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Lessons from a Glorious Sunset

 The sunset sings us a new melody of God’s love every evening.   Psalm19:1-6(NIV)   1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, 5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.  As I have been studying about the fathers and mothers of the Celtic church who lived over 1000 years ago, it is striking how often they see the fingerprints of God in creation.   People like Aiden and Hilda would quickly slip into prayers of thanksgiving as they would see a painted sunset and hear the singing of birds as they wing their way to nests nearby.   These examples of the faith knew that creation isn’t perfect, and waiting to be redeemed and made perfect by the coming of Jesus Christ someday.  They believed that that ALL of creation was spoiled in some way shape and form by the introduction of sin into a perfect world when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.  We also align with the view they held that matter (the stuff that makes up things, people, stuff in the universe) isn’t evil.  There is no separation of the secular and the sacred.  God’s fingerprints can be seen if you are willing to pause and pay attention.  Creation is still singing and telling of God’s nature, character and creativity.   Some people would say that God is IN everything… but that wouldn’t be Biblical (that view is called “Panentheism”).  Colossians 1:15 tells us that it is Christ who holds everything together, so we know that it is God who sustains every single atom in every single person and thing in the universe.  God is not defined or fully explained by what is in nature, we just get to see His fingerprints there.  The trinity exists outside of nature and will not be reduced by it.  The problem here can be that we can end up worshipping nature as God instead of perceiving nature as one of the ways that Jesus reveals Himself.   The Celts (people of what we call the United Kingdom) saw God reflected in all things.  Whether it was in the drone of the bagpipes that would speak of a continuity and background for the melodies of life, or their art which contained lines that made a never ending loop, there was a message that was constantly being broadcast to humans by God.   The call of God to the Celts is the same one we receive today – it is one of stewardship and appreciation of the creation God speaks through.  This doesn’t mean to worship the creation, but it does include honoring God by taking care of this earth.  There is a celtic spiritual community in England called, “the community of Aidan and Hilda.”  Their founders spoke of this when they said this…  “We affirm God’s creation as essentially good, but spoilt by the effects of human sin and satanic evil.  We therefore respect nature and are committed to seeing it cared for and restored.  We aim to be ecologically aware, to pray for God’s creation and all his creatures, and to stand against all that would seek to violate or destroy them.  We look upon creation as a sacrament, reflecting the glory of God, and seek to meet God through his creation, to bless it, to celebrate it.”    (Community of Aidan and Hilda, Way of Life, 1994)  So, what does it look like to linger a little longer in watching the sunset and pray a prayer of thanksgiving to the master painter of the skies?  Will you pause when a butterfly bravely flies right in front of you and watch it delicately dance in flight in amazement?  When you feel your dog jumping up and down when you arrive home, will you remember that God’s affection for you and excitement to spend time with you is infinitely more?   How will the next sunset lead you to a place where you see a painting that is being given to you as a gift of love… the invitation to worship your creator will come again this evening.

The sunset sings us a new melody of God’s love every evening.

Psalm19:1-6(NIV)
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, 5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.

As I have been studying about the fathers and mothers of the Celtic church who lived over 1000 years ago, it is striking how often they see the fingerprints of God in creation.   People like Aiden and Hilda would quickly slip into prayers of thanksgiving as they would see a painted sunset and hear the singing of birds as they wing their way to nests nearby. 

These examples of the faith knew that creation isn’t perfect, and waiting to be redeemed and made perfect by the coming of Jesus Christ someday.  They believed that that ALL of creation was spoiled in some way shape and form by the introduction of sin into a perfect world when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.  We also align with the view they held that matter (the stuff that makes up things, people, stuff in the universe) isn’t evil.  There is no separation of the secular and the sacred.  God’s fingerprints can be seen if you are willing to pause and pay attention.  Creation is still singing and telling of God’s nature, character and creativity. 

Some people would say that God is IN everything… but that wouldn’t be Biblical (that view is called “Panentheism”).  Colossians 1:15 tells us that it is Christ who holds everything together, so we know that it is God who sustains every single atom in every single person and thing in the universe.  God is not defined or fully explained by what is in nature, we just get to see His fingerprints there.  The trinity exists outside of nature and will not be reduced by it.  The problem here can be that we can end up worshipping nature as God instead of perceiving nature as one of the ways that Jesus reveals Himself. 

The Celts (people of what we call the United Kingdom) saw God reflected in all things.  Whether it was in the drone of the bagpipes that would speak of a continuity and background for the melodies of life, or their art which contained lines that made a never ending loop, there was a message that was constantly being broadcast to humans by God. 

The call of God to the Celts is the same one we receive today – it is one of stewardship and appreciation of the creation God speaks through.  This doesn’t mean to worship the creation, but it does include honoring God by taking care of this earth.  There is a celtic spiritual community in England called, “the community of Aidan and Hilda.”  Their founders spoke of this when they said this…

“We affirm God’s creation as essentially good, but spoilt by the effects of human sin and satanic evil.  We therefore respect nature and are committed to seeing it cared for and restored.  We aim to be ecologically aware, to pray for God’s creation and all his creatures, and to stand against all that would seek to violate or destroy them.  We look upon creation as a sacrament, reflecting the glory of God, and seek to meet God through his creation, to bless it, to celebrate it.”    (Community of Aidan and Hilda, Way of Life, 1994)

So, what does it look like to linger a little longer in watching the sunset and pray a prayer of thanksgiving to the master painter of the skies?  Will you pause when a butterfly bravely flies right in front of you and watch it delicately dance in flight in amazement?  When you feel your dog jumping up and down when you arrive home, will you remember that God’s affection for you and excitement to spend time with you is infinitely more? 

How will the next sunset lead you to a place where you see a painting that is being given to you as a gift of love… the invitation to worship your creator will come again this evening.

How do we Follow?

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Creation sings a love song to us from God, revealing His character, nature and creativity. 

Psalm 19:1-2 (NIV) says…
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
2  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.

Romans 1 also echoes the truth that God speaks constantly through creation, if we are willing to look and see His fingerprints, design and deep love written in natural things and animals around us. 

I was driving down from Centerville at dusk on Saturday night when I stopped to watch two small bear cubs amble down the pavement and carefully climb over a barbed wire fence that was bent over.  My jaw was literally open as I watched from the safety of my car something I had never had the privilege of seeing in the wild before.   I strained to see them climbing into the bushes – and as I looked… up pops the head of the mama bear who stood up and looked right at me.  She locked eyes with me for a few seconds, then turned around and led her cubs safely away from the road. 

I sat gawking and wishing they would come back again.  Only the whir of the engine could be heard over the beating of my heart that entered into an incredible place of thanksgiving.  As I drove past the covered bridge in silence I thanked Jesus for allowing me to be in the right place at the right time.   I thought about the way that God cares for us like a mama bear would lead and care for her cubs. 

Mama bears are famous for protecting their young fiercely, and there are several verses in the bible about how fiercely they will attack those coming after their cubs.   But Proverbs tells us that there is something more dangerous than getting between a mama bear and her cubs…

Proverbs 17:12 (NIV) says,  12  Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly.

We usually think of the term “fool” in the Bible as a silly person who won’t listen to wisdom – but there are at least five Hebrew words that our English translations represent by the word “fool.”   The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament has a good summary of the Hebrew word found here – “Kesil.”

We note the kind of choices which the kesîl makes. His eyes are unable to see any proper way or conduct. He may roam the earth seeking it, but miss it completely. Apparently he does not concentrate on what is right (Proverbs 17:24). The fool imagines that he can buy wisdom when actually he has no inclination for it (Proverbs 17:16). He takes no delight in understanding (Proverbs 18:2), hates knowledge (Proverbs 1:22), and therefore does not choose the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:29). The end of the fool's complacency is destruction (Proverbs 1:32).

The fool is a serious menace to the community. Associating with a fool, who has a twisted sense of values deprives one of knowledge (Proverbs 14:7). He can cause serious problems to his fellow man, for he actually enjoys doing wickedness or lewdness; (Leviticus 18:17; Proverbs 10:23). A fool's utterances bring strife and involve him in blows with his adversaries (Proverbs 18:6). Anyone who befriends him will be destroyed (Proverbs 13:20). Parents of the fool suffer greatly. His mother is grieved with him (Proverbs 10:1) and his father can never have any joy over him (Proverbs 10:1; see also Proverbs 17:25; Proverbs 19:13a). Yet for his part, the fool despises his mother (Proverbs 15:20).
(Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament)

Jesus is going with You.

We’ve never launched a kid before…

This weekend Linda and I will move our firstborn down to Southern California.  She will turn 20 in a few months and has been planning for this day over the past year.  While she doesn’t have a job secured yet, she has saved up her money and has a few months before she will have to find another place to live. 

For those who haven’t launched a kid – they scoff and say, “It’s no worries; she’s ready; she’ll be fine.”  Others grimace and put their hand on our shoulder promising to pray for her in the coming days.  Since I haven’t done this before I don’t know how to feel or what this will be like. 

The one thing I do know is that this journey of launching is all about trusting Jesus.  While we can make a long list of things that might go wrong, or scary facets of relocating in a city you know nothing about, the truth is that we are not just dropping our daughter off alone.  She and Jesus will be living there together. 

As I think about moving my daughter’s stuff into this house, I will also try to remember that Jesus is moving in too.  Fortunately he doesn’t have any boxes for us to move because we probably would be short on space for His stuff.  This whole transition is a trust-building exercise that will help my bride and I grow in our ability to trust that the Lord is good at guarding, guiding, and helping His kids.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd who knows how to care for His sheep.  Rehearsing that truth helps me find peace. 

One of the first things we will do is attend church with Katherine and her new roommate on Sunday morning.   We believe that to become the person God has destined you to be, you must walk in community with other Jesus followers.  While it is important to us that she grows in her faith by hearing good Bible teaching, it is equally important that she finds a place where she will have other mothers and fathers in her life speaking in and helping her grow.  I am praying that the Lord will highlight her to some people in that area who will love her well. 

It is amazing to me how much our culture downplays the role of the local church.  Many have reduced following Jesus to hearing a good message on a podcast, hearing some good worship music on You-tube and occasionally talking about Jesus over coffee with a friend.  The church is supposed to be a family, a safe place, a place where you can give your life away to others and be a part of building the Kingdom in a larger context.  I am glad to know that our daughter understands the importance of being a part of a church family, and showing up often.  The presence of the local church gives us peace as we launch Katherine as well.

The role of the Holy Spirit is the third calming presence in this transition.  Katherine hears the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to her and the Bible tells us that one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth.  He is a teaching God who will answer when we ask questions and lead us when we feel lost.  Jesus wants us to walk with Him and interact with him in a continual prayer flow, challenging us to think His thoughts and give our lives away.  He will open up doors and lead our girl in the days ahead, and she will grow even more because of her need for clarity. 

I don’t know what situation you are facing where it’s hard to trust God.  You may have a health concern, or are getting used to a new job.  There may be a new step parent in your life or a daunting project at work where you fear you will fail.  It might be a new school you are going to, or a new phase in your child’s life that leaves you wondering how to be a parent.  Jesus is constantly inviting us to come out and walk on the water.  He is asking us to step out of the boat and trust that He won’t let us sink in the midst of the storms raging around us.  

Whatever your situation is, remember that you are not alone. Jesus is going with you.  His presence will begin to give you the peace you need to keep walking ahead.

Andrew Burchett- Lead Pastor

Why?

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As humans we can’t help but ask that burning question when things go dreadfully wrong, when death comes knocking at our door, or diagnosis corners us in a fearful paralysis.

I was working out with a friend last week who felt overwhelmed by several premature deaths in his social circles.  He was looking to me, the pastor, and asking the “why” question.  Why is this happening?  Why didn’t God do anything to save these friends?  Doesn’t God love us and hear our prayers? 

Those are moments when all the learning at seminary and years of church ministry don’t help you know the answers to those “why” questions. 

As I have pondered those questions, I was reminded of this little verse in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 29:29 (NIV)  29  The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

There are things that God chooses not to reveal to us, and this can be difficult to accept.  Some of our “why” questions will only be answered in heaven when we have a different perspective on life.  This is probably the graciousness of God not to give us information that would harm us or overwhelm our finite minds. 

It would be a little bit like sharing your financial struggles with your four year old.  More information might make their little minds reel in fear and cause worry.  Their heart isn’t ready for the whole picture of what’s happening around them.  Our hearts are the same way.  We aren’t ready for the full picture of what’s happening in this life – on this side of heaven. 

Like four year old children, we can pout and demand answers, want our way, and look for a magic wand to make hard situations disappear. 

When you hear others asking the “why” questions, how can you help? 

One way you might encourage others in these times is to pray with the person who is seeking the answers.  When we pray for others out loud, it encourages others to see God for who He really is.  As we pray for grace, peace, healing and perspective, God begins to quiet the heart that is stirred up.  Prayers that come from a heart of faith and love bring a steadiness that is helpful.  Praying with others is one of the best ways that we can share the hope and faith we have.  When I pray with you, it is as if I am offering my faith for you to borrow and use.  Especially in times where your faith is low and your heart is broken, you need to borrow the faith and hope of others. 

Who do you know that is asking the “why” questions right now that you can pray for? You can pray for them over the phone, or in person.  Your follow up to continue encouraging them might be emails or text messages that are short prayers you are praying for the other person. 

Some of you are still learning to pray out loud for other people, but I want to encourage you that even very short prayers that are prayed in love are incredibly powerful.  Firecrackers are small, but they pack a big punch – prayers can be the same way.

May God bless you as you walk with others asking the “why” questions today!  

A Call to Serve

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Upon visiting the missions cottage that is getting a serious facelift on our campus, I was struck by how long a vision can survive. 

It was 45 years ago that Pastor Ken Backlund had a vision for housing Alliance missionaries on our church grounds.  The house was built by a young Marvin Root, with help from scores of volunteers.  The first use of the house was for a family who worked on staff in the office and on the grounds.  Over the years the church realized that it was helpful to have someone on the grounds, but the purpose for the house serving as a respite for international workers took a back seat to practical needs.  The Blumert family and the Emmons family called this cottage “home” for many years as they served on our church staff. 

As the years went by, the house also served as a classroom for Chico Christian School and later was a counseling center.  A young missionary intern couple named Phil and JJ Knoch moved into the home as they served their “home assignment” on our church staff.  Their little family included a three year old named Abby, who made friends with our maintenance man, Scott, who lived in the home for 14 years as well.  After the Knochs were launched onto the mission field, there were some youth interns who lived there before half the house sat empty waiting for its’ original purpose to resurface. 

It is so exciting to see this house we are calling a cottage being remodeled and updated to house Alliance missionaries perpetually after the construction is completed.  The first missionary family to move back in is the only missionary family who called it home – the Knochs.  To make room for a larger family, both halves of the house are being used to house a teenage version of little Abby, along with her siblings. 

As we are remodeling, we are planning to have the ability to house two couples, giving us flexibility with an adjoining door, to have two separate living units if there is a need.  We are trying to plan to be as flexible as the workers that we will host who are coming here on their “furlough” year to rest, fundraise, and prepare to go back overseas for another set of years. 

We are doing a ton of work, and the Lord has been incredibly faithful to provide.  We need your help.  Would you be willing to come and donate some time to help make this project a reality?  Our time is short, and if you are interested in coming to serve will you send us an email? 

Email us at:  ncmissionhouse2018@gmail.com

There are set times on Sundays and Fridays to serve, but depending upon your availability and what we need done – we can find a time for you to come and help! 

We have the Knochs moving in this July!   Come experience the joy of serving! 

Andrew Burchett- Lead Pastor

What would it Look Like?

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In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says, “…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”   

This is a verse that comes from a longer parable that is often labeled “the sheep and the goats.”  It is a passage that tells the story of a King who represents God, Himself.  The King is judging and separating out those who belong to Him (the sheep) and those who seem like they belong but will be removed from His presence (the goats).  It seems like the King is choosing who is in and who is out.  However if you read the passage, it is clear that the people themselves have chosen whether they have decided to truly follow the Good Shepherd Jesus, or if they are simply acting out the things that sheep do, while still being goats inwardly. 

As Jesus, the King, is inviting the sheep into a place of blessing and inheritance, these who are favored by God don’t even seem to remember living out the ways of Jesus (loving others with the love of Jesus).  They are almost shocked, and certainly don’t have an air of entitlement about them.  The “sheep” question Jesus about when they clothed the naked, cared for the sick and visited Jesus in prison.  It is Jesus’ response in verse 40 that is the answer to this question – whenever you did it for the least of (His) brothers, it was if you were loving Him. 

You can learn a few things working as a youth pastor for more than a decade.  It has become clear over the years that if you want to love someone, you can simply love their kids and treat them well – and the parent will feel immensely loved and valued.  Jesus feels the same way about “the least of these.” 

Who are the “least” in your world? 

·         Is it the transient and homeless person on the street or in the café who asks you for a handout? 

·         Is it the excessively wealthy person who is surrounded by possessions, but hopelessly isolated and poor relationally? 

·         Is it your neighbor, who is conflicted in their relationships to others and fearful of getting close to anyone because they have been burned before?

·         Is it a coworker or friend who scoffs at your faith, and yet is clearly struggling to find meaning and purpose in their life?

·         Is it those who lash out on social media and have lost all sense of honor and decorum in their comments?  

·         Is it leaders, politicians, and public figures that polarize a crowd and bring division instead of unity? 

·         Is it you?  Do you feel like the least in some way today? 

Luke 6:32 says, "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them.

You don’t get medals for reciprocating love, but it does get the attention of Jesus when you initiate loving, serving, praying for and blessing others first.  When we love those who are unlovely, needy, lonely, and desperate nearby, we look like Jesus.  This is what Jesus has wanted all along – for us to be like a mirror that reflects to a lonely world what a loving God really looks like.

What would it look like to initiate love today? 

Let’s pray this prayer today:

Lord, give me eyes to see the least of these around me.  Help me to hear your voice and feel your promptings to love others today.  Give me strength and courage to step out of my comfort zone and reflect you more.  Show me your strategy and give me your creativity to serve others without expecting anything in return.  Let me see where you are already working, so I can join you in the good work that you are already doing.  Thank you Jesus for meeting me and leading me today.  Amen. 

 

 

The Coaching Paradigm

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Ever hear the following questions…

“Can you give me some advice?”

“I have some things I would like to run by you to get your take…”

“I’m stuck. I’m not sure what to do.  Can we talk?”

“Would you like to get a cup of coffee sometime?”

All of these statements point to one thing for me… and that is coaching.  When I hear someone asking questions like these, I immediately think can I, or someone else, sit down and coach this person? 

The problem with sitting down with someone and telling them what to do (advice) is that if they follow through and actually do it but don’t get the results they want, they simply blame you and don’t take responsibility for what has happened.  If they don’t like your solution and choose not to do it, they are in the same place, but potentially now there is some awkwardness because they didn’t take your advice. Maybe they clam up and stop sharing because they perceive you will be upset with them for not listening to you. 

“Telling” someone what to do rarely helps all that much.  It lets the other person off the hook for really exploring their thoughts and emotions thoroughly and provides a scape goat if things don’t work out in their favor. 

Friendship, parenting and other relationships often look like a dance of withholding information from someone else because you don’t want to “get a lecture.”  We often look for the “experts” in an area to ask our questions.   That’s why talk shows, blogs and self help books exist.  The nice thing about just exploring what the experts say is that you don’t have to get personally involved with anyone, you won’t let anyone down if you don’t take their advice, and you don’t have to submit to accountability.  (Ephesians 5:21)

Accountability has become a bad word in our culture.  It has come to represent judging others, maybe being a hypocrite, lacking grace, or a “religious spirit.”   It’s very damaging to work in an environment that doesn’t hold employees accountable. It actually means diminished profits and a work ethic that sags with the weight of entitlement.  A marriage without accountability can spin out of control into extramarital affairs or unhealthy emotional attachments.  Friendships without accountability wane as trust drains away when expectations aren’t met.  Hurt begins to take over without the courage to confront and give voice to the pain that the other person has caused.  These friends just see less and less of each other – not because they are “busy,” but because the friendship doesn’t seem as safe. 

What we have found over the years is that the admonishing of one another can happen in a healthy way in a “coaching context.” 

Colossians 3:16 says,  “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

The coaching paradigm that we teach is a mentoring/coaching model, meaning that at times you ask for permission to introduce a concept, a truth, a verse, or other fact to the conversation, then put your “coaching hat” back on to ask them questions.  We believe that admonishing others is important, but we want to do that in such a gentle way that the Holy Spirit will be the one to provide the aha moment, not us taking the Word of God and beating people down with it.  John 16:13 tells us that one of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to guide us into all truth.  If we can ask the right questions of someone, the Holy Spirit will begin to provide the insights, answers and breakthrough moments. 

As we approach our coaching workshop that I (Andrew) will be teaching, it is important that you begin to understand a bit more about what coaching really is.  One great thing about coaching is that you don’t have to be more skilled in a certain area than the person you are coaching.  The truth is that I could coach someone who was a rocket scientist if I needed to without having completed more than high school chemistry.  That is possible because I am asking them questions, not giving advice or answers.  Most people have the truth already in their hearts.  They just need someone to help them discover it. 

I strongly encourage you to consider our coaching workshop on Friday evening May 4th, and Saturday May 5th.   It is an experiential, fun way to learn by coaching other people in the workshop.  By the end of our time you will know that you can carry a coaching posture into conversations and truly help people the way you have always wanted to help them, but feared you just weren’t sharp enough to know what to say. 

You can signup at our website at www.ncchico.org, or call our church office at 343-6006.  

Andrew Burchett- Lead Pastor

 

Three Most Important Things in Life

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Last evening and friend and I were standing around the fire pit drinking tea as the evening mist covered the backyard around us.  The topic turned to the most important things in life.  Three things rose to the surface.  We decided that clarity, trust and obedience were of the highest importance. 

Clarity

You don’t get to clarity alone.  It can be really difficult to determine what God is calling you into and how He wants to partner with you.  Clearly understanding which direction that the Holy Spirit is leading is vital to living life to the fullest.  This is why reading your Bible is so important – so that you know what the voice of God sounds like.  This is why sitting quietly listening for God’s voice is important – because it’s really hard to sense what God is doing when you are running a hundred miles an hour.  This is why real relationship, where you are vulnerable and have a teachable heart with other people, is necessary – because often others will confirm the same things that God is showing us. 

Trust

We are in a constant learning curve on learning to trust our Heavenly Father.  I know I have been on this journey of trusting God for decades, but there’s always more room to grow.  There are blind spots in my life where I thought I was trusting God, but an emergency or crisis can destabilize me, make me nervous and defensive – that’s when I know that I have more growing in the “trusting God” area of my life.  Knowing in your head that God is good is different than really putting your money, relationships, reputation or well being on the line in ruthless trust.  When I feel anxious I ask myself the question, what am I believing about God that makes me worried that I am on my own and will suffer without God coming to my aid?  Most areas of fear in my life are because I don’t see God for who He really is.  We are all constantly growing in trusting God.

Obedience

Even when you have good clarity on what you are to step into – a lack of follow through on what God has shown us can lead to disaster.  I don’t like to be overly dramatic, but a lack of obedience can literally get you killed.  There have been times when I heard the still small voice leading me to drive in a certain freeway lane or stand in a different place, and had I not obeyed I would have met an awful fate.  We don’t know how many times a crisis was averted because the Lord prompted us to do something, and when we obeyed, it saved our lives.  We can’t really say we trust God if we don’t obey Him, but this step of moving ahead into the plans of God does require more than intellectual assent that God is real.  Obedience is predicated on believing that what God says is truly the most healthy, balanced, powerful, important thing to do.  Jesus talked about our love for God being shown in our obedience (John 15).  James talks about the fruit of our repentance and faith as good works (obedience). 

Which of these three areas do you need to ask the Holy Spirit and the others around you to help you step into?  Is it clarity, trust or obedience?  I believe if you ask the sweet voice of Jesus to whisper in your ear and quicken your mind to see – that God will lead you to one of these three areas. 

I am re-learning trusting God, yet again, in different areas of my life.  Jesus continues to prove His faithfulness to me – for I stand on his promise, “Even when we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He can not deny Himself.”  (2 Tim. 2:13)

What are you re-learning?    

Andrew Burchett- Lead Pastor

Protector of our Soul

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In the beginning of 1 Samuel, a woman named Hannah gave birth to a baby she named Samuel.  Hannah had been barren, so she cried out the Lord for a child.  The name Samuel means “asked of God.”   Hannah realized that this child was a gift from God and so when he was a boy she gave him to the priests in the Tabernacle (the central place of worship in the land prior to the more permanent Temple).  So Samuel grew up in the house of the Lord and became a prophet. 

Hannah sings a prayer of praise in 1 Samuel 2 out of gratitude to the Lord.  In part of the “song” she says,

9  “He will protect His faithful ones, but the wicked will disappear in darkness. No one will succeed by strength alone.”  
1 Samuel 2:9

The concept of a God who protects us is a theme that runs throughout the whole of the Bible.  Though we are not sheltered from every difficulty and pain, God is nevertheless still our defender, protector and strong tower available for us to run into. Proverbs 18:10

How does God protect us? 

As a creative God, he rarely uses the same means twice.  One way that God protects and helps us is by dispatching angels.  This might seem old fashioned or like the contents of a fairytale, but the Bible is filled with examples, and Hebrews 13 tells us this,

2   Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!  Hebrews 13:2

The concept of having a guardian angel is sometimes scoffed at as an archaic and extra biblical concept that is designed by humans to make us feel better about going through difficult times.  It seems unnecessary to have an angel do anything since we believe God is all powerful and intimately involved in every situation in the world moving and changing circumstances by His Holy Spirit – so some would think that this concept of angels ministering to God’s people is only for pre-Jesus Old Testament followers of God (see Psalm 91). 

Upon reading Acts 12, which talks about the intricate work done by an angel to spring Peter from a prison cell, there is a verse that causes us to rethink the continuing role of angels in our lives. 

The servant girl who goes to the door where Peter is knocking after escaping from prison declares that “Peter is at the door!”  Other followers of Jesus who were there earnestly praying for Peter’s release at that very hour didn’t believe her saying, “It must be his angel.”  What a curious detail for Luke to include in this account of what happens.  Notice it’s not simply an angel, but his angel. (Acts 12:15)

While we don’t pray to angels or trust them to protect us, it seems clearly biblically accurate that angels are dispatched by God to serve, bless, protect and help us.  When we have close calls and brushes with death, it just may be our angel that steps in and helps us. 

The creativity and joy that exists in the Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is so whimsical and lovely.  We can sanitize and make God far too boring and lifeless unnecessarily.  God is a “sharing” God.  He loves to enlist others in building His Kingdom.  We know that He extends constant invitations to us to partner with Him, but it is clear that He giggles as He also entrusts certain people and situations to His angels too. 

So, thanks be to our God who is the protector of our soul, no matter what form that may take! 

Andrew Burchett- Lead Pastor

Paul, The Apostle of Christ- A Thumbs Up

Paul, The Apostle of Christ- A Thumbs Up

I don’t attend many movies, but I wasn’t going to miss Paul, the Apostle of Christ in some theaters now.  Given that we are teaching through the book of Acts and the emphasis is about to shift from Peter (as the central person in the first half of the book), to Paul (who is the central figure in the second half) – the          timing could not be any more perfect. 

We thought it would be helpful to give a quick review of the movie so you can decide if you want to see it while it’s in theaters.  

James Faulkner stars as the Apostle Paul, and he portrayal of this massive father of the faith does not disappoint.  This portrayal of Paul shows the wise leader of the early church who is also very human and sometimes tormented by the flashbacks of his past as a killer of Christians.  Paul is breathing out lines in this movie that are now in the New Testament which is so refreshing, but it is glimpses of his humor and humility that make him attractive.  By the end of the movie, I felt like I had spent time with the Apostle Paul and I liked that. 

Jim Caviezel portrays the writer of Acts, Luke, you may remember as the man who played Jesus in the movie, “The Passion of the Christ.”  This role as a physician who has come to Rome to visit Paul in prison and one who is driven to try to write down the events of Paul’s ministry life before he is executed by Nero is compelling.  This is what we will later refer to as parts of the book of Acts.  Luke is wrestling with how to respond in the face of brutal persecution and is seeking the wisdom of Paul on behalf of the Christian Churches in Rome. 

While this movie is rated PG-13 for some violent content, it is a compelling and relatively accurate portrayal of Rome under the Emperor, Nero.  The quandary of how to respond to persecution will challenge your heart and this movie centers on the early church’s response to persecution.  The answer that Paul and Luke give is that “Love is the only way.”  We hear Paul quoting passages of 1 Corinthians and Ephesians while speaking with Luke, and there is mention near the end of Paul zealous to get his last letter to Timothy delivered (2 Timothy). 

By the end of the movie I was encouraged and felt like I had spent an hour and a half with the early church fathers.  Don’t go to this movie expecting a recap of Paul’s missionary journeys, but do expect to wrestle with the issue of your heart response to persecution.  There is a fictitious character (a Roman soldier) who holds the story together that is not Biblical, but works really well.  As a charismatic believer, I was longing to see some crazy miraculous displays of the power of God, but this movie really was more about love than about power.  While I longed for more of the power of God to be seen, the very real dependence upon God and your faith community was very beautiful. 

The movie is playing at the Paradise Cinemas 7, and all in all, I give it two thumbs up as an experience that will give you a visual picture of the early church in Rome, of persecution and how difficult it was for Paul to be dictating and Luke writing the book of Acts.  This is not a movie to take your kids to, but I believe that watching it will help you to visualize things in the book of Acts and think about your faith.  You can always wait to see this on DVD, but the timeliness of this series with the book of Acts may tip you over to drive up the hill to catch the film in the theater.  Plan on a bit of time to talk about it with your friends right afterward – there are quite a few themes that would provide great discussions. 

That’s all for today’s movie review….

Let's go after the Impossible Together!

Blossoms.jpg

Years ago I lived in an orchard on River Road here in Chico. 

We were renting a house there and really enjoyed seeing how agriculture works up close and personal.  When you live in an orchard you learn to close your windows when the shakers come during harvest, not to stand or walk downwind from the sprayers, and to be leery of the dreaded “walnut rustlers” (people who would come in the middle of the night to steal nuts off the ground).  

I began to pray for a specific block of almonds and pray while walking around the orchard.  Many call it “prayer walking” when you specifically set out to pray for land, neighbors, people nearby or other specific things.  It helps me to focus when I am walking and have a visual of what I am praying for.  My prayer was that the Lord would double the harvest, and that felt like an audacious prayer.  I didn’t directly benefit from a higher yield, I just wanted to see the owner be blessed. 

When the harvest was brought in I was asking constantly about what the numbers looked like that year.  Finally I confessed that I had been praying for the harvest and that’s why I was asking.   The next week, after the numbers were in, the owner knocked on my door and asked to come in.  As we sat at the kitchen table over a cup of coffee, he said he was amazed because the yield was WAY up that year.  I could hardly contain myself.  The Lord heard these crazy prayers that I had prayed and had come and blessed the land! 

Fast forward 17 years to this past week when a farmer friend of mine mentioned to me that he feared that the frost last month may have destroyed 50% of his crop.  A deep sadness and grief grew in my stomach, and I kept thinking this was a theft of good crops by the enemy of our soul.  John 10:10 says, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy…”  The Holy Spirit was compelling me to fight back, and I knew that my prayer walking days were about to restart in orchards again. 

I had the joy of prayer walking in two almond orchards this past week.  My prayers were for rain, no frost, bees to pollinate more than normal and for dead nuts on the tree to come back to life.  We recognize that Jesus is the Lord over life and death, and that we are asking for the miraculous to happen.  Dead crops don’t come back to life without God intervening.  That’s why it’s such a great prayer to pray!  I am believing that God is going to resurrect crops and then increase the harvest this fall.  It’s an audacious prayer that only can be answered by God. 

Are you willing to pray for our friends who have almond trees this year?  Are you willing to look a little silly by asking those friends if you can go and pray for their almond crop by walking around the perimeter of their orchards?  Are you willing to ask God for something that only He can do? 

These nuts represent the livelihood of our friends.  If half your paycheck was in danger of going away, would you pray for your company to thrive?  You bet you would.   This may be what love looks like with our farming friends.  I am praying that an increased harvest will be brought in with great joy in the early fall. 

I think this parallels what God is trying to do in our city as well.  In praying for this harvest, I believe that the Lord is inviting us to pray for the spiritual harvest of people coming to faith in Jesus Christ.  With Franklin Graham coming for a crusade on June 3rd, and churches like Neighborhood preaching through the book of Acts, I think the Lord is highlighting sharing the gospel with others and spreading the good news that will lead to a harvest of souls. 

On Monday April 9th at Evangelical Free Church here in Chico, there will be a citywide prayer meeting that will focus on this.  The Billy Graham Association will be hosting this time at 7pm.  I think it’s going to be a dynamic time of worship and prayer.  Would you consider attending? 

So, the mission impossible (cue the music) in front of us is to pray for a physical harvest (because we have a crop resurrection), and a spiritual harvest (because Jesus died to give us life to the fullest and save people who are dead in their sins).  

Let’s go after impossible things together and see what God will do!    

From the desk of Andrew Burchett

 Peter faces Paul and wrestles with how to forgive this new Christian who was killing his friends just weeks prior.  (This picture taken from A.D. Kingdom and Empire series)

Peter faces Paul and wrestles with how to forgive this new Christian who was killing his friends just weeks prior.  (This picture taken from A.D. Kingdom and Empire series)

“Saul was breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples…” (Acts 9:1). 

That’s a pretty scary verse to me.  If you were a follower of Jesus in those early days of the church, Saul was a real life horror film playing out in front of you.  Acts 8 tells us that he was going from house to house dragging off men and women to prison that were disciples of Jesus. Saul is the one who is doing a courtesy coat check for the angry mob that’s picking up stones to kill Stephen.  He’s a serious problem for the apostles and other followers of Jesus resulting in their left the city of Jerusalem in large number. This persecution accelerated the pace of the gospel of Jesus Christ going out. 

Then Jesus confronts Saul on the way to Damascus as he was taking his persecution of Christians on the road to nearby Syria. Saul is literally blinded by the appearance of Jesus and is healed by Ananias, a Christian living in Damascus. When the Holy Spirit prompted Ananias to go and place his hands on Saul’s eyes, he questioned the Lord on whether this risky ministry move was a good idea. It marked the first time one of the followers of Jesus would have to figure out how to forgive someone who was killing them just days beforehand. This was a stretch for Ananias, but he was obedient and ended up healing Saul’s eyes and baptizing him into the Christian faith. 

When Saul (whose name is changed to Paul in Acts 13:9) began preaching to the Jews in that city, it didn’t take long before they too wanted to kill him.  Paul is smuggled out of the city to save his life and goes to Jerusalem. Upon arriving, he finds the Christians are having a hard time trusting him (the same man who was killing their brothers just months before). The Apostles struggled to believe that this wasn’t a set up – and it took Barnabas to vouch for the true conversion of Paul.  After the disciples work through anger and their mistrust of Paul, the Grecian Jews begin plotting to kill him, so they whisk Paul out of the city to Tarsus. 

Paul suffers for the rest of his life being persecuted for following Jesus, just as Jesus prophesied he would when he met him on the road to Damascus. While I feel for Paul, I want to focus us on the emotions of the followers of Jesus who were persecuted by Saul, as they are asked to forgive this man who had been such a threat to them. Choosing to forgive Paul directly correlated with belief that Jesus truly is able to change a heart.  Did they believe in the power of Jesus to save, heal, deliver and change a life enough to let Paul into their brotherhood? Could they actually forgive him for killing their brothers and sisters?

Forgiving others hasn’t changed all that much over the past 2000 years. When people come to Christ and repent of their sins, do we really believe that Jesus has enough power to change them? If you’re human, this makes your head spin and you wrestle between your head and your heart. For the early church to keep moving forward, the people were forced to forgive Paul and embrace him.  

Who is God trying to get you to forgive?  If they have come to Jesus in repentance, can you believe that Jesus has changed their heart? Who is the Lord calling you to forgive today? Listen to what the Holy Spirit says, and step into a new place of freedom. 

From the desk of Andrew Burchett

Jesus.jpg

The older I get, the more I weep.   I figure it’s because I’m becoming more like Jesus.

Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah who was to come would be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Is. 53:3).  We see Jesus weeping at the tomb of Lazarus before he is raised from the dead (John 11:35).  When Jesus looks at suffering and lost people (Mark 6:34) and the city of Jerusalem as a whole (Luke 13:34), He is moved to a place of overwhelming emotion.  

It would be easy for us to think that since Jesus was God in the flesh, He didn’t feel the same things we do.  Some people reduce Jesus down to a robot- like non-human who has superpowers, and we couldn’t possibly imitate His life because He had something we don’t have.  That thinking doesn’t match up with good Biblical theology.   Hebrews chapter four tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way and yet did not sin.  It also tells us that He can relate to our weaknesses.  I believe that.  What Philippians 2 tells us is that Jesus laid aside His divine powers while on earth and only operated in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Since we have that same Holy Spirit (as Christians) living inside us, we can expect to do the same things as Jesus did (John 14:12). 

Even though Jesus walked in more of the power of the Holy Spirit than any other man who ever walked the earth, He was still moved by the pain that surrounded Him, and suffered.  This earth is filled with pain and suffering because of the introduction of sin that occurred in the garden with the first humans Adam and Eve.  That sin has been polluting humans and all of creation since then. 

We too can share in Christ’s sufferings in many ways  (Phil. 3:10, Rom. 8:17).  When we love others, we will end up grieving when things go terribly wrong, when sickness and death shatter our peace and rob us of the people we love.  Even when a loved one who knows Jesus dies, it is a time that we grieve.  We do not grieve for those who have gone to heaven like those who have no hope (1Thes. 4:13), but our humanness feels the loss of their presence until we are reunited. 

The Bible instructs us to weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15).  This might feel very scary for you to consider.  Some people don’t enter into grief with others because they fear that if they start crying, they won’t be able to stop.  Simply being present with others as they are suffering is a powerful ministry.  Most people who are grieving don’t need to be reminded that God is bigger and that this will pass – they just need your presence with them.  You don’t need to say anything to a grieving friend.  The place to start is just to be present, to pray for them, and trust God for His comfort. 

I have officiated about 200 memorial services for families over the past 15 years and I have learned a lot about walking with others in grief.  In the process I have learned to express my own grief.  I want to challenge you to express your grief in the areas you carry it.  It could be over the death of a dream, the loss of a loved one, a divorce, a relationship that has been fractured or even something like going through bankruptcy.  I want to encourage you to find someone you can talk to and allow them to weep with you and walk with you in your pain. 

Grieving is healthy, cleansing, and leads you to a new place of hope for your future.  I invite you to be a man or woman of sorrows too.  It’s an authentic place to live.

- Andrew Burchett, Lead Pastor

Lent: Cross or Blessing?

Is Lent a burdensome cross to bear or a blessing of refocus? 

For the last few weeks we have been emphasizing the observance of the Lenten season (the 40 days prior to Easter).  Lent begins with Ash Wednesday (now just six days away, Feb. 14th) and continues until Easter (April 1st). 

This will be a season of reflection and preparation for the celebration of Easter.  It is a time that is marked by fasting both from food and certain activities for the purpose of tuning your ear to hear the Holy Spirit more readily and spending more time communing with God. 

Fasting is not a way to express sorrow about your sin.  Though some traditions stress penance (inflicting punishment on yourself for having done wrong), our tradition is clear that penance is not necessary because of the rich grace and forgiveness which was extended to us through Jesus’ death.  The purpose of fasting is for increased intimacy with God and building spiritual discipline (increased self control) that will extend far into the rest of the year.  Studies show that it takes 66 days to form a new habit that is automatic, and 40 days of increased time with God will begin to get us on the road to a deeper life with Jesus.  Some point to the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness as the reason for the duration of Lent. 

Western churches that observe Lent emphasize fasting for 40 days, with Sundays regarded as “feast days” to mark the resurrection of Jesus (for every Sunday is to be a celebration of Jesus’ conquering death).  This means that some Christians will indulge in sweets, social media, TV, or other things they have chosen to fast only on the Sundays of this season. 

The name “Lent” comes from the English word ‘to lengthen.’  Remember the days are getting longer and lengthening in the spring when we have this period of time. 

Ash Wednesday was accepted as Christian practice at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.  It equates ashes with the practice of fasting (Esther 4, Job 42, Jonah 3 & Daniel 9).  This day is supposed to represent grief, so the symbol of the cross in ash on your forehead is made.  In many traditions the priest draws the cross on the forehead and says, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel, for dust you have come and to dust you will return.”  These are reminders of the saving work of Jesus for us on the cross and of our own mortality.

The ash used to draw the crosses come from the palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter).  The ashes are mixed with olive oil to make a thick black paste.  This not about making a show out of your faith, but a humble time of repentance and willingness to deny yourself,  so that you can strengthen your faith. 

Will you join us in making the Lenten season truly sacred and special?  We will celebrate Ash Wednesday next week on Valentine’s  Day at 6pm.  A one hour service with an opportunity to receive ashes on your forehead will happen in the Dome.  We will also be providing childcare from 6-7pm to help families.  This time of worship, reflection, a short meditation, and ashes will help you “start” this period of Lent. 

Mark your calendar.   We believe God is going to lead us through this season with much grace and power!

There will be a handout for you to pick up on Sunday regarding Lent.

Andrew Burchett- Lead Pastor

 

Ash Wednesday.jpg

An Invitation

13 days until Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. 

The Lenten season is the 40 days that precede Easter every year.   Historically it has been a time of denying yourself some of the luxuries or pleasures of this life so that you can seek the Lord and get closer to Him.  It is often marked by spending extra time with the Lord and ceasing activities that can take you off your “spiritual game.”

I awoke early this morning to get to the gym and exercise my physical body.  There is a very conscious choice to deny myself of extra sleep for the sake of strengthening my body.  When we work out, we force our body to do things that take exertion and strain.  As we are consistent in exercise, our bodies get used to the discipline and then we start to crave the activity and feel a little off when we miss out on doing it. 

Our spiritual lives are similar to our physical bodies.  To grow stronger in our faith, we need to be disciplined to spend time in the Bible, and in worship and prayer.  As we exercise our spiritual muscles, we will be more ready to handle crises and times when our faith is shaken.  Lent is like the beginning of the year when we make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or get in shape.  It gives us the chance to have a spiritual fresh start and a period of time when others are focusing on “getting in shape” spiritually too.   It is always easier to work out when there are other people with you.  You feel less sorry for yourself and gain some aspect of momentum from “running” with others. 

Would you consider giving up something for Lent?  Many of my friends have chosen social media, sweets, coffee, alcohol or sleeping in (so that you can spend extra time with God each day).  Others have fasted certain foods like sugar, meat, diary or some combinations of foods.  This is not intended to be the punishment of penance where you are constantly complaining because a Lenten fast is a burden.  It is supposed to be a corporate time of seeking God, growing closer to Him, and creating new healthy habits that will push you forward in your spiritual life. 

I would be lying if I said that every time my alarm goes off early for me to go to the gym I spring out of bed.  Many mornings it is a choice I am making to walk in discipline.  Once I arrive and I start on the rowing machine to warm up and begin thanking God for His goodness, my attitude generally improves.  By the end of each workout I am proud of what I accomplished and drive home with a sense of pride and strength. 

Lent is a time to strengthen ourself in the Lord.  Would you join us this season? 

Ash Wednesday is the start of the 40 days, and I highly encourage you to join us for our Ash Wednesday service on Valentine’s Day (2/14) from 6pm-7pm in the Dome.  We have found that kicking this season off together helps you to realize that “others are running with you” and you are not alone.   Be praying now, and decide ahead of time what commitment you will make in fasting.

Andrew Burchett- Lead Pastor  

What are you Trusting in More than God?

castle.jpg

William Marshal is my 26th great grandfather and he built this castle at Pembroke, Wales. 

William chose this place on the Pembroke river, which rises and falls with the tides of the Celtic Sea.   The river surrounds the castle on three sides and creates a natural moat.  The 75 foot vertical cliffs made it virtually impossible to assail, and a 20 foot thick wall with a deep mud pit trench on the gate side meant that in 900 years the castle was never taken by siege.  William built the tall keep in the center of this linear castle with a rock domed roof so that flaming arrows would not compromise the Earl and his family if by some miracle the outer walls were breached.  Pembroke was like the titanic of castles of it’s day, built by the greatest knight that ever lived, one with incredible knowledge of warfare and politics. 

I will never forget the day that my father and I visited the castle.  There is something in my blood that cries out like a warrior king that has found his home.  It was a peaceful place that was powerful, timeless and beautiful.  It was a wonder in the 12th century, and it still stands as a testament to one man’s vision and leadership.  When William was resident at Pembroke, he was trusting in this incredible set of defenses to protect he and his family. 

Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”   

It is so easy for us to trust in man-made structures or things to be our security.  David writes in Psalm 20 that it is the Lord who saves his people, and He answers our prayers with a powerful response.   David’s son Solomon wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Prov. 3:5-6).”

The Hebrew word for “acknowledge” can have the connotation of “distinguishing, and discerning.”  So my paraphrase could be, “Put your full confidence in the God who is so good, and don’t just try to solve your problems without consulting Him.  In all your circumstances, discern what God is doing so you can join Him in His work, and when you do, then you will be blessed.”

What is it that you are trusting in more than God? 

Are you trusting in your employer and the paycheck you receive?

Are you trusting in the promises of a business associate or the wisdom of a consultant more than God?

Are you believing in human leaders or people who aren’t perfect?

Are you listening and believing the advice of our culture that is the opposite of God’s Word?

I want to remind you today that Jesus came to give us life to the fullest, and He offers us wisdom if we will just ask Him for it. 

I have the sense that there are a few people who will read this who are about to make a big decision.  You have been agonizing over what to do, and it’s time for you to get serious about seeking God for His answers.  I want to challenge you to let go of control and let God speak into the situation and for you to join with at least one other person who will confidentially pray with you for this. 

God wants to bring us into breakthrough, but it won’t be from the comfort and safety of a fortress that’s man-made.  It will be from a vulnerable place of surrendering control to Jesus where you will get the answers you really need to move forward. 

In 2 Samuel 22:31-33 David said,  “God’s way is perfect. All the LORD’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.  For who is God except the LORD? Who but our God is a solid rock? God is my strong fortress, and he makes my way perfect.

Run into the fortress that will make your way forward perfect.

Andrew Burchett- Lead Pastor

What are you Trusting in More than God?

castle.jpg

William Marshal is my 26th great grandfather and he built this castle at Pembroke, Wales. 

William chose this place on the Pembroke river, which rises and falls with the tides of the Celtic Sea.   The river surrounds the castle on three sides and creates a natural moat.  The 75 foot vertical cliffs made it virtually impossible to assail, and a 20 foot thick wall with a deep mud pit trench on the gate side meant that in 900 years the castle was never taken by siege.  William built the tall keep in the center of this linear castle with a rock domed roof so that flaming arrows would not compromise the Earl and his family if by some miracle the outer walls were breached.  Pembroke was like the titanic of castles of it’s day, built by the greatest knight that ever lived, one with incredible knowledge of warfare and politics. 

I will never forget the day that my father and I visited the castle.  There is something in my blood that cries out like a warrior king that has found his home.  It was a peaceful place that was powerful, timeless and beautiful.  It was a wonder in the 12th century, and it still stands as a testament to one man’s vision and leadership.  When William was resident at Pembroke, he was trusting in this incredible set of defenses to protect he and his family. 

Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”   

It is so easy for us to trust in man-made structures or things to be our security.  David writes in Psalm 20 that it is the Lord who saves his people, and He answers our prayers with a powerful response.   David’s son Solomon wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Prov. 3:5-6).”

The Hebrew word for “acknowledge” can have the connotation of “distinguishing, and discerning.”  So my paraphrase could be, “Put your full confidence in the God who is so good, and don’t just try to solve your problems without consulting Him.  In all your circumstances, discern what God is doing so you can join Him in His work, and when you do, then you will be blessed.”

What is it that you are trusting in more than God? 

Are you trusting in your employer and the paycheck you receive?

Are you trusting in the promises of a business associate or the wisdom of a consultant more than God?

Are you believing in human leaders or people who aren’t perfect?

Are you listening and believing the advice of our culture that is the opposite of God’s Word?

I want to remind you today that Jesus came to give us life to the fullest, and He offers us wisdom if we will just ask Him for it. 

I have the sense that there are a few people who will read this who are about to make a big decision.  You have been agonizing over what to do, and it’s time for you to get serious about seeking God for His answers.  I want to challenge you to let go of control and let God speak into the situation and for you to join with at least one other person who will confidentially pray with you for this. 

 

God wants to bring us into breakthrough, but it won’t be from the comfort and safety of a fortress that’s man-made.  It will be from a vulnerable place of surrendering control to Jesus where you will get the answers you really need to move forward. 

In 2 Samuel 22:31-33 David said,  “God’s way is perfect. All the LORD’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.  For who is God except the LORD? Who but our God is a solid rock? God is my strong fortress, and he makes my way perfect.

Run into the fortress that will make your way forward perfect.

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