Free Gift

"God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  For we are God's masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."  Ephesians 1:8-10

As we near the season of Advent and the celebration of our Savior and Lord coming to us, we see the season of Christmas already in the advertisements of local stores.  Halloween hasn't even come yet, and Thanksgiving is just another day on the calendar in terms of sales and what drives consumers to spend.  Although Halloween is second only to Christmas in terms of holiday retail sales, walk into any local store and you'll see trees all decorated up, new toys glistening, and all the other hot items in plain sight to get the attention of would be buyers.

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Foundations of Our Faith

I was recently listening to a sermon about the Sermon on the Mount, and specifically about the Beatitudes, and even more specifically about Mathew 5:9-12, "God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.  God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.  God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.  Be happy about it!  Be very glad!  For a great reward awaits you in heaven.  And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way."  I asked our youth group to read through the Sermon on the Mount last school year, Matthew 5-7, for a clear interpretation of what Jesus said about, quite frankly, a lot of things.  Things of life, like relationships with God and one another, and how we live as children of God are given in those chapters in His sermon.  It says that people were amazed by His teaching because He taught with real authority, quite unlike their teachers of religious law.

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We Are Family

We Are Family.  Isn't that what we would hope that anyone coming into this part of the Body of Christ would feel?  Realistically, we know it's not always the case, but this is what we should strive to become. When it's family it's personal, it's commitment, and it's forgiving in spite of our disagreements and differences.  Because when it's family we know that blood is thicker than water, as the old saying goes.  So let's all start or continue to be known as what we should be known, the family of believers and followers of the Way of Christ!

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Loving God and People with All!

"Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?" Jesus replied, "'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. 'This is the first and greatest commandment.   A second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments."  Matthew 22:36-40

This summer has so far been one where I've had the opportunity to see pre-teens and teenagers live this out.  At the "Great Escape", a middle school camp, I watched as hundreds of youth praised God in music, in games, in discussions, and in solitude.  As I've said the last few Sundays since our return, you should be very proud of the youth we have at this church.  Even when they were covering me in shaving cream and water and a substance called "yuck," I felt their love, their joy, and their peace in just being able to be kids and not worrying about anything.  I saw God shine through them and them love Him with all of themselves, and that is an awesome and humbling part of my ministry here at FPC, one that I am so thankful to have and experience.

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Let's Clarify

Clarification – making something clearer by explaining it in greater detail.  At the end of April and on the first Sunday of May I had the opportunity to share 3 messages on Matthew 6:19-34, a portion of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount where Jesus made things clearer for those who were hearing His message.  We looked specifically at money, or more clearly what we treasure.  Matthew 6:21, "Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be."  Our focus during those three Sundays was on where our treasure lies, and not just our money.  Our attitude toward money should reflect what our attitude is about everything really.  Does it control us or do we control it?  Are we working for the money or is the money working for us?

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A Time of Transition

May is the time when we normally begin to anticipate the arrival of so many things.· The grass is growing, flowers are blooming, vegetable gardens are being planted, and pools are being opened.· And of course this is the time when we celebrate with those who are graduating from high school and other schools.· So with this article I want to express encouragement and gratitude for knowing and being blessed by our two graduating seniors, Cierra Brown and Corey Goodwin.

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The Power of the Gospel

"For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ.  It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight.  This is accomplished from start to finish by faith.  As the Scriptures say, 'It is through faith that a righteous person has life.'"  Romans 1:16-17

Easter is a time when we celebrate and remember the life, sacrifice and resurrection of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.  For we know that it is the power that sustains us and gives us hope, a hope so strong that we can't help but share it.  I love how Ilumnia's Life Application Commentary explains the power and purpose of the Gospel.  It says, "Paul was not intimidated by the intellect of Greece nor the power of Rome.  Paul was not ashamed, because he knew from experience that the gospel had the power to save everyone who believes and then to transform their lives.  The Greek word for power (dunamis) is the source for our words dynamite and dynamic.  Dynamite was not invented by Nobel until 1867, so it is obvious that Paul did not have that specific picture in mind.  Instead, the inventor of the explosive took its name from the Greek, but the parallel is instructive.  The Good News, as the power of God, can be like spiritual dynamite.  Under certain circumstances it has a devastating, even destructive effect, demolishing world views and traditions—paving the way for new construction.  Placed inside a stone-hard heart that is resistant to God, it can shatter the barrier.  God's power in the gospel is not only explosive; it also overcomes evil."  "However, Paul also knew that there is a delicate balance between truth and grace: 'Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.'  Colossians 4:6" (taken from "My Journal" by Dr. Michael Youssef)

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