Guardians of the Galaxy

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By Dan Amos

Women’s retreat weekend found me home alone, with some free time on my hands. Sure, there were things I could be doing, many of them actually productive. But instead I burrowed into the couch and watched Guardians of the Galaxy (trailer). Again. For the third time.

I felt some guilt over it, so I started thinking of a way to justify the experience. I’ll share it with you.

I first watched the movie on an airplane, and I didn’t quite catch everything, so right there I was justified in watching it again. And Guardians is based off of a graphic novel series with lots of detail compressed into two hours. It takes more than one viewing to catch everything. It probably takes two or three additional viewings …

So, here’s the lesson I came up with while musing on the subject. Each time I have watched this movie, I have seen new things in it. Parts of the plot make more sense as I understand the characters better and what motivates them. The music is really catchy, and I start to remember the songs.

This reminded me that I should be reading the Bible the same way. There’s a whole universe of God revealed in the Bible, and it takes more than one reading to understand it. The more I read it, the better I understand the character of God. The events of this life make more sense in the context of what the Bible says. The words are so powerful, they should be committed to memory.

It’s okay to watch Guardians of the Galaxy. I just need to spend more time with the Creator of the Universe!

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Sharing Who We Have Become, Because of God’s Love for Us

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By Jim DeAngelo

I had the opportunity a few days ago to share Jesus, but it was a bit different. An acquaintance talked to me about how they had difficulty with their neighbor and wished a large wooden screen could be erected to block their view of the neighbor whose front yard joined theirs. As I knew that both proclaimed their relationship with Jesus, I asked the person, “How this could be?” They both professed Jesus, and they were joined in that relationship. Jesus states in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (ESV). This person shared how they didn’t know why it was so, and they gave a few examples that demonstrated the other person’s anger with them. They appreciated the discussion and recognized it wasn’t how they were to live, that they needed to address the unforgiveness.

The conversation continued for more than an hour on additional subjects that focused on Scripture and our personal walk and beliefs. The most pronounced of these was on the authenticity of Scripture. They felt that the Bible was written by men and subject to interpretation through culture, the culture during the time the Scriptures were written and the different culture of now. They felt that this filtering was the best approach to understanding God and defining how we are to live our lives.

I admit this was challenging. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (NKJV). If a person believed the Bible was stories written by man instead of God breathed, then the culture defined our walk instead of God. A decision to filter Scripture based on a cultural view results in the ability to justify any position a person wants to take and to indulge in any sin or practice we feel is culturally okay instead of what is presented in God’s Word. This decision removes the safeguards that God has lovingly given us for our own good and protection.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship does righteousness have with lawlessness? And what partnership does light have with darkness? And what agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does a temple of God have with idols? For you are the temple of the living God, as God has said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore come out from among them and be separated, says the Lord, and do not touch the unclean thing. And I will receive you and I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (NKJV)

Martin preached on this subject July 20, 2014, in his sermon titled, “The Bible: Is the Bible Historically Reliable?” You can hear that onlne here.

This is where I was given the opportunity to lovingly share my position and to encourage the other person to see our relationship with God through the love of Christ and each other. I shared with this person that God gave us His word to direct our lives and that it is authentic, and that I was discussing this to share my love for Jesus and how He had changed my heart and my life to be different from whom I had been and whom the culture would define me as. This is the testimony, that love does define who we are. To share means we share out of our love instead of our rightness.

I know that we will have opportunities to share and discuss the living God and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I look forward to sharing whom I have become because of God’s love for me.

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Independence Day Thoughts

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By Dan Amos

The Elder Board is taking time at each meeting to study the Statement of Faith, and this month we looked at Article Two, The Bible. This discussion, current events, and the Independence Day holiday led me to think about one of my heroes. John Adams has been a favorite of mine ever since I saw the movie 1776 for the first time. I love Adams’s passion for liberty, his persuasive arguments, and his absolute belief that God did create us all equally. He described himself as “obnoxious and disliked,” but that did not dissuade him from leading the charge to independence and a constitutional republic.

John Adams’s thoughts on government were instrumental in drafting state constitutions and influential in forming the US Constitution. The latter document has served us well for more than 220 years, but is now, more than ever in my lifetime, under constant attack, especially regarding the First, Second, and Fourth Amendments.

I write this not to start a political debate but to note that we have always had documents that guide us in life. As those documents put bounds on acceptable behavior, they come under attack and revision. Often they lose their authority and effectiveness when they are revised.

Of primary concern to us as Christians is the primacy and authority of the Bible. Article Two of the Statement of Faith declares:

We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.

In sin we rebel against God and reject His Word, but in submission to Him we accept the Bible in its entirety. There have always been and will always be throughout this age those who will try to change the Bible. Even though many of the men who worked on the Constitution were Christians and therefore filled with the Holy Spirit, this doesn’t make the Constitution divinely inspired. The Bible, though, is divinely inspired. It has an unparalleled pedigree which one would expect the Almighty Creator to use to communicate His plan for the redemption of His people to Him. Men may make changes, but they have no authority and no power for salvation. Only His Word remains true.

As we celebrate our independence and the blessings of being an American, my hope is not in our nation. The nation will pass away, but the promises of God and His kingdom are eternal.

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The Bible’s Imperfect Women (and Men) of Faith!

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By Larry Short

Stan spoke compellingly last weekend about the faith of Abraham, which, while very imperfect, was reckoned unto him as righteousness. Abraham’s faith changed the world, and established him as “the father of our faith.”

But what about his wife, Sarah? She too is also cited in Hebrews 11 and could therefore be considered “the mother of our faith.” During the teaching time on this Mother’s Day weekend we will dig into her story, as well as those of other women of imperfect faith in the Bible. Whether they were leading a dysfunctional family (like yours and mine!), or otherwise seeking to live out their calling from God, they too changed the world!

I think Scripture holds a different view of faith than we often do (in our lack of it). We seem to think faith will be easy and automatic if only we had “more proof.” But the truth is that faith is never easy and automatic, no matter how much proof is at hand. Jesus taught that faith grows slowly and inexorably, like a mustard seed, only when it is invested, or planted. We may not “feel” like believing, but we all should know already that our feelings are not the ultimate judge of reality. (When did you last “feel” like going to the dentist … even though you know it’s good for you?) When true faith is called for, we must take a risk, stake a claim on it, as Sarah and Abraham did.

The good news is, our faith will then grow! Jesus said: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). Unfortunately it doesn’t work the other way around.

People “of imperfect faith” in the Scripture show us that the secret of finding God (and changing the world) lies in the earnestness and honesty of the seeking. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 4:29).

We will end the teaching time on Sunday with an opportunity to share how the women who have impacted our lives through their imperfect faith have changed the world … including my own mother, the most significant influence in my early life, who has been walking with Jesus for the past 13 years!

I’m really looking forward to our time on Mother’s Day, and hope you all are as well. See you then!

(PS: If I’ve whetted your appetite for more on this topic, please see my blog: Hearing the voice of God.)

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Searching for heroes

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by Jeff Foerster

What are you searching for these days? Some seek the meaning of life, while others hunt for a lost set of keys. Internet searches, job searches, searching for a missing person, a mate, or lost hikers. Others search for fulfillment, happiness, peace, even a quiet place. Many search for the perfect gift, Waldo, Bigfoot, or proof of UFOs.

I recently finished a reading of the book of Genesis. While my eyes danced over the words, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, I searched for a noteworthy character, one I could maybe even call a hero. I read through creation and the fall of man in Adam and Eve and decided to move on. They had kids, and murder was invented. No lingering there.

Fast forward to Noah. Now there’s a cat with some guts, building a dry-docked wooden super-tanker by faith that God would send “rain,” whatever that was, to flood the earth. But even Noah, a great man of faith, is recorded as getting so drunk he passed out naked (Genesis 9). Man, why did that have to be in there?

Then came the tower of Babel and Sodom and Gomorrah.

Moving on I found Abraham. I know that Abraham is lauded a man of faith, yet I’ve had some trouble with the fact he made a concubine of his wife’s maid Hagar. How about Isaac and Rebekah, or Jacob, or Joseph. I searched but could not find someone with the clean record I sought.

Now, you may be shouting “Jesus!” at your screen right now, and I agree. He is the only one unblemished by sin and bad decisions. This leads me to where I find encouragement: in the perpetual sin of man. Well, almost. You see, I am in good company with these folks; I sin. If the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth works in, amongst and through these then maybe He has something stored up for me, another sinner, even yet. That is a very encouraging thought, indeed, and something well worth finding.

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