DISCIPLING

Pastor Ann has been speaking to us about the Vision of our church. 

BOLDLY SEEKING.  BOLDLY CONNECTING. BOLDLY DISCIPLING.

These are simple words but deep concepts.  Last week she brought us a message on discipling.  She began with another set of simple words that have deep lasting consequences.

“We are all following someone.  We are either following God or we are following Satan.”

With that thought in mind, lets reach back to those other words – seeking and connecting.  If we are following God, we are seeking to know Him more.  We are making an effort to connect with Him.  We do these things through His Word, through time in prayer, through study time with others and through praising Him in song, dance, writing and other expressions.  We are intentional in establishing and maintaining a relationship with Him.

But what if we are following Satan?  For most folks this is about choosing a path that’s different than the one God set before us through Jesus.  Any path, every path that doesn’t lead to Jesus cross and resurrection is a path that follows Satan. 

Following God or following Satan isnt’ the same as being a disciple.  To become a disciple means to make a deliberate, intentional choice.  To follow Jesus as a disciple means yielding to His control and His rules ALL THE TIME.  It is an emptying of personal desires and a filling of desire to be more like Him. 

To put God first, before everything else in your life, takes faith and courage.  As we follow Him and are filled with His Holy Spirit, our desires change.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Only he who believes is obedient.  Only he who is obedient believes.”  Obedience is the key word to being a disciple.

Peter, Andrew, James, John and Matthew were disciples that Jesus called to himself.  When he invited them to “follow me” they literally dropped what they were doing and went with him.  Faith, courage and commitment.  No looking back. Instead, discipleship is about looking forward and stepping in our Teacher’s footprints. 

To hear more on this incredible topic, please join us Sunday morning at 10:50 in the Sanctuary or near 11:25 on our livestream.  We look forward to meeting you then!

God’s Legos

Who doesn’t love legos?  These strange little blocks have fascinated us for generations.  They come in different sizes and colors. Some are magnetic, others light up but they all have one thing in common. To be fun or useful they must be connected. 

One lego is not entertaining. It is just an odd block; a strange shape taking up space.  One lego cannot bring a smile or encourage a person to create something new.  It just is. One. Lego. 

Like legos, people come in many sizes and colors.  Some we are attracted to or repulsed by.  Others light up our lives.  Like legos, people need to be connected to fulfill our purposes.  No one is created to be completely alone.

God is the cornerstone in our lego building.  Without Him, none of our other connections will hold together properly. Relationship with Him is the most important connection we can make.  This connection begins in the blink of an eye.  When we realize that we are incomplete without Him and seek Him through prayer, He responds immediately. 

God’s purpose for our lives can only be attained when we are connected to Him and in turn to other people.  Being connected to God is more than a concept we talk about at church.  When we are willing to be connected to Him through worship, through study of the Word, through prayer and through service we begin to fulfill His purpose for our lives.  As we do this, we find our lives to be more full, richer and filled with more joy than we have ever known.  He will pour His peace into us, so that we can function in this fallen world even as we feel it falling around us.  He gives us strength to stand and is the rock we stand on while the world shifts like sand on a beach. We invite you to come be one of God’s legos.  Join us Sunday morning as Pastor Ann takes us deeper into what it means to be BOLDLY CONNECTED.  Service begins at 10:55 and the sermon will be livestreamed in case you can’t join us in the sanctuary.  See y’all Sunday

Boldly Connecting

Connections are all around us.  Nothing on earth functions in isolation.  God designed our world so that everything in it and on it works together.  Even an amoeba needs something to float in. It is an amazing feat of creation.

Humans seek connections with others from the beginning of our lives.  We cannot survive without others.  We are designed to function in social groups, but for many people the bonds that help us thrive have broken down.  Those we are designed to depend on have shown themselves to be less than dependable, leading us to distrust others. 

I heard recently that the generation coming up is the least connected generation in recorded history!  Given the technological opportunities in our country today that is a confusing statement until we look a bit deeper.  Rather than true human interaction and human connections, we have learned to use our technology as a buffer to make us feel safe while imitating the relational connections we need.  We can see people on our screens.  We can communicate with them by talking, texting or sending cute little emojis.  When we become uncomfortable, we can just turn the screen off or “unfriend” that person.  We can build an entire community of “friends” online consisting of people that we have never met or spent actual time with.  This is convenient and safe because we will only see or share the bits and pieces of ourselves that make us look good in the moment.  People won’t ever really know who we are, so we are protected from disappointment.

This shallow attachment diminishes us.  It stifles our joy.  It blinds us to all the amazing connections in the world around us and how we are designed to fit into that plan.  Ultimately it leaves us empty and hungry and sad.

Our God is a God of relationship.  He designed us to be connected to Him.  When we are outside this core connection, nothing is quite right in our lives.  We lack that joy and peace that only He can bring. He is the root and trunk of the tree of life.  We are branches.  When a branch or twig falls from a tree, it dies.  It becomes food for the littlest creatures.  The branches that are attached to the tree continue to grow and thrive.  They provide shade, shelter and fruit because they remain connected to their purpose. 

Pastor Ann will be speaking to us this week about BOLDY CONNECTING.  If you’re wanting a deeper connection, please join us Sunday at 10:55 in the sanctuary (964 W. Hwy 190) or online as we live-stream on Facebook. 

Boldness

Pastor Ann is beginning a special series on BOLDNESS this Sunday at 10:55 a.m.  We hope that you’ll join us.

Many of us dream of being bold about something in our lives.  You know that thing that excites you; that thing that you really want to tell people about; that one thing that you truly have a burning passion for! 

Are you bold about this passion?  Do you share it with others?  Do you tell them in person or via text?  Do you use facetime or facebook?  Maybe you shout it out on twitter or Instagram or youtube or tiktok or………

Or maybe you don’t share your passion with anyone because you believe others will think you silly or weird or intolerant or _____________.  Not everyone is designed to be bold, right?  Not everyone has the courage to speak out or have a public celebration.  Some people are just shy, like you or me.  Some people just don’t want to rock the boat.

Jesus was passionate about the message of Good News that He brought to us.  After His resurrection, His apostles were passionate about this same Good News.  These men weren’t scholars or priests.  They were simple, quiet people. 

On the day of Pentecost, and all the days after that, these people became BOLD through the Holy Spirit.  They shared the Good News with everyone they met.  They prayed for boldness and confidence to speak out no matter the cost to themselves.  In the face of true persecution, Peter and the other disciples spoke out.  They were imprisoned, stoned, crucified for their passionate boldness. But they continued to boldly speak out.

It’s time to be bold.  We won’t be imprisoned, stoned or crucified in this country for speaking out about our passion for Jesus and His Good News.  We may help save a soul.  We will be a blessing to someone if we allow Him to lead us in boldness. Join us this week in speaking out.  Bless someone in Jesus’ name, offer to pray for someone you don’t know, invite a new person to church with you and ask him every day to guide you into new boldness for Him.

What’s in a Name?

When you’re about to become parents, people start looking at baby names.  If you’ve done this recently (or not so recently) you’ve discovered that name sites or books all seem to want to tell you what this or that name means.  For example, Emma is a popular girl’s name right now.  One site explains that it means “whole” or “universal.”

Is this important?  If you name your daughter Emma will she be “whole” or “universal” in a way that she would not be if you named her Katy?  Will she be more popular, more successful, more….more?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.

Most ancient cultures put serious emphasis on names because people understood that words hold power in a way that we no longer grasp. 

We are bombarded with words and names everywhere in our culture.  Visual words and auditory words.  Songs, movies, tv, games, street signs, billboards, business signs. It is impossible in our culture to avoid words.  We have given “names” to everything. 

Recognizing that all those names hold power is surprising.  We all have brand names we love or hate.  Think about your favorite soda.  Is it brand (A) or brand (B)?  When you think of the name, can you feel a response in your mouth?  That’s power.   If you’re a sports fan, think of your favorite team’s name.  Is it strong?  Is it dominating?  Do you feel excitement when you hear it?  That’s power.

If the name of a soft drink can make your mouth water, if the name of your favorite sports team can make your heart race, how much more powerful would a name be if it was chosen by God? 

Jesus.  Emmanuel.  Yeshua.  Wonderful Counselor.  Prince of Peace.  Salvation.

This is the most powerful name in our universe and it was chosen by God.  This name changed the world. 

If you’d like to learn more, we’d be happy to see you Sunday morning in the sanctuary at 10:55 as Pastor Ann brings us a message about “What is in a Name.” 

(We’re still located at 964 W. Hwy 190 in Copperas Cove)

Prayer as Dialogue with God through Personal Situations

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” —Matthew 11:28–30

We can learn to listen to Jesus by placing ourselves in the stories found in Scripture. This is a foundational part of experiencing prayer as a living dialogue with God.

In my life, I have discovered the intimacy of dialoguing with God.

My wife was going through a difficult period while we were missionaries in Africa, and I sought ways to encourage her. Being an analytical type person, I was not very good at encouraging her. I had a habit of making rational comments that were more criticism than encouragement. I remember one morning devotional time, after having a dialogue with God, when I simply asked Jesus for words of encouragement for my dear wife. I figured that the Lord would know my wife better than I did and would know how to encourage her in this difficult time. I wrote down the words that came to my heart.

Later in the day, I shared those words with my wife, who was much more encouraged than in my previous attempts. My intimacy with Christ led me to a closer intimacy with my wife. I have continued to develop this joyful dialoguing with Jesus to this day. It has brought many fruits to my life and ministry for which I am so grateful to God. 

In my case, I learned to dialogue with the Lord first as a response to a need. What are your needs as you read this today? I propose four possible pathways to dialogue with God: rest, love, forgiveness, and action, each needed at different times in our lives. Which pathway(s) would you like to walk with Jesus this week?

Rest: The text of Matthew 11 invites us to realize that when we are tired or concerned, a first step can be to find rest in Jesus’ presence. A good way to practice that is to realize that Jesus is close to you (see Matt. 28:20). Ask Him for encouraging Scriptures to guide you to find rest.

Love: In our past, some of us have pictured God as a demanding taskmaster. That trait does not represent our loving God, who is also our Heavenly Father. Jesus presented God to us as a loving Father, and He can lead us to His Father’s love. Sometimes we need to simply sense His love and rest in His wonderful presence.

Forgiveness: If we sense that we have missed the mark and struggle to accept that there is hope, we can read the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. After reading the story, we can imagine we are the prodigal son returning with a desire to change. From there, let us listen to how the Father speaks to our hearts so that we can ask for and receive His wonderful forgiveness.

Action: If you need guidance in a specific situation, bring that situation to the Lord. Ask the Lord how He sees the situation. Then spend time in silence, letting impressions come to your heart and listening for His voice.

Stéphane Tibi is a missionary serving as Regional Education Coordinator in Eurasia.

Written for Coffee Break.

The Silly Season

Last week I spoke with a man who told me he calls this “the silly season.”  He explained that every hour is packed with things that MUST get done.  The longer I ponder this, the more I realize he’s got a valid point.  Is it the right point though?

Christmas is nearly upon us and the pressure is building.  Family members are traveling to see others, presents are still being purchased and wrapped, some of us are trying to decide where to put the tree (or whether its worth the effort).  Whew.  I’m tired now just thinking about it.

And yet, the rush and bustle, the panic and push that accompanied the first Christmas is what this season is truly about.  Joseph was bustling to get to Bethlehem in time for the census.  He felt panic when he saw the bustling crowds that had arrived ahead of him and then Mary began to push. 

Maybe, just maybe, we all need to slow down a bit and reconsider what this season is about.  It’s not about us, or our kids, or friends & neighbors.  Unless of course we are sharing what’s most important with these folks we love. The story of Christmas. 

If you don’t know or remember the whole Christmas Story, we’d like to invite you to join us on Sunday morning at 10:55 am as our children and teens re-tell this wonderful story.  We encourage you to bring your friends, kids and grandparents so they can share in this wonderful reason for our celebration.

Briefly…..

Please join us on Sunday morning to hear Pastor Ann continue her message about Jesus in Prophecy.  We are hoping to have our live-stream back up this week and apologize for the sermons you may have missed. 

We are looking forward to seeing you at 10:55 a.m. Sunday.  We’d like to invite you to come back Sunday evening at 6:00 p.m. as Pastor Ann and Gary Hohner share their Israel experiences!  Wednesday we’ll be meeting at the church for a time of caroling in the community.