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.

Persecution Today

Persecution is a word that is seldom used in our culture.  Instead we hear words such as bullying, disrespect, bias, prejudice.  The list goes on. These are little persecutions.  These are the ways average people deal with annoyances today.  These little persecutions break down the barriers to larger and more brutal persecutions.  We don’t see these yet in the U.S. but if we look beyond our safe little bubble we’ll see that there are much larger wrongs in the world. 

Persecution exists.  It is thriving in our world today.  Religious persecution happens every day, in every country of the world.  The persecution of Christians in Muslim countries is growing with the rise of Islamic jihad.  People pay dearly to worship Jesus and the one true God.  They pay with the loss of their families, their homes, their jobs.  People pay with their lives.  In some communist countries Christians aren’t allowed to worship God at all.  The penalty for being caught?  Death.  Over 4,000 Christians have been killed this year and 245 million are estimated to be living in areas of extreme persecution.

So what is this that is worth dying for?  According to the Apostle John, Jesus said, ” I am the way the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)  Jesus was explaining that the only way to eternal life and heaven is through believing in Him.  He went on to explain that those who believe in Him would surely be persecuted, as He was.  In John 15:18-21 He says that because the world hated Him, it would hate His followers also.  The reason for this hatred stems from not knowing God. 

People who don’t know God look to themselves or other people to determine what is right and good, as well as what is evil.  Anything we don’t understand can, and often is, termed evil.  This is how persecution is born.

Are you interested in something that’s worth dying for?  Is there an emptiness within you that nothing has filled?  Join us Sunday morning at 10:55 a.m. in the sanctuary (964 W. Hwy 190 Copperas Cove, TX) or on our Facebook live-stream.  Pastor Ann will be delving deeper into the persecuted church.

Sunday evening at 5:00 p.m. we’ll be checking out a movie about the church in Iran! Please come learn with us.

An Authentic Faith

“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’” —Romans 4:1-3

“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” —Romans 1:17

One Sunday afternoon many years ago, my wife and I asked our sons what they learned in Sunday School. With great animation they recited what their teacher had humorously said during Sunday School: “Dude, man, you got to have faith!” That has become one of our favorite sayings.

Faith. It is scattered throughout the pages of Scripture. We believe it. We have it. And yet we often struggle to understand exactly what faith is. Since we are called to live by faith, it stands to reason that we should have a working definition to guide us along the way.

Too often, our definition of “faith” becomes so subjective that we lose touch with reality. Christians must be in an interactive relationship with God and their neighbors. This is continually displayed and defined in Scripture. Paul went as far as to state that everything that does not come from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). Faith leads to the inward obedience of the heart that provides confidence in our actions. The believer, having faith in God, acts on behalf of the will of God. Faith is naturally connected to what we do (this is why James connects faith to works).

In Romans 4, Paul addressed the need to live a life of faith through the story of Abraham.

Through this story, we understand that the many accomplishments of Abraham were only made possible through his faith. Paul is very clear that for every believer, works come as a natural expression of authentic faith. Abraham’s circumcision was the sign of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. Our actions done in faith have eternal value: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (v.3). That is authentic faith; accepting God’s Word to the same measure that it is put into practice. 

When it comes to wrestling with the cultural issues of our day, we need faith.

As God continues to speak to us through the written Word, His Spirit, and the church, we must have a hunger to hear Him and set our hearts to obey His instructions.

May our hunger for God’s Word and His presence increase as our faith continues to grow.

Through faith, God aligns our beliefs with His heart. Faith calls us to believe God. As a result, we are to trust Him and apply His Word with increasing measure and in practical ways in our lives, which include keeping our minds and bodies “from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). We are called to be a people who live by authentic faith—no more and no less than what Abraham experienced. We are called to believe God and His Word as we live in His righteousness.

Prayer for the week: God, today, I choose to live a life of faith. As You speak Your words over me, I will align myself with Your heart. As You affirm Your presence in me, I will apply it in the most practical of ways as your Spirit directs. I agree with Paul’s confession, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. Yes, the righteous will live by faith” (Rom. 1:16-17).

Jim Thornton is lead pastor of Tulsa Hills Church of the Nazarene in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA.

Written for Coffee Break.

More Than Turkey

Once again that favorite American holiday is upon us!  Thanksgiving!  I can almost smell the baking pies and roasting turkey now.  Can you?  It’s an iconic day that holds special things for nearly everyone.  Folks who like parades wait all year for Macy’s extravaganza.  I don’t know anyone who isn’t excited to eat too much and then there’s football for that time when you can’t move anyhow.  And we certainly can’t forget that Black Friday starts on Thursday now…. or sooner.

In school we were all taught about the pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving.  Some families still talk about the actual traditions surrounding this day.  But what if we look further back than that?

In nearly every culture there are harvest festivals of some type, offering thanks for the bounty of the year.  In Christianity, we are taught to be thankful for more than just a bountiful harvest.  Because Jesus came into the world and paid for our sins, we believe that following His teachings will give us eternal life.  THAT is a pretty big thing to be thankful for!  He doesn’t promise that our lives here on earth will be perfectly smooth with no problems, but He does tell us that God knows exactly what’s going on & that He hears us when we call out to Him.

The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-7 that we should worry about nothing.  Instead we should pray “with thanksgiving” and trust in the Lord.  He repeats this message in his first letter to the Thessalonians (1Thes 5:16), the Colossians (Col 4:2), and in his letter to the Ephesians (Eph5:20).  This is a pretty serious teaching to be repeated so many times!

Praying with thanksgiving is simply trusting that God not only hears us, but that He cares and responds when we ask for His help or blessing, according to His will.  We serve a God who hears us!  We serve a God who responds to us!  Giving thanks in our hearts and with our mouths before our prayers are answered acknowledges His relationship with us.

If you’d like to hear more about this, we encourage you to join us tomorrow morning at 10:50 a.m. as Pastor Ann brings us the fullness of His message!  We look forward to seeing y’all then.

Would You Say Yes?

Imagine for a moment that its mid-day and you’re going about your usual routine.  Suddenly, your phone rings. Without checking the number, you answer.  The voice on the other end is one you recognize, but don’t believe would call you.  What you’ve heard is:

“Hello?  This is President Trump.”

How are you going to respond?  Would you say:

“Yeah, right” and hang up?                       “I think you have the wrong number” … and hang up?

“Let me give you a piece of my mind!”     “Stop fooling around (friend’s name)!”

Or….

“Hello sir.  Are you certain you have the right number?”

If you have the courage for the last response, his next words will knock you off your feet.

“Yes, I have the right number.  I was meeting with my security council this morning and they’ve informed me that we have invaders on the east coast.  I need you to take care of this for your country.”

“Oh, and by the way, the armed forces aren’t available.  So it’ll just be you and whoever will answer your call.  We’re behind you all the way, so just let me know how many people you get and we’ll talk again.  Thanks!”

I don’t know how you’d be feeling, but I’d be shaking in my boots!  Maybe now would be a good time to move to Canada or Mexico, or take a slow boat to China.  Anywhere but here!  Then again, it’s possible he called you because you served in the military or play Fortnite, Call to Battle or another game in that genre that he thinks has equipped you to handle this kind of pressure.  Obviously he believes you can handle the situation.

Did you say yes?

Pastor Lisa Palmer will be our guest speaker this Sunday.  She has a message about a situation like this and how God is able to use the most unlikely person to accomplish amazing things.  If you’d like to hear how this story ends, please join us Sunday morning at 10:50 a.m.  We look forward to seeing you then!

Common words and strange meanings

It seems that every group of people with a specific area of interest develop their own sort of language.  They seem to be using words we know but not in a way we understand.  We’ve all been to the doctor and had him toss out a term like “diet”… Explaining we aren’t “on a diet” just muddies the water more.  He’s really just wanting to know what we’ve been eating.  So why doesn’t he say so? 

Churches are a great place for this to occur.  We talk about freewill, saving souls, lifting people up, gifts and calling.  It can be pretty bewildering and a bit scary.  We aren’t putting souls in a jar, we don’t have any weight-lifting contests, we aren’t handing out presents with pretty bows and we frown at people using their phones. 

Here’s what we are trying to say, in plain English (I hope).   When we say “save” or “saved” we are talking about accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior; about recognizing Him as God’s Son; about admitting that we are spiritually broken and need Him to straighten us out.

The simple definition of “freewill” is choice.  God created us so that we can think and choose for ourselves.  We can make good choices and obtain good consequences.  If we make bad choices in our life, we get to live with those consequences too.  Either way, God lets us decide what we want in our lives.

When we say “lifting people up” we mean that we are asking God to help those folks in their situation.  This might mean we are praying for healing, but could also mean that we are asking for endurance and patience.  We may be asking for wisdom and insight, but the bottom line is that we are asking God to focus His attention on that person or family.

God’s “gifts” to us are discussed in 1 Corinthians 12.  We believe that the Holy Spirit gives every person gifts that we can nurture and use to help others.  In the world, people talk about their potential or talent.  There are people who are gifted in every area of life so that humankind can thrive and support one another.  People who are “saved” use these “gifts” to help others in such a way that God receives the glory, credit and praise for every result. Finally, we talk “calling” or “being called.”  In some churches this only applies to the pastor, as in “being called by God to preach.”  We believe that God “calls” each of us to fulfill His will.  We believe that He has given us our “gifts” so that when He calls us we will have all the tools we need to serve in whatever way He asks.  This might mean we do something as humble as emptying the trash and sweeping the floor.  It might mean we cook meals for those who can’t.  Sometimes it means being a taxi.  For others it means teaching.  I hope you’re getting the idea.

Name of Praise

In ancient times names held great meaning.  A child would be named to commemorate an event, to encourage a direction for his life or possibly to acknowledge a patriarch.  The old Hebrew families often incorporated God into their names.

Thus, Judah was blessed by his mother, Leah.  She chose his name to praise God.  Later his name became the name of the southern portion of what we now think of as Israel.  Jerusalem lies within the territory of Judah. 

So why does that name stuff matter today?  It matters because God chose the Hebrew people to be His people.  It matters because He chose Judah as the family line that Jesus would descend from.  It matters because one woman chose to praise God through the name of her child.  And God chose to honor that by placing His Kingdom throne in Judah, thus becoming enthroned by His people’s praise.

Why does it matter to us?  It matters because it guides us in how to think about our approach to God.  If we are truly seeking a relationship with Him, praise encompasses a big portion of that time we spend with Him.  We all know that in human relationships praise creates harmony and open communication.  So it is with God. 

Next time you reach for God, praise Him for all that he has done for you; praise Him for all that He is doing for you; praise Him for all that He will do for you.  He designed us for relationship with Him.  He designed and created us in the love and joy that is Him.  Let us celebrate and rejoice in that design every time we think of Him.