Disciples making disciples
Watched the news a lot? Looked at Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to see what others are thinking? Read your Bible more? Surfed the Internet for more information? Read more books or new magazine? Or maybe added a new Blogger or Podcaster that really gets it?
One of the harshest difficulties of this situation is not just that there’s an incredible avalanche of data and opinions about it, but that somehow we just can’t stop ourselves from looking for it. Not only are there endless sources of information, but Corona has us considering (and arguing about) everything from healthcare to politics, childhood trauma to social shaming, victims to heroes, what God is saying to what Satan is doing... and, to add to the mess, the contradictions multiply with each fresh news cycle and every passing day. Thus, the growing data bank, instead of clarifying, seems to ends up only adding to our confusion. And frustration.
Perhaps the willingness to overload ourselves with information speaks to something deeper than a quest for understanding? Maybe somewhere in the searching, even while obviously not finding, we hope deep down inside we might stumble onto the foundations of our new “normal.” And, even as we quest, we find ourselves growing ever more uneasy, as the data only adds to the gnawing sense that “normal” is quite likely still a long ways off... or worse?
I wonder who it was that first recognized the grim reality that the more things change, the more things stay the same? They didn’t need to be a genius to see it, but clever enough to recognize the irony of our cyclical ways. Old Solomon wasn’t probably the first, but he wrote a whole book of the Bible about it. We call it Ecclesiastes, and in it we find comfort and insight as well as things disconcerting and even startling, for unlike the God-inspired wisdom of Proverbs, the wisdom of Ecclesiastes was learned the Hard Way. Much of Solomon’s Ecclesiastes insight is the result of seeking after insight in just about every wrong place and practice imaginable. He tried it all. Ignored the wisdom he was known for. Ruined his life. Destroyed his family. Even fractured his kingdom.
While Ecclesiastes in not a particularly pleasant read, Solomon’s late-in-life conclusions have him circling back to this basic understanding: God is creator, His ways are the only true way, and If you’re confused about life, stay close to His direction. James, warning us that we’re inclined to double-mindedness -- trying to live out two contradicting ideas at the same time -- when we get into hard times. His solution is beautiful and simple:
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Where are we going? Father knows and is just waiting to shower you with wisdom! Start with Him and His word. All you need to do is ask!
Another Sunday of “Stay at Home” for all of us, hard to believe how long it’s been going on... and how we’re getting familiar with it. As we’ve talked back and forth, taken phone calls, texted, e-mailed, and even had the surprise of running into each other somewhere this past few weeks, the sentiment is loud and clear: We sure miss seeing each other! How we’ve taken for granted coming together in every setting without a second thought... now it’s precious. This, too, will pass.
While we wait, pray this blessing over one another as Paul wrote to his beloved friends in Thessalonica:
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the
Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish
your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
The Communion Project
For the past several weeks, we’ve included a time to take communion together at the end of each of the Sunday morning LiveStreams on Facebook. We’ve been encouraging you to prepare communion in advance so we’re taking it together; as much as is possible. This past week, we were sent a picture of one of our families had prepared communion setup. It was elegant and simple; just perfect. That got us to thinking how great it would be if we could get a bunch of pictures like that to share around! So, if you’d be willing, would you snap a photo of your communion and send it to the church e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to Dean’s phone (503/812-2991) and we’ll get them posted next weekend!
Praise & Worship Music at 9:40am
The Turpens have graciously offered to lead Praise & Worship on a LiveStream from their home again tomorrow! How grateful we are (make sure you let ‘em know!) Hit this link (FCC Facebook LiveStream) a few minutes early to get to the FCC Facebook page!
Message & Communion at 10:00am
We’ve been asked many times lately about whether our current world situation has any connection with the Last Days often discussed in the Bible. As things have been for most of our lives, the question of Last Days can seem rather abstract, but it comes right to the front when we experience life-changing disruptions and see unprecedented events taking place on a global scale. Get your Bible out and tune in for the next few Sundays; let’s see what we can see.
Dean & the Staff
Someone might suggest that God made us more adaptable than we might think. It’s been just over a month since the “stay at home” orders were issued and the cultural dominoes began to fall. I think about how every move seemed monumental, every new policy change jolted our sense of security, and how every day seemed strange and surreal, a scramble to try to make sense of all that was coming at us. That was only about 35 days ago.
Nowhere near normal, it’s still a wonder to me how the sense of loss is becoming more accepted and less shocking in a relatively short amount of time. It feels a bit like we’ve hit a plateau on our journey to whatever normal will be like somewhere in the future, even while we acknowledge we’re still far away from resolution. And the unanswered questions mount.
Mistrust comes easily. Hard times have that effect on us. Suspicion lingers about those who would endeavor to exploit fellow citizens in the midst of this situation. Frustrations boil over into outrage as we sense the vulnerability of our social and economic situations. Finger-pointing and blame-shifting grow daily as leaders trudge through the ever-changing landscape of statistics, decision-making and public blowback. Plateau? Perhaps. But far from settled.
While the plateau provides a sense of respite, at the core the same internal stressors remain. Deep inside we know: We’re only one public announcement, one unsettling policy change, or even something as simple as one harsh situation in the parking lot of the grocery store away from the temptation of dread and anxiety we felt just a few weeks ago. Fear cripples us. It muddles our thoughts. And it makes circumstances our master.
The Bible uses this interesting imagery throughout it’s pages: It describes virtue and character as something we “put on” in advance of circumstances. Our feeling-driven hearts pardon our negative emotional state by suggesting that we’re only victims of fate, excusing our damaged condition as unavoidable because of what we’re facing. But Father, always intensely realistic about His children, knows all of this and offers not only grace and mercy when we’re overwhelmed, but offers healing and strength to prepare for uncertainties ahead. I love the way Paul put it in his opening words to the folks in the town of Ephesus, following the description of our messed up human situation with two simple words, “But God...!”
Ephesians 1:4-7 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead
in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ -- by grace you have been saved -- and raised us up with him and
seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable
riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Indeed! There is no situation for which He hasn’t already prepared mercy and strength. He knew before it happened. He knows as it’s happening. And He knows where to take from there.
Blessings and peace again this day!
Waking up early (or in the middle of the night) has been a part of my life for many years now. While I sometimes still fight it, wander around the house, or look at Facebook, I’ve also had some pretty rewarding time with Father. I get out my Bible or tell Him about my frustrations; even listen a bit.
So it was this past Saturday morning, sitting in my favorite chair, venting to Father about our current situation and the mounting sense that I wasn’t up to the weight of tasks that seemed to be piling up around us. As I got it all out and began to rest my mouth, His peace began to settle in and the Holy Spirit impressed me with a simple message: This time we’re living in isn’t about survival, it’s about moving ahead; about recognizing that, as the needs grow, my ‘reserves’ are being quickly tapped out. Self-sufficiency in my life, at least, is being exposed for the fraud that it is.
If you were here during our journey through John’s account of Jesus and his subsequent letters, you remember we spent a lot of time exploring what Jesus meant by “abiding”. We looked at the meaning of the words; about Father being real and present, of Father ‘pitching his tent’ right next to ours, and of walking together inseparable. We saw that Jesus said of himself that he couldn’t speak or take action unless Father directed him through the Holy Spirit. As we prepared those messages, I prayed hard that this idea of ‘abiding’ wouldn’t be perceived as some spiritual abstraction, but rather a very real and practical way of living.
And here I was, early last Saturday, realizing that I had been doing that very thing: Trying to walk through some of the most unfamiliar season in my lifetime, sensing the empty tank, somehow imagining I’d be able to press on without Father’s refreshing.
Self-delusion isn’t pretty... but I’m the only one, right?
As I was mulling all of this over the phone with our friend, Leonard Lee, this morning, he said the same, but with more clarity: If ever there was a time when God’s children needed to discover how to feed their own souls and deepen their dependence on Father, it is now. But, not satisfied with just observing, Leonard took it one step better; he offered to help! This is the coolest!
Tomorrow evening, Tuesday, April 7, from 6:30-7:30, Leonard, through his ministry called 4Gen Network, is teaching a one-hour Webinar equipping you to make your time in the Bible come alive as the cornerstone of your relationship with Father. Entitled, “Developing A Deeper Connection With God Through His Word”, 4Gen is offering this at no charge to any disciple who has that gnawing desire for their time spent in the Bible to come alive. Leonard’s style is so easy that I’d recommend this for your kids, as well. All you need is a computer with speakers. Register online at https://www.4-gen.net/onlineclass and 4Gen will send you an e-mail with how to get connected.
Blessings and peace again this day!
700 years before the coming of Christ, the old prophet Isaiah, prophet and preacher at God’s temple in Jerusalem for decades wrote the words of God prolifically on a variety of subjects. Isaiah is perhaps best known for several of our most important prophecies about Jesus -- His coming, His Kingdom and even His suffering on the cross -- but Isaiah’s primary message for the people of his day was the inevitability of the very hard times ahead. But it wasn’t all hard, for interspersed in his warnings and admonitions are many profound words describing God’s tender love and promises of protection for His people.
When our friend Ty texted these words to me early this morning, I was drawn again to the depth of Father’s love and mercy toward his children; especially when they are in distress. These words are timeless, touching generations of God’s people since they were written. Let them seep down in your bones as you read; rooting deep, bolstering your trust:
Isaiah 43:1-3 1 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed
you; have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they
shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the
Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Never forget: Father loves you more than you know!
What are the plans for Resurrection Weekend (aka: Easter)?!
Our present circumstances may affect the details, but the celebration will go on!
Good Friday, Friday, April 10 - Coming from the FCC auditorium, the First Christian Church Facebook LiveStream begins at 7:00pm. We’ll be doing it by candlelight and take about a half-hour to remember and reflect on Jesus’ willing sacrifice on the cross. At the end, Doug will be leading us in communion. If you choose to, perhaps light candles at home and prepare communion (bread and juice) for yourself prior to the start.
24 Hour Prayer Relay, April 10-11 - Who would have suspected this time last year how, when we changed to format of our annual Resurrection Prayer from building-based to house-to-house, it would be so perfectly suited for this year!? The plan is simple: We’re joining together in a ‘relay’ of sorts, each of us praying from home to create a non-stop 24 hour time of prayer, ½ hour at a time! From 9:00pm on Friday, April 10, to 9:00pm, Saturday the 11th, we’re asking everyone at FCC, young and old, if they will commit to pray through at least one ½ hour during that time period. (Don’t let the amount of time intimidate you, we’re helping by providing a step-by-step guide. We think you’ll be surprised at how quickly the time will pass!) So, start by picking a time (or times) that best suits you. While we’ll take whenever you are available, look at the middle of the night and the middle of the day on Saturday, as these will be the hardest to cover! We’re keeping the master list in the church office, so please send us an e-mail, text us or give us a call leave a message and we’ll put you down!
Resurrection Morning, April 12 - Not all of our plans have jelled yet, but we’ll be enjoying an extended bit of music starting at 9:40am followed by the message at 10:00am, all on the Facebook page. We’ll publish the particulars early next week as well as a reproducible e-mail that you can forward to friends and family, wherever they may be, who may want to join us that morning. We will be taking communion again at the conclusion, as we will continue to do each Sunday, so you can prepare for yourself (and those in your house) before we begin.
So grateful to be a part of this family!
Dean & the Staff
Working through the process of being the man Jesus intentioned for me... while we work through the process of becoming the church Jesus intentioned for us to be