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The Right Time

When is it the right time to say, “I love you?”

We coach our teenagers not to throw that term around lightly with people they are dating and caution them to be careful with the words they say to others.   There are many people I have counseled who have never heard their parent say the words, “I love you,” or “I’m proud of you.”  It’s an incredible relief when they hear those phrases before their aging parent passes away.  Then there are tender farewells in airports where others aren’t ashamed to proclaim their love in front of crowds of others passing by.

My most verbal child says, “I love you,” every time she walks out the door to school, work or even go out for the evening.  It’s like she wants to make sure that if something happens and it’s the last time we see each other, we make sure our love is clearly declared and will be remembered.

When we men propose marriage, those three words are almost required.  As I listen to wedding vows that couples write for each other – most all of them contain the words, “I love you.”

Yesterday I was talking to a friend who lives out of state.  It struck me, as I was getting ready to hang up, how much I was thankful for his friendship and his care for me.  I made sure that told him, “I love you.”  It felt so good to make sure he knows that I feel that way.  It was out of a posture of thanksgiving that sincere love was expressed.

Our Father God loves us every second of every day and has declared his love in a thousand ways in His Word, the Bible.  It is a love letter to us, describing He loved the world so much that He gave His one and only son to die for us – so we could have life, life to the fullest, and life forever.  God also shows us His love through His provision, through creation and works through others to bless and express His love to us.  

Psalm 100 tells us to enter His gates with Thanksgiving and his courts with Praise.  As we get into the presence of God and worship Him – starting with a heart posture of thanking God leads to an adoration and expression of our love that is often spontaneous and overflowing.  

When you verbalize your love and affection for others it brings a reminder of love of the Father that has been made known to us.  Who do you need to say those three words to today?   Who do you really appreciate and thank God for… have you expressed your love to them clearly? 

When will it be the right time to tell someone else you know that you love them?

- Andrew Burchett, Lead Pastor

Resources for the Journey

It was a typical summer day in Chico in the mid 1970’s and I was so happy to get to swim in our neighbor’s pool.  I can’t remember how old I was, but I can tell you that I was not yet an accomplished swimmer.  At that point I could barely stand in the shallow part of the pool with my head above water, so any other journeys to the deep end meant I needed to hold onto the side.  I made constant trips, hand over hand around the pool, and at one point I decided that it was time for me to launch out and swim from one side to the other.  I thought my momentum would carry me across the distance – until it didn’t. 

When I got about half way across, I panicked and started to sink.  My arms flailed and seemed to forget any kind of swimming stroke or order.  Terror filled my heart and water flowed into my air passage, until the teenage boy who lived there plunged into the water and lifted me up, and to the side of the pool.  After minutes of coughing and a bit of frightened crying, I decided to simply lay on the pool deck and determine whether I would risk getting back in.  I was embarrassed. As a first born kid, I figured I should be able to do anything without trouble or need of assistance.  I was the big brother – I was the one who was supposed to help, not be rescued. 

Think about the “drowning” moments in your past when someone has lifted you up right before you went down the last time. What comes to mind?  I’m sure gratitude and if you’re like me, some regret or embarrassment that you made choices that led you into that situation in the first place.  

Some of the most difficult moments in our lives are a result of not asking two questions.

1) What are the resources I need to move forward? 

2) Who do I know that can help me, teach me, or coach me in it?

At the pool that day were kick boards, “floaty” toys, and probably even water wings that I could have used to make my “across pool adventure” a better one.  It was my pride alone that kept me from embracing any of these tools. 

There was an assumption I made that since I was a big boy, I should be able to swim on my own, that I didn’t need help from anyone else.  I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t accomplish my goal on my own and ask the teenage boy to help me learn. 

As God calls you to live into the destiny He has for you, have you been asking these same two questions?  God has dreams for you – what you are becoming (being) and what you are to accomplish (doing).  These two things are at the core of His calling on your life.  Though God has special things on His heart for you individually, you won’t be able to grow into them on your own.  He has created us to be dependent on Him for the power to live and move ahead, and He has created us to be living and learning this adventure out in the community of the Church.  The body of Christ is one of the analogies that the Bible uses to describe the interdependence of the parts of the body.  We are the people who make up His family, and families need one another to be fully healthy and thrive. 

Do you find yourself isolated from the family of God? 

Do you find yourself stuck in moving toward the dreams God has for you? 

I want to encourage you to be people who seek God (first) in prayer for the resources that you will need for the next season of your journey.   The book of James tells us that we do not have because we aren’t asking God – who is the giver of all good things, every perfect gift given in perfect timing.  Those perfect gifts are sometimes physical things, but also can include a gift of His wisdom, peace, confirmation, or even a spiritual gift. 

Even when God gives you the resources you need, without others to journey with in the adventure of your life, you will find yourself lacking. Lacking in wisdom, experience, and the encouragement you will need to really risk (live in faith) and move into God’s great future.  It may be time for you to risk by asking someone else to talk through what God is doing in your life and listen to their counsel. 

It is my prayer today that these two questions will lead you to seek Jesus for your future and the help of others on the road with you.  

-Andrew Burchett, Lead Pastor

Advent is here!

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

- John 1:4-5

With the winter solstice just weeks away, darkness squeezes more light from the each passing day. No wonder humans have traditionally viewed this time of year with fear and apprehension. Yet Psalm 139:12 reminds us: “even the darkness is not dark” to God, for His light triumphs over darkness, His grace over sin, His goodness over evil. How fitting, then, that the Church should celebrate the coming of “the Sun of Righteousness” during this darkest of seasons. Advent begins this Sunday, December 3, and runs through Christmas Eve. It is God’s invitation to us to re-enact, yet again, the age-old human journey from hopelessness to hope and darkness to brilliant light.

This Sunday, we have a special treat in store. As we enter this season of reflection on the wonder of Christ’s incarnation, we begin with a consideration of the wisdom, power and goodness of the pre-incarnate Christ evidenced in His work of creation. Our tour guide is the renowned Astrophysicist, Dr. Hugh Ross, who will give two different messages at our 9am and 11am services (see details below). 

After earning his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Toronto, Hugh did postdoctoral research on quasars and galaxies at the California Institute of Technology. He has written dozens of books and articles on how science confirms the Biblical record and founded an apologetics ministry called Reasons to Believe. He also has spoken at 300 universities, 400 churches and numerous conferences around the world.

I have gotten acquainted with Hugh as a fellow adjunct faculty member at A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary and have been impressed by his genius, humility and Christlikeness. Bring your friends, especially those interested in science and are skeptical about Christianity. 

May the mystery of our Lord’s advent fill you with wonder –Tom

Dr. Ross’ 9am Message: “Cosmic Reasons to Believe in Christ”

Astronomy is the only discipline where scientists directly observe history. Today, astronomers can see all the way back to the cosmic creation event itself. Thus, astronomy yields the most rigorous and compelling scientific evidences for a Creator who transcends space and time and personally crafts the universe for the specific benefit of human beings.  This talk shows how the Bible accurately predicted the history and structure of the universe thousands of years in advance of the scientific discoveries confirming that history and structure. 

Dr. Ross’ 11am Message: “More Than Myth: The Science of Genesis”

Most Christian scholars have abandoned Genesis 1 as a literal historical account of material reality because they see hopeless conflicts between its claims and those of established science. These conflicts arise out of a failure to apply the biblical testing method (aka scientific method) to both Genesis 1 and scientific findings. When applied, the biblical testing method transforms Genesis 1 into the strongest scientific case for the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. Since most non-Christians view Genesis 1 as Christianity’s Achilles heel, Christians need to become equipped to use it as one of their primary witnessing tools.  

 

What does Science tell us about God?

What does science tell us about God?

There is a pervasive myth—vestige of a dying modernity—that science disproves faith and that there exists an intractable war between the pure, reasonable findings of objective empirical discovery and the crude, primitive sensibilities of religion. This so called “Conflict Thesis” was advanced by John William Draper (1811-82) in hisHistory of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874). While his findings have since been discredited, the Thesis gained currency in the popular mind and in intellectual circles, where it remains the dominant paradigm. Meanwhile, events like the Scopes Monkey Trial (1925) cemented, in the popular mind, the view that Bible-believing Christians were resolutely opposed to legitimate science.

But the same God who authored the scriptures created the universe, and we should expect that science—done without bias—would have something important to say about the Creator of the cosmos. And it does. And on Sunday, December 3, we have a chance to hear firsthand some of the fascinating evidence supporting the God of the Bible from the renowned Astrophysicist, Dr. Hugh Ross.

 

With a degree in physics from the University of British Columbia and a National Research Council of Canada fellowship, Hugh earned a PhD in astronomy from the University of Toronto. For several years he continued his research on quasars and galaxies as a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology. Since founding his apologetics ministry, Reasons to Believe, in 1986, Dr. Ross has led a team of scholars who keep tabs on the frontiers of research with the goal of demonstrating that sound reason and scientific findings—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support rather than erode, confidence in the biblical God. Hugh shares this message through numerous books—including Improbable PlanetNavigating GenesisHidden Treasures in the Book of Job, and Why the Universe Is the Way It Is—as well as articles, videos, and podcasts. He has also spoken at 300 universities, 400 churches and numerous conferences around the world.

I first heard Hugh back in the 1990s and was mesmerized by the depth and breadth of his knowledge and his exceptional ability to communicate it in a compelling way. Since 2010, I’ve had the privilege of serving with him on the faculty of A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary. For years, I’ve wanted to get Hugh to Neighborhood Church, and I’m thrilled this opening in his schedule allowed him to speak at both services. You will not want to miss him! Bring your friends, especially those interested in science and are skeptical about Christianity. You can read more about the talk he will be giving below.

Trusting you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving

Tom

Dr. Ross’ December 3 Message: “Cosmic Reasons to Believe in Christ”

Astronomy is the only discipline where scientists directly observe history. Today, astronomers can see all the way back to the cosmic creation event itself. Thus, astronomy yields the most rigorous and compelling scientific evidences for a Creator who transcends space and time and personally crafts the universe for the specific benefit of human beings. This talk shows how the Bible accurately predicted the history and structure of the universe thousands of years in advance of the scientific discoveries confirming that history and structure. 

When Shooters shoot up Churches

When Shooters shoot up Churches

Once every three months, I travel to Woodland to join several other pastors to interview would-be ministers applying for licenses within our tribe, the Alliance. Last Thursday, conversation turned to the recent shootings at the Sutherland Springs, Texas church, in which 26 people died and another 20 were injured in a terrible murder spree.

Before leading us in prayer for the victims, our committee leader asked a question along the lines of: “What theological principles can help guide our churches to develop safety practices in view of our worsening culture of violence?” The question, of course, has only taken on added significance in the wake of Tuesday’s senseless shooting in Rancho Tehama Reserve.

Our impromptu discussion covered lots of ground biblically, theologically and practically, but our thoughts distilled into two complementary truths:

First, God expects us to protect ourselves and others, within reason. Jesus suggested that running is a prudent course of action when confronted with some dangers (Mt 24:16). And just prior to His death, He advised His apostles to carry swords, for—we must assume—the purpose of self-defense (Lk 22:36). Indeed, protecting ourselves and our loved ones is part of what it looks like to love well while being “wise as serpents” and gentle as doves (Mt 10:16). So, we shouldn’t expect the Lord to always bail us out if we fail to take reasonable precautions to safeguard our own and other’s safety. That’s presumptuous. He may, in His mercy, do so occasionally but He generally likes us to exercise some responsibility in the oversight of our affairs.

Second, God wants us to walk in faith, not fear. If we tried to avoid places where mass shootings have recently taken place (theaters, churches, schools, night clubs, city streets, concerts, etc.), we’d pretty much need to stay locked up at home 24/7. And even then, we might be the victim of a random drive by shooting. Unfortunately, no place is safe from those bent on harming us. But God is bigger than all of that. He knows the day of our death (Ps 139:16; Lk 12:25) and none of us will die a moment earlier than the Lord allows, as Psalm 91 avows. Because of His provident love, we can trust Him even in the most dangerous of places.

How does this play out at Neighborhood Church? Well, we take security issues very seriously. We are big believers in locked doors, strong fences and skilled Safety and Security Team members, trained to respond to emergency situations. They keep a low profile so as not to distract from our worship on Sundays. But they are constantly patrolling the buildings and grounds to keep the rest of us safe. Yet our faith isn’t in our security precautions. It is in the One who alone holds our lives in His hands, whom we will love and serve even were the unthinkable to happen. As we well know, death isn’t the end of our existence but merely the means of moving from the present life to that life which is really life.

In Christ’s love –

Tom

From the desk of Devin Tarr

For freedom Christ has set us free.

I had a picture this morning while spending time with the Lord. Most of us who follow Christ would like a life of intimacy, spiritual vitality, peace, love, and joy—a life that is so resilient we can remain at rest even in the midst of our busy lives. How many of us struggle to stay at rest when crises surround us, or the kids are being wild, or those we love the most lash out at us. Where can we find such abiding rest and peace?

Another perennial struggle we face is our battle with sin. This may look different on the surface for each of us, as we have our unique struggles—lust, anger, greed, pride, fear, addiction of various kinds, an abrasive criticalness, you name it. But truly our struggle is at bottom the same: a feeling of enslavement to something besides the Lord. So where can we find abiding freedom?

For both situations, consider Paul’s words to the Galatians: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). Notice Paul says Christ has already set us free from all that seems to enslave us. We have been set free from a hurried life, from addiction to pleasure, pride, alcohol, status, wealth, insecurity, etc.—pick your poison. But oftentimes, we do not seem to experience this freedom we possess. This is where my picture comes in.

I saw a man in a jail cell. He had been there for years. Then Jesus came into jail, went down to his cell, unlocked it, and set him free. This man, this prisoner who had been imprisoned all his life, was now free! The trouble was the man still thought of himself as a prisoner. He didn’t acknowledge or recognize the freedom that had been given to him. Because he still thought of himself as enslaved, he didn’t bother to get up and walk out, and thus he wasn’t experiencing the freedom that had been given to him. To make matters more difficult, his cell mates called out to him accusing, “you’re still a prisoner! You’ve always been a prisoner, and you’ll always be a prisoner!” These cell mates are like our inner voice, our critics, and those powers of evil that are against us.

Here's the point. We have been set free. You. Have. Been. Set. Free. Jesus has purchased our freedom. Look at the verse again: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” You must believe this. You are that man who may have been a prisoner, but you have now been set free. You won’t walk out, however, if you don’t believe it. If you are in Christ, all that enslaves you is your own thinking. As our mind is transformed though, so will we transform. As Paul writes elsewhere, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” (Rom. 12:2)

I encourage you, recite this verse to yourself today as often as it comes to mind. You are free my friends. Neither an overwhelming life, nor sin, has power over you any longer. You are under the power of Christ, not sin. You must believe this though or you won’t walk it out. My prayer for us all then, especially as we enter the holiday season with its stresses, is that we remember who we are in Christ—that we are free from the power of sin, and that we are filled with the Spirit of peace. Let us have joy and shine as his children—living evidence to the world of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

 

-Devin Tarr

Big Love

The leaves are turning brown, the rainy weather is upon us and baseball has been put to bed for a few months before spring training will again grace us with the hope of a new season.

Many of you are not baseball fans, so the events of last week may have gone unnoticed as the end of October passed us by. As two teams played for baseball’s highest honor and trophy, an incident that was not baseball related caught my eye. Yu Darvish, who is a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers was pitching and he was really successful in keeping one of the Houston Astros hitters from having much success hitting the ball. When this player from the Astros, Yuli Gurriel, hit a homerun, he was seen making a derogatory gesture at Yu Darvish and uttering an unkind phrase on camera.

The media was licking it’s chops just waiting for a really dramatic, ugly interchange and offense to be picked up by the Japanese born pitcher who is generally soft spoken and a true professional.

They would be sorely disappointed with the dignified response from Yu Darvish. He sent out the following message,

“No one is perfect.

That includes both you and I.

What he had done today isn’t right, but I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than accuse him. If we can take something from this, that is a giant step for mankind. Since we are living in such a wonderful world, let's stay positive and move forward instead of focusing on anger. I'm counting on everyone's big love.”

Gurriel was humbled and told the press that he didn’t want to offend the pitcher or anyone else and he apologized for his actions – he even agreed to meet with the pitcher to give an apology in person. Darvish declined a meeting, telling him that he was willing to forgive the offense, not wanting any further trauma to befall Gurriel or his family because of the incident.

This was one of the rare times that I have been truly inspired by the response of a professional athlete who was disrespected. The usual response is one of lashing out, a war of words and disrespect paid for disrespect that thinly veils the true hurt the words had caused.

On baseball’s biggest stage, Yu Darvish separated himself as a man who embodies the spirit of grace and forgiveness that Jesus calls us to show one another. The command of Jesus is to love one another – and that includes those who have hurt us. Darvish is counting on everyone’s “big love.”

In the end, last night when Gurriel stepped to the plate to face Yu Darvish, the pitcher, Gurriel tipped his cap in respect and honor before getting into the batter’s box. It was a gesture that signaled that big love had once again triumphed over ugliness and lack of civility and decency.

Do you have any offenses you have been holding onto that you need to let go of? Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you allow the other person off the hook in receiving justice – it just includes the willingness to personally execute the judgment or retribution. Someone said, “unforgiveness is like drinking poison, all the while hoping that the other person dies.” Is today the day that you finally give someone or something over to the Lord and let go of the offense you have been carrying? Maybe your next step toward this is just sharing with a friend your situation and getting them to pray and help you in this direction.

God’s big love is more than you need to help you accomplish this.

Today, may His love overflow in you, and change the world as we know it.

-Andrew Burchett, Lead Pastor

A New Season

The leaves are starting to turn, and another season is upon us.

We are blessed in Chico to have four distinct seasons in our weather.  As each season sneaks up and makes itself known we either celebrate or feel sad.  After a long wet winter and spring, the warmth of the first summer days are exhilarating.  When the weather finally cools at night so you can sleep with the windows open and under a big comforter you are relieved.  The smell of a spring rain or red and yellow leaves in the autumn make me feel alive. 

Seasons of life can be the same way, bringing excitement and relief, or uncertainty and feelings of loss.  There are moments at graduations, promotions, physically moving to a new location, the first day of a new job, or the last day of school that signal the change of a season in life.  Other times a new season will start without us knowing it and we wake up and wonder why today is so different than last week or last month. 

As we pray with our daughter Katherine as she waits to hear back about whether she will get the job she has been dreaming about – we realize that if she gets the job and moves away a new season will start for our whole family.  Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”   We want to be people who pray and contend for the things we believe the Lord wants to do in our lives.  Until the Lord closes the door on this opportunity and changes our hearts about it, we are going to keep praying specifically for God to come through in this way.  When it does happen, we will know that it was the Lord’s goodness to her, not simply her talent or a chance encounter.  Our heavenly father is the one who gives us every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). 

What season is coming to a close in your life right now?  What will you do to memorialize, celebrate, and have a “moment” of closure?  When we realize a season is ending it is important to recognize it, give it words and describe it to someone else and thank God for his goodness in the midst of it.  This might be as simple as a prayer with a close friend to acknowledge what’s happening, or a dinner for a group that officially celebrates or simply gives voice to what has taken place.  It could mean planting a tree of remembrance or purchasing a piece of art that will help you reflect on what you have received in the past season.

Is there a new season that is starting in your life?  Are you embarking on a new journey?  If you sense that this is the case, you will need to begin to surround yourself with some different people than before.  Recognizing the power of walking forward in community is critical, and finding the right travel buddies may mean the difference between a two-month trip to the Promised Land and a 40 year camping trip in the desert.     

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”   Solomon goes on to write that each season will have a variety of feelings (joy, sorrow, weeping, love, hate) and many things to do (plant, uproot, dance, embrace, keeping and throwing away).  People will not always understand the season you are experiencing and they will try to control you and tell you how to feel and what to do.  This is when you must guard your heart from picking up an offense and try to verbalize to them what season you believe you are beginning or ending.  

For many of us this past season has been one of weeping and mourning.  Our culture doesn’t feel very comfortable with mourning or grief, but if that’s where we are living we must embrace that season and get everything out of it we are supposed to receive before we move ahead.  It also means learning to explain what’s deep within our hearts – and that’s not always easy to put into words. 

Whatever the season we find ourselves in, the most important thing to remember is to let others into your process, and journey in a fellowship that will support and help you as you move ahead.

May God bless you with the ability to put the deep things in your heart into words so you can invite others into your current season.

-Andrew Burchett, Lead Pastor

 

Legacy

Deanna Griffin.jpg

Legacy.

The world often sees the concept of legacy in terms of a gift of property, money or other inheritance that is passed down to others after you die.  When I think about legacy I think about the spiritual impact that one makes on family, friends and others who hear the stories of faithfulness. 

When we celebrated the life of Trevor Floyd, who died suddenly at age 30, we reflected a lot on the rich legacy of passionate faith he handed down to us.  It’s strange that a person so young can affect so many people in a profound way.  It teaches us that a legacy is formed and prepared long before your hair turns gray.  It should cause us to pause and reflect on what we are doing today that will change the lives of the people around us. 

This Saturday we will celebrate the life of Deanna Griffin, who spent the last 53 years here in the Chico/Durham area.  She turned 80 this year and has struggled with the effects of Parkinson’s since 1994.  The faith of this woman is still instructing us as I heard story after story of her steadfastness in walking with Jesus and trusting Him to come through.  She wrote her children letters that instructed them in matters of faith and shared the truth found in God’s Word.  Deanna modeled what it looks like to serve and bless others – from Butte College students at the snack bar to social workers at the California Youth Authority.  She consistently sacrificed her time and energy to be involved in the lives of her family, and while she was silly and fun loving – she would dig her heels in to guard the truth. 

Deanna’s youngest son Robert was in a really bad car accident in 1984.  The doctor told the family that they should give up and collect his organs, because his brain was not showing signs of activity.  This usually joyful little lady became very serious, leaned in and told the doctor what was going to happen next.

Doctor:  “Your son’s brain dead and he won’t live.”

Deanna:  “My son will not die. God told me that my son will not die – your tests are wrong, you need to go back and run another test.” 

After running another test the doctor said,

“Well I don’t know how to explain this. This is so crazy, but the test showed that there is blood flowing in the brain.” 

Deanna:  “ Doctor, you need to do another surgery.”

After another brain surgery, Robert’s life was saved, and then he took a long road to recovery. 

The faith and willingness to come against everything in the natural world seemed outlandish and could have been dismissed as the painful cry of a mother’s heart that was grieving.  Deanna walked with Jesus and knew what His voice sounded like.  She is still instructing us on how to live after her life on earth is over. 

If you died tomorrow and we examined your last week of life – what we conclude about what you held most dear?  If we looked at your calendar, your checkbook, your browser history, the books on your bedside table and your facebook posts – what would we conclude?  What would we learn?  What kind of legacy are you leaving? 

Whether you like it or not, you are leaving a legacy, and you are contributing to it today. 

How then shall we live this day in light of eternity and thinking about the precious people in our life that are learning by watching our lives?

May God bless you with the discipline to pause and reflect on your life today, to make course corrections and adjustments, and to leave a Godly, and beautiful legacy that lasts long after you are gone. 

-Andrew Burchett, Lead Pastor

From the desk of Andrew Burchett

I’m learning about the power and posture of lament.

Lament is described as a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.  It is also used as a verb, describing the action of pouring out your heart about something that grieves you.  This is part of the beauty of the Psalms where the writers pour their heart out  in joy and in sorrow.  It is what we see in Job as he processes an immense amount of pain.  It is literally the name of the book, Lamentations, that King Solomon writes talking about finding things in this world “meaningless” as it relates to finding true purpose, our identity and worth in this life. 

There are many areas in our lives that deserve some time in an attitude of lament.  When we see racial prejudice and hate spill out all around us, it is a place of lament – this is not how God sees the world and what His plan is for us.  When we hear about a mass shooting in Las Vegas, our hearts drop, tears fall and minds race through questions – it is a season of lament about the loss and pain that will continue for years. When a friend fights the death of a dream, death of a loved one or end of a ministry, program or school, it is a place of reflection and lament. 

In last week’s blog I talked about being citizens of heaven and not feeling at home in this world.  There is one statement I made in that blog about being “tired” of hearing all of the heartbreaking stories in my office… the way that I worded it may have caused others to misunderstand what I really meant, so I’ll provide a bit more context. 

I long to see God heal people in their pain, and when I am surrounded by so much pain, it is easy to get discouraged or overwhelmed by the sorrow.  It is one of my great joys as a shepherd to be privileged to learn about so many people’s pain in a safe, confidential place.  It is an honor and privilege to show empathy, persevere in prayer for breakthrough with you, and hold onto hope that I offer to others.  Most of the time I am the most optimistic person in the room, believing God really wants to move, heal, deliver and even resurrect. 

In my heart of hearts, I never “tire” of pastoring and caring for people – it is my great desire to see breakthrough happen, and so many times my prayers are reduced down to “help Lord!”  It is less about fatigue for me or being “tired,” and more about a holy discontent with the effects of sin that are all around us.  It is a lament and grieving for others, and a deep longing for life to be on earth as it is in heaven. 

Our culture tries to run away from pain and sorrow.  Grief is too often stuffed in the back of our minds and the bottom of our hearts.  We choose not to express grief, and then it does not lessen.  It remains like a sliver deep under your skin growing more and more tender even though you deny it’s there and just try to move on through life.  Lament is important for us to embrace and be willing to live with others and sit with them in their pain. 

May Jesus teach us more about embracing His broken heart for so many things in this fallen world.  And may His Kingdom come and His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven! 

-Andrew Burchett, Lead Pastor

 

Longing for Home

I think I’m longing to be home.

While I love living in Chico, adore our church family, and call where I am home, it is increasingly clear to me that I am dissatisfied with my life.

I tire of having people sit in my office and explain the pain they are going through due to broken relationships, disease, loss of loved ones and pain that seems never ending. I’ve come to expect brokenness in this world, in my own heart and in the people I see and love every day.

So, when I lament that this world is not my home it is not because I don’t appreciate the friends and family God has given to me – it’s the fact that they experience so much pain and loss, and I’m longing for healing to be poured out in a broader, wider, more liberal fashion. While we continue to see God’s faithfulness in healing and helping people all around us, there are thousands of others who are suffering and learning to trust God who don’t experience breakthrough and healing.

Much of our dissatisfaction with the world is because, as children of God, we don’t belong to this world but we find our home in heaven.

  • In John 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

  • Philippians 3:20 - But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus was praying for us in this struggle of dissatisfaction with the world in John 17.

John 17:14-16 says, “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.”

This is why it can be so exhausting trying to fit in and be accepted by a world that we don’t actually belong to. We are aliens – and you know what the movies show that humans do to space aliens? They are fearful of them first, then prideful (wanting to prove that human culture is most important), and usually end up turning violent (persecution, even to death is what the aliens usually get).

We have been chosen to be citizens of heaven, who are currently living in a foreign land. The laws of our country (heaven) aren’t all enforced here. The values of this world grow further and further away from the values of our Father as sin continues to pollute and corrupt the world. When we see a lack of respect, honor, and kindness around us, it’s because of the work of the enemy of our soul, and the sin that we can so quickly choose because we live for ourselves instead of God.

It was not supposed to be this way. The Garden of Eden didn’t have garbage cans, cancer, jails and pain. God’s intention for this world was blissful joy, and when humans infected the world with virus of sin, it has never ceased to spread through all of creation, including all men and women on earth. Our Father God had a rescue plan and sent Jesus, His son, to come to earth to redeem (buy back, make new and restore) all things. So, in the Gospel, we find life to the fullest – power for physical healing, emotional wholeness, mental alignment, and for relationships to experience peace and purpose.

Jesus told us that He was going to prepare a place for us (John 14) in heaven to be in God’s presence for all time. For those of us still on earth, without knowing it, our hearts are wired for home. We long for the presence of the Lord: for wholeness in our mind, body and spirit, and relief from the deep pain of this world.

I choose to live in a thankful space while I still have days on this earth. We pray to see God’s Kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is heaven. We keep seeing glimpses and moments of heaven in this Kingdom Jesus is building, but when we are gut level honest, we are longing for heaven.

May God give us the faith to pray heaven coming down to earth.

May He also give us the grace to endure the pain of this world, knowing that this is not our home -- that we belong in heaven.

-Andrew Burchett, Lead Pastor

What would you do Differently?

If you knew your life was going to suddenly end next week, what would you do different today? 

As I drove down the hill two weeks ago pondering the loss of one of the spiritual sons of Neighborhood Church at only 30 years old, this was the question that my soul was asking.  Certainly I was grieving, but I also believe that the Lord was speaking to me and telling me that my life wouldn’t be the same.  The realization that I would do some things differently in my life this week if I knew I was going to die next week was palpable.  It was the Holy Spirit giving me a bitter pill of reality and dissatisfaction with how I am using my influence, loving others and leaving important things unsaid.  

In processing these past two weeks I have determined to be bolder in my speech, to not be afraid of ruffling feathers, and make sure I share with others the beauty I see in them – even if it’s awkward. 

It was in the context of a pastors meeting yesterday where I took a risk and shared publically with our chief of police how proud we are of how he has done his job.  I was honored to be a small part of the hiring process a few years ago, and I wanted to honor him.  It felt strange because we assume that if we say, “I’m proud of you,” we have to be older, more mature, have a position of influence or be a parental figure.  None of these things were true as I spoke these words out yesterday, but it was so right that I mention this to the chief in the presence of others.  It didn’t feel comfortable because it’s new.  We are behaving our way into living like Jesus, and sometimes it’s not going to feel natural. 

If you listen carefully when I speak, you will hear a difference.  The Lord is growing me in a lot of ways and I am excited to see what this next season holds.  I know that who I am today will not be who I am becoming.  There will be more grace in my speech as I grow.  There will be a more loving posture I will take.  I will walk in the peace that Jesus gives, as I fight with all my might to make Him known. 

I am not the same. 

I’m a new creation, that’s being transformed day by day by the Holy Spirit. 

As you ask this question,

…If you knew your life was going to suddenly end next week, what would you do different today?... 

May God show you new ways you can grow and be changed! 

-Andrew Burchet, Lead Pastor

 

 

Focused Living Workshop

Dear friend –

Would you like to discover what God has created and gifted you to do? There is still space left in our Focused Living workshop this weekend, but you will have to act quickly to reserve a spot.

Focused Living is designed to help you understand how God has been at work in your past using different people, events and experiences to shape you into the person you are today. By timelining your life and reflecting on the key lessons you’ve learned, you will discover those values that are most important to you. These, in turn, will help you craft a personal calling statement that reflects your best understanding of what God is calling you to do in the days ahead. Through discussion, teaching, videos and other activities, you emerge with a clearer, more focused vision for your life.

The workshop runs Friday, September 22nd from 6-9pm and Saturday, September 23rd, from 9am-4pm in the Youth Center. Cost is $45 (plus a $2.12 Eventbrite fee) which includes materials, dinner Friday night and lunch/snacks on Saturday. Regretfully, we are not able to offer childcare for the event.

Register by this Wednesday night at: http://www.ncchico.org/focused-living-workshop.

I hope many of you will join us!

With you, in Him

Tom

It's all about Vision

It’s all about vision.

If you’re a quarterback, you need to be able to see in a split second what the defense is doing so you can throw the ball to the right spot on the field, where your teammate is going to be a few seconds later.

If you’re a business owner, you need to be able to recognize the intangibles and emotional intelligence in entry level employees. Do they have the right makeup to be promoted into future managers and even franchise owners someday?

If you’re the mother of a strong willed toddler filled, with perseverance, can you see where Jesus is training and harnessing greatness for future leadership in them to be a prophetic voice in their spheres of influence?

If you are a student, you need vision to see how learning economics is actually going to benefit you in your job and even in ministry later on in life, to help you be successful. 

Elijah the prophet showed great vision to raise up and train his successor Elisha as the next prophet to God’s people.  He had been pouring into groups of people to train them up, in groups of fifty in several cities.  When Elijah the prophet walked with his protégé Elisha on his last day of earth, he asked one final question before God takes him to heaven.

2 Kings 2:9-10 (NIV)
9  When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?" "Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit," Elisha replied.
10  "You have asked a difficult thing," Elijah said, "yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours--otherwise not."

Elisha’s last request of Elijah is for God to give him the inheritance of a first-born son.  The double portion (or share) would be given to the eldest son, while others would only get one part each.  So if there were four sons, instead of getting 25% of the estate, he would get 40%, and the other three would receive 20%.  In this case we aren’t talking about money, instead Elisha is asking if He could do twice as many things as Elijah does.  

Elijah responds and tells him, if you have the proper vision to see past what’s happening in the physical realm, and into the supernatural realm, then you can have that double portion of power and miracles on display.  Elisha isn’t asking selfishly so he could be the greatest prophet ever, he really wants to show the love and power of God in tangible ways, and he knows that unless the Lord comes and gives him the power by the Spirit, nothing will come to pass.

When you ask God for things, you may rarely think to ask him to expand your vision.  If we don’t have the proper vision of things (God’s perspective), than whatever we receive may not be used in the way that God intended for it to be used.  It may end up only being a selfish gain or limited blessing.  When we get God’s view, the blessings extend much further and His perspective always gives our life purpose. 

So, Elisha’s vision test happens when Elijah is taken away in a chariot of fire, and the Lord allows him to see come and gather his master up to take to heaven. 

2 Kings 2:10-14 (NIV)
11  As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.
12  Elisha saw this and cried out, "My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.
13  He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.
14  Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. "Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

Elijah ended up receiving the power of the Holy Spirit and he immediately uses the power of God to part the waters of the Jordan (just like Elijah had done earlier that day).  Elisha has “grown eyes to see,” as one writer put it.  The God of Elijah had become Elisha’s God and source of strength.  Elisha walks out the rest of his life by faith, and ends up doing exactly twice as many miracles as his mentor Elijah.  He did receive a double portion. 

I believe the Lord is calling to us and asking if we will allow our hearts to be stretched to receive more of His love and power.  Will you make today’s prayer:  “Enlarge my heart God, I choose to make more time, more space and give you more of me today.   I want you to fill me again with your Spirit.  I surrender.” 

As you do this, God will begin to show you things you didn’t see before, and you may find that other’s don’t resonate with you when you see supernatural things – behind the scenes of the natural world. 

2 Kings 2:15-18 (NIV)
15  The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, "The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha." And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.
16  "Look," they said, "we your servants have fifty able men. Let them go and look for your master. Perhaps the Spirit of the LORD has picked him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley." "No," Elisha replied, "do not send them."
17  But they persisted until he was too ashamed to refuse. So he said, "Send them." And they sent fifty men, who searched for three days but did not find him.
18  When they returned to Elisha, who was staying in Jericho, he said to them, "Didn't I tell you not to go?"

So these prophets who have been in training with Elijah totally miss what is happening in the supernatural as he is being taken away.  We see that some of these guys actually get a prophetic word about Elijah’s ascension to heaven earlier in the day and they tell Elisha about it before it happens.  There is still a dullness to what the Spirit is really doing, and they think that Elijah has just been tragically swallowed by an F2 tornado.  Elisha finally allows them to go and search for Elijah’s body, knowing that he stated what God did and that they wouldn’t find anything. 

There will always be people in your life who can’t or don’t want to see supernatural things.  Don’t be surprised if people think you are crazy when you talk about what you have seen that is “beyond the veil.”  Jesus longs to share more and more incredible things with us, but we need to be ready to be misunderstood after we get a peek into heavenly things. 

May God bless you with strength to pray the surrender prayer today.

May He open the eyes of your heart that you might see great and mighty things.

May there be a new discernment rising in the people of God to see into the super natural. 

God give us a new grace to love others who misunderstand our passion, zeal and wonder when you reveal your thoughts and ways to us. 

- Andrew Burchett, Lead Pastor

Elijah's Invitation

From the desk of Andrew Burchett...

This fall we will be teaching a series on Elisha, the successor of Elijah.  As we prepare for that series, I want to focus on Elijah this week.  

Elijah is one of the most important figures in the Old Testament moving into the New Testament era.  In Scriptural tradition Elijah has come to occupy a position as a successor to Moses in prophetic authority.   He also plays a significant role in modern Judaism.  Elijah is mentioned when grace is said after meals, “May God in his mercy send us the prophet Elijah.”  He also is mentioned at the time of circumcision for Jews as well as during the Passover meal at the time of the fourth cup and a door is opened to welcome back the prophet.  

In our Christian tradition, John the Baptist is identified as Elijah (Luke 1:16-17 & 1:76-77).  Jesus affirms John the Baptist as the last prophet, the messenger of Elijah who was to come (Matt. 11:7-15).  It is also very fitting that Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-8).  Moses was the initiator of the covenant with Israel, and Elijah is the messenger who would restore that covenant before the coming of the Lord (Malachi 4).  

In 1 Kings 17 Elijah is coming against King Ahab and his wife, the wicked Jezebel.   This dastardly couple has turned the hearts of God’s people toward Baal – a false god.  Elijah comes against their influence and prophesies that there will be no rain until the Lord declares it through his own word.  This is a punishment for worshiping false gods, and a sign that Jehovah God is creator God, and powerful over all nature.  

The threat of drought was a direct challenge to the powers of Baal.  Baal was “the rider of the clouds,” the god of rain and fertility, and therefore of riches.  He is depicted as a bull, which represented productivity and wealth that came through that god.  He is depicted standing on a bull with a club of thunder in one hand and a bolt of lightning in the other.  

The psalmist in Psalm 104 gives credit to Jehovah God as the one who “makes the clouds his chariot” and the one whose “rebuke the waters fled.”  The entire Psalm talks of God’s power and kindness as the God of creation and provision of rain.  God was asking Elijah to face off with the prophets of Baal, this false god to demonstrate the power of the one, true God.  

So, God shut up the heavens (no rain) for more than two years before Elijah invited a“face-off” with 850 false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18).   The ground rules were set; each side was to take a bull (ironic choice here) and kill it and offer it to their deity.  Whichever side called fire down from heaven to burn up the meat on the altar would prove once and for all which was the true deity.  

When Jehovah God triumphed in that moment and proved his power, many people watching turned their hearts back to the one true God.  Elijah’s message in all this challenged the divided hearts of the people. 


21 Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." But the people said nothing. (1 Kings 18:3-21 NIV)

Our culture is filled with people who call themselves a Christian but waver between gods, not unlike the people who were watching the face-off between Baal and Jehovah.   There are many who want the benefits of the Christian faith, but when it comes to following the commands of God, they want to ignore what God says.  

We feel like we can pick and choose our favorite parts of different religious systems as if we are loading up foods we prefer at the school cafeteria.  This approach is often referred to as “syncretism,” a mixing and blending of often conflicting ideologies and beliefs to serve whatever we want to do at the time.  This leads to a life of confusion and crisis when we don’t end up with the one we love, we lose the job, the dream dies or things don’t work out in our favor.  It’s about that time that many turn to God and blame him for our pain.  

It was Joshua who said this, “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15)

It is so important to us to be consistent to teach what the Bible says and be consistent in the way we interpret the Bible.  We believe that Jesus came to give us life to the fullest, and so we choose to listen to what He has to say in His written Word (the Bible) and to His voice that guides us in the moment.  

May God bless you with strength and consistency as you are challenged in your faith by others who want to pick and choose what they want to believe. 

-Andrew Burchett

Lead Pastor

Don't all roads lead to the same god?

I had a restaurant employee where I was having lunch two days ago ask me that very question.  It was a thoughtful and sincere question that many people in our culture are asking.  They can’t understand that a “loving God” would allow people to choose a different path and spend eternity separated from what we call “heaven” in the presence of God, and all that is good. 

It didn’t take long until this person shared that someone had rejected him because he wasn’t a Christian.  He felt like the belief that Jesus is the only way to enter a relationship with God felt like an excuse to marginalize him, judge and push him away.  He asked, “Do you really believe that people who don’t believe in Jesus will be in hell?” 

I responded to his question by quoting the words of Jesus himself.  John 14:6 says 6  Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  It’s not my opinion that matters, it’s what Jesus says is true that will never change and I must hold on to. 

Why is Jesus so exclusive?   Why can’t he create a bunch of roads to himself so that more people might be able to have the life to the fullest that Jesus came to give us? 

There are many answers to this question, but let me list just a few. 

1.      God is a jealous God and doesn’t want us to worship anyone else but Him (Exodus 20:3).  He spends the entire Old Testament era trying to get his people to give up their false gods and worship only Jehovah God.  In this era, we still struggle to keep Jesus in the first place of our life too. 

2.      Peter recognized that Jesus had a unique message found no where else when he said, 68  Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69  "We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God."  (John 6:68-69).  Jesus offers a life to the fullest that can be found no where else (John 10:10). 

3.      Salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone.  Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us,  “8  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9  not by works, so that no one can boast.”  All other religious systems require you to do the right things (works) to earn your way to God or appease spirits, Jesus only requires surrendering your life to him without a list of things you must do. 

4.      There is no biblical support for many roads leaving to God.  If the Bible is your final authority, then we see that even Jews must embrace the messiah Jesus to have eternal life (Acts 10). 

5.      Though Jesus is the only way, he extends his offer of eternal life to anyone, anywhere, anytime.  John 3:16-18 says, 16  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

So, while there is one way to enter into relationship with God and become his son or daughter through faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12), his arms are open to any, and all who call on His name.  Romans 10:13 says,  13  for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

That’s really good news for a world that is searching for meaning, hope and a power that will change their lives. 

-Andrew Burchett

Lead Pastor

Be Still and Know I am God

“Be still and know that I am God,” says Psalm 46:10.

When the sons of Korah, the equivalent of Jewish priestly rock stars, wrote this Psalm inspired by the Holy Spirit, I would have imagined their situation differently… 

In my mind’s eye these songwriters are reclining at a table in 70 degree weather in golden grass under a majestic oak tree, and someone is feeding them cold refreshing grapes one by one.  The quietness of the golden sunset behind them causes them to take abnormally long pauses in their conversation, wisely reflecting on the serene beauty around them, God’s rich material blessings and perfect relationships with those around the table.  

Reading the whole of the chapter and simply observing the context for this verse invades the daydream of perfection and brings revelation to my idealistic heart.  Here are the first three verses of the chapter:

Psalm 46:1-3 (NIV)
1  God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
2  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3  though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah

The first few verses of this passage are trying to bring reassurance to a stirred up set of circumstances even if there are earthquakes and tsunamis.  The word “Selah” at the end of these few verses is an invitation to pause and reflect on the truth here.  The context here is a troubled world beyond our control that could lead to fear, but His presence is in the midst of even natural disasters.

The next verses paint the picture further:

Psalm 46:4-7 (NIV)
4  There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5  God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
6  Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7  The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Here we see evidence of the political landscape of the day.  This was written during the reign of King Jehoshaphat, who started out really well.  He was destroying all of the false Gods (called baals) and places of worship and sending teachers throughout the land to teach God’s word to the people.  He was succeeding in getting tribute from other nations to keep peace and everything was going well.  Then he tried to make an Alliance with Ahab, the wicked king from the Northern Kingdom.  He was the husband of a wicked lady you may have heard of, named Jezebel.  When Jehoshaphat aligned himself with leaders who hated God and wanted to see the baals worshipped instead, things went sideways politically and from a military standpoint.  Nations were indeed in an uproar and there was no peace.  This is similar to the day we are living in – with tensions around the world seemingly escalating.  In the midst of this geopolitical stress and pressure we are reminded that our God is so powerful that His voice alone is enough the melt the earth.  God’s presence is promised as our safe place, our fortress.  Then the psalm invites us to stop and consider these truths. 

So we have seen that natural disasters and geopolitical unrest are no match for the peace and strength God has for us.  Then the passage concludes this way: 

Psalm 46:8-11 (NIV)
8  Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9  He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.
10  "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
11  The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

God is a warrior (Ex. 15:3) and He can bring destruction when necessary.  Although Jehoshaphat is a flawed leader (like me), he sees the deliverance of the Lord when he sends out the choir instead of the soldiers into battle, and the Lord himself causes the enemy to start fighting one another (2 Chronicles 20).  While God is able to defeat his enemies, He is also the one who brings peace.  Jesus, the Messiah is prophesied to be the prince of peace. 

It is in this context, a really messed up world, that God tells us to quiet our hearts and know that He is God--a God who eventually will be exalted among the nations of the earth.  Even though the nations of the this earth aren’t bowing before Jesus yet (Isaiah 45:23 & Phil. 2:10), we must be reminded of the great power and peace that God has promised to us in the gift of His presence. 

Today, pause and reflect (Selah).  

In the midst of the storms, the conflict, and the stress, invite the presence of the living God to be seen and felt in your life.   Then begin to rest in the good gifts He gives in a place of peace, strength and security. 

 

 

People of Peace

From the desk of Andrew Burchett…

As I read about Jesus sending his disciples out to tell people the good news of the Kingdom of God, He gave them some specific instructions in Matthew 10 and Luke 10.  Jesus tells them to greet those they come into contact with “Shalom,” a greeting that was supercharged as a pronunciation of blessing of peace over an individual, a house, or even a city.  When we enter any situation pronouncing blessing it begins to reveal whether the person we are encountering is a “worthy person” (Mt. 10) or a “person of peace” (Lk 10). 

The principle that we should lead with a blessing and looking to honor and give favor to others without them earning it seems to reveal where other hearts are positioned.  Jesus instructs us to remain with those who respond favorably to a blessing, as people who God is already at work preparing to receive the good news. 

There are people that we encounter that immediately mock the idea of faith and are antagonistic toward even receiving a blessing.  We are to move on and look for others who respond favorably to invest in, and pursue in bringing them the good news.  This doesn’t mean that we don’t try to share with those who are hardened to the gospel.  It just means that the bulk of our efforts in reaching out to those who haven’t experienced the grace of Jesus yet are often results of us pursuing the “person of peace,” whose heart is already opened up and seeking. 

In your workplace or class at school, there is a person of peace just waiting for you to encounter them.  In your neighborhood, there is a household that has a family in it that is open to receiving a blessing and prayer.  There is an extended family member, maybe a cousin that will respond with much more interest in your faith than the rest of your family.  After you have seen who these people are, make extra time, give extra effort and energy to being available to them and look for opportunities to live your faith and speak blessings over them.  I think what you will find is a soft and open heart to receive prayer and the things of God.

When we encounter others that mock us for our faith and deride us for following Jesus, we must move ahead, looking again for the next “person of peace” that might be closer than we think! 

We must always keep our eyes scanning our surroundings to see where God is working so we can join Him in the work that He is already doing in the lives of others.  It is speaking a blessing that often reveals where the heart truly is. 

Is the Good News Still Good?

Is the good news still good? 

 

Jesus followers often talk about sharing the good news of Jesus with others.  The term that comes from old English “good spell” is a translation of a Greek word that appears in the Bible transliterated euangelion.  You would have heard it referred to as the “gospel.” 

 

Last week Pastor Tom and I were at The Christian and Missionary Alliance national council in Columbus, Ohio.  We heard reports from international workers that represent scores of people groups that have barely, if ever, heard the good news about Jesus Christ.  The accounts of thousands of people turning their lives and hearts to Christ in remote areas and Islamic countries was fascinating.  You never hear in the news about moves of God in the Kurds in the Middle East.  We weren’t aware that the Coptic Christians in Egypt who are so persecuted are risking their lives to meet, and yet their numbers continue to rise.  Our tribe, the Alliance is 6.3 million strong outside this country.  This movement continues to encounter Muslims who had dreams about Jesus and come in search of Christians to find out more about Him.   When you hear the stories of how much God is reaching out to people who don’t know Him, you can’t help but get excited!

 

I was so inspired by the care our workers give to preserving culture, language and the beauty in each people group that we encounter.  This isn’t a colonializing effort that strips countries of their resources, uniqueness or calling – it is a Holy Spirit led and empowered coordinated effort with other major denominations and other parachurch ministries.   If there is an established church in an unreached village or region, instead of starting another one, the Alliance often simply puts all of it’s resources behind those who are already serving well. 

 

The budget for our tribe runs about 45 million dollars annually to send international workers out to other countries and fund their work.  With all of this investment in bringing “the gospel” to the least reached regions (usually less than 2% Christian) – it is clear that the larger “Christ centered Acts 1:8 Family” we belong to truly believe that we have the BEST news in the world to get out to others. 

 

But is the good news still good in your estimation? 

 

Has Jesus somehow changed over the years and somehow He is unable to move like He has before? 

 

Is He still powerful and mighty to save, deliver, heal, break addictions and strongholds and give us life to the fullest?

 

I want to challenge you to really consider how much faith you have that Jesus can still move.  There are times where we get beaten down by this fallen world and begin to truly doubt whether God is still in the radical life transformation business. 

 

If you find yourself in one of those desperate, doubting and depressed places now, I want to encourage you to reach out to someone who is strong and encouraged and “borrow some of their faith.”  It’s important to be reminded by others what Jesus has been doing recently in lives.  Hearing testimonies will infuse your faith with new strength and begin to give you vision about what to pray for.  Ask for prayer to be encouraged from someone nearby. 

 

The good news is still good.  It is still worth giving your life for.  Jesus is still on the throne.  He sees where you are today and wants to meet with you and enliven your faith!

Our Hmong Friends in Oroville

It’s been about 100 days since we hosted about 650 people at Neighborhood Church as the greater Oroville area was evacuated displacing thousands of people.  It was a Sunday evening in February as I stood in front of our church with the Deputy Sheriff that I began to understand the magnitude of the evacuation and the overwhelming nature of that many people coming into Chico for refuge. 

It was beautiful to have people of different cultures as our guests, and one ethnic group was some of our Hmong friends from the Oroville area. 

Rev. and Mrs. Ted Andrianoff, who sailed from New York to Laos as missionaries of the C&MA first reached the Hmong people with the gospel.    In 1950, the first person gave their life to Jesus and by 1975 there were 20,000 people who professed Jesus as their Lord there.  Of this number, 70% were Hmong.  When war came to Laos in 1975, many fled to Thailand and were relocated to the United States.  In 1978, the Christian and Missionary Alliance called a meeting here in California that was attended by 25 Hmong pastors and leaders.  At that time a “district” of Hmong churches across our country was started with 1,525 people.  Today, there are 81 churches that worship honoring the Hmong traditions and culture, in the Hmong language across the United States.  They have a membership of 29,437 people. 

One member of this Hmong association meets in Oroville, California.  The church is several hundred strong.  When the people started arriving from the low lying areas to our church as an evacuation center, I began asking them if they attended the Alliance church there in Oroville – I was so excited when I found that quite a few who were staying with us who do attend their church, and they are followers of Jesus.  This set me on a mission to meet their pastor and find a time to learn from their rich culture and see the beauty of God that is on display through the ways they worship Jesus.  

On Sunday evening, at the citywide Oroville Thanksgiving Service, I finally met their senior pastor, Rev. Abraham NtsuabXeem Cha.  I didn’t know if he would be quick to embrace me, and frankly I was a little nervous he wouldn’t want relationship with us (perhaps because we are different).  When I asked if I could come to visit him some Sunday morning, in a thick accent he welcomed me, saying, “Of course. We are brothers… you are my brother and someday we will sing in heaven together.”

In a moment, sixty seven years of relationship between American Christians and the Hmong people flashed before me.  I thought about the faithfulness of missionaries in the 1940’s to leave home, learn the language and give their lives so that this people group could have life to the fullest.  It crossed my mind that we have had people in our church who have specifically built relationship and served this people group in our city, and I even thought about one of my daughter’s good friends who recently choreographed a dance to tell the history of (her) Hmong people.  

So, a new chapter has started, where we will learn to serve and bless our brothers in Oroville.  I can’t wait to see what part of God’s beauty that they can show us; no doubt that it will be a preview of heaven.