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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!

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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

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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

 

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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?

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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

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