Sunday Worship Service 5 pm

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What Will You Say to Jesus?


One day we will stand before Jesus.

If we could see through the clutter of our lives now, if we could envision that day when everything is said and done, it’s clear that the enduring mission in and under and beyond every detail of our lives should be about pleasing him. 
What does he think?

What will he say?

We don’t know the exact words Jesus will speak to us on that Day, though the Bible gives us some ideas (Matthew 25:23). 
Whatever it is, we can be sure it will be glorious and full of grace. 
We will hear his voice. 
It will be amazing.

But what if we turned the question around? 
Instead of just wondering what Jesus might say to us, what will we say to Jesus? 
Imagine with me for a moment that you are there with him and he asks you how you made it to heaven.

“How were you saved?” he asks.

Easy, you think. “A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in you, Jesus, and so I believed in you in order to be justified by faith” (Galatians 2:16).

“Yes,” he says.

But then imagine he asks a follow-up question. 
He wants to press deeper. 
He wants you to see more of his glory. 
Imagine, as John Piper ponders in chapter four of Five Points: Toward a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace, that Jesus asks you, “Why did you believe on me, when you heard the gospel, but your friends didn’t, when they heard?”

You know that is the case. 
We all have friends, family, people we know, who have heard the gospel but do not believe. 
And some, sadly, will refuse Jesus all their lives. 
And there you are, on that Day, and Jesus is asking you why, why you were one of the ones who believed.

“Why did you trust me but these others didn’t?”

You hear his words. 
You bow your head. 

And you do not say it’s because you’re smarter. 
You don’t begin to explain your faith as the result of your wisdom. 
“Well, Lord, you see, I was just more spiritual than they were.” 
“I read more books than they did.” 
“I always had a way of making good decisions.”

No. You won’t say that.

In that moment — picture it — in that moment you and I and every blood-bought saint will put our hands over our mouths, pointing to him, not us. 
Grace will stand forth with more vividness than we could have ever dreamed. 
There will be new dimensions of colors then — depths and wonders that we can’t see through the dim mirror of now.

And then, in that glorious moment, we will say, 

“You, Jesus. It was all you
We believed in your name, 
only by your sovereign grace. 

Jesus, it was all you.”

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Seven Lies About Christianity - Which many Christians Believe

by Stephen Mattson

Dennis Kuvaev/Shutterstock
Prayer can feel good, but it’s a myth 
that Christians are always happy 

You’re Always Happy
There’s an unhealthy expectation within many faith communities that we’re always supposed to be joyful, as if being anything other than a smiling, peaceful, and jolly spiritual cheerleader is detrimental to Christianity.

“Being a good witness” is often the Christian way of saying, “act the part.” 
But while contentment and happiness is a spiritual virtue, it should never come at the expense of honesty, transparency, and truthfulness. 
We shouldn’t pretend to be happy and use the facade of joy as an evangelism tool. 

God desires reconciliation and renewal, and this often means confronting broken relationships and dealing with sin within our lives. 
Asking for forgiveness, admitting addiction, confronting abuse, seeking justice, requesting help, and serving others often makes you the opposite of happy — and that’s OK.

There’s a season for everything, and some of life’s most important, loving, and holy moments are times of trial, sorrow, and sadness — so let’s stop trying to turn Christianity into something it was never meant to be. 

Your Problems Will Disappear
Some people use Christianity as a form of escapism, a crutch, and a way to avoid the pain, suffering, and struggles of life. 
But at the center of Jesus’ life and teaching is (again) the concept of truth. 
Christianity isn’t about ignoring reality but embracing it, engaging the real world and all the baggage that comes with it.

In many ways, following Jesus causes us to accept — and confront — the facts, whether they are good or bad. 
We shouldn’t hide or pretend or ignore difficulties, but address them.  

A faith in Christ requires honesty and bravery, and it demands sacrifice, service, and heartbreak. 
The New Testament shows us that Jesus’ disciples faced even more problems when they decided to follow him: persecution, poverty, and ultimately martyrdom.

No, our problems won’t disappear, but a relationship with God is worth the accompanying struggles that may come with it.

You’ll Be “Blessed”
If you’re seeking wealth, prosperity, comfort, and security, Christianity isn’t the place to go. 

Contrary to our consumer tendencies, Jesus’ teachings continually instruct believers to sacrifice and be willing to give everything away for the sake of loving others. 
The disciples of Jesus lived a dangerous and hard life that continually relied on the hospitality and generosity of others. 
They often ended up in jail or were even killed because of their faith. 

Some of the most holy and righteous people I know have lives that are extremely rough and filled with all sorts of trouble. 
Disease, sickness, poverty, crime, abuse, and a litany of other horrible things happen to good people — even Christians who passionately love God. 

Does this mean that they don’t trust God enough or aren’t being good Christians? 
Our faith isn’t a pathway toward gaining an array of physical, financial, or social blessings — it’s not a formula for worldly success, so let’s stop treating it like one.

Missions and Ministry Is Fun and Rewarding
Don’t get me wrong, it often is rewarding, but from the time we’re in Sunday school throughout high school and college, and even as adults, we’re told that “missions” and “ministry” and “evangelism” is fun, exciting, and rewarding. 
We go on exotic mission trips, work at car washes to raise money for local charities, and spend a day volunteering at the homeless shelter. 
Most of us then have the luxury of going home, back to our “regular” lives.

Missions and ministry is hard work. 
There’s a reason the burnout rate is absurdly high for people whose primary vocation is ministry-related. 
Pastors and missionaries are considered high-risk candidates within the medical community because of their susceptibility to addiction, stress, and abuse. It’s not an easy life.

Being a full-time missionary and minister requires constant service, with very little recognition and plenty of conflict. 
Combine this with long hours, low pay, and hardly any respectability, and it’s an existence that few can handle. 

But within our churches and Christian institutions, we glorify the idea of serving others without presenting an accurate or truthful picture of what it really looks like or requires from us. 
Instead of telling the horror stories of relational conflict, emotional pain, and physical turmoil, we’re fed stories of revival, spiritual renewal, and miraculous wonders. 
That’s great, but in many cases it gives us false expectations of what ministry honestly looks like.

We need to start portraying ministry accurately instead of marketing it as some sort of superficial fun-filled adventure. 
And for those already within ministry, we need to give them all the support and encouragement they deserve.

All Your Questions Will Be Answered
Christianity is full of doubt, uncertainty, nuance, and complexity. 
There are very few clear answers, and the ones that exist are debated among hundreds of theologians. 
For those seeking resolutions to life’s deepest questions and mysteries, Christianity will provide some clarity, but ultimately it leaves much to the imagination.

As believers, we need to start accepting the fact that we don’t know everything. 
When we try to turn the Bible into a set of answers to all of the world’s challenges and questions, we end up manipulating the message of Christ and forming it into our own agendas just to appease our curiosity or quell the objections of others.

The Christian Community Is Great
Many people leave the Christian faith not because they hate Jesus, but because they hate the people who represent him. 
Christians hurt people. 
They fight, argue, yell, scream, and do horrible things. 

Nobody knows this better than Christians themselves, who routinely suffer through denominational splits, church infighting, community gossip, and an avalanche of interpersonal conflicts.

Christians aren’t better than anyone else. 
The divorce rates, crime rates, and other “moral” comparative data show little difference between them and the rest of the world. 
So let’s stop pretending Christians have the market corner on what’s right and wrong. 

We need to start listening and talking with others instead of self-righteously judging and convicting others. 
There’s a reason why you can’t look across a mall and point out who’s a Christian and who isn’t — because there’s no noticeable difference.

It Makes You Better Than Others
This is the hardest truth for Christians to swallow, that they aren’t any better than anyone else. 
In fact, Jesus continually tried to instill the virtues of humility and humbleness throughout his ministry, repeatedly trying to teach his followers that everyone was loved by God, regardless of social, financial, or spiritual status.

When we see ourselves as superior, we become like the Pharisees, who craved power and control and authority. 
But God, the ruler of the world, made himself nothing, and died on a cross for the sake of others — for the sake of those who were in the process of murdering him! 
Are we willing to become nothing for the sake of others, even for those we dislike? 

The problem with romanticizing Christianity is that we turn our faith into a product, using various selling points to make it look more attractive. 
It’s not that the above headlines are entirely false, it’s just that Christians publicize them as being entirely true. 
This creates false expectations and idols, and inevitably leads to disappointment and sense of failure.

Instead of promoting Christianity as a set of benefits, we need to promote Christ. 
In the end, when everything else fails and falls short, Jesus will remain faithful through it all. 
We can trust him above any form of religion we attempt to turn Christianity into.

Stephen Mattson has contributed for Relevant Magazine and the Burnside Writer's Collective, and studied Youth Ministry at the Moody Bible Institute. He is now on staff at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minn. Follow him on Twitter @mikta.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

No One Ever Said It Would Be This Hard


Nobody said it was easy;
No one ever said it would be this hard. 
(Coldplay, “The Scientist”)

O Christian Hedonism! 
That ancient, beautiful, biblical truth that our treasure is what most captures our heart (Matthew 6:21).
That what measures our treasure is our pleasure.
That if God is our “exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4) then God’s pursuit of glory and our pursuit of happiness are one wonderful, wild pursuit! 

Because God is actually most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

For many of us, putting the scriptural pieces together and seeing this truth was almost like a second conversion. 
We saw more good in the gospel than we had ever seen before: God doesn’t merely want us holy; he wants us happy! 

And then Christian Hedonism left us devastated. 
Not because it was untrue, but because we were. 
It exposed us. 
We did not value the Pearl anywhere near his worth (Matthew 13:45–46). 
We found ourselves still too attracted to mud pies and too neglectful of the Sea.

We had set out to pursue the deepest, purest, most satisfying Joy that exists and found the world, the flesh, and the devil (Ephesians 2:1–3) fought us tooth and nail. 
They yielded no ground without a fight. 
Instead of experiencing joy, we often felt weary and discouraged.

All we were after was happiness. 
No one ever said it would be this hard, did they?

Indeed they did. 
We just hadn’t quite understood the extent before. 
In fact, the Pearl himself said:

  • “The way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14);
  • “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23);
  • In order to have joy we must gouge out our eyes and cut off our hands if we need to (Matthew 5:29–30);
  • Holy, maximum happiness may cost us our family relationships and we will need to hate our earthly life in many ways to get it (Luke 14:26).

This is why the author of Desiring God wrote the book, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy
The former helps us understand what “the good fight of the faith” is all about (1 Timothy 6:12) — what is the good we’re fighting for. 
The latter is a field manual. 
The former shows us the panoramic view. 
The latter is for the ground war where we live, in the trenches with snipers shooting and mortar shells exploding. 
When an enemy attacks or when we’re strategizing to take a hill or when our stubborn darkness just won’t lift, what we need is very practical help.

The way is hard that leads to life. 
But let’s remember that the emphasis is not on “hard” but on “life.” 

The eternal (John 3:16), abundant (John 10:10), exceedingly joyful (Psalm 43:4) and forever pleasurable (Psalm 16:11) life is so worth the fight that we will someday look back at the very worst, darkest, horrible battles and see them as “light and momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

And in the meantime, with the fiery darts still flying, let’s keep close at hand the Bible and field manuals such as When I Don’t Desire God to help us keep the shield of faith in place.

Five Things to Teach Your Children This Christmas ...

... and maybe ourselves, too.

by Christina Fox


“Mom, I need to add something to my Christmas wish list.”

It’s that time of year again. The stores are adorned with all things red and green. 
Mailboxes and inboxes are filled with ads, sales, and catalogs. 
Prettily wrapped packages are at the forefront of nearly everyone’s minds — especially kids’.

Christmas provides a wonderful opportunity to pour the truths of the gospel into the hearts of our children. 
It’s an ideal time to show them the greatest gift they could ever receive, the gift of Jesus Christ.

Below is a list of important truths to teach our children this Christmas:

1. The Story of Redemption

During Advent, with the anticipation of the 25th, we can teach and prepare our children for the celebration in Scripture of Jesus’s birth. 
In our family, we like to begin with the story of Creation and daily walk through the story of redemption until we get to Christ’s birth on Christmas day. 
We talk about the fall and God’s promise of a Savior in Genesis 3:15
We read about his promise to Abraham that he reaffirms throughout the Old Testament. 
We discuss Moses and the “one greater than Moses” who would come. 
We read the prophecies in Isaiah. 
We look at how all of the Bible points to our Redeemer.

2. Humility of Christ

For the world, the holiday season is about extravagance, opulence, and making every detail picture-perfect. 
The story of Jesus, however, is one of humility. 
Christmastime provides a great opportunity to teach our children about what it means to be greatest in the kingdom (Matthew 20:26–28). 
His parents, his place of birth, his hometown, and his very act of taking on human flesh were all demonstrations of humility. 
Most people expected the Messiah to arrive in a castle, not a stable. 
Most expected him to live a life of royalty, not poverty. 
Most expected him to conquer the Romans, not be crucified by them. 
Read through Philippians 2:1–11 and show your children the humility of Christ.

3. God Works Through Weakness

In a similar vein, teaching our children how God works through weakness is another topic to teach at Christmas. 
God often chooses the unlikely and the weak to use in his story of redemption. 
Mary was a simple, poor girl from an insignificant town. 
Peter was an uneducated fisherman. 
God’s glory is displayed when he works through our weaknesses. 
This is seen most dramatically in Jesus’s death on the cross in our place and his resurrection on the third day, securing our victory over sin and death.

4. God Keeps His Promises

Another important truth we can emphasize with our children during this season is that God keeps his promises. 
We can begin with the promise of a Savior after the fall and go throughout the Old Testament, looking at God’s promise to redeem his people, culminating in the fulfilled promise in Christ.

5. The Names of Christ

Last year, my children learned a different name for Jesus each day during Advent. 
We studied names such as Messiah, Lamb of God, Immanuel, Alpha and Omega, and Prince of Peace. 
Teaching children the names of Jesus and what they mean helps them know more about Jesus, his character, and what he has done. 
We made a chain link out of paper with a different name printed out on each one. 
Another way to learn the names might be to create a Christmas ornament for each one and hang them on a Christmas tree each time you study a name.

Take advantage of this time of year to teach your children about the Christ-child. 
Spend time in the word, showing them the promised Messiah and how that promise was fulfilled in the baby born in Bethlehem. 
Help them see that Jesus is the greatest gift they could ever receive and the greatest gift they could share with others.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

What People Are Really Thinking When They Invite you to Church

Angela Jamene
Freelance Writer

In the new era of "The Pope Francis Effect", and people of all walks coming out for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini, a lot of previously shy Christians are feeling more confident stepping up and out, and inviting you to church.
Which can be really annoying when you have zero interest in going to church, maybe that's why you're reading this. You may even be reading this thinking some version of "Anyone who would believe in some all-powerful man, who watches every little thing that every single person does, telling us to love each other, while he lets whole nations suffer from starvation and genocide, is out of their mind." That's what I used to think.
But I don't anymore.
Just over two years ago, I picked up a free bible, I had read it before but, this time, almost instantly, in a wave of emotions and realizations and revelations and a wide variety of indescribable sensations, I became a Christian. It happened. It was not deliberate and it was not a choice. It was what I thought never happened to anyone, it was what I had been so sure did not exist the way any of these nut jobs described it, but I'll be damned (pun intended) if it didn't happen to me. I got saved.
In any movie centered around a coming of age love triangle, the title character will ask "Dad, how did you know you loved mom?" or, if our lead is female, "Mom, how did you know you loved dad?" and whether mom or dad are answering, the answer is always the same, "I just knew."
It was like that. I just knew.

That's what they want for you. That's what the person that has sent you countless emails and texts about next Sunday, or called you every Saturday night asking to pick you up in the morning, wants for you. Every card from your grandma with bible passages written on it means she wants this for you. Every flyer from your neighbor, or old high school friend, about another church event means they want this for you. Every invitation to church is an "I love you and I want this indescribable love, peace, and joy for you because I genuinely care about you."
The people that invite you to church are just like that friend that insists that you try the new Puerto Rican restaurant downtown, they have experienced something amazing and they want it for you too. It's like that, but on almighty steroids. When a friend or a kindly stranger, a relative or a playgroup parent, says "Hey, why don't you come to church with me on Sunday?" what they mean is "I love you so much, I cannot describe what I know you can get from this because I can't even put into words what it has done for me." We understand that when you live in a world of sneaky advertising and suspicious sales scams, this sounds like just another one. But, it isn't.
On behalf of Christians everywhere, I would like you to know that we really, just whole-heartedly, love you. And, we want to share this infinite and ultimate love and acceptance with you. Whoever you are, whoever you love, and whoever you see yourself as or becoming or voting for, we love you. We want you to know Christ loves you, that's why we do that thing that used to annoy me so much and we remind you (and each other) in every way possible, through music and bumper stickers and even, well-intentioned but misguided, "Jesus Saves" graffiti. We apologize, collectively, for anyone who may have hurt you or wounded you in the name of a God they obviously needed more time getting to know, they had no right to do that, and we pray for the healing of those wounds.
And, yes, we would like to invite you to church.