Important Church Announcement

This morning, we had to make a very difficult announcement.  I know some were not able to be there, and I wanted to pass along what I said so you could know the situation:
We have talked about over these last few months that our giving has been down, and we are not making ends meet.  We made some heavy cuts to our budget to offset the difference in the hope that we can continue to meet.  Unfortunately, our giving has continued to decrease and we are not making our new budget demands.  With the potential for high rent prices coming up here, and our inability to find a place to meet that would be in our price range, along with large annual expenses coming up soon for the church, the management team has made the difficult decision to close the church.
I know this is not what any of us wants to hear, and there’s really no easy way to say it, and nothing I can say now would lessen the feelings you have in this moment.  However, I want to focus on the positive.  While this is challenging news, today is actually the 8th anniversary of the church.  This congregation has been in existence for 8 years, reaching out, loving others, serving this community, and changing lives.  I know since I came here three years ago, we have had seven baptisms.  Seven changed lives forever, and I know there were many more before that. And that’s not even counting the lives we’ve touched in our families and among friends who have lives elsewhere, but have been impacted by our actions.
So as for what will happen going forward, we will continue to meet until June 24th, which will be our final service.  The reason we’re ending earlier than our lease is the large annual expense of our insurance which runs out on June 30th.  On that day, we will have our service, and then we will head over to the pavilion by the park right here and have a potluck meal together.
We want to bless you all in whatever decision you make going forward.  If you want to stay until the end, or if you want to begin looking for your next church now, we encourage you to do what you are being led to do.  I know that some families may want to look for a church together, and so please stay in touch with each other and when someone finds something they like, they can let the rest know.
As for Amy and I, we have begun our search for a new church as well, and we are waiting to see where God will lead us going forward.  At this point, we don’t know if God wants us to stay in the area or has something else in mind.  Our plan is to wait on Him and we know He is faithful and will show us the way soon.  We want to thank you all for the opportunity to serve here at New Life, and the blessing you have been in our lives. 
I know this is hard, and this is a sad day.  And while we will need to close our doors, it means God is opening new ones for each and every one of us.  God will use what we have learned here, what we have done here, and what we have shared here to go forward and be a blessing wherever we may go.
If you have any questions and comments, please feel free to reach out to me or any member of our management team. I know this is a challenging announcement, and it will take some time to process.  Take care and God bless.

Monday Morning Preacher: Different Treatment

When I think about sin and grace, and the actions of the Christians, there’s something that really bothers me.  Why do we treat all sins differently?  At times, I feel like we can excuse some sin as not being a big deal or find a way to compromise the true point of Jesus’ words to fit our current societal norms.  Then at other times when someone does what we call a “bigger” or “worse” sin, we act like it is something that’s unforgivable or beyond God’s grace?

At the same time, I’ve always been fascinated by two people committing the same sin, and one has their sin forgiven, while the other is shamed.  And it could just be a matter of where they are in their walk with the Lord that makes a difference.  One is further along and should know better, and it is our role to play judge, jury, and executioner.

But then I read a passage like the one we read on Sunday, and the truth is, I could argue David should have known better.  It’s been 25 years since he has been anointed king over Israel, but he is still running for his life.  He has no idea, but in 24 hours, Saul will be dead and he will rise to king over Judah, and then king over all of Israel.

And here he is, running from the Lord.  Doing things his own way.  Not living for God, not trusting in God, not believing in who God is.  He is one who knows the power of the Lord because the Spirit of God dwells within him and he has seen God’s power in moments like fighting Goliath.  And yet, here is David, running to sin.

And there’s one thing that sticks in my mind as I read this: God wants David back.  God does everything to protect David from doing something that he would later regret, and then places him on a path to come back to Him.  So I think about what God does in David’s life to bring him back, and what we do to bring someone back who has walked away, and I keep asking: Do we follow the example God gave us?

At the end of the day, we all stand in judgement.  We are all guilty of God’s law.  We could talk about how one person is “more guilty” than another, but that’s just going down the wrong path.  What matters most here is reconciliation.  Reconciling people to their God, whether it has happened once before or not.  But we will never be able to help them come back if we’re heaping shame upon them for their actions.

Jesus died for all sins.  Every single one of them.  The ones we deem small, and the one we deem horrific.  But to God, sin is sin, and all sin has a price.  We’re blessed by having Jesus die on the cross for our sins.  But when dealing with those who have never heard of Jesus, or may be struggling and walked away, they need to be treated the same.  They need to be rebuked for their actions, but also loved and encouraged, not ridiculed and shamed.

My hope and prayer is that as we go, as we share Christ, which is our mission, no matter where a person is in their walk, that we are willing to do what Jesus did.  Walk beside them, love them, encourage them, and show them the way back to the God who loves them so deeply and desperately wants them back.

Monday Morning Preacher: Disappointment

There is no verse in the Bible that says, “Come to me and I will make your life perfect.  You will never have to deal with pain or sorrow or loss again.”  I’m sorry if you were lied to when coming to Jesus, but it’s just not true.  Now, God does say that a place like this exists, but it’s not of this world, but the one to come.  When we are fully perfected through the blood of Jesus at the end of time, and we come into the presence of God, all the things that cause us pain and suffering will finally end.

But for now, we live in a world where disappointment and discouragement exists, and the question we need to continually ask ourselves is this:  When we’re beaten down by the world and everyone around us, and it seems like there’s no hope, how are you going to respond?  Are you going to give up or keep fighting?

Sometimes disappointment comes into our lives to teach us to rely more on God.  If God told us to do something, and He removed every obstacle and we were successful in all that we do, would we be doing what we’re doing in God’s power or in our own?  I think we would become too high on ourselves, and we would forget to pray and forget to lean in to God for the power to keep on fighting for what was going to happen.

What God wants for us most of all is a relationship with Him.  When David, living under a promise from God, was continually attacked by his “obstacle” Saul, it brought him to the point of discouragement.  Instead of seeing the good God was doing by keeping him alive, safe, and out of Saul’s hands, he looked at all the problems in front of him.  He essentially did the same thing Peter did when he got out of boat to walk on water: He keep his eyes on the waves, rather than Jesus.

And so, in our lives, we can do the same thing:  we focus on what’s going wrong rather than what’s going right.  We focus on the problems rather than the God who is helping us navigate them.  Let’s making sure that our eyes are focused on the One who can get us through any situation.  Let’s make sure that we don’t allow that disappointment in our lives to spread and grow to the point of discouragement.  We have a God who loves us, cares for us, and is always with us.  Know that He will come through in any and all situations for our God when we lean on Him during the challenging times.

Monday Morning Preacher: Forgive

The hardest thing in the world to do is forgive.  We live in a world that teaches us, “Vengeance is mine!” but God tells us something different: “Vengeance is His!”  And while I believe every single Christian knows this, understands this, and can explain why we should act like this…we all struggle with living it out in our everyday lives.

But then we must remind ourselves of one gut-wrenching fact:

How can we ask God to cast judgement and seek vengeance against those who hurt us, while at the same time, asking God to forgive and show mercy to us?

So many times we are in a situation like David.  The one who has hurt you.  The one who has wronged you.  The one who has caused you the most strife and frustration in life is vulnerable, unguarded, and open for attack.  And there’s even a weapon you can use laying right next to them.  And so in this moment, what are you going to do?  Will you wait for God to act, or do you take matters into your own hands?

Why was David a man after God’s own heart?  Even though he struggled and failed, he always trusted in the Lord.  He may have times of doubt, times of worry, times of fear, but at the end of the day, he would go to God, seek forgiveness, and trust in God’s way over his own.

The easy thing to do would be to pick up the spear.  Act like the rest of the world.  Take matters into his own hands and just finish Saul off to ascend to the throne.  But that wasn’t God’s way.  David’s sin isn’t excused by Saul’s sin against him.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.

So who are you holding animosity towards?  Who are you not willing to forgive?  Who are you holding a spear over, ready to strike in a moment’s notice?  Now think about how can you show them love and forgiveness this week?  What can you do to show them that you see them through God’s eyes and your love for them is unconditional?

My challenge for you this week is to just process through what you could do, but to actually do it.  Good intentions are meaningless if they’re not accompanied with action.  Knowing the truth without doing it isn’t following Christ and being obedient.  We’re only obedient if we’re willing to act, even when it may be the most challenging thing we will ever do.

Monday Morning Preacher: Beyond the Stats

I gave a stat yesterday that really bothers me.  The world has 2.4 billion Christians.  Some may look at that number and think, “That’s a huge number!  Why would that bother you?”  And in some ways, it is impressive. When you think about the fact that just 2,000 years ago, there was only 500 disciples who started this movement that has just blossomed to 2.4 billion in 2000 years, it’s a phenomenal place to be.

But we have to look at the other side of the same coin.  Even though there are 2.4 billion people who are saved, there are 4.7 billion who are lost.  4.7 billion, almost twice as many people who are saved, who are facing judgment.  Who are facing life apart from God forever.  Who will spend eternity apart from any type of joy, peace, or love.

And it gets even worse when I say that over the last 100 years, the growth in the numbers of Christians has been at the same levels of growth as the population.  Translation:  We have more Christians today because children are being born into Christian families and are choosing to be Christian.  So that means, we’re not doing a great job actually reaching the world.  Instead our spreading of the faith seems to be just within our own homes.

And this is not the way it was meant to be.  This is not what God has asked of us.  We are to go into the world and be disciples of Christ and make new disciples who will go and make new disciples.  And while I understand it’s not feasible based on where all Christians are located, but if every Christian just shared their faith with two people and they came to Christ, everyone in the world would know Christ.

So what are you waiting for?  What is holding you back?  Can you go out and share Christ with someone this week and be the man or woman of Christ you were not only destined to be, but expected to be when Christ first gave His Great Commission.

There are so many people who are lost and are living life like Nabal in our passage yesterday.  They’re eating, drinking, and living life, not recognizing that judgment is coming for them.  Help them see the truth, and let’s have these next 100 years be one of growth in our faith, rather than another 100 years of doing just the bare minimum.


Monday Morning Preacher: Discouragement

A quote I put in my sermon notes this week got me thinking.  It’s a T.D. Jakes quote that says, “Faith must always pass the test of discouragement.”

Many people come to Jesus believing, because at times they are told, “Come to Jesus and life will be perfect.”  But it’s not true.  The world is still full of sin, death still happens, pain still exists.  There is no such promise found in the Bible.  But the true test of a Christian happens when things fall apart.  Will we chose to trust God through the mess, or give up and run away from Him?

This was such a moment for David.  David is sold out by the Ziphites and they lead Saul right to him.  And Saul gets so close that David is just on the other side of a mountain, about to be overrun when Saul gets word that the Philistines are attacking Israel.  You see, Saul took his army to wage war on David, and left the land he is called to protect exposed.  This was God coming through to protect his chosen King in David.  Saul got close, but he still couldn’t touch the one he wanted dead.

But in this moment, David could have been discouraged.  I would probably think in a moment like this, “If this is what needs to happen so I can be king, it’s not worth it.  I give up God.  Give it to someone else.”  But if I were to act upon it, I would allow the discouragement to overwhelm my faith.  I would be trusting in my own thoughts more than God’s promise for my life.

And so, when you receive a promise from God, He’s not going to remove all the obstacles.  He’s not going to make it easy on you.  He will make you successful, but to be successful, you will need to push aside the doubt and double down in your trust of Him.  He wants you first and foremost to rely on Him, to have a relationship with Him, to know and understand that He is leading the way, and you are just the vessel is sharing His story and His love to the world.

So don’t give up.  Even when things look bleak.  Even when things don’t seem like they’re going the way you expected.  Keep fighting.  Keep going.  Believe the promise God has given you.  Walk through the valleys in faith, so God can bring you to the mountaintop in triumph.

Monday Morning Preacher: Inquire

At every step in the passage from yesterday, David was seen inquiring of the Lord.

  • When he heard that the town of Keilah was in trouble, he inquired of the Lord of whether to fight or to stay in hiding.
  • When God told him to fight, and his men were concerned, he asked the Lord again for guidance.
  • After defeating the Philistines, he asked if Saul would come to try and capture him, and if the people of Keilah would hand him over.

Throughout this passage, David didn’t move, didn’t take a step without asking what was God’s will for this situation, and so I want to ask you this:  Do you have the same mindset?

If I was honest, it would be hit and miss.  There would be plenty of times I would place God first and ask Him for guidance before doing anything.  Then there would be times where I just plow ahead in getting things done without giving God a thought.  I know I can accomplish something with my own power and in my own strength, so why ask for help?  And it’s in that moment I realize I am not acting like a man after God’s own heart.

Whether a task is big or small, easy or difficult, we should never rush into something without asking for God’s guidance.  He is the one who created us, formed us in our mother’s womb, prepared us for the task at hand, and we should be asking if this is what He really wants from us.

And so my challenge for this week is to start every day inquiring for the Lord.  Don’t take a step out of bed before asking what He wants of us this day.  What would happen if all Christians everywhere took those few moments to ask God to provide for the day, show us where to go and how to accomplish what’s in front of us, and how we can be examples of Christ to this broken world?

Monday Morning Preacher: Opinions

We live in a society where we believe that everyone’s opinion is valid and should be shared at all times and at any cost.  We also live in a society that if we disagree with said opinion, it is our right and duty to publicly shame, demean, insult, and discredit the person who wrote the opinion.  And the question I keep coming back to is this: Why?  Why are we doing this to each other?  Why is it that if we disagree with someone’s thought, we can no longer have a conversation with respect, love, empathy, and understanding, but instead, turn it into a street fight where we allow hate to fester?

Yes, there are many times I will go on Facebook and see something that angers me.  Sometimes, it may be something against my political beliefs.  Many times, it’s against the sports teams I like.  And sometimes, it’s a slap across the faith of my Jesus, demeaning my faith and my beliefs.  There are many times I want to speak up.  There are many times, I begin writing a huge response to combat what they have to say…and then I delete it.  While I disagree with what they say, I feel like this isn’t the right way to go about talking to them about it.  Why do I want to have a public debate in front of my friends and their friends that may lead to both of us hating each other more and lessening our credibility to all those who read what we have to say?

And so, for the most part, I stay silent.  I try not to post anything controversial, or things that will really get people mad.  Yes, with sports, I’ll take a few jab in fun, but I won’t destroy a relationship over my preference of teams.  But my main goal with all that I do is to encourage and uplift when I write something.

Here is 1 Samuel 22, we see what happens when evil goes unchecked.  When we allow hatred to fester.  Saul commands the priests of Nob to be executed because they helped someone Saul deemed was an enemy, when he was actually his most loyal soldier.

I just don’t want that hatred to exist anymore, and instead of speaking out in a way that may injure another and destroy my ability to witness and speak the love of Christ into their lives, I rather stay silent.  Instead of chewing out the person, I go directly to the Lord and ask Him to let me see them through His eyes, that this is a person he loves, a person He cherishes, and a person He wants back in relationship with Him.  And isn’t it worth putting aside my petty feelings so that one more person can experience the love of Christ?  Instead of pushing them away so they will reject our words, isn’t it worth pulling them close in love, so they are more open to what we have to say.

So my hope and prayer is that we as a society can learn this again.  It is hard, it will be a challenge, but it begins with each one us being willing to make an active choice to stop the cycle of hate, to stop believing our opinions must be stated and validated as truth in all circumstances, and begin allow God to speak into our lives and to see them as He sees them

***Author’s note:  I realize what I’m sharing here is my opinion.  I understand that by saying our opinions don’t matter and by sharing this, I’m doing the opposite of what I’m writing.  However, my point and hope of this is to talk about opinions where we tear each other down in hate, not, as I hope to do here, encourage us to think before we speak, or in many cases, type.

Monday Morning Preacher: Turnaround

Yesterday at church, we talked about 1 Samuel 21.  It was the story when David began to flee from Saul because he wanted him dead. And in this moment of running for his life, I think like any of us, David was afraid.  But even though Saul wanted to take his life, He also had a promise from God saying, he would be the next king.

But we find out that David began to doubt that promise.  He went to the high priest of Israel for supplies, and when the priest asked him what he was up to, David lied.  David had more fear than faith.  David was trusting in himself more than trusting in God.

And so David keeps running until he gets to Gath, the hometown of Goliath.  To David, to be in the hometown of the giant he defeated was better than to be in God’s country.

But in this moment of brokenness, even though he lied, even though he fell away from God, and even though he was captured by the Philistines who had no idea what to do with him, He did what was right.  He confessed to God he was wrong, he asked for forgiveness, he found his trust again, and God saved him from his enemies.

David had a choice, to trust himself or turn back to the Lord. He sees his way is failing, and he turns to the Lord.  Even though he didn’t deserve it; even though he failed; even though his trust was in himself this whole time, he came back to the Lord.

How did the Lord respond to him? He answered his prayer.  He didn’t deserve it. He failed God, and yet God still came through and saved him.  Why? Because he turn and repented.

And so David wrote Psalm 34: a Psalm of Thanksgiving to God. Because God saved him when he didn’t deserve it, he wanted the whole world, he wanted everyone, to know how much God loved him, cared for him, and saved him.

And this song is one that has been sung throughout the generations. David’s response is love and affection for God because God came through in his hour of need.

I just love verse 8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

He’s encouraging people to try the Lord.  To believe in the Lord.  To fear the Lord and just see what happens.  He believe if you just get this little taste of Him, you will never want to go back.

One divinity school hosted an annual picnic, to which they invited one of the greatest minds to lecture in the theological education center. One year, the guest lecturer was a professor, who spoke for two and one-half hours “proving” that the resurrection of Jesus was false.

The professor quoted scholar after scholar and book after book.  He concluded that since there was no such thing as the historical resurrection, the religious tradition of the church was groundless, emotional mumbo-jumbo, because it was based on a relationship with a risen Jesus, who, in fact, never rose from the dead in any literal sense. He then asked if there were any questions.

After about 30 seconds, an old preacher with a head of short-cropped, woolly white hair stood up in the back of the auditorium.

“Doctor Professor, I got one question”, he said as all eyes turned toward him.  He reached into his sack lunch and pulled out an apple and began eating it. CRUNCH, MUNCH, “My question is a simple question”,….CRUNCH, MUNCH… “Now, I ain’t never read them books you read”…CRUNCH, MUNCH… “and I can’t recite the Scriptures in the original Greek”…CRUNCH, MUNCH… “I don’t know nothin’ about Niebuhr and Heidegger”….CRUNCH, MUNCH…He finished the apple. “All I wanna know is: This apple I just ate…was it bitter or sweet?”

The professor paused for a moment and answered in exemplary scholarly fashion: “I cannot possibly answer that question, for I haven’t tasted your apple.”

The white-haired preacher dropped the core of his apple into his crumpled paper bag, looked up at the professor and said calmly, “Neither have you tasted my Jesus.”

My question for you today is this:  Have you tasted Jesus?  David did, and he was so overwhelmed by his encounter that he wrote a song to be sung through the generations.  He wanted everyone to know, everyone to understand what it means to fear the Lord, everyone to just try because when we meet with God, there is no turning back.

Monday Morning Preacher: Why Not Him?

So there was a question lingering from this week’s sermon:  If God wanted a godly person on the throne, and Saul’s son Jonathan was godly, why didn’t he pick him?  While this passage doesn’t really address or answer the question, we can find the answer elsewhere in 1 Samuel.

In 1 Samuel 14, Jonathan went off by himself and attacked the Philistines, sending them into a panic that Israel was able to defeat them.  But while Jonathan was off being a hero, Saul commanded the Israelite army not to eat anything that day.  When Jonathan rejoins the army, they travel through a forest where there was honey all around.  Jonathan, took his staff, stuck it into the honey and ate.

Later that day, Saul tried to inquire of the Lord, but the Lord was silent all day.  This was a sign something was wrong.  So they cast lots and determined that Jonathan was the issue.  Saul wanted to put Jonathan to death, as he promised in his oath, for disobeying his command.  But the Israelite officers all called Jonathan a hero and spared his life.  Part of the reason Jonathan couldn’t ascend to the throne was due to this event.  His sentence was, and should have been, death and this was just a delayed judgment.

The second event is just a chapter later in 1 Samuel 15.  Saul was told to destroy the Amalekites completely.  Take no plunder and leave no one alive.  So what did he do?  He took the cattle for plunder and left the king alive.  The exact opposite of what the Lord told him to do.  And so Samuel says to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. 29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” (1 Samuel 15: 28-29)

The Lord has already stripped Saul’s family of the kingship.  Jonathan had already sinned and been marked for death.  While Jonathan did, for most of his life, love and obey the Lord, it was these circumstances that ended up causing him to be rejected.

At the end of the day, God does what He does.  His ways are is ways.  We may not understand the why behind it, but the thing to remember is that this is His story.  Our lives are all about Him and bringing Him glory through our actions.  And even if things do not go as we expect, we must remember that God has His reasons.  The main point for us to remember is to be as submissive as Jonathan, rather than jealous like Saul, when God has different plans that our own.