Friday, July 31, 2015

The Volunteer Meeting RECAP

Sunday, July 26 was a great day.  I was excited to see all of those who showed up to eat, connect, and have the desire to serve this fall.  It is going to be an exciting year and I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in our church and through our church.

There was a problem though.  I was distracted.  I had so much I wanted to say but a number of things kept me off balance and I didn’t communicate some of the most important things I wanted to express.

So, with that, here is what I wanted to say…

FIRST OF ALL… THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  The volunteers at Paragon are awesome!  I am so grateful for each and every person that takes time to serve the people of Paragon and the people of Rio Rancho.

Whether it be cleaning or teaching or making coffee or greeting or…  you are making a bigger difference than you may ever know.  You really are changing lives.

And that is why we do what we do… to change lives… to change the world.

We exist as a church to be an agent of change.  To see lives change and ultimately see our world change.

Our vision at Paragon is help people grow closer in their relationship to Jesus Christ. 
Whether a person has no knowledge of Jesus or a person has been “walking” with Him for years, we want to be catalysts in seeing people deepen their connection with Him daily.

Simply put, we want you to Come as you are.  Be Changed.  Go change the world. 

It is why we do what we do.  To see God change us and to see God change others.

Why is that important to know?  Because we must know that weekend services, connection groups, Bible studies, and any other gathering is more than just an event, it is our vision in action.

We have a tendency to miss that in the church and in our lives.  Everything we do is pointing towards our end goal, our vision.

Like Andy Stanley says, “You’re going to end up somewhere.  It might as well be on purpose.”

The concept of vision is all throughout the Scriptures.  Abraham carried within himself the vision of land and a multitude of descendants.  Moses led the Children of God with the vision of the Promise Land in mind.  Joshua advanced his army with a vision in mind.  Jonah had a vision that turned him the other way.  The magi traveled a great distance over a great period of time with the vision of meeting the newly born King.  Jesus had a vision in mind to save you, me, and the rest of the world.

For the church (our church), our end goal is to see lives and our world change.

Not only is the vision important to know, it is also critically important to keep fresh and up front.  Why?

Vision creates unity.  It unites people around God’s leadership.
Vision creates energy.  It moves us from stagnancy to mission.
Vision provides purpose.  It helps us realize we are a part of something significant.
Vision fosters risk-taking.  To fulfill a God sized vision, you have to get out of your comfort zone.
Vision enhances leadership.  It keeps leadership on task.
Vision promotes excellence.  It does not permit laziness or sloppiness.
Vision sustains ministry.  It keeps us focused and moving forward (even when you might want to throw in the towel).

Here is another question to ponder… What drives our vision?
Our Core Values… that which oozes from us… which is communicated from us at all times… it is what flows from the heart (you show what value by what you do)

Here are the ones I have written down (though we need to work on them oozing from us)

#1 - GOSPEL CENTERED (and every other one hinges on this fact)

#2 - WORSHIP (both corporate and individual)
  • through being and doing


#3 - PRAYER (both corporate and individual)

#4 - DISCIPLESHIP (be a disciple - make a disciple)
  • Saved people serve people - Growing People change


#5 - EVANGELISM (reaching people - reaching a community)
  • Found people Find people
  • In the book of Acts, the church was growing.  It says in 2:47 that the church was “adding daily those who were being saved.” 
  • How do we add daily those who are being saved?


#6 - CONNECTION (with God, with each other, with community)
  • realize you can’t do life alone


These six things will be the driving force behind our vision to reach our community for Christ and see life change take place. 

You may say, that is a BIG TASK - how can we accomplish that?   The answer is “just like eating an elephant… one bite at a time.”

One bite at a time. 

Do you realize that when Moses was called to get God’s people out, it was a big task?  Every step along the way he followed God.  Even as he was taking the Israelites out of Egypt that he stopped at the edge of the Red Sea and waited for God to show up.  He didn’t try to figure it out on his own… he waited, he listened, and he followed.

We wait for God to show up.
We follow God’s leading and direction.

Today I would like you to PRAY for God to show up and direct you on where to go… where to serve… who to disciple… who to be discipled by… where to plug in… who to share the love of Christ with.




Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A discussion on Disgust

This past weekend (July 25-26) we talked about the movie Inside Out and focused on disgust (you can hear the message HERE).  The ending challenge was, if something disgusts you, do something about it.  Here are some things to work through by yourself, with your family, or with friends.

Revelation 3:14-22 (ESV)
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

SEE THROUGH Jesus EYES.  (see the world with a Biblical Worldview)
A Worldview is the core set of beliefs a person has by which he/she interprets all that is experienced in life, that life is built on, the filter through which all decisions are made, etc.

READ THIS TEXT:  Matthew 9:35-38  (ESV)
35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

REFLECT ON THESE QUESTIONS:
·      What did Jesus see?  How did He respond?
·      What do you see while you are going?  How do you/did you respond?

What does COMPASSION look like?
·      The word “compassion” literally means to “suffer with.”  A powerful deep awareness of someone else’s hurt, pain, suffering, etc, that moves you to respond. 
·      Did you know there are over 90 references to compassion in the Bible (most are linked to Jesus)

·      Compassion isn’t to be confused with sympathy which is being sad about another’s sadness, nor is it empathy, when that sorrow is expressed to the saddened one, nor is it pity which often moves us to what to help “if we only could.”  COMPASSION goes a step farther.  It is more than a feeling, more than a mere desire to help, it creates a determination and then a decision to ACTUALLY HELP - even if only in a small way.

REFLECT ON THIS
·      Take some time this week to look up the references to “compassion” in the Bible.  Use your concordance or GOOGLE it.

READ THE PARABLE of the GOOD SAMARITAN (Luke:10:25-37)
The verse to highlight… 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.

REFLECT on THIS
·      What did the priest and the Levite see?  How did they respond?
·      What did the Samaritan see?  How did he respond?
·      In the story, do you see an opportunity or a problem?

(our worldview shapes our perspective of a situation)

THE CHALLENGE:  Do something this week….
1.  PRAY.  “Pray earnestly” as Jesus directed.
·      Would you agree that “…the harvest is plentiful?”
·      Would you agree that there are people out there that are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd?”
·      Would you agree that there are people who are beaten down by life, being passed by on the other side by those who see them as a problem, not an opportunity?

PRAY THIS WEEK to God that He will send workers into the fields of the harvest… that he would send YOU.

2.  SEE.  See through Jesus eyes.
·      Study the context of the 90+ passages about compassion.  How does Jesus do what He does and what actions does He take?
·      PRAY that God would give you compassion to DO SOMETHING in His Name.

3.  ACT.  Put yourself in the place with the most potential.
·      Make it a point to not just sit and be fed, but exercise your gifts wherever God calls you to do it.

·      Don’t give excuses.  If God is calling, answer

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Day 40 - Coming Home

Revelation 21:1-4 (ESV) - Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

 He came back home with amazing stories of a faraway land that his fellow residents of Venice found impossible to believe. A land in the East with cities that dwarfed the great cities of Europe, a culture that had paper currency, a mysterious exploding powder, and a king whose palace dwarfed the great castles of Europe, with a dining hall that could seat 6,000 people eating on plates made of gold. Marco Polo lived for seventeen years in China, having been accepted into the court of the most powerful man on earth, Kublai Khan, in the year 1266. To his dying day, Marco Polo was rejected by skeptics who found his tale too far-fetched.

Some find it hard to believe that there is a future state of being called “a new heaven and a new earth.” A new creation. A restoration of the way things ought to be. A reversal of sin and war, earthquakes and hurricanes, disease and temptation. A condition in which there is no death, no pain, no tears. 

Yet this is exactly what you would expect God the Almighty to do. He wants us to be home with him.
Our place, in his plan, is to come home. Finally, truly, irrevocably—home. 

This call of God in Revelation, this promise of “a new heaven and a new earth,” has one all-important characteristic: “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.” In Genesis Adam and Eve fled the home of the garden and entered the hard life of the field. Ever since, people have lived away from home: in Egypt, in Babylonia, under Roman occupation. In sin, transgression, rebellion, conflict, divorce, unemployment, illness, fear. 

All that will be swept away, and we will dwell with God in a new condition beyond imagining.

PONDER:  Dwelling with God begins now. What are some ways your life can be different if you fully believe that you belong to God every hour of every day? 

REFLECTION or DISCUSSION:
What does home mean to you? Revelation is a book of the Bible that brings us hope. We are told in Revelation that on the day Jesus returns that we will finally be home with God forever.  What does that mean to you.

Day 39 - You are an Advertisement

1 Peter 2:9 (ESV) - But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

The advertising industry is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise. Some of the most creative and intelligent people in the world develop campaigns using a multitude of media to represent products, services, and interests to capture people’s imaginations (and money!). In Latin, the word “ad vertere” means literally to turn the mind toward.

Peter was no advertising genius. But he did understand the people of God were his “advertisement” in a hostile and evil world. Peter wrote to Christians experiencing increasing suffering and persecution under the ruthless Roman emperor, Nero. Peter used numerous images that have their roots in the Old Testament to remind the beleaguered Christians of their identity and role as the people of God in a hostile world. 

Peter tells the early Christ-followers that they are “a chosen people,” a select people defined and unified by common habits or characteristics. He calls them a royal priesthood and holy nation. Peter roots their identity in the Old Testament concept of the priesthood. In the Old Testament priests were to represent the people to God and God to the people. Peter refers to Exodus 19:6 when God tells Moses that among the pagan nations, Israel as a nation was to be a “kingdom of priests.” The nation of Israel as a whole was to represent the reality of God to a hostile world. Representatives embody the interests, values, and identity of an agent (in this case God) to a foreign entity. 

Peter then tells the persecuted church that they are a people of God’s own possession—the idea that God has marked a ring around this people to identify them as particularly his. For what purpose? For the people to literally be a walking advertisement—to proclaim or publish abroad his excellencies, the very things that characterize God and his heart for the human race: namely, loving one’s neighbor, social compassion, fairness, honesty, sexual integrity, economic generosity, and justice. 

Peter’s words remind the church that we are a representative people, a walking “ad vertere” of God’s holiness and character, and that this has deep implications for how we engage in the realities of society and everyday relationships.

PONDER:  If your life were an ad campaign for the reality of God in the world, what would it turn people’s minds toward? 

REFLECTION or DISCUSSION
If someone were to closely watch your life what would they see? Would they see you as a follower of God? Or would they focus on how much time you spend at work? Or in the garden? Imagine your family as a living advertisement. What are you advertising?

Read 1 Peter 2:9-10. These verses say that we are chosen to proclaim the excellences of God. How are you being a light for those around you? What are you --- is your family advertising?
 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Day 38 - Genealogy of Faith

Hebrews 11:1-2 (ESV) - Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.

Genealogy, the study of family ancestry, has gone high tech. Ancestry.com, the largest genealogy company in the world, has over two million paying subscribers who research their family lineage. From over eleven billion online records, researchers and ancestry sleuths can explore newspaper archives going back 300 years, peruse ships’ passenger lists, discover old photos, and explore over forty million family trees. All this to find out something about the ordinary people, the heroes, the scoundrels, and mavericks that are part of one’s genealogy. 

Hebrews 11 (READ) pointed the early Christians to their spiritual genealogy and noted that the ancients were commended for their faith. Faith is not an abstract concept but a practical reality that was lived out in the lives of all those mentioned in Hebrews 11. The author of Hebrews points out two orientations of faith: faith looks forward to the future with confidence and hope that God will fulfill his promises, and faith also looks up, with assurance of the unseen reality of God’s presence.

The rest of the chapter is simply a history lesson of people with this kind of faith orientation. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel, and countless unnamed men and women who had one thing in common: their calling and sending by God was under-girded by faith. As we reimagine our place in God’s plan, faith lies at the core of that re-imagination. The lives and examples of these ancients represent our genealogy of faith—and they teach important lessons today:
  • Faith means outcomes cannot be manipulated.
  • Faith requires a deep trust in God, not self.
  • Faith requires a first step.
  • Faith means not losing hope that God’s purpose will ultimately prevail, though beyond our understanding.
  • Faith is illogical by human measure, but pleases God.
  • Faith is played out on the stage of real human scenarios and relationships.
  • Faith means results cannot be controlled and they may never be seen.
  • Faith assumes a response to God’s call.
  • Faith is necessary to live a life of personal holiness, justice, and compassion.
  • Faith means trusting the Holy Spirit to work through human weakness, inadequacies, and sinfulness.
Our spiritual ancestors remind us that faith is foundational to living out one’s place in God’s plan!

PONDER:  Which of the mentioned lessons of living by faith do you find most difficult?

REFLECTION or DISCUSSION:
Hebrews 11 is referred to as the “Hall of Faith.” The chapter begins with a definition of faith and then goes on to list ordinary people from the Bible who accomplished extraordinary things through faith. When we are no longer around, what will people say about our faith?

 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Day 37 - Our Work, Our Dignity

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (ESV) - and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

One day, Martin Luther was approached by a working man who wanted to know how he could serve God. Luther asked the man: “What is it that you do now?” to which the man replied, “I am a shoemaker.”

The man was stunned to hear Luther’s response: “Then make good shoes and sell them at a fair price.” 

It is so easy to speak about “the call of God” and think that it refers only to some religious or spiritual activity or profession. The tragedy of that way of thinking is that the few who are pastors or missionaries, monks or priests, take the role of the elite who have a place in the world defined by God, but everybody else is left to live life shuffling around, trying to scrounge a living, hold things together, be somewhat happy, and die with a few good memories people can speak of at their funeral.

God has a different view of things.

“Reimagining our place in God’s plan” includes envisioning the ways in which God uses the ordinary work we do for his purposes in the world. The shoemaker does not need to become a pastor to be “called.” Society needs shoemakers, ironworkers, teachers, engineers, grocery store managers, data entry clerks, cops, cooks, and cleaners. Society needs moms and dads, captains and lieutenants, students and senators.

This is the way God works. It is the dignity of work. It is the meaning of “vocation” (which comes Latin vocare “to call”).

Imagine this: believers in every corner of society—our schools, businesses, legislatures, neighborhoods, the arts, media, and science—bringing the mind of Christ to their work, seeking the common good. This is what Paul meant when he said: “Each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them” (1 Cor. 7:17).
So if your task today is to make some shoes or raise your kids or analyze some spreadsheets, remember this: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Col. 3:23).

PONDER:   What is the equivalent in your life of “make good shoes and sell them at a fair price”?

REFLECT or DISCUSS:
It is easy for society to look at children - young adults - young singles - and to assume that they have nothing to contribute. This is simply not true. In fact the faith of a child is what Jesus asks for, and children can set an example for people that is both honest and real. In 1 Thessalonians we are told to live “so that our daily life may win the respect of outsiders...” We can pass this truth on to children.

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. What might it mean for you to work with your hands? Do you have to do work at school? Do you do chores? What does respect mean? How can you act so that others respect how you are living?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Day 36 - God's Signature

Colossians 3:17 (ESV) - And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

There were fifty-six signers to the United States Declaration of Independence. Their signatures on this historic document indicated their intent to act on behalf of the American colonies. The last paragraph contains these lines:

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America,in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.
The signatures of the Founding Fathers of the United States indicated that their actions and words were being executed in the name of and on behalf of the American colonists. A new nation was formed and the world was changed.

Paul tells the Colossian believers to let their words and deeds be done in the name of the Lord Jesus. To say and do something in the name of someone else means that an individual is acting or speaking as a representative of another person. Their actions and deeds reflect the intent, character, and attributes of the one being represented. Paul exhorts the Colossian believers to let their lives— both words and deeds—reflect the intent, character, and attributes of Christ.

Paul’s statement here is not some lofty, abstract theory, but a summary statement of the previous verses, where he depicts how the transformative power of Christ works itself out in one’s everyday interactions. This ethic of what it is to characterize life in Christ includes compassion, love, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (3:12–14). For the Christian, such living is rooted in and flows out of the reality of what God has done at the core of our very being and humanity: We have been “raised up with Christ” (3:1); we have a “new self which is being renewed in the image of the Creator” (3:10); we are his chosen ones, holy and beloved (3:12).

To speak and act on behalf of another is a privilege and a responsibility. God has put his signature on his people—indicating his will and intent that our words and deeds be done on his behalf in the places he sends us.

PONDER:  Imagine something to say or do today, on behalf of Christ, that might make a difference for someone.

REFLECTION or DISCUSSION:
In the letter to the Colossians Paul says that everything believers do should be done to represent Jesus. This idea of representation still holds true for us today. When others who know we are followers of Jesus see us, do they see a picture of God?

Read Colossians 3:17. Do your friends know that you have a relationship with Jesus? Part of having a relationship with Jesus is the Fruit of the Spirit. Read Galatians 5:22-23. Which of these fruit do you show in your life? Which fruit do you need to have more of?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Day 35 - Live a life worthy of the calling

Ephesians 4:1-6 (ESV) 
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

READ THE WHOLE CHAPTER

A gray-haired man walks haltingly through the cemetery at Normandy on the north coast of France. He passes through the sea of white crosses marking the resting places of hundreds of young men whose lives were cut off on D-Day decades earlier. He drops to his knees in front of the marker of someone who saved his life, and struggles to get out a plea to his wife who is standing at his side: “Tell me I’ve lived a good life...Tell me I’m a good man.” 

In this, the opening scene in the film Saving Private Ryan, the man wants to know if he has lived a life worthy of those who sacrificed so much. 

The world would be radically different if those who believed in Christ truly lived lives worthy of his sacrifice. This was what the apostle Paul longed for among believers: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling.” 

The calling of God is a gift and a summons. It is a call to something, to be something. To be “completely humble” in a culture of presumption and arrogance. To be “gentle” in the face of harshness and unkindness. To be “patient” when instant gratification is the driving force of society. To “bear with one another in love” instead of discarding people who irritate or inconvenience us.
The call of God also summons us to unity. This is God’s plan for mending fragmented lives: “the unity of the Spirit, the bond of peace, one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one Father.” It begins here: “you were called to one hope when you were called.” 

The crosses at Normandy remind us of the one cross—the cross of Jesus—which summons us all to a higher level. That call must not be taken lightly.

PONDER:  What is one area of life where you know you are not living “a life worthy of the calling”? 

REFLECTION or DISCUSSION:
When we begin a friendship with God, we become a new creation, as we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Part of becoming this new creation is shown through the traits that we begin to live out in our everyday lives. We find three of these traits in Ephesians 4:2. 

Read Ephesians 4:2. What does it mean to be humble? When have you been humble? What does it mean to be gentle? Where do you need to be gentle? What does it mean to be patient? When is it hard for you to be patient? What are some ways you can love others?
 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Day 34 - A Masterpiece in the Making

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV) - For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

For generations, Tibetan weavers in Nepal and Tibet have been making wool rugs from hand-spun, hand-dyed wool. Weavers use a unique loop and weave these rugs by hand, knot by knot. An average 6 x 9 foot rug contains between 450,000 and 800,000 knots, representing over one thousand hours of work. These rugs are unique masterpieces sold at premium prices all over the world.

The apostle Paul writes that those who have experienced the saving grace of God in Christ have become his handiwork (Ephesians 2:10). Paul uses the word poeima, meaning something made, a masterpiece. Paul explained to the young believers that they have been saved and made alive by the grace of God in Christ, not by anything they could do, and that God now continues his work of craftsmanship in their lives. These masterpieces are created for a purpose: to habitually walk in good works—those good, distinguished, honorable, and excellent undertakings and deeds that the world needs. Paul’s use of masterpiece imagery does not so much suggest completion, but the reality that believers are the work of God’s hands, masterpieces in the making.

Masterpiece imagery is used elsewhere in the Bible and refers to creation: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). A finely crafted masterpiece of any art form evokes wonder. It points to the artisan, composer, or creator. What kind of person could create such a thing? How did she do that? How long did it take? Whether one is gazing at Michelangelo’s paintings in the Sistine Chapel, admiring a hand-woven Tibetan rug, or listening to Beethoven’s 9th symphony, there is some effect produced in the beholder—appreciation, curiosity, admiration, or even awe. God’s divine masterpieces, the created world and re-created, rescued followers in that world, ultimately point to the glory of the Creator.

C. S. Lewis once said that we are truly divine works of art, made by God who is not satisfied until it has a certain character. Reimagining one’s life as an ongoing poiema, a masterpiece in the making, helps put the realities of one’s life—suffering, joys, failures, successes—into a larger perspective that God is somehow still at work in our lives.

PONDER:  As God’s “masterpiece in the making,” which part of your life could evoke wonder in those who are watching? 

REFLECTION or DISCUSSION:
We are God’s handiwork. What an amazing truth! He created us, on purpose, and for a purpose. The best way to think about the idea of being God’s handiwork is by creating something yourself. Take time today to make a masterpiece. Consider one of the following ideas for making a masterpiece. When the piece is finished reflect or discuss what you like about the masterpiece. Are you proud? Was it hard work? Did it take a lot of time?  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Day 33 - Divine Paradox

1 Corinthians 1:27-31 (ESV) - But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”


Every year, Time magazine publishes an issue entitled, “The 100 Most Influential People in the World.” The magazine features people considered to be world shapers: entertainers, inventors, artists, leaders, politicians. In 2013, Time included an unlikely young, Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, who survived an attack by a Taliban gunman in Pakistan in 2012 as she was on her way home from school. Fortunately, Malala recovered and has since become an advocate for human rights on behalf of young women and girls in one of the most violent regions of the world. Malala is an unlikely influencer to take on the power and violence of Taliban extremism, yet her story shows the paradox of the weak shaming the strong.

The apostle Paul appeals to this paradox as he addresses a struggling and immature church in ancient Corinth. A bustling place of commerce, Corinth was also a city filled with hard-drinking and hard-living people. The church Paul had started over a year earlier was beginning to fall apart. Division, blatant sexual immorality, power-grabbing, boasting, and in-fighting had put the fledgling fellowship in disarray.

Paul challenges these struggling believers to reimagine their lives and calling to Christ as part of a divine paradox: God chooses the foolish (literally, the moronic) to shame the wise (the educated and erudite); the weak (infirm and feeble) to shame the strong (the powerful and influential); and the lowly (base and low- born) to accomplish his saving acts.

The identity and self-worth of a follower of Jesus are not based on achievement, family background, or education, but rather on the work of God in a believer’s life. None of the Corinthian believers would have made Corinth’s list of the top 100 influential people—most of them were of ignoble birth, uneducated, and under-achievers. Yet God had done a work in them. They became living examples of the divine paradox, and that, Paul says, was something worth boasting about!

PONDER:
Where have you seen God powerfully use something or someone that seemed weak or foolish?

REFLECTION or DISCUSSION:
Being boastful has a clear negative connotation. It’s so easy to get fed up with people who are proud and constantly brag about their accomplishments and abilities. This verse flips the idea of boasting on its head. In 1 Corinthians 1:31, Paul instructs the Corinthians to boast in the Lord. When God shows up in our lives in amazing ways, we can talk about it in front of everyone.

Read 1 Corinthians 1:31. What does it mean to boast? What are some amazing things God has done in your life? Where have you seen God show up? Who can you share one of these amazing stories about God with? Find time to share your story this week. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Day 32 - The Fellowship of the Son

1 Corinthians 1:4-9 (ESV) I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic tale The Lord of the Rings begins with a volume entitled The Fellowship of the Ring. It describes a band of comrades whose lives were intertwined in a great and dangerous quest. They were different from one another: four hobbits, two men, one elf, a dwarf, and a wizard—but they were bound to each other by a cause, and thus they were a “fellowship.”

In real life, there are relationships in which we so deeply and completely share our lives, that they are best described as “fellowship.” Two people bound together in marriage, a platoon of soldiers who share everything and whose lives depend on one another, the founders of a major social cause.
Koinonia in the Greek New Testament, “fellowship,” is translated in different verses as “participation,” “communion,” “partnership,” and “sharing.” The root of the word—koinos—means “common.” So koinonia is “the common life” or “the shared life.”

When Paul says, “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son” (1 Cor. 1:9), he is saying that the believer has been summoned (called) by God into a “shared life” with Jesus. This is comprehensive. The “shared life” of Jesus includes the grace by which we are forgiven (v. 1), knowledge and expression (v. 2), every “spiritual gift” (v. 3), and the hope that at the end of all things we will be found blameless because of Jesus (v. 4).

We need to be careful not to speak superficially or casually about “having a relationship with Jesus.” The shared life to which we are called is to be forgiven in Jesus, graced by Jesus, taught by Jesus, immersed in Jesus, confronted by Jesus, empowered by Jesus, guided by Jesus, suffered with Jesus, resurrected with Jesus.

It is an explosive thing to say, “I belong to the fellowship of the Son.”

PONDER: When you think about God calling you into a complete, immersive shared life with Jesus, what kind of reaction do you have?

REFLECTION or DISCUSSION
In 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 we see that through our relationship with Jesus, we have been enriched in every way and that God works in us through our spiritual gifts. As we grow in our understanding and relationship with God, he begins to further develop these gifts.
Read 1 Corinthians 1:4-9. Spiritual gifts are given to us by God to help us show the love of God to other people. Try to decide which gift fits with each person in your family: encouragement (supporting others); evangelism (telling others about Jesus); faith (trusting God even in hard times); giving (sacrificing to meet the needs of others); helping (doing what needs to be done); mercy (caring for hurting and suffering people).
 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Do you know WHY?

Easter Sunday is only a few days away... DO YOU KNOW WHY we celebrate it?  Does your neighbor or your family member know why YOU celebrate it?

Do they (or even you) know why YOU go to church?  Why you worship? Serve?  Give?  Make Disciples?  Connect in small groups?  Participate in communion or get baptized? 

The question WHY is one that is asked by all people of all ages from all walks of life.  If you really think about it, the answer to the questions of WHY have helped shape us to who we are right now.

We are going to dive into the WHY's starting on Easter Sunday and then look deeper into them weekly until summer... but even before then, here is a question that I think everyone asks...

WHY PRAY?

It is a valid question and we even have a Connection Group devoted to the topic.  Why do you pray?  Why should we pray?

Here’s the short answer: because Jesus told us to. In Luke 18:1 we read, “And he (Jesus) told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.

Of course, Jesus himself provided us with an example. Though He was God in human form, Jesus had a very deep prayer life. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39). On the cross, Jesus prayed... And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).

Look at the raising of Lazarus.  Before doing anything, Jesus prayed.   “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”  (John 11:41-43)

Before Jesus fed the five thousand, Jesus prayed (Matthew 14:19).

And these are just a few examples throughout scripture.

If Jesus felt the need to pray, then how much more should we feel the need to pray? He gave us an example to follow.

And here is another thing to consider. Even if prayer were extremely difficult, which it is not, even if prayer were painful to engage in, which it isn’t, and even if we never received answers, which isn’t the case, we still should pray. Why? Because we are commanded in the Scriptures to do so.

You will see on our BE THE CHURCH weekend we have opportunities to pray for people "driving through" as well as walk neighborhoods and pray.  We need to do this... and we need to be praying in advance for this event and the week leading up to Easter...

WHY - because Jesus told us to and gave us a great example to follow.

Day 31 - More than Wishful thinking

Romans 8:28-30 (ESV) -
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

When things weren’t going well, someone may say to you: “Don’t worry, everything is going to work out okay.” But is that just wishful thinking? 

Sometimes people are naively optimistic. Neville Chamberlin, the British Prime Minister, who returned from a meeting with Adolf Hitler, proclaimed that Hitler’s assuring words meant there would be “peace for our time.” A day later, Hitler began his aggression. Some well-meaning people will say your doctor’s warnings are nothing to worry about—and then you find out things aren’t so good. False optimism is wishful thinking shouted out loud. 

Romans 8:28 offers a different kind of optimism: “And we know that in all things God works for the good...” Not that all things are good (they are not). Not that all things add up to a positive sum (life is not arithmetic). Not that all things become good things. Rather, God is at work amidst “all things,” which means every day and every chapter of life, even the dark ones. He is at work. He doesn’t sleep. He doesn’t leave. Any work that God does is good because he is God. Even the bad chapters of life end up being passageways to something better. There is light at the end of the tunnel—there really is. 

Who can have this kind of hope? “Those who have been called according to his purpose.”
It works like this: God foreknows (understands with love)...God predestines (prepares ahead of time)...God calls...God justifies...God glorifies. 

You’ve fallen off a ship and are sinking in the waves. The captain, who is concerned for all his passengers (foreknowledge) grabs the lifebuoy hanging on the boat’s side (predestination—a way of salvation prepared ahead of time), shouts out to you (calls), throws the ring to where you are (justifies), and pulls you safely to the ship (glorifies). 

When we believe that we are “called according to God’s purpose,” today’s sufferings have a wider context. We can know that things really are going to work out.

PONDER:  How can we let hope have a stronger voice in our lives than our pessimism does?

REFLECTION or DISCUSSION:
We live in a fallen and broken world. Sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in the ugly and the bad that we forget that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him...” Not all things are good, but in the midst of everything we can trust in God, who knows all, understands all, cares for all and is working for the good.
Read Romans 8:28 and Isaiah 41:10. What are some sad/bad/ugly things that have happened to you? How does having a relationship with Jesus give us hope when those things happen? Pray.
 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Day 30 - Goodbye?

Acts 20:36-38 (ESV) -  And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.  And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.

(Read all of Acts 20)

Words of farewell are sometimes difficult, memorable, poignant. Note these examples from history: Napolean (1814): “Adieu my friends. Would I could press you all to my heart.” Winston Churchill (1955): “The day may dawn when fair play, love for one’s fellow men, respect for justice and freedom, will enable tormented generations to march forth serene and triumphant from the hideous epoch in which we have to dwell. Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair.” Nelson Mandela (1999): “Though I shall not be seen as much as I have been, I shall be amongst you and with you as we enter the African century; working together to make a reality of our hopes for a better world.” 

Saying goodbye is not easy. We say goodbye to loved ones, colleagues, friends, family, and sometimes even nations. Seasoned with perspective and sadness, such words carry a mixture of grief, hope, sadness, love, and wisdom. Words of farewell remind us that whatever we do in life, whether great or small, is for but a season.

The apostle Paul spent only two years in the city of Ephesus, planting a church and solidifying a young congregation of believers. Two years later, he called the leaders of the church together and delivered his farewell speech. In Acts 20:17–38, he looks back on his relatively short time spent among the Ephesian elders. His heartfelt words recount his time among them—an investment marked by humility, service, gospel-centeredness, hard work, preaching, and teaching. His final words before he set off on the ship, simply echoed Jesus’ words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (vs. 35). Though Paul’s work among the Ephesians was finished, God had plenty more in store for Paul. In the next ten years, he would go on to write six more of his epistles, travel, preach, and teach across the Mediterranean world, until his eventual house arrest and martyrdom in Rome.
What’s in a goodbye? Among other things, a reminder that our place in God’s plan includes seasons, some long and others short. But even the shorter seasons, as in the example of Paul in Ephesus, God uses for his purposes.

PONDER:  How would you describe the "season" you are in today?

REFLECTION or DISCUSSION
In Acts 20, Paul delivers a powerful farewell. Paul reminds the believers of how he used his time with them. Paul shares how he acted with great humility and tears, and how he preached the truth. Paul made the most of his time with these believers. During this time he was able to spur them on to deepen their relationship with God.
Read Acts 20:36-37.  Before Paul says goodbye to his friends he explains all of the ways he cared well for them. What are some ways you would like your family and friends to love you and care for you? What are some ways you can encourage and support your family and friends?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Day 29 - A Call for Help

Acts 16:9-10 (ESV) - And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

(Read ALL of ACTS 16)

Bob worked for years as a financial advisor before he found an opportunity to help some young, unemployed men with some job training. The young men belonged to a severely depressed part of the city where unemployment was very high. With the passage of time, Bob was helping more and more young men who were referred to him, mostly through the network of a local church, which Bob eventually began attending every other weekend. It was a life he never would have imagined years earlier.

Sometimes the call of God—the summons for the next thing God wants us to do or to be committed to—comes in the form of a call from someone for help.

That is exactly what happened in a dramatic incident in the book of Acts. The apostle Paul and his fellow travelers were traveling through Asia Minor (what we know as Turkey), spreading the good news of Jesus from town to town. They were not able to travel in some regions they wanted to cover and ended up in the city of Troas. During the night, Paul had an unusual vision in a dream: a man from Macedonia summoning Paul with: “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” In obedience to the vision, they set out by sea the following day, crossing over eventually into Macedonia, and a new continent: Europe.

This historic turning point meant that, in the centuries to follow, Christianity spread to the West, through Europe, and then to the Americas. Paul was not inclined to go that way, but a plea for help changed the direction of history.

Any of us, on any given day, may hear someone say: “Could you please come here and help us?” When we react with generosity and grace we are doing the right thing in the moment. But there may come a day when one act of assistance leads us on a wholly unexpected trajectory for our lives. A call for help can be a call (of God) to help (for a long time). At the end of our lives, those are the opportunities we will remember the most.

PONDER:  Is there someone who is calling for your help at this time?

REFLECTION and DISCUSSION:
Paul and his companions shared the truth about Jesus as they traveled about. One night as Paul was sleeping in Troas he had a vision. A man was calling him to help in Macedonia. Paul responded to the dream and went. When do we hear others’ calling for help? Are we willing to respond?

Read Acts 16:9-10.  How did Paul respond to this man’s call for help? When have you needed help? Did someone help you? How can you respond when you hear others calling for help?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Day 28 - Going First.

Acts 13:1-3 (ESV) - Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

(Read all of Acts 13)

Pioneers are people who break new ground, explore the unexplored, do what has never been done, often putting their lives at risk. Pioneers have one thing in common: they go first. Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon. Amelia Earheart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. David Livingstone was the first missionary doctor to explore the continent of Africa. They all went first.

Since its inception, the church of Jesus Christ has been a pioneering church. Acts 13 is a turning point in the growth of Christianity, as God calls Barnabas and Saul to a pioneering work: to preach the gospel among the Gentiles (non-Jewish, Greek-speaking people). They were called to parts distant and unknown. They would be breaking new ground. Their calling is a reminder that sometimes God summons people to a pioneering work or task—something that is a “first,” something that is distant—geographically, linguistically, culturally, or even economically. Paul and Barnabas were breaking new ground, they were true pioneers. 

Note the circumstances of Paul and Barnabas’ calling. They were part of a church community that worshipped and earnestly sought the will of God. They were already serving locally and were among a diverse group of leaders in Antioch who exercised their diverse gifts. They were summoned by God, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, and the church affirmed and confirmed their call, releasing them for the work. Summoned, confirmed—in prayerful dependence—to go first. 

God still calls and summons pioneers—those who go first. Whether it is as a cross-cultural missionary to one of the 7,000 unreached people groups in the world today, or simply to a new person, place, or neighborhood here at home. 

The church still sends pioneers, people who are led to reimagine their place in God’s plan.

PONDER:  Where is God calling you to "go first?"

REFLECTION or DISCUSSION:
Imagine the excitement, fear, and hope Barnabas and Saul must have been feeling when the Holy Spirit gave the call for them to go. We have the chance to have the same response to such amazing calls today. How will we respond to God’s call in our lives to go? 

Read Acts 13:1-3. Whom did God call? God called Barnabas and Saul to go to grow the church. What is something God might be calling you to? Pray for God’s call on you.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Day 27 - Hitting "Send"

John 20:20-21 (ESV) - When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

(READ JOHN 20)

The first text message ever sent was in 1992 by software engineer, Neil Papworth. The message simply read: “Merry Christmas.” Today over 8.9 trillion text messages are sent each year. This translates into 8.9 trillion taps of the SEND button on mobile devices, a behavior that has become an almost unconscious, daily habit of much of the human race.

In one of his post-resurrection appearances to his disciples, Jesus had something to say about “sending,” reiterating what he had said in his prayer in John 17: “Just as you sent me into the world, I also sent them into the world.”

Theologian David Bosch wrote that “mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an attribute of God. God is a missionary God.”

God is a “sending” God. The word “mission” literally means “a sending.” Throughout biblical history, sending is a common theme as seen in the lives of Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Jonah, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, John the Baptist, culminating in God sending Jesus. Jesus’ sending was unique and preeminent among all the other “sendings” in the Bible, yet is also a model for his followers: “As the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you.” The manner of Jesus’ “sending” is to characterize his followers’ sending.

Incarnation (enfleshment) characterizes Jesus’ “sent-ness.” The incarnation is one of the great mysteries of the biblical story—that God would become flesh and dwell among us (Jn. 1:14). When God hit the SEND button, it was not a text, nor words put into binary code, but a life—the life of his Son, Jesus, who lived amidst a fallen, broken, sinful humanity. His very life and incarnation was a mission or “sent-ness” that embodied relationship, human touch, suffering, obedience, humility, proclamation, boldness, and dependence on God the Father.

Jesus was both messenger and message. He was sent, and sends us, as his mission continues. Mission is not just a task, but is at the core of one’s identity as a disciple. Followers of Jesus are sent into the world (as Jesus was) to live and proclaim the gospel life in a way that models the incarnation—wherever he sends us.

PONDER:  Where or to whom has God sent you today? Where or to whom might he be sending you in the future?

REFLECTION or DISCUSSION:
In John 20:21 we read about Jesus sending out his followers. Today God is still sending us out. Where each person is being sent looks different. Some of us are sent to faraway countries while others are sent into workplaces and schools. God is sending ALL AGES. He has a specific place where he wants each one of us to engage.
Read John 21:21. Where might God be sending you? Would he ask you to start talking to your friends? Take time and pray... ask God to help you understand where he might be sending you.
 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Day 26 - The Harvest

Luke 10:1-2 (ESV) After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.  And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

(READ Luke 10)
They were walking in the countryside—in fields of ripe grain that bent back and forth with the least gust of wind—in the wide open spaces of Galilee. No towns here. No crowds, no buildings, no noise. Jesus’ disciples took heads of the grain, rubbed it between their hands, and ate the kernels (Luke 6:1). They were each familiar with the Jewish festivals that celebrated the harvest—and the God of the good harvest. Snooping Pharisees witnessing the scene challenged Jesus. Why was he allowing his followers to work on a Sabbath day?

People who block God’s blessing are never far from any of us.

So when, sometime later, Jesus sent seventy-two of his followers out on a mission of proclamation and healing, they understood what he meant by “the Lord of the harvest,” who is looking for workers to bring in the long-awaited crops of the divine farmer.

The sending of the seventy-two—which happens to be the number of known nations at that time—was Jesus’ signal that all of his followers would be recruited as workers to go into all the nations. Jesus was calling his followers, then and now, to join him in two great actions: healing and proclamation.

“Heal the sick.” Miraculous physical healing in Jesus’ time is the pattern for all mission-minded healing initiatives. There is no end to the number of ways today we can support the healing of people who are ill or marginalized or abused or depressed or enslaved.

“Tell them ‘The kingdom of God has come near you.’” We promote healing because King Jesus broke into the world to signal that the power of God really is going to set all things right in the end, and so we get to start setting things right now. It is time for harvest, which is possible only because God has brought women and men and children to a point where the goodness is ready to break out.

PONDER:  What roadblocks do we need to get over so that we will commit to being God’s workers in the field of the world?

REFLECTION or DISCUSSION:
After reading Luke 10, picture a field ready for harvest.  What would happen if no one ever went into that field to reap the harvest?  What would the results be? 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Day 25 - The Call of the Cross

Luke 9:23-25 (ESV) - And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

(READ LUKE 9

Believers know that the Bible says we must be “crucified with Christ,” which means radical self-denial that leads to real life. But not many people can say that they were crucified as Christ.

Jim Caviezel can.

At the age of thirty-three, Caviezel played the role of Jesus in the massively popular and controversial film, The Passion of the Christ. The film has the most graphic and bloody imagery of the suffering of Jesus of any film ever made about the crucifixion. Jim Caviezel took on an acting role that was grueling, traumatizing, and emptying. But the “crucifixion” of Jim Caviezel came in the years following the film, as Hollywood shunned him for taking the role. When Mel Gibson offered the role to Caviezel, he told him his career would likely suffer. Caviezel’s response: “We all have a cross to carry. I have to carry my own cross. If we don’t carry our crosses, we are going to be crushed under the weight of it.” 

Jesus offers us everything we will ever need, but the way that happens is if we give up everything we ever wanted. That is the call of the cross. It looks like the worst bargain a person could experience, but it is in fact the single life transaction that leads to true prosperity and joy. 

Self-denial is the way to self-fulfillment. This is hard for us to understand, even harder to do, but is true. Being crucified with Christ is not about going through hardship. It is about choosing to give up control. And that is why it leads to life. Christ’s absolute lordship over our lives—pure, direct, powerful, unambiguous, sustained—is the only way our lives will be continually shaped by and filled by the grace and truth of Jesus. 

Malcolm Muggeridge, the British media personality and an adult convert to Christianity put it this way: “I can say that I never knew what joy was like until I gave up pursuing happiness, or cared to live until I chose to die. For these two discoveries I am beholden to Jesus.”

PONDER:  What parts of life are hardest for you to give up control over?

REFLECTION or DISCUSSION:
When people were sentenced to be crucified they carried their own crosses. Their focus shifted, and the little things no longer mattered. When we “take up our cross” we put our focus on the things that matter most to God. We desire to become more and more like him, and in that process, things that were once very important to us become less important as our call as his followers becomes more important. 

Read Luke 9:23-25. What are things that should be important to you if you want to be more like Jesus? What are things that might need to become less important to us as a family as we grow closer to God?
 
 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Endale's "Gotcha" Day

We have personal blogs on blogger (supersellerssix.blogspot.com /
longingforlilly.blogspot.com / apieceofhisplan.blogspot.com) but I
wanted to share this with the church - you all were such a huge part of
helping us get him home (see the last post of apieceofhisplan)... and
helping shape him since he has been home.

Thank you for all of your support!
Pastor Matt


Rescued for Love - Rescued to Love.

Today is St Patrick's Day.  Around the Sellers' house it is also "Gotcha" Day.  It is the day we celebrate "getting" Endale.  It has been one year since we walked into the transition house and picked up our son to hold him for the first time.  And what a year it has been.  Full of all sorts of fun and learning and most of all... CHANGE.

I look at ADOPTION and I see a picture of what God has done for us... and how He is changing us to be more like Him every day.

Ephesians 1:3-5 (ESV) - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

The entire first chapter of Ephesians [READ HERE] is amazing.  It gives me goosebumps when I read it.  It is only two (long) sentences long, but full of the love that God has for you and me.

I love where it says "IN LOVE he predestined us for ADOPTION."  Do you know what that means?

Listen to the way JI Packer explains it...
"Adoption is the highest privilege the gospel offers, arguably higher than salvation. Adoption is higher because of the relationship it involves with God. Salvation is wonderful, but it does not imply necessarily an intimate relationship. But in adoption, God doesn’t just save us, but He takes us into his family as children and heirs."

Our adoption as sons and daughters is just as amazing as our salvation.

God didn’t just redeem you from your sin. He adopted you into His family as His child. Many of us really struggle to feel God’s love for us. We hear and sing about it, but don’t really feel it. We don’t understand or feel the fullness of His love. Some of you don’t even think that God likes you, let alone loves you. Our view of God is that He walks around frustrated with us and tolerates us. Or that He just uses us for His purposes.

You will never fully feel the fullness and depth of God’s love until you understand the kind of love in which He loves you. It’s more than just a general love. It’s the kind of love that a dad has for his child.

If someone were to ask you, “How do you know that God loves you?” You would respond by quoting John 3:16 (ESV): “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

You would argue that God loves the whole world, and I’m in the world. Therefore He must love me. If that is the fullness of your understanding of how God loves you, then you do not fully understand the depth of how much He truly loves you.

The disciple John was talking about this kind of love. At first, he was just a disciple, but then something happened during the resurrection. He became a son. That truth blew his mind. He wasn’t just an apostle, someone God was using to expand the kingdom, but he was now a child of the Living God.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; (1 John 3:1a ESV)


The day my first son was born... my life changed.  My mindset changed.  My idea of a father's love changed.  My second son came along and everything changed even more.  My daughter's birth took me to a whole new level of a Father's Love.  The day we landed in Ethiopia was the beginning of something even more amazing.  I realized what ADOPTION really is.  And I have seen it play out over the last year.  I've seen God's love come full circle.  


In LOVE He adopted me.  His Love Rescued Me.  That love is changing me to be more like Him.  His Love rescued me to Love others.  A year ago, we went to Ethiopia to ADOPT a little boy whose life will ever be changed.  We have given up many things to make this life change happen (and I don't say that in a way to say "look at how holy we are" but instead look at what God is doing and what God has done - after all, He gave up HIS ONE AND ONLY SON to bring me into His family - so much more than the little earthly stuff I had to give up).  The most amazing part of all of this... I see in the video the life change that has taken place in Endale's life... but while making the video, I saw just how much that little guy has changed my life in the process.


RESCUED FOR LOVE - RESCUED TO LOVE.

ENDALE'S GOTCHA DAY - YouTube

Day 24 - Unimaginable

Luke 1:35 (ESV) - And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.

(READ LUKE 1)

When you think about unimaginable things that have happened, what comes to mind?The Twin Towers dissolving into mounds of dust and rubble? A young person getting an unexpected cancer diagnosis? An unexpected new opportunity? How do you react when you are faced with situations where you have no power or control?

Mary was a teenage girl greeted by an angel with unimaginable news of a divine intervention in her life. How might a young woman react at learning she was to be the mother of the Son of God?
Mary trusted God. She was ready to serve God even though it meant losing her reputation in her small hometown. She would be the subject of gossip wherever she went, but she was willing to put her dreams aside and forgo personal comfort to submit to God’s will. “I am the Lord’s Servant,” Mary answered, “May it be to me according to your word” (vs. 38).

Mary reached out to others for support and encouragement. She hurried to visit her trusted relatives who had also been visited by an angel from God. Elizabeth, who was well past child bearing years, was pregnant with the prophet, John, who would prepare the way for the coming Messiah. Through Elizabeth, God provided someone who could confirm Mary’s calling. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” (vs. 42).

Mary remembered God’s faithfulness. She belonged to the poor class, and, like others, was looking forward to the Messiah’s coming and the promise that the oppressed would be set free and injustices made right. She responded by singing of God’s faithfulness to her people, giving her confidence for the journey that was before her. “He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (vs. 51, 52).

What has happened in your life that was unimaginable or might have made you afraid? Is your relationship with God deep enough to help you reimagine his plan for you? Have you built relationships that will carry you through the difficult times? Will you sing of God’s faithfulness as you walk this path?

PONDER:  How will your faithfulness to God shine through when you are faced with the unimaginable? 

REFLECTION OR DISCUSSION
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Is that your job today? Sometimes we make great plans for our lives that have absolutely nothing to do with what God has in store for us. God had something completely unimaginable planned for Mary. Her story shows us that God can use us to make a huge difference.
Read Jeremiah 29:11.  Over the next few days, pay attention to all of the jobs you see around you. Notice the cashier at the store, the truck driver, the garbage man, the teachers, etc. How might God be using these jobs to make a difference? Pray about how God might use you to make a difference.