is letting my son have cancer does not help, if anything it only will drive a wedge between God and I. I refuse to let that happen. If there was ever a time I needed to be strong in Him, it's now. 


    The world is broken. We can't fix that.  In my view, it's easier when you accept that the world just sucks. It's not being pessimistic, it's biblical reality.


     “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33


    But what is also real is that God really does help us manage this awful world. God is the good in the world, and boy, does He show up. Sometimes you just have to pay very close attention or be patient.


    Through this...times of feeling overwhelmed, helpless, confused, and just not having the strength to move forward...I don't get stuck on asking why. I ask God to teach me how to lean on Him and to show me where I need to be, because I know that is what is going to get me through. God is so beyond good, He will take care of us. 


    By Jen Armitage


  • "Send In The Clowns", Part 1




    "...Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves." Genesis 3:7


    And we've been "covering up" ever since!


    The first "covering" happened after the first sin, when Adam and Eve realized they were "naked." The Hebrew word we translate as "naked" in this passage is the Hebrew word "erom". It's rooted in another Hebrew word, "aram" which can mean "cunning" (in a bad sense) or "shrewd". Interestingly it's also the word the Bible uses to describe the snake in the garden in that same passage when it says, "Now the serpent was more 'cunning/crafty/shrewd' than any of the wild animals the LORD had made."


    Often people ask why we should be ashamed of our nakedness or why Adam and Eve were (or became so), but what the Bible is telling us (as much as anything else) is that they saw their "craftiness," their "shrewdness," their ability to be cunning (in a bad way), and became ashamed. They saw their "badness" (yes I know that’s not a word); their ability to be bad, and became ashamed.


    They saw who they were apart from God and became ashamed.


    They saw their imperfection and became ashamed.


    Perhaps not being able to cover what they were aware of on the inside led them, in a "this is the best we can do" way, to cover what existed on the outside. Perhaps that's why we do it as well.


    Ever since that first sin, that first awareness of imperfection, humanity has been trying to cover its faults so no one else will see them.


    Adam and eve used fig leaves, we use statuses, posturing, bank accounts, know it all attitudes, mock humility, lifestyle consuming hobbies, push up bras and padded bras, particular styles of dress, body art, t-shirts that display our unique (but also commercialized) life mantras, stickers on our cars that look like fruit but say with an image what kind of person we are, what kind of lives we lead, and how we think.




    We all use them; we all have them.  It's our way since Adam and Eve.


    In lives that often resemble a circus, we have become the clowns; a people so "covered," and so preposterously so, in such a "Look at me! This is who I am! Really!" kind of way, that we have become laughable; to each other (witness reality TV as exhibit A, which screams at the top of its lungs to our unconscious selves at the start of each show, "send in the clowns!"), and even more so, if only in a tragic sense, to our Creator, who says of us, "You are fearfully and wonderfully made."


    We have become so "covered," that just as a clown, our truest selves, those created in the very image of God Himself, those that reflect His character, His heart, His nature, are often unrecognizable in our present conditions; a tragedy that must be remedied if we are to be the beauty God created us to be, the light of the world He encouraged us to be, and, ironically, the people we play at being with our makeup; those creations no longer clowns covered in makeup so as to masquerade as a parody of humanity, but those creations of God who are actually "people;" the very thing of which God said of its creation, "Let us make [it] in OUR image, in OUR likeness." and then, having done so, blessed that creation, gave it dominion over the earth, and said of it, "It is good."


    Perhaps much of our walk with God after our confession of faith, much of what we think of as adhering to religion, or following rules, or becoming better people, is just as accurately perceived as God simply helping us to remove our coverings; one layer at a time, layer after layer, until, finally, the bride can stand unashamed before her Groom, and so both can finally, and truly, have the honeymoon which is heaven.


  • Go Tell it On The Mountain

    "Go Tell It On The Mountain"


    Luke 2: 8-18


    Can you even imagine being a shepherd in the field that first Christmas Night? Sitting quietly in the dark with your sheep when suddenly an incredible display of lights, music and angels proclaim the good news that Jesus has been born! I venture to say that their lives would never be the same again.


    This passage exclaims that they were eager to see the new baby, and that they spread the news about His birth. They didn't just accept this incredible thing that had happened, they told others about it.


    As Christians, few of us have stories about angels and loud trumpets telling us about Christ, but we have each have our own incredible story of how we were introduced to Christ. We all know where we were before meeting Him, and how our lives are changed since that meeting. During the Christmas season, people are open and ready to receive the message of hope and salvation! It's the only time of year that the radio plays music singing out, "Oh Holy Night." It's the only time of year that the stores are decked out with stars to put atop trees and signs that say Merry CHRISTmas. People are ready more than ever to hear the gospel message during this time of year. The gospel story is a simple and beautiful one to tell through our lives, actions and relationships with others.


    This Christmas, who do you know that needs to hear the story? Who do you know that has yet to meet Christ? Like the shepherds, spread the good news.


    by Ashley Jennings
    Pastor of Women's Ministries


  • Is It Worth It?

    What will it cost me?" I ask.


    "Everything you have...and then some." He replies.


    The next logical question is, "Is it worth it?" It's a fair question. Even Jesus tells us to "count the cost" as one of His parables is often paraphrased.


    Is it worth it? Following Christ, a decidedly different and more difficult path than simply believing in Christ, isn't easy.  In fact it's downright hard; and this seems to be the problem. G.K. Chesterton once said, "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it's been found difficult and not tried."


    I think of that especially as I work through different trials. When I begin to get upset (which happens all to easily) and start asking those same old questions we all do: "Why me?!?"; "What did I do?"; "Where are you God when I'm being 'attacked'?"; and the one I think but never say, "I don't deserve this God, I was good this week...you owe me."; I often feel like I hear God speaking into my heart saying, "You gave me your life... right? This is what I've chosen to do with what's mine."


    I often forget that.  That my life is not my own.  That I was bought at a price. That what I bought with my life was His life, and with it salvation, and that that is worth whatever price I paid and however that "price" demonstrates itself in the course of my life in the way of trials and struggles. To my shame I often forget that.


    This last week I was working through, what in my head, seemed like some pretty good trials and I was reminded of a few things that I think are helpful to keep in mind as we face the brokenness and unfairness of this world:


    1. We gave our lives, our whole lives. Our lives are NOT our own. We were bought at a price. Our salvation wasn't cheap, not for us, and certainly not for God. our lives are His now to do with whatever  He wants. I have to remember that when I want my life to be easy and my trials can serve to remind me, when I take me role in God's plan lightly; salvation wasn't cheap and I agreed to the price.


    2. We were definitlely asked if we were ready to pay the whole price, but we are rarely, if ever, asked to give it. Again to my shame, I'm sorry to say that my petty (in hindsight) trials, seem so significant to me when they rarely affect anything of consequence in my life save my comfort level. I have not died (physically) for my faith, I have not been persecuted (outright), and I actually live a very blessed and comfortable life. Not bad for someone who gave their life away.  God has been good to me and I realize in my blessing just how low the cost of my salvation, contrary to its initial quote, has been. That thought gives me perspective.


    3. It's worth it. In my trials last week I just so happened to be reading Job. In reading through his trials I could so easily see how proud God was of him and how his trials were not simply the product of an unfair and broken world, but rather a bragging God; a God proud of His child, "Consider my servant."  Job was God's trophy! A light to the world and a even a light to a world unseen to us! Job's trials were simply God allowing Job to "shine." I need to remember that. That God is bragging about me when I face a trial. Taunting the enemy with our relationship and His belief in my trust of Him. I am a light to the world! And God is allowing me to shine. Makes me think differently about my trials.



  • Gossip


    Part 1



    Why do we gossip you ask? Well we gossip because sometimes when we know more about someone or something that is very confidential we see it as making us powerful; it is information that others don’t have. We think that people will listen to us. If we are jealous of someone and we want what they have, we feel cutting them down helps us. We feed into our self loathing by showing their flaws, their faults, their wrong doings, their imperfections, their judgment for others, their dishonesty, and by doing this we will make them look less important.


    If these people have harmed our souls and made us look bad we feel that we have the right to put them down like they did us, that we have the right to get a fair score. We want other people to know why they wronged us and we want other people to pick outside and see that we are the good guy and they are the bad guy. We seem to think when people see us in a good light and see us as superior and when we prove we are right that we gain greater self worth. This is not God, and this not God working in our hearts.


    God wants us to love others as ourselves. He does not want us to slander others to gain self worth. He wants us to know that He places us on the earth because He values us, we are have value to Him and to His cause. We are here for Him and for His great good; and in that, to help others. What that means is that we are not on this earth for ourselves. We are not on this earth to find our heart. We are here to find God's heart and help reconcile God's children to Him. Ultimately we learn to love best by observing God's love for us (John 4:19) and when we truly learn God's heart we won’t gossip any more.  Why? Because in His love we will find the worth that God sees in us.


    Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions (Proverbs 10:12)


    By Melissa Brock

  • Call On His Name

    Call On His Name!


    "Lost are saved...find their way...at the sound of Your great name
    All condemned...feel no shame...at the sound of Your great name
    Every fear...has no place...at the sound of Your great name
    The enemy...he has to leave...at the sound of Your great name


    Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
    You are high and lifted up; and all the world will praise Your great name


    All the weak...find their strength...at the sound of Your great name
    Hungry souls...receive grace...at the sound of Your great name
    The fatherless...they find their rest...at the sound of Your great name
    Sick are healed...and the dead are raised...at the sound of Your great name


    Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
    You are high and lifted up; and all the world will praise Your great name


    Redeemer, My Healer, Lord Almighty
    My savior, Defender, You are My King


    Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
    You are high and lifted up; and all the world will praise Your great name"

                                                                                            Your Great Name
                                                                                            Natalie Grant


    The name of Jesus is powerful and mighty.  How are you using it?


    Read the above lyrics.  See if you don't agree.  There is power in Jesus' name. Try worshipping Him this week with this simple phrase, "Jesus is Lord."


    No, not as a magic chant that wards off evil, but as a statement of worship and reality.  Let it re-connect you to reality and God Himself when temptation is trying hard to wrench you from Him; when your mind is getting lost to truth and your heart's desire is overwhelming your soul's cry.


    Try it when the storms come your way and your life's plan seems to be getting blown away; when the tempests of this life begin to eclipse the promise of the next.  "Jesus is Lord."


    Worship Him with it when you need to invite Him into that talk you know you have to have but think isn't going to go well at all. "Jesus is Lord."


    Remind yourself with it when the path ahead is dark and the road ahead unseen. "Jesus is Lord."


    The name of Jesus is powerful and mighty.  How are you using it?


    Pastor Michael,

    Leda Pastor

  • He's a Runner!

    Resist!He's a Runner!

    "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." James 4:7


    Resist the devil and he will flee from you.


    Resist the devil when he's a just glimmer that catches your eye while you're looking at something else...and he'll flee from you.


    Resist the devil when you see him off in the distance coming your way (or you find yourself moving his way), and he will flee from you.


    Resist the devil when that temptation is looking pretty enticing and you find yourself becoming enthralled, and he'll flee from you.


    Resist the devil, even in the throws of temptation; when it seems like you're not even your own person, and he'll flee from you.


    Resist the devil even after you've stumbled and he whispers in your ear, "Let's do it again." and he'll flee from you.


    Resist the devil, whenever and however you can and...he...will...flee...from you!


    Today, go in the power the Bible assures you of, and be the resistance. Discover your true freedom from sin and your life as a new creation. God is working in you. The old has gone, the new has come. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.


    By Pastor Michael,

    Lead Pastor

  • Dessert, Dessert and More Dessert

    I'm Just Here For The Dessert

    (follow up devotion to Sunday's message: "The House That Stands: The Kitchen")


    Ever walked into a restraurant and decided you're just getting dessert? Me too! And here and there it's not big deal, but you can't keep up those eating habits forever.


    The thing about desserts is that they're sweet; they generally taste better than everything else so we're drawn to them. But miss too many meals in favor of desserts and you're body will let you know it's unhappy...(and there's a large chance your signficant will too!).


    Sometimes, what's easy going down is not always what's best for you. The same is true of our spiritual lives. One of the mistakes we can make is missing "meals" in favor of "desserts". Often we as Christians love to hear words that are sweet to the ears but bristle a bit at the tough stuff, and this can be a problem.


    God says what He says for a reason. His word is a balanced "diet".


    "I love you...but I also discipline."


    "I have mercy for you...but I also judge."


    "I am happy to give you Christ's sacrifice...but the cost is your own life."


    When we only eat the "desserts" of God's words we limit God to being that Guy that can only say nice things, only talk to us if He is going to say something we want to hear. We effectively make Him into our personal "yes man" entourage.


    We'll not only miss a lot of what God is saying like that, but often the very answers to our prayers (which are not magical but often require our cooperation) and the benefits of much of God's intended work in our lives.


    Don't be that guy (or girl). Choke down some "vegetables" here and there. Start taking in a balanced diet  and see what that does for your intimacy with God.  The Gospel is "good news" even if it doesn't always taste like it.


    By Michael Holmes,

    Lead Pastor

  • Secular Worship: I'll Stand By You

    So, a lot of times I hear secular music and think, that would be a great worship song, whether it's something I think God might sing to us, something I might sing to Him or a duet.


    This song, "I'll Stand By You" by the Pretenders is my current fave. (I'm also sure God has sung this to me on a number of occasions)


    "Oh, why you look so sad?
    Tears are in your eyes
    Come on and come to me now
    Don't be ashamed to cry
    Let me see you through
    'Cause I've seen the dark side too
    When the night falls on you
    You don't know what to do
    Nothin' you confess, could make me love you less
    I'll stand by you...


    ...So, if you're mad, get mad
    Don't hold it all inside
    Come on and talk to me now
    Hey, what you got to hide?...


    ...When you're standing at the crossroads
    And don't know which path to choose
    Let me come along
    'Cause even if you're wrong
    I'll stand by you, I'll stand by you...


    ...Take me in, into your darkest hour
    And I'll never desert you
    I'll stand by you


    And when, when the night falls on you, baby
    You're feelin' all alone
    You won't be on your own
    I'll stand by you, I'll stand by you."

    The Pretenders


    By Pastor Michael,

    Lead Pastor

  • Filling up On The Finger Foods

    Fillin Up On Finger Foods

    (follow up to"The House That Stands: The Kitchen") 



    Do you find your faith unsatisfying? Like maybe it's not really adding anything helpful to your life, or you simply find yourself without energy when life's storms hit? You may be filling up on the finger foods.


    Finger foods are good, but they aren't meant to be the meal. The same is true of religion and our religious traditions and functions.


    In this series we're relating our lives to a house and trying to picture what our lives would look like as houses.


    When building a metaphorical "house that stands" the kitchen's important and what we stock it with is even more important.


    One of the mistakes Christians often make is filling up on the finger foods. God invites us to "taste and see that the LORD is good" but for many of us, that's all we take, just a taste. That's like filling up on the chips and salsa before the enchiladas arrive. As good as the salsa is it wasn't meant to fill you.


    Religion is like that. As good as it is and as much as we may enjoy the traditions and rituals of our faith, they are meant as an hor dourve, a finger food that precedes a meal, not the meal itself.


    If you were trying to live on chips and salsa eventually your body would find ways to let you know it's not doing well, that it needed more. Our spirit is like that too. Often we think "religion" is not working for us but the truth is many times we're simply not using it right.


    If after years of walking with God "religion" is all you have, you may be filling up on the finger foods and missing the meal. It may be time to stock the fridge with something a little more substantial.


    by Michael Holmes

    Lead Pastor


  • A Lesson in Language

    A Lesson in Language


    “… the people of all nations and languages, and they will come and see my glory.” Isaiah 66:18b


    One of the first things a missionary does in a new land, if not before they arrive, is learn the language. It’s not just essential for basic living, but to do their mission: communicating the gospel to the people who live there.
    Reaching out to people in their language is important. It’s vital to the growth of Christianity.
    But in North America, we forget the importance of language. We go about our lives, being more cautious not to let the secular world affect us, instead of focusing on how we can positively affect it. When we do witness, we assume that since we are speaking the same general language as the secular world, our message is getting across.


    If you’ve ever had a miscommunication in marriage, you know this simply isn’t true. Motives, speaking patterns, and emotions change language meaning. Dialects, slang, and cultural idioms can change meanings of language. Language is both beautiful and complicated.


    Christians have their own language. We use terms that either mean nothing or have different definitions to anyone outside our “club.” It’s normal for a group to develop their own slang: engineers, doctors, gamers, geeks, and sports fans. The term "Christianese" has been coined to refer to the dialect Christians have developed.


    Ever use words like fellowship, testimony, convicted, or witnessing with non-Christian friends in general conversation? These terms–and a large list of others–all are part of the dialect Christians use. It becomes part of our everyday language and living, making it easy to forget that non-Christians (and even new Christians) don’t know what we are saying.


    When we don’t speak the same language as those we're trying to reach, we isolate ourselves, alienate non-Christians, risk miscommunication, and make it much harder for people to understand the truth.


    There are times when God opens doors for us to tell others about Jesus, but if we can’t speak the same language as them, we might as well not be talking at all. The best part is that it only takes paying attention and a slight change of habit to fix how we communicate.


    Here is some translated “Christianese”:

    Fellowship: interacting and spending time with friends
    Conviction: feeling guilty or a deeply held belief
    Testimony: one’s own story
    Witness to: talk to someone about Jesus
    Sin: acts that separate us from God; breaking God’s laws
    Repent: stop doing the stuff God doesn’t want us to do and changing one’s behavior


    The definitions above are oversimplified for general conversation, but the purpose is to make what we say understandable to the audience we are engaging. As the conversation deepens and one’s curiosity or faith grows, you can introduce the Christian words and explain the depths of their meaning. It’s an opportunity.


    A political figure was recently asked if she would be submissive to her husband if she were elected to the role for which she is campaigning. The question came up because the secular world does not properly understand the wife-as-submissive doctrine. It’s one of many stereotypes and misunderstandings about the Christian community. It’s often thought of by the secular world as a wife being completely controlled in an oppressive way by her husband, like slavery. It was a perfect opportunity, which the politician took advantage of, to explain the Christian definition of a misunderstood concept.


    Words and language are important. We are all missionaries in a land that we need to reach for Christ. We need to have understanding for those who don’t understand us. We need to have the patience to explain what we mean. And we need to remember that language could be the key to someone seeing God’s glory.


    By Jennifer Armitage

    Director of Community Outreach
    Originally posted at Wesleyan Life Online

  • Candlelight

    Light a candle in a room with the doors and windows closed, without any movement of air, and it will burn straight upward towards the heavens. From across that same room, gently, slowly, sweep your arm, and watch as a few seconds later, the shift in the air current reaches the candle, the flame wavers, flickers, curves and dances with the change of the air current.


    If you put your hand into a glass bowl of clean, clear water, you can see the change in hydrology. As your hand breaks the surface, the water flows outward. Like the movement of the water, change the shift of the air current, the flame responds.


    God feeds us and teaches us differently, at different times, in different ways. What may break me and bring me to my knees in pain and fervent prayer, testing the strength of my flame of faith, may barely break the air current of yours. He comes to us according to His desires for us, not ours. He teaches us using whatever it is in our lives that make us weak or strong, depending on where we are for Him in our faith at the time. He changes us using those currents in our lives, those things that will reach us, teach us, stay with us.


    Sometimes, even in a room without movement, a candle flame will flicker and wave. The wick is too long, too much fluff. Trimming the wick, it returns to it's natural state, burning upwards.


    Our lives are no different, we like to keep the "fluff" closely guarded, close to our hearts: that extra stuff that stands in the way of our burning pure for God. But God is wise, and His loving hand reaches down and moves the current, sometimes ever so gently, sometimes not so gentle, and we waver in the current shift and we are reminded that the "fluff" has no place in our faith and place with God. Trimming our wicks, our fluff, brings strength to the flame of our faith and, like the candle flame, we burn pure and upward.


    As I am sitting here contemplating the stillness of a candle flame, one of my dogs, jumps down from the couch. The candle is on top of the table, but even that downward motion of air has reached the candle testing its flame.


    The key isn't to living in a room with closed doors and windows and keeping motion limited so as not to disrupt the flame, but rather keeping our wicks trimmed, faithfully burning, curving, dancing in the motion of life, flickering ever upward, towards God.


    By Linda Rodgers

    Women's Ministry Leadership Team

  • Don't Pray Like You Vote

    Sometimes, it makes sense to lower your expectations. You get disappointed enough times, and you learn to accept it.


    During the last few elections, I’ve had trouble getting excited about any of the candidates. For anything. After years of watching politics, I find it harder and harder to believe that the next person we elect to [insert political office here] will be the one to finally straighten things out.


    I’ve had a few opportunities to look at my ballot and see nothing terribly inspiring. To realize that whatever box I mark will probably just lead to more of the same.


    Don’t let that outlook affect the way you pray.


    A quick survey of the miracles in the Bible reveals a God that doesn’t care about the odds. God parts rivers and seas so His people can cross. He shows mercy to His enemies, and some start following Him. He raises the dead.


    There was a time in my life when I stopped believing in romance. I’d tried it and gotten burned enough times that I was ready to just move on and try something else. Then, when I prayed for God’s guidance and committed to what He said, He changed everything. He slew my loneliness.


    My friend prayed for a man to be healed from his pain and watched it happen before her eyes.
    At Crossroads, we prayed for several people to get jobs. Almost all of them were employed within a few months. In this economy.


    Never pray for the lesser of two evils. God is way bigger than that.


    Have you ever prayed for something big and crazy and had it happen?

  • How to Get The Most from your Sundays: GUARD YOUR SUNDAYS

    Sundays are special. Sundays are holy in their expression. Guard them. It’s the one day that God says, in effect, “Let all the things of this day, of these moments, be pointed toward Me."


    And let's face it, honestly, for most of us Sunday is the one day of the week when our faith is expressed most clearly and our devotion demonstrated most pointedly.


    So guard 'em. If you want to get the most out of your Sunday start by guarding it. Make them special. Show God their special.


    Certainly there will be days when we simply cannot make it, but make those the exceptions and not the rule.


    Too often we take Sundays too lightly. We forget what they’re supposed to mean; that God is looking for us, waiting for us. That maybe we need to say “Thank You”. We forget what the day’s all about. Guard it.


    We all want God to show up in our lives and in our days. Maybe we should put showing in His a little higher on the priority list.

  • Sunlight

    The sun yawns, lazily rises over the horizon.
    Tree branches bare only two weeks ago,
    stretch upward, tiny green buds dappling the sunlight.
    God comes to us this way:
    quiet in His power and Glory
    shining rays of golden goodness and mercy on us.
    Little by little, we wake and stretch upward towards blue skies,
    plant our feet, toes curling into God’s good green earth;
    Our budding love and trust for Him, grounding us
    In His everlasting love.



    Linda Rogers,

    Women's Ministry Committee

  • God's Calling

    God is calling.


    He will keep calling until He gets an answer.


    What exactly is God’s calling?


    I used to think it meant becoming a sequestered monk and taking on a vow of silence, or being a missionary to the remotest part of Africa where I would have to drink fermented goats milk and eat roasted beetles (crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside).


    None of those options sound remotely appealing to me, but when God calls it isn’t usually done with my convenience in mind. God’s calling is based on His desires not mine, but keep in mind that His calling always benefits us when we heed that call. That does not necessarily mean that we will consider the benefits we gain as desirable. We may not want the reward we get.


    Take Jonah for example. Jonah is the classic example of the human response to the call of God. God called him to go to the Ninevites, a people whom Jonah happened to harbor a strong dislike for, and tell them they would be destroyed if they didn’t turn from their evil lives. He refused God’s call and went the other direction, because, quite frankly, he was not the most likeable person around and he wanted the Ninevites to die. He gets on a boat going the other way and ends up in the belly of a fish for 3 days to think about it. Then he is literally thrown-up on the shore and goes to preach to the Ninevites, who actually repent and are saved from the wrath of God.


    Most preachers would be thrilled to have an audience respond so well to their message, but since Jonah didn’t like them in the first place he was really hoping they wouldn’t change. That way he wouldn’t have to worry about them anymore. In the end God calls Jonah on the carpet for his attitude.
    The Ninevite’s salvation was not the benefit that Jonah wanted, but it was what was best in God’s eyes.


    And there’s the rub.


    We don’t look at the details of God’s call through God’s eyes. We look through our own. And let me tell you our vision is pretty myopic. In fact our vision is so limited that it actually goes against our nature to even consider that another viewpoint might exist. So God gives us the tools to make the necessary decisions to fulfill His call. He prepares us for obedience rather than complete control. He is there working behind the scenes as we approach times of significant impact in our lives. He desires our total willingness to follow Him rather than the threat of a forced march in front of an unforgiving master. It is for the love of Him that we do what He asks despite our fears and misgivings. Our knowledge and vision are so limited that we easily surpass our boundaries when we trust Him to know what we do not, or what we refuse to know.


    The call overshadows everything in our lives. There is nothing more basic to our existence than the need for the love of God to reside within us, and it is His love within us that allows us to go beyond our own abilities to fulfill His call. And it is the fulfillment of His call that brings us a greater joy.


    The call of God provides us with both a starting point and a destination. To reach the destination He provides us with a vision, and the gifts necessary to attain it. The vision has something beneficial for each of us individually, and the Body of believers as a whole, and like everything God gives us, it cannot be contained within the limitations of one person. Everything God does seems to be made to overflow any boundaries placed upon it. The things of God are no more containable than He is. He gives us gifts that we are compelled to use in the manner and place where He finds it useful rather than where and when we find it convenient. As another case in point consider the story of Queen Esther. She discovers that someone has deviously set out to destroy the entire race of her people the Jews. Esther is asked by her uncle to intercede for her people with the king, but she is reluctant. If she approaches the king when he has not first called her there is a distinct possibility that she could be put to death. As she struggles with the need of her people and the possibility of losing her own life her uncle injects this thought into her deliberations: “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?'' (Esther 4:14b Italics mine)


    In that moment the gifts and vision provided by God had just overflowed the boundaries of the vessel in which they resided. Esther responded as the Queen whom God had made her to be and risked her life to save her entire race. While the gifts God gave her were indeed hers, they were only effective when used in the manner in which He needed them to be used.


    God is not surprised by the situations we find ourselves faced with. He does not lose sight of where we are or what we are going through. He doesn’t turn around and suddenly say, “Oh no! Where did he go?” as though He has misplaced us somehow. The Shepherd’s eye is always upon us.


    We are not called to be ministers, missionaries, kings, queens, policemen, firemen, or computer nerds, but to be lights in the darkness. We are His wherever we go, and He calls us to be his representatives in the world according to the gifts and skills He has given us. It is not for me to do whatever I wish to do and then arrogantly say to God, “Please bless me as I do what I want.” One of the truest forms of worship I can engage in is to ask God first what He wants me to do, and then willingly go simply because it is God who asks even if I don’t necessarily agree. As in Jonah’s case the call of God does not require my agreement, but it does require, and depends on, my love for God and my understanding of His love for me. That is the basis of our obedience.
    In Jeremiah 29:11 we are told, “For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” I am humbled by the fact that He takes notice of me to have a place in His plan at all, and awed by the love it requires to invite me to participate. When I willingly follow His prompting, and respond to the restless longing He has placed in my heart, my step is surer as the wind of His spirit clears the dust and debris from the path I have often ignored. It is a path I often shy away from. The trailhead is sometimes hidden beneath the layers of my self-indulgence, but it cannot be ignored forever. The beginning of that path is marked by a rough hewn cross, whose surface is marred by nail holes and blood stains. On one side awaits His love, and on the other His justice. It is my choice to live in obedience or disobedience, and my choice to enjoy the blessings or suffer the consequences.


    We tend to think pretty highly of ourselves at times. We often assume we know the outcome of certain events, and in our assumption we think we have control. But we presume far too much. We have as much chance of directing God with our preferences as a feather has of standing still in a hurricane.


    The past two years have been fairly tumultuous for our family. We have felt many blows in both the physical and spiritual sense. At the beginning of this period we tended to look at things expecting the worst to happen, but then God took us in hand and showed us the futility of our anxiety. There was always more to see than we could spy from our vantage point, and with each new event there was a new means of dealing with it. And in dealing with each one a new aspect of the personality of God was revealed that we never would have otherwise understood. We do still worry about things, we aren’t perfect, but we look for God’s hand more readily than we ever did before. It is in His hand that we find the greatest peace, and in obedience to Him that we find the greatest purpose. We know that His plans are "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”


    And that is what the call of God will always be about.


    Dan Bode

    Director of Men's Ministry

  • There's a Rat in my Attic

    There’s a rat in my attic.


    It’s bad news.  From the moment I knew she was there I hated her, an instant enemy and I loathed her very existence.


    Rats, quite remarkable species when you think about it.  This rat can go for days without being fed; without the need for food or water. And though she has particular tastes when she does need to eat just about anything will keep her alive.


    She stays out of sight, hiding in my attic, a creature of the dark.


    Most of the time I’m unaware she even exists. With cues to her presence rare I’m teased with the thought to leave her alone or pretend she’s no longer there.  Sometimes, in her silence, I even forget about her; a grievous mistake for rats not only grow, but multiply.


    And then comes the night. Not every night but the night of her need. With the scurry of little feet I am suddenly made aware again that my nocturnal friend has not left me at all. Instead she runs all over my dark places leaving a trail of waste and feces as evidence of her presence; turning what was simply a dark place into a rancid one. Chewing up random pieces of my house to take away and make my home, hers.


    There’s a rat in my attic.  I hate her.  She is my mortal enemy and I loathe her very existence.


    I have a name for my rat; I call her..."Temptation".




    BY: Michael Holmes, Lead Pastor

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