Sneak Peek

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.

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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Brian McLaren wrote: “We must keep Herod in Christmas for we believe in a God who feels the pain of every mother weeping for a lost son or daughter, a God who is suffering alongside every child hurting because of the greedy, power-hungry and insecure elites; and a God who feels the pain and comes near to bring comfort to people everywhere to hear their weeping.  Herod emulated the horrible behavior of Pharaoh centuries before in the days of Moses. The story of Herod tells us once again that the world can’t be simply divided between the good guys - us - and the bad guys - them- because like Herod, members of us will behave no differently from them, given the power and provocation. So all people face the same profound questions -- how will we manage power?  How will be deal with violence?” And we might add, “How will we stay aware of our privileged status?”

I love McLaren’s reminder of how God feels pain with us.  And, remembering how we might mirror the wickedness of this man in our stances, our beliefs, and our choices is crucial especially as we look toward entering a new year.  This is the last Sunday of the year. Join us as we look toward all God might be speaking to us as we move from 2018 and how God might be leading us into this new season.

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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Tired of the rush, the press, the pressure, the rat race? Tired of the emotional whirlwind?  Wish you had a chance to just be still? Well, here’s your opportunity. As we have been looking at the characters of Advent, the characters who had been living this story for months and years before it occurred, as we have been looking at them as real people, with real faith, in real time, we come to a need to just be still.  We come to a full stop on this Sunday. In the morning, rather than loud trumpets, there will be peace, an opportunity to sense the presence, to feel the wonder, to just reflect upon one passage of Scripture and simply “Be Still.” We will sing, hear the Word, share in quiet, and be present to Jesus with one another on this last Sunday of Advent. Come. Be Still.

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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Being a shepherd -- disrespected by society, living without bathing days at a time, separated, earthy, ordinary, yet, the shepherds in the vicinity of Bethlehem raised the sheep for sacrifice in the temple.  So, they were raising the most important of sheep. If they recalled history, they may have remembered the long line of history filled with shepherds. Indeed their forefathers all kept flocks all the way back to Abel the son of Adam.  Talk about a rich heritage. But in the era of the first century it was as if this was forgotten in preference of remembering that they were dirty, smelly, and undereducated. Their testimony was distrusted. So, what might God be saying that the only ones to hear an angelic choir, and the first ones invited by God to worship were these shepherds guarding their flocks by night?  What kind of reverse kingdom, upside down world was God inaugurating through them. That the first testimonies, first worshipers, first experiences of glory surrounding Jesus’ birth was offered to them, might we then learn what it is to redeem humanity, to cherish every life, to remember that God values each person no matter how we might want to devalue them, and that God’s ways are indeed not like our own.

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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”All will call me blessed…” No one has been more accurate in that statement than Mary. She had told God yes to the huge announcement that she of all the young Jewish women would bear God’s son. Called “Theotikos” — “God-bearer” by the Orthodox, Mary indeed bore God, impossibly made man, within her and birthed God in the flesh through her life. She was the first God-bearer. As the priests in Israel had borne the Ark, the presence of God on their shoulders supported by the poles, so we still “bear God” in this world. The ark and the temple combined in humanity because of Mary. After Jesus came through her, we have become Him in this world. We shoulder God’s presence. He is again conceived in our hearts, “you have been born again through the imperishable seed implanted” penned Peter (1 Peter 1:23) in order to become mature in him, complete (Matthew 5:48). Do we, like Mary, remember our connection to this long history? Do we remember we are blessed?

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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There are so many things I have always loved about Joseph. First, he says nothing in the gospels.  No recorded word. That’s immense. Second, he’s a strong, silent type. I don’t know what that is like! :-) He is righteous -- upright before God. He is chosen to be the earthly dad for the Son of God, that has got to merit him some admiration.  Some of us guys get to be dads of all kinds of incredible kids, but there was only One Jesus. And I imagine the stress of the responsibility to raise God’s Son might have been a bit overwhelming! Yet, Joseph, he sought an out it appears not because he thought Mary had really sinned, but because he believed she was pregnant with God! It took divine intervention and a prophetic quote to convince this man Joseph not to go through with his plan.  And that’s all it took. Joseph shifted gears and “did what the angel had said” and took Mary home as his wife but had no union with her until she brought forth Jesus. What a guy. How are you “Still Joseph” as events come that bring fear? How are you still him as you choose faith? How are you still him as you obey God in your life? What might it look like for you to walk alongside of Jesus as Jesus works within you?

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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When I met her she was 47, and angry, so angry. This woman had this 2 year old boy, a child who came as a surprise pregnancy when she was 45 and this notion was not well received by her heart. She as mad, still. She didn’t want him and had plotted out the next years and realized she will be turning 63 when he turned 18, and that felt ancient, like a waste, like a loss of life to her. I was a young pastor, and she my parishioner and we had many conversations about this surprise blessing, this precious rambunctious child. All those terms much more positive than she would be likely to use. How might you respond to a surprising change? The call to raise a grandchild? A surprising illness that changed everything? The loss of a loved one? A fight in a public place that left your gut feeling torn up? How did you respond? This Sunday we are walking with Elizabeth, and we can still choose to be like her as we respond to change. We can choose life, thanksgiving, hope and joy. In her we meet another response to the changes life can toss our direction. What might that look like if it was your life? All of us have stories of the season that have left us stretched. How have these stories encountered thanksgiving from your heart?

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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An angelic visitation. A dream fulfilled. Zechariah has the most amazing encounter with a messenger from God. He and his wife Elizabeth are going to finally have a baby after all these years and prayers. He’s elated right? Ready to shout the news from the rooftops. No. He questions. He doubts. He is afraid. We’re too old he quips. Fear and doubt have silenced his faith. Now, too, his speech is silenced as well. Until the proof comes. Until the baby is born. When faith is no longer required.

What prayers have you prayed but stopped listening for answers? What dreams have you set aside, doubting they could come to pass? How has doubt or fear marred the expected outcome of a situation or relationship in your life?

Find grace and strength in the story of Zechariah as we walk this slow path toward advent.


Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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Last year we looked first at this amazing research into the star of Bethlehem, the story of how the heavens are not random, but a clock that can be wound back via computers and reveal exactly what the skies above Babylon looked like in 3 BC around the time Jesus was conceived.  The testimony of the heavens was so vast and particular it caused those men, schooled in prophesy through the centuries old testimony of Daniel, to depart their homeland and travel for months in order to meet this child born king. They have been famously remembered. We still demonstrate their kind of wisdom when we trust God’s word and step out to speak, to be His in this culture, to stand up.  We still demonstrate their kind of wisdom as we encounter hardships as part of the journey. Their brave journey took months to accomplish. And they might have actually arrived to meet and worship the then toddler Jesus on December 25th, 2 BC, according to our calendars. That’s the date the planet jupiter stopped above Bethlehem. It seems too incredible to be true. But the heavens declare this.  Come share together in this wonderful dance of the heavens and in the testimony of God’s word that God knows and cares and is working in EVERYTHING you might experience as we take this step in our slow walk through Advent…   

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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“Come Let Us Adore Him!” so the carol admonished us.  “Come, Adore Jesus!” That is the one overarching theme of Christmas, yet, my neighbor finished buying all her presents last Monday. We seek to please people, to behave aright, to not bring up the forbidden topics at the Thanksgiving table, to tolerate people we resoundly dislike, to put on a face of “holiday cheer,” when feeling anything but.  We are to find “How Great Our Joy,” yet, find instead a great deal of stress. With losses, deaths, challenges, hurts, and arguments coming back to mind from previous holidays, it is difficult to walk into this season joyfully. For some the darkness in the atmosphere, reminds them of the darkness around their hearts. Will there ever be joy again?  These realities pressed in upon us as a worship team and so in May we decided we needed to take a Slow Walk Through Advent, this year, a camino, if you will, in order to savor all the season was meant to offer.  We wanted to learn to release in order to more readily embrace Jesus all through November and December. So, truly, you are invited to come adore Him, day by day, moment by moment, tough stuff alongside the easy. Let’s discover together what is possible in this season.   

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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What an experience we have had this month focusing on what it means to be stewards!  We heard testimony about what it means to be stewards of the gifts God has given us by Debbie Gable.  Kevin Cosgrove shared how we might learn more about stewarding our own hearts, and developing a heart more like God.  And Chris Brehmer challenged how we think about our finances -- to give not just a tithe of our take home, but a tithe of our before-tax income, and even give more to God than we spend on ourselves!  Now that is a radical goal! What challenges! We have heard of sharing of our time and the giving of our service and the challenge to step up in our giving. Then we experienced a move of God last Sunday that was nothing shy of miraculous. So we arrive at Extravagant Generosity Sunday to fill out our pledge cards to say how we will give, share of our time, and serve God this next year, beginning January 1st.  So, pray, and come on Sunday prepared to say “this is how we will be giving in these areas.” You can anticipate a great Sunday as we welcome the Inspiring Generosity Queen Cesie Delve Scheuermann to be with us. Plan to Come! Plan to stay for a Soup Feast afterward! Celebrate!

Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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Chris Overstreet is an evangelist with a powerful testimony of how his life has been transformed by the power of God. At 18 years old, Chris surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and has been transformed spirit, soul, and body. Chris has lost 195 pounds and credits his weight loss to God's grace working through his life to help him make better choices throughout the years. Chris is the Outreach Pastor for Bethel Church where he trains and equips the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry students in supernatural evangelism in Redding, CA. Chris has a passion for souls and loves to equip the body of Christ to reach the lost. His passion for Jesus Christ is contagious, and it is common for miracles, salvations and life transformations to take place as a result of Chris living his life naturally supernaturally. Chris travels nationally and internationally, preaching the good news of Jesus Christ and equipping the Church to do the same. Chris and his beautiful wife Stefanie and their young daughter named Brielle Shalom recently moved to Portland, OR to seek to bring revival to the NW. Out of a vision Chris founded Compassion to Action, which hosted its first event at the Portland Convention Center in September bringing the gospel, healing and hope to more than 10,000 people. Expect God to move.


Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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You’re a priest carrying the Ark -- the presence of God -- so revered the people cannot be closer to you and the ark than nearly a mile and Joshua tells you to “Go stand in the river.”  At this point, on this day, the Jordan River is at flood stage and he has said “Go stand in it.” Looking at this, both you and the other three priests carrying the Ark with you and the Ark will be rushing downstream if this doesn’t go well.  Do you ask about the wisdom of this? Do you ask what the other priests say? Or do you just obey, “just do it”?

The priests of Joshua’s day were familiar with the Nike slogan and did not say a word but did as told. They went to stand in the river. The water was rushing in torrents, until their feet touched the water and then their feet landed not on water, not on mud, but on dry ground.  A God who created all things can do ANYTHING. What impact might this have had on your faith that day? How might you have felt toward Joshua as you glanced upstream and there was this tower of water that once was the river? Stewardship is all about obedience, and obedience begins with the next step.  Where is God asking you to “Just Do It!”


Sneak Peek for this Sunday

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What’s the meaning of church for you?  Why do you come? Why do you stay away? In this era, in this culture, at the time in life, what causes you to be involved or not be involved in the worshiping community of Westside?

Culturally we live in an era in which weekly church attendance is impossible for many -- between work, sports, family commitments, etc.,  it is outside the realm of possibility to get to a worship event. But what is the reason to try to come? This Sunday I witnessed one mother and daughter, standing side by side, the daughter stood on a chair, arms around one another, singing joyfully together and I thought:  that’s one reason: To worship as a family. There were dads with daughters, sisters together, friends. I saw people connecting, belonging to one another and to the Lord. Last week I saw several surround a couple who were in tough circumstances, praying, hugging, crying, loving. That’s church. That’s community.  The fact is: We need each other. To worship together, to stand with one another worshiping this One creator God is one way we get to recognize and experience that belonging. Come to worship: Belong.