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. 

Remaining in Jesus: The Foundation for Dialogue with God

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” —John 15:4–5

In Jesus’ last discourse with His disciples He said, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them” (John 14:21). In Luke 8:21 He said, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” God expects us to be not only hearers but also doers of His Word (James 1:22). As we learn to practice this in our lives, Scripture shapes us in a pattern of hearing, listening, and obeying. Reading scriptures is a wonderful way to learn and practice the prayerful dialogue of love with God. This manner of dialogue enables us to invite God to guide us in our daily walk with Him.

However, the key for a loving relationship is more than just solving problems and seeking guidance; it is also about rejoicing in the presence of the loved one. The foundation of our faith is our loving relationship with God, which is formed through intimacy with Christ. We often want Jesus to handle our situations and help us choose the right path. Yet, we must also know that Jesus has unique plans for each person. If we learn to listen to Jesus in prayer, He will hear us and do what we ask of Him (John 14:12-14). Jesus desires that we remain in Him and He in us, always growing deeper in a loving relationship.

We should not forget that our dialogue with God is supported by our learning to rest in Him and in His peace that surpasses all understanding.

This is possible through the amazing gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not leave us as orphans but sent the Holy Spirit to teach us everything. God’s love is poured in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (John 14:25-26, Rom. 5:5).

Let us celebrate the coming of Jesus in our world! Take time to pray and thank Jesus for coming into our lives. You can also initiate a simple dialogue: “Jesus, where are You in my life, and where do You want to be? What journey are You preparing for me in this coming year?”

Take time to remain in Jesus. In the morning, simply ask the Holy Spirit to fill/refill you completely and guide you through the day. Don’t rush this time with God. Rather, take several minutes to welcome His loving Spirit. Rejoice in His love and rest in His peace.

If you struggle to find peace, ask in prayer if there is something that is hindering you from receiving God’s peace and what you should do about it—perhaps forgive someone (including yourself), repent of some sin, or obey God’s instruction to do something you might have resisted before.

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

Written for Coffee Break.

Jesus In Prophecy

At some point in our lives we all want to know what the future holds.  “Will I pass the test?”  “Will I get the job?”  “Who will win the election?”  You know the types of things that concern us on a day-to-day basis, causing us to wonder about tomorrow or many days down the road.  Our country’s leaders have different concerns, but even they look to the future with questions.

Wanting to know the future has led people to look for answers in many places.  Every city has palm readers and psychics, astrologists and spiritualists.  These folks will provide answers to personal and sometimes political or social questions.  But are they accurate?  Are they consistent?  Are they real? 

The test of a true prophet is this:   Are all of his/her prophecies fulfilled?  (Jer. 28:9)  Taken in that perspective it makes that palm reader or crystal ball alot less believable.

We are blessed to live in a country that has never been invaded and hasn’t been seriously threatened in a very long time.  Would our concerns and desire to know the future be different if we didn’t live here and now?  If Canada and Mexico had fallen to a super power and we had invaders standing at our borders, what sort of things do you think we’d be concerned about?  That test or promotion at work would probably pale in light of a very real danger.  We’d probably want to know if we were going to survive, both as individuals and as a nation.  Our leaders would certainly be looking for answers.

About 700 years before Jesus was born, Israel and Judah were facing an overwhelming invasion.  The Assyrian army was about to swallow them whole, expanding their empire from modern Iran to Egypt.  The kings of Israel and Judah were seeking advice from astrologists and spiritualists when Isaiah, a prophet of God, told the king and people about the coming of Jesus (Isa 9:2-7).  Isaiah spoke these words about 700 years before Jesus was born.  It was God’s way of assuring His people that though they faced calamity in their day, He would see that they survived and Light would be brought into the world through them. 

Isaiah, and God’s other prophets spoke only the words God gave them to speak, even when it wasn’t popular.  They did not speak on their own, even when it cost them personally.  ALL of their prophecies have been fulfilled, meaning that biblical prophecy is a trustworthy source.

Jesus was foretold by multiple prophets as the Messiah.  He was born to the right parents, at the right time and in the right place to fulfill the prophecies.  If you’d like to learn how Jesus is tied to the prophecies of the Old Testament, I encourage you to join us Sunday morning at 10:55 a.m. in the sanctuary or on our Facebook live-stream.

Dialogue with God: Prayer Through Scripture

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”—John 10:27

The devotionals of the coming five weeks encompass prayer as a living dialogue with God. Each week will focus on one aspect, and then you’ll be invited to practice that during the week.

Listening to God is a key part of prayer. In many cases, our tendency is to make prayer a time when we tell God what we want from Him or when we thank and praise Him. All this is very good, yet prayer can be so much more — especially when we learn to also spend time listening to God.

I often ask people a few simple questions when we study together on the subject of prayer:

1. In a relationship between a servant and a master, who speaks the most?

2. In a relationship between a student and a teacher, who speaks the most?

3. In your relationship with Jesus, who is the teacher and master?

4. In your prayer time, who speaks the most, you or Jesus?

In order for our prayer times to be joyful and include deep dialogues with our loving God, we need to learn to balance our speaking and listening habits. In our fast-paced modern world, we sometimes learn to speak more than we listen. We have to learn intentionally to listen better, both to our neighbor and to God.

Learning to listen to God is simple, yet it can be very challenging for various reasons.

My prayer is that, in these coming weeks, you will develop a deeper sensitivity to God’s voice and a growing joy in having a living dialogue with our loving Savior, Jesus Christ.

When the first disciples heard stories of Jesus, they would naturally imagine themselves as participants in those stories. Unfortunately, today, with the number of movies and pictures already made for us in our cultures, we sometimes lose the capacity to imagine or to let texts become alive in us. Added to that, an influx of technological noises and the tempting options to watch as many programs on media or other electronic devices are impairing our listening skills.  

This week, I encourage you to pick a story from the Gospels. First, read it aloud and then close your eyes and imagine the story. If you don’t know which story to pick, consider Mark 4:33-41 (Jesus calms the storm), Luke 5:1-11 (Jesus calls His first disciples), or John 13:1-15 (Jesus washes His disciples’ feet). Try to live in the story as one of the disciples, in interaction with Jesus, not as an observer. Seeing ourselves as part of the story is helpful in allowing the Spirit of Jesus speak to us in a new way. This exercise is a meditation in faith to relate to Christ through Scripture. It helps us be sensitive to what Jesus would like to tell us through a specific story.

Ask Jesus to speak to you through His word. If you have an impression in your heart from Jesus, remain in a prayerful attitude. Focus on rejoicing in the presence of Jesus or beginning a dialogue with Him on how to implement in life what you sense God is telling you through this story.

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

Written for Coffee Break.