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Monday, December 23, 2013

The One Thing


            What’s your “One Thing” that is most important for you to accomplish in the coming year?  If you don’t have something, everybody around you certainly does.  The beauty of life is we get to make a lot of choices.  And those choices we make will shape our future.  We don’t always get our choices right but if we make enough in the right direction, good things begin to happen.
            Back to the “One Thing.”  What can you do in the coming year that will have the potential for the greatest positive impact on your life?  Let me make a suggestion – something you may not have thought of.  What if you started reading your Bible consistently, regularly, faithfully?
            Studies have been done over and over finding that one of the most important disciplines we can engage in is consistently reading the Bible.  This one discipline is often the determination between a stagnant, dying faith and a growing, vibrant faith.  We need the other spiritual practices of community, prayer, generosity and service as well for a deepening life with Jesus but reading the scriptures feeds these other disciplines.  Never before has the Bible been more available and more accessible than this time in history.  The Bible is available in most languages, it is instantly downloadable to your iPhone, iPad, Android or Kindle.  And, oh yeah, it is even available on paper!
            Here is my wish for you:  2014 would be the year you would discover the beauty, depth, wonder and mystery of God through his Word.
            On my “One Thing” list is to be more connected to God’s Word and I want to invite you to join me by reading with me.  Modern technology makes it so simple and accessible.
Here’s my invitation to you – join me in reading the Bible together this year through the Faithlife Study Bible.  It is a free app for iPhone, iPad, Android and Kindle.  Also, you can get it on your computer for free.
To find the apps for your smartphone or portable reader and to sign up on your computer, go to this link:  https://faithlifebible.com.  You’ll have to sign up for an account (really, it’s free!) and then you will need to join the “Cold Springs Community Church” group.  When you do, you’ll be connected to the various reading programs we will be doing together.
No matter what your “One Thing” is, here is the only way it is going to happen for you:  You have to be crystal clear on What, When and Where.
What do you want to do/accomplish specifically?  If you can clearly know if you have succeeded or failed you have it nailed.
When are you going to do it, specifically?  Times, days and dates make a difference.
Where are you going to do it, specifically?  This may seem a bit strange at first but think about it and try it. 
One of the choices we get to make is to not make a choice.  Then life just happens to us.  My prayer is you will make a choice for something and God will bless you deeply as you pursue him.
Grace and Peace,

David

Friday, December 13, 2013

Advent Conspiracy - Give More

My Life Group does a sermon-based study at 6AM on Tuesdays at Mel’s Diner.  (I call us the Crazy-Early-Mighty-Men-of-God-Group.)  A few weeks back we were discussing the sermon “Conflicted Compassion” and wrestling with how we give, why we give and the legacy we are leaving.  At the end of the study I challenged the guys to pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to be compassionate towards others and we would come back and tell stories of what happened.
            A couple of weeks ago someone came to our door to sell something – pretty unusual for the foothills.  As we got talking it came up that I’m a pastor and the guy began to tell me about his faith journey.  He had a heart for the poor, hungry and broken in the Sacramento area and formed a ministry to provide resources for those in need and a transitional shelter for families.

            In the middle of his story, the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear, “Give him the money in your pocket.”  I don’t often carry cash on me but that morning someone had given me a good amount of money and I had just stuck it in my pocket.  Now I’m being told to give it away.  So at the end of our conversation, I took the money from my pocket, handed it to him and told him to put it toward his ministry.
            In our conversation he had mentioned the website and Facebook page of his group.  Later, I went to look them up but couldn’t find the website and I began to wonder, “Did I just get ripped off?”  If it was my money, I guess I could go down that road but the truth is, it wasn’t my money I gave him – it was God’s.  I wasn’t responsible for what he did with it.  I was responsible for listening to God and obeying God.
            It is a constant battle for me to remember I ultimately own nothing.  God has made me the caretaker of a tremendous amount but it is not mine, it is his.  And God can do what he wants with it, when he wants to.  In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth he says twice “You were bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23)  I am not my own – I belong to him.  I needed to be ransomed from the life of death and destruction I was following.  I was the recipient of an amazing grace that I can never dream of repaying.  Therefore, all I am, all I have belong to God.
            There can be many motivations to give – guilt, a desire to do good, gratitude for what we have – but the deepest, most enduring motivation to give is because of grace.  Grace-giving is when we become a conduit of God’s generosity.  It isn’t about me or my agenda.  It is about God, his agenda and the abundance of his resources.
            This Advent season, I hope you will take the risk to be open to grace-giving.  Open yourself up to the whisper of the Holy Spirit to empty your pockets as a source of blessing to others.  Just obey and allow God to take care of the results.
Peace and grace,

David

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Advent Conspiracy – Worship Fully

            Worship requires humility.  Humility is something most of us aren’t very good at.
            Unfortunately, when most of us think about worship it is only connected to music that emotionally moves us, up-raised hands and cherubic expressions on our faces as we are caught up in the moment.  Expressions like, “That was a great time of worship!” are largely a reflection of how we felt – our emotional response – to the music or the environment.  But that’s not necessarily worship.
            If emotion is where we believe worship begins, we are in trouble.  Emotion can be (and should be!) a response to worshipping properly but in itself is not worship.  Let’s go back to the humility thing to understand what worship is really all about.
            To worship something is to elevate its value and importance.  We worship many things in life – security, safety, wealth, success, relationships, careers, family would be just a few.  Here’s the problem, the Bible makes it very clear the nature of worship is exclusivity.  You can’t worship two things at the same time.  To worship something or someone is to put them at the very top of all other things.  When you worship something, you become its servant.  This is what Jesus is talking about in Luke 16:13 where he says you can’t serve two masters – God and money.  Worship is exclusive and there is no one more exclusive than God.
            So, worship is not about how you feel, it is about what you do.  To worship God is to put him above all things.  To worship God is to put him first in your life.  To worship God is to not let anything come before him.  To worship God is to humble yourself to put God’s will above your own will.  The most profound act of worship ever recorded in the Bible is when Jesus bowed in prayer as he faced a certain death and said to his Heavenly Father, “…not my will, but yours, be done.”  (Luke 22:42)

            As we enter into Advent it is ultimately an invitation to worship God above any and every other thing on earth and in heaven.  God showed his love for us in a profound way by giving the gift of his son.  And, in giving this beautiful gift God once again showed the world his love, splendor and power.  He didn’t have to but once again he gave another reason why he should be elevated above every other thing.  We worship God not because we feel like it, we worship God because he is worthy to be worshipped.
            Worship purely expressed is when we echo the words of John the Baptist.  When John’s disciples came to him worried about the defections over to Jesus, John didn’t try to elevate himself.  He did exactly the opposite.  He humbled himself.  “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)  Those are the words that show us what worshipping fully looks like.
            Jesus came to be King of kings, Lord of lords.  He will accept no other position.  He must increase and you must decrease.

Peace and grace,

David

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Conflicted Compassion

            I was recently asked by a community leader what I thought about the homeless issue in our community.  My response to her question was:  “It’s complicated.”  There are no easy, quick solutions to dealing with homelessness in our community.  But isn’t this pretty much true of every issue that matters?  Of the important things that affect people’s lives?
            Cold Springs Church was the first church to open its doors to the Nomadic Shelter in our community.  That first year Foothills United Methodist Church partnered with us to begin the Nomadic Shelter two nights per week.  That was five years ago and now a number of churches have come on board to open their doors and offer to volunteer seven nights per week.  As the weather turns cold and wet, more people will be using the service.  Last year, on some nights, there were upwards to 50 people.

            I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t struggle so much with homelessness, I struggle with messiness.  I want people’s lives to be better by them being better.  I want people to be healthy by making choices that will lead them into health.  I’m often times judgmental and lack the grace I wish I had (and expect people to show me!).  It’s complicated.  And here’s the real rub – there are people in this world who don’t care about their messiness, don’t recognize their messiness or are incapable of dealing with their messiness because of mental issues, addictions or brokenness.  I want simple solutions to complex problems – and they don’t exist. 
So what do we do?  We look to scripture to guide us.
The other morning when I came into church, those who had spent the night at the shelter were packing up and preparing to leave.  It included a family with a couple of small children and I was glad Cold Springs Church opened its doors to care for this family.
Jesus tells a story about wheat and weeds to make a point about the Kingdom of God.  (see Matthew 13:24-30)  In this story there is a wheat field but an enemy plants weeds in the middle of the night.  The weeds and the wheat look similar in their early stages and as they mature their roots become intertwined.  The servants ask the master whether they should pull the weeds or not.  The master says to leave the weeds because if they pull them they will pull up some good wheat as well.  Also, there will come a day when everything will be sorted out – the wheat will be sorted from the weeds and the weeds will be burned up in fire.
Here is the moral of the story:  In life, some people are weeds and some people are wheat and it can be hard to tell them apart.  But rest assured, someone does know the difference and he will sort it out in the end.
The homeless shelter has helped a lot of people over the past five years.  I think of Dave and Donna.  They were in the shelter but got help that saw them get married and into a place of their own.  Dave recently died of a heart attack – in his own home.  Or Cherish who struggled with life and addictions and found herself in the shelter but got help and this time it took root and now she is a coordinating volunteer.  And there are others – messy lives that have been restored, strengthened and changed.
Being compassionate is not easy and often comes with internal conflict.  But we need to do the right thing and trust God that he will sort it out.  And be assured – he will (in his time).  Do what’s right because it’s right.  Trust God.
Peace and grace,
David
           


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thursday Night Church Is Coming!!

            Is going to church a means or an end?  If you take a stroll through church history you are going to see that it has been seen as both, depending upon the time in history and the group of believers.  If going to church is seen as an end, it gets easy to fall into legalism – there becomes a right time, a right place, a right day and a right way.  That means there also become wrong times, wrong places, wrong days and wrong ways.
            I believe going to church is a means to being the church.  Being the church is being part of a local group of people who gather to fulfill the greatest commandment – love God with our whole being and love others (Mark 12:29-31).  That local group of people is part of a worldwide group of people and a historical group of people going back to Jesus (Colossians 1:17-20).  The church exists to lift Jesus up by worshipping him (John 4:23-24), hold Jesus up as the way to be saved (John 14:6) and build each other up so we are more like Jesus (Ephesians 4:11-13).
            Cold Springs Church is committed to being the church in our community.  And, a part of us being the church is to help people go to church so they can meet Jesus in worship, discover Jesus is our savior and experience the grace of Jesus that restores and strengthens.  So, we seek to be like the early church -  meeting where and when people were able.

            Thursday, November 21st marks the launch of a new way we are continuing to be the church in our community.  Within a 10-mile radius of the Cold Springs Church property are 72,000 people!  An optimistic estimate would put only 15% being connected to Jesus and his church.  That means there are 61,000 people who Jesus loves but are not experiencing his love because they aren’t a part of being the church.
            Imagine with me 200 men of courage, women of dignity and children of hope gathered together each Thursday night who are worshipping Jesus, finding salvation and experiencing a grace that restores and strengthens their lives, marriages, families and community.  That is what I see as we fully launch Thursday Night Church on February 6th, 2014.
            November 21st, December 19th and January 16th we will be doing preview services so we can get a taste of what God is going to do.  We will start with a meal at 6:15 for everyone and then start the service at 6:45 with full youth and kids programs available.
            Here is what I need from you:  PRAY for us, for our community, for your friends and family.  Pray God will bless our faith and effort and many will come.  INVITE anyone and everyone!  Grab a handful of invite cards and pass them out to your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.  SERVE by volunteering – be a greeter, be part of the children/youth ministry team, help in clean-up and tear-down.  There are many opportunities to volunteer.  Send us an email at volunteer@coldspringschurch.net and we will help you find a place to serve.
            Let’s be the church and see what God does through our faithful obedience!

Peace and grace,

David