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. 

Preparation for Easter

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Lent is the time of preparation and reflection before Easter. During this time, we take time to draw near to Jesus and contemplate the incredible love, grace, and hope displayed on the cross of Calvary and through the Resurrection the following Sunday! This year, we were challenged to prepare and reflect on the message of Easter as we took the 45-Day Challenge through the Gospels. I am absolutely loving this journey and pray that Jesus would show you more and more about who He is as we undertake this journey together. 

We are now just about half-way through this challenge. I trust that you’re finding this experience rewarding. Reading Scripture never disappoints. The Bible is God’s Holy Word written directly to us. In it He speaks of great truths, messages of encouragement, and hope for a life spent with Him. While reading Scripture to know God more is a good idea, it’s not the real purpose of reading Scripture. I want to give you 3 things that take place when we read Scripture that go far above simple knowledge. 

  • We Read Scripture so that Jesus Can Transform Us. Simple knowledge isn’t good enough. If we were after knowledge, the Bible would be a textbook. But in fact, we see that the Word of God is used to make us into a new being; one that has encountered the True God and is being made like Him.
  • We Read Scripture so that Jesus Can Equip Us. The purpose of the message series, Knowing Jesus, is taking the opportunity for Scripture to impart life lessons on how Jesus would handle the situations in life so that our attitudes and actions glorify Jesus and draw others closer as well. May we be thoroughly equipped (2 Tim. 3:16-17) 
  • We Read Scripture so that We Can Be Encouraged. We all need encouragement. We all face difficult situations in life that cause us to question whether following Jesus is worth the trouble. But when we look to Scripture, we see the testimony of God’s faithfulness. He was faithful to believers of the past—ministering in times of distress and oppression. He is faithful to believers now and will continue to be in the future. One of the most encouraging things we see in Scripture is that Jesus tells us how everything ends—He wins. Sin is defeated, and an eternity awaits us. What can be more encouraging to our perseverance than knowing it all works out! 

This is what Scripture does. 

I want to encourage you to continue in seeking Jesus through the Scriptures. If you’ve fallen off the wagon of the 45-Day Challenge, let me encourage you to get back into Scripture. It’s never too late. God longs to transform you through the Word. 

Time to Celebrate “Love”

The month of February elicits strong, emotional responses out of many people. Not only is it the month of the Super Bowl (and this game always seems to bring about passion from even the most uninterested people), but it is also the month where we celebrate “love”. Some people absolutely love to celebrate Valentine’s Day. They will wear pink or red all day, send flowers or cards to their special valentines, head to the store to make sure they pick up the heart-shaped Russell Stover box of chocolates, and express love in countless other ways. While some people are very excited about celebrating Valentine’s Day, others come together and celebrate their disdain for the holiday. Regardless of which side of the debate you’re on, we in fact do celebrate love. 

I like to celebrate on Valentine’s Day. But one thing I know and long to impart to my family and loved ones is that we need to have an accurate view of love to fully appreciate and celebrate love. There is no better place than Scripture to find the definition of love, and today I want to take you to 1 Corinthians 13: The Love Chapter. In here we see Paul give an amazing discourse on love. Most of us know the passage: love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, and the list continues. This is what love is! As we celebrate true love this year, let me draw you to a couple of points about celebrating Love. 

  • True Love Originates in Jesus Christ—1 John 4:19 states that “we love because He first loved us.” All love begins with God. He’s the source of love. He’s love perfected. He loves perfectly. There is no way that we can be loved any more than what He already pours out on us. We celebrate love because we are loved by Jesus Christ. This love then pours out of us onto others. This is real love. 
  • Jesus’ Love is Described in 1 Corinthians 13. Instead of simply hearing that love is patient and kind, instead hear it as Jesus’ love is patient, kind, doesn’t envy or boast, isn’t proud or rude, isn’t self-seeking, doesn’t keep records of wrongs, always hopes, perseveres, never fails. And these words don’t fully encapsulate Jesus’ love for us—it is much greater! 
  • Love is a Choice—will you choose to allow the love of Jesus to flow from you to those around you? Will you choose to love your spouse with Jesus’ love? Your children? Your church family? Your coworkers? Your classmates? There are times when people around us will seem unlovable. If we try to love on our own, it will be an impossible task to love them. But with the love of Jesus, all things are possible. We must love. 

What an amazing display of love we see! 

My prayer and encouragement for you is that you would celebrate “love”. Celebrate Jesus’ love for you. Celebrate the love He gives you to pour into others. Don’t withhold the celebration—love is worth it! 

Catching the Vision

For over 130 years the Christian and Missionary Alliance has been taking the gospel message of Jesus Christ to the nations. This passion for reaching lost people with the gospel still resonates passionately among The Alliance family to this day. I firmly believe that our calling here at Circle Drive Alliance still beats with the passion of our founder Dr. Simpson as we seek to make disciples of Jesus here in our local community, there among our region, and everywhere, even to the ends of the earth. This is who we are.

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I want to ask you to stop and think about whether or not you are as passionate for global missions as our founder was or as our Lord Jesus is? I think that if we honestly assess our hearts, we would have to answer that we probably aren’t as passionate for missions as we’d like to be. We often get distracted by the things that we feel in our own lives and forget about missions or put the nations on the back burner. 

To make sure that Jesus’ command to preach the gospel to the nations is constantly before us, we often need a refreshing of the vision. I want to inform you of a wonderful opportunity that I have. I have been approached by the District to be a part of a pastoral vision team that will gain a fresh perspective on what God is doing in the lives of the people of Bosnia and Germany. I am a part of a team of 4 lead pastors from around the district, and we will be there from November 7th-17th.

Our team will interact with international workers in their fields, participate in their work, meet the people whose lives have been touched by the gospel, and to prayerfully consider how we can better engage our churches and district in partnering with these workers and churches to take the gospel to the nations. I firmly believe that through this trip God will give voice to this incredible work and allow me to communicate His heart for the nations to you through this trip. 

Friends, this trip is all about how we can have greater engagement with the mission and our workers. I long for you to join me in prayer over the next months so that I will be able to hear from God in powerful ways. Also pray about how Jesus would have you participate with Him and us as we preach the gospel to the nations. I look forward to all that Jesus will do through this incredible time in our church. May God receive all glory, honor, and praise. 

Are You Prepared?

How long does it take you to get ready for the day? For some it is simply a matter of jumping out of bed, stretching his arms over his head, feet hitting the floor, combing his hair with his hand, get dressed, and grab an apple on the way out of the door. For others, you might be the person that it takes a long time to get ready. Your clothes need to be just right, you shower, shave, eat breakfast, and maybe even get a few chores done before you feel prepared to meet the day. I must say that I vacillate between the two of these examples, but in either case I feel prepared for the day. I’m ready to meet those who will come across my path. 

One of the traditions that many hold dear during the Christmas season is the celebration of Advent. For those of you who do not know about Advent, it is a 4-week celebration where we remember the characters of Christmas and the values God displays throughout the Christmas story as it leads us to Jesus’ birth. It is celebrated every Sunday by lighting the Advent wreath, which is to be the focal point of our celebration and remembrance. 

We celebrate Advent every year here at CDAC. We read the stories, light the candles, everyone has a sparkle in their eyes because of the joy of the season. But this year I’ve been challenged to think of Advent differently than I’ve recently done. I received a book about Christmas traditions for pastor appreciation this year. It discusses the history of these special Christmas traditions—how they came about, what they look like now, and how they’ve impacted our celebrations of Christmas.

About halfway through the book I came across the chapter on Advent. It did talk about the wreath and the stories, but when I looked at the history, I was convicted that I got it all wrong. Advent isn’t just simply anticipating Christmas (which is a good thing). It is so much more than that. It is a celebration of Christ’s mission on this earth and that it began on that first Noel. Advent is looking forward to the whole mission of Jesus—to redeem us from our sins to live a life with Him! 

When the author was done exposing this, I was left with the question—am I prepared to celebrate all that Christ is? Am I right with God? Am I looking forward to being closer with Him? Friends, this is the purpose of Advent—to be a time of preparation to make sure that we are right with God and free in Him to be able to share His passion and heart! 

Today, as we come to Advent, I must ask if you are preparing to celebrate Jesus? There’s nothing that brings us greater joy than being close to God, and friends, this is what Advent and this season is all about. 

Experiencing God's Passion

The last words that Jesus spoke while on this earth are words that drive the church’s focus and passion. As Jesus was ascending, He turned to His disciples and said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” These last words of Christ to His church reveal His heart, and as believers in Jesus Christ our hearts need to beat in time with His. 

There are a couple of opportunities that will take place this month that will aid us in keeping in step with God’s heart. Let me share these with you. First, when we look at the Gospels, we can plainly see that God has a special place in His heart for children. He wants them to come to Him, to grow in Him, to love Him. On October 23rd, we will have the great pleasure to hear and interact with Melissa MacDonald, The Alliance National Children’s Director. She will share how we can better lead children to know Christ and better strategies to share that love with them. There will be a time for questions and answers for anyone involved with Children’s ministries at 10am that Sunday. This is an amazing opportunity for us and I’m looking forward to how God will work. 

We also see God’s heart for missions. Our first core value in The Alliance states, “Lost people matter to God: He wants them found.” We need to have a huge heart for missions, and on October 29th, we have a great opportunity to hear about how Alliance Missions work and allowing God to impassion us for this great commission work. Our Vice-President for International Ministries will be speaking and sharing God’s heart for us. This opportunity is open to anyone who has a passion for missions. 

I’m excited to see where God is going to take us and impassion us for. 

 

Be Still

There have been many, many spiritual blessings that I’ve been given by God throughout the course of my life—my salvation, His presence with me through the Holy Spirit, the empowerment to live a life of faith in Jesus Christ—that have truly impacted me. But there is another blessing that God has given to me recently that I believe is one of the simplest lessons and yet in our society and culture in the United States today is one of the toughest for people to receive, even for the Church of Jesus Christ. Let me share a little of this journey with you today. 

One point from God’s character that I see throughout Scripture is that God is the God of progression—He never wants us as His children to stay where we are—He desires us to progress. He longs for us to progress in our relationship with Him. He longs for the Church to progress in holiness and also in making disciples of all nations. And there’s one area where God has been speaking to me recently that is of such importance, but honestly, sounds counterintuitive to the issue of progression—God is calling me to progress in stillness. 

I must make a confession to you all today. Many of you know that Pastor Levi and Megan’s departure to Alabama was a bittersweet moment for me—sweet to see this couple follow God’s leading, but bitter as I lost not only this daily relationship, but also my ministry partners. We saw the staff work of the church get even busier while trying to perform these tasks with half of the laborers. For about the last month and a half, I’ve been putting in way more hours on the job than was healthy for me—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve been confronted about this not only through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, but by my family and some of our church family as well. Friends, this is not good, I am wrong for doing it, but despite this God is using it to grow me. 

I know that many of you, especially as we look at the newness and busyness of the fall season rapidly approaching, are tempted to continue to live a life that is so all over the place that we lack any real focus and perspective. I struggle with the same thing. But God gives us tools to be able to be still in our lives. Let me share some with you. 

 Cultivate your relationship with God: Nothing is more important than this, but it oftentimes seems to be the first thing to be sacrificed on the altar of busyness. Make this time the priority of your day. Spend it reading the Bible, enjoying other books that cause you to think about God, praying, taking time to enjoy His creation and praising Him for it. 

 Purposefully Unplug: We live in a world that is full of technology at our fingertips, and this does make life easier in certain regards. But the constant strain of always being “on call”, having to check and deal with that final email of the day, or “checking in” so that your friends know you’re done for the day, really does impact our ability to be still with God. Take time to unplug—you will survive, your job will survive, your friends will survive, and the time away with God will refresh you! 

Set Up Boundaries: don’t let the work day comingle with your God time or your family time. Many of us are guilty of this. If we continue to get caught up in constantly working, other relationships will suffer. Set up times during the day that are sacred and are not to be interrupted. And remember the only time that should go throughout the day is your God time! 

My prayer is that you’ll consider these. 

We are headed into a busy season, and many of us struggle with busyness. But friends, it doesn’t have to be that way. God is speaking to me and to us. Let your life be so secure in Him that we don’t have to be constantly trying to fill our lives with busyness or other purposes. Instead, may the Lord Jesus bless you with the ability to simply “be still and know that I am God.” 

 

Merry Christmas!

There’s a popular question being asked in households all over the nation and even around the world at this time of year: “What do you want for Christmas?” Living in a house with a 5 and a 2 year old brings about a sense of excitement every time a commercial comes on advertising the new great toy that they just have to get. We hear words like, “I want that, Daddy,” or “I really like that,” with their gleeful smiles and hopeful pleas. I must admit that I do like hearing my kids get excited about what they want for Christmas.

But one thing that I’ve noticed about my household is that I haven’t been asked what I want for Christmas? So since I haven’t been asked, I will share it with you all. This is what I want for Christmas—for the Church worldwide to give the rest of the world a reason to say “Merry Christmas!”

You might be wondering what I mean by that sentiment. This is what’s going through my heart and mind. We can see all around us how our culture is moving away from a celebration of Christmas to a celebration of “The Holidays”. I know that many of you hate hearing “Happy Holidays” from the bank teller or checkout person. We often try to correct them with a “Merry Christmas” back at him, but to little or no avail.

Let me propose an alternative for getting upset at people. Instead of allowing your blood to boil, give them the reason for why we celebrate Christmas—the coming of our Savior! Isaiah 9:6 reminds us of the purpose of Jesus’ coming as it reads, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

My friends, without Jesus there is no reason to wish anyone a “Merry Christmas.” It is only through a relationship with Jesus that your Christmas can be merry.

Share Christ. Share His Hope. Share His Love. Share His Gospel. This is the greatest Christmas present anyone can give or receive.

Pastor Adam K. Sellen, Lead Pastor

Connect with Christ

“Can you sum up the entire Bible in one sentence?”  This question has been asked of me before and I’ve also posed it to others.  I’ve heard many interesting answers, such as “God’s instructions to us so that we can live,” or “God’s plan for the redemption of mankind from their sins.”  These are some of the better answers that I’ve been given—some weren’t thought out very well, so I won’t share those.  I want to give you an opportunity to answer this question before you continue to read this article.  Can you sum up the entire Bible in one sentence?

So what was your answer?  When I answer this question, I see the Bible revealing the heart of God to connect with His people.  When we start in Genesis, we notice that God created Adam and Eve in order to have a relationship with them.  Even after the fall, God continues to give people opportunities to connect with Him, and even paying the price Himself for this connection to take place.  God longs to connect with you!

We spent time in the month of June dealing with the steps that are necessary to take in order to accomplish our vision of “Living for God: Loving His People.”  We need to understand that our greatest purpose as a church is to make sure that people connect with Jesus.  While this is a simple phrase, we need to understand what this looks like, and how we plan to connect people with Jesus.

First of all, we connect people with Jesus through the message of the gospel.  A.B. Simpson, the founder of The Alliance, spent incredible amounts of time reaching for the disenfranchised and outcasts of society on the boat docks of New York City.  We need to be a people who are doing the same things. 

We are working with our ministries to develop strategies to equip people to talk about Jesus.  We also realize that connecting people with the message involves getting the message to the masses.  We do this through personal relationships (talking about Jesus with your friend or coworker).  We also use the benefits of technology to share the truth of Christ with our community, and even the world!

We also connect with Jesus through our worship services.  We are working hard to make sure that the music, Scripture passages, preaching, technology, and other creative outlets are leading people into the presence of our Lord Jesus and helping them connect with the Savior!

Jesus longs for a deep relationship with the people He created.  Some know Him, some do not.  My friends, we need to be in the business of seeing people connect with Jesus in deep, meaningful ways.    

A White Blank Page

The year of Jubilee described in Leviticus 25 is the year in which all property is returned to its original owner and all slaves are released.  This year would occur every 50 years and acted as a blank slate for all the people of Israel.  If one was falling on hard times and was forced to sell a portion of their land it would then be returned to them in the year of Jubilee. 

Isaiah references this year of jubilee when he speaks of the coming of the Messiah in Isaiah 61.  Isaiah says that when the Messiah comes it will bring about the year of the "Lord's favor".  Jesus then confirms that this prophecy was referencing him in Luke 4.  This makes sense considering the nature of the work of salvation in that it brings about a blank slate for all who believe. 

Depending on who you are and what your life looks like you might have a different reaction to this blank slate.  For instance, if you've robbed a convenience store and get arrested a pardon from the judge would be a welcomed blank slate.  Anyone in need of a blank slate would welcome a blank slate with joy and gladness but what if you didn't want a blank slate.  For instance, I remember a long night in college when I was typing out a 10 page paper, in a moment of exhaustion I accidentally closed my document without saving it.  I was left with a blank slate but needless to say I was not thrilled with the blank page staring back at me. 

Two stories that jump out in the gospels as being polar opposites are the stories of the rich young ruler (Matt 19) and Zacchaeus (Luke 19).  When the rich young ruler approaches Jesus he asks Him what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus eventually tells him that he must give up all of his possessions to the poor.  The man walked away saddened because he had great wealth.  The story of Zacchaeus begins with a tax collector humiliating himself by climbing a tree to see Jesus through a crowd.  Jesus then invites himself over to Zacchaeus' house where the man repents of his sin and offers to give everyone that he has wronged their money back and more. 

Jesus offered both of these men blank slates but only one came to salvation.  The biggest difference between these two stories is that one man acknowledged his need for a blank slate and the other didn't want anything to do with a blank slate.  I think if we are truly honest with ourselves we can relate to both men.  In one way we know that we are sinners in need of forgiveness and a pardon but in another way we've worked so hard for the life we have it seems foolish to give it up for Christ.   

The benefit of following Christ is that we get a fresh start to live a life with him in freedom and joy.  The cost of following Christ is laying aside our lives and following him.  My hope for all of us is that we acknowledge the simple fact that the benefit far outweighs the cost. 

From the Desk of Pastor Levi