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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. 

Redemption Pictures

There are pictures of redemption all around us…

 

I watched an action movie last night where the bad guys were holding a woman captive unless the good guys gave them a certain sum of money.  They were holding her as a prisoner until the “ransom” was paid for her freedom.  Her redemption was based on someone else’s sacrifice, there was nothing for her to do but to walk out the door once the money was delivered and the door was unlocked. 

 

In the same way, we are all slaves to sin, but Jesus has paid our ransom (Mark 10:45) and we are offered freedom.  Many people have heard about the ransom being paid (Jesus dying on the cross), but don’t really believe it was enough payment for freedom, so they stay enslaved.  Others don’t believe they are slaves at all and have become so used to life as it is now that the idea of walking free is too scary for them to embrace – so they stay put.

 

John 8:36 says, “If the Son sets you free – you will be free indeed.”  Redemption has a past reality seen in God’s plan before the creation of the world to choose and love us, and the coming of Jesus to earth, and his death as a substitute for us.  Last Sunday I emphasized the grace that is lavished upon us by God and the ongoing forgiveness that He offers to us as redemption has a current reality for us as well. 

 

Redemption has a number of incredible layers, so I wanted to mention a few more as we stand in awe of the blessings that God has given to us (Every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms, Eph. 1:3). 

 

Situation                           Interpretation                           Reference       

Slave Market                                   World System                                              1 John 5:19

Slave Master                                   Satan                                                            John 12:31

Slaves                                             Humanity                                                      Ephesians 2:2-3

The Problem                                  Sin                                                                 Colossians 2:14

Highest Bidder                              Jesus Christ                                                   Hebrews 2:14-15

Ransom Price                                Blood of Christ                                              1 Peter 1:18-19

The Shaw Pocket Bible Handbook, Walter A. Elwell, Editor, (Harold Shaw Publ., Wheaton , IL; 1984), p. 354

 

The word for Redemption was also used in referring to the release of prisoners of war.  This concept is also seen in a situation where someone has committed a crime and will be punished by losing their life.  In Exodus 20:28-30 the relatives of the guilty party can pay a ransom and redeem that person – to have them forgiven, released and set free. 

 

As we celebrate this part of God’s goodness toward us, our praise is just a rehearsal for the songs we will sing about this around the throne of Jesus (called the Lamb of God) in Heaven someday. 

 

Revelation 5:9 (NLT) 9  And they sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Thinking as Sons and Daughters: His Comfort and His Will

Thinking as Sons and Daughters: His Comfort and His Will

Orphan thinking first appeared in the Garden of Eden when, after living naked and unashamed in the presence of God, Adam and Eve disobeyed. No longer secure in His presence, feeling inadequate and ashamed in their nakedness, fearful of the Father’s thoughts toward them, they hid from him. Orphan thinking became a part of the human experience; insecurity, inadequacy, shame, fear and hiding are all evidence of orphan thinking.

In Andrew’s message Sunday from Ephesians 1:5 he identified some behaviors that point to the need to re-align yourself as a son or daughter. I am sharing here a couple more ways orphan thinking can show up. One is in believing that we must comfort ourselves; the other is demanding that we have our own way.

His Comfort

Orphan thinking blocks us from real and transparent relationships and effectively comforting others. Orphan thinking says we must find our own comfort.  Jesus said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever...I will not leave you comfortless (orphaned).”  [John 14: 16,18a]

Orphan thinking drives us to medicate the pain of alienation through physical stimulation.  Unable to find connection and intimacy with God or others, we seek comfort in counterfeit affections: addictions, compulsions, escapism, busyness, hyper-religious activity. We are burdened with fears, anxieties, insecurities, inadequacies, loneliness, and lusts. We constantly try to push down our sense of alienation, loneliness and lack of self-worth through constant work, going from one relationship to the next, physical gratification and a life of narcissism and self-indulgence. The more we indulge, the more addicted we become and the larger the hole in our heart becomes. Only the love of the Father can fill the deep emotional needs we have.

The mature son or daughter is led by the Spirit of God to seek comfort in the Father’s presence.  We pursue times of quietness, solitude and rest and bask in the security and restoration of God’s presence.  We seek our identity in the truth of God’s word and practice the joy of the Lord as our source of strength.  We understand that grounding our security and self-life in anything other than God is like trying to build a house on sinking sand. Because we are secure in the Father’s love, we are able to pursue intimacy and transparency in relationship with others. Because we are comforted by God, we can comfort others.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” [2 Corinthians 1: 3-4]

His Will

 Orphan thinking is set in opposition to the next generation through a focus on self-will, the very antithesis of the heart of the Father.  Jesus demonstrates it in these words: “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” [John 6:38] and “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” [John 5:19]

Orphan thinking repels and rejects children, forfeiting influence over the next generation. Leaders and parents with orphan thinking are in constant turmoil. They fight and strive for their own way. They are self-centered and self-indulgent, and often do not want to sacrifice their lifestyle, desires and will for the neediness of children. Contrary to the Father’s heart, they reject the idea of children or, having children, their persistent fighting and striving for their own way leaves children (spiritual and natural) feeling like they are competing for a place rather than having a place to belong: loved, secure, at home.

The mature son or daughter led by the Spirit of God attracts and desires children. Those who walk in sonship walk in the Father’s anointing and draw children toward them because their children hear the voice of a shepherd who cares for them. The Father’s heart longs for children and delights in them as treasure of highest value, and the Spirit of God in His sons and daughters gently and lovingly leads the next generation to himself.

“…And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring...” [Malachi 2:15a]

“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers….”  [Malachi 4:6a]

To be led by the Spirit of God is to live from a safe place in the Father’s heart; we are secure and at rest in a place where we belong. If he had a refrigerator, my picture would be on it, and so would yours.  He delights in our prayers like a new father in the babbles of a child not yet able to speak. His pleasure is to love us. 

Blessings,

Bernitta, Neighborhodd Church Elder

 

Angel At The Bus

One of our family members at Neighborhood Church, Derek Hastings passed on a story this week that was published in a book some years ago.  It was so compelling, I felt led to send it out today and remind you that we sometimes entertain angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2).  God loves us so much that He takes great joy in blessing, helping and strengthening us! 

- Andrew Burchett, Lead Pastor 

 

Derek’s story, “Angel at the Bus” was included in a book written by Jerry Orthner,   entitledAngels:  Friends in High Places.   

“January 5, 1980 dawned cold and cloudy, snow gently falling on the empty street.  Only a few days earlier I had publicly acknowledged Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  And today I was to catch a city bus that would take me to the Port Authority in New York City and on to Coast Guard training in Yorktown.  Nancy and I moved slowly, trying not to think of the four months we would be apart.

Finally, with my duffel bag, a carry-on and my new Bible in the car, we headed for the bus station.  About five minutes before the bus was scheduled to arrive, I realized I had left my uniform hat back at the house.  Nancy jumped in the car and drove back to get it, leaving me to wait for the bus.  By the time she returned, I had missed the bus that would have allowed me to make connections in New York.

I finally boarded the next “86” and arrived at the Port Authority precisely at 10:30.  I jumped off in a panic, my mind swimming with images of showing up late for Officer Candidate School.

Once inside, I found the ticket area, got in line and bought my ticket.  My bus, they said, was leaving from Gate 36.  I ran the full length of the building before I saw a sign that indicated that Gate 36 was downstairs and all the way back at the other end.

I glanced down at my watch.  It was 10:45 and there were no people waiting in line!  I crashed into the metal door with all the weight of my body and luggage.  There sat the bus, engine idling.  “Is this the bus to Baltimore?”  I asked breathlessly as the driver opened the door.  “Yes, it is,” he replied.

The man climbed down from his seat and proceeded to the cargo compartment to stow my bag.  He was a big man, over six feet tall with broad shoulders, a big smile and white hair.  As I turned to climb into the bus, he asked, “What’s that book you have there?”

“It’s my new Bible,” I replied.  “I just bought it last weekend.”  The driver smiled.  “Read Psalm 91:11 and you will see why I waited for you.”

I climbed on board, found a seat on the left side about halfway back near the window and opened my Bible:  “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”

I looked up.  The driver was watching me in the large rearview mirror.  “Beautiful, isn’t it?” he said as our eyes met.

Sometime later, in Baltimore, I watched as the bus pulled out of the station and stopped at a traffic signal a short distance down the road.  The driver turned, locked eyes with me and, with another big smile, waved.   Amazed, I waved back.

When I finally reached the motel, I called Nancy and told her about the incident on the bus.  “Maybe the man was your guardian angel,” she suggested.

At first such a thing was difficult to believe, but when I thought about it, I realized that I had not pre-purchased my tickets and no one knew I was coming.  Although I arrived almost fifteen minutes past the departure time, the driver said he had specifically waited just for me!  And, what’s more, he had waited because God had commanded His angel to guard me along my way.

Throughout the years I have held onto this memory as a very personal and special gift from my Heavenly Father.  I believe the Lord sent His angel to establish in my heart whose child I had become.”

Dreaming

I heard a Ted talk last week by Lynette Lewis who said, “Dreams tell our hearts we are living, not dying.”  She went onto explain her place of hope and optimism when life had killed the dreams in her heart.  Managing our own expectations and dreams can be daunting when the world seems to be hunting for dreams to kill off.  When people bring their skepticism, fear and doubt to the dinner table of your life – it’s hard to have a healthy appetite of faith. 

Sometimes I wrestle and wrestle to hear God’s voice and other times it seems to ring clear through my confused mind like a bell that has a distinct tone.  I believe that God has dreams in His heart for us that we might call our destiny.  God is constantly giving us hints, and glimpses of what He wants us to walk toward in our lives.  He isn’t cruel and doesn’t tease us, but I’ve found that God doesn’t always spell everything out for us with a skywriter in an airplane. 

What I know is that God’s Word is the truth, and in it we have a powerful sword that will divide our hearts and help us (Heb. 4:12).   Through the power of the Holy Spirit He has given us everything we need for life and Godliness (2 Peter 1:3).  Are you looking to God’s Word to help you get clear on the dreams God has for your life? Proverbs 29:18 says 18 Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.   When we aren’t clear about where God is leading us, we can “run wild” as one translation of this verse says. 

Today, if your dreams are cloudy and you need clarity – I want to encourage you to go the Word of God and ask God to speak to you.  You get a blessing when you are living according to His Word, in order to come into alignment with it, we have to read it, know it, be reminded of it and choose to believe it.  The Bible is one of the most precious gifts you have ever received, let’s really allow the Word of God to live in our hearts and change us! 

-Andrew Burchett, Lead Pastor

 

Focused Living

Years ago a volunteer in one of the ministries I was leading loudly blasted out the statement, “You don’t love people.”  I didn’t know what to say in response to this allegation.   It was easy for me to simply write this person off as “needy” or “misguided” about what role I needed to play.  While I disagreed with the truth of this tirade about my lack of loving others, later that night I asked Jesus to show me what it looked like to love others better. 

Over the years I am convinced that the Holy Spirit continues to teach me what it looks like to love.  As I have grown in my responsibilities and become more and more challenged pastoring larger groups of people the Lord has helped me think differently about the ways that I am able to show love and live it out. 

When I went through our Focused Living seminar years ago and pondered on the significance of different people, events and circumstances that the Lord has been using to shape me, it was in the most painful circumstances that I grew the most. 

It was C.S. Lewis who said, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” 

This heated exchange with one of my volunteers became a “pink sticky note” on the timeline of my life.  On my Focused Living poster board - pink connotes a painful event that was a part of my story.   In God’s goodness to me, it wasn’t more than a year or two later that Gaylord sat down with me for a cup of coffee and shared this new revelation about “the command of Jesus” that is found in John 13:34.  It hit me right between the eyes and became another significant event that has shaped and changed me forever.  This revelation later became Gaylord’s book, Love Revolution, and helped me form a lens with which to measure the ministries I lead, the interactions I have and how I live my life based on understanding a fresh the importance of loving one another. 

When I look at the poster board of my life today – it’s just as true and revealing as the day that I took Focused Living and put it together some 15 years ago.  I have added many more sticky notes since that day because God keeps shaping me through ongoing relationships and experiences, and it gives more weight to some of those early days and what God was pouring into my heart then. 

We are offering Focused Living at the end of April, on Friday evening April 28th and Saturday during the day of April 29th.  If you haven’t experienced this workshop where you put your sticky note timeline together – I suggest you sign up and join us.  God wants to give you clarity on the next season of your life by teaching you through looking at the people, events and circumstances that have happened up to this time.  I am always amazed at the clarity that emerges as people share bits and pieces of their stories with those sitting at the table with them at the workshop. 

You can sign up online at http://www.ncchico.org/focused-living-workshop/.

Andrew Burchett, Lead Pastor

The Challenging Rhythms of Life

From the desk of Kathryn Redman...

This past Sunday contained a larger than normal set of events that have created in me a deep reflection on the fleeting nature of our existence this side of eternity. The sudden and tragic passing of our friend Judi Wineroth came as such a shock to many of us on Sunday morning. Those who know the family are grieving, while also praying healing for Barry, Shane and April from the physical injuries. The emotional injuries sustained by the entire family will need the deep and abiding grace and peace that only our Jesus can offer. He offers that both directly by His Spirit, and indirectly through each of us who prays and serves and loves on them through this time. Needless to say, our hearts are wrenched and we grieve with them and will do so for a long time to come.

One of the hardest parts of loss is the reality that life goes on and we have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I remember when my dad passed away and I was in a daze, yet life kept happening all around me. Babies were born, couples got married, clients kept expecting that we would provide the work that we promised. It just doesn’t stop. At least not for very long.

As we press forward with this series on work, and connecting our work to God’s work, this week has brought sharp focus to the fact that there are only so many days that we have to accomplish the work that God is calling us to. Our lives here on planet earth are a vapor, a fleeting shadow according to James 4:14. Yet what we do matters. How we view and understand what we do matters.

In this series we are identifying worldviews, the grids through which we understand the various parts of our lives. In our case, we are focused specifically on the topic of work. Some questions under consideration are:

1.      Do you believe that there is dignity in work itself? That work is something that God calls us to and blesses?

2.      Do you believe that there is no “preferred vocation” for a Christian? That God’s call can lead one person to be a pastor, another to be in business, another to be a stay at home mom, and all are equal in His sight?

3.      How are you defining “ministry”? If you work outside the church is ministry only happening when you are actively praying, sharing the gospel, or leading a bible study in the workplace, or is how you work and live as a Christ follower also ministry in the eyes of God?

If you don’t know how Michael and I would answer the above, I invite you to go and listen to the podcasts or watch the videocast on www.ncchico.org. One of my favorite quotes from last Sunday’s sermon was by Dorothy Sayers who was writing in World War II era Britain. She said this: “The church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him to not be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours and to come to church on Sundays. What the church should be telling him is this: That the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.”

It is our hope that as we continue to press on in this series you will be encouraged, challenged in your thinking, and refreshed in your commitment to finding out what the good works are God has called you to, and then doing them to the very best of your ability. We have a lot to talk about this coming Sunday, including the discovery of that work, and walking in what Michael and I call “Passion and Provision.” Until then……

Myths and Elephants

From the desk of Kathryn Redman...

Why Work? The short answer is because God is a worker, and the quickest way to experience the joy and satisfaction that your life was meant to hold is to imitate Jesus, God made man. Jesus says He only does what He sees the Father doing, and He came to protect us, and to show us how to experience life that is so fulfilling that it would be more than we ever imagined and better than we ever dreamed possible. Why work? Why not? The trick is to rewrite our understanding of what work is and how to do it like the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is time to redeem work and take back another part of our inheritance! Are you with us?

No matter where you are in your journey, understanding God’s purpose for work is super important. It may sound like a mundane, boring topic, but trust me, it isn’t! It is full of hope and encouragement and excitement and challenge.

This past Sunday Michael and I had the privilege of beginning a four-week series entitled “Why Work?” If you were there you heard Michael lay out the biblical evidence that God did not create work as a result of sin, or as a punishment to us humans, but rather that work existed in the garden before things went all wrong. Based on Genesis 1-2 we see God as a worker. Work is a part of the character and nature of God. He works. It’s what He does. He models 6 days of work, 1 day of rest. And, as you already well know, we were made in the image of God so guess what? We were made to work and to rest. It’s what we should be doing. If you missed last Sunday, I want to encourage you to check out the podcast (http://www.ncchico.org/podcast/) or videocast (http://www.ncchico.org/videocast/)  of the sermon so you have the foundation. I know he’s my husband so I might be biased, but it was good stuff!

Work is such a critical part of who we are, but it has been misunderstood in many Christian circles. If you have a job outside the home, you probably spend more of your awake hours at work than you do at home. Does God care about your 8-5 job? Is work outside of the church as important as work for the church? Is the highest calling for every Christian to be a missionary or a pastor? What are we supposed to think about work? What if we hate work and are just “working for the weekend”? How do we find meaning and purpose in our work?

We are super excited to have the chance to talk through these topics and more as we head into week 2 of the series. We are calling this week “Myths and Elephants” because of a comment Michael made as we were planning and preparing. He said it felt like “we opened a can of worms and found a herd of elephants!” This week we will look at some of the elephants in the room. We will unpack some of the teaching and thinking that has led us to misunderstand or undervalue the role of regular everyday work in the Kingdom of God. Still not intrigued? We had at least two retired people who talked with us after the service last Sunday and said something like “my first thought was ‘this topic isn’t relevant for me, it’s for the younger folks’ and then about 3 minutes in, I realized it is relevant for me.”

As noted in the opening paragraph, the trick is to rewrite our understanding of what work is and how to do it like the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is time to redeem work and take back another part of our inheritance! Can’t wait to see you there!

Don’t forget to set your clocks forward an hour!

Why Work?

Why Work?  

 

“Everybody’s working for the weekend…”  are lyrics to one of the songs on the radio when I was a teenager. Does that mean that people are just punching the clock, surviving Monday through Friday, waiting for their life to restart just for two out of seven days?  

 

Or, could our work actually be an extension of our purpose, and what God wants to do?  

 

I believe the Lord wants to help us think differently about how our faith is expressed in our workplace. This doesn’t mean that you need to run around placing gospel tracks all over the office or sneak in and change the music to KLOVE. Rather, there is a very real way God is seeking for us to worship Him with the way we approach our work. God has a heart for the people we work with and I have confidence that He has put us strategically in their lives to make a difference.  

 

Some of you are reading this and thinking, there is no way that any of my faith could be expressed at work… but when Philippians 4:13 declares, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,”  I believe it. Living out our faith at work -  in an intentional, but authentic and unforced way, is possible for all of us.  

 

We have been planning for quite a while to talk about how our faith is alive in our work life, and this Sunday marks the beginning of four weeks of teaching on the subject. The Lord really wants to move in every area of our lives, and our hours at work isn’t time that God just writes off as a loss. You have been planted by God where you work to make a difference, and we’re excited to partner with you in approaching work from God’s perspective and activate you to find significance in this area more than ever before.  

 

As a church, we exist to help people experience and share the life to the fullest that Jesus came to give us, and this is another area that we need to allow God to instruct us in.  My friends Michael and Kathryn Redman, local business owners, are going to lend their passion and insight on this topic as we gather on Sundays in March.  

 

Life to the fullest is possible during our work weeks.  Join us this Sunday at 9am or 11am and find out how.   

Being a Peace Maker

In the summer of 1990, I was traveling with the Chico State choir through eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.  The Berlin wall was being taken apart piece by piece and the geopolitical realities and cold war were shifting and changing.  One of the original pieces of music, written specifically for the trip, declared the longing of our hearts to see peace on earth.  This is the heartbeat of our God, in the song of the angels, found in Luke 2:14. 

 

In Matthew 5:9, Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Ultimately, it is because of the shed blood of Jesus that peace can come to earth. Colossians 1:20 says,  “… through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”

 

What does it look like to make peace? Certainly making peace is different than “keeping the peace.”  Peace making is a powerful concept that includes intentional efforts to engage violent or otherwise destructive behavior or relationships in such a way to resolve conflict and ultimately pave the way for peaceful relationship and reconciliation.  It’s the process of actively forging a settlement between disputing parties. 

 

As Street Pastors on the streets of Chico after dark, this is often what we do as we encounter people who are at odds.  We are trained to de-escalate situations that are charged with emotion and even the threat of violence.  We pray and ask the Holy Spirit to come and bring the peace of God, but we also use time honored wisdom, learned from local law enforcement, in bringing people to a place of rational thought. 

 

Sheriff Captain Andy Duch is doing a free class on February 16th at 7pm at New Hope Church for Street Pastors, but we’ve also opened it up to the public.  De-escalation tools would be helpful in our homes with our families, workplaces and even out in public.  Andy is incredibly engaging and you will quickly understand why he is a skilled hostage negotiator.  Consider joining us for this time of training.  You don’t need to be an aspiring Street Pastor to attend, but if you enjoy this training, you might just consider Street Pastors as a possibility for your future! 

Andrew Burchett

Lead Pastor

 

Grow in Grace

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

                                                                                                            - 2 Peter 3:18

 

Throughout Scripture, the Lord invites us into a deeper relationship with Himself. And it is the most astonishing adventure imaginable, this ever- deepening experience of His beauty, majesty and grace! Knowing God intimately makes us better spouses, parents and grandparents, more joyous persons and more radiant witnesses to the Good News.

 

To help each of us grow, the church is offering four classes starting this Sunday, February 5. Each runs from 11am – 12:20pm. Most run for 6 weeks; one goes 9 weeks. Church childcare is available for all (simply let the folks at the registration table know you will be attending one of the classes). Details are given below. I hope you all can join us!

 

Grace and peace –

 

Pastor Tom

 

 

Loving Your Kids on Purpose – Room 1208 (Library)

 

Bob and Kathy LeDuc facilitate this 9-week class on a biblical approach to parenting, using material created by Danny and Sheri Silk. This DVD series and workbook helps parents bring the principles of the Kingdom of God into their homes. Teaching our children to manage increasing levels of freedom is one of our greatest challenges. Learning to replace the tools of intimidation and control is a priority as we gain practical skills to train our children in love. $10 materials fee.

 

Knowing God – Room 436

 

Philippians 3:7-14 describes the Apostle Paul's determination to intimately experience God in the deepest possible way. Paul considered any other kind of knowledge or achievement insignificant compared to knowing Christ and being “found” in Him. Come join Bonnie Reimers and others on this 6-week journey to a deeper, more intimate relationship with God.

 

 

What if it's God speaking? – Room 433  

 

Jesus said his sheep know his voice (John 10:27). So if you're a Christian, Jesus was referring to you! Learning to discern Christ’s voice is, for every Jesus follower, a journey, a priority and a privilege. Mike Wadlow leads this 6-week class designed to help. Come and learn why and how God speaks, hear stories and acquire tools to grow… all in a safe, interactive environment.  It might be the first time you identify that God is really speaking to you; you might learn God has always been speaking to you, or you may learn new ways God wants to talk with you. 

 

Reasons to Believe – Room 435

 

This 6-week class, led by Devin Tarr, examines the evidence for Christianity. It's a safe place to ask your hardest questions and be taken seriously. If you've ever had doubts about your faith, or been challenged by others to defend your faith, or wanted to evangelize with greater effectiveness, this is a class that will encourage and equip you. Using science, history, and philosophy, we will examine such topics as: Does God exist? Why does God allow evil? And Did Jesus rise from the dead? Whether you're a Christian, skeptic, or member of another faith, we would love to have you.

 

 

Healing the Great Division: How to Love Those Who Don't Think Like Us

I have been pondering the growing divide in our nation as I read news stories and drove downtown Saturday to see people with signs walking about.  There is clearly a great deal of emotion associated with the election, those who have been elected and the perceptions of what that might mean for future policy.  

 

The older I get, the more steady I am as far as reacting to current events. With a high view of sovereignty, I sometimes retreat to a familiar place of prayer and giving it to my Heavenly Father.  Those of you who know me well would say that I can almost always see the bright side of things and I expect God to move and work despite me, or any other leader that may be elected, and you would be right.  

 

My theology doesn’t expect things in this world to get better, or for our laws to change so that the hearts of people will change.  Laws don’t bring about heart change.  I do like laws that line up with God’s Word, but I’m not expecting our president and his team to single handedly usher in the millennial kingdom. 

 

Having said all that…. I am concerned that we learn in this season how to love those who don’t think like us.  

 

Some of the more liberal thinkers among us are afraid to share their concerns about our current president, for fear that they will be shunned for questioning “God’s choice” for our leader.  I think they are wrestling with moral concerns and issues of social justice.  

 

Some of the more conservative thinkers among us are touting the results of this election as God’s way of finally setting everything and everyone straight and are viewed as prideful, boastful and unattractive.  Other conservative thinkers are afraid to admit they voted for this president because of the labels that others may place on them (unintelligent, racist, etc). 

 

I know everyone doesn’t fit into those characterizations - but here’s my point:  

 

We have an opportunity to learn how to love others who don’t see things the same way that we do.  That doesn’t mean we have to let go of our distinctions or compromise on what is true.  It is critical, however as leaders in this season that we speak with grace, that we listen well, that we ask good questions, and have healthy dialogue.  

 

My big concern this week has been for the younger generation especially, who have spent much of their young lives (the past 8 years) under a more liberal president - I have heard from several of them that they feel like the bottom has dropped out of the future - in part because they don’t know what this new leadership can or will do to change things that they value.  

 

Will we truly be fathers and mothers and listen to these people who are in our midst and really struggling?  Can we hang in with them and not dismiss their feelings as “soft,” “just fearful,” or “uninformed?”  Can we be honest enough to say that in this season it really is more about trusting the Lord than the government?  Will we be willing to truly consider what they are saying and honor them with a truly compassionate heart? 

 

Just an encouragement to you as you post on social media, have conversations at Starbucks and even chat with others in the grocery store line.  These are great opportunities to love.  I believe the Church of Jesus Christ has a wonderful opportunity in this season to live out HIS command to love one another.  

 

-Andrew Burchett

Lead Pastor

Video Cast

They say that camera adds ten pounds…

 

All that work to try to lose weight last year may be compromised by our new effort to help those who can’t make it on a Sundays.  Yesterday, we released our very first video podcast.  We have been using video in different ways in the past few years, and now we expand to filming and releasing our sermons online on video!

 

This an exciting step for us, as we try to help those who miss church engage in our teaching times from their computer screens or smart TV’s.  The goal isn’t to have a church that stays home every Sunday, but it will be helpful for the vast amount of our congregation who are visual learners who miss church and want to stay connected.  The other way that expanding to a video cast is that those who are considering coming to Neighborhood Church can get a taste of the culture and feel even before they actually come to our campus.

 

Expanding in this way doesn’t mean that our audio podcast will disappear; the audio recordings will still be available as well. 

 

We are only using one camera currently and still working on making sure we have the proper lighting for video, so it’s a work in progress.  Looking at our first run at this yesterday, I am very excited and encouraged! 

 

If you want to see it yourself, you can click on the following link, (http://www.ncchico.org/videocast) or just go to the ncchico.org webpage and click on “video cast.” 

 

I don’t know if the camera adds ten pounds to my appearance, but I don’t mind if does if the message gets out to a broader audience. 

 

-Andrew Burchett

Lead Pastor

Coffee Cup

On my desk is a coffee cup that most people don’t see.  It is black and white with letters that are so spread out that you can’t actually read what it says.  It holds a handful of pens and pencils and stands at attention at all times, ready to supply whatever I might need to write down my thoughts.  When you look closely, you realize that it has pictures of buildings; one of them is the St. Louis Cathedral. This church dates back to the 1700’s and is the central landmark in the crescent city called New Orleans.  Although you may not see its significance, that cup is a powerful reminder to me.

 

In August of 2005, hurricane Katrina ripped through the gulf coast and was the deadliest hurricane in the history of the United States.  Relief efforts to clean up New Orleans were massive, with 80% of the city underwater.  Churches around the nation began sending volunteers to help with the cleanup.  In 2006, our youth ministry mobilized students to go on a senior trip during their spring break to New Orleans.  This was a life changing adventure for some of our students, and in many ways, it was life changing for those of us who led the trip. 

 

When I look at that coffee cup it reminds me of the things that God has done.  It brings to mind the sight of our high school kids working to gut homes that were flooded and rejoicing, in tears when we discovered art work in an attic that survived the flood.  When I am shaky in my leadership, the cup reminds me that I have led those who were untrained, lacking skills, but ready for the adventure to places where we made a difference. 

 

The investment of the cup to be reminded of this meaningful trip only cost me $6.  It wasn’t the amount of money that I spent that makes it special, it is the meaning and purpose behind what it represents.  This cup reminds me where I have come from.  For a season I was a youth pastor.  I took great joy in seeing students trust Jesus with their lives and then grow in their walks with Him.  I love the younger generation, but I love putting mothers and fathers together with them even more.  We must be reminded of God’s heart for us and of His great love. 

 

What tangible things have you surrounded yourself with that remind you of your true identity and the destiny that God has for you?  While getting a bunch of clutter and stuff isn’t necessarily helpful, having visual reminders of the valuable things God has done in your life will reinforce what you are doing today. 

 

What do you dare not forget? 

What do you need to do to create reminders for yourself?

What things, art, or mementos, do you need to put in a prominent place?

 

When I get a pen or pencil out of this special cup, part of my mouth turns up in a smile as I realize how blessed I am and what a great adventure our God has invited me into in the past and into my future. 

 

-Andrew Burchett

Lead Pastor

"Footprints In The Sand"

There are some days where you feel so defeated and tired that you just don’t want to get out of bed.  If you’re like me, you start to pray and ask Jesus to give you a gift of strength to tackle the tasks and relationships that will be the great challenges.  

 

There is a famous poem entitled “Footprints In The Sand” that talks about walking down a beach and realizing that in the most difficult times in our life, looking back, there are only one set of footprints in the sand.  It brings to mind the question, “Why did you leave me Jesus in those times I needed you the most?”  Jesus replies, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you, never, ever, during your trials and testings.  When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."

 

This week my heart has been so heavy and I am grieving.  In this season, I have felt alone at times and under the weight of life changing decisions with limited natural strength. 

 

Yesterday I was reading about my 24th great grandfather, William Marshal, who lived in the 1100’s in England, Wales and Ireland.  He served four different kings, Henry II, John, Richard the Lionheart, and finally Henry III.  During William’s eulogy, The Archbishop of Canterbury called him the “greatest knight who had ever lived.”  He was a statesman, a warrior, a leader, and most importantly a father of 10 children.  Though William was a strong nobleman, he realized the importance of serving others, and doing what a father would do to help others.

 

When Henry III was crowned king at age nine, William was chosen to act as regent and rule in Henry’s place until he was of age to take the throne.  Upon being granted this weighty responsibility William Marshal said,

 

“If all the world deserted the young boy, except me, do you know what I would do?  I would carry him on my shoulders and walk with him thus…and never let him down from island to island from land to land.”

 

William Marshal walked in that role as father, protector and burden bearer until Henry could rule the kingdom on his own.  Galatians 6:2 tells us, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  The law of Christ is the commandment to love one another.  The Marshal was willing to carry this young boy on his shoulders if necessary, he knew that was what the law of chivalry required and what love looks like. 

 

If you are struggling today under heavy burdens, you are not alone.  It is so important to let others know what your struggle is, so others can help carry you through times of pain.  When we walk in community in this way, the Lord begins to strengthen, heal and enliven our wounded and broken hearts again. 

 

So, be vulnerable and share with others, and be a listening ear and a loving contact for others who need you to help bear their burdens in love. 

- Andrew Burchett

Lead Pastor

 

December 7, 1941

75 years ago today, our president spoke of December 7, 1941 as a day that will live in infamy.  But for one man who was at Pearl Harbor that day, it was a day of salvation, both physically and spiritually.  I had the honor of officiating Bob Vilcone’s memorial service in 2013.  I want to share the story of December 7th with you to inspire you and help you understand that in the midst of the greatest trials, God is still moving and working on our behalf.

 

In 1940 at the age of 18 Bob Vilcone enlisted in the US Navy, and served in the Navy with his older brother Stan. Initially he was stationed in San Diego.   

 

War in Europe had broken out, and tensions were rising between the U.S. and Japan.  The U.S. Navy moved much of its fighting force to Hawaii, in preparation for a potential war with Japan.  The USS Maryland, a Colorado series battleship was docked on battleship row, with six other battleships.  Bob was aboard ship that December morning eating breakfast and preparing to go ashore at 9:00am when the men would be released for liberty.  The Maryland had a crew of over 1000 men. 

 

Bob was lounging around below the deck reading the Sunday paper when he heard the roar of the Japanese planes.  He didn’t realize that they were not friendly aircraft until the explosions of the first bombs next to the ship.

 

At 7:55am, the first bombs were dropped on Pearl Harbor, with a Japanese plane dropping torpedoes that found their mark on the hull of the USS Oklahoma, which was attached to the Maryland with ropes and a gangway.  The bugler on the USS Maryland played General Quarters, and the announcement went out:

 

"General quarters! General quarters!

Man your battle stations! THIS IS NO DRILL!"

 and men hurried to their stations. 

 

The USS Oklahoma was moored on the outside, shielding the Maryland, there were nine torpedoes that struck the USS Oklahoma in all, and within 20 minutes, the Oklahoma listed and turned upside-down.  Many of it’s men climbed aboard the USS Maryland, who got its anti-aircraft guns up and running immediately and fired on the enemy for two hours straight. 

 

Bob, was placed on the open quarter deck between two 16 inch guns, operating the radio, as an observer.  Bob later told a newspaper reporter, "I stood there rather stunned because the (battleship) Oklahoma had already been torpedoed and capsized."

 

During the attack, the Maryland was struck by two armor-piercing bombs which detonated low on her hull.  The first made a hole about 12 ft. by 20 ft. The second exploded after entering the hull & caused flooding.  The Japanese erroneously announced that Maryland had been sunk, but the Oklahoma had shielded it from torpedoes and the men fought valiantly to protect what was left of our fleet.

 

Bob was telling the man in the tower – “there is fire everywhere,” they were being swarmed by 356 Japanese planes raining bombs and torpedoes on the harbor.  Oil was on top of the water and was on fire.  The fire was approaching the ship, so it was Bob who called in for fire suppression that may have saved the Maryland from catching fire.

 

Between volleys of fire, Bob would hear on the other end of the radio –

“Bobby, are you still there?”

The man on the other end of the radio was the man in the tower, none other than Stan Vilone, Bob’s older brother.  

 

The guns continued to fire, and after the attack, the men onboard were sent in firefighting parties, especially attempting to rescue survivors from the capsized Oklahoma.

 

 At the end of the attack, it was said that Bob was covered with soot from head to toe and you could only see the whites of his eyes.  Bob later said that there was evidence that the deck was strafed by enemy bullets and he has no idea how he wasn’t harmed. 

 

That day Bob gave his life to Jesus and never turned to look back.  Bob knew that God had spared his life.  2400 Americans lost their lives and another 1200 were wounded.

 

After serving in the South Pacific, Bob needed medical attention, and it was in the military hospital in Southern California that he met Betty West, a nurse who he fell in love with and married.  Bob attended Westmont College, and connected to a group of churches known as the Christian and Missionary Alliance, which is our denomination.  The plan was for Bob & Betty to go overseas as missionaries to South America, but by the end of their training in linguistics there were concerns about Betty’s health, and with three small children, the CMA sent them to Feather Falls, CA, where Bob was assigned to pastor a small church. 

 

Bob lived in Chico, raised his family and is a hero.  He was saved, both physically and spiritually 75 years ago.  May God teach us through his life, and inspire us no matter what our circumstances look like to trust Him.