Why Church?

Have you ever wondered why Jesus created the church? If I would ask people both inside and outside of the church, I think the number of different answers would fill up an entire book. Some people think that the church is here simply as a social club. Others think that it’s something that only simpletons and naïve people attend. Some believe that church is a building—a “divine” structure where the presence of God resides. Some struggle to see the relevance of the church in today’s society; relegating it to an archaic institution. But there are others who still believe that the Church is the body of believers where people can find hope in Jesus through the grace He longs to bestow.

Even though many reading this short article agree with the last statement (which is the Biblical one), we still see that many who are the church today are in a state of confusion on why Jesus would create the church, asking “What is its purpose?” Why should I be an active part of the church? For centuries (especially now in our days of instant media access) people have tried to live the life of faith by themselves, thinking we don’t need the church. “We don’t need to meet with a bunch of hypocrites who preach a gospel of repentance and holiness but fail to meet such standards.” Is often a phrase I hear.

I think we need to reconnect with the Church that Jesus created. Our next message series is entitled, “Why Church?” We’re going to take the next two months and examine why Jesus placed us into the church in the first place. I want this to be a time when we, the modern church, take time to remember the very principles of living the life of faith together that Jesus has painted all throughout the Scriptures. If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, remember that He placed you in the church on purpose. You belong. You’re valued. You’re a part of the expression of Jesus to the world around us. I look forward to exploring this more with you all throughout the fall.

The Times, They Are a Changing

Change is one of those words that many of us fear, even hate. Change means that something that was very familiar and known is now moving into an area of uncertainty. Whether it is changing from an old pair of comfortable shoes to a new pair that has to be broken in or a change in a station of life, it can be difficult and scary for everyone involved. But as I look to Scripture (which is our constant in an ever-changing world), we see God remind us and assure us in three very powerful ways any time we face change.

Godly change always has a purpose. One of the things that I’ve noticed all throughout the Scripture is that when God orchestrates a change or transition in the Bible it is always on purpose. With God, change is never an accident. He is always moving things around to make sure that His mission of building His Kingdom and making disciples of all nations occurs. I think of the early church in the book of Acts where God spreads them out from Jerusalem. While this change of leaving that which was familiar wasn’t easy, it was God’s plan to take the gospel message to the ends of the earth! The change wasn’t easy, but it had a purpose.

When Godly change comes, He has a plan for everyone involved. I’ve heard it said that while change is always difficult, the person heading towards something new has something to look forward to, while those left behind have nothing. I think these feelings are real for many of us, but I don’t see this principle in Scripture. In Acts we find the story of Paul and Barnabas splitting up over John Mark. Barnabas wanted to give him another shot; Paul didn’t. Transition took place. But the question we need to ask is “what happened to Mark?” He left, but God still used him powerfully (have you read the gospel of Mark—same guy!). God used Paul to carry the gospel message to the highest authorities. Change isn’t an end. God has plans to continue to use everyone. We must seek God for His direction but can be assured He’s not done yet!

God is with us in times of change. Joshua was now the leader of Israel after the death of Moses. I’m not sure we can really appreciate how big of a transition of leadership this is! But in Joshua 1 we see God bringing the assurance of His leading, equipping, and presence with Joshua wherever he goes. It was different for Israel and Joshua, but one thing that I see is that God never changes, even in the midst of transition. He will never leave you or forsake you. He will continue to provide and heal and empower.

CDAC Family, I know that change can be a scary thing for us. But let us be reminded and refreshed in the truth that God is orchestrating it, taking care of His Church through it all, and that it is bringing about His Kingdom purposes wonderfully. If you lean in on Jesus, even in change you will sense the constancy of the One who never changes and longs to shepherd you through these seasons of life. Just, as God told Joshua, “be strong and courageous. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” What an amazing promise!

Summer Reading

Every summer I send out a list of books I recommend for reading over the summer. I’ve recommended books on theology, practical living, fictional books that tell amazing stories dealing with God’s faithfulness, and even biographies of some of the giants of the faith. Many of you have read through some of these books and expressed how impactful and refreshing they were for you. I’ve always been blessed to hear how God works through the written words on these pages.

Because of these wonderful testimonies, I decided to continue this practice of recommending books to read over the summer again this year. I started the process of thinking through which books I’d recommend to you again this year (and I read a lot of books that have impacted my walk with God and equipped me both personally and in my ministry), but as I was thinking about which ones to recommend, I came to a realization that the most impactful book I read throughout the past year was my Bible! God has spoken and blessed me as I’ve sought to press into His presence and hear from Him more deeply and clearly! I know I should never be amazed at how God speaks and the incredible timing of His message, but I am because of the impact His Word has and continues to have on me.

I want all of you to have the same experience with God that I had and continue to have. So instead of suggesting other books (which do have great value), I’m putting the opportunity out there for you to join me in reading the Bible throughout the summer! I know that this might seem like a daunting task! “The Bible is huge!” “There’s so much there, how can I possibly read it in 90 days!” Well, I’m here to say that it is possible and incredibly rewarding. God is going to speak to you in ways that you might never have dreamed before. If you want this time with God, here’s how you can join in and read with me and others. There are yellow bookmarks in the Foyer that have a reading schedule. Simply read the pages for that day and you’ll experience God like you’ve never experienced Him before. It takes me about an hour a day to read the pages, so it doesn’t take a long time. But it is so worth the investment. I’m also going to send out a video blog each week with a devotion from a portion of the Scripture we’ve read that week in order to interact together.

Are you in? Will you commit to reading the Bible together this summer? I am so excited for you—God is going to draw you closer and closer each and every day you seek Him through His Word!

In Focus

Have you ever looked into a camera or telescope that was out of focus? It is nearly impossible to be able to see what you were hoping to see. My family had the opportunity to visit Washington, DC last summer. One of our favorite places to visit is the Air and Space Museum. If you’ve never been there and you love air exploration, this place is a must visit for you. As we were walking around the museum, Anna and I stopped at an early space exploration exhibit and found 2 telescopes—a modern one a replica of one Galileo used. The object of the exhibit was to look through each telescope at a small dot on the far wall (which replicated the moon) and see which one did a better job at displaying the moon. Anna sat in the chair in front of the modern scope and was able to see the moon. But when she sat behind the Galileo telescope, she struggled to make the moon out. The reason was found in the difficulty of getting it to be in focus. All she could see was a color change, but not what the moon really looked like.

I believe there is an incredible life lesson in this story. There is a destination in life for the believer in Jesus. This destination is maturity in Christ. While we know where we’re heading, many times we lack the focus to get us there. There are so many things in life that we do (some good, like a job; while others are less productive) that demand our time and effort. But what we lack is the vision to see whether or not the things that occupy our time and effort will get us to our destination. How do we get to maturity in Christ?

How do we get to our destination? The answer is found in the Great Commission/Great Commandment. We need to be focused on making disciples through loving God and loving others. This is the motivation behind our vision statement of Living for God; Loving His People. This is to be our focus. If anything doesn’t line up with this, it forces us off track and we’ll never get to our intended destination.

Jesus gave us the command to make disciples everywhere—in our local context, in the surrounding area, and also around the world. I want to encourage each one of you to bring your focus to making disciples through a weeklong event we have each year entitled Missions Fest. We will be joined by our partner from Berlin, Jose Chinchilla. He is going to share how God is making disciples and expanding His Kingdom in Berlin and how we can celebrate these accomplishments and even partner more fully. You will find a full schedule of events in this Newsletter. I want to encourage you to come out to these events and hear how God is working and to bring us all back into the focus that King Jesus desires—making disciples of Jesus!

Don't Rush It

Are you excited for spring? I know that I am, even though the weather outside is only beginning to make its change into a more temperate pattern. While I’m excited for all that spring brings, my children, especially my son, are very excited for spring to arrive. One day this past week Nathan was looking out of our living room window and saw a rabbit in the yard. “Daddy! Come look! There’s a rabbit in the yard. Spring is here!” He was so excited. But the words that came up next were even more exciting for me. “That means Easter is almost here!” I’ve never heard it said with more gusto than in that moment.

Easter has to be one of my favorite days of the year. The church services are filled with a special joy and excitement as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead! We have parties, dinners, family gatherings, and the wonderful Easter Egg hunts. It is crucial to our faith that we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection—He conquered death and those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior never need to fear death anymore! I can’t imagine a better reason to celebrate.

As I listened to Nathan and experienced his excitement, there was a thought that came to my mind. I began to question if it was good to rush to Easter without contemplating Good Friday. If you’re not familiar with Good Friday, this is the day when Jesus died on the cross for us. The Scriptures say that there can be no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood, and Jesus did that for us on the cross. Without this horrific event, we’d have no opportunity to have our sins paid for and our salvation secured. Both Good Friday and Easter are vitally important and need to be a part of every Christian’s life.

I have noticed, though, that we have a tendency to either rush past or ignore Good Friday and head straight to Easter. While Easter is always a more pleasant thought, let me caution you against rushing past Good Friday. We need to take time to contemplate the incredible love, grace, and forgiveness that God displays on the cross. No one else has ever done such an amazing thing for you! Jesus did it on the cross. If we miss out on this time of contemplation and thanksgiving, we miss out on much of the redemption story. It is at the cross where our sins were paid for. It is through His blood that our relationship can be restored. It is through His resurrection that life is guaranteed and victory over sin and death is won. We need both. Don’t rush to Easter. Let Good Friday make your Easter celebrations all the more glorious this year.

The People He Met

People-He-Met.jpg

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

hearts.jpg

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

awaken life 2019 alliance youth

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

The-Pursuit.jpg

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.