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"Growing Deep Roots"
Ephesians 3:14-21

Fifth Week of G.I.F.T (Growing in Faith Together)

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Building on Christ
May 17, 2019

Building on Christ

1 Corinthians 3:9-15

"(9) For we are co-workers in God's service; you are God's field, God's building. (10) By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. (11) For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (12) If anyone builds on this foundation using gold silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, (13) their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire and the fire will test the quality of each person's work. (14) If what has been build survives, the builder will receive a reward. (15) If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved - even though only as one escaping through the flames."

Have you ever seen an elaborate, masterfully crafted sandcastle? That's one of the most delightful experiences of a trip to the beach. The best builders are painstaking in every detail as they craft these beautiful works of art. The towers are straight, the windows are even, and sometimes the outline of individual bricks can be seen on each wall. The end result is often stunning, rivaling the elegance of homes in the wealthiest neighborhoods of the world.

But for all a sandcastle's splendor, its hours are numbered. From the moment the first grain of sand is set in place, the miniature building is on its way to oblivion. Within hours the details are destroyed by wind, rain, and the incoming tide. There is simply no future for a house of sand.

Sometimes believers' likes are like sandcastles. Even though everything looks perfect on the outside, their life's pursuits and activities will be revealed as worthless in the fire of God's judgment. Although their eternal destiny is secure, they will suffer the loss of heavenly rewards because they used inferior building materials.

The most important thing in life is to make sure we have the right foundation. Church attendance, ministry work, discipleship programs, or community service are no substitute for the rock-solid foundation of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. We also need to build our life with faithful, obedient service to the Lord. The goal is not to have the most impressive-looking life in this world but to build one that demonstrates our devotion to the Savior who died to rescue us.

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God's Ways Revealed
May 10, 2019

1 Corinthians 2:6-16

"(6) We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. (7) No, we declare God's wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. (8) None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (9) However, as it is written: 'What no eyes has seen, what no ear has heart, and what no human mind has conceived' - the things God has prepared for those who love him - (10) these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. (11) For who knows a person's thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (12) What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. (13) This is what we speak, not in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. (14) The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (15) The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, (16) for, 'Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ.

God's Ways Revealed

Just when we think we're growing in our understanding of God, something happens that causes us to wonder if we know Him very well at all. Perhaps it was an unanswered prayer request, an accident, an illness, or some loss that shook our faith. What are we to think when the events in our life seem to contradict our understanding of God?

This basic truth may sound paradoxical, but we're wise to keep it in the forefront of our thinking: We have a God who is far beyond human comprehension, yet He wants us to know Him and understand His ways. Even the apostle Paul - who has an intimate relationship with God - exclaimed, "How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord?" (Romans 11:33-34).

So how can we know our unfathomable God? The only way is if He reveals Himself to us - and that's exactly what He has done. Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit "so that we may understand what God has freely given us" (1 Corinthians 2:12). That's why the apostle Paul said, "But we have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16). Although we'll never know or understand all that God does, we can be confident that as we read the Scriptures and walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit, He will teach us God's ways.

We have a priceless treasure within us. The Spirit is the only reason we can understand spiritual concepts that are hidden from those who don't know Jesus. But with this privilege comes the responsibility to let God's Word dwell richly within us. Because that's how the Spirit teaches us the Father's ways.

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The Profitable Word
May 03, 2019

2 Timothy 3:10-17

"(10) You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, (11) persecutions, sufferings - what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet, the Lord rescued me from all of them. (12) In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (13) while evildoers and impostors will go from back to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (14) But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, (15) and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (16) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (17) so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

The Profitable Word

Why should you read the Bible? To some people, it's just an archaic book that has little relevance today. But for believers, God's Word is essential and life-changing. Christians living in countries where Bibles are illegal would love to have access to Scripture that you and I take for granted.

Consider what the world would be like if God had not given us His Word. Though we would still have the testimony of creation to tell us who He is, our understanding of God and how to follow Him wouldn't be as clear. "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). The Bible's pages contain knowledge of God. "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:3).

Reading God's Word has many benefits. The apostle Paul describes four ways Scripture is profitable for believers. "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16).

Teaching. The Bible has all the divine truth that God wants us to know. From Scripture, we deepen our relationship with the Lord, see life from His perspective, and understand how He wants us to live. 

Reproof. God's Word is a light that reveals our sins and a sword that pierces and convicts so we can confess and receive forgiveness.

Correction. Scripture restores and points us to godly living and obedience.

Training in righteousness. The Word of God trains us to stay on the path of righteousness and mature spiritually.

The end result of teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness is a life adequately equipped to live as the Lord desires. With so much to gain, why would we ever neglect this most precious gift from God?

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Palm Sunday, Oh We Love Our Kings
Apr 05, 2019

Oh We Love Our Kings
by Kathy Escobar

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week on the road toward Easter. I also call Holy week "It's not what we think week". I decided to blog every day this week, until the day after Easter Sunday as a spiritual practice for myself, to remember the story, to draw back on some thoughts I’ve written before, and most of all to reflect on Jesus through the lens of rocking the establishment in ways we continue to struggle with.

Like Advent and the anticipation of Jesus’ birth, I love the upside-downness of the Easter story even though I know it can also be a hard season for many. Jesus, the promised king, all grown up, enters Jerusalem to a roar of “Hosannas!” and the thrill of impending victory. People were excited, inspired, drawn, hopeful. They were ready for him to kick butt and take names, topple the empire and restore justice.

He’ll make all that was wrong right.

But as the week progresses, things radically shifted. He had stirred the pot too strongly.  He’d upset too many apple carts.  He challenged the status quo far too deeply.

He did all kinds of un-king-like things.

He touched lepers.
He dined with sinners.
He called out religiosity on its hypocrisy.
He told everybody they needed to be last, not first.
He said that love transcended all.
That the way up toward God was to go down to the places of real life, real pain.
That God desired mercy, not sacrifice.

Then, next thing they knew he was washing feet, talking about dying, telling us we needed each other in all of this.

Wait a second! This wasn’t the kind of king-like behavior we were hoping for.

Things went bad to worse after the foot washing. He was arrested, tried, and sentenced to die. Then, instead of getting off the cross and saving the day that way, he actually died.

Right there in front of them.

He was sacrificed. He appeared powerless, defeated.

All that excitement for nothing.

Some king he was!

Sure, we know a few days later, the tides turned yet again and he wasn’t dead, but alive.  Appearing to his friends, telling them some of the same crazy things he had been telling them before he died. The spirit of God, alive and well, at work in people’s lives ever since.

However, the truth is that it’s always been a confusing story. One that makes us scratch our heads a little and wonder “why did God choose to do it this way when there were a lot of better, more clear, easier-to-understand, more-king-like options?”

As I reflect on the beginning of Holy Week and our journey toward Easter, many of the same human dynamics are at play today, maybe now more than ever in the story of North American Christianity. Sociology is powerful. Our demands for strong, powerful, charismatic, certain leaders is alive and well. Look around at big rocking churches. There aren’t a lot of people leading them who are washing other people’s feet, dining with lepers, and telling mind-boggling, confusing stories that has everyone shaking their head, going “huh?”

Rather, what makes most of them strong is their certainty, their power, their charisma, their “king-like” qualities.

My theory is that we are still desperately looking for a king who makes more sense than Jesus because he’s not the kind of king we want. 

Instead we desperately look to pastors, leaders, podcasts, writers, speakers, someone to tell us what to do and think, what’s okay and not okay, what the scripture says and doesn’t say, who’s in and who’s out, who’s better and worse.

We are drawn to power and charisma not the Beatitudes-infused kindness Jesus embodied and preached, but a worldly power that keeps us insured so we can feel more protected, comfortable, contained. 

But the gospel was never supposed to be protected, comfortable, or contained. Or inspiring in a sit-and-listen-and-feel-better-afterward kind of way.

What makes it the gospel is its wildness, rawness, unexpectedness, and challenge to us.  That God shows up in the least likely places instead of the most. That he pierces the darkness with inexplicable light. That grace doesn’t make sense. That we should follow his weird and wild ways, not human’s self-serving ones. That in order to be born again (and again) we need to die yet again (and then over again).

As I reflect on this current season in politics and church, it feels so clear how desperate we are for an earthly king. I am sometimes, too. I want someone to swoop in and tell me what to do and rescue me from my doubts and questions. I want someone to put me and God and the whole kit and caboodle back in a box so my faith can somehow be more manageable like it used to be.

But then the feeling always subsides, and I realize I do have a king.

A humble one, who says that I'm blessed when I realize my spiritual poverty (not when I’ve got it all nailed down).

A gentle one, who whispers to me that he understands my pain & struggle because he was human, too.

A wild and crazy one, who keeps reminding me that his ways will always be counter-cultural and harder but also better.

A not-the-way-kings-usually-look king, who says he’s not here to boss me around and make all my troubles go away, but rather that he'd be present in the midst of them.

A counter-cultural king, who calls me to spiritual poverty, mourning, mercy, meekness, justice and love as the path to freedom.

My hope is that over time we’d learn to quit crowning earthly kings, giving our time and money and souls to them, thinking they will save the day.

They never will.

Rather, I hope we can pick up our crosses and follow the one who really can.

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God of Grace and God of Glory
Mar 29, 2019

God of Grace and God of Glory

God of grace and God of glory,
on thy people pour thy power;
crown the ancient church's story;
bring its bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
for the facing of this hour,
for the facing of this hour.

Lo! the hosts of evil round us,
scorn thy Christ, assail his ways!
From the fears that long have bound us,
free our hearts to love and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
for the living of these days,
for the living of these days.

Cure thy children's warring madness,
bend our pride to thy control;
shame our wanton, selfish gladness,
rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
lest we miss thy kingdom's goal,
lest we miss thy kingdom's goal.

Set our feet on lofty places;
gird our lives that they may be
armoured with all Christlike graces,
pledged to set all captives free.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
that we fail not them nor thee,
that we fail not them nor thee!

Save us from weak resignation
to the evils we deplore;
let the search for thy salvation
be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, 
serving thee whom we adore,
serving thee whom we adore.

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Promise Keepers
Every Tuesday, 6:00 AM - 8:00 AM

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