These are some thoughts that get posted to the site and emailed each week ahead of the messages on Sundays to help prepare. 

 

     These, with the MP3s of the sermons, will give you a good idea of where we've been biblically and how we think about our Mission, Vision, and Values. 

 

     Just click the titles to read a short summary.  The grand plan is to have an Mp3 of the sermon below each of the dates below.

 

 

     There are two words used in the New Testament that are simply translated "time" in our English Bibles.  One, we are super-familiar with:  CHRONOS.  It means "keeping time"; "counting the seconds, minutes, hours, etc.".  Chronology.  Chronometer.  "Marking the time as it passes".  Many businesses use a program called KRONOS to have employees enter their time worked, sick days, vacation schedule, etc. 

     The other word is KAIROS.  It's used over 80 times in the New Testament and it means:  "Time by opportunity and fulfillment"; "a season", "the right time", "an opportunity".  It's a more significant word because, when we know about it, it can change how we think about how we live inside time.  KAIROS is not as concerned with keeping time as it is with what could happen within a given period of time.

     It's funny how people talk about "saving" and "cutting" time!  We can't.  Time just...happens.  It passes and we do things in it based on our priorities - the things we believe are most important. Our actions are dicated by our priorities and values. 

     When I learn KAIROS as a Christ-Follower, I will learn to live in time, like Jesus did - with His understanding of it.  He was NOT so concerned with the hours and minutes and seconds of CHRONOS.  He DID seem to be really concerned about KAIROS - seeing opportunities to be fulfilled to help and love and serve people as he moved through time.

    
WE ARE GOING TO CELEBRATE KAIROS THIS SUNDAY!

     We'll get to hear some of the stories and see a few of the photos from Craig and Shari and the team that just got back from China.  An opportunity to go, to love on some children in an orphanage, was recognized and fulfillfed.  Some of us went, some of us supported through resources and prayer.  We will bring the Uganda team up to pray for them - they leave this coming Monday to fulfill an opportunity.  In a few weeks, the Thailand team will go fulfill an opportunity to help and serve others in Jesus' name. 

  
  Some go.  Some send.  All of us have opportnities that we need to SEE, then RESPOND TO.      This is living in KAIROS. 

     If you understand some of this and God is tugging on your heart, trying to motivate you to put these truths into practice but you don't know how to proceed, make time to meet with me or one of the other elders.  We will help you and support you and pray with you and for you.

Looking forward to Sunday!

Tony

"But, When
do we Sail?"
(Learning to LIVE on-mission)

 

March 16, 2014

SETTING:  A recent sunny Sunday morning

at the local 'boat dock'.

 

A light breeze blows and the flags

on all the ships flap and wave. 

 

Ships crews stand ready to welcome all interested parties.

 

____________________________________________

 

But, When Do We Sail?”

 

     “Hey there! Glad to have you on board! What brings you folks to our vessel today?”

 

               “Well, we’ve been driving by this dock for years and have seen all the different ships tied off here and thought we should come on board and check it out. Our kids are getting older and we thought it would do them good to learn how to sail, how to navigate life. When is the next mission? When do we sail?”

 

     “That's great, I want to affirm your decision - you’ve chosen a fantastic boat. We have the best crew of any boat on this dock, people who know lots of facts about sailing. Our present captain has years of experience on the high seas, has been on countless missions, and he gives an inspirational talk on sailing every week. He’s giving one today, can you stay for it?”

 

               “Yes, we can stay. That sounds like it might be interesting and informative. We heard that this ship had been on some missions and had gone out to help some shipwrecked people in the past. When do you sail again?”

 

     “That’s right! We’ve had some past captains who did some incredible missions and we retell those stories pretty often around here.  Could I get you folks to sign the ship's log.  I don’t like to brag, but I have memorized many of the stories of past missions and people say they can ‘almost smell the salty ocean air’ and hear the seagulls when I recount the stories of days gone by!”

 

               “The wife and I have been talking about it and we would like to help any way we can. We don’t know much about sailing or how to do a mission or what it’s all about, but we are willing to learn.”

 

     “Awesome! We have classes that you can go to on how to polish the brass on the ship and a seminar on engine maintenance and how to keep all the mechanics ship-shape. There are specialists on how to keep the deck scrubbed and clean and we have a first-class galley where we get together to eat and talk all the time. Also, we have music and we sing about sailing and how it feels to see someone who was lost at sea saved and safe!  We would love to see you sign up for some of these things, we can always use a few more hands on deck around here!”

 

“Those things all

sound great, but

WHEN DO WE SAIL?

WHEN IS THE NEXT MISSION?!”

______________________________________________________

 

     People want to “sail”...they long to be on-mission. The responses to requests for help after natural disasters like tornados and earthquakes are proof positive that people WANT to help others.

 

     Problem is, many people and many churches have no idea what their Mission is…they have not articulated who they are or why they exist.

 

     Oh, they meet to talk about what people in the Bible did. They know of some stories of fellow crew members who have actually lived on-mission in the past and who saw God do some incredible things, but they have not experienced it themselves.

 

     Singing and talking and studying the ship and hearing stories about others who have sailed is NOT ACTUALLY SAILING.

 

     In a world where people's lives are 'shipwrecked'...where they are hurting and in need of saving...How weird would it be to just keep the ship in tip-top shape, having all the crew come together once or twice a week just to swab the deck again and polish the brass?!  Is the goal just to have people join the crew, sign the ship's log so they can help take care of the ship?!

 

     What is a Coast Guard ship for?

 

To go on missions…to save people who are lost and drowning.

 

     What is the church for?

 

To go on missions…to save people who are lost and drowning.

 

     Sunday, we get to talk about being unified with a common biblically-based mission and vision. We’ll talk about the purpose of the “boat” and challenge one another to “sail” as we live like Jesus…learning to live on-mission and learning to serve.

 

     I cannot wait. 

 

Tony

"Teaching the Next
Generation to
LIVE and LOVE
On-Mission"
 
March 30, 2014

         

     This Sunday, March 30 is Youth Sunday!  

 

     We will get to share in student-led worship service with Jordan Carter and several of our kids, and we get to hear a sermon from God's Word from Aaron Kelso.

 

     This will be a regular thing for us whenever a month has a 5th Sunday.

 

      I'm excited to see the youth leading and serving in this way for several reasons.  

 

     When we allow and create opportunities like this, it gives our young people a chance to open up and be utilized.  They have talents and abilities and desire and energy!  If we can help them channel that into learning what it means FOR EACH OF THEM to serve God by serving others, what an incredible gift to the future! 

 

     The kids we invest in will grow in depth and maturity AND the unbelievers that will meet them in the future will encounter ready, willing, and able followers of Jesus that "get it".  The investments we make in them NOW, will reap benefits to the Kingdom moving forward.  People will be loved and served years from now because of what we are doing NOW.  Awesome!

 

     This is a far cry from what many churches fall prey to.  In this culture of "giving consumers what they want", even churches fall into the trap of trying to 'sell' a program or style or gimmick to the kids to entice them to come to church.  Instead of teaching them God's Word and showing them how to serve and modeling for them how Jesus lived, churches try to find out how they can market to a demographic group and get them to come to a building. 

 

Is that so bad?

 

     In places where this is allowed to happen uncritiqued and unexamined, negative things will follow.

 

     Kids are trained to be critics and consumers instead of Christians.  The success or failure of programs is evaluated by if the kids "liked it" or "didn't like it."  Those are not the sorts of things that should drive the bus!  And, it leads to adults who rate and rank how much they liked or agreed or disliked and diagreed with the things that are said or done at church instead of growing servants who are ready, willing, and able to do whatever God lays before them. 

 

     Some of THE principle questions for ANY church are: 

 

          "Is God pleased with what we are doing?" 

 

          "Is the truth being proclaimed?" 

 

          "Do we have a clear Mission and are we teaching our people how to live on-mission?" 

 

          "Are we reaching outward in service and love or reaching inward for our own comfort?" 

 

          "Are we making disciples?" 

 

     It is so refreshing to see our kids serve and give because that's what Jesus models for us.  He lived each day in service to those around him, speaking truth, but also getting involved and doing things to help and heal broken lives. 

 

     When we give youth opportunities to serve, they shine.  Past Summer faith trips, Springfield Inner-City Mission trips, Operation Bethalto, and other activities prove this.

 

     Come worship Sunday and encourage our youth.  Looking forward to it!

 

                    Tony

Palm Sunday
(Letting HIM tell us who he really is)
 
April 13, 2014

     I hated having to go through the pain and aggravation of identity theft a few years ago.  A cell phone company (that I never had a cell phone with...) called to tell me I was in collections and three months behind on the bill.  I asked them to tell me the physical address the bills were being sent to and it was in St. Louis, MO - somewhere I have never lived.  It wasn't me!  I had to defend my identity and PROVE to them I was NOT the person they thought.

 

     Identy theft is a real and present danger for anyone who has any personal information "on the grid", which is to say, ALL of us.  At one point or another, you may have to contact the three credit-reporting agencies to tell them someone hijacked your ID.  It is frustrating, it creates tension and is hard to go through.  Thousands of people had to go through this recently with Target stores and their breach of digital security. 

 

     Jesus knows what identity theft is like, only on a much larger and more important scale....

 

     Palm Sunday is the day of the "triumphal" entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. 

 

     It looked like a great day.     Large crowds.       Shouting.       Excitement!       Anticipation.       Joy. 

 

     But, crowds can turn on you...   This one sure did. 

 

     Less than one week from Palm Sunday, the crowds who were shouting: "Hosanna!  Hosanna in the highest!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" will be screaming:  "Crucify him!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Is that weird to you?  Odd to you that personal opinion could be swayed 180 degrees in such a short time - all centered on the identity of Jesus the Nazarene?    

 

     "Christ" was not his last name. 

 

     Jesus' identity was tied to his mission.  He was "Messiah", "The Chosen One" of Israel.  "Christos" in Greek, we transliterate it into "Christ" and it means "THE One".

 

     Prophets of old had told of a time when God's anointed would come to right wrongs, to proclaim news of the Kingdom of God, to restore things...to make them right again.

 

     Make things right?  What was wrong?  Well, at the time Jesus comes on the scene, Rome ruled a vast portion of the world with an iron fist.  The "Pax Romana", or Peace of Rome came at a heavy price.  Rome's army stretched across the known world, helping enforce Rome's law and expanding the kingdom.

 

     In a pocket of that world there was the city of Jerusalem, center of what was left of the nation of Israel.  For several hundred years before Jesus, with the exception of about 80 years, they had been a people ruled by someone else.  They had limited ability to make decisions, to create or enforce any laws, in short, to be free.  They were not free.  They paid taxes to Rome.  They were under the thumb of foreigners.  They swore allegiance to Rome. 

 

Back in the "Good Ol' Days"!

 

     It had not always been so. In the days of king David and then King Solomon, THAT was the Golden Age! THEY had ruled other nations. They were free to worship and to conduct themselves as they saw fit. They were the envy of the world with all their military might, all that wealth, God at the head of column, marching to victory after victory.

 

     As a matter of fact, the religious leaders who wanted to see Jesus killed, actually present a not-so-veiled threat to Pilate (Roman representative in Jerusalem):  "If you don't crucify him, you're certainly no friend of Caesar"!  Those are the kinds of threats that could get a person killed, certainly removed from his post. 

 

     Ultimately, Pilate caves in but not before saying repeatedy that he thought Jesus was innocent and he would not be guilty of this man's blood.  Strange, isn't it?  That a pagan Roman leader, likely having spent no time with the prophecies, never worshipping in the temple of Jehovah God, would come closer to recognizing the  TRUE and REAL identity of Jesus?  And on the flip side of that equation - the Israelite religious leaders, the ones claiming to know and serve God, THEY say to Pilate, when he says, "Isn't 'Jesus your King?...King of the Jews?" - "We have no king but Caesar."

 

     Jesus came to live and die and rise to secure the ultimate human liberation.  He has the power to forgive sin, to restore meaning and purpose and joy, his life and words and death tell us God WANTS to be in relationship with us!! 

 

     We'll get to talk about how the vast majority of those around Jesus, even the disciples, did not "get" his identity.  Thing is, many of those who would say they follow God, are still trying to steal the identity of Jesus - attempting to redefine it to fit their wishes.

 

     Looking forward to time in the Word with you this Sunday.  Pray about what God wants you to "get" about the identity of Jesus, and what you're supposed to do as a result of what he shows you. 

 

Tony

 

 

 

 

 

Learning
to
Live Like Jesus
 
 
April 27, 2014
"Which of Them Will Love Him More?"

 

March 2, 2014

      Every culture has things they do that they consider normal, customary, natural, weird-if-we-didn't-do-them kinds of things. In Jesus' day, greeting with a kiss on the cheek was one of these. Still is in Middle-Eastern countries.

 

     Another of those things was 'anointing' a guest wtih a drop or two of oil or perfume or perfumed oil when they entered your house. It was a sign of acceptance, of welcome, it was saying: "Hey, You belong here! Thanks for coming. Come on in! You are welcome here."

 

     We are going to focus on one of the four times in the Gospels this Sunday that an account like this occurs and concentrate on that passage. 

 

HOT or COLD?

 

     Jesus polarized people. There were two large groups of people on the subject: LOVE him / HATE him. It must have been difficult to navigate. Knowing that one group was so much closer to understanding him, to 'getting' who he was and what he had come to do, but realizing that the other group had some who were actively plotting how to kill him! How in the world do you dress for dinner wondering if it would be your burial suit?

 

     What a scandal. What this woman did was intimate, extravagant, bold, loving, and, according to Jesus entirely appropriate. Jesus not only allows her to do what she did, but he gladly accepts it, and then tells the disciples that what she has done would be told throughout the earth wherever the gospel is preached! His disciples got upset when they witnessed it - thought it was a waste. Jesus did not.

 

     His host had, uhm... 'forgotten' (?) to greet Jesus with a kiss on the cheek, and had not provided any oil to welcome him and had neglected to give him water to wash his dusty, dirty feet before he came in to dine. In short, he had dissed Jesus.

 

ULTERIOR MOTIVES?

 

     Makes me question his motives...WHY did he invite Jesus to his home? It was not unprecedented by this time in his ministry to have people trying to trap him in theolgical debates...to trick him or discredit him in front of others. Was this what was happening at this dinner party?

 

     Oh, there was also the group of religious leaders who had been meeting in secret to plot how they could actually kill him. Do you see that?! RELIGIOUS leaders...those in charge of helping people get to know God and teaching them how to stay close to Him! That is ALL KINDS of jacked up.

 

WHY HER?

 

     There were two people in the room who seemed to have correct motives and correct actions: Jesus and this woman.

 

     Can't wait to talk about why Jesus thought this was so important that he wanted it told all the time everywhere! We are fulfilling part of his prophecy this Sunday! There are things I must learn from waht happened if I want to understand Jesus and learn to please him like she did with my life...my heart...and the actions that flow from them.

"Unconditional Love"
 
(Learning to LOVE on-mission)

 

March 23, 2014

"Terms & Conditions Apply"

          (Learning to LOVE on-mission)

 

     "I LOVE YOU JUST THE WAY I AM" .  Allow me to translate:  "I am saying the words 'I love you', but only on the condition that I do not have to change - at all.

 

     On first glace, it sounds similar to:  "I love you just the way you are", but is actually the polar opposite of that.  The focus of the "you are" phrase is YOU.  The focus of the "I am" phrase is ME. 

 

     In our culture, we get rewarded for performance...what we can DO.  Consider actors and actresses, music stars, professional athletes.  As long as they are performing well, people "love" them, but let someone hit a slump...a few bad games or a season on the DL...a string of movies that just stink...not hitting the notes during a performance or cancelling some tour dates.  THEN, the 'love' just doesn't flow, does it?  How about your job?  Your yearly "Performance Review" is not based on how nice you were last year, is it?  Did 'kindness' and 'gentleness' get you a 9% raise or was any raise you got based on what you did for the bottom line...the profit for the company? 

 

"I Will Love You IF...

 

     We are taught to love and accept conditionally.  Parents don't mean to, but if they only reward good behavior by extending their affection and love when children do what they are told, then kids grow into adults who believe their self-worth is based soley on what they can do, not upon who they are.  It's a great way to breed workaholics and is an awesome tool to increase productivity.  The downside is that it messes with a person's sense of self-worth...of who they are...or who they THINK they are.

 

     I taught my kids from the time they were very small that the reason I loved them was just because they were themselves.  I would ask them often and have them answer out loud:  "Why does Daddy love you?" - Response:  "Just because I'm me!"  It was a powerful way to firmly plant inside them the fact that their self-worth did not come, and my affection and good-will did not come, ONLY as a result of good behavior.  I wanted them to know this because I wanted them to grow into the knowledge of the truth that God loves them for the very same reason.  This way of expressing love for them did not mean they always got whatever they thought they needed to "feel" loved.  Discipline often does not 'feel' like love...but it most definitely IS a part of love. 

 

     A great definiton of love is:  "Giving someone what they NEED, not what they THINK they need, or what they WANT, but what they ACTUALLY NEED."  We all, each one of us, need to know that we are loved by God and one another "just because I'm me!" 

 

"Gotta' do more...Gotta' try harder!"

 

     Doing more and trying to do better haunt some people their whole lives!  Now, move that screwed-up perspective into the realm of Christianity and you have real trouble, my friend.  Following the reasoning that so many grow up with, and applying it to God, you get something like:  "God loves me only when I'm not sinning."  "God loves me more when I'm being good than when I'm being bad."

 

     C.S. Lewis said:  "God loves human beings simply because they are the things called Selves"...that is to say, He loves you, just because you're YOU.  That truth is transformational!  It has deep and far-reaching implications for the value and dignity of every human being, regardless of their 'contribution to society', how they look, or what they can or cannot do.  It recognizes the proper status of each individual as made in God's image and as infintely worthwhile and valuable. 

 

Let it Flow...

 

     It is not our actions that attract the attention of God, it is our heart...our mind...the ways we think and the priorities we set.  When these internal things have been given to God's control, have been offered up to Him to mold and change, THEN our actions will begin to naturally flow from our committment to the Lord and the changed personality we now enjoy.

 

     Do you think there are people you work with or live with or see at the grocery store that would benefit from understanding this stuff?  How do you think it would change them if they understood that God loved them simply for being them?   MAN!  What an incredible game-changer this is!  We can build on that with anyone and share with them that God loves them so much, he provided a way through Jesus for us to be with him now and forever. 

 

     This Sunday, we get to talk about the way God loves us and his design for how we are to love one another so that we can reach out and love everyone unconditionally.  

 

     SO looking forward to it! 

                                                                           Tony

"Your Serve"
(Learning to serve others as we live On-Mission)
 
April 6, 2014

"...serve anyone selflessly"

 

Just 3 little words.

 

     Soooo quick and easy to read...or to say. BUT, to grow into conformity to the image of Jesus so that it becomes natural, normal, automatic, habitual, in your life - THAT is another matter entirely. ___________________________

 

"...the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve..." (Read the passage here: Matthew 20:20-28.) ___________________________

 

     "Who do men say that I am?"

 

     Jesus did not suffer from an identity crisis. He knew who he was and what he was supposed to do - he lived On-Mission every day. His focus - his mission, was pleasing God by serving people. Come to think of it, I don't know any other way to SERVE GOD unless I am SERVING PEOPLE. Do you?

 

     There are a multitude of ways to serve God by serving people...to love them, to give them what they need - not just what they want, or what they think they need, but to actually use my time and resources and care to provide what they NEED.

 

"Can I get you anything?"

 

     What do the people around you need? What do those in our community need? Encouragement? Loving honesty, words of truth? Food? Company, someone to just be with them regularly? Time? Listening? Yard work? Painting? Follow-up to something they already shared with you? Friendship? Ask God to open your eyes...to open your heart to the PEOPLE around you. He will honor that prayer and then you will see opportunities all the time everywhere!

 

     Are you willing to learn to serve like Jesus served..to live like he lived - in his name, by his authority, loving as he loved, giving like he gave...touching lives. Do you even know what that might look like for you, in your house...where you work...where you shop...where you eat out. If you don't, you have some praying and thinking to do. Why? If I don't grow into a servant, if I view this as optional, it proves I do not understand a major part of what it means to follow Jesus.

 

Absolutely UNapologetic.

 

How can I tell you that so directly and absolutely without apology? It is because I love you and God loves me enough to let me know that I am REQUIRED to learn to serve like Jesus if I say I am his disciple. My personal and spiritual and emotional DNA has been upgraded and when that happens, I can't help but serve. When a Christian gets this, you'll know and those around you will know. On the other hand, when I remain more concerned about what I want, how I can be blessed, what I can get rather than give...then you'll know I am clueless and immature in my faith.

 

     Serving is to become natural...automatic. It isn't something I am planning to do "when I have more time." It isn't "extra credit" for really good Christians. Serving is the natural and normal expectation for each person who says they want Jesus to be their Lord and Savior.

 

     That passage in Matthew chapter 20 is fascinating to me Matthew 20:20-28. The larger context (the situation or setting that Jesus first spoke those words) is in dealing with the apostles. Namely, James and John, but then Jesus speaks to all of them because the others were upset with these brothers and their request. There are two versions of this, one in Matthew and one in Mark. A request is made to Jesus for these two brothers to be placed in positions of authority when Jesus "comes into his kingdom". "Let us set, one just to the left of your throne and the other to the right - "Right-hand man"...and "Left-hand man"! Positions of authority. Positions of power. Give us positions of influence where others will serve us.

 

Oops. Sorry bout-cha', James and John!

 

     Of course, they thought it was to be an earthly kingdom complete with an army, thrones, and power. Jesus responded to them with some very challenging and interesting statements and a hard question. We'll talk about it on Sunday. Can't wait!

 

     Until then, join me as I ask God to show me what Jesus meant when he said to his disciples: "...whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave..." We have to talk about what this means, not just about the actions of serving others, but about the motive...about our hearts. When God teaches willing servants how to serve, and they actually begin to do it, INCREDIBLE things are possible as we live on-mission and "serve

anyone selflessly".

 

Tony

Easter Sunday
(When Words Fail)
 
April 20, 2014

     The ‘undead’… ‘Walkers’...

 

                       A lot of people are obsessed with 'zombies'.

 

     The AMC series “The Walking Dead” is a HUGE hit. Movies like “World War Z” with Brad Pitt, “I Am Legend” starring Will Smith, and “Zombieland” with Woody Harrelson have predicted that chemical or biological agents will transform the majority of the world’s population into flesh-eating zombies at some point. There are dozens of other lesser-known movies that are capitalizing on people’s fear and over-active imaginations. Video games have cashed in and gamers can fight off the digital zombies with a variety of weapons.  In these post-apocalyptic scenarios, there is always a group of nervous survivors that must band together, and alternately hide or fight in order to make it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Phrases like “The zombie apocalypse” are commonplace in our cultural vocabulary. Everyone seems to be capitalizing on this trend. You can even buy “Apocalypse Kits” like the one from respected cutlery and survival gear manufacturer GERBER. The following text is right off their webpage: “What if it happens? What if our worst fears are realized? If the Dead walk, the continuation of the human race will become a daily struggle. Are you prepared to protect and defend your family and friends? Your best chance lies in the Gerber Apocalypse Survival Kit. Enclosed in a super durable canvas carrying case with reinforced stitching, the kit is compact and packable. To beat the uprising we must work together. We must arm ourselves and organize.”   GERBER even provides a Lifetime Warranty!... however long 'lifetime' is.  And all for the low, low price of only $349.00.

 

     I think sometimes, people believe Christians are also fixated on death, just in a different way. We talk about “the blood of Christ”, the “sacrificial death he died” for the world, the crucifixion. When we take communion, we repeat his words about doing this “in memory” of him, but sometimes, we act like it is a funeral service, like even WE have forgotten about the LIFE that the resurrection promises!

 

     Even a powerful movie like Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, goes into excruciating detail about the events leading up to the death of Jesus, but there are only a couple of minutes at the very end of that film which show any depiction of the resurrection. A friend recently told me he wants someone to make the sequel and focus on what happens on Sunday and moving forward, AFTER the resurrection.

 

     Christians believe it to be true that Jesus conquered death – that he actually died and then came back to life. He didn’t come shuffling and groaning out of the tomb with his arms straight out in front of him and a vacant stare in his dull grey eyes. He walked out.  He spoke words of comfort and love and joy to Mary in the garden and then to the disciples and others. He ate food. After he rose, he had conversations with people who knew him before he was crucified. He appeared to many people after the resurrection in and around Jerusalem and beyond.

 

Death was never part of the original design...

 

     Sorry Mufasa, the “circle of life” was not designed to encompass death. Death is the natural result of sin and THAT is the result of exercising human free will. Dying was NOT supposed to be a “part of living”. Now, I’m no physician, but death is actually the OPPOSITE of life...it is when something ends...does not continue as it was. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     Easter Sunday is the celebration of life OVER death! God is Creator. He values life. He wants us to live, to live here-and-now and to live with him forever.  He spoke the first words in the universe about light and life and he has the final word...and it isn't 'death.'  It is LIFE. 

 

     In His Word, he promises eternal LIFE to all those who accept Jesus. According to what little I understand about it, the Bible characterizes those without Jesus as “the walking dead”..."dead in trespasses and sins".   Without him, people do not really know what it means to live. Jesus said about himself in John 10:10: “…I came that they might have life – abundant life."

 

     We have the ultimate cure for the deadliest disease and his name is Jesus. 

 

     "In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind." 

                                                                          1 John 1:4

 

     "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death." 

                                                                           1 John 3:14 

 

     This Sunday, we'll get to talk for a bit about some amazing things!  I pray that when you consider what God has accomplished for us in Christ Jesus it moves you to tears of gratitude and joy and that you will want want to love others so they come to know him. 

 

Tony

BCC Mission Statement

 

“Our mission is to share the Good News as we

love everyone unconditionally,

serve anyone selflessly,

and live like Jesus.”

 

 

Live like Jesus? Really?...

 

     OK. I don’t know any Christian who would seriously argue with that. It isn’t the TRUTH of the statement that’s the problem, it is the DOING part that should give you pause.

 

     Uhmm, I hate to point it out right off the bat here, but Jesus was God. He was perfect. Sinless. Like, never-committed-a-sin. “Live like Jesus?” The elephant in the room is: HOW do I live like Jesus?

 

Thanks, but no thanks.”

 

     One of the things we need to understand and must agree with is that this is exactly what the Bible says we are to do if we are really followers of Jesus. Living like Jesus is not optional or so out of the realm of possibility that we give up and settle, to just “do the best we can”. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.               1 John 2:4-6

 

 

Crash and Burn

 

     Left to my own devices, I will fail, and fail spectacularly. If you try to do this on your own steam, by sheer will power, you will crash and burn and it will not be pretty. This is especially true if you think you’re a really nice person who does good things and avoids bad things, you are highly susceptible to spiritual pride my friend. That’s a serious disease that infects millions of American Christians and it is destructive to the ones infected and to everyone around them. On my best day, it would never be enough. On your very best day, you will not be able to live like Jesus without help. No one could do this without divine assistance, which is EXACTLY what we are promised! NOW, we’re getting somewhere.

 

 

What help is available?

 

     When someone wants to follow Jesus, really and truly does not hold back, but surrenders their life (Past, present, and future) to Him, and when they ‘die to self’, repent and are baptized into Christ, two life-changing results follow. 1) God grants forgiveness of sin. 2) God gives his living presence. (See Acts 2:38) It would seem to me that one of the best ways to please God and learn to live like Jesus is to have him live in you, directing your thoughts and motives and actions. This is precisely how the Bible describes the process of becoming a Christian.

 

     This Sunday, we get to talk about some of the specifics of how we can, actually and specifically, become like Jesus, learn to live like Him.

 

     We’ll explore some very practical things we can do to “get on the same page” with God on this.

 

     I can’t wait to share with you some of the ways people can clearly learn to see Jesus in you and me.

 

     What we’ll talk about this Sunday is at or near the very center of what it means to be a Christian. It’s important. You should be there.

 

Looking forward to seeing you.

 

Tony

Memorial
Weekend
2014
 
 
May 25, 2014

(Ahead of Memorial Day)
           

Lemon Drops, Pipe Tobacco and Melmac

 

             I remember my paternal and maternal grandparents.  I remember what their voices sounded like.  I remember facial expressions and mannerisms they had.  I remember seeing them in their homes and moving around in those spaces we were both in at the same time. I remember that my great-grandfather on my mother’s side smelled like pipe tobacco and that he regularly gave me yellow candy drops in the shapes of little lemons.  He drove a putty-colored VW bug and kept his tobacco pouch in the glove box.  I can recall meals we ate with my father’s mom and dad.  I remember grandma’s coffee percolator and the brown Melmac coffee cups and saucers and the colors and shapes of Tupperware cups and containers.   I can retell some of the stories they told me.  Through these and many other details, I remember those who have passed on – they are ‘in’ my memory and are a part of me.             

 

          The Bible speaks of remembering things.  “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”  “Remember the Creator in the days of your youth” before you get old, look back on your life and just wish you had.  “Remember all the commands of the Lord.” 

 

‘Remembering’ What I’ve Never Experienced?

 

             “Do this in remembrance of me”.  Jesus said these words as he instituted what we call the Lord’s Supper or Communion.  As he shared the bread and the cup of wine around the room, he told his disciples he never wanted them to forget him.

 

             You may have been told in church before the trays were passed for Communion, to “remember what Jesus did for you”.  That’s biblical and it is important but just HOW are you supposed to remember something you never saw?  How do you “remember” the sacrifice of Jesus when he came and lived and was crucified and rose from the dead over 2,000 years ago in a place you have likely never visited or seen?!  You have not shared the same places or food with Jesus at the same time.  You did not see him physically or talk to him while he was here.  How then are you supposed to ‘remember’ him?  We’ll explore that for a bit this Sunday and discover how.  

 

Memory Makes Personality Possible

 

             How does memory ‘work’?  How do you remember things, people, places, smells, song lyrics, words from books you’ve read, plots from sitcoms that are 30 years old, tastes, etc.?  You do this kind of thing all the time.  You smell a cologne or perfume that someone important to you wore years ago and you may be transported back.  You hear a song that you first heard during a formative time in your life or when you were with people that were special to you, and you REMEMBER…you are transported back in time to places and people you may not have seen in years. 

 

The Tragedy of Forgetting

 
            God has blessed us with the ability to remember through a complex and little-understood process of chemical and electrical events and neural pathways in the brain.  It is wonderful and powerful and can lead us to great joy or great sorrow depending on what we call up from the depths of our minds.  Some memories are so joyful we never want to forget them.  Others are so painful, we’ll do anything NOT to remember. 
 
            The tragedy of Alzheimer’s is the inability to remember.  You lose the ability to remember.  Those afflicted forget the people and places and memories and experiences that make them, “them”.   It isn’t just that they forget ‘things’ or even those around them…they forget who they are, their own identity.
 
            There is more than simple sadness when we forget who we are…or whose we are – it is tragic and has significant consequences.  We’ll talk this stuff for a bit Sunday.  Looking forward to it!
 

Tony

   

 

          

"Truly I tell you, you must be born again."

 

This Sunday, June 8, we begin a three-part
             series from John chapter 3.

    
     There is a fascinating conversation in the first part of the gospel of John chapter 3.  A man named Nicodemus, a pretty big stick in the religious community at the time, seeks out Jesus to talk.  What he came to talk about and what Jesus steers the conversation into are two different things.  Jesus had just begun his ministry, he'd just started preaching and teaching a short time before this encounter and he had their attention, not in a good way. 

 

RISKY BUSINESS...


     It was risky to visit Jesus.  Being seen in the company of this questionable young man (Jesus) was enough to raise more than the eyebrows of the religious establishment.  It might be enough to get you thrown off the ruling council.  You see, they did not jump on the Jesus bandwagon and follow him, they were judging his every word, looking for holes in his story, seeking to discredit him any way they could.  Just who does this guy think he is anyway?!  In less than three short years, some of Nicodemus' cronies will be the ones responsible for the death of Jesus. 
 

Just Who I Am


     In this interchange, we get what is likely the most well-known passage in the Bible:  "For God so loved the world..."  The coolest part about those words is WHO said them, it was Jesus talking about himself!  I love that.  We've quoted it in some disembodied way for years like the tagline from a radio advertisement, but it was a phrase spoken my Jesus about himself and his Father and their mission.  It was one of the key ways he wanted people to understand who he was and what he had come to do. Read the passage here:  John Chapter 3

 

Get Close and Stay Close


     We are going to camp out in the first 21 verses of John chapter three for the next three weeks.  Fascinating stuff.  We can learn a lot about Jesus when we take a serious look at the Gospels (First four books of the New Testament - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).  Part of the Mission of BCC is to "live like Jesus".  We have to know what he said and did and why he did it if we are to be like him.  Your primary task as a Christian is to get close and stay close to Jesus.  The next three week's messages are designed to help augment your time in the Word, your prayer life, your service, and your identity as a disciple of Jesus.  Read the passage several times.  Let it soak into your mind.  Ask God to show you what it means and what you can do to respond to it, live out the truths in it. 
    

Looking forward to it!    

 

Tony 

 

"I tell you, you must be born from above." 
 
(Pt. 1 of 3)
 
June 8, 2014
Misunderstood
Mission
 
(Pt. 3 of 3)
 
June 22, 2014

 

          

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him..."                                       (John 3:17)

 

 

     By this point in the conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus is like butter:  he's on a roll...  Nicodemus has quit talking, stopped asking questions, now he's just listening, trying to take it all in.  Jesus keeps speaking truth.  Nic seems open... confused, bewlidered, but OPEN. 

 

     The time with Jesus was something Nic would never forget.  He was changed after that.  He heard the truth that was being spoken that night, and though he did not fully understand it, it seems he was willing to try and grow into it.  Even if you aren't quite sure what your next steps are, are you willing to grow into them, to explore how God wants to work IN and THROUGH you?  How are you responding to truth with your life? 

 

     We learned that Nic likely DID become a disciple of Jesus and he gave up everything in this world that matters to most people because of the new, central and overwhelming position of Jesus in his life over everything and everyone else.  That is what it meant to be a disciple.  That is what it means to be a disciple.  We give up self-will, our self-centeredness, our drive for pleasure or power or comfort and we take on HIS agenda voluntarily. 
 

"My Central Mission?     NOT to condemn people, but to SAVE Them!"


     Jesus volunteers this information to Nic about his central mission, and he's already revealed the central motive:  "For God loved the world like this:  he gave his one and only son."  It's like Jesus is saying:  "The main thing you need to understand about what God is trying to do in the world through me is to SAVE, not CONDEMN." 

 

     Keeping score...keeping track...trying to keep all the rules, leads to lots of GUILT and COMPARISON and PRIDE and DESPAIR.  Jesus knew who he was talking to:  a self-proclaimed "gatekeeper" to God, someone who thought they were "tearing it up for God" when they were actually perpetuating a system that KEPT people FROM experiencing God.  It would be SUPER-sad if Nic had responded like so many of his peers did in hating and condemning Jesus and sticking with the system. 

 

"It's Like Night & Day"

 

     The difference between grace and law is like night and day...or, as Jesus put it:  between "darkness and light."  Living in the light, living in the truth...is something we choose when we choose him.  It doesn't happen by accident.  It isn't just 'putting lipstick on a pig' when we come to Jesus, he remakes us, transforms us little-by-little into his very image.  We become who we were made to be. 

 

     Jesus acknowledges that some people who see the truth, maybe even understand some of it, will ACTIVELY CHOOSE to remain in darkness, apart from him.  Why?  Their actions, their lives, are exposed, laid bare, really seen for what they are when they fall under the light of Jesus.  People don't like what they see sometimes. 

 

"OK, Let me be honest with you..."

 

     When someone chooses to follow Jesus, really and truly become his disciple, it requires an enormous amount of honesty and openness...of brokenness.  "Whoever lives by the truth, comes into the light." and it will be plain to "God and everybody" that their life is not the same. 

 

     We have so much to talk about this Sunday!  What does it mean to believe according to Jesus' definition?  What are people saved FROM?  What are they saved TO?  Why would Jesus use words that sound like the closing arguments of a court case:  "The verdict..."?  As always:  what truth is here in this part of scripture (Chapter 3, verses 17-21) and what do I do with it?  How is it supposed to change me?  

   

Looking forward to it!    

Tony

"FADE"
 
2 Samuel 11
Darin Trent
 
July 6, 2014

 

     A few (dark...) chapters from the life of King David who was the military, political, and spiritual leader of the nation of Israel.

 

                                            

A Man After God's Own Heart?!

 

     However you slice it, these chapters in the book of David's life would go down in history as some of the worst.  We see distraction, dereliction of duty, lust, conspiricy to commit adultery, committing the act of adultery, abuse of power, deception, lying, betrayal, conspiricy to commit murder, and on and on!  

 

     Some impeachable offenses for our president are described as "High Crimes and Misdemeanors".  When it comes to David, how about "High Crimes and FELONIES?!"  How in the name of all that's holy could you call someone like this "a man after God's own heart"?! 

 

     It might depend on what that phrase means.  If it ONLY means, "someone who always follows God in the right way, never makes mistakes or commits sins, and who is just like God at all times", then we'll always be disappointed in people and David would be disqualified.  If, on the other had, it meant, "someone who sincerely desired to follow God, but who was imperfect, did NOT always make the right decisions, was flawed and sinful but knew how to repent and reorient", then we might be on the verge of understanding something about David. 

 

"It's a Marathon, not a Sprint..."

 

     What Darin will take you through this Sunday from the life of David is hard to look at.  We would prefer every leader in the Bible to be like Jesus:  perfect, sinless, always saying the right words and doing the right things.  That's not David.  This part of the Bible is not a PRESCRIPTION of what we should do, it is a detailed DESCRIPTION of what NOT to do. 

 

     A perfect life does not describe David.   But, it isn't accurate for YOU or ME either.  If you are open and honest with yourself and God, then you will be encouraged from all you can learn about David's failures here AND...from his responses to them.  The 2 Samuel passage is a part of David's overall story but so is Psalm 51 where we see his broken heart, his realization and ownership of his sin and selfishness, his processing of what that sin really does and how it destroys relationships.  Selfishness always destroys relationships.  It eats away like a disease inside the selfish person and infects other people around them.  David's sin was not "just his own personal business".  Neither is yours or mine.  Your selfish behavior hurts you, you and God, you and me.  My selfish beavior hurts me, me and God, me and you. 

 

     Darin Trent is excited to bring you words of challenge and of encouragement if your ears and hearts are open this Sunday.

 

     Learn all you can from David's mistakes and sins so you can recognize any "fade" in your own life before you cross the lines. 

 

    
Tony

"100-Mile
Faith Trip"
 
 
 
July 27, 2014

     Last week, several of our High School youth and a few adults set off on what is know as a "Faith Trip".

 

     What, you may ask IS a faith trip?  It is a trip that leaves open amazing possibilities for God to reveal himself and for Him to lead willing hearts into the lives of people with need.

 

     This Sunday, we will see photos and video from the trip, hear stories of the people that were helped and hear the perspectives and some observations from the adults.

 

     It was a great week!  I'm really looking forward to having them detail the trip for us and for them to show us how God utilized them. 

 

     This will be a celebration of God and how He leads when we are open and willing and flexible.

 

     There will be good lessons for YOU if you're listening about how He may want to work in and through you as you go about your day-to-day.

 

     Don't miss it!

 

Tony

 

Learning
to
Live Like Jesus
 
 
May 4, 2014

 

“Our mission is to share the Good News as we

love everyone unconditionally,

serve anyone selflessly,

and live like Jesus.”

 

     Last Sunday, we established from several passages that the clear goal for each and every believer is that they beome like Jesus. 

 

     The apostle John says it plainly:  Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did."    1 John 2:4-6  

 

"OK, Prove it!"

 

     The degree to which we live like Jesus will prove the degree to which we actually know God!  Let's break it down:  If you DON'T live like Jesus, you CANNOT claim to know God.  That message is sobering, isn't it.  Does it make you evaluate your life?  Make you think about how much your life resembles his...or DOESN'T...? 

 

     In American churches, attendance and morality have become the standards by which we evaluate "being a Christian" and that is not a good thing.  Being faithful to Jesus, following him with all of who we are is now viewed as optional and that is absolutely a false way to look at what it means to be a Christian.  We can and must fight these incorrect views at every chance we get.    

 

What to do...what to do?”

 

     This coming Sunday, we are going to ask one another some questions that will help us understand how we can actually become more like Jesus.  There ARE things we can do, ways we can think, attitudes we can adopt, that, slowly and surely, will shape our life into one like his.

 

     We will look at some fantastic and encouraging stuff from the book of Hebrews that talks about how God identified with us in amazing ways by "sharing in flesh and blood."  and being "made like us".

 

     My goals with this short examination of the last line of the BCC Mission statement are to encourage...to challenge...to motivate...and to demonstrate how we can live like Jesus. 

 

     We said in the first part, we can't LIVE like him until we THINK like him.  You can figure out a person's thoughts by listening to the words they speak and watching their actions.  In the gospel of John, we saw the heart of Jesus as he told his followers and his detractors that he did nothing on his own, he always sought to please his Father, and that he spoke only the words the Father gave him.  In short, he was totally and completely sold out to the will of God.

 

"You're Kind of Different..."

 

     There ARE some ways that we are not naturally like Jesus and those things will force us to do some stuff that he never had to.  We'll identify them and talk about some Sunday.  Once we do that, we can move on to outline the ways we can become like him. 

 

     The beauty and mystery of our Faith is that God became man to save men.  The power of the "incarnation" (God become flesh) should send us to our knees in gratitude and appreciation.  He LOVES us!  He KNOWS us!  He WANTS us to know him!

 

     What a blessing and a joy to be able to come together this Sunday.  If we're willing, God can do some things in us that will move us beyond making ourselves the center and on to areas of love and service that really matter.  I want each of us to view our everyday as the adventure that God can make it when our minds are right and our focus is on Him and others.  Then, we can say of our conversations, our interactions with others:  "That counts!!"

 

     See you Sunday!

 

 

Tony

Running Away...and Coming Back Changed. 
The message of Philemon.
 
June 1, 2014

          

Why in the world is the book of Philemon even in the Bible?

 

      Tucked in between the New Testament books of Titus and Hebrews is a little letter from the apostle Paul to a  Christian guy named Philemon who had a slave run away.  Verse designations were not in the original text of the Bible, they were put in later, but his letter became 25 'verses'... pretty short by Bible standards.  Paul meets the slave, named Onesimus, and he becomes a Christian through Paul's influence and is being sent BACK to his owner with this letter.  It's a fascinating letter with some powerful truths for us.  We get to explore it together this Sunday. 

 

     This part of the Bible, like all the other books and letters in it has something for each of us, something for Christians in every age to "get" and to live out. 

 

     Biblical truth is not Bible Trivia.  The truth is living and active and is designed to change us and to change people and things around us.  Biblical truth is transformational, it is designed to be lived out, to be practiced, not just talked about.

 

     There are some questions I am using this week to prepare and that you should think about to help you understand this, or any any part of the Bible:

 

          - "Why is this even in the Bible?"

 

          - "What am I supposed to GET?"

 

          - "What truths are here?"

 

          - What do I DO with the truth I discover?"

 

          - "How am I supposed to live differently because of what I've discovered?"

 

          - What difference is this going to make?"

 

     If I don't DO SOMETHING..if you don't act on the truth in the Bible, some bad things happen.  When I learn truth, I become RESPONSIBLE for what I've discovered.  Knowing Biblical truth creates responsibility - it demands response and being fleshed out. 

 

     For far too long, many groups of American Christians have congratulated themselves on knowing a little bit about God's word, being familiar with some verses or phrases, but not doing the valuable and worthwhile work of learning how to live out the truth. 

 

     Even worse, when that kind of shallow and immature approach to God's Word is allowed, it is just a matter of time until actually reading the Bible and internalizing the truths so they get lived out is viewed as optional...it isn't optional.  Not if we want to live as authentic disciples of Jesus instead of belong to a nice club with nice people who don't do bad things.

 

     Think about it.  Pray about it.  Read Philemon and prepare for Sunday.

 

Looking forward to it!

 

Tony 

 

           

 

   

 

"You are Israel's teacher, and you don't understand these things?" 
 
(Pt. 2 of 3)
 
June 15, 2014

 

          

"This is how much God loved the world:
      He gave his Son, his one and only Son
.."
 

                                                        (John 3:16)

 

Part 2 of a 3-part series from John chapter 3.

 

    Jesus lays some truth on Nicodemus when he comes to see him.  He rocks his world with some stuff that just does...not...compute.  What he says just does not make sense to Nicodemus.  Nic thought he had it all figured out and Jesus is trying to expand his HEART and MIND, open him up to larger realities and deeper truth about God, and about life, the universe and everything. He tells Nic you can't even RECOGNIZE let alone ENTER the kingdom of God without being born again/born from above.  And this was said to a man who thought if ANYone was already "in" it was him!  Makes me wonder what I need to understand, what ways might WE have it wrong and only THINK we have it right?

     Jesus is gracious but he pulled no punches:  "You're a teacher of Israel, and you really don't get this?"  Paraphrase and possible innuendo:  "How can you lead others when you don't understand the very basics?!"  This created a crisis of faith and life for Nicodemus.  What we know about him from the other two places in the Bible we hear about him (John 7 and 19) plus church history tell us that Nic DID ultimately get it and became a follower of Jesus.  It cost him everything:  his job, family fortune, and ultimately his life...they killed him for being a Christian.         How about that?


 

We'll be talking through chapter 3, verses 10-16 this Sunday, June 15th.  
 

 

"The Son of Man Must be Lifted Up"


     Jesus refers to a very weird event in the history of Israel in this passage.  It happened during the time of the wandering in the desert after they had been freed from slavery in Egypt.  It is recorded for us in the Old Testament book called "Numbers" in chapter 21.  The people grumbled again God and against Moses because of conditions and because of food preference and God sent immediate judgement on them.  As strange as it seems, he sent venomous snakes among the people and it says "and many Israelites died."  Some of the survivors repented (changed their minds and their thoughts) and acknowledged their sin, the fact they were wrong and were working against God's purpose and against Moses.  As an antedote, God had Moses make a bronze serpent and put it up on a pole where everyone could see it.  If they were bitten by a poisonous snake and looked up at the the bronze serpent, they were healed.  Jesus will use this as an illustration about how HE would have to be "lifted up" (A reference to the crucifixion, the death of Jesus on the cross) and how all who recognized what that meant and believed in him could be saved.  We'll talk about it a bit Sunday. 

     The implications of some of the things in verses 10-16 are HUGE!!  We need to look at it together and learn what we can so we can put that truth into ACTION...DO SOMETHING with it.  We have to unpack what "Son of Man" means, how the snake story ties in, make sure we really understand the most recognized verse in the Bible (John 3:16), what the Bible means when it says "believe", and lots more! 
    

Looking forward to it!    

Tony

"As a
Man
Thinks"
[Proverbs 23:7]
 
August 3, 2014

According to the Bible, Christians are expected to become like Jesus: 

 

            “…we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”                        (Ephesians 4:15b) 

 

            “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”                                  (1 John 2:6) 

 

            “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”  (Galatians 2:20) 

 

"Yes, but HOW exactly?"

 

            When a disciple of Jesus begins to get serious about what it means to follow Him, to become like Him, they will naturally become curious about the “HOW.”  HOW do I become like Him?  When they encounter passages like those above, and others that clearly tell us what it means to be Christian, they will want to know what to DO about it. 

 

            Christians need to understand that actual, visible, measurable progress in their lives is possible and expected.  We must ask ourselves:  “Am I becoming more like Jesus?”  It isn’t about what percentage of Sunday mornings were attended, or if I’m “doing better” because I haven’t kicked the dog or sworn or gossiped for over a week so I don’t feel as guilty as I did.  We aren’t talking about the one-dimensional measuring stick of morality (“Being good” and “not being bad”) in order to evaluate our Christ-likeness.  Some people are very moral who are unsaved and have no desire to be like Jesus. 

 

WHATEVER IT TAKES...

 

            Being a disciple of Jesus means we will PURSUE whatever it takes to get close and stay close to Him and we will do whatever it takes to live like he did while he was here.  And, there ARE things we can do. 

 

            If we want to actually and truly be followers of Jesus, we must avoid allowing our culture (Even American Christian culture…) to define what that means.  It has been watered down and diluted in order to make it more ‘manageable’ and we must be on our guard about that fact.  We must be informed by the Bible and by God’s Spirit as we internalize the Word and pray.  We can’t allow ourselves to be satisfied with, comfortable with whatever we may have done in years past. 

 

3 Steps forward, 2 steps back?...

 

            The lack of clear progress in the lives of so many followers of Jesus is evidenced by weakness to fight sin, the absence of joy, lack of peace, and a deep sense of purpose:  all these are clues that we must think about things differently than we have before. 

 

            This Sunday, we get to talk about one of the ways a human can actually become more like Jesus.  We’ll explore some incredible stuff about how our brains are structured, how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and what we can do to CHANGE more and more into the image of Christ. 

 

            It is so exciting to be able to come together on Sundays to worship and talk in classes and spend time together in the Word!  It is such a joy and so much fun to serve others through the meals on Wednesdays, and in the different ways some of you are exploring outreach and service!  I’m so glad to be a part of the body of Christ with BCC. 

 

Looking forward to Sunday,

 

 

Tony

 

"Judging"
 
Matthew 7
Aaron Kelso
 
June 29, 2014

 

     12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

 

     15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers."                  

 

                                              (1 Timothy 4:12-16)

 

 

Isn't This Backwards?

 

     YOU set THEM an example.  Who, exactly?  Paul tells Timothy, a young man, to set the example for the believers around him.

 

     A young man, with less life experience, less 'wisdom' than those older than him is told he is to be the one people are to look to in 5 very specific areas:  SPEECH, CONDUCT, LOVE, FAITH, and PURITY. 

 

     Sometimes, our young people do not succeed because they are not challenged and encouraged and intentionally mentored.  Too frequently, we expect so little from them, in service, in our community, and spiritually.  We've lowered the bar to simple church attendance and 'being good' to measure 'how they are doing'.  We have to help them seek higher heights of dedication to God manifested in deeper depths of service and love of those around them.  If we are not intentional about this, then they will absorb the values of the culture around them and we will perpetuate lazy and easy discipleship, something WAY less thean the Bible describes for followers of Jesus.

 

     I'm so pleased to see a Sunday where they lead us.  I'm thrilled to see some of them go on the Missions trip in July.  Pray for all of them and help some of them! 

 

"Well, they don't give us too much trouble..."

 

     Over the years, I have heard parents and grandparents celebrate the fact that the kids in their family "do not give us too much trouble".  Is that the gold standard by which they should be measured?! 

 

     I'm thrilled to see our young people in the BCC family!  I want them to not just hang on to their faith and limp along but to GROW and SERVE.  They will do that when they see us growing and serving and when we invite them into those experiences.  Our job is to model Jesus for them, bring them alongside us and challenge them to seek what God wants to do IN and THROUGH them. 

 

     The Bible says "To whom much is given, much is required."  I think it is OK to play off that wisdom and wording for something like this:  "From whom little is expected, little will be realized."  We must continuously lead by example and challenge our young people to take whatever Next Steps they need to take.

 

     I'm looking so forward to participating in our Youth Sunday Worship this week!  Pray for the kids as they prepare, for Aaron as he prays and gets ready to share from God's Word with us. 

 

     Looking forward to it!    

Tony

"Hope for
Healing
a Hard Heart"
Part 1 of 2
August 24, 2014

 

                   It happens over time....        Hearts can harden...

 

 

     The Bible contains multiple warnings about not being or becoming hard-hearted.  There are examples given of who NOT to be like and the warnings are repeated in both the Old and New Testaments.  People are rebuked and called out for being hard-hearted.  Now, just hold on a minute! 

 

     How on earth can you be upset with someone for simply FEELING a certain way, even if it IS hard-hearted?!

 

      If you agree with the question above and agree that is a valid point to make, you need to understand some very important things. 

 

      Thing 1:  You are the creator and controller of all the feelings you experience. 

 

      Thing 2:  My feelings ALWAYS follow or track with my THOUGHTS:  What I think controls how I feel. 

 

      Thing 3:  Others are not responsible for how you feel, only you are. 

 

      Thing 4:  You change how you feel by changing your thoughts.  (This works both positively and negatively:  Negative thoughts, bitterness, unforgiveness, yield negative or bad feelings.  Positive thoughts of generosity, forgiveness, love, will result in good and positive feelings.)

 

     We've been talking about how the Bible uses the word "heart" and I think we're on the right track as we understand that as the center of who we are.  It is related to the brain and to the mind and how those are interrelated.  Our heart is where our identity is. 

 

     The fact that we EXIST is a gift from God.  Our IDENTITY, who we are and who we are becoming, is, in large part OUR RESPONSIBILITY.  WE choose.  WE reach conclusions.  WE establish values and priorities that are either more or less in line with God's design for us.  WE are creative.  WE feel emotions.  All these things flow from our "heart", the deepest and most central part of us.  God says in the Bible, he wants to change our hearts, give us one like His, help our identity to become like Jesus'.

 

     We recognize the difference between "soft-hearted" and "hard-hearted" people.  We're going to talk about a few of the things that characterize each of these types of hearts this coming Sunday.  We'll look at some passages that relate and then spend some time learning about how we can recognize bad mental and emotional habits of thought that can lead us to becoming hard-hearted. 

 

     There is hope for God to heal a heart that has become hard.  This is one of the things I love best about God...He wants to restore joy, reconcile relationships, give peace and comfort, and HEAL HARD HEARTS. 

 

     It all depends on us.  He stands ready, willing, and able.  There are examples like Pharaoh in the Old Testament and some of the religious leaders in Jesus' day who REFUSED to think differently...refused to give up their hard hearts.  That always leads away from God and into calamity.

 

     Looking forward to talking with you about it!

 

 

Tony

"Raising
the Roof"
Jesus Meets our Greatest Need
September 14, 2014

 

 

 

                         Read Mark 2:1-12

 

     Five friends.  One is different.  He's paralyzed.  We don't know why.  From birth?  An accident while working? 

 

Mark doesn't tell us why his legs, and possibly his arms too, don't work.  He just tells us that's the way it was.  And, how was it? 

 

     How was life with no Insurance, no Medicade, no Social Security Administration...nothing to fall back on.  Did these same friends take turns carrying him out to his customary street corner to beg each day?  To lie there embarrassed and dependent upon the kindness of those who passed by?  What was going on INSIDE him?  What thoughts circulated around his mind all day every day that produced his feelings?  How did he feel about his circumstances?  Did he cry out to God about it not being fair or did he suffer in silence, too angry and too hopeless to ask God about anything anymore? 

 

     Where was his family?  Did he have one?  We don't know how old he was.  Really, we know barely anything about him.  If he was this way from birth, what were his chances for marriage and starting a family?  If this happened later in life, did he lose his family?  Did he lose the ability to pick up his children, to chase them and play with them? 

 

  We don't know anything about his life situation, but we DO know he had some great FRIENDS... and some great NEEDS.

 

     Stories about this young Rabbi, this prophet from Nazareth had been spreading, circulating around the town wells and in the marketplaces and the synogogues.  Some said they had actually SEEN him heal people from blindness, from deafness, from being paralyzed...  The four friends believed Jesus could do, well, SOMEthing.  What they and their friend on the stretcher considered what was this most pressing need and what Jesus thought seemed to be two different things.

 

     We get to talk through this incredible day-in-the-life of Jesus this Sunday.  We'll see Him, but we'll also see this man and his friends, and, there are the religious leaders  who are there thinking things over "in their hearts". 

 

     Interesting way of putting it, isn't it?  Mark says as the teachers of the Law observed Jesus and heard what he said, they "were thinking in their hearts."  What, you ask were they thinking?  Read Mark 2:1-12 and prepare yourself for time in the Word this Sunday.

 

     If you're willing, amazing and powerful things can happen as a result of understanding the Bible.  If you're not willing, if you choose not to prioritize putting the Word in your heart...into your mind outside of an hour on Sunday morning, then you're certainly still welcome, but you likely won't get as much out of it and that is super-sad. 

 

     Looking forward to talking with you about it!

 

Tony

 

 

"Rest in Peace"
 
Why wait?!
 
October 12, 2014

     They call them “Life” insurance policies, but aren’t they really “Death” insurance policies?  Your preselected beneficiary(ies) (Someone other than YOU) will get the “Death Benefit” that you paid all the premiums on before you died.  That doesn’t sound right! 

 

What do you want on YOUR Tombstone?

 

     When we lose someone close to us, when they die, families are asked about what they would like to have carved into the tombstone.  “Rest in Peace” has been used countless times as an epitaph – which literally means the:  “Words over the tomb”.  The intent is to wish their loved one peace and rest after the “toil and strife” they experienced while living. 

 

What if I don’t have to wait?

 

     But, what if the plan was for us to actually have rest… experience peace HERE…NOW?   Wouldn’t THAT be something?!

 

     I believe God wants us to experience life this way.  What way?  Not the way many people actually view life:  as random difficult or stressful or wearisome events that just eventually beat us up, wear us down, and ultimately kill us.  THEN, after we die, we can have others tell us to:  “Rest in peace.” 

 

     BCC has clear Mission, Vision, and Values statements, and part of our values are about life:  “Life was meant to be enjoyed fully under God's loving authority”. (Proverbs 14:27; John 10:10; 20:31)

 

Is He Saying What I Think He’s Saying?

 

      “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

     Jesus said this.  Why were they weary?  What were their burdens?  What did he mean when he said he could give them “rest”, that they could “find rest for their souls?”  Surely he wasn’t simply selling burial plots, telling them to “hang on through a tough and toilsome life of pain but someday you can die and get some rest.”  How did he want them to understand it?  That’s how we must come to understand it so we can live inside the truths we discover and share them with others.      Here.   Now.      During our lives on planet Earth, as well as after them. 

 

     This Sunday, we get to talk about this stuff and I can’t wait!  We have to understand HOW to experience rest and peace in Jesus.  We’ll have to talk about what is required, and it does involve death…but not like we think. 

 

     Looking forward to it!


Tony

 

Denying My 'SELF'
 
The first and most important step in following Jesus
 
October 19, 2014

Denying my 'SELF'

 

     When you put a space between the "y" and the "s", it goes much deeper...     

     This doesn't begin and end with saying "
No" to that second helping of spaghetti or refusing the third doughnut....

______________

....

     When it comes to someone wanting to BECOME a Christian...BEING a true Christ-follower, the very first thing He responds with is:  "Let him deny himself..." 

 

Did They Tell YOU? 
                They Didn't Tell me.

 

     How much of that did you hear from the person who led you to Christ?  What it would FEEL LIKE to train yourself and let God's Spirit TRAIN you to deny, to turn your back on what YOU wanted in preference to the needs of others and the will of God?  I heard about all the benefits of having my sin forgiven in Jesus, they told me about getting to go to heaven when I died, and by "accepting Jesus" I could avoid going to Hell. I had ZERO instruction about this...that it was REQUIRED.  How to do it.  How to pray about learning how to do it.  Nothing beyond the typical morality talk:  "Don't do bad things, do as many good things as you can and go to church."     I would suspect your conversion was not unlike mine if you're an American Believer.  Even though the folks who told us about Jesus loved us, they did not tell us the WHOLE story...the very FIRST and MOST IMPORTANT step that Jesus lists is the one I was told the LEAST about.  Why is that? 

 

Why Don't They Tell You?

 

     Either they didn't know (No one had told them), or they intentionally left it out because it doesn't "sell" very well.  As I reflect on my own experience and hear of the experiences of others, I think it is that first reason.      When cell phone commercials come on, it's all smiles and Snapchat and texting, and how much easier and fun your life will be but the cost-per-month is not talked about much or is said VERY fast hoping you won't listen, or that you'll be won over by the PERSONAL BENEFITS.  They're counting on the fact you'll MINIMIZE or IGNORE the difficult parts of the arrangement and be won over by WHAT YOU CAN GET.  Doesn't this sound very similar to many attempts at converting people to Jesus?      Since this denial of my 'SELF' is primary to even becoming a Christian, and it is one of the marks of true Believers, we'd better talk about it, understand it, and then share with each other what that looks like in individuals, inside marriages and families, at the places we work, and in all the interactions we have with people.  

 

"Sorry.  The Position has been Filled".


     Yes.  It is different and more demanding than you may have been led to believe.  BUT...it does not happen by "trying harder", it happens by GIVING UP in some areas.  We may not have been told, but what Jesus said is TRUE and we must recapture that truth and live in it.  If there is any 'SELF' left, exerting my will, calling the shots, driving the bus of your life, then there will not be sufficient room for Jesus.  He can't become LORD of your life if YOU still are filling that position.  

    We have much to talk about Sunday.  I'm going to lay out some very specific examples of situations that we all face regularly and we'll run some "Spiritual Diagnostics" tests that will let us each know if we understand this denial of, this death to....SELF and if we are making strides or not.  We get all kinds of help here that those who are not following Jesus do not get. 

     I love you and am looking so forward to sharing with you!


Tony

 

"The Kids Will
Tell My Story...
and Yours"
 
 
November 9, 2014

 

     My words and actions and attitudes are the "offspring" of my life...they speak volumes about me, representing and communicating my heart to the world.


     It's a funny way of putting things, isn't it?  Jesus said that "Wisdom is proved right by all her children".  It's like He's telling his listeners that someone who is wise, who understands themselves in relation to God, will produce good 'offspring' or 'children' in the world ("The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom...").  When we make wise choices, following His design for life, using His priorities to guide our decisions, the natural result of that union between MY will and GOD'S wise ways, will be my positive legacy in the world.

     People come to know you and I by the words we speak, by our facial expressions, by our attitudes and outlook on life, and by the actions they see us do and how we do them.  In a manner of speaking, I AM the sum total of all my thoughts, words, actions, attitudes, and my priorities. 

     Who we are INFLUENCES and IMPACTS those around us.  We are changed in big and small ways by being around other people.  Ever been in a waiting room or in a line somewhere and someone is arguing loudly on the phone with someone else?  It changes the mood of that place!  You can SEE the attitude of the person having the conversation.  You can FEEL the negative emotions and it can easily impact YOUR mood, YOUR attitude.  The 'offspring' of the angry conversation you overheard can be hurt, anger, bitterness, and some of that rubs off on other people...they "sent their children" out into YOUR part of the world to play!  On the other hand, have you ever seen a young couple holding hands and enjoying each others company?  Have you seen people laughing and talking and loving life together?  THOSE kind of interactions produce joy and laughter and fun, and that is infectious too, in a good way. 

     If it is true about WISE living, then it stands to reason, that someone who is UNwise, who thinks and acts and speaks in ways that God has told us are bad for us and that are contrary to His will, also produce 'offspring' or 'children' in the world. 

     We get to examine
Luke 7:29-35 this Sunday.  There is a lot going on in the life and ministry of Jesus at the time he spoke the words there.  John the Baptist was still alive.  Jesus talks about him and talks about himself, AND...he talks about how people viewed the two of them.  VERY different ways of living and styles of ministry, but both used by God and BOTH produced good 'children'...words and attitudes and actions that pleased the Father and proved that God's way of thinking and living is best. Some at the time saw and recognized this, some chose to think differently.  Both got to live with the consequences, the natural results of their decisions. 

     What is your life currently producing?  What kinds of 'children' are you sending out into the neighborhood to represent you, to 'speak' for you?  It is not that difficult to discover:  those around you already know your 'kids'...the key is for each of us to think about this and discover what our lives are making...what legacy are we leaving?

Looking forward to it!


Tony

 

 

"BLINK MAN'S BLUFF?"
 
2 or 5:7
 
July 13, 2014

Blind Man’s Bluff?

 

For we live by faith, not by sight. 

2 Cor. 5:7

 

     When you hear the term “blind faith”, people know what you’re talking about:  you don’t have any good reasons for it, can’t prove things using any trustworthy or ‘scientific’ methods, but you persist in thinking it.  In other words, you must believe it in spite of any evidence.  It’s as if the word ‘believing’, when applied to the Bible, or God, or Jesus, is somehow ‘less-than’ other kinds of personal commitment.  Or, that ‘believing’ only applies to things like religion, and that those who believe that science is unbiased and intellectually superior use some other part of their brains to reach the conclusion that something is true and that they can trust it. 

 

We're All Using the SAME Toolbox.

 

     Now, I’m no neuroscientist, but all people everywhere use exactly the same mental machinery:  we have brains…we have minds.  Christian, Atheist, Buddhist, Scientist, Hindu, and on and on…we ALL use exactly the same equipment to reach conclusions, to decide, to choose, to invest ourselves in something – to BELIEVE something.  James Sire, Christian author and thinker says in his book called “Why Should Anyone Believe Anything At All?”, that:  “To be human is to believe.”  Since we are all using the same equipment to decide what is true and what is false, what is worth investing in…believing in, the primary questions we should be asking are:  Does what I am thinking actually match up with the way things really are?  Do the thoughts in my head correspond to the way reality actually is structured?  Is what I would like to believe actually TRUE? 

 

Calling Your Bluff...

 

     It is not an uncommon opinion that Christians are blind and that we are bluffing…that we are acting as if some things are true and real when we really know they are false.  In essence, they would say we are pretending:  that God exists; that sin exists; that people somehow need saving; that God actually came to earth in Jesus and that he is the way and truth and life; that the Bible has true and helpful information for living; that all people everywhere will ultimately answer to God for their actions and decisions; that there is some kind of judgment day, etc. 

 

     Lots of people believe the term “Intelligent Christian” to be an oxymoron.  What a great word:  oxymoron.  Everybody knows what a moron is:  not bright, opposite of smart, stupid. An oxymoron is a phrase or figure of speech where two apparently incompatible ideas appear together.  This idea is perpetuated in film, on TV and in popular culture.  Christians are not presented as the brightest bulbs in the light bar. 

 

     Somehow, (and we know part of ‘how’ from historically watching the confidence in the scientific method soar over the years and, with a handful of notable exceptions, the Church let it happen without adequate, respectful, truthful response), Faith and Reason came to be viewed as incompatible, as enemies.  You could choose Faith OR Reason, but not both.  Lots of folks still view things this way.  You can be a Christian OR, you can be an intelligent, progressive individual, but you can’t be both. 

 

     I think those who look down on Christians on the grounds that committing to Jesus, to the Christian faith, is unintelligent, do so because they are misinformed about the nature of ‘proof’ and the nature of ‘belief’.  We’ll talk about this a bit Sunday. 

 

     We will also explore some powerful ideas that mostly go unexamined by Christians as well as nonbelievers.  Things like the myth of objectivity, the scientific method as the only way to prove something, and what it means to “believe” in something or in someone. 

 

For we live by faith, not by sight. 

2 Cor. 5:7

 

           Living…Walking...Stepping…Taking the Next Step(s).

 

True for you, but not true for me???

 

     When we say something is ‘true’, that means other options are false.  That is the case whether you are in a philosophy course, a court of law, or when talking about spiritual realities.  It doesn’t make someone mean or small-minded to commit to an idea that someone else disagrees with or believes is false.  If a thing is true, it does not need your agreement, it doesn’t matter if I ‘like’ it or not.  I believe all truth is God’s truth.  Wherever we find it, he put it there.  Whenever we encounter it, he created it.  I believe these things to be true…that these ideas actually match how things are in the universe. 

 

     I believe God is trustworthy but not everyone does.  Many people are suspicious.  They want ‘proof’ of his existence and ‘proof’ that he can be trusted.  There are different kinds of proof and we’ll talk about how that relates to walking by faith this Sunday.   This tiny little verse is packed full of fantastic stuff!   

 

Looking forward to talking it through with you!

 

 

Tony

 

"BCC
Living
on
Mission"
 
August 10, 2014

"Why a Block Party?"

 

     We've all experienced the anticipation of a par-TAY!  People look forward to BEING TOGETHER...SHARING FOOD... LAUGHING and TALKING.  Just hanging.  Taking a break from the normal routine and celebrating something. 

 

     Every person has had a party they looked forward to:  a childhood birthday party; a wedding reception, Thanksgiving dinner, Easter get-together, a Christmas feast, a graduation party, baby showers, and in lots of other settings.

 

     Why a Block Party?  Why NOT a Block Party?!  This is the second-annual BCC Block Party and it is a great idea.  We get to invite friends and neighbors who do not know Jesus into a laid-back, fun setting and be gracious hosts.  It isn't intimidating like a church service might be and we have an opportunity to SHINE in welcoming them and getting to know them.  It may take a few years for the event to gain traction and see lots of folks from our community participating and that is just fine, we'll keep doing it and doing it better and better. 

 

Those who don't know Him deserve our most creative efforts.

 

     If you haven't noticed, then you're not looking - Christians and churches in America do not enjoy the respect and good-will of the culture-at-large as they once did.  The world has changed and become less Christian.  Churches are viewed on a scale that goes from 'suspicion' all the way up to 'intense anger'.  Why is that? 

 

     For some, it is seeing hypocrisy - people saying they believe in God and love Jesus when their lives don't match up.  They SAY one thing and LIVE another way, living pretty much like everyone else in the world.  When Christians don't live like Jesus, it isn't just sad for those individuals, it has broad negative impact on others because it is a misrepresentation of who He is...who God is.  Others may have been hurt by someone who was a Christian and said they were done with all that "church" stuff.  Some had parents or grandparents that went to church on Sunday but lived sinful or inconsistent lives that turned them off to the whole "Jesus thing". 

 

People are worth it!

 

     We will continue hosting an annual Block Party and looking for other creative ways to reach out because people are worth it.  God sure must think so...he went to such great lengths to show us that in Jesus.  He didn't HAVE to send Jesus to be a man and live here with us to show us the extent of his creative and intense love.  But, He did exactly that.

 

     When we are gracious hosts to our community with things like this Block Party, our Thanksgiving meal, the Wednesday night meals, our work with the Hope Center, the Faith Trip, Food for Orphans, Parents N.O.W., and in all the other ways some of you are ministering, we ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST.  I think Jesus would LOVE smoked chicken and smoked brats!  (Maybe not the brats...they're not kosher...)  I think He would laugh, meet people he didn't know, ask them questions find out where they lived and worked, where they were originally from, and a hundred other things.  Why?  Because He loves people! 

 

     You and I, as Christians, ARE the Body of Christ.  We speak and reach out and invite and host and talk and laugh and feed people in HIS name.  This is a great privilege and it is an honor.  It is not an incovenience in any way, shape, or form - it is a great blessing and we are pleased to do it. 

 

     We will need help Sunday morning setting up and during the event.  If you have not already, please call Anna in the office (377-9259) and let her know if you'll be able to help.

 

     Jesus loves you just the same whether you help or not, or if you get to come but it sure would be nice to see you there welcoming our guests and enjoying the great food and fun.

 

Tony

"Hope for
Healing
a Hard Heart"
Part 2 of 2
August 31, 2014

 

 

 

     Hope for Healing a Hard Heart 

                                     (Part 2 of 2)

 

   How would I know if I have one? 


          What do I do if my heart has grown calloused and unreceptive? 

 ______________

 

     The last time we talked about this stuff, we said we should think about the cycle of our thoughts and emotions like a mental "circulatory system":  Thought-feeling/thought-feeling/ba-bum/ba-bum/ba/bum..."  Our minds "pump" the thoughts and feelings like our hearts pump blood and it seems AUTOMATIC.  It isn't.  Or, at least, it doesn't START OUT that way.

     We established that our feelings follow our thoughts...what we THINK directly causes what we FEEL.  When you allow bad habits of thought (Mental "arrhythmias") to cause your bad feelings, it becomes the new mormal...but it isn't normal, not for Christ-followers. 

     We are commanded to "take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ" and:  "Do not be conformed to the pattern of thinking of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."   2 Corinthians 10:5  Romans 12:1-2

 


     I loved telling you last time that "heart conditions (positive and negative) are CONTAGIOUS...you influence others and are influenced by others all the time everywhere.  It just happens so subtly and quickly that you don't always realize it.

     The things we will cover this coming Sunday will include some very practical examples of wrong thoughts and the feelings that follow and then some suggestions for replacing them. 

 

     I am responsible for what I think and what I feel.  You are responsible for what you think and for your feelings that follow.  Feelings don't come "out of nowhere"...they ALWAYS come as a result of specific thoughts.  These could be things you've thought for so long that you are mostly unaware of what drives your feelings. 

 

     Take the time to ask God to show you your thoughts...articulate them...write them down if you need to.  THEN, you'll be in a great position to evaluate them as true, untrue, good, bad, or ugly.  If you don't take the time to do this mental and spiritual work, you're doomed to remain just as you are now, unchanged, stagnant, without the possibility of real and positive growth.  Sadly, this is where so many people (And so many Christians) find themselves.  DON'T be one of them. 
 

     Looking forward to talking with you about it!

 

Tony

 

 

"Fixated"
 
Focusing on Jesus
 
September 21, 2014

 

                    Read Hebrews 3:1

 

     Focused on...              Mesmerized by...               Jesus
 
     Sometimes organizations get away from their identity and founding principles, the purpose for which they were created.  If this happens in business, if the focus drifts, businesses flounder and fail.  There are all kinds of examples of businesses that worked to recapture their IDENTITY and that got them focused on their PURPOSE and they bounced back. 

     Followers of God get off-track too.  The consequences are serious. 

     Would Jesus recognize his Body if he visited in some churches?  Would he see all His followers thinking and acting and serving like He did when he walked here?  What's happened?  Why do so many people who 'go to church' live weak and unfulfilled lives, just wanting enough of Jesus to be comfortable and comforted and 'saved from Hell'? 

     Some individuals and groups of Christians get lost and forget what their primary identity is.  When that happens, it is soooo easy to be bored or annoyed by the things we are supposed to be doing. 

   We are...Christ-followers.        

         We are...disciples of Jesus.   

              We are....His hands and feet and arms to the world. 

                  We are...His fully authorized representatives and
                      ambassadors sent into a world of need and hurt

                      and mess. 

     If we forget these things, it is easy for people and churches to flounder and fail.  It doesn't matter if 1,000 people or 10,000 are attending a service if their hearts and lives and priorities are not those of our Lord.  It isn't bad that they attend a service, it's just a sorry substitute for a 24/7/365 life-adventure where the Spirit of God leads individuals and groups of Christians into service and sharing the Good News as they seek out people to love on and help.

     The New Testament book of Hebrews urges, in several places, to FOCUS on Jesus.  To FIXATE on who He is and who we are and what we are to BE and DO.

     This Sunday, we get to talk through some of this stuff and we'll see why it matters so much.

     Looking forward to it!

Tony

 

 

"Fixated"
 
Focusing on Jesus
 
September 28, 2014

We have to begin at the beginning...

 

     Focusing on Jesus can only be done when I understand His offer and how I am to respond to it.  If my motives are wrong at the beginning, I will never be able to sustain a focus on Him and I will miss experiencing life in the ways He so deeply wants me to.

 

     Last week, we talked about the absolute and primary task of the Christian to fixate, to focus intently and constantly on Jesus.  I got to thinking about that later that day and in the days since... 

 

Too Little too SOON?

 

     As I prayed about what to share this Sunday, I could not shake the thoughts that it would probably be premature to simply list out all the things we need to DO and the ways we need to BE, and the disciplines that will get me close to Jesus and keep me close to Him, unless we back up. It won't be enough to learn to mimic some of the ways Jesus ACTED, we need to actually BECOME like Him.      Back up to WHERE, exactly?  To the beginning.  To the place where I understand what is even being offered to us in God's gift of Himself in Jesus.  Back to examining my MOTIVES for following him...back to the WHY and not just the HOW TO follow Him.  

 

     SKIPPING STEPS...

 

     I believe many American Christians have skipped some of the most critical steps in the process.  Jesus said it this way when he used two illustrations about following him:  building a tower and fighting a war.  COUNT THE COST.  After he tells the crowd about these two different tasks, and has said that EVERYTHING must pale in comparison to devotion to Him, he says in Luke 14:13:  "In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples."   Gulp.           

 

     "All of me?"    'Yes'.              

 

       "You want TOTAL ACCESS to my life, my thoughts, my fears, my goals, my heart, soul, and mind, and you want all my strength?!"    'Yes'.              

 

           "You actually require this to follow you?"    'Yes'.     

 

     Lots of people like, no LOVE, the idea of saying a prayer and being baptized in Jesus and having sins forgiven and escaping the penalty of Hell.  Not so many are willing to do what Jesus actually requires...the hard work of self-examination and counting the costs BEFORE and AFTER deciding to become a Christian.  We want it on our own terms...WE want to tell God what percentage of ourselves we'll give Him, and that just doesn't fly. 

 

This Sunday


     Sunday, we'll begin at the beginning and look at how we can fixate on Jesus but we'll spend more time talking about WHY...considering if we have done the prerequisites...the things required BEFORE we can even really get started with Jesus.

     I love you and am praying to do my best to tell you the truth and tell you the things that will help us all grow into who God wants us to be.  There is life ONLY in Jesus.  He is the answer to the deepest longings of mankind.  Blessed to be serving and reaching out with you.

     Looking forward to it!


Tony

WELCOME!
 
November 23, 2014

________________________________________

 

      "Enter his gates with thanksgiving
             and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
"

      

                                                    Psalm 100:4

________________________________________


Sunday is the big day!!

 

     We are so thankful for the opportunity to serve and love our community by providing a traditional feast for free this Sunday, the 23rd!

      

       No strings attached.       No cost.       Gratis.

 

      We said it last Sunday, Christians and Churches have a "PR" problem.  Many of those outside are skeptical of motives..."WHY" are you serving this meal?  What do YOU want out of it?    Can't blame them really.  There are bad examples of groups of Believers who seem like they're "Selling" Jesus...and selling Him HARD.

 

     When I read about Jesus in the first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), I don't see him pushing...or pushy.  It looks like he just loves on people, getting to know them, telling them the truth, trying to help them.  He seems very relaxed and open to meeting people.  So many folks loved to be around Him because he welcomed them.  Those sound like pretty good ideas for us, don't they? 

 

     Jesus attracted people.  They wanted to be around Him.  Crowds gathered in the places he went.  It happened spontaneously.  No full-color, laser-printed agenda worked out months in advance.  No Public Relations campaign with posters and ads plastered everywhere.          Just...Jesus.       Just...people.

 

Shoe Size and SS#

 

    We won't make our guests sign anything, give out their name or cell, shoe size or social security number.  We'll welcome them, greet them warmly, and share a meal together.  We get to say "Hello" and get to know some of them.  We'll make some new friends.  Some have told us this IS their Thanksgiving meal.  Not everyone has a family get-together because there is no family to get together with, or because their family is far away.  It is OUR blessing to welcome them into our family. 

 

     Jesus had critics as he loved on people.  One of the ways they looked down their nose at him was to level the charge against:  "He eats with sinners...He is the FRIEND of sinners."  They meant it as a put-down, but I have a feeling Jesus was thinking:  "You BET I am, and PROUD of it!

 

     It is our great good fortune to be part of a Body of believers at BCC with a biblical and truthful Mission that drives our outreach and our discipleship.  What a privilege to get to serve our community this Sunday. 

 

But WAIT! 

There's MORE!!!

 

     BONUS! - As we work together to prepare the building and the food, as we eat together, inviting others into the experience and share this meal with them, WONDERFUL things can happen!  AND, it's just SUPER FUN to do this, to be around one another.

 

 Looking SOOOOOOOO forward

to Saturday

(Prep day at 10am at the church)

and then SUNDAY!!!!
 

Tony

"Do you See
What I See?"
 
December 7, 2014

'Countdown to Christmas' Series

 

This Sunday is Part 1 of 3: 

"Do You See What I See?"

Hebrews 2:9

John 20:29


     As we count down to Christmas this month, I'm excited to get to share with you some incredible truths that God communicates to us and about how He loves the world through Jesus. 

     This Sunday is the first of a three-part series that was inspired by the song "Do You Hear What I Hear?"  It was written in October 1962 by a married couple who wanted to put forth a message of peace to a world facing the Cuban missile crisis.  That was a time of great anxiety...people were very concerned about the real and present danger of nuclear war.  "Peace on earth, good will toward men" seemed very far out of reach. 

     The stanzas from this song about God's gift of Jesus to the world will be the questions we'll ask over the next few weeks: 

          - "Do you see what I see?" (December 7)
          - "Do you hear what I hear?" (December 14)
          - "Do you know what I know?" (December 21)

     It's been recorded by dozens of artists over the years and each new generation has their own vocalist that has covered it.  One of the most recognized / "classic" versions of the song was done by Bing Crosby in 1963 on that year's Bob Hope Christmas Special (My personal favorite).

    This Sunday, we'll consider the most important question you or anyone will ever answer:  "How do you SEE Jesus?"  What do you see (Understand, perceive) when you look at him?  Who do you think He is?  What have you been told about him?  What do you think about him?  What do you make of what he said?...How he lived?...What he taught?  What do you think God was trying to accomplish through the life, teachings, and death of Jesus? 

     As we countdown to Christmas, we'll look at some passages about Jesus together and talk about the best ways we can respond to God's greatest and most powerful display of His love for us:  Becoming a man to save mankind. 

     Looking forward to it!

Tony

Denying My 'SELF'
 
Experiments in Christlikeness
 
October 26, 2014

Denying  My  'SELF'...Dying to 'SELF'

   (Experiments in Christlikeness) 

 

 


      This Sunday, we'll build on what we talked about last week.  We talked through some "Diagnostic Tests" to see if we are learning to die to 'SELF' or not.  Some of you have told me over this past week that you are running the tests.  Awesome!

     Since Jesus said that denying my SELF was the first thing that anyone who wants to follow Him MUST do, we had better be sure we understand it and then be willing to do it.  We concluded that since many people who say they want Jesus, really only want their "ticket punched" so they might go to heaven and avoid hell, there are many people who have REDEFINED what it means to be a Christian.     This we simply cannot do.  We don't have the authority to do it.  Why, then, do so many people act as if that's perfectly fine to do?! 

     The short answer is:  it is easier to say some words, pray a prayer, and be baptized than to actually surrender all I am, all my future, all my desires and dreams, submit all myself totally and completely to Him.  It takes an enormous amount of trust to do that...exactly what the Bible means when it uses the word:  "faith".  As a matter of fact, biblical faith is 100% surrender...100% trust...100% giving up and giving in to the Lordship, the authority of Jesus.  Anyhing less than this is something other than what it means to be a Christian. That's why dying to self isn't some sort of suggestion, or optional component, it is the ONLY way to take the first step into life in Christ. 

     This Sunday, we will talk through some of the do-able, practical experiments in Christlikeness that can help to grow us into conformity to Jesus...becoming more and more like Him.  Sadly, some people will mistakenly and selfishly continue to view this as optional.  They will be satisfied to live sub-standard lives that are NOT marked by Christlikeness.  There will always be those who say they want to follow God but really are only self-serving, using the vehicle of religion, rules-keeping, as a cheap imitation of the real life that can only be found by death to self and life in Jesus.  Don't be one of them.  Don't be seduced by the old 'morality-and-church-attendance' game.  It's popular, I'll give you that, but Jesus said His way was vastly superior to trying to 'be good' and keep all the rules.

     In Him, there is real life, and love, and peace, and joy, and an incredible zest for life and relationships.  Those who love Jesus and are willing to learn what it takes to deny themselves, to die to self, will serve others joyfully, give generously, and love deeply. Those who aren't willing to explore what dying to 'SELF' would look like are doomed to live outside real joy and grace. 

     Looking forward to Sunday!

Tony

 
 
November 2, 2014

'save' it?   'have' it?    'spend' it?   'waste' it?

                  How do you view TIME?

 

Time...just.....is.

 

     It passes at the same rate it always has, whether we notice or not...whether we mark it or not...whether we do lots and lots of things or absolutely nothing in it. 

     We can move around the hands on our clocks twice a year, but we don't change time...just our perception of it - how we view it.  Daylight "Savings" Time is kind of a misnomer...we aren't saving time, just marking it and experiencing it differently.

     There are two words in the New Testament for "time". One is very familiar to us:  "Chronos".  It's where we get the word "chronograph" and "chronometer"...it is the one we use to mark minutes and hours and seconds...time 'ticking' away - The Clock.  The other one is different.  That one is "Kairos". and it means:  "Window of opportunity" or a "A Season in a life", or "Time by opportunity and fulfillment".  This word isn't concerned with the simple passing of time, but with WHAT HAPPENS or what could happen within a given span, say, over a lifetime, or during a season of someone's life or the life of a  nation.

     I'm convinced that Christians ought to train themselves to care more about  the opportunities to help and serve people that present themselves to us as we go about our day-to-day activities, that is to say, care more about Kairos.  We sometimes seem just as obsessed as our money-driven culture about being productive...and WE define what productive is, we don't ask GOD what that might mean for us during our days on Earth.  If I am too focused, too obsessed with the TASKS I have assigned for myself based on the priorities I have identified (What things I believe are more important and what I choose to believe are less important), then I will definitely miss the PEOPLE God puts squarely in my path.  I can get straight A's and still flunk life...  I can become very successful and yet have hurt or maimed all the meaningful relationships I had along the way. 

     I've never met a retired person who talked about all the regrets they had over not being able to make more Power Point presentations or who was upset that they did not have the opportunity to complete another spreadsheet before they got the gold watch and the goodbye cake.  I HAVE met a number of retired folks (A couple of them men with tears in their eyes...) who had serious regrets about not spending more time with the PEOPLE they loved.  They told me, though they were very productive and worked hard, their priorities were wrong and they missed out.    It's something to think about. 

     This Sunday, we get to 'spend' some time together talking about an interesting thing Jesus said about time:  "..Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do."  John 7:6 

     Go ahead, set your clocks back, embrace the illusion!  Excited to share with you Sunday.

Tony

"Do you Hear
What I Hear?"
 
December 14, 2014

'Countdown to Christmas' Series

 This Sunday is Part 2 of 3: 

 

"Do You Hear What I Hear?"

 

Matthew 11:15

Matthew 17:4-6

 

    LOVED talking through "Do You SEE what I See?" last Sunday with you!  When we 'see' (Think about, Reflect on, Consider) Jesus accurately, allowing Him to define who he is instead of us, everything becomes clear:  Only when we get that right, get an accurate and biblical view of Jesus as God-come-to-save-us, can we then properly 'see' ourselves, others, and Him. 

     This Sunday, the 14th, we turn our attention to our next question: 
                         "Do You HEAR What I Hear?"

     Our ability to hear (Take in sound waves and instantly process them in our brains) is one of the most incredible gifts God has given us.  We hear things all the time everywhere:  voices, music, 'ambient' noise, traffic, and on and on.  Much of what we hear is just 'noise', but some sounds MOVE us at the deepest levels...the voice of someone we love telling us they love us back; some music from an important time in our lives; a Christian song that resonates with our experience. 
 

INDESCRIBABLE?


     What did it SOUND LIKE to the shepherds when the angels sang on the night of the birth of Jesus?  What words did the shepherds use to describe what happened to them for the rest of their lives when they tried to tell others what they had seen and heard on that night of nights? 

     Did you ever wonder what Jesus' voice sounded like?  When his disciples remembered his teaching and his interactions with them, how did they remember his voice?  What was the pattern of it - did he speak slowly or more quickly? 

 

'Black is White'    'White is Black'


     When Jesus spoke, some people heard COMMON SENSE, AUTHORITY, BEAUTIFUL TRUTH.  Others, who were listening to THE SAME WORDS, reached entirely opposite conclusions:  GIBBERISH, REBELLION, UGLY FALSEHOOD.  How can that be?!  It all depends on how we PROCESS or EVALUATE what we hear.  Who we are and how we are will determine what we "HEAR".  Complete objectivity is a myth.  You cannot be human and be objective.  We are more or less attached or invested in the things we hear, and we formulate opinions on what we HEAR, based upon what we THINK.  This isn't rocket science, it is simply the way we work. 

     "Do You Hear What I Hear?" is going to be a great question to guide us this Sunday.

Looking forward to it!


Tony

"That Mysterious
Magnet"
 
January 4, 2015

 

Is it in you?...

 

That Mysterious Magnet

 

     Those who really and truly give themselves to God BECOME…ARE MADE INTO something extraordinarily ATTRACTIVE, and it has nothing to do with how they LOOK.

 

SO One-Dimensional

     The way our culture measures "ATTRACTIVENESS" is roughly 97.5%  ANIMAL… PHYSICAL…OUTWARD…SKIN-DEEP.  In other words, we are told in advertising, movies, media that we should value MOST all those things that will definitely change, deteriorate, and get worse with time.  As the years do what the years ALWAYS do to faces and bodies, many people become desperate to try and maintain their outward appearance ...cosmetics, surgery, clothing, spending more time and money chasing the impossible. 

     If 97.5% is physical, the other 2.5% of “attraction” is made up of other things:  Intellect.  Common Interests. Sense of Humor.  Men and women vary in their percentages, but I'll go out on a limb here and say that both sexes have been fed a giant lie from the time we were very small.  Here it is:  You CAN and SHOULD judge a book by its cover...people must LOOK a certain way to be considered 'attractive', and physical attraction is worth more and is more powerful than any other kind (If there IS any other kind...). 

     Our culture exalts YOUTH and PHYSICAL beauty far above WISDOM and MATURITY and HONOR and SERVICE TO OTHERS.  It says LOOKS and PLEASURE are more important than anything else (Except maybe possessions).      

     Christ-followers were meant to be ATTRACTIVE, but not how we may think.  Maybe we have to learn to think differently... 

     Jesus attracted people.  They were drawn to him.  They gravitated to him.  Why is that, when the prophet Isaiah clearly says in chapter 53 that, when Messiah comes, he won't be much to look at, so don't get your hopes up...(Isaiah 53: 1-3). 

     Unless Jesus was hiding some mousse and a blow dryer, or had a make-up artist that is never mentioned in the Bible, I don't think he looked anything at all like all the artist's renditions I've seen of him.  I believe the artists meant well...they wanted to make him beautiful and tall and athletic-looking..."attractive".  Tomorrow, we'll talk about how He WAS attractive, how He still is and how we can be - but it will probably not be like you think...

 

     The kind of beauty we’re going to be talking about tomorrow is seen in the size and shape of a person's HEART. 
     What they THINK and then the FEELINGS and ACTIONS those thoughts produce, are more important than the size and shape of their body, the color of their eyes or hair, the kinds of clothes they wear, etc. 



Looking forward to it!

Tony

Love to
the
Fourth
Power
 
February 1, 2015

     ONE Thing 4 Ways or  

                  FOUR Different Things?

 

         What is Jesus saying in Mark 12:28-34?

    
     What is Jesus really saying?  Why is He saying it?  What do I do with it?  Those are not bad quesitons to put on your short list for living as a Christ-follower when you read parts of the New Testament books of  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. 

     We have to figure out WHAT Jesus was trying to communicate to the original folks who heard his words.  When we have done our best with that, THEN we can turn to the next question about what motivated Him to say the words...WHY did he say what he said?  Only when we have spent some time with those two things can we even get to the one everyone wants to jump straight to:  How do I APPLY the truth(s) I discover and live them?

     This Sunday, we'll start a short series during the "Love" month of February:  "Love to the Fourth Power".  We will be focusing together on Jesus' response to the question asked him:  "Of all the commands, which is the most important?" 

     People everywhere talk about love all the time as if they understood it.  Yet, relationships regularly fall apart, people struggle with feeling truly loved and very few in our world think God's definition of love and His desire for it in our lives really matter. That can and should change, and it will if you and I take these things seriously..it will not happen UNTIL and UNLESS we do. 

     By considering this passage from four different angles, by slowing down and actually considering what in the world Jesus was saying, I think we can draw some conclusions that will help us understand some very important things.  Because, it's clear that in spite of all the candy and flowers and Valentine's cards, many in our culture have no idea what love is, what God desires for us because He loves us, or how to live it out. 

     Changed lives that please God are possible!  Living in the knowledge that He loves you simply for being you is so liberating!  No more misunderstanding that you cannot make Him love you any more or less by anything you do:  good or bad. 

     He feels that way about everyone. It was Jesus who said of himself:  "For God so loved the world, he gave his one and only Son..."  Now, salvation, getting to spend eternity in His presence is only available through faith in Jesus, and THAT, my friend, is where you and I come in.  People need to know WHO God is.  That happens when they know Jesus.  How do they meet Him?...Through US.  We are the Body of Christ.  It isn't magic...or is it?  It sure is magical, the way God wants to know us and wants us to know Him...

Looking forward to the next few Sundays to get to talk through it with you,

Tony

Love to
the
Fourth
Power
 
February 15, 2015

So, the 'equation' for "Love to the Fourth Power"

looks like this:

 

heart x soul x mind x strength
___________________________________
=love
__________________________________

    
     The last two weeks, we've talked through some of
Mark 12:28-34.  We scratched the surface about how to understand what loving God with all our HEART and SOUL might look like. 

 

     This Sunday, we'll talk about the third part of Jesus' definition of how we are made to love God - with all our MIND. 

 

    It is helpful to remember, and we have not talked lots about this:  I believe Jesus is telling us ONE THING, FOUR DIFFERENT WAYS.  Another way to think about loving God as Jesus describes it is FROM or WITH four different parts or dimensions of my personality - ALL of who I am. 

 

Your Opinion Matters - just not Like you Think...

 

     This is very important to understand:  It DOES matter what YOU think about ‘love’…but as we think about how we are to love God and others as God defines and describes it, understanding YOUR OPINION only matters SO THAT you can compare it to God’s.  This is huge!  Why?

 

Aim Small - Miss Small

 

     Many people unknowingly start out with the wrong idea (Our culture’s) about what it means to love God, THEN, when they try to love Him using this incorrect standard, they are disappointed! 

 

     Rather than question themselves, or call into question our culture’s emotion-dominated ideas here, they give up ON GOD!      How unfortunate.      How unnecessary.      Do you see how VITAL this is?     If you’re serious about this at all, the very next question in your mind should be:  “Am I using GOD’s standard or MINE?”  Right on the heels of that question, should be something like this one:  “How would I know?” 

 

     THEN, AND ONLY THEN, once you have begun to explore the answers to those two questions, can you discover WHAT AND HOW YOU NEED TO CHANGE. 

 

     This takes time.  It takes concentrated effort.  It will require help – from God in your times alone with Him, and help from others – a mature Christian brother or sister to pray with you and for you, a BCC elder, someone who can listen and then speak truth to you. 

 

     Unless I have something like this process in place, I will make very little progress in loving God (Or others).  I’m convinced this is why so many people who really DO want to be Christ-followers, get disappointed, disillusioned, and discouraged. 

 

     This may be a very different description of what you've thought loving God should look like.  I believe we have talked about some very helpful truth together and this Sunday will be no different. 

 

The PAYOFF!

 

     The payoff here is INCREDIBLE!  KNOWING God!!  Him knowing US!!  Building on that foundation, we can learn the proper opinion of ourselves and we can really love others:  WIN - WIN - WIN.  

     Looking forward to it!


Tony

Loving My Neighbor as Myself
 
March 8, 2015
"Mi Casa
es Su Casa"
(Practicing Biblical
HOSPITALITY)
 
November 16, 2014

________________________________________

 

      "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it."      

                                                           Hebrews 13:2

________________________________________

 

People are what matter

most to God. 

 

     In the Bible, you can read about God's efforts to provide for and communicate to people.  He told them about who He is and how people could live the best kind of life if they follow His leading, and subscribe to His way of thinking and doing things.  He warns about the consequences of trying to live life outside his good and wise boundaries.  He tells people about how much He loves them and we see all this demonstrated and lived out in Jesus, where He backs up these truths, shows us what they look like in ways we can understand. 

 

"I do not think that word means
what you think it means."

 

     There is a word that occurs several times in Hebrew (Old Testament), and Greek (New Testament) that is consistent with God's priority on relationships:  HOSPITALITY.  This is one of those kinds of words we THINK we understand, but Christ-followers must recapture what the BIBLE means and learn to live that out, not just limiting it to how our culture defines it.  The Greek word for this is rich and beautiful...and CHALLENGING.      We all know how our culture defines 'hospitality'.  Typically, it means inviting friends over to our place for a nice dinner in a clean and comfortable atmosphere, being gracious hosts to people we know and like.  That's great, except the Bible's definition goes WAAAY beyond this.  

 

   1 (word)

+ 1 (word)

=

1 (NEW Word!)

 

     When the New Testament uses the word 'hospitality", it is a cognate, that is, a new word with a new meaning that is made by combining two other words.  In this case, the word for "brotherly/family love" is combined with the word for "stranger" or "immigrant".  So, when the Bible tells Christ-followers to "practice hospitality", it means literally:  "to love strangers and immigrants like they were our own family members."     How does that truth hit you?!     For followers of Jesus then, hospitality extends outside the dining room, beyond the boundaries of our current friends and family to EVERYONE ELSE...all the people we don't already know...all the ones we'll meet as we buy groceries and go to work and go to ball games and to the mall or Lowe's.      When Christians are told to practice hospitality, it is an exciting call to warmly welcome anyone else into life with us, the "life that is truly life".  It means things like:  "There is a place for you here beside me."  "You're welcome here and I'm glad you've come."  "It is such a great pleasure to meet you!"  "Here, with us, you'll be treated like family and loved."


     This Sunday, we'll get to talk through Hebrews 13:2 and reference a couple of other places where the Bible uses the word hospitality.  We have a FANTASTIC OPPORTUNITY on the 23rd to 'put legs' on this truth.  We'll be inviting strangers into our experience to share a meal with us.  Some will be taking out meals to those who cannot get out of their homes.  As we "love strangers and immigrants like they were our own family members" on that day inside and outside our walls, we'll be handing out turkey with all the trimmings.  For some of you, sitting with families, circulating among people we haven't met yet and getting to know them, making them feel loved and warmly welcomed will be much more important than anything else we could do. 

     What a blessing to get to serve strangers, love on those we don't know and make some new friends!  What a grand privilege that God would use US to love other people in His name!  Folks with ALL KINDS of life experiences and 'stories' will come into the sphere of influence of the BCC family.  You can be an important part of demonstrating God's love and practicing hospitality. 

This is our time to shine for Him.


Tony

Back to the 23rd for Just a Minute...Ahead of the 30th.
 
November 30, 2014

"Good Reading" Last Sunday!

 

               The world is watching you...hoping some of the stuff they've heard about God and Jesus might possibly, actually... be true.

 

      Last Sunday was amazing...and humbling...and exciting!  I believe we were "read" by many in our community.    

 

Well done last Sunday, church...well done.     

 

     We lived on-mission together.  We loved and served and laughed and LIVED!  The deep fellowship and joy and love and good will all happened because we focused on others and served them together with no expectations and no strings attached.  Like Jesus might have.  Funny isn't it?...We feel closest to one another when we are NOT focusing on being close to one another but on being Jesus to others!  It happens automatically and it is beautiful and right.     

 

     After everything was over, before our communion time together last Sunday evening, we heard of how the simple act of providing a meal broke down scepticism and suspicion and people felt loved and cared for - and that is awesome. Some of the stories from those who took meals out brought tears to our eyes.    

 

     God loved people through us!  Many of our visitors to the building last Sunday lingered long after their meals were over.  We got to make some new friends as we sat with people, getting to know them.  All your work in preparing the food, setting up the building, figuring out the logistics of deliveries, and everything else, contributed to a great day.   

 

    We're on the right track as a family.  We are serving our community, through 80+ meals delivered each Wednesday evening and the service projects some of you are spear-heading.  There are many other things God will show the BCC family as we seek Him together and ask Him to give us people to serve and love in His name.  As we do these things, each of us seeking to become more and more like Jesus, just watch what happens!!

 

Glad to be part of it,

 

Tony 

 

 

YOUTH SUNDAY


     This Sunday, November 30th, is Youth Sunday.

     We'll be led in worship, Communion, and time in the Word by our young people.  Aaron Kelso will be preaching.

     At times, God has used some very young people to accomplish His will.  Jesus said that anyone who wants to be a part of the kingdom must come to it with a childlike trust and openness. 

     I'm thrilled to be part of a church that values and loves our kids. 

"Do you Know
What I Know?"
 
December 21, 2014

'Countdown to Christmas' Series

 This Sunday is Part 3 of 3: 

 

Ephesians 1:17

Philippians 3:7-11

 

 

"Do You Know What I Know?"

       _________________________


Different kinds of “knowing”. 

 

     Being able to recite facts, or simply seeing things, or hearing words is NOT the same as having INSIGHT… PERCEPTION… UNDERSTANDING...  Knowing.   And, knowing facts ABOUT a person is not the same thing as knowing them.  There are historical specialists that can talk for days about, say, Abraham Lincoln, but they have never shaken his hand, eaten a meal with him, or heard his voice.  They know ABOUT him, but they don't have a relationship with him. 

 

Airbags Don't Make Me Weep...

 

      Having worked in automotive for many years, I know lots of details and specifications about airbags and seat belts and the automotive industry but I’m not emotionally attached or impacted by that knowledge.  I’m not moved to tears by those facts, by all the information I have in my head about how those products are designed and built and how they work.    It doesn’t pull at my heart strings or move me at the DEEPEST level of who I am when I see a schematic of an airbag inflator. 
 
     Now, this is not the case with some of the PEOPLE that I know.  THAT is a completely different matter!   There are people in my life that DO pull at my heart strings.  When I see them, or even think about them, it is with emotion, it hits me on a deeper level. 
 
One way this works: Jesus said once:  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  I used to think of that one-dimensionally, just about money – stock market, buying possessions, that sort of thing.  Now, His words make more sense to me when I think about PEOPLE as well.  Where you INVEST…SPEND TIME…EMOTIONALLY ENGAGE with them, hear their story, seek to serve them, spend time around them (Giving them your treasure, your very SELF), YOUR HEART WILL FOLLOW…
 

     I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.   (Ephesians 1:16-17)

     True Christ-followers want to KNOW him, not just facts about him.  David in the OT said “My soul thirsts for you God, pants for you in a dry and weary land…”  Jesus prayed in John 17 that his followers would be ONE, knowing one another, united in love and service just as He and God were one.  He prayed that we would have fellowship/relationship with Him, with God, and with one another. 
 
     We were designed for relationship.  We were made to be in relationship with God and one another.  He accomplished that through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

     Looking forward to talking about it together this Sunday ahead of Christmas.


Tony

 
January 11, 2015

“Wisdom, Strength, and Riches are BAD!” 
        (Said no wise, strong, or wealthy person ever.)

__________________________________


Brace yourself....  

 

     What if I told you there was a passage in the Bible that specifically pointed out the three areas above and called them BAD...something NOT to be proud of, warned folks not to boast because of them?    Wise...  Strong...   Rich...

 

     This is what the Lord says:“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom    or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches,...   
 

                                               (From Jeremiah chapter 9)    

 

      Good grief!  This is 3/4 of the American dream for goodness sake!  Add "Happiness" and you've got the whole enchilada...the things that people spend their whole lives working for...chasing, the things that parents want for their children.  I thought these were all GOOD things!  What gives here?! 

 

Bragging Rights?...


     This Sunday, we get to talk about BRAGGING, about BOASTING.  We need to look at the SOURCES of it, the REASONS for it, and the RESULTS of doing it. 

     We need to talk about this stuff because it isn’t enough for many victors to simply and humbly enjoy their moment.  In our culture, it seems to be PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE to BOAST and BRAG and GLOAT when we win or someone we are rooting for wins. There are several warnings in the Bible about this and we must understand why God thinks this dynamic of human nature is such a big deal.  We also need to know how to fight it and how our thoughts, words, and actions can please Him in this area. 

     Oddly, there is ONE THING that God says it is OK, fine, great, acceptable to boast about and we'll talk about it Sunday.  Jesus loves you just as much if you're not there, but if you do make time to come, you'll get to hear what that one thing is and share the blessing of being around brothers and sisters.

Looking forward to it!


Tony

     OK.  Let me get this straight.  During a period of some intense questioning of Jesus, as the religious elite were trying to find any way they could to discredit Him, He is asked by an expert in the OT Law to tell him what the greatest commandment is.  Jesus responds with an excerpt of a passage from the book of Deuteronomy chapter 6 about loving God “…with all your heart, soul, (he adds “mind”) and strength.”  Then, without a pause, Jesus voluntarily and immediately offers information that he was NOT asked about from Leviticus chapter 9 regarding a command that is “like” or “equal to” the first one:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

     We’ve looked at “Love to the Fourth Power” for four Sundays – finding out some of what it means to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength:  ALL of who we are.  We’ve used one passage that was recorded for us about this event:  Mark chapter 12.  There is another.  In Luke 10:25-37, Dr. Luke writes down a little more of the interchange from that same day, and it includes important detail which is incredibly helpful.    

 

     Luke kept writing where Mark stopped and we need to know this to better understand what happened that day.  Luke said the teacher of the Law asked Jesus another question because “He wanted to justify himself.”  Now, that tells me about the man’s MOTIVE…WHY he asked Jesus this next question:  “And who is my neighbor?”  Seems innocent enough, doesn’t it?  You might even think the OT legal expert was actually on to something, just wanting to understand it.  Maybe we’re being too hard on this guy!  Don’t forget the CONTEXT of CONFLICT that Jesus has been in with these guys – the questions they kept badgering Him with to try and get Him to say something dumb or blasphemous or controversial.  If you keep the context in mind, you’ll come closer to understanding what was said and why.

 

“The Only GOOD Samaritan

is a DEAD Samaritan.”

 

     In response to the man’s second question that day (“And who is my neighbor?”), Jesus tells a famous parable:  The Good Samaritan.  In our day, we actually have laws that protect people who stop and help strangers known as  ”Good Samaritan” laws.  We have “Good” Samaritan hospitals that help people who are sick or injured.  Only trouble is, in Jesus’ day, with the people of Israel, the word “good” would never have been used in the same sentence as the word “Samaritan”, unless it was:  “The only good Samaritan is a dead Samaritan!

 

     Bottom line:  Jesus creates a character for the HERO in his story that none of his listeners that day would have understood as capable of the kind of compassion and care and thoughtfulness that was shown.  AND…wait for it…Jesus NEVER answers the expert’s question!!  He never tells him WHO his neighbor is!  He just tells a story about someone who SHOWS us how to BE a neighbor!

 

Please - Just Answer the Question!

 

     Jesus gives MORE information than He is asked for and then refuses to give a direct answer to the next question – why would He DO that?  We need to know.  We need to understand what He said and why he said it if we have any chance of “loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.” 

 

We have much to talk about Sunday! 

 

Looking forward to it!

 

Tony

.

 

    

 

         

"Knowing That I'm Growing"
 
April 19, 2015

Knowing That I'm Growing

         by

  Taking Regular Measurements of Myself
and Other Christ-Followers on the Journey

___________________________

 

     Last Sunday, we said that God's goal for all Believers is to make them more and more like Jesus.  (Ephesians 4:11-16)  From 1 John chapter 2:  "This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did."  If you are a Christian, the goal of your life, your most important priority is to find out what kinds of things it will take for you to become like Jesus and then do those things, train to be like that.  

     The life of Jesus shows us what a human life can be...what it should be.  He doesn't just come to TELL us about how to live, or teach us some "helpful hints" for living - He SHOWS us how to live, he is our best example.  We can learn to think like He thought, to prioritize like He did, to see people as God would, and to respond to everything that happened to Him in ways that please the Father.

     Christians talk all the time about "Spiritual Growth"..."Growing in their faith", but what does that really mean?  What does it LOOK LIKE?  How would you MEASURE it?  We measure all kinds of things all the time when we have the right tools:  length, height, square footage, liquid volume, cubic centimeters, etc.  Unless you have the tools and some methods in place in your life to measure your growth as a person, and particularly as a Christ-Follower, you'll never experience growth in Christ-likeness as God desires. 

     Do you want to become like Jesus?  If you really don't, if you believe it is not possible, or that it is too hard, or will hurt too much, then I'm sorry for you.  You are choosing to redefine what it means to be "Christian", and a decision like that dooms you to a lack-luster, boring, watered-down version of The Faith. 

    Don't settle for it!  For what?  Don't settle for a weak, cheap imitation of what it means to be a Christian.  Find out what it means for YOU to become as much like Jesus as possible.  Once you get a taste of that, a real and honest experience of our Lord, you'll crave more.  Some of the things you will do in order for that to happen (Prayer, Serving others, Learning to see things about yourself that God needs to change, Taking measurements in your life and the lives of others, etc.) will open up ways of knowing God better...and yourself...and other people. 

     If you ARE willing to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, no matter what it means or how much you need to change, to become like Jesus, I have GREAT NEWS!  We get to talk about it again this Sunday.  We will build on what we looked at last Sunday with some more particulars, more ways to help one another become like Him. 

     When we each do things daily to get close and stay close to Him, allowing Jesus to inform our experiences, shape our motivation, guide us and lead us, change us, then we will become a powerful force for good in Bethalto and way beyond and we will experience LIFE, real and joy-filled, super-fun LIFE!  

 

Tony

 
 
May 24, 2015

"

This Sunday, we will continue our discussion about taking every thought captive.  That's the first step.  

     We'll take it a step further, and talk our way through 7 specific questions we need to ask each of our thoughts, once we have clearly identified some of them using the four-step process we laid out last week (I will do a two-minute review of those steps this Sunday).  When we have done that, we can then move on to learning how to make our thoughts obedient to Christ.   

     I developed these and have modified and refined them because they help me as I consider my life in Christ and how I can actually DO something with the truth of our passage.

     We have said before, transformed and positive lives are the goal, not simply being aware of or familiar with some of the wording of the Bible.  Knowing what it says is not the same thing as knowing what it means.  And, even when we feel like we know some of what it means, that isn't the same thing as LIVING IT OUT, putting it into our regular way of life and practice.  

     We will need one another to figure this stuff out and help each other live the truth.  When we each commit to do whatever it takes to live the truth of the passage (2 Corinthians 10:3-6), we will LEARN VALUABLE THINGS that we can share.  

     Your experiences could very well encourage someone!  The successful things and also what you learn from the failures.

     Remember the passage about "loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, MIND, and strength?"  This two-week series was designed and is presented in the hope that we can learn to love Him better with our MINDS...how we THINK...from the very deepest and strongest part of us.  

     You help me and I'll help you.

     Looking forward to it!

Tony 

 
 
July 19, 2015

     What would it look like if you really trusted God to set your agenda and then supply what you needed to accomplish it instead of relying on yourself?

 

How We Do
(The 'Normal' Way of Thinking)

 

     Well, first you get out a blank piece of paper.  Next, you put down your broad plans and goals and a few of the details required to accomplish them.  Next, you start refining your ideas, filling in the blanks for all the things that will need to happen to see your plans realized.  You then begin to gather the resources (People and things) to start working toward your goal.  When you've covered all the bases and have everything in place, you start working on it.  This is the way the process goes for constructing a bookshelf, to designing and building a house or developing an entire city block. 

     For Christ-Followers, what if I told you I thought the process described above might sometimes actually be dangerous...and it may sometimes be the WRONG way to proceed as we live out our days.  Those who follow Jesus are supposed to have His priorities as their own, His ways of thinking, His motives, His actions, His goals.  Could the way I've been taught to plan and prepare and rely on myself actually get in the way of what God may want to do? 

     Why do I say our "normal" way may not be the BEST way?  I've seen it and participated in it too many times not to recognize it!  We set the bar low, plan a totally do-able project, start working on it, complete it, then congratualte ourselves on having accomplished it.  Man-sized goals set.       Man-sized results realized. 

 

"What's the plan?!"


     Would a biblical example help?  Helps me.  In Mark 6, Jesus sends out his twelve apostles 2-by-2 to travel and minister.  We don't know how long they were gone, but when they got back:  "30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  ENGAGE then RETREAT.  Go and serve, then come back and rest.  Take care of others, then take care of yourselves for a while.  Be with them, then be with me.    Rhythm. 

     Now, here's the part we get to talk about this Sunday...Jesus actually puts his apostles in a boat, gets in it himself, and tries to get away from the crowds:  "33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things."  As Jesus ministers and teaches these people (We find out in Mark 6 there are likely 8,000 to 10,000 of them total!) evening is setting and there was no food. 

     The apostles come to Jesus and report this.  Plans?  What do we do?  How do we do it?  Where do we start?  They had a plan and told Jesus exactly what to do:  "Send the people away so they can buy food."  Jesus' response is classic and makes me chuckle:  "You give them somehting to eat."  Did he smile at them as he said it or did he keep a straight face?


"Hate to point out the obvious Jesus..."

     "Huh?  Uhm, Jesus, hate to point out the obvious, but didn't we just tell you that we have nothing and they have nothing and that means there is nothing for us to give them?"

     This Sunday, we get to talk through this AMAZING day-in-the-life of Jesus and the apostles.  We'll get to see how this situation was resolved, and uncover several steps in a process WE can do that can help us learn to live like Jesus did. 

     The need that day was not just MET, it was OVERWHELMINGLY and ABUNDANTLY met!  And, it didn't happen by calculating the caloric intake needs of an adult male, dividing by the number of calories in two slices of barley bread,multiplying by the number of adult males present - etc., etc. 

 

LIVING LIKE JESUS


     Christ-Followers must learn to live inside the same rhythms Jesus lived in, follow the same patterns of thought and priorities he lived by.  Our lifelong joyful task is to adopt His priorities as our own, to grow into the kind of people that see and serve others by relying on the Father's provision. 

     We don't want to become (Or remain...) satisfied with setting man-sized goals, exerting a bit of effort, accomplishing them, then congratulating ourselves.  Those are "good" things and I've participated in many of them over the years.  We want to do the BEST things...letting GOD set our agenda and then supply what is needed in ways that clearly and overwhelmingly demonstrate that HE provided what was needed, so HE gets the glory when people are served and helped and loved. There are things that MUST happen first if we are to live like this.

Can't wait to share with you Sunday!


Tony

 
Hiding in Plain Sight
January 25, 2015

 

Why would someone keep

               their real identity hidden?

______________________________________________________

 

        There are people who work undercover.  They pretend to be someone else.  They live a double life.  Police Detectives.  DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agents.  CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) agents.  They are the 'good guys' acting like the 'bad guys'. 

     Sometimes, their cover is "blown" - their fake identity is revealed and the proverbial 'cat' is out of the bag, THEN, the people who have been lied to and deceived realize it.  This can be very dangerous for someone working undercover and their very life is in danger.  Not just their MISSION, but their LIFE is compromised. 

 

How do you live with yourself?


     Ever wonder about how people who work those kinds of jobs 'navigate' life?  Through deception, outright lying, and lots of acting - staying 'in-character', they convince people that their FALSE identity is their REAL identity.  They do this for the greater good, catching the criminals in their illegal acts, protecting people from potential harm.  Their MOTIVES are good, but their ACTIONS are deceptive. 
 

GOD...incognito?


     When you read the Gospels (The first four books of the New Testament - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), it seems like Jesus is undercover! The Bible's claim is that Jesus is God, living as man.  It says He is Messiah (The chosen/anointed one who will save mankind).  Early in his ministry, he clearly tells several people he helped and healed:  "Don't tell anyone..."  What do you make of the passages where Jesus sometimes seems a little vague about who He is?  This Sunday, we will look at one of those places and do some investigating.  The truths we'll discover demand action on OUR part, not jus the ones who originally interrogated Jesus.  John 10:22-40

     The identity of Jesus and a person's correct understanding of who He is and what that means...then our proper responses to Him are the most important considerations of your life.    

 

Looking forward to it!

 

Tony

Love to
the
Fourth
Power
 
February 8, 2015

So, the 'equation' for "Love to the Fourth Power" looks like this:

 

heart x soul x mind x strength
___________________________________
=love
__________________________________

    
     We got to talk through some of Mark 12:28-34 last Sunday.  We established that Jesus gives an answer to the question he is asked about which is the most important commandment. 

     Since love is not abstract, but always relational, Jesus responded by first giving the questioner the basis for ALL love:  The one God of the Bible.  He then adds that to "love God" will require all that a person is:  heart, soul, mind, and strength.  If someone wants to learn to love God, it will require him to 'multiply' and to focus, to concentrate all the components of who he is on the person of God. 

     We know from the ministry of Jesus and his work of sacrificing himself on the cross, that God accepts that offering as payment for MY sins and YOURS when we enter into the relationship with him through the way Jesus made for everyone who accepts him as Lord.  People can now be made whole and brought back into relationship with God through Christ.  This is the primary message about Jesus throughout the New Testament.

     This coming Sunday, we get to look together at the second 'factor' in the equation that tells us  how a person loves God:  "SOUL".  This is 25% of the equation Jesus gives us, so we need to understand what the word means and then discover some ways, 'do-able' strategies for how we can love God "with all our soul".

     Looking forward to it!

Tony

Love to
the
Fourth
Power
 
February 22, 2015

Learning to love God with "all my strength".


     We have a tendency to think about "strong" kind of one-dimensionally sometimes. 

     Muscles... physical... bigger... 'ripped'... 'jacked'... 'stacked' and 'cut'.

    
There are other kinds of strength. 

     You can measure physical strength quickly and easily:  size of muscles; pounds lifted; reps completed; opposing boxer defeated, etc. 

     INNER STRENGTH, being strong of character...strong inside, is ultimately more important than any other kind of 'strong', yet our culture does not recognize or prize it the same as the outer/physical. 

     This Sunday, we get to the last 25% of Jesus' "equation for loving God":  of Love to the fourth power:  "STRENGTH".  Jesus says the way to love God is with ALL our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Wonder what He meant?

     We'll ask a question on Sunday:  "Are you strong enough to _________"?    We'll fill in that blank with a few different things and I have a feeling we will each have some soul-searching to do in order to answer the question honestly.

     As we've discovered over the last three weeks, 'loving God' may not be exactly what we thought it was.  The primary reason for that is that we may have been trying to define what that means instead of God defining it for us and submitting to Him.  And, it helps to be reminded:  it's not my job to tell God how I am going to love Him. 

     When I understand and agree with letting God tell me what it means to love Him, understanding that He is the only one qualified to do this, THEN I'm right where I need to be.  It's a great starting point.

Looking forward to it!

Tony

 

     Keys are used to LOCK and UNLOCK things.

 

     They keep out those that would try and break in.  They help secure and protect people and possessions.

 

     The right key will get you access to what you would not be able to get to without it.  Have the key?  Then you can get in.  Don't have the key?  Then you are locked out.

 

     Through the pen of the apostle John, during the winter of his life, when God reveals things to him that were meant to encourage and challenge Christ-followers, Jesus says:  "...I hold the keys of death and Hades."  (Revelation 1:18b) 

 

     If Jesus holds those 'keys', then what kinds of things are being locked up?  What is being locked away...or opened?  What or who is either being DENIED access or GRANTED access...and to WHAT?  How would that even work?  What would it look like?  What does it mean? 

 

     This Sunday is Easter.  Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus...that, in itself, is too much for many people to swallow.  KIND of a big deal.  If the resurrection of Jesus did not happen, the Bible says proclaiming things about Jesus is useless and faith in Him would be stupid.  It gets worse.  If the resurrection of Jesus did not happen, and we keep talking about it as if it did, we are liars..."false witnesses" about God.  If Jesus wasn't raised, then people can't and won't be either.  If it is not true, then believing in him is futile and that belief would do NOTHING about our sin.  

 

    BUT...if He WAS raised from the dead, the God-man Jesus, THEN, all kinds of truth and possibilities open up!  Truth that can and does change lives and families and futures, that makes wonderful and miraculous things possible. 

 

     An apostle of Jesus named Paul, would say in a letter to some first-century Christ-followers he cared about in the city of Corinth:  "But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep."  (First Corinthians 15:12-20)

 

     There are so many mind-boggling things we could talk about on any given Easter Sunday.  Considering these words about Jesus having these keys is one of them.

 

     Instead of just showing up with no preparation, pray each day until Sunday that you would be ready to worship our Great God and to CELEBRATE all that Jesus has done for mankind.   

 

     Looking forward to it!

 

Tony

 

 

"The Master Key"
 
April 12, 2015
Are you 
still
playing?
 
May 3, 2015

"...I was afraid, so I hid."

 

Genesis 3:8-9


     It's a pretty fun game...when you're kids.  One person is "it", they have to cover  their eyes and count while everyone else runs off looking for the best spot to hide.  Once the counting is done, the seeker yells:  "Ready or not, here I come!"  The goal of the hider is to remain undetected...hidden.  The goal of the seeker is to find, to discover the hiders. 

     As people grow older, they still play the game - they just learn how to play it in different ways...more subtle ways.  We learn the skills required to hide our feelings.  We learn to hide parts of who we are from one another.  We learn to hide pain.  We try to hide, to cover up sin so we won't look so bad.  We attempt to hide from one another, from ourselves, and from God.  Sadly, some adults are incredibly skilled at these kinds of hiding.  It isn't healthy, there are some HUGE negative consequences to living this way.  We'll look at some this Sunday. 

     If we are to be the body of Christ, we will do the things He did.  He told his followers once:  "The Son of Man came to SEEK..."  That's an interesting way of putting it, isn't it?  We talk a lot about Jesus being Lord and Savior and teacher, but I wonder what He wants us to know about His self-identification as a "Seeker".  Who is He seeking?  Why are they hiding? Why does He tell them (And us) that? 

     The same questions will apply to us if we are really doing our best to be His followers, becoming more and more and more like He is.  Who are we supposed to seek?  What are they hiding from?  How do we learn to be better "seekers"?  Am I trying to hide?  Why?  How do I stop it?  What skills are required and how do I develop them to help myself and others?

     We'll talk about it in a couple of days.

Looking forward to it!

Tony

"Limited Time
Offer"
 
July 12,, 2015

     There are two words used in the New Testament that are simply translated "time" in our English Bibles.  One, we are super-familiar with:  CHRONOS.  It means "keeping time"; "counting the seconds, minutes, hours, etc.".  Chronology.  Chronometer.  "Marking the time as it passes".  Many businesses use a program called KRONOS to have employees enter their time worked, sick days, vacation schedule, etc. 

     The other word is KAIROS.  It's used over 80 times in the New Testament and it means:  "Time by opportunity and fulfillment"; "a season", "the right time", "an opportunity".  It's a more significant word because, when we know about it, it can change how we think about how we live inside time.  KAIROS is not as concerned with keeping time as it is with what could happen within a given period of time.

     It's funny how people talk about "saving" and "cutting" time!  We can't.  Time just...happens.  It passes and we do things in it based on our priorities - the things we believe are most important. Our actions are dicated by our priorities and values. 

     When I learn KAIROS as a Christ-Follower, I will learn to live in time, like Jesus did - with His understanding of it.  He was NOT so concerned with the hours and minutes and seconds of CHRONOS.  He DID seem to be really concerned about KAIROS - seeing opportunities to be fulfilled to help and love and serve people as he moved through time.

     
WE ARE GOING TO CELEBRATE KAIROS THIS SUNDAY!

     We'll get to hear some of the stories and see a few of the photos from Craig and Shari and the team that just got back from China.  An opportunity to go, to love on some children in an orphanage, was recognized and fulfillfed.  Some of us went, some of us supported through resources and prayer.  We will bring the Uganda team up to pray for them - they leave this coming Monday to fulfill an opportunity.  In a few weeks, the Thailand team will go fulfill an opportunity to help and serve others in Jesus' name. 

  
  Some go.  Some send.  All of us have opportunities that we need to SEE, then RESPOND TO.      This is living in KAIROS. 

     If you understand some of this and God is tugging on your heart, trying to motivate you to put these truths into practice but you don't know how to proceed, make time to meet with me or one of the other elders.  We will help you and support you and pray with you and for you.

Looking forward to Sunday!

Tony

Is Prayer Just 'Pestering' God
Until We Wear Him Down and Get What We Want?


Luke 18:1-8

 

     One of the parables of Jesus is a short story about a widow lady with a pending case and a judge who "neither feared God nor cared what people thought."     

 

     It's a funny story.         She's there when he arrives for work.  She lurks at lunchtime  outside the courthouse.     She's hanging around talking to others about her case when he's finishing up and trying to head home for dinner.  <Running after him...>  "Sir?  Just a word, please!"  "Can I have a moment of your time?"  "Have you made a decision about my case yet?"      This lady pesters and bugs and bothers the judge until, finally, exasperated, one day he says:  "OK!  Since you keep bothering me, I will make sure you get justice.  I'm afraid you might actually attack me if I don't!"     

 

     Jesus then goes on to make some points about how God sees and knows and cares about the stuff we go through and He wants to help us.  He's aware of the hard things, the injustices, the wrongs we suffer.  He is caring and loving and wise and...just.     

 

     Jesus could have stopped right there, making his points about the heard-hearted judge versus the wonderful God of the Bible...but He doesn't.  He says just ONE more thing:  "However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"    It's as if he's used the telling of the story specifically to get to his main point, the real thing he wants them (and us) to get.  

 

     Now, why in the world did He say that and what does it mean?  That is part of the joyful task we have before us this Sunday.  We get to spend some time exploring what Jesus said, what it meant to those who heard it originally and how we're supposed to respond to it today.    

 

     It's about prayer, it's about God and people and life and us and...it's mostly about the haunting question Jesus asks that day.  He wanted his original audience to wrestle with that question, struggle to understand it and live differently as a result.  I believe He wants the same for us. 

 

Looking SO forward to it!

 

Tony

  

"...and live like Jesus."

 

     It would seem that if we're going to LIVE like Jesus, we would want to learn to PRAY like He did. 

_______________________________

 

     It's really something to try and wrap your mind around...what the Bible says about Jesus.  You know, the parts that talk about Him being FULLY GOD and FULLY a MAN.  I mean, there are lots of other, less-complicated things we already don't get, so why would we expect to comprehend the nature and essence and deity and humanity of Jesus?!

     I've joked for years, that if you meet someone who says they have it all figured out and they tell you they can explain this mystery to you, just back slowly toward the closest exit - while keeping your eye on the guy!

     Oh, this doesn't mean we are absolved of our responsibility to use all the mental capacity God has given us to try.  We are given the ability to reason, given the Bible, and, - for Christ-followers - the Spirit of God.  

     This great mystery of God-become-flesh is the centerpiece of the plan to save us, to bring us into fellowship with himself.  So...we read the words of Jesus.  We listen to what He said and talk about it.  We watch His actions as we read the eye-witness accounts recorded for us in the first four books of the New Testament:  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  

     As we do this, we see the priority of prayer in Jesus' life, talking to and listening to God.  The Lord's Prayer.  His times of praying at night or early in the morning.  His time in the wilderness at the cusp of his ministry.  His instruction on the content and motive of prayer as he contrasts the tax collector and the Pharisee who go to the temple to pray one day.  

     If we are going to learn to LIVE like Jesus did - we are going to want to learn to PRAY as He did.  Christians experience defeat, discouragement, and a lack of power in their lives - in part - because they don't pray.  It is not rocket science.  Little prayer = little growth/maturity.  No emphasis on praying = no experience of power and direction from God. 

     This Sunday morning, we are going to look at one of Jesus' prayer nights:  Mark 14:32-42.  This Sunday evening, we are going to have a prayer Night of our own.  BCC elders are going to be together, praying and fasting this Friday night and Saturday as we continue to seek God's direction and blessing.  We should not have to "sell" the idea of coming together to pray as a body this Sunday night.  Christ-followers who are serious about being partners in the body will be there...will WANT to be there this Sunday night.

     We pray often during the week for you and we pray together for the body every week.  We're excited to see where God leads as we live on-Mission together with all the partners in the BCC body!

Looking forward to Sunday,

 

 

Tony

 

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