Pastor’s Update 12-28-2016

Greetings New Life Church of the Nazarene and Happy New Year! I am excited to share with you that on January 1st, we will be begin a new sermon series on the Book of Revelation entitled, “Drawing Back the Curtain of God’s Truth.”

This year we will going through John’s Revelation and drawing out some of the most important theological truths that the book has to offer us.

Not many books (today) have affected Christians more dramatically than the book of Revelation. It has inspired countless sermons, theological doctrines, artistic works, hymns, and even more recently fictional novels and movies that have captured the imagination of Evangelical Christians in the United States.

Over the centuries Christians have interpreted the book in a wide variety of ways, but through it all one point remains central to the book—and that is for Christians to remain steadfast and faithful to God. The Church is to persevere and remain faithful to God despite the rise and fall of local and national leaders, world empires, and the cultural changes they will experience–not only in their lifetime, but throughout the course of human history until Christ returns.

In other words, Revelation exhorts us to remain steadfast and faithful to God in the political and cultural context in which we live, and warns us, not only about the threat of persecution—but also about the threat of complacency and assimilation into our surrounding culture.

I have spoken to many Christians who have expressed frustration and even fear regarding the visions and images of the cataclysmic events found in the book. And so I want to encourage you with some words found in the first vision of John’s Revelation. This vision is not of any future cataclysmic event, but of a person—the crucified and risen Christ, who is already present among his churches.

His message to John is simply this, “Do not be afraid.”

It is no coincidence, that as we continue to move through the book, that we will experience a whirl wind of threats and divine assurance—until we reach that final climactic vision of the throne of God and of the Lamb, so that our only appropriate response is, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

I look forward to walking with you through John’s Revelation and my prayer is that it will encourage you to lead a life of worship, deepen your faith and convictions, and draw you closer to God.

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always. Amen.

–Pastor Jeff



Pastor’s Update 1-14-2016

My dear Brothers and Sister in Christ,

This week I was reminded of a story about a couple who had lost their infant son in a tragic accident at a day care center.  The couple was devastated by the loss.  Shortly after the loss of their son, they discovered they were pregnant again with another son, who was born exactly one year later on the same birthdate of their son who passed away.  Unfortunately, the couple was so focused on the loss of their first son, that they neglected the second son, who, sadly passed away as a result. 
 
The story is truly heartbreaking.  But it is a reminder, that in the midst of tragedy and the loss of hope, God provides new life and hope for his people.  Sometimes, when we are so devastated by loss, or focused on past events, we neglect the blessings God has in store for us.  Is there anything in your past that you continue to focus on that keeps you from receiving the blessings God has for you? 
 
All of us have hurts, hang ups, and things we continue to struggle with.  Sometimes these can come in the form of tragic events, addictions, anger, anxiety, disappointments, shame, etc.  Although these things often take time to heal from, but let us be reminded that it is in the midst of these that God often brings new life and blessing. 
 

Let us not neglect the blessings and promises that God brings to us in the midst of our struggles and difficulties.  God is at work, even when things may seem hopeless.  Although they may not be easy to recognize, that doesn’t mean that they are not there. 

Psalm 23:4 says,

“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

Even in the midst of our darkest valley, when we cannot see where we are going and are exposed to the elements around us–God is our guide.  We don’t always have to see where we are going because God in continuing to guide us.  When we begin to stray, he gently brings us back into his fold with his shepherd’s rod, and protects us from the enemy with his staff. 

May God open our eyes to the blessings and hope He has for us in midst of our losses, struggles, and difficulties.  May we not neglect the hope and new life God has in store for us by continually looking at the past.  Remember, if the disciples only focused on the tragic event of the crucifixion, they would have missed the resurrection!
 

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Pastor Jeff



Pastor’s Update 12-16-2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The celebration of the birth of Jesus, the King and Savior of the world, is coming upon us.  This week we will be looking at Elizabeth’s encounter with Mary–who became the living tabernacle of God himself and as many believe, the first disciple.  Mary, like many of us, had her whole world turned upside down (or perhaps rightside up) when she found herself suddenly and unexpectedly caught up in God’s plan of salvation.  May her trust in God and her obedience show her to be an example for all of us–“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered the angel Gabriel.  “May your word to me be fulfilled (Lk 1:38).”
 

When Mary visited Elizabeth, Luke tells us that Mary was “blessed” and the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for “joy (1:41-42, 45).”  What was the common denominator that caused Mary to be blessed and the baby John to leap for joy?  It wasn’t because Mary was rich, or healthy, or had a great career, etc.  But it was simply the very presence of Jesus himself that caused her to be blessed, and to be a blessing to those around her.  This was the cause for great joy because the Savior of the world was in their midst!  It wasn’t that Mary didn’t struggle, or go without experiencing pain or worry.  Rather, it was the presence of the Savior in the midst of those struggles and pain that brought her and others hope.  God is the One who “comes” to us in the midst of life’s challenges, bringing us hope in the midst of our anxieties and struggles.  Therefore, we have a reason leap with great joy and celebrate!

In the midst of the pain and anxieties in life; in the midst of a world that offers every kind of pleasure you could ever imagine–is Jesus simply enough for you?  Do you trust wholeheartedly in God and his word, that he will fulfill his promises to you?  During this season of Advent, let us resist the pressure to turn Christmas into a celebration of private feelings and beliefs.  But instead recognize the one who is in our midst and trust that God will fulfill his promises.

May Mary’s words echo in your prayers and humbly resound in your heart, –“I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.”

In Christ,

Pastor Jeff



Pastor’s Update 12-10-2015

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

This week we will continue to look at John the Baptist and his message in anticipation of the coming Lord and King.  As we look at this weeks passage in Luke 3:7-20 we are going to focus on the challenge of John’s message.  It is important to recognize that John’s message was just as much political as it was spiritual.  Both John and Jesus challenged the political and religious authorities of their time and both were executed for it.  In our passage this week, we begin to get a glimpse of the challenge of the Kingdom of God.  It challenges every political and religious system of our present day, including our very own. 

In our passage this week, Herod regarded John as a threat and with good reason!  Luke tells us that John singled Herod out for direct attack.  It wasn’t just that Herod’s marital arrangements were unethical and out of line with God’s ideal.  The point was that they disqualified Herod from being God’s true king!  John pointed to Jesus as the genuine King of the Jews.  By pointing to Jesus as the one true King, John confronted the claims of the existing king .

Does the message of John confront you?  Even more so, does the message of the gospel threaten

your

throne?  In other words, does it challenge or threaten you as the ruler of your own personal life?  Human nature is to place ourselves on the throne of our lives and destroy anything that threatens our personal (or national) ideals and beliefs.  After all, it is much easier to conform the gospel message to our life, than it is to conform our lives to the gospel. 

Like Herod, we can be under the illusion that we are the ruler of our own personal world, or even that our nation is the “superpower” of the world.  But the truth is that there is only one true God and King, and his name is Jesus.  There is only one “superpower” and that is the Kingdom of God.  And we as the Church are called to live lives that express the rule of God in our hearts and in our world.  We are to reveal to the world around us the joy of living a transformed life and be a light to a very dark and lost world.  Even more so, we are called to fight battles with the powers and principalities that lie behind the known, visible world.

May God give us the courage to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus, even when this means challenging the kingdoms of this world–including our very own!  May He alone sit on the throne in our lives and rule our hearts.  And may He take every thought captive and call us to live lives as BIG as he is!    The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!

In Christ,

Pastor Jeff



Pastor’s Update 11-26-2015

Dear Brothers and Sister in Christ,

I am so excited to partner with you as your new Pastor!  God has great things planned for our church and I have already witnessed how God has used you to impact our community in powerful ways for Christ.  As we start this new chapter in God’s purpose for our church,  I ask for your grace.  It is never an easy thing to forge new relationships, especially into deep relationships.  These relationships are forged through some key foundational elements. 

Before we take a look at those key elements, it is important to remember that as our church continues to grow we will experience both joyful successes, as well as some discouraging setbacks–

both individually and as a team.  Although we will experience both success and failure, it is reassuring to know we can grow and learn from both!  Regardless of our accomplishments and setbacks, it is important that we work together, support one another, love one another, and gracefully accept both our strengths and weaknesses.  I believe God has brought us together for a purpose, and that purpose is to partner with Him for the advance of the transforming power of the gospel in our personal lives, in our church, and in our community.  In order to accomplish His purpose, God will use both our strengths and weakness for His glory.

I am committed to you as your Pastor and you are important to me as brothers and sisters in Christ.  In addition to filling the pulpit each week, my goal is to come alongside you and help you fulfill (or maybe even discover) God’s calling in your life.  This partnership begins with discipleship. 

If we look at the gospel accounts, we will quickly discover that there are at least three key elements important to discipleship.  Although these three key elements are not exhaustive, they are a springboard in our relationships with one another.  These three include, but are not limited to: 

    1) Fellowship

    2) Study

    3) Prayer

Fellowship includes doing life

together–inside the church walls, as well as outside.  Jesus spent a lot of time with his disciples and formed intimate deep relationships with them.  The disciples worshipped God together, prayedtogether, and learned together

under our Lord and Savior.  This is my goal with you in the coming days, and my prayer is that you, in turn, will do the same as you lead and disciple others.
Moving on, this Sunday marks the beginning of the Advent season. The Christian calendar begins its new year not on

January 1, but on the first Sunday of Advent, which is always four Sundays before Christmas (December 25th).   The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin term Adventus,

which means “Coming.”  It originally referred to Christmas, but over time took on a double meaning.  Today it refers both to the “first coming” of our Lord in his birth, as well as to his “second coming” at the fulfillment of time. 

Therefore, Advent is not just a season in which we recall an event of the past–Jesus’ birth–but also a time in which we look to the present and the future.  When will Jesus come again?  When will we see the Kingdom of God on earth, as it is in heaven?  Of course no one knows.  And so the more appropriate questions are (for example): What can we do as the church to bring about God’s reign of justice and peace today?  What can we do as individuals to reorder our lives, in the light of God’s love?  What would it mean to live as a people who believe in Jesus as the Savior of the world and who expect him to come again at any time?  I would like us to focus along the lines of these questions during the coming weeks in our personal lives, as well as in our ministries.

Also, please feel free to incorporate some Advent traditions that Christians from around the world and in all different denominations have participated in for centuries.  For example,  Advent has always been considered a special time of fasting and prayer.  Purple has traditionally remained the color of materials used to hang on the pulpit, crosses, etc. 

The Advent wreath is also a beloved tradition in many congregations in their churches and homes, and it is very symbolic.  For example, the Advent wreath is usually made of evergreen with four candles evenly spaced around the circle.  The candles can be purple or white.  A rose pink candle is often used on the third Sunday of Advent as a reminder to “rejoice in the Lord always.”   The lighting of each candle usually takes place right before or at the beginning of the service, in which a member or family from the congregation will light one candle for each Sunday of Advent (one candle for the first Sunday, two for the second Sunday, etc.).  Prayers at the lighting of the candles are also incorporated. Evergreen branches were originally used because they stayed green, even during winter, representing life in the coldness and hopelessness of the world.  The light of the candles represents the light of Christ and the gospel dispelling the darkness, etc. 

Advent season is great reminder of our faith as we wait in anticipation of the coming of our Lord and Savior, so have fun with it!  I apologize for the unusual lengthy email, but I am excited to be on this journey with you!  Blessings to you all!

In Christ,

Pastor Jeff