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What are you doing for Others?

We are the poem that God is writing, and every action we take to bless, serve and honor others is another stroke of His pen.

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) reads,
10  For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  

The Greek word for “workmanship” in this verse is transliterated “poiema.”  It is from this word that we get our English word – poem.   Paul is helping us understand that we have great value – like a masterpiece, because God created us.

This verse definitely doesn’t mean that it is our works that somehow make us right before God. The two verses before this make that clear.  It does seem like we are hard wired, destined and created to do these good works.  It is not our fate, or predetermined by God exactly how our lives will go – but there is a divine effort to prepare opportunities for us to step into as we follow His lead. 

I was at Starbucks when I noticed this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”

As we have just celebrated Dr. King’s birthday, and in a few months will honor the 50th anniversary of his death on April 4, 1968, his question causes me to pause and think. 

Our society continues to grow more and more self centered and focused on pursuing our own comfort.  Dr. King’s words cry out from the past, inviting us back to living out being the “poiema” of God again. 

So what will it look like for you to notice those who are in need nearby today? 

Will this mean spending less time with your head down in your phone so that you will notice the woman with the three kids - who needs some help getting in the door at the coffee shop? Will it mean taking an extra minute & asking the Lord who you should be praying for today?  Does it look like taking a risk in giving a sincere compliment to a complete stranger?  

How will you serve others today? 

How will you allow Jesus to write His story through your gracious acts today?

These are persistent questions that point us back to loving one another, and fulfilling the command of Jesus. 

Let’s write a few more stanzas of God’s poem through our lives today!  

Andrew Burchett- Lead Pastor

Close Encounters of a Supernatural Kind

I encountered a woman who was having some real challenges this afternoon.  She may have been under the influence of some substance, or some other emotional or mental challenge. She was making a fuss about something she felt entitled to, and no answer seemed good enough. Honestly, she reminded me of a wild horse that was bucking to and fro and daring everyone to stay out of her way. It seemed like an invitation to engage and have a moment with her.  

As I approached her, I put my hand out, tried to smile as genuinely as possible and said, “Hi, I’m Andrew.” She stood in the narrow hallway ready to shake my hand while a little three-year-old girl who was with her lingered just a few feet away. As I began to shake her hand, she began to try to twist my arm like she was going to use martial arts of some kind on me. Upon realizing she was trying to intimidate me, I used my arm strength to get back to “hand shake position” and made a joke asking her if she was trying to get me to dance – and I then began leading her in my simple version of a swing dance where I led her in a move or two. At this point we stopped and she looked at my face and said, “what’s your name again?” I simply told her, “I’m Andrew” while looking straight into her eyes.  

It was then that I asked her the question, “why are you upset, what’s going on?” She kind of answered, but used Jesus’ name in a derogatory way.  To which I replied, “hey, I believe in Jesus too.” It was as if I was speaking to a wall. Then after she cussed some more, I reassured her that everything was going to work out. I kept eye contact with her, standing firmly, but lovingly in front of her.  

The little girl had adorable rain boots on, so I decided to lovingly talk with her about her fancy boots. My thought was that if you love someone’s kid – they will feel loved. The girl was just darling, and was not fazed by this woman’s behavior in the least bit.  

I think that a small voice whispered to me and prompted me to ask a strange question, “hey where are you from?” This was a conversation starter because she started telling me all about the city in Northern England she was from. This helped me stall for time while the people at the business figured out how to solve her problem. When they accompanied her away so they could finish the business transaction properly, the woman turned back and looked at me over her shoulder. She said, “I’m going to start thinking about spiritual things more.”  I shouted to her as she went out the door – “Hey, that’s a good idea!” 

There are many reasons in the natural realm why that all took place – but it was something in the supernatural realm that left me impressed. I believe that the Holy Spirit that I carry inside me as a Jesus’ follower was seen by this tormented woman and she responded in a few different ways. The first was aggressively trying to inflict harm on me by arm twisting. The second was softening as love began to invade her. Third, the spontaneous admission that there is a hunger in her heart for the things of God.  

At no point had I told her I am a pastor, but there was a recognition of a spiritual encounter that caused her to admit, and even declare, she wanted more of God.  

If you are a follower of Jesus - the Holy Spirit you carry is the same one that I carry and “greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).   You have all authority that has been given to you by Jesus to overcome all the power of the enemy of our souls (Luke 10:19).  

When the woman looked into my eyes she did not find an accuser or one who stood in judgment. She looked into eyes of concern and love. “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).  She tried to get me to take the bait and get offended over her awful language, but I knew that I needed to remain “unoffendable.”   

Are you willing to engage with the love of Jesus?  It’s the secret weapon that destroys what the enemy is trying to do.  It is the fruit of the Spirit and will be the opposite of what the world is offering. This kind of demonstration of the Father’s love and power and the authority of the Holy Spirit will change the atmosphere around you, if you can remain in a posture of love and not offense.  The broken people around us will see Jesus in us, we just can’t run away from them in fear. 

-Andrew Burchett, Lead Pastor

There Once Was a Man Named Luke

There Once Was a Man Named Luke

There once was a man named Luke. 

He is best known for writing the book of the Bible that bears his name.  Luke’s gospel was “carefully investigated everything from the beginning, (and) it seemed good also to me (Luke) to write an orderly account for you (Luke 1:3).   I believe that this was the same man who wrote the Book of Acts, which begins the same way that his gospel account ends – with the ascension of Jesus Christ outside of Jerusalem and the followers of Jesus remaining in the city waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Luke tells us in the first verses of The Book of Acts:  “In my former book, (Theophilus), I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to the heaven (Acts 1:1-2).” 

Paul mentions Luke in the book of Colossians, where he is called a physician.  While there were no official certifications that those practicing medicine would earn in the first century, he undoubtedly had learned as an apprentice under another doctor.   Often doctors in the Roman Empire were slaves, who were later freed.  Most physicians in Rome were foreigners, and a century before Julius Caesar had granted citizenship to doctors and teachers in an effort to encourage men to pursue these trades. 

While in Asia minor (modern day Turkey) or Rome being a doctor might be a prestigious honorable trade, in Jerusalem and Judea doctors were not as revered.  Jewish people recognized that God was ultimately the healer, and sought God’s help in prayers.  More wealthy Jews in the first century praised physicians and their medicine as instruments of God.   By the second century, one Jewish writer assigned the best physicians of his day to a class division to Gehinnom (basically meaning people from hell).  While Luke was doing his research, and even traveling with Paul, at times keeping his expertise in medicine to himself may have been a good plan.  

This doctor seems to be an eye witness to some of the events in the Book of Acts, as the narrative shifts from “they” to “we.”   Ancient church tradition says that Luke was also an artist and one who sketched pictures of the apostles and religious icons.  While Luke didn’t intend to write a technical historical document, the care that he took in recording the details is tremendous.  Based on his accurate descriptions of towns, cities and islands, as well as correctly naming various official titles, archeologist Sir William Ramsay wrote that, “Luke is a historian of the first rank...”

When taken together, Luke-Acts as a two part gospel makes up 27.5% of the New Testament.  After getting a good look at Acts, the rest of the books of the New Testament (many letters from the people in the book) have proper context.  When you get to heaven, you should run up to Luke and give him a big hug for his incredible gift to us, the Body of Christ. 

As the book of Acts comes to a close in chapter 28, we find that Paul has reached Rome and though he is under house arrest – it is only helping to facilitate very focused ministry for two years.   In Acts 28, Luke also explains that this book has proven to us that God’s salvation has gone out to the nations, who will listen to this Good News.  The book seems to end without conclusion, like the writer was interrupted as he described ministry in Rome.  Many have wondered if there was a third book that Luke wrote that has been lost over the years.  I believe that we, the Church, are the third portion of Luke’s gospel.  The Holy Spirit inspired Luke to leave the book wide open at its conclusion.  This story is still being written – in us who live today.  We continue to share the Good News and be His witnesses in a world that is lost without Him (Mt. 28:18-20).  It is a relief to be able to trust that the power of the Holy Spirit will be what will allow us to move ahead and build His kingdom (Acts 1:8).

I want to invite you to come with us on a journey for these first five months of 2018.  We will be taking a journey through the Book of Acts on Sundays beginning this week.  I really believe as we see how the early church began, we will see what life to the fullest really looks like! 

Advancing

As I sat across from my new friends from London, my heart was exploding in my chest and I felt a sense of confirmation in my “knower.” 

Eustace and Sharon Constance, leaders in London of Street Pastors International, were here in Chico to train and help us step into pioneering the first chapter of Street Pastors in the United States.  As they shared vision and passion about this ministry I could feel the tractor beam of the Holy Spirit drawing me and telling me, “you were born for this.”   I am aware that I was born for many reasons, purposes and moments – but this was undeniably one of the reasons I am here in Chico for such a time as this.

When I came home late that night and tried to explain to my wife what I had experienced I just burst into tears. I’m pretty sure my inability to explain what I felt, what I had experienced and what it would mean for me, left her thinking that I was a little crazy.  What I knew was that God was working and inviting me to join Him in His work.  I didn’t want to miss the things God had designed me for – I knew that whatever they were, it would help me experience the “life to the fullest” that Jesus came to give me (John 10:10). 

When you get a word from the Lord it changes your view of the future.  It detonates a bomb of hope inside your heart and invites you into unknown territory.  You can have the Lord whisper to your heart, you might get a word from a person you don’t know out of the blue, or when a person is praying for you says something that just stays with you and keeps coming to mind.  When you get a word of prophesy in this way – the more you ponder it, the stronger it gets, and you can’t shake it. 

I’ve been seeking the Lord for a word for our church for 2018 and the word “Advancing” keeps coming to mind.  It’s not a word I use and it seemed to literally appear in my mind unannounced.  I have been pondering how it might apply to us as a church and a second clarifying “how” seems to be bubbling up out of my heart.  “In prayer,” is the next part that has me seeking the Lord for His confirmation. 

What would it look like for us to move ahead in building the Kingdom here at Neighborhood Church and in our city?   I think what God is showing me is that we will be “advancing in prayer.”  As a church, I believe that we will be challenged by God to take faith filled risks in reaching people with the gospel in our city, in our neighborhoods – all the way to the nations.  I think there are strategic things that God wants us to step into with other churches that must begin with seeking God for His will and His ways. 

As you prepare to welcome the New Year, will you ask God for a word, a phrase, a verse or other marker that would help to give your heart direction?  Simply ask God to whisper to your heart and then confirm His word to you after you hear it.  The Lord loves to reveal His heart and purpose for us, and if you ask Him and begin listening He will show you.  Don’t be surprised if there are things you know you must do from last year that He reiterates for you to still follow through on.  I have noticed that if I am seeking God for direction, He points me back to my unfinished business before showing me anything else about the road ahead. 

I fully believe that we will be “advancing in prayer” this next year as individuals, as a church and as a unified church in the city.  We can’t wait to see what wonderful things we will step into here at Neighborhood Church.

Happy New Year friends!  

Andrew Burchett- Lead Pastor

Space to Ponder

Luke 2:19 (NIV)
19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

After the shepherds are visited by a midnight show of the angelic choirs, they hurry off to see this baby that will be the Messiah and Savior of all people.  I can imagine that they are still shaking after experiencing the spectacle of heaven coming down to earth.  After going house to house, barn to barn, stable to stable looking for a baby laying in a feed trough, they do find Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus. 

As the shepherds share with Joseph and Mary what they had heard about their child, I can imagine that they were reviewing the content of what Gabriel the angel had told them separately about the coming of Jesus.  The confirmation of what God was doing had to give them goose bumps.  Mary had her encounter with the angel nine months prior to this, and Joseph’s visit from an angel occurred five months before this time.  This was another reminder of what God was accomplishing as He sent Jesus to earth in the form of a baby on that holy night in Bethlehem. 

Luke 2 tells us simply that Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The Greek could be literally translated,  “Mary preserved and kept all these words safe, fitting the pieces of the puzzle together in her heart.”  This is my dynamic translation that brings out the aspects of the Greek words that show Mary’s intention to steward the words (lit. Rhema) that she had heard.  I am using the idiom of the pieces of a puzzle (no puzzles mentioned in the Bible), because it shows the effort that she used to reconcile, and see the bigger picture that the Father was showing to his people – knowing that every time you get a word from the Lord it fits together with the others to give you better perspective. 

I love the fact that Luke, who I believe interviewed Mary as he wrote his gospel, includes what Mary is doing to process all the information and experiences.  Mary didn’t know all the information beforehand.  She was experiencing God’s plan as He unfolded it, and comparatively she had very little information to base her decisions on.  God wants us to learn how to walk by faith, and often will only tell us enough information to comfort, encourage or jumpstart us on the journey.  “Go to a land that I will show you,” is all Abram had to go on when he left Ur with his family.  The more I review the accounts of the coming of Jesus, the more I see Mary and Joseph as incredible faith filled people. 

In your life, God has given you enough information about your future for you to walk out today.  Most of us long for more revelation about what the road ahead looks like, but moving ahead looks more like turn by turn navigation through the leading of the Holy Spirit.  As we walk closely with Him, He will lead us, and sometimes is gracious in giving us glimpses of where we are going (stops along the way), but rarely a detailed description of what our destination is.  I think Jesus delights in surprises, and intends for them to be exciting and a blessing to us.   When we are fearful about our future and try to control things, surprises aren’t very fun. 

Like Mary, let’s persevere in remembering what God has shown us about the road ahead and continue to tune our ear to the confirming words that He is speaking to let us know we are going the right way. 

May you steward the (rhema) words about your life carefully. 

May the words you have heard pull you toward the destiny God has dreamed for you.

As you ponder the things of God in your heart, may He give you the confirmation and wisdom to put all the pieces of the puzzle of your life together. 

Let this Christmas season have the space to do some treasuring and pondering with Him. 

Andrew Burchett- Lead Pastor

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