Monday, February 29, 2016

READ IT! - Fierce Pursuit (week 4)

When we allow Christ to live in our hearts, we begin to think like Christ – we begin to understand the very thoughts of God himself. God imparts his wisdom to us, allowing us to become not only vibrant and passionate about Jesus, but we begin to take on the characteristics of Christ as well. We are patient like he is patient. We rejoice with those who rejoice. We mourn with those who mourn. Think about that as you read these passages.

From the Torah: Deuteronomy 34:1-12
From the Former Prophets: 1 Kings 3:1-28
From the Latter Prophets: Hosea 14:1-9
From the Books of Wisdom and Poetry: Proverbs 8:1-36
From the Late Books: Ecclesiastes 7:1-25
From the Gospels: Luke 2:22-40
From the Epistles: James 3:13-18

From the Torah

Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”

And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.

Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses.

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

From the Former Prophets

Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the Lord, and the wall around Jerusalem. The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the Lord. Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.

The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream.

He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then he gave a feast for all his court.

Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.

“During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”

The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”

But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” 

And so they argued before the king.

The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”

Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”

The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”

But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”

Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.

1 Kings 3:1-28

From the Latter Prophets

Return, Israel, to the Lord your God.
    Your sins have been your downfall!
Take words with you
    and return to the Lord.

Say to him:
    “Forgive all our sins
and receive us graciously,
    that we may offer the fruit of our lips.
Assyria cannot save us;
    we will not mount warhorses.
We will never again say ‘Our gods’
    to what our own hands have made,
    for in you the fatherless find compassion.”

“I will heal their waywardness
    and love them freely,
    for my anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
    he will blossom like a lily.
Like a cedar of Lebanon
    he will send down his roots;
    his young shoots will grow.
His splendor will be like an olive tree,
    his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
People will dwell again in his shade;
    they will flourish like the grain,
they will blossom like the vine—
    Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.
Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?
    I will answer him and care for him.
I am like a flourishing juniper;
    your fruitfulness comes from me.”

Who is wise? Let them realize these things.
    Who is discerning? Let them understand.
The ways of the Lord are right;
    the righteous walk in them,
    but the rebellious stumble in them.

Hosea 14:1-9

From the Books of Wisdom and Poetry

Does not wisdom call out?
    Does not understanding raise her voice?
At the highest point along the way,
    where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
beside the gate leading into the city,
    at the entrance, she cries aloud:

“To you, O people, I call out;
    I raise my voice to all mankind.
You who are simple, gain prudence;
    you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.
Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say;
    I open my lips to speak what is right.
My mouth speaks what is true,
    for my lips detest wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are just;
    none of them is crooked or perverse.
To the discerning all of them are right;
    they are upright to those who have found knowledge.
Choose my instruction instead of silver,
    knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
    and nothing you desire can compare with her.

“I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
    I possess knowledge and discretion.
To fear the Lord is to hate evil;
    I hate pride and arrogance,
    evil behavior and perverse speech.
Counsel and sound judgment are mine;
    I have insight, I have power.
By me kings reign
    and rulers issue decrees that are just;
by me princes govern,
    and nobles—all who rule on earth.
I love those who love me,
    and those who seek me find me.
With me are riches and honor,
    enduring wealth and prosperity.
My fruit is better than fine gold;
    what I yield surpasses choice silver.
I walk in the way of righteousness,
    along the paths of justice,
bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me
    and making their treasuries full.

“The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,
    before his deeds of old;
I was formed long ages ago,
    at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,
    when there were no springs overflowing with water;
before the mountains were settled in place,
    before the hills, I was given birth,
before he made the world or its fields
    or any of the dust of the earth.
I was there when he set the heavens in place,
    when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
when he established the clouds above
    and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
when he gave the sea its boundary
    so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
    Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
    rejoicing always in his presence,
rejoicing in his whole world
    and delighting in mankind.

“Now then, my children, listen to me;
    blessed are those who keep my ways.
Listen to my instruction and be wise;
    do not disregard it.
Blessed are those who listen to me,
    watching daily at my doors,
    waiting at my doorway.
For those who find me find life
    and receive favor from the Lord.
But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
    all who hate me love death.”

Proverbs 8:1-36

From the Late Books

A good name is better than fine perfume,
    and the day of death better than the day of birth.
It is better to go to a house of mourning
    than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
    the living should take this to heart.
Frustration is better than laughter,
    because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person
    than to listen to the song of fools.
Like the crackling of thorns under the pot,
    so is the laughter of fools.
    This too is meaningless.
Extortion turns a wise person into a fool,
    and a bribe corrupts the heart.
The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
    and patience is better than pride.
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
    for anger resides in the lap of fools.

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
    For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing
    and benefits those who see the sun.
Wisdom is a shelter
    as money is a shelter,
but the advantage of knowledge is this:
    Wisdom preserves those who have it.

Consider what God has done:
Who can straighten
    what he has made crooked?
When times are good, be happy;
    but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one
    as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover
    anything about their future.

In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these:
the righteous perishing in their righteousness,
    and the wicked living long in their wickedness.
Do not be over righteous,
    neither be over wise—
    why destroy yourself?
Do not be over wicked,
    and do not be a fool—
    why die before your time?
It is good to grasp the one
    and not let go of the other.
    Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.

Wisdom makes one wise person more powerful
    than ten rulers in a city.
Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
    no one who does what is right and never sins.
Do not pay attention to every word people say,
    or you may hear your servant cursing you—
for you know in your heart
    that many times you yourself have cursed others.

All this I tested by wisdom and I said,
“I am determined to be wise”—
    but this was beyond me.
Whatever exists is far off and most profound—
    who can discover it?
So I turned my mind to understand,
    to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things
and to understand the stupidity of wickedness
    and the madness of folly.

Ecclesiastes 7:1-25

From the Gospels

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Luke 2:22-40

From the Epistles

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

James 3:13-18

Saturday, February 27, 2016

HOPE! - Pure Focus

Christ calls us to focus our attention on him and to live in the fullness of his purity. By his grace we may then see what he sees as we allow him to burn away all things within us that are anti-Christ. And as he purifies us, we become aware of more than ourselves and we come alongside others and help them in their suffering.

We can see the call to be focused and to be pure in heart demonstrated in the life of Jesus in that he called his disciples to absolute loyalty to him. His disciples were committed to following Jesus wherever he went, even to the grave, though they often fell short of their desire to follow him into all things.

Jesus showed in his own life that he was consecrated to the will of the Father. He often says in the gospels that he has come to do his Father’s will. He even calls Peter “Satan” at one point because Peter is trying to convince him that God’s will for his life is something other than what God has made clear to him. Christ sets an example of a life that is both a focused upon God and pure in heart to his own followers. Just as he submits to the Father, so they must submit to him as he does the will of the Father. 

The call of Jesus to entire consecration is an extraordinary one. He says, “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” He also says that “whoever wants to save his life must lose it.” Jesus goes on to say that those who have a divided will cannot serve him. They must be completely devoted. He says “A man cannot serve two masters. Either he will love the one and hate the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.” 

Jesus even says that those who would follow him must give up everything for the sake of the kingdom. There were many followers who came to Jesus to ask what they must do to be his disciple, and Jesus always called them to surrender their lives completely.

The rich young man had to surrender all of his wealth. Another disciple was told that he must leave his father’s funeral planning to someone else. Another was told that he would have to be homeless with no place to rest his head if he truly wanted to be a disciple of Jesus, which meant to be like Jesus. Christ even said that being consecrated to him as his disciple would cause the members of one’s own household to become his enemies. All of this shows the weight of consecration – living a sin-free life through the power of the Holy Spirit can lead to pain and to suffering… but it’s worth it.

Jesus shows that consecration to God is more important than wealth, than having a home, and even more important than your own family. These were “hard words” for most of Jesus’ followers.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Living on Mission – Character Traits Week 2

Living on Mission – Character Traits Week 2

Our character has a deep impact on our fierce pursuit of God and others. Christlike character is winsome and attractive, while un-Christlike character can be off-putting and offensive to others. The lack of good character sometimes causes us to run away or hide from God instead of running toward Him. The lack of character also distances us from others when we are made to pursue them.

As we focus on increasing the following character traits this week, let’s look for ways these could be of use as we fiercely pursue Him and others:

To be focused on something simply means that we concentrate on it. Evangelism depends on focus, and the task of evangelism becomes much easier when we develop a credo (guiding belief) based on our unique personality, natural talents and spiritual gifts. (John 4:31-34)

Pure in Heart
To be pure in heart means to live with a single-minded purpose of living for the praise of God rather than for the praise of fellow human beings. In evangelism, God uses the pure of heart to clean out wounds resulting from sin, to help others see God at work. (Matthew 5:8)

Let’s remember to add these to character traits from previous weeks:
Intentionally building character means that we resolve to develop Christlike character: that is, we actively engage in putting certain character traits into our lives. In evangelism, being intentional means developing relationships with non-Christians. (Matthew 16:18)

Being gracious stems from having our lives and relationships with others marked by God’s grace – His steadfast, unconditional love. In evangelism, this means that our thoughts, emotions and behavior toward non-Christians are marked by graciousness as we seek to bring them to Jesus and commit to serve Him as King. (John 1:14, 16-17)

Let’s practice Living on Mission and consider how these Christlike character traits might impact our witness and our Missional activities as we fiercely pursue others, and how closely we must abide and fiercely pursue God in order for them to grow.

Pastor Angela

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Need to catch up on the main passage for this Sunday's sermon?  Check it out here:  1 Peter 4:7-11

We just kicked of an amazing new sermon series entitled "Fierce Pursuit:  For We Have Spent Enough Time in the Past."  This week's spiritual discipline that we will look at in conjunction with our passage is service

Service is an outward spiritual discipline beautifully modeled for us by Jesus throughout Scripture.

Engaging in the spiritual discipline of service can help change our posture and place us in a better position to engage in this fierce pursuit of holiness and of other people.

If we are to truly be fiercely connected and show affectionate love to those who suffer with Christ, we need to be focused and pure in heart.  Engaging in the spiritual discipline of service can help our concentration and can help us live with a single-minded purpose of living for God.

There is more to service than serving... one can go through the motions of service without having a servant's heart.  This is why we need Jesus.  This is why we need our daily presence.  This is why we must be like peanut butter and jelly with the Holy Spirit... (close together!)

According to Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline, service can take many forms, including the following: 
  • service of hiddenness
  • service of small things
  • service of guarding the reputation of others
  • the service of being served (darn that pride!)
  • the service of common courtesy
  • the service of hospitality
  • the service of listening
  • the service of bearing the burdens of each other
  • the service of sharing the word of Life with one another
Sometimes when people think of acts of service, they immediately think it's only service if one is taking part in a formal service project through a civic organization.  Sometimes people dismiss their abilities to serve, thinking that they have no special skills to offer.  Let's all let Jesus transform and revolutionize our thinking.  (For we have spent enough time in the past!!!)

Think there's no ways in which you can serve?  Think again!  Service is a way of life that we can incorporate into just about every moment of our day, regardless of where we are or whom we are around.

Self-righteous service is not what Jesus modeled.  Self-righteous service looks like this, according to Foster:
  • comes through human effort
  • is impressed with "the big deal"
  • requires external rewards
  • is highly concerned about results
  • picks and chooses whom to serve
  • is affected by moods and whims
  • is insensitive
  • fractures community

In what ways is God calling you... me... us... to serve today... this week... this month... this year?  To whom is He calling you?  What lies about yourself and your characteristics is God calling you to surrender so that He can flow through you fully to pour out his grace on others?  On whom does God want you to focus?  What voices does God want to quiet so that you hear more of His voice alone, and are motivated by His praise alone? 

As we prepare for Sunday's message, let us pray through for the service from the first list, and pray against anything from the last list.  Let us prayerfully reflect on the ways in which God wants us to serve.

PoC|Coverage is tonight at 6pm.  Join us as we engage in care and prayer throughout the building. 

Pastor Celia

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

FAMILY IT! — Wednesday Family Devotional — “Fierce Pursuit”

The team gathered in the hotel courtyard, ready for another day of serving God on the mission field.  A woman zipped her sunscreen into her bag as her husband adjusted his ball cap.  One of the teenagers was stretched across the bench trying to squeeze in a few more Z’s.  Some of the kids had begun playing tag while they waited for the last stragglers to join them.  

It had been a busy few days.  They’d arrived in this third-world country with a purpose: build some Sunday school classrooms and host a Vacation Bible School for a young church.  It had been long, hot work, but they were happy with their progress.  Yesterday had been a short day.  The team wrapped up early so they could show the “Jesus Film.”  So many people from the town had come out, including some members of one of the local gangs.  The mission team stood in the back watching the audience and marveling as almost a dozen came forward to accept Christ as their Savior—even a guy from the gang!  Oh, what a blessing this trip was!  The missionaries would need to push today to get the rooms done in time for the VBS that weekend, but it had been worth it.

Once the last team member joined the group, they began the walk to the work site.  Even thought they’d been many times, the work and witness coordinator led the way.  As they walked, the team stretched into a staggered bunch of families.  The couples were up front with the coordinator while the young parents lagged behind with their children.  As the leader walked, he suddenly noticed a form ahead on the side of the dirt road.  Not sure what it was, he instinctively directed the team to the other side.  As they drew closer, the coordinator could see the gang tattoo on the young man’s back through the blood and bruises, no doubt the victim of some turf war.  He began to walk more quickly.  The last thing he needed was to get this team caught up in gang fights.  Besides, they had to get to the work site and get started on the day.

The families bringing up the rear noticed their leader picking up the pace.  It didn’t take them long to figure out why. When they got close enough, they could hear soft moaning sounds.  Mothers began talking loudly to cover the noise as they strategically stepped between their children and the wounded man.  They did not want to scar their children with this horrible sight.  Instead, they followed suit with the leader and quickened their pace.

No one had noticed that someone else had been following the team.  It was one of the guys from the Jesus Film the night before, one that had come forward at the end.  He had decided to head to the church this morning and see if he could learn more about this Jesus guy.  His brain was filled with the message from the movie the night before.  In fact, he was so preoccupied that he almost didn’t notice the giant lump along the road.  The new believer had heard about the fight that took place while he’d been at the movie.  It was a safe bet that he was approaching the loser.  His eyes widened as he took in the condition of the body.  This guys was in bad shape—it was amazing he’d lived through the night!  

The young man took off his jacket and gently wrapped it around the limp body.  He took care to cover the wounds, hardly noticing the tattoo that was so different from his own.  He slowly lifted the injured rival and carried him as quickly as he could to the clinic in town.  He waited nervously while the doctors treated his new patient.  After what seemed like an eternity, the doctor emerged with hopeful news.  He’d lost a lot of blood, but since they got to him in time, it was likely he’d live—all thanks to the quick thinking of this young man walking down the road.  A warm glow spread through him.  He stopped at the nurses station and gave them his address, asking that they send all bills there.  Then he walked out of the clinic and headed toward the church, smiling.

This story may sound familiar.  Jesus tells one kind of like it in Luke 10:24-37.  The message in both is clear: we won’t be truly missional if we’re not about people.  God calls us to a holy life, to be set apart for good works.  But that doesn’t mean set apart from others.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  We see that the more time we spend with God, the more we feel led to build connections with the people around us, to show affection and love to those who are suffering, and ignore that differences that can keep us at bay.

It can be really easy to stand along the edge of the mission as an observer, watching all the things God does.  We need to jump in with both feet ready to love whoever God brings our way.

Who can you love today?  Brainstorm together and decide who you’re going to connect with.  Then end your time in prayer, asking God to open your eyes to those around you who need to be cared for.