The People He Met

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I have always had a fascination with the stories of the Bible. I love how God worked through very powerful situations in the lives of the people of history. When I was young (and I must admit that I still do this even today) I would imagine myself in the position of David as he was facing down Goliath with only a sling and a stone. I would wonder how someone like Daniel could have such faith when he was tossed into the lion’s den simply for praying. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to live on a boat with all of the animals for over 6 months while the entire world was flooded. I would sit there and be amazed at the people who lived through the Bible and marvel at their levels of faith, strength, perseverance, and relationship with God Himself. 

But the more and more I studied the Bible I began to wonder if these people really were that different from me? And if they really were that much more faithful or powerful than I was, why wouldn’t God choose me to experience Him like this? I think that many of us have questioned whether or not the people mentioned in Scripture were really like us? I believe that when we examine the characters of Scripture, they really aren’t that different than we are. They had the same struggles, same insecurities, same issues with living out faith, and even the same fears. 

Our next message series is entitled, “The People He Met.” Over the next two months we’re going to examine the lives of people that are illustrated in the gospels who came from different backgrounds and how Jesus interacted with them. It is through these interactions where we see Jesus minister and teach not only to the characters, but He’s also speaking to us—to those who need refreshment and encouragement. 

What does Jesus long for you to hear? A message of healing or faith? A message of hope or perseverance? A message of conviction and repentance? No matter the reason, my prayer is that you’ll seek Him and be ready to hear. 

Lake Champion

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”  (English Standard Version, Colossians 1:28) 

This year in youth group we are trying something different for our retreat. Instead of attending a winter retreat, we are attending a Spring Retreat (April 5th to 7th) for 6th to 12th-grade students. It is at Lake Champion which is in Glen Spey, NY. I am very excited for our teens to attend this event. Here is why: 

1. The retreat will have a fantastic speaker, Ken Castor, a professor at Crown College (Pastor Adam received his master’s at Crown) who has a passion for seeing the teenagers on fire for Christ. I have heard only great things about him, and of course, he is Alliance☺ He engages the students with Biblical Principles and then leaves time for the youth leaders to join with the students in a group setting. 

2. We will participate with many young people from the Alliance Metro District. It will give our students a chance to see & interact with like-minded believers of the same generation. 

3. Our students will enjoy worshipping our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King with a fantastic band. 

4. There are many things for the students to participate in during free time: basketball, frisbee, soccer, dodgeball, sand volleyball, climb the rock wall, hang out in an enormous game room, snack bar, ride the giant swing (that thing is awesome looking!), high ropes course, and weather permitting zip line into the lake. 

Thank you in advance for supporting the next generation. I ask for your support in two ways. One that you pray for us as we take this trip, that God will raise this generation to be fully mature in Christ and to “do more for Jesus than what has been done in the last 100 years.” (Dan Boal). Secondly, that you support the teenagers by attending the Spaghetti Dinner this Saturday. March 2. Not only does this raise funds to help some of the teenagers attend events like Lake Champion, but also it gives you a chance to meet some of them as they serve you during the dinner. 

Thank you for your love and care for this generation. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21) 

True Love

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One of my favorite movies is “The Princess Bride”. Some of you might remember that film. If you’re not familiar with the story, it is about a young woman who falls in love with her farm boy. He left to go find other work because he needed to save up to be married but was taken captive by a pirate. Years pass by and she’s engaged to marry the prince, who really isn’t a nice guy. But then Wesley, the farm boy, returns. And then the movie picks up. We arrive at the wedding scene, and one of the most memorable scenes depicts an elderly bishop performing the wedding. 

 While he utters the words “marriage” with a bit of a speech impediment (causing everyone in the household to laugh), the words that are spoken are transformational. He speaks of true love as being of the utmost pursuit; following them wherever they go. 

February is the month when we celebrate love. But it also causes others to ask the question of whether true love really exists! While I’m a huge proponent of love between human beings, I want to direct our discussion to this thought—do we have a true love for God? This is something that is still hotly debated in both Christian and secular circles. 

What does it look like to truly love God? While there are countless ways to show love to God, let me focus on 3 ways we can truly love God 

  • In Our Deepening Relationship with Him—is God your first priority? Do you desire Him more and more; wanting to know Him more and grow in Him? God created us in order to have a deep relationship with us and His intention is for us to respond with a desire for a deep relationship with Him. 

  • In Our Obedience of Him—Scripture tells us that we can tell those who love God by those who obey Him (John 14:15, 23). Do you? 

  • In Our Desire to Serve Him—If we love Him, we will want others to have the same relationship with God as we do. We will share with others the deep love God has for us and work to complete His Kingdom work. 

    These are just a few of the ways we show love to God.

Life 2019: Pray for Us

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This month I wanted to go over ways that you can specifically pray for our Life trip in July. Before that, I want to take a moment to sincerely thank you for investing in this generation and believing that God will use them now and in the years to come to glorify God’s Kingdom. Your love and care for the teenagers are evident as I have seen your support flow in, and it touches me to see some of you praying for the teenagers. Thank You! 

Here are five specific ways to pray for the teenagers going to Life Conference this year: 

1. God would work in them and through them, and that they will have an open heart and mind to what God shows them (Psalm 119:18). 

2. Pray that God will provide youth leaders (myself and another adult) many opportunities to build meaningful relationships with the teenagers as we live life with them for a week. Specifically, for “discipleship” moments where we can relate God’s Word to their lives, challenging them to grow. 

3. We will talk about prayer at the Life Conference, and this is a chance for them to “go deeper into the life we have in and with Jesus”. Please pray that they will go deeper! 

4. During the week we will get to display Christ’s love with a large body of student believers by serving the Central Florida area. Pray that as we talk about serving and as we serve there that it will ignite a desire for them to become servants for Christ in our church and to be “salt and light” in their communities when they come back home. 

5. Another topic at LIFE is "Justice." There will be a hands-on experience where they will learn about slavery issues, both locally and globally. They will not just learn about it but will know what God is calling them to do about it, (Hebrews 13:3). Ask for God to show them precisely how He wants to use them in the world as they learn about "justice." 

Thank you for your investment and for spending much time in prayer for this trip. “Now to him who can do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (English Standard Version, Ephesians 3:20-21). 

The Pursuit

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Happy New Year! It’s hard for me to believe that 2019 is here! It seems like yesterday when everyone was warning me that the computers would “explode” because of Y2K (do you remember this??). The coming of a new year brings us the opportunity to do a couple of things. First, we get to take a look back at the previous year and reflect on the blessings, struggles, and changes we went through. But with the coming of the new year there is a freshness and newness of the hope for a better year. One of the ways we look to get the new year off to a great start is to set a New Year’s Resolution—a decision we make to implement a new behavior or to pursue a new goal. I believe that setting New Year’s Resolutions is a good thing because we need something to shoot for and a goal to accomplish. The hope of the New Year is invigorating. 

There seem to be some “standard” resolutions that people tend to pursue—lose weight, get out of debt, read a book a month, get in better shape, etc. We pursue these resolutions by buying a gym membership or attending a financial seminar. When we start, we are so resolved to make these changes that we are consumed with them. 

While these resolutions are good, I do notice that they all have one thing in common—they are temporary goals. We can get into the best shape of our lives, but that will end. We can get into amazing financial shape, but as the Scriptures tell us, we can’t take it with us. Is there a resolution that will pay off with eternal benefits? Yes, there is! 

As we begin the New Year as a church family, we’re going to talk about what it looks like to pursue God. For many of us, this subject is one that raises some questions because we might not have considered this before. Are we supposed to pursue God? The answer to this is a resounding YES! In fact, Paul expresses this heart passionately in Philippians 3:10-11 where he says, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” When Paul says he wants to know Jesus, this isn’t merely an understanding of facts, rather an all-encompassing experience of communion with our Savior. Paul desired Jesus so much that this was his daily pursuit. I long for each and every one of you to have the same passion and desire to be with Jesus that nothing else can ever begin to rival our pursuit of Him. 

We are going to have 2 opportunities to learn what it means to pursue God. First, we are going to spend the message times in our morning services in January discussing “The Pursuit”. We’re going to speak on what pursuing God looks like and give some steps on how to do it so that you can take those and put them into practice. Second, I’m going to be leading a Sunday evening study on “The Pursuit of God” by A.W. Tozer. This will be a 10-week study that will take us even deeper into what pursuing God looks like. 

Friends, God pursues us and desires us to pursue Him. Like any other resolution, do you want this? What are you willing to do to see this happen? If you set your heart out to grow in your pursuit of God, I guarantee it will transform your life in such a positive way. I pray that you will choose to immerse yourself in life’s grandest pursuit—seeking the True Lover of your soul.  

Gifts After Christmas

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I don't know about you guys, but it's hard to think about Christmas and not think about gifts. Some of us love to receive and can't wait to get the toy, video game, tools, new car, motorcycle or whatever we have wanted for ourselves. Some of us like to give gifts and to see the joy of the person receiving them. 

Since you are reading this, and Christmas is over and now that we are in a New Year, I want you to remember that receiving and giving gifts does not end at Christmas. 

I want to tell you a story today that has to do with receiving a gift but also about giving a gift. This story is actually in the Old Testament and I am writing it in the first person (telling the story as if I was one of the participants in the story). You can find this story in Joshua 2 and 6:24-25. 

I was one of the spies that Joshua sent into Jericho and we were getting ready to make our way into the Promiseland. 

Joshua only sent two of us to spy on Jericho. We got to the city, and we decide to lodge with a prostitute named Rahab. It may sound crazy to have chosen such a place to stay, but we felt that this would be an inconspicuous place, meaning we wouldn't stand out by visiting there as opposed to another location. 

While we were there, someone told the king of Jericho that we were hanging out at Rahab's place! So, the king sent to Rahab saying, "Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have to come to search out all the land." Oh man! I thought that I was a roasted duck on Christmas day! Even though she had hidden us I didn't think that a prostitute would care enough about us, especially if it involved her well-being. But she didn't turn us in; instead, she hid us and told the king, "True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them." 

The king's men believed her and began to pursue. Once we were safe from the pursuers, Rahab came to us and said that she had heard about our God. She had heard of His amazing wonders in Egypt, how God dried up the water in the Red Sea and how God allowed us to overcome the Amorite kingdom. She then confessed that "the LORD your God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath." 

After her confession of faith to us which the Bible speaks about in Hebrews 11:31 and in James 2:25, she had a request for us. Since she had given us a gift by not handing us over to the king of Jericho, she wanted us to give a gift in return. She wanted us to spare her and her family whenever Israel conquered Jericho. We agreed that we would save her and her family. 

She then let us down by a red rope out of her window. Her house was part of the city wall, and since the gate was locked, we climbed through her window with this red rope. She was to leave this rope out of her window when Israel attacked Jericho, so they knew which home not to destroy. 

Later on, when we did overcome Jericho, as God commanded, we utterly destroyed everything in it except for the metals which were placed in the treasury of the House of the LORD. Because of Rahab's faith in our GOD, she and her family were given the gift of life. They were spared, and they have a place in our heritage. 

Rahab lived in Jericho. Could you imagine what she must have seen the day Israel conquered this city? The livestock, all the people and complete and utter destruction of the homes that were in that city. Rahab, a prostitute, and her family were the only ones spared from this total destruction! But why? Was it because of her works or what she had done in life? No! She was a prostitute. It was because of her faith that she was given the gift of Grace. 

You and I have this same gift offered to us. God's Word tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, not of yourselves it is a gift of God, so that no one may boast." 

There are two things I want you to remember from this story. 

First of all, we have a choice to make just like Rahab did. We can either chose to have faith in Jesus (John 3:16) and have Eternal life, or we can choose not to believe in Jesus and face utter destruction which includes Hell and the torments of Hell like the citizens of Jericho. 

Have you accepted this gift that God has offered you? 

Secondly, share this gift not only at Christmas or Birthdays but as much as you can tell others about it. If you have accepted this gift, are you telling your friends and family about it? Because, just like the citizens of Jericho, the people we love, know and meet will face utter destruction if they do not believe in Jesus. Pray for God to give you open doors to share your faith in Christ and be amazed as He does just that! 

A Message of Hope

“What is the meaning of Christmas?” is a question that people have been trying to answer for centuries. For some, Christmas is just a commercial racket that companies use to gain wealth. For others, Christmas means giving and charity and thinking of your fellow man. While others believe that Christmas is all about family and love. What do you think? Would any of these conclusions define the true meaning of Christmas for you? 

While I believe that many of the above conclusions are good and should be included in our merrymaking during the Christmas season, I don’t believe that they capture the true meaning of Christmas. In fact, I believe that any of the above conclusions about Christmas are incomplete because they cannot complete a person. I see that the meaning of Christmas is a message of hope—a hope that through the person and ministry of Jesus Christ, we can have the assurance of a relationship with Jesus and the hope of life everlasting with Him! 

Our Advent Message series this year is entitled “Humble Beginnings.” What we want to bring our focus to is that out of the must humble beginnings of Christ’s birth, the message of hope would be ensured through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and 2nd Coming! We are going to see this illustrated for us in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah draws our focus to a people who were far from God, not wanting to hear from Him despite God’s many warnings. And yet, there is a powerful message of hope in Jesus proclaimed as we read the words, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This message of hope has the power to transform lives, bring healing to a weary soul, and give hope that no matter our circumstances, Jesus can rescue and restore. 

Christmas is a time when many are open to hearing about the true meaning of Christmas that is found in Jesus. Who has God placed on your heart to share the hope of Christmas with? Who has He led you to invite to our Christmas celebration, services, Living Nativity, or Christmas Eve services? Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to share the hope of Jesus with people. We have the message of hope—let’s join the angelic choir as we proclaim the amazing message that Jesus Christ is born! 

Thankfulness

"Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!" Psalm 106:1 ESV 

I have been considering what it means to be thankful, these last few days. Maybe, it is because Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner as I write this? I was reading an old story that someone had sent me on thankfulness, and I want to share it with you. I don't know who originally wrote this story, but it was not me. 

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There was a woman at work and while she is working she receives a phone call from the babysitter saying, "your daughter is sick with a fever." The woman leaves immediately stopping at the pharmacy to pick up medicine for her child. She goes back to her car and realizes that she is locked out! At this time, she begins to panic and calls the babysitter. The babysitter tells her to please hurry because her child is getting worse and gives her the advice to look for a metal coat hanger, so she can pick her car. The lady in a panic begins to look for a hanger and finds an old rusty one in the parking lot. 

She looks at the hanger and thinks, "I have no idea on how to use this thing?" And she begins to pray for God to deliver someone to help her in this time of crisis. All of a sudden, an old rusty car pulls up with a dirty, greasy old man wearing a skull cap. The woman is thinking, "God, this is who you sent to help me?" But yet she was so desperate that she was still very thankful. 

She explains her situation to the man, that her daughter is very sick and that she needs to get to her as soon as possible; however, she locked her keys in the car. 

In less than one minute the man had her car unlocked. The woman hugs him and while she is crying says, "you’re a very nice man." The man replies to her, "lady, I'm not a nice man I just got out of prison yesterday for car theft." The woman hugs the man again and with tears in her eyes says, "Oh Thank you, God! You even sent me a professional!" 

This fun story reminds me of what Paul tells the Philippian believers. He tells them to pray about everything, just like this woman stopped to pray for help. Paul also tells us to be thankful in our prayers. Just like the woman in this story was grateful for any help, regardless of who, it was and once she had received the support was even more thankful. 

Are we thankful for God sending His one and only Son to us this Season? Are we grateful that we can be called His Children? And do we appreciate that He has given us His Spirit to help us glorify Him in our daily journey? 

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7 ESV 

A By-Product of Giving Thanks

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November is one of my favorite times of the year. Not only is it the month where we see the seasons make a dramatic shift towards the colder months of winter, but November is the month of my birthday, my wedding anniversary, and also my son’s birthday! It seems perfectly fitting that November is the month when we celebrate Thanksgiving. 

Thanksgiving, while it is a great holiday and one that the church should celebrate, isn’t meant to be something that is only celebrated once a year. Yes, I do believe that there is great benefit to a national day of Thanksgiving, but for a believer in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior there is so much to be thankful for on a very regular basis. When we realize and experience all that God gives to us through His grace and generosity, thanksgiving needs to be evident in our lives constantly. 

Scripture is not silent about this issue. In Paul’s letter to the Colossian church, he references in chapter 2, verses 6-7, what characterizes a believer; “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” It seems like God is making thanksgiving a defining part of a believer in Jesus Christ. It is who we are to be. Our hearts and minds must understand that everything we’ve been given is a gift from God: He thought enough of you to feed you, clothe, you, give you life and passion and friends and family. We need to be thankful. 

While we are to be thankful to Jesus, there is a by-product of giving thanks, and that is a spirit of contentment. To define contentment, one could say that it is being perfectly satisfied. It is being “good” with all we have. If we are truly thankful to Jesus for all He’s blessed us with, we see a satisfaction and peace inside of us because the burden to pursue these things subsides. 

Friends, we must ask ourselves two questions today. First, are you thankful to Jesus for all you have and how He’s blessed you with His grace and goodness? If so, we then must ask if we are content in what we have, realizing that we have exactly what He longs for us to have? My prayer is that we will learn this lesson of contentment and satisfaction in all Jesus blesses us with and experience a life of joy and thanksgiving because of the presence of Jesus in our lives. 

Have a very blessed and joyous Thanksgiving season! 

Consumed

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Growing up in my teenage years, I loved basketball. The desire to be the best player consumed me. During this time, Michael Jordan, the best player in basketball history was in the NBA. Many videos displayed his amazing skills and talents. 

Maybe you remember the commercial that Gatorade had at the time with the slogan “I wanna be like Mike”? That was me! I wanted to give it my all! I wanted to dunk, pass, shoot, and win like Mike. I would use his videos to motivate me during the Summer. I had this mentality that if I wanted to be the best, then I needed to watch the best. Basketball completely consumed my life. 

I tell you all of this because it struck me this week that if we are “fully devoted followers of Christ” shouldn’t we be consumed with Christ, His Word, seeking His will, and giving the Spirit complete control of our lives. 

Christ shows us this importance of being consumed in Him when He says: 

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and in my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this, my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have, I loved you. Abide in my love”, (John 15:4-9 ESV). 

In these verses there are at least four reasons why we should “abide” in Christ: 

1. We need Christ to live the life that He has called us to live. verse 4. 

2. We are useless in our service to Him if we do not remain in Him. verse 6. 

3. Our desires will match Christ’s desires, and we will see those desires carried out when we stay in Him and His Word. verse 7-8. 

4. Christ tells us to remain in His love. verse 9 

The above shows why we should want to abide in Christ and here is one way we can do this (the how) and that is by saturating ourselves in His Word, the Bible. The One to One Discipleship Manual that we use at church says that we can grow in God’s Word by doing these five things. 

1. “Hear it,” Romans 10:17. 

2. “Read it.” Revelations 1:3. 

3. “Study it.” Acts 17:11. 

4. “Memorize it.” Psalm 119: 9-11. 

5. “Meditate on it.” Psalm 1:1-3 

Are you abiding in Christ?