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!

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. 

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! 

Take a Look in the Mirror

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There is something that I do every morning before leaving the house that will make or break the day. I eat breakfast, take a shower, spend time with the family before we begin our days. While these are very important, I must make sure to check myself over in the mirror. It’s here that I discover whether or not my hair looks good or whether there’s a piece of food stuck in my teeth. I can take inventory on my appearance simply by gazing into this piece of glass. 

While some people hate looking at themselves in the mirror, I do believe that there are some great benefits to this self-examination. It is through this self-examination that we are reminded of who God has created us to be. But I fear that many of us don’t take this opportunity to understand, appreciate, and value the very person that God has created us to be. My friends, it’s time to take a look in the mirror and see ourselves accurately in the way that God has designed. 

The Apostle Peter wrote his two letters to a church that was scattered everywhere and enduring some terrible persecutions. Because of this, some of the people were forgetting their identity. Peter took the opportunity to hand them a mirror, so they could see and be reminded. God is doing the same for us today—this is who Jesus says you are: 

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10) 

Church family, this is who you are. You have been given an identity in Christ, you have been chosen by God to be His holy people. You are special. You have been created with and for a purpose. We can be sure of that. And if at any time you doubt this, make sure to turn back to His word so that Jesus Himself can hold the mirror while you take a good look at who God has created. 

Never Again

I remember when I was a child and heard the story of Noah for the first time. My first thought was how Noah fit all those animals on a boat. Then I remembered thinking about what life was like on the boat and that it must have smelled awful. Finally as we had finished the story I remembered being so thankful that God wasn't ever going to flood the earth again and how he gave a rainbow as a sign for us. Until recently that story has been just that, a story. But now I have come to appreciate that story for being a perfect illustration for our lives as Christians. 

In Gen. 8:20-22 Noah made an altar to God and sacrificed animals for a burnt offering and when God smelled the pleasing aroma he said "I will never again curse the ground because of man for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done". God is saying that there is evil in man's heart even when he is young but there is also something he loves about mankind. When God smelled that sacrifice a deal was made and God said he would never judge all of mankind like that again. Does this sound familiar? 

Paul uses similar language in Ephesians 5:2 "And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." This same fragrant aroma was breathed in by God when his Son Jesus died on the cross. Because of this sacrifice Christians no longer have to bear the full judgment for our sin. How many times do we (the church) dwell on our sin and let it turn into guilt and shame? God is saying that the things of your past pale in comparison to Christ's sacrifice for you. We should spend more time looking toward the mission of Christ and less time worrying about our past. When we have this perspective we will truly be able to walk in love without the burden of guilt and shame weighing us down. 

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.    

If You're Tired and You Know It…(clap, clap)

From the March 2015 Newsletter

I was tired all of last week. Not just normal tired but more of a feeling that I had nothing left to give yet there was so much more being asked of me. It was as if I ran out of gas several miles away from any gas station and yet I still had many miles left to travel. I think many of us can relate to this for some reason or another. Maybe we've over extended ourselves and committed to too many things.

Sometimes we have seasons where we find it hard to say no or there are time sensitive assignments that occur in times where there are events scheduled at the same time. Whatever the reason is most of us can sympathize with being tired. As I was reading through the scriptures I came across Isaiah 40:28-31. As Isaiah was writing to the people of Israel who were in captivity they needed to be reminded that God was their strength in their time of weakness. Here are three things I believe we can learn from the words found in Isaiah. 

1. God does not get tired. 

God can commit to so many things and remain faithful. He doesn't need to worry about over extending himself or having to say no because he is exhausted. He doesn't even get tired with the many requests and problems of His children. When we have so many people asking so many things of us it can become easy to just stop listening and put ourselves on auto-pilot. God doesn't do this with us. When we have a real need or concern we can come to God knowing that it's not a burden for Him. Because God is an "everlasting God" He operates outside of time. Because He operates outside of time it's quite easy for Him to give us His time when we need it. If we are tired, we need to remember the one who always has time for us. 

2. He gives strength to those who are tired. 

God is the ultimate supplier of strength. He has an abundance of power and he longs to administer that power to those that call on Him. God wants His people to be strong because it actually displays His power and glory. God is all about getting the glory. He wants our lives to reflect how great He is. So if we rely on His strength He will ultimately receive glory. 

3. It is better to wait on God than to jump the gun. 

"Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength." When we are tired we need to ask ourselves the question "Have I said yes to things that God would have wanted me to say no to?" There are many good things out there to spend our time on but not all things are for us. We need to make sure that we know what God wants from us so that we can say with wisdom" yes" or "no". Ministry is to get involved with what God is already doing, not asking God to bless what we are doing. Let's take time to acknowledge what God is already doing and wait on Him for the cues. 

Set the Tone

Originally Posted October 30, 2014 By Pastor Adam

We are presented an opportunity each year since President Abraham Lincoln enacted the national holiday of Thanksgiving.  On the fourth Thursday in November, the people of the US take time to enjoy a great dinner (where we usually eat way too much) with family and friends, expressing an attitude of thanksgiving for all that we have.  Aside from the immense quantities of food that we intake, Thanksgiving is truly a healthy holiday for everyone to celebrate.

While everyone can celebrate Thanksgiving, we as believers have the extra honor and privilege to celebrate knowing that all we have comes from God, and we are truly expressing our thanks to Him for all He provides.  I love taking time, especially during November, to write down and think about all of the things that I am thankful to God for.  I’m sure that if you’d compile such a list, it would prove to be a blessed list as well.

But I look to the Scriptures, and I don’t see a set time for Thanksgiving.  We celebrate it in November, but in Biblical times, there is no such holiday.  Why?  Is it that the people weren’t grateful for God’s presence and provision?  They totally were.  The reason why it isn’t a holiday is that we see Scripture calling us to a lifestyle of Thanksgiving.  We, as Paul told the Thessalonian church, are to give thanks in all circumstances, which I can now apply to in everything at all times.

Let this November be a time of great Thanksgiving to God.  But even more than that, let this season of Thanksgiving set the tone for a lifestyle of Thanksgiving.  If you want to see something transform your walk with Christ, nothing will do it like thanksgiving!