Pray for Our Nation – It’s the Best Response to the Election

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,  by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”   (Ephesians 2:14-16)

“For He himself is our peace!”  Are you feeling anxious or fearful about our nations future? As you watch the news do you wonder where we are going as a people? He Himself is our peace. The news is not our peace. Politics is not our peace. Advocacy groups is not our peace. Christ is our peace. Let the peace of Christ settle you no matter what you see on TV or on the internet.

You have to get this first. Without being at peace in Christ you won’t be able to spread the peace and be peace makers. Be at peace. He is our peace.

Once that is settled within your soul, it is vital for you to be peace makers. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,
 for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) It doesn’t say peace keepers but peace makers. Peace keepers blurs differences. Peace makers sees the differences but knows that we are more in common than we are different. Peace keepers tries to get people to temporarily set aside their differences and peace makers brings people together for prayer and conversation so that we struggle together to understand one another and demonstrate the love of God towards one another which is expressed in these ways, according to the Apostle Paul: 

 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right

Our “New Vision”

Change is hard to accept for some reason. Even though we live in a world of change, people do not like change. I remember my daughter, Ariel, weeping in response to me shaving my mustache off. Her response taught me something about human beings. Most of us do not like change. Change throws us off.

The same is true of church members. I remember consoling a member of another church who asked, “Why do Pastors feel the need to come in and change everything.”  They had just welcomed a new Pastor to their church. He had been there for six months and was advocating several changes. He wasn’t changing everything. But he was making his mark on the ministry. She interpreted it as “changing everything,” which highlighted something I knew about people, even church members: People do not like change.

Perception does not always fit reality. I know people tend to view “new visions” as something utterly new and disconnected with the past. The reality is our new vision is very much like our original vision. It is simply a progression from our former vision. The seeds of our current vision were planted by our original vision and in several ways:

  1. They are similar in their motivation.

The original vision was in response to church decline. The new vision is in response to church decline. The Chinese church in America planted new churches  to respond to the losses experienced by Chinese churches who offered bilingual worship services to members who wanted English-only services. Our new vision was a response to losses to new churches that were diverse. Our young people are looking for churches who help them live their lives and their lives are lived out within a very diverse context.

      2. They are similar in their purpose.

Journey was founded by a missionary, Pastor Wayland Wong. Missionaries are all about the Gospel. Journey has always been a Gospel driven church. The only thing that is new to our vision is to make the nest step and that is to not only be saved by the Gospel but to also be shaped by the Gospel, It’s something that the Apostle Paul encouraged the Galatian church to do. They, like us, viewed the Christian life as their responsibility. It’s something they did. Paul corrected their understanding. He said:

Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are

Just being the Church

One of the misunderstandings people have had about our “new” vision is that it’s socially driven. The confusion was the result of using terms like multi-ethnic and diverse. People equate multi-ethnic with multiculturalism. Not a few have experienced sensitivity training at their workplaces which seems to be all about not offending anyone and not so much about creating community. Multiculturalism has led to quotas, busing, and unfair hiring practices where ethnicity was the determining factor for employment (or entrance into school) and not qualifications. This has led to a reverse discrimination within our culture and increased racial resentment.  It’s come to point that any offense is referred to as a “micro-aggression.” People are afraid to say anything in fear of making a  verbal mistake and being labeled a bigot of some form.

Our vision is far from a forced and contrived social agenda. The culture does not set the vision for the Church. God does. Jesus is the Head of the church (Colossians 1:8) The “head” gives direction to the body. It also sends signals from the brain to the rest of body to act.  Jesus is that for the church. He gives us direction and sends signals to the church concerning its next steps towards God’s vision.

The vision statement and the four practices that are an expression of our vision are theologically driven, not socially driven. They come from God himself. Jesus’ ministry was directed by the same vision and expressed through the same practices. They are simply the church being the church. They are the norm for the church. They are long held beliefs and practices that the church has done historically. They are not new or strange.

Let’s look at them one by one:

Gospel Centered: “We are saved by grace and to be shaped by grace

 “The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.”    Mark 1:15

“And the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world…and then the end will come.”  Matthew 24:14

The word “gospel” means “good news.” The Gospel was Jesus’ core message.

What is the Gospel?  The Gospel is this:  Jesus came to give us the good news that God has come in human flesh to sacrifice himself on the cross to pay for our sins so we could be in a right relationship with him, receive the Holy Spirit and …

Perfectionism

Here’s the video I promised. I showed the mini-movie on June 26th. It’s powerful. I edited the original film.  This version contains a short opening and the credits. It is the best portrayal of the drive for perfection, where it comes from, its negative effects upon a person and what to do about it.

 

RevelationThe Book of Revelation                            June 5 – August 14th

You don’t want to miss this elective.  People have a lot of questions about the future. Many film makers are diving in the topic with varying takes on the future. In fact this Memorial Weekend another X-men movie is being released and the subtitle?  Apocalypse!

Most films present a pretty bleak outlook on to the future.  What does the Bible say about the end?  Is the end bleak and as dark as current filmmakers foresee.  The answers to these questions and others  are locked within the Book of Revelation!  The problem is the book is written in code. To answer these questions you need to know the book is written in code and you need to know how to decipher that code – which we will,  It’s been decoded for a long time but that information has not been passed down very well. 

Come and discover how to crack the code and then learn the powerful message this book brings to the Church. The message is universal, timeless and much needed today!     

To register for the elective email me:  pastorrichard@JourneyEC.org and note which time – 9:15am or 12:15pm. The elective and participant’s guide is free!  The community is welcome as well and inviting friends is always encouraged!!

Walking with God through Pain & Suffering – Coming Up This Sunday!

pain and suffering copy

The pain and trials we go through are bad enough. The event itself can do incredible damage. What we need is help. Someone to join us in out sorrows and share in them. Having someone there with us is so helpful, usually but not always. Sometimes while meaning to comfort us people can say some of the most hurtful things, deepening our pain. I’ve heard people say to parents who lost a child:  “You know God wanted a beautiful flower for His garden so He picked yours!” 

Poor theology spoken form the mouth of a shallow Christian can do as much damage as the event itself.  Fortunately I was able to offer the parents the truth:  “Our God is the creator. If he wanted a flower for his garden he would create one. He would never take your child!”  Death, pain, tears, loss these are all enemies of God.  He is working now to eliminate them from planet earth and one day they will be. (See Revelation 7:17 and chapter 21) In the Midwest tragedy was explained as “not having enough faith” or the result of “making a wrong confession.” “If you believe you will receive.”  If you didn’t. If you had a slight shade of doubt due to momentary weakness you lowered your hedge of protection and allowed the enemy in.  What garbage! Sometimes we can be miserable counselors – like Job’s friends!  Better to stay silent than add to people’s pain when they are hurting.

So why do we suffer? That’s the focus for this week. I mentioned a few of the reasons the three Hebrew guys suffered: the result of a King misusing his authority and position, the passing of a flawed law that was not well thought out (The law of unintended consequences), the silence of the majority, the passivity of God’s people, the pressures brought to bear on people of faith by pluralistic cultures, and Israel’s exile due to the sin of idolatry. Not sure these are reasons but the events that put these guys into a tough situation. One thing is certain, they were innocent sufferers. They did nothing to deserve the furnace they got. The same is true for many of us. 

So why then are we going through the furnace? Is the furnace a friend of God that he taps to teach us a lesson? Is it possible to identify all the …

Pain & Suffering Week 1 Facing the Furnace

pain and suffering copyJesus told us, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) He was right. Suffering is a part of our fallen, broken world. Often we bring trouble on ourselves through foolish choices made out of desperation or naivety. But not always. People die from jumping off cliffs but sometimes the cliffs come down in an avalanche and wipe away innocent people. Others are deeply wounded by people who misuse their freedom and do awful things to others. History is rife with examples of humanity’s inhumanity toward one another.

What do we do with the scars we carry with us? It doesn’t really matter how the scars got there does it. They are there nonetheless. Knowing why won’t take them away.  They are there. So what do we do with them?  The answer is:  Cry out to God!  Turn to God with your pain and sorry, your questions and agony, and ask Him to redeem them. Evil meant them to destroy you but God can turn your scars to star – things that glorify Him and what glorifies God is to see HIs children made whole. It’s God’s desire to “wipe every tear from your eye.” (Revelation 7:17) It’s God’s plan to take evil’s intentions and turn them back on itself so your pain and suffering accomplishes the opposite evil had intended it for.  Your healing will be so thorough that one day you will no longer remember the pain and sorrow. Their memory will seem like but a dream, a momentary nightmare from which you will awaken in great relief to the glory you will experience in Christ.  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

We all have experienced varying levels of pain, some light but others beyond imagination. We bear it and nothing will change that. The experience can make you bitter and endlessly wound you or you can invite God into your wounds and let Him carry them with you as He heals your memory, your body, your very soul and turns them into redemptive forces. Let Him!

Pastor Richard…

“There is no intimacy without finalities”

Someone asked after service:  “In a relationship, don’t the parties involved have to adapt to each other?” I said, “Yes.”  The personWho's Afraid of Doctrine responded, “All I heard was about how we had to adapt to God’s finalities. Sounded like we have to give in to God all the time and He doesn’t have to change at all. How fair is that?”

That’s a good question!  You are right.  In an intimate relation, like a marriage, both parties have to give and take and adapt to each other.  But hasn’t God indeed adapted to us already? Didn’t He leave His home, put on our humanity, and live among the squalor we call earth? Didn’t he adapt his language to our language and speak to us in ways we can understand? Moreover, didn’t he adapt His sinless life to our sinful life, taking our sin upon Himself? Dsidn’t He die the death we should have died so we could live the life we should have lived but didn’t? 

Furthermore, if we believe that God has put His Spirit in us, then doesn’t that mean wherever we go He goes with us?  Think of all the places you have dragged God?  Some places I know he didn’t mind but I’m sure there were also places He did mind, even shuttered at because it was so contrary to His nature. And didn’t you hear Him whisper to you:  “You shouldn’t be here!”  “Come on let’s get out of here!” or perhaps he said, “I don’t want to see that!”  “Please don’t respond that way!” And yet we dragged Him to those places whether He wanted to go or not, and as a good spouse He patiently put up with us, prodding us to better places, better sites, better responses.

So yes God has adapted to us! More than we will ever know.  And like a good spouse he pulls us to healthier choices and better decisions. Yet despite what we actually do, he remains faithful to us. He never leaves us or forsakes us no matter how much muck and mire we drag Him into.  He will not let us go because He loves us.  God has adapted to us and He adapts to us everyday. But are you adapting to Him with the same grace and faithfulness? And are you responding to His tug on your arm and heart:  “Let’s go over here. This …

Final Message on Doctrine!  The Week:  The Lordship of Jesus Christ!

You’ll hear this phrase often in Churches:  “Jesus is Lord!”  But what does it mean?  What claim does Jesus have on our lives and what is its extent?  TPRhis is important because our culture continually plummets with messages like:  “Be your own person!”  “Don’t let anyone or any religion tell you what you should think, believe or do. You decide what is right and wrong for you.”  “You are the Captain of your ship.” “There is no absolute truth. Trust is whatever works for you.” 

In theological circles the conversation is a bit different.  In seminaries across our count you’ll hear: “The Holy Spirit is speaking a new Word.” ‘That was Paul!  Paul was a racist, sexist, homophobe who let his culture influence his theology.”  “We need to progress past the Apostles and Jesus. We can’t let the Church become stuck in the 1st century. God is unveiling new truth. Revelation is progressive and new light is shining and we need to move forward.”

So what are we to do?  It’s clear Christians are confused and being influenced by the world because according to all leading moral and social indicators followers of Jesus are just as likely to divorce, have an affair,  be driven by the need to achieve, give money and its acquisition too much influence over their lives, have sex before marriage, view pornography, and give 2% of their income to charity (or Church). Is there a disconnect between what we say we believe and how we live?  Is faith in Jesus a category of my life, something relegated to Sunday or does Jesus want more or deserve more?  Who exactly is He anyway?

We will look at all of this on Sunday!

Pastor Richard…