Sneak Peek

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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A brother in Christ and fellow pastor, David Beck, has cancer. Pancreatic Cancer. He was first diagnosed more than 16 months ago now and has been undergoing excruciating, ongoing treatments.

Back in December of 2017 when called to serve a church outside of Seattle from Sacramento, he arrived, preached a couple times, began to feel too exhausted to name, and in going to the doctor got this diagnosis.  So, he had been doing the right thing, following God, obeying, showing up, being faithful, and the result, cancer. Sometimes the facts of life leave one mystified.

The unanswered questions can leave a person numb.  

Circumstances can thwart us.  But through this 16 months David has been posting on the Caring Bridge site in a blog that has now reached well over 50,000 readers. Week by week, through the struggles and impossibilities of his circumstances, he has simply shared his heart, his faith, and his determination to simply live every day as fully as he can, even if his last day is upcoming ahead of schedule.

So far, David is still alive.  It is a marvel. It is like he is sitting in this jailhouse called cancer yet still praying, still praising, still believing, and certainly still sharing his love for Jesus.

This week, on Sunday, we will share in a passage, from Acts 16, in which a circumstance which looking in from the outside we would have to admit is dreadful leads to more people hearing about Jesus than ever would have otherwise.  Although we only read of one family converting as a result, the overflow of this one must have been massive. Crowds had witnessed a miracle -- and even though this had been covered by false cries, still, God had moved in their midst.  A slave girl had experienced the power of God over her life. Prisoners had witnessed the newest arrivals not yelling with anger or crying out in pain, but singing and praying, all of which they were listening to.

Read Acts 16 this week and look at Paul and Silas and wonder with me what we might learn about them that they chose praise and prayer over self pity or despair! They could have felt betrayed by God in this little circumstance, but you don’t see this.  They could have chosen to complain, but didn’t. They could have said, “Hey, we are doing the right thing here,” but they don’t. What we do see is a choice in the midst of a circumstance. That choice made the difference.

What impact might those praises have had on those “listening in” prisoners?  

How might the jailer’s life and his family’s life have been altered because of this imprisonment?

What was that midnight baptism like as Paul presided over his and his family’s baptisms?

This story reminds me that we are partners with God in this grand adventure and everything, not just the good stuff, is used so that God can be made more visible through our lives.  It also reminds me of this: that I’m being observed all the time. And whatever I might imagine, when I come and go, when I speak and listen, my life is on display and others are watching to see how I respond, and what I say from the circumstances of my life.  Perhaps, just perhaps, we could remember just two things of how Paul and Silas chose to follow in their circumstances to impact our own. Rather than anything else, rather then defensiveness or anger, in response to horrendous treatment, they prayed and praised.  Perhaps this week, no matter your circumstances, you could choose the same and see what kinds of earthquakes shake your world for good.


Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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It is post Pentecost in this Sunday’s scripture (even though by the calendar we are still walking toward that date), the end of Acts 2. The church birthed on Pentecost. Before it was a group of disciples, waiting, praying, hoping, not knowing what to expect. After that morning when the Spirit fell like a rushing wind, it was an organism, a body, a linked unit of people moving together in concert. It was a sudden shift.

Certainly they did not do everything together, they all still had their various jobs. But even so, everything had changed. No longer were they afraid, they boldly proclaimed the risen Christ. No longer were they hiding, they were everywhere, and as a body always growing, first by addition and then by multiplication. It was a movement with a mission set by Jesus that shook the establishment.

So what are we to do with this church thing? I mean, we can look at this first picture of the early church in Acts 2 and believe, falsely, that that was all they ever were -- healthy, sharing, giving, dynamic, bold and transforming. But scripture is ruthlessly honest. Although the early movement grew rapidly, it also ran into major difficulties with deception, arguments, comparisons, persecution and the like, all within the first months.

It is helpful to us not to glorify this early movement, and believe it was perfect. But what can we learn from the early church? What can we see happening which we may be able to learn from as we seek to continue this movement today?

This Sunday we will look together at how this early fledgling community became the “word made flesh” in their era. They did not just preach, they embodied the scriptures. It was not the word become word, but the word made flesh among them that spoke the loudest to their contemporaries. This is where we can still apply what God wants for us today -- today still, we are called to this same thing, to make the Word flesh through our corporate lives. How does all that we do lend toward this desire? That’s what we will be asking on this Mother’s Day.

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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How did Jesus disciple people?  He did it by inviting them to follow.  “Follow Me” is Jesus’ two-word, oft-repeated invitation in the Gospels.  Again and again, to all kinds of people, from all kinds of backgrounds and income brackets, Jesus simply welcomed them into the opportunity to follow Him with their lives. For them, at that time, this meant to literally walk away from their normal lives.  The fishermen left the sea, the tax collector his tax collecting box, the politically connected their causes. The prostitutes left their employment, the sinners their pasts, the outcasts their lostness. Following Jesus was not just a decision that changed direction, it was a decision that changed life for good.  Indeed, it was for good. And when someone needed restoring after stumbling, Jesus knew just how to do that as well. In today’s passage, John 21, Peter is in need of such restoring, and Jesus takes him back in order to take him forward.

This Sunday we are welcoming into membership and into the life of this congregation the seven guys who have been walking in the confirmation class throughout this year. They have had weekly classes, more than 20 of you praying for them, fun outings, a weekend retreat, and lots of discussions about Jesus, about life, about what it might mean to follow Him more fully.  So, this Sunday is the culmination of that class. We will welcome these seven guys into this congregation: Jordan B, Barrett F, Conner F, Liam F, Holden S, Dylan T, and Jesse T.

Part of that following for you and me is connecting with the body, coming to worship, experiencing that life together.  So -- come! Don’t let us miss out on worshiping and being with you, and don’t you miss out on what God has for you in the worshiping gathering.  

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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Easter.  Not just nice clothes and bright colors, the Easter bunny and Easter eggs. But more-- the celebration of the fact that Jesus -- the One from God who came and died here — has defeated death.  This great surprise to the disciples, anticipated and known and celebrated by us, would have rocked their world. No one had ever defeated death. Only myths spoke of such a thing. But here in real time, the One they loved had died and been raised.  Death had lost its sting. The shackles of the grave broken. No man had ever done this before. But through the power of God, in response to the testimony of the Word, Jesus had been raised from the dead.

As we gather for this Sunday -- come as did these first disciples to the tomb to help anoint his body and with them discover again, Jesus is Alive.  

This is the fact that can change how we live.

This is the fact that can change how we experience the circumstances of life.

Nothing of death need defeat us as we look at the fact that this One who died has been raised.  

Sin and death met their defeat at the cross and in the resurrection, so too for our lives.  

What might it look like to live from the resurrection power in our life, daily?  What might it look like if everything was filtered through this incontrovertible fact? If Christ truly has accomplished something this magnificent, it ought to impact all of our lives, not just our manner of life, but our thinking, our relationships, and how we process defeat.  Truly, since this “defeat” became the ultimate victory, perhaps all defeats could be viewed then as stepping stones to victory. What if this were the case?

Try this on for size and don’t miss Easter Sunday -- 6:30 am at Duffield house; 8:15 and 10:00 am at Westside.  Come and worship!

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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It was during the reign of King David. His son Solomon was to be the king after him, but David had had many, many sons and many were the “first born” of different wives. This created challenges. One of these rose up to set up himself as the new king. He was having a celebration of sorts with his henchmen. They were shouting, using trumpets, and the word came back to David. Nathan, the prophet, and Bathsheba, remember her (?), came to him saying, “Didn’t you say, Oh King, that Solomon would be king?” And they told him what was happening.

He wasted no time in acting: “Take with you the servants of your lord and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. 34 And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet there anoint him king over Israel. Then blow the trumpet and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ 35 You shall then come up after him, and he shall come and sit on my throne, for he shall be king in my place. And I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah” (1 Kings 1: 33-35).

Kings entered in this manner -- on a donkey, on a mule, anointed, celebrated-- and this action set in place Solomon as the next king over this usurper brother.

So, everyone there on this famous Sunday, called Palm Sunday, would have known the significance of Jesus riding into town on a donkey, they would have known the prophetic passage from Zechariah: “Look, your king will come to you. He is righteous and victorious. He is humble and riding on an ass, on a colt, the offspring of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:10).

Jesus was making a direct parallel to the prophecy with this move. He planned it. After all these months of saying, “Don’t tell anyone that I am the Messiah,” now, he was announcing that very fact and the people caught it, saying “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.” “Hosanna,” meaning, “God Saves!”

And this day moves from celebration to weeping, from shouts to the rebukes of the religious leaders. It was a day filled with emotion, most poignantly Jesus’ statement over this city which was missing the fact that God was entering her that day, and thereby missing the “things that make for peace.” We don’t want to miss Jesus. And that day, the city of Jerusalem did, and would pay the price.

What about you, have you opened your eyes to the way of peace? Jesus is bringing peace to you.

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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“I’m going to hike the Alpinista way.  Want to join me?” Markus, an analyst from Switzerland asked as I approached him standing outside a small village in Spain, next to a small, white, wooden sign upon which was painted a hiker in blue with the term “Alpinista” in red letters painted upon it. We were on the Camino.  “Yes” was my reply, before I even asked what that meant!

The Alpinista way, hear therein the word “alpine,” like the ALPS, was off the main road, onto a narrow, unadorned, sometimes hard-to-find path that led through the woods and right out to the cliffs along the ocean. The views were spectacular once we reached the cliff tops. And the way was treacherous.  We hiked up, up, up to the peak of a mountain and then back down, down, down to the sea time and time again, on a winding, dirt path. It was narrow, through pastures, gateways, and on rocky shale pathways. After this day, I looked for the small signs with their symbol of the Alpinista way in order to take this path.

That was my fourth day on the Camino. My left calf muscle had turned rock hard on the first day out and wouldn’t stretch out or relax.  It pulled and hurt with every step. I didn’t know what to do with it, except, to keep going. On the way we took that day, at one point as I stepped up an especially steep incline, the muscle in my left calf felt as if it popped or ripped, the pain eased at first and then became excruciating.  It was with burning steps I limped up hills and down, after this. After a few hours we made our way down, down, down again into the town of Deba.

Our day was not through. Markus cared for me that day.  I sat and rested, drank the best-tasting beer ever, and then he said, “Now, we will eat lunch, then get you an ace bandage for your leg, and then we go up the hill. I walk slowly with you.” Indeed, we hiked again four kilometers up another 2000 feet in the hot sun to the place we stayed that evening. It was a killer day.  I was wiped out. But felt like I had passed some test!

In the closing remarks of Jesus’ message on how we live in relationship with Him, Jesus is all about contrasts.  He contrasts how people choose to follow – which way, what kind of fruit proves and tests relationship, and what kind of foundation. Build on the rock. These are connected to practice. How people practice following Him.

How might you respond if asked:  

What kind of fruit ought I see in the life of someone who claims to be a disciple of Jesus?

Or:  What might it look like to “do” the Words Jesus said?  

Or:  How do I know if I am really on that “narrow way”?

The answers might surprise you.  How might you respond? How do you choose?   

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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It was one of those blurr days.  I was charged with going to buy the range we had selected.  Once I got through the paperwork, the salesman said that they needed a four-pronged outlet to plug into. The only way to check what was behind the old range was to come home and move it.  I tipped it precariously forward onto a mattress I had dragged into the kitchen, and could see it was hooked up through a junction box. Knowing this would need to be rewired into an outlet, I called an electrician  friend who said, “Hey that’s easy.” After he ran through what I would need to do, losing me after the first step, I said, “I’ll call back and tell you how it is going.” He ended up coming to help. This meant taking the old range out. So, I did this, he came and helped, and we put in the new outlet.  All finished a few hours later! I felt like I had really accomplished something, and the new range would be coming on the next Thursday, five days later.

I had sent pictures of my journey but I forget to mention that one detail, that we would be without the range for five days. Karen had been impressed, only seeing pictures and reading texts that they would be able to deliver it on the same day as purchased, a Saturday.  She got home and there was this hole where the range had been. As we talked over what we might do for dinner, suddenly the stress of this situation came forward, and she said, in one of those sudden revelations: “But how am I going to cook my egg in the morning?”

At that I understood.  In life often it is the little things that are the toughest, the smallest of details that “break the camel’s back.”  

“Oh, Karen.  Didn’t I tell you that they were not delivering the new range today?”  I asked, apologetic.

Anxiety can hit in the smallest details of life and often as Jesus wrote it will be centered around the basics of our bodies (shape, size, etc), then, food, drink and clothing.

This week Jesus deals with three core problems that we face as people in our lives and these interrelate. Jesus speaks of these as anxiety, judgment and not realizing how deeply we are loved. These can interrelate, for when we are anxious, that very anxiety can cause us to be hyper aware of the faults of others, bringing us into judgment, and both are related to a basic belief that we are not loved. To all this the heart remedy is to turn outward, to seek God, to find refuge in that relationship, to pay attention to our own needs and brokenness rather than being hyper attentive to others.  

That may be clear, but we need reminders to come back to God’s for us.  For all of us can find ourselves mired into feelings of anxiety or judgment or being forlorn.  And for all this, God invites us back to Himself. Let’s come there this week.


Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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Standing behind this man at Costco, he turned and said “We all get to wait.”  I laughed and said, “I consider it good practice. I need to learn to breathe into waiting in life.”  “What do you do?” he asked. Surprised, I said, “I’m a pastor of a local church.” “You are! I thought you must be connected somehow to Jesus. You just shine.”  “Well, thank you sir. I didn’t feel especially shiny today, so that is great to hear.” That launched a conversation that lasted about 15 minutes about his life and mine, about Jesus, and the impact he has had on our lives.  

That day I left Costco deeply thankful that Jesus shows through my eyes.  Jesus wants us to live our lives so that they carry a kind of light that is visible, a kind of hope, a kind of salt that adds flavor.  Some days I can feel like the light is dim or the salt is lacking flavor, but then encounters like this one demonstrate that God is at work through me no matter what I might be feeling beneath the surface.  

Lent is a great time of year to pay attention.  How is your spiritual life?

We take our cars in for regular oil changes or check the oil for our older vehicles, so how about using Lent to check your spiritual pulse, to “check the oil” -- how is your connection with the Holy Spirit?

If you took your temperature spiritually -- how hot are you running spiritually?  Spiritually we want to be hot not cold or lukewarm. So are you running hot spiritually?  If not, why not? What steps in Lent might you take to raise your temperature?

Jesus makes some statements in Matthew 6, talking against the practices of the Pharisees telling the people to fast and pray and give but not like the Pharisees or like those who were pagan among them did.  He uses interesting language in this section. He says, “When” not “If” you pray, give, fast. He is speaking from the assumption that they WILL fast and give and pray. He is telling them when they do this not to follow the example of their religious experts and leaders. Don’t fast, give and pray in order to be seen by people, in order to be applauded by people, in order to be rewarded by people.  Instead, he invited them and invites US to be a people who give and pray and fast in order to serve and honor God.

This is not a statement that we ought not pray or fast or tell people what we give,  in public. For example this is not a statement saying that when we are in a restaurant eating, that to pray there is somehow showing off-- nope.  Jesus is speaking against the Pharisaical practice of prayer done LITERALLY on a street corner, loudly, demonstratively IN ORDER to be applauded by people.  That’s a different world from praying for the waiter and the food at a restaurant, or praying for a friend who has told you of a need right there in the store.  Jesus says, of those Pharisees, they will get rewarded by the observers. But then says, “But you, when you pray, pray in secret and the Father who sees in secret will reward you…”  He invites his followers to pray to one who Knows them, to the “Father.” Pray not to some unknown, disconnected, unconcerned deity, but this intimately connected, loving, present, Abba Father, Papa God who sees, loves, knows and answers.  

This Lent be taking that spiritual temperature and take some steps to raise it -- to pray, to fast from something that pulls your attention from God, to give extravagantly to meet some need.  This Lent do something in secret to bring a positive blessing.


Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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We were reading Matthew 5: 17-48 aloud during our worship design team awhile back and one of the team members said regarding the word about divorce “That sounds pretty harsh.” Indeed, everything Jesus says here can sound harsh. It was a limit setting, boundary establishing, Royal Law kind of message. He was not seeking to placate the ears of his hearers, but was establishing a new ethic around violence, sexuality, marriage, oaths, revenge and real love.

He is hard hitting especially against the culture of his time. The law-keeping leadership held to the letter but avoided the law’s intent at every level. They were freely willing to divorce their wives and remarry, for example, while considering themselves “law keeping.” Even while that very action decimated the woman’s life -- no protection, no covering, no hope, no future. They felt that oaths were fine, as long as connected to holy objects, but Jesus says otherwise.

They abusively treated others, especially the Roman oppressors, but Jesus calls them instead to “turn the other cheek” and “walk the second mile.” The meaning of this call was immense, it was a literal call to force the soldier to break the law through submission.

While this might sound harsh, it was revolutionary. And indeed, as we come to it in this era, is still revolutionary now. People love keeping the letter of the law. They love attaching themselves to one phrase or another, hold that, while ignoring what might be a greater, deeper, more meaningful point.

This is Jesus. He pushed the envelope. He was the liberal in that era. He was the progressive. He was the one accused of being a drunkard and glutton because he refused to follow the traditions of his time. What are we associated with? How are we following Him today? Do others look at us as being radicals? Are we helping to push the envelope with our culture?

In John Wesley’s time he was the radical. He was kicked out of the respectable Anglican pulpits because he was preaching in a style not appreciated -- calling for repentance and salvation, indeed! Even though it was considered vile to take the Word of God outside the walls of the church institution, that is where he took it. He preached to the poorest of the poor, those considered below the upright, wealthy church-going folk. And in doing this radical, visiting prisoners, feeding the hungry, nursing the sick to health, taking literally Jesus’ call to do so, England experienced a visitation of God, and a revival which saved it from revolution.

What might Jesus be calling us to be in this era that fulfills the spirit of what it means to be followers? How might this way look to those around us? Where is radical calling to us?

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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Since July last Summer we have used our funds collected in our change bucket to support a mission called EPIK based in Portland which is disrupting sex trafficking around the world.  Founded by Tom Perez, EPIK and the 150 or so volunteers have been instrumental in lowering the incidences of trafficking. The Portland police are thrilled with the results. Guys encountered in the calls are forced to face the duplicity of their hearts and lives.  The lie that “no one sees” gets exposed and in the light of day some of these guys are repenting and seeking help. This is incredible. The stories abound.

Tom will be coming to share with us on the 10th of March, the first Sunday in Lent. Fitting, since in Lent we will be walking with Jesus toward the cross, walking through the most famous sermon he ever gave, which was most likely a compilation of how he spoke wherever he went.  This is found in Matthew 5-7. The beginning of this message, called the beatitudes, in Matthew 5, is famous also because it is so poetic in form. It is a series of “blesseds” which run counter to every cultural message then and now. Whereas the disciples might have been expecting a lecture on the best way to organize now that Jesus had a huge following, instead, Jesus began that the blessed ones were not the famous, popular, rich and healthy, but the “poor in spirit.”  Blessed, happy, those filled with “sheer joy” are those who are poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus didn’t begin a new religion that day, instead, He challenged his listeners to join in a whole new humanity.  

As Tom encountered sex trafficking and the kind of men that created the demand, and encountered Jesus, and the kind of man Jesus was and the kind of way of life Jesus promoted in this passage, Tom became convinced that this passage was a template for a new kind of way for a man to be a man in society.  He began to see in this passage a vital masculinity unlike what was practiced nor preached in the public forum.

Tom will share into this vision from this passage today.  This is a don’t miss Sunday. Don’t miss fellowship with others.  Don’t miss the connections. Don’t miss the opportunity to worship.   


Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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Here is the meaning I find in the stories of John the Baptist, the virgin birth, Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, the ancestor lists, the coming of the Magi, and Jesus in the temple at age 12…  

Here is why Jesus’ parables, miracles, and teaching about hell are important to me…  

Here is how I respond to Jesus’ care for the multitudes and Jesus’ attitudes toward Caesar…  

Here is my understanding of the Kingdom of God…  

I believe in Jesus. I have confidence in Jesus. Here is what that means to me…  

How might you answer any one of these queries?  

This Sunday we are breathing in the middle of our walk through the book by Brian McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking, by actually doing just that. We are making the road by walking together, and sharing together from how we have been impacted along the way.  It has been a journey! We are talking a few months of passages, plus all the other scriptures you might have been reading. It is a great adventure.  

So come worship and hang together sharing in how God has been meeting up with you and through you in this world.  It is a rare day. Don’t miss out! Come!

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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Pastor Steve Ruetschle (pronounced: “Richly”) is the senior pastor at our neighbor Sunset Presbyterian church. He and his wife and boys came to Sunset from the Philippines where Steve had pastored the Union Church of Manila. Steve says he has three passions that run throughout his life's story: a passion for the arts, for people, and for Jesus. Steve walks side-by-side in ministry with his wife, Michelle. They have three sons: Aidan, Jude, and Zephyr.

In 2010, Steve was in a catastrophic motorcycle accident. He broke his neck and suffered a nearly complete spinal cord injury. He became a quadriplegic and was paralyzed from his shoulders down. The doctors said he would never walk again. (He was given less than a 1% chance of walking and less than a 10% chance of any movement below his shoulders.) But by God's grace, he is now a walking miracle. Michelle Ruetschle has written about that first year in a book called Forty: The Year My Husband Became a Quadriplegic (2016, Amazon.com)

As we are looking at faith, the impact of faith, and how we “Make it Real” part of the message will be a video interview Pastor Brian had with Steve. So, come hear Steve tell his own story of faith, what faith in Jesus means for him and how Jesus met him and Michelle, turning tragedy into a miracle, and this man of faith into a vehicle of blessing.

Steve's life story is a living testament to the greatness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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Pastor Brian is out of town this Sunday but you don’t want to miss church because of that!!! He has asked our friends of Westside Josh and Risa Hobson to come and share in worship. Josh and Risa are missionaries heading out to Portugal to open a home for missionaries to come to in order to take a respite from the field and be refreshed and strengthened through Josh’s culinary gifts and gift of hospitality, and Risa’s counseling gifts. This fall they offered a retreat day for clergy and some of my clergy buddies were able to attend and came away so enriched and strengthened. This couple are a gift to the body of Christ, and a gift to you. So come.

They will be sharing out of Matthew 16:13-17:9 the two field trips Jesus took his disciples on to Caesarea Philippi and up to the Mount of Transfiguration during which they experienced powerful testimonies about who Jesus was. We see in these instances how Peter got it partly right -- the truth about Jesus. And isn’t that like us -- we get the words right at times about Jesus but then sometimes don’t quite get his heart. Jesus has a message for you out of these passages this week. So -- come, experience His love for you, and the call for you to recognize the beauty of who He is in your life.

Josh and Risa are saying that Jesus is sovereign with their lives. He has led them to give up their housing as of the end of March, even with no place else to go. He has led them to quit their jobs as well and trust his provision. He has led them to push out from the shore into the deep waters of trust in order to experience Him in new, dynamic ways. Come in order to be blessed by the faith they are walking as you walk with Jesus as well. Come to bless them as they walk in boldness. Come be filled.

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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“What the Hell?” “Go to Hell?” “I’d rather be in hell.” “This is a living hell.”. “Mommy, he said H.E.Double-Hockey-sticks!” As slang, as cuss, as a destination, as eternal punishment, the language of hell is found around us and found all through the teaching of Jesus. It’s used as a directive: “Straighten up or you will end up in hell.” It is used as a warning - “Flee from the coming wrath!” It is used as if nothing.

In the ministry of Jesus, He talked about hell plenty, graphically, but in a way that was surprising as well. Looking at hell can cause us to appreciate heaven and the character of God. So, what have you believed? What do you believe? How are you choosing to live that belief?

The real question is not what we believe happens when people die, even though this is an important question, for what we believe does not make reality. There is an eternity about heaven and hell throughout Biblical teaching. We don’t have to like that for it to be true. But the real question is “What is happening now while people are alive?” Are you living life or in a living hell? Heaven or Hell are found on earth before we encounter whatever they might look like in eternity

As far as the eternity, in my life, I have experienced immense evil of the demonic type. This type of evil, also experienced through people, has convinced me that evil is a real thing. It is personal, powerful and not something to trifle with.

Jesus’ language about hell, while turning popular belief on its head also was language that says, there is something to this that is yet true. I believe that there is punishment, a Day of Judgment as the Old and New Testaments teach. I don’t know how long “eternal judgment” is or what it is, exactly, nor how it works, but there is a means by which God will show recompense for gross evil -- the murder of innocents, the destruction of lives, the obliteration of hope, the annihilation of identity. God will judge. “‘Vengeance is Mine,’ declares the Lord.”

I think that we are too quick to judge others and throw them into hell in our thinking, just as the people of Jesus’ day. Truly if Jesus is the judge and King of such matters, only He can do so rightly.

Then that leaves us with the action of God in the book of Jonah -- sending his prophet to pronounce judgement in order to assist the people with entering repentance and grace and the love of God. Jonah hated this, as we sometimes do as well, but this is the character of God -- not wanting that any should perish but all come to repentance. So, for people, this is what God desires. And this is where we find our own calling to continue to preach and teach and call people to repentance and to meeting the Savior.



Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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If we are earning more than something around $25,000 per year, we are in the top 10% of the wealthiest people in the world.  Double that yearly household income and we are in the top 1%. This means most of us here find ourselves among the elite. In His earthly ministry, Jesus aligned himself with those with the least, “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  How might you and I stand with those who live life on the fringe of life? How might we align ourselves with those with whom Jesus aligned himself even if it might mean being criticized or misunderstood?

What might this day have felt like to you, had you been among the crowd following Jesus has he approached the city of Jericho?  You might have been exulting with the others. Jesus had said some spectacular things that day, depending upon how long you had walked with him. You might have seen him single out children as recipients of God’s Kingdom!  “Become like a child,” Jesus had said. You might have witnessed his talk with a young, rich guy who wanted eternal life, and claimed to follow all the commands of Scripture, but when it came to his wealth, his most cherished possession, which really possessed him, he couldn’t let it go.  “Sell everything, give to the poor and come follow me,” Jesus had told him. And he left, sorrowful. You might have heard the shocked response of the disciples to whom Jesus said, “How difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s Kingdom. Indeed it is more difficult for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter God’s Kingdom.”  The disciples were shocked. Salvation was impossible, Jesus had said, for people, but not for God. You might have heard when JEsus said for the third time that he would have to be killed when he reached Jerusalem, and with the disciples you might have decided he was just speaking in figurative terms. But what could that mean?

When Jesus stopped for the blind man in Jericho, told in Luke 18, he demonstrated how He lived “hearing” and “seeing” those whom others missed.  Had you seen that guy by the side of the road? Had you even heard his shouts? Some had heard, they yelled right back telling him to be silent, putting him into his place.  But had you really seen him or heard him? Or rather had you been surprised along with the others when Jesus stopped and called this man to come to him. This blind beggar was received and healed by Jesus. In fact, he was healed by his own faith, Jesus said.  He believed and that made healing possible.

In your own life, today, who are the marginalized? Who are the blind? Who are the beggars who need love and grace?  Who are the lost, hurting, lonely, abandoned? Jesus calls you and me to see them and reach out to them. How might you choose to do such ministry with your life?



Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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“Do you take your grandchildren to church?” my neighbor was asked by another neighbor. “Yes, my daughter brings them over Saturday nights and then I take them with me on Sundays. They love it.” He responded, “Brainwashing them, are you?”

She was staggered. The tone. The language used. It left her breathless. She looked at him thinking “what should I say?” and said, “The God I know loves them and loves you,” she told him. “We all need an introduction.” When she saw me later that day, she invited me over. She told me of the encounter and said, “I think I should have said more. I just feel deflated, like I missed an opportunity. I wanted to say, ‘And I am praying for you too.’ and feel disappointed that I didn’t.”

Hearing what had transpired I thought I caught that it was a conflict of kingdoms that had occurred. It is less about our neighbor and more about the spiritual stuff behind him that is so challenging. It is a spiritual scrimmage that took place. This is possibly why she felt so beaten by it. It was the wrong voice whispering in her ear. I told her, “You know, God can write straight on crooked lines, and we have plenty of them. I’d trust that you did just exactly what God wanted and I’d like you to remember there’s an enemy who wants to steal your joy. Don’t let him do it.” We prayed for our neighbor.

There is a kingdom.

There might be an effort to change out the word kingdom today, for something less “male” (king) or powerful sounding. Also, some say it is a word meaningless in our world. But I cannot think of a better one. Although McLaren has suggestions, they all fall far short of the reality that there are realms in conflict around us and that we are in that we can get in the crossfire. They fall short of explaining the rulers and powers of this world. They fall short of defining what it feels like to encounter a scrimmage like my neighbor experienced. We might want to soften the word, but we will miss out on crucial theology in our effort.

There is a kingdom. And there is a King.

Maybe some bristle against this idea. But for me, it causes me to breathe easy. There is a King. And we are in a kingdom realm that is full of light, power, and impossibilities made possible. A kingdom in which by faith we have authority to act. When the disciples in this passage encountered an unexpected test of faith, they were in awe of the King. Know the king and encounter the kingdom. Come and worship.



Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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Luke 4: 1-30 and Luke 5:1-11:

The whole section from McLaren dealt with Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, His entrance into ministry, His preaching in Nazareth and then his message beside the sea sitting in Peter’s boat.  What followed this sermon, was Jesus’ request to Peter to push off into the deeper water let down your net. Peter objected, simply saying, that he and his partners had been fishing all night, but Peter simply did what Jesus asked instead of refusing.  Peter said, “because you say so,” and let down the net.

To let down those nets meant going against everything Peter knew about fish and fishing.  Everyone would have told him to let down his nets in the morning, or midday was foolhardy.  No fish would be there at that point in the day. Peter could have leaned into his years of experience on the Sea of Galilee and explained to Jesus why this was a bad idea.  But Peter chose beyond saying, “Master we have been fishing all night,” doesn’t raise an objection. He just says, “because you say so,” and let’s down his net.

What followed shocked the sandals off Peter.  That net filled with fish, indeed, filled and began to tear.  Pete called to his partners and their nets and boat too was filled with flopping fish at which sight Peter fell before Jesus and said an interesting thing, “Depart from me Master, for I am a sinful man…”

Why this statement?  What might we learn about the impact Jesus’ miracle had had upon Peter to cause Peter to recognize his own sinfulness?  

At noon under a blazing sun, even the shadows are lighter.  Everything stands out in bold relief. And in the blazing light of this unnecessary, extravagant, miraculous gift into Peter’s life and that of his partners -- a bounty, a boon, a bonus -- Peter saw himself clearly.  He didn’t deserve this. He couldn’t earn it. He would never be able to repay it. It was grace, unmerited, and impossible to comprehend, and in comparison, Peter knew himself well enough to know, he could never measure up.  No wonder he fell on his face asking Jesus to depart. His only understanding of God was that he needed to do something to earn this, and couldn’t.

Jesus doesn’t respond as we might expect.  He doesn’t say, “Stop groveling!” He doesn’t reprimand Peter.  He gets the real issue here, and says, “Don’t be afraid. From now on you will be catching men.”  And upon reaching shore, they all abandoned their boats, the amazing catch, and their gear and follow Jesus.  

They went from experts to apprentices of this radical, unusual, amazing Rabbi.  They followed in order to become like Him. That was the whole idea, to become like the Rabbi, to do what the Rabbi did. As apprentices we too have the same goal, and as the Spirit works within us as we practice following Jesus, He will achieve this goal in us as well.  

Come on!  Join the adventure!  Follow the Savior into church -- let’s worship!



Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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When Jesus was baptized by John showing us a way to change direction, to enter this new life, God spoke over him with an adoration we have since been quoting: “This is my beloved Son; You bring me great joy.” John felt unworthy to baptize Jesus, knowing that he, John, needed to be baptized by Jesus. But Jesus encouraged John to allow this to fulfill all righteousness. That Jesus as a new beginning for humanity would be baptized, illustrated our own need for the same immersion into His Way. For John the Baptist that Way which he had preached to the crowds involved a life change -- indeed, they asked John’s advice on how to live. For us, baptized into the Way of Jesus this baptism marks a continuation in a new life direction. So: how does your life today demonstrate a different kind of living to last year or last 10 years? Where is a turnaround yet needed in some area of your life? This year: take it.