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Friday, February 28, 2014

E-Note From Pastor Andy 2-27-14

February 27, 2014

Dear Eastridge Family,

Recently I read James Bryan Smith’s chapter “God is Holy” in his book The Good and Beautiful God.  As I read this chapter, I found myself wishing that I could have every single Christian read it.  The piece is excellent, not because it is new or edgy, but because it states basic Christian truth with profound clarity. 

Smith addresses a misunderstanding of the truth that God is love, and loves sinners with reckless extravagance: “God does not care about our sin” (116).  Smith writes, “In our day you are just as likely to hear a person tell you that their god is a cosmic, benevolent spirit who never judges, does not punish sin and sends no one to hell.  This ‘teddy bear’ god has become a very fashionable alternative to the wrathful god of days gone by” (116).  The problem is that “the cushy, fuzzy god is neither biblical nor truly loving.” Here, Smith cites H. Richard Niebuhr’s well-worn phrase from The Kingdom of God in America, “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

Smith repeatedly emphasizes in the chapter that God is both “kind and severe.  We cannot have one without the other” and that this is “very good news” (118).  It is good news because God loves us so much that he is completely opposed to anything that harms God’s beloved people.  God loves us without condition, but hates sin because sin threatens and eventually brings our destruction.

He makes an important distinction between God’s love and wrath. “Wrath is not something that God is but something that God does. While it is correct to say that God is holy, it is not correct to say that God is wrathful… Holiness is God’s essence… Wrath is what humans experience when they reject God.  And it is a necessary part of God’s love” (123).

Smith suggests that we should not want a god who says, “‘It’s cool. Don’t sweat it. Everybody sins, just do it without the guilt, dude.  Guilt stinks.  Just have a good time!’  This god does not love me.  Being soft on sin is not loving, because sin destroys.  I want a God who hates anything that hurts me. Hate is a strong word, but a good one. Because the true God not only hates what destroys me (sin and alienation) but also has taken steps to destroy my destroyer, I love him” (125).

1 John in one example from Scripture that only makes sense when we hold both God’s inclusive love together with God’s complete rejection of sin:
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. - 1 John 1:5-2:2

God’s love towards each one of us is unconditional. Have you allowed that truth to sink into every corner or your life, or are you still trying to clean yourself up for God, to earn your acceptance?  Are you willing to be desperately dependent on God’s grace and not your own goodness?

God hates sin because God loves us.  Are you allowing God’s grace to free you from everything that keeps you from the life for which you were created?  Will you allow the amazing grace of God to forgive you of the ways you have sinned and are sinful? Will you allow God to break the power of those canceled sins?

God is holy.  God refuses to make compromises with sin and death.  And God is able to make us holy. The offer of holiness is not a threat.  It is a precious promise.

·         Communion This Sunday
Sunday we will celebrate communion during the Sunday morning worship service.

·         Human Trafficking and Slavery
My hand today had two marks or two “x” marks.  One was from Ashley’s basketball game and the other, the big red “x” was to bring awareness to the 27 million people who are enslaved in the world as sex slaves, or laborers.  It is estimated that human trafficking alone generates annual profits of around $32 billion.  The majority of trafficking victims are between 18 and 24 years of age.  Every minute two children are sold into slavery.

Nazarene Compassionate Ministries has invited churches around the world to participate in Freedom Sunday, a day set aside to focus on the issue of modern slavery, also known as human trafficking, on March 9, 2014.

·         Wesleyan Theological Society Meeting
Next week I will be traveling to Nampa, Idaho to attend the Wesley Theological Society 2014 Meeting where they will discuss “Atonement in the Wesleyan Tradition.”  The Sunday following the meetings I will be preaching at Andrew Williams’ Methodist Church in Vale, Oregon.  He came to that small community and small church and has seen several people baptized and the attendance double in just two short years.

·         Notable Quotes of the Week
“Spiritual revival, or renewal, is a work of God in which the church is beautified and empowered because the normal operations of the Holy Spirit are intensified. The normal operations of the Spirit include conviction of sin, enjoyment and assurance of grace and of the Father’s love, access to the presence of God, and creation of deep community and loving relationships.” - Tim Keller

"God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible.  What a pity that we plan only things we can do by ourselves." – A. W. Tozer

"Nobody drifts into the kingdom of God. Sooner or later there must be a dying and rising." – N. T. Wright

“The One who knows you best, loves you most.”   - Max Lucado

“Those who truly find forgiveness at the hands of Jesus hate sin as the unforgiven never do." - E. Stanley Jones

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

E-Note From Pastor Andy 2-5-14

February 5, 2014

Dear Eastridge Family,

A couple of weeks ago I shared a message I entitled the State of Eastridge Church 2014, and today I want to give you an abbreviated version of that message along with some other items of note for our church family.

·         The State of Eastridge Church 

The evidence is abundant that the church in America is in decline.  Of the 400,000 churches in America only about 5% are actually growing in number and much of that growth is a result of transfer growth from another church rather than conversion.

The dropout rate with our young people between the ages of 18-22 is staggering, about 70% and only a fourth of those will return to the church by the age of 40.  Only 2% of church members actually invite unchurch people to attend worship services or Bible studies.  Yet we see growth in numbers with cults like the Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormon’s here in America.

It would be tempting to get discouraged looking at these kind of numbers.  But I want us to look to God’s Word instead.  In Matthew chapter 16 we see that Jesus is identified by Peter as the Christ, the Messiah, and the King.  For Matthew this is a crucial point so he puts it in the very center of his gospel account.  Mark does the same in his Gospel account and puts this story at the very center of his gospel as well.

“Who do people say that I am?  Who do you say that I am?”

These are important questions that each one of us needs to answer today.  What good does it do to give the right answer, that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus is the Christ, Jesus is King; if we don't then order our lives and live according to this truth?  If we really believe that Jesus is King, the Messiah then we should live accordingly.  We should submit our lives to the King.

Jesus tells us that the progress of His Kingdom will not be stopped by the Gates of Hell.  Jesus says He is building His Church.  He has come to defeat the devil and take back His Father’s world.

Is there anyone here who wants to be part of King Jesus is work?  Does anyone here want to be on the side of victory?  If you want to be with Jesus you must take up the cross and follow Jesus there's no shortcut.  This is not a onetime decision but something that we must do daily: take up our cross; set-aside our agenda and begin to live King Jesus' agenda.

As a church we have done a good job recently reaching out to our diverse neighborhood.  Our church family is beginning to look like our multi-ethnic neighborhood.  This is certainly not easy and we have certainly not reached a level of perfection but we are to be commended for our efforts.

As a church we have made a serious effort to reach out to children and teenagers and we have seen some fruit as a result.  It is imperative for any church that desires to be faithful to the gospel to reach the next generation and make disciples of that generation.  You are to be commended for your efforts to adapt changes to better communicate the gospel to the next generation and to our neighborhood.

You have worked to remodel the church facilities and to provide handicapped accessible restrooms.  You have embraced a move to change our style of worship music to include singing songs and reading Scripture in both Spanish as well as English.  This must of course continue to be a work in progress.

I have tried to communicate that being a disciple of Jesus and making disciples of Jesus requires relationships.  Disciples are not mass-produced.  Rather they are forged in relationships.  This is the Jesus model that we see in the New Testament and this is what I want us to continue to work to put into practice in our own life.  Being and making disciples of Jesus does not happen by accident we must we intentional.

Like many other churches we have a big need for leadership.  Leadership is not just a position or a title but leadership requires action.  We need leadership for our church board.  We need trustees who will step up and take responsibility for the building maintenance and overseeing the repairs and upkeep of our facilities.  We need stewards on our church board who will take care of the responsibility of decorating the church, visitor follow-up, preparing communion, and church meals.

We need leadership in our youth department; we need leadership in our children's department, Sunday school teachers and workers.

We need leaders who will guide us and direct us and organize us to come together and pray as a one congregation.  We need leaders who will help organize outreach events not just for children but also for adults.

Being a church takes money.  It takes money to maintain the facilities, it takes money to pay the pastors, and it takes money to pay the electric bill.  It all takes money but God has a plan for this, it's called the tithe.  If each member were faithful to pay their tithe (10% of their increase) to God; our church would have no financial problems at all.  The problem is here Eastridge, like most other churches, not everyone is faithful to do what God is asked them to do; and therefore the church struggles financially to meet the needs.

We need not worry about the gates of hell; they cannot stop the advance of God’s Kingdom, only our lack of obedience can stop us.  I believe we have some good days ahead here at Eastridge Church.  For this to be true we need everyone to join together and be the church God wants us to be.

·         Prayer request
I spoke with Kevin Williams this morning and his surgery went well yesterday.  The doctors did find cancer and they are running test to find out if it has spread beyond his lungs.

Beulah Peterson (Todd’s mother) had a heart attack yesterday morning.  She had a couple of stints put in while she has been staying at St. Joseph.  We want to remember both Kevin and Beulah in prayer.

·         Missionary
On February 16th in our evening service at 6 pm we will have Nazarene missionaries David and Rhoda Restrick from Mozambique sharing about their work in Africa.

·         Church Board Meeting
We will have our monthly Church board meeting at 4:30 pm in the Fellowship Hall

·         Video Projector
We hope to make a purchase of a new video projector soon.  Of course this requires some money above the normal operating expenses.  We have already had some who offered to give towards this need above their tithes.  If you would like to do so please mark your offering “projector” and we will make sure to apply to that expense.

·         Quotes of the week
“Gluttony is eating and drinking as if there will be nothing tomorrow, as if the Father will forget to feed us.  Gluttony is unbelief.”   – Peter Leithart

“Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue. God’s voice in response to mine is its most essential part.”                                                                      - Andrew Murray

"Learn the art of prayer, for fear dissolves in an atmosphere of prayer."
- E. Stanley Jones

“And first let us inquire, What is salvation?  The salvation which is here spoken of is not what is frequently understood by that word, the going to heaven, eternal happiness.  It is not the soul’s going to paradise, termed by our Lord, ‘Abraham’s bosom.’  It is not a blessing which lies on the other side death, or (as we usually speak) in the other world.  The very words of the text itself put this beyond all question. ‘Ye are saved.’  It is not something at a distance: it is a present thing, a blessing which, through the free mercy of God, ye are now in possession of.  Nay, the words may be rendered, and that with equal propriety, ‘Ye have been saved.’  So that the salvation which is here spoken of might be extended to the entire work of God, from the first dawning of grace in the soul till it is consummated in glory.”        
– John Wesley in his sermon “The Scripture Way of Salvation