Saturday, October 31, 2015

HOPE! - The Redemption of Our Bodies

We all have flaws. That’s just a part of being human.

However, God chooses to redeem our flaws for his glory.

God is all about redemption. He became a human in order to redeem humans after all. He became incarnate. And he works the same way today. He works in the flesh – our flesh. Our bodies. God became a human with a body… in order to redeem our bodies.

But we still have the ability to make choices. This is what we call our “will.” Within our will is the ability or power to experience freedom and creativity. We have the power to do both good and evil. We have the ability to say either yes or no to whatever comes to us.

However, through the Spirit of Jesus we have surrendered our will to the will of God. But this does not mean that we have lost our will. No. We will always have a will. It is just that our will has become identified with God’s will.

But praise God that we have the hope of redemption!

Redemption that has already begun and will continue on until the whole of creation is restored. And this redemption came through the incarnation of Christ – God became human in order to redeem humans.

The future that God has promised is the life of the Spirit. We are mortal beings, but will be resurrected to life again and we will live on forever with our God. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we are being “clothed” with the immortal. God has given us his seal, his assurance, that he will raise us up with Christ. This seal is the Holy Spirit. The future God has promised us is one of glory. We experience a taste of that now through the Holy Spirit because of Christ’s death and resurrection on our behalf. The Spirit has made known to us the mysteries of God, because he is the Spirit of Christ who was the fullness of God made into flesh. He has promised us the Holy Spirit.

However, our future hope is even greater than this present hope. Paul writes that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. We are destined for glory. This is our future. Paul says that the whole creation is waiting, groaning, for the future hope of its liberation of bondage to decay. He says that we also “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” Our future that God has promised to us is not only that our bodies will restored to us and liberated from destruction and decay, but that we ourselves will be adopted as the very sons and daughters of God.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Living on Mission – The Gentle Act of Humility

Living on Mission – The Gentle Act of Humility

I think we, as a society, are not big fans of being humble, and we REALLY dislike like being humiliated. You know what we love? We love being self-sufficient. We love being the hero of our own life story.

It’s hard to admit that we’re not actually in control of everything. It’s hard to admit that we need someone; even our Heavenly Father. It’s hard to admit that we don’t deserve glory and that He deserves all of it. We don’t like being dependent. But we are. It’s hard to humble ourselves and admit these things, but we have to; and the sooner the better. The world doesn’t see very much gentle humility, but they sure need to.

So, what does humility look like? Paul showed us true humility by giving all the glory to God in this prayer. The entire passage is beautifully humble, but in the end he said, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21) How beautifully this expresses a gentle, humble acknowledgement of the greatness of God – and simultaneously our dependence on Him.

Humble dependence. Let’s model that. Just like Paul in our passage this week, let’s lay down our need to be self-sufficient, to be right, and to take the glory when things go well.

Let’s practice Living on Mission through the Gentle Act of Humility.

Pastor Angela

Thursday, October 29, 2015

pray it! gentle in our time: ephesians 3:14-21

It is easier to talk about "humble beginnings" than it is to live in a state of humiliation.  Being humble, we like the idea of, when someone is describing us... but being placed in a position of being brought low... of being humiliated... if we were refreshingly honest, we'd probably all rather pass. 
There's more to being humble than being born in a manger. 

Jesus said, "For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."  (Luke 14:11).  And we look to Jesus in everything.  Jesus... who exemplified the power of gentle humility, enduring taunts and torture, though He did nothing wrong (blameless) and He was the Son of God (full of power).  He could have stopped it all.  He did not.  The gentle humility of Jesus was more fruitful and did more for mankind than if Jesus had tried to exalt himself on His own, apart from God and His will.

Could our gentle humility, in the manner of Jesus, do the same?

The "pray it" blog cannot think of any better way than to "pray it" this week than what Paul did in the beautifully written, humbly dependent way exhibited in Ephesians 3:14-21:

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,[a] 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.[b] 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

What might this look like, practically?

1.)  Change your position.  Do it.  Literally.  Do it now.  Perhaps pray on your knees.  Head bowed low.  Prostrate, on the ground, so-to-speak.  If it is difficult to get in a humble mindset, change your body position to a more dependent one, and see how much that can help.  Yes, you might feel ridiculous.  Try it in your living room where no one can see you.  Laugh and tell God it's weird.  Push past that.  And then do it anyway. 

2.)  Pray TO.  Notice how once Paul is in position, on his knees, he then spends time reminding himself of who he is praying to:  Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  Let this be both humbling AND empowering.  You are not the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  You are not omnipotent.  You are not in control.  You ARE, however, praying to the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  He is omnipotent.  He is in control.  And He wants to hear from you.

3.)  Pray FOR yourself and others to be empowered through the Holy Spirit and able to experience the love of Christ. I can't think of a better prayer, honestly.  It kind of covers... everything.

4.)  Submit and trust.  God is able.  Yield to His will and pray that He will do more than we can ask or imagine, bringing glory to His name.

Try it.
I'm doing it too.

PoC|Coverage is tonight at 6pm - come get your corporate prayer on!

Pastor Celia

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

FAMILY IT! — Wednesday Family Devotional — “Gentle in Our Time”

Several years ago, a book blasted into the Christian market all about love languages.  The idea is that just like people talk in different languages based on where they’re from, people also communicate love in different ways.  This is influenced by many things, including personality and upbringing.

Take a second and think about your love language as a person, but also think about how your family communicates love.  In the home I grew up in, teasing and gift-giving were our big love languages for each other.  In my home now, it’s a lot of affirmation, snuggling, and serving each other.

What about you?  Talk about your thoughts on your family’s love language.  How do you communicate or show one another the love you have? 

Knowing how someone else shows love can help us better understand them and better love them.  Some people walking into my childhood home might have thought we were pretty mean people with some of our sarcastic comments to each other if they didn't know teasing was our love language.

Read Ephesians 3:14-21.  In this passage, one of the things Paul wants us to know and experience is the love Jesus has for us.  The love of God is so HUGE, it’s pretty incomprehensible!  But Paul wants us to stretch ourselves to see if we can maybe just slightly begin to grasp how wide and long and high and deep His love is.  The more we understand Jesus’ love, the more we’re able to experience it.  And the more we are able to return to Him.

Do you notice how Paul ends this passage in worship?  He’s not done with the letter—we’re just at the halfway point.  Yet he takes time here, right in the middle of it all, to give glory to God.  Worship is a wonderful way to show love to our Father.  Verbal praise like singing or testimonies is probably the most common way, but we can also show our love for the Lord in other ways, like service, giving, helping, sharing the gospel, and even just loving on other people.

How about your family?  How do you experience the love of God?  Is it only in church on Sundays, or do you experience his love throughout the week together?  

How do you love on God as a family?  Talk about the different ways you experience and share the love you and God have for each other.  Do you need to be purposeful about taking more time to love on Jesus as a family?  

Why don’t you take some time right now to worship Him!  Whatever works for your family—sing, talk, write and share, maybe even head outside to rake a neighbor’s lawn.  Think about the immeasurable love God has for you all and then respond!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

EXPLORE IT - Ephesians 3:14-21; Matthew 16:15-17

Ephesians 3:14-21
Matthew 16:15-17   "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"  16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  17 Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.
Have you ever read something and had to read a section over and over because you just did not understand what the passage meant?  Or have you ever been listening to someone speak and you had to stop them because you really weren’t sure what they are talking about?  Sometimes, we have the same struggles with God and His Word.  Sometimes we’ll be reading the Bible or listening to a sermon and shake our head because we really have no idea what is going on.  In our passage this week, Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul shares the answer to this problem – The Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity (the Trinity is God the Father, Jesus the Son, and The Holy Spirit).  The Holy Spirit is the part of God who lives within us after we accept Jesus as the Lord of our life…we have a portion of God living in us!  The Holy Spirit gives us strength to go through our day, helps us to hold our tongues when we would rather make an inappropriate comment, but He also helps us understand the things of God.
God is complicated!  While we can understand part of God, we will never understand all of God (I mean, would we really want to serve a god that is small enough for us to understand?).  We need God’s help to understand Him.  Even Jesus spoke to the fact that God helped Simon Peter to conclude that Jesus was, “…the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16b).  In fact, we can ask God to help us understand Him more and that is what Paul is doing in our passage this week.  Paul desires that we better understand how amazing Jesus’ love is for us; so much so that Paul prays that the Holy Spirit would give us this understanding.
So the next time you don’t understand something, ask the Holy Spirit to help you!  He can help us better understand the Bible, our school work, our co-workers…He can even help you better understand the love Jesus has for you!
Pastor Amy

Monday, October 26, 2015

READ IT! - Gentle in Our Time (week 7)

In what areas of your life do you struggle with self-control? Are there parts of your life that feel completely out of control? As you read these passages from the Bible, ask Jesus to help you in these areas. But also be willing to let his gentleness work within you, to not just bring these areas under control, but under Christ’s control.

From the Torah: Genesis 39:1-23 (NIV)
From the Former Prophets: 1 Samuel 24:1-22 (NIV)
From the Latter Prophets: Jeremiah 33:15-20 (NIV)
From the Books of Wisdom and Poetry: Proverbs 16:21-33 (NIV)
From the Late Books: Daniel 6:1-28 (NIV)
From the Gospels: Luke 6:27-36 (NIV)
From the Epistles: James 1:12-27 (NIV)

From the Torah

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”

But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

Genesis 39:1-23

From the Former Prophets

After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.” So Saul took three thousand able young men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.

He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.

Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” 

When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.

“Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Who are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”

When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the Lord delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.”

So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.

1 Samuel 24:1-22

From the Latter Prophets

This is what the Lord says:

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
    mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more.”

This is what the Lord says:

“Restrain your voice from weeping
    and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded,”
declares the Lord.
    “They will return from the land of the enemy.
So there is hope for your descendants,”
declares the Lord.
    “Your children will return to their own land.

“I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning:
    ‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf,
    and I have been disciplined.
Restore me, and I will return,
    because you are the Lord my God.
After I strayed,
    I repented;
after I came to understand,
    I beat my breast.
I was ashamed and humiliated
    because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’
Is not Ephraim my dear son,
    the child in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him,
    I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
    I have great compassion for him,”
declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 33:15-20

From the Books of Wisdom and Poetry

The wise in heart are called discerning,
    and gracious words promote instruction.
Prudence is a fountain of life to the prudent,
    but folly brings punishment to fools.
The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent,
    and their lips promote instruction.
Gracious words are a honeycomb,
    sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
There is a way that appears to be right,
    but in the end it leads to death.
The appetite of laborers works for them;
    their hunger drives them on.
A scoundrel plots evil,
    and on their lips it is like a scorching fire.
A perverse person stirs up conflict,
    and a gossip separates close friends.
A violent person entices their neighbor
    and leads them down a path that is not good.
Whoever winks with their eye is plotting perversity;
    whoever purses their lips is bent on evil.
Gray hair is a crown of splendor;
    it is attained in the way of righteousness.
Better a patient person than a warrior,
    one with self-control than one who takes a city.
The lot is cast into the lap,
    but its every decision is from the Lord.

Proverbs 16:21-33

From the Late Books

It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” So King Darius put the decree in writing.

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”

The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”

Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.
Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”

So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.

At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:

“May you prosper greatly!

“I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.

“For he is the living God
    and he endures forever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
    his dominion will never end.
He rescues and he saves;
    he performs signs and wonders
    in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel
    from the power of the lions.”

So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Daniel 6:1-28

From the Gospels

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:27-36

From the Epistles

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 1:12-27