Christ

I Choose Life

By Ty Haguewood

The call to follow Jesus is not a small call. It is a call to abandon yourself and surrender completely. The real question is, “Why should I surrender?”

I mean seriously.

I want to give you a working definition of what surrender looks like for the Jesus follower. Are you ready?

Our call to surrender, or self-abandonment, is a call to leave the shackles of sin and death and finally be free to run to the Author of Life.

The call to follow Jesus is not the call to follow a list of rules and guidelines hoping that you somehow make it out with more good deeds than bad so you can get into heaven. No, it’s quite the opposite.

The call to follow Jesus is simple. It’s ultimately the call to choose life and we have help. Now, we must look at a few different things here.

A Right View of Jesus

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.”  Hebrews 1:1-4

We have not been called to follow a good leader, preacher, teacher, or humanitarian. We have been called to follow the Lord of All. We must have a right perspective of Jesus if we are going to rightly follow Him. Understanding that we follow the Author of Life, gives us more confidence in Him giving us Eternal Life.

Jesus is Lord. He inherited a seat at the right hand of God through sacrificing His life to give life to all those who would believe. Jesus calls us to abandon all things that have no eternal worth to surrender to the only thing that can offer eternal worth, namely Himself.

It is through His name that we inherit eternal life. It His through His name that we are saved. It His through His name that we experience freedom. There is no hope if there is no Jesus. He made a way when we had no way. He loved when we deserved condemnation. He laid down His life to bring us to Himself.

A Right View of Surrender

“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”  Titus 3:4-7

I want to focus on the words “regeneration” and “renewing.” These are two different things. We have regeneration which is that God creates new life when a person believes. They are no longer who they used to be, the old is gone but now the new is here. Believers are not improved versions of themselves but rather new creations all together. We see this in John 3 when Jesus says all must be born again to inherit eternal life. He creates us new.

The word renewal speaks of a continual operation of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life. The Jesus follower is created new and then empowered by the Holy Spirit who never leaves them. He sanctifies, convicts, guides, intercedes, and emboldens them.

We need to understand that our call to surrender is not a call to figure out our own way to God. It is not a call to live a perfect life nor is it a call to find your own righteousness. Our call to surrender is a call to allow the Spirit of God to move in our lives. There is never a moment in a believer’s life where God is uninvolved. He is with us. Jesus says it best in the great commission. “I WILL BE WITH YOU ALWAYS.”

The call to surrender sounds horrible if you see it as a lonely, empty path. The call to surrender only becomes sweet when the focus of the surrender turns to Jesus. You are not called to lay down your life in vain. It’s not something that only a few religious do. It’s for all those who understand that the call to follow Jesus is simply the call to choose life. It’s the call to choose the better option. It’s the call to be accepted, loved, and forgiven for eternity.

We must remind ourselves, when given the call to surrender, that Jesus is simply calling us to Himself.

Jesus is worth more than what I am called to surrender. I choose life.

Listen to the podcast.

Attention to Attire

By Karen Polich

How do we “bear with each other”? (Colossians 3:13) Are we cloaked in our old ways are wearing our new wardrobe? Pastor Cook’s message, Attention to Attire, from the Fragile Growth series, looked at how we interact with those around us. (Listen to the podcast here.)

A church family provides connection, comfort and passion. It can also bring irritation, frustration and unmet expectations. How we choose to deal with the others in our life sets us apart. This push and pull with people happens not only in a church family, but in all areas of our existence.

We’ve been given the gift of a new wardrobe. Through Christ we are given what we need to handle the challenges that come while experiencing life with others.

Colossians 3:11-16 has five characteristics of our new wardrobe.

Compassion. We should feel compassion for others. Do we have a mercy zone?

Kindness. This is the “doing”. Demonstrating our compassion with action shows kindness. What creative ways can we truly meet a need for someone else?

Humility. Jesus made himself nothing for us. Humility isn’t the absence of strength. It’s using our strength to help others.

Gentleness. Are we able to set ourselves aside and help others, demonstrating a gentle spirit?

Patience. This is the virtue of dealing with a difficult person over an extended period of time without writing them off or losing our cool.

We’ve all got choices. We can put on the new and seek to forgive when wronged, show patience for the difficult person and be kind. It may cost us something in return. We may have to let go of anger or disappointment. We may have to let go of ourselves and simply seek Him.

John 13:34-35 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Christ is all and is in all. When we dress in these five characteristics, bound in love, Christ is reflected.

 

The Coming of Christ

By Kristi Sullins

On that night so long ago the angels were charged with proclaiming the miracle of Christ’s birth. He had finally come, the Messiah sent for all mankind. It was the end of the wait, but for everything else, it was just the beginning.

Christ is the beginning of hope, bringing the possibility of a life more abundant than anything we can think. He is the promise of security in the middle of chaos, and strength to journey through any season of life.

He is the beginning of peace. For those who belong to Christ, we have been promised a peace that passes all understanding. That peace finds its beginning and ending with Jesus.

Christ is the beginning of joy for all those who believe. True joy is found in Him, and cannot be shaken by the things of this world. It is His joy that is our strength and our song. It is a joy that survives the changes and struggles of life because it is founded in the One who loves us.

He is the beginning of love, sent from the Father Himself. Love comes from God. His love for us is unwavering, indescribable and undeserved, and the proof of this love was first found in the manger.

The beginning of hope, peace, joy and love is life changing. For the followers of Christ in the Bible, it was compelling enough for them to change the way they worshiped and believed. They changed tradition, which caused many to be rejected by family and friends. Persecution was real for followers of Christ, but what He brought them was worth any struggle.

Christ and His love were too life changing to ignore.

We have that same new beginning. Christ offers us the same hope, peace, joy and love, based on who He is and not on what we deserve. The promises of Advent don’t have to be packed away with the rest of the Christmas decorations but are meant to encompass our current days. Those who are followers of Christ are called to face the future without fear, and the celebration of Advent is meant to remind us that there is no need to fear because the good news proclaimed by the angel in the book of Luke is still the same.

Are you looking towards the coming year with the anticipation of a fresh start and new beginnings or do you feel anchored in the past with its poor choices and scars?  No matter where you find yourself, it is important to remember that the news of the angel, on that holy night, was a message of good news for all people. Christ, our Messiah, has come to set us free, and to give us a hope and future, our new beginning.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men.

The Coming of Joy

By Kristi Sullins

Christmas is one of the most joyful times of the year. People decorate their homes with bright lights and beautiful trees. There is special time spent baking fun treats, and wrapping packages. School lets out, time is spent with family and new memories are made. It’s just easier to feel joy at Christmas.

On the night of Christ’s birth so long ago none of those things were there. The stable was not adorned with festive colors, or filled with beautiful trees. There were no special treat or gifts. Family was far away in Nazareth. What was there, on that silent night, was joy.

The shepherds, tending their flocks in the field that night, were not concerned about joy. That all changed when an angel came to proclaim the good news. The Messiah had come as promised. Luke 2:10 tells us that proclamation was one of great joy and for all people. The shepherds rushed to find the one God had sent to be the Savior of the world. After seeing Him in the manger they were so full of joy, they told all they saw what had happened.

The wise men, in a land far away, saw the star in the sky. This star matched the prophecies they had studied for so long. Their journey to follow the star was long. It kept them from family and friends. They dealt with a deceptive king, and still they searched. When they came to the home marked by the star they found joy. It was joy in the Messiah, the promised one who had finally come. Their joy led to worship because He who had been sought for so long was now with them.

Strangely, the heavens, themselves, declared the joy of God as the angels filled the sky in worship. Why would God rejoice? In His omniscience, He knew what Christ would face. God knew that the celebration of Christ’s birth would be brief. A mad ruler would hunt him, forcing the family to flee into Egypt. He would live a very modest life. His brothers and sisters would not believe in Him. The ministry time on earth would be full of struggle, opposition and doubters. He would have a close group of disciples, but even those men would deny, doubt and deceive. Ultimately, the one who lay in that manger would hang on a cross, choosing to die for all. Our human understanding would tell us that heaven should have mourned, but for God, the time to rejoice had come. It was time to rejoice because soon He would no longer be separated from His people because of their sin. Soon there would no longer be a need for the sacrifice of animals because His Son had come to be the ultimate sacrifice. Soon the high priest would no longer be needed to stand between man and God. The Great High Priest had come, and He would bridge the gap between God and Man.

Christ, the Lord, had chosen to willingly come so that all who believed would be saved. His advent brought great joy!

Thanks be to God that the reason for joy did not end on that night because the promise of advent did not end. Isaac Watts penned a powerful reminder of advent in 1719. He was a student of the Word, and was drawn to the promise given to all believers of the coming of the King. Joy to the World was published as a hymn, an anthem for the church to claim the promise of advent, but it was never meant to be a Christmas carol. Watts pulled his inspiration from Psalm 98, and the promise of the King that would return for His people. He was not proclaiming the birth of Christ, but the return of the Messiah. Watts was calling for all to prepare their hearts for the return of the one who had already been. He proclaimed Joy to all the World because our King is yet to come. Our advent is not over. We, who choose to believe, wait and watch like the wise men, full of joy and hope because the return of the Messiah has been promised. Our joy does not rest in a miracle of the past, but in the certain promise of our future. We wait with joy, watch with joy and prepare our hearts with joy for the King WILL come.

Joy to the world, the Lord IS come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room

What Child is This?

By Karen Polich

Everything hinges on the SAVIOR who has been given to us. – Michael M. Cook

 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:11-14

Why do we need a savior? What do we need to be saved from? Is it a life that hasn’t gone according to plan? Is it despair? Is a life that is “fine”, immune from the need? No. Christmas has one purpose and the Savior matters for one reason.

Jesus Christ, our Savior, was born for reconciliation to a Holy God. Christ reconciles our sin, returning us to God in full measure.

Christ, Messiah, Lord, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Anointed One

Pastor Michael Cook completed his Song and Savior sermon series by outlining three important parts of Christ’s identity. Listen to the podcast here.

  1. He is God’s King. He is the anointed one. Christ isn’t King of this world today, but He will be. Revelation 20
  2. He is the Great High Priest. Only one mediator can bridge the gap to God once and for all. Jesus. The only answer. He gives us final and glorious access to God. Jesus “ripped the veil” upon His ascension.
  3. He is the Great Prophet. All of God’s messengers were anointed by God. Jesus is the Lord (not the lord). Christ is divine and has the complete authority of Yahweh, the Great I Am.

There is no Christianity without trusting Jesus as Lord of your life. Believe in Him and find peace. Spiritual peace that surpasses understanding and the troubles of this world.

Our primary purpose as believers is to give glory to God. – Michael M. Cook

Christmas is about a child and you’ll know Him when you meet Him. The day you know Him is a glorious day!

What Child is this? Have you met Him? Do you know Him?

Song and Savior – Announcement

By Karen Polich

Pastor Michael Cook’s Song and Savior sermon message focused on the ultimate announcement. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11 Listen to the podcast here.

Luke 2:11 sums up the concept of Christmas. It is the high point of all redemptive history.

Christ is born. Everything else is secondary in the story.

Major stories are shared. People of influence are usually the first to know. Yet, who did God choose to share the story? Shepherds were God’s messengers of choice. Though not a shameful position, it was a lowly position in society. These were not the men of importance in the area.

Isn’t it just like God to go to the outcasts and make them central in the message of Christ’s birth?

Just as Jesus is the way to reconciliation with God, shepherds were the gate keeping sheep in or out of the corral at night. The symbolism of the shepherd’s role in protecting and tending the sheep shouldn’t be missed. Jesus’ proclaimed that He is the Good Shepherd.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:8-11

“An angel of the Lord appeared to them”… God had been silent for almost five hundred years.

What is significant about this appearance is the Glory of God shone around them. It had been hundreds of years since anyone experienced this.

God’s plan was not only in place, but was there for everyone to see. Can you see it this Christmas?

 

 

Song and Savior

By Karen Polich

God is intimately interested in you and every detail of your life.

Luke 2:1-10

Pastor Michael Cook took us into the Christmas story with a look at details. Listen to the podcast here.

There was so much going on in the lives of Mary and Joseph. Nothing was within the ordinary. Mary was expecting a baby and Joseph had made the choice to listen to God and not abandon her. They were on a 90-mile journey to Bethlehem.

Imagine the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus. What was so urgent about having to make this journey? It was time for the new Roman census. Joseph had to return to the place of his lineage. Mary traveled on the back of a burro for the long journey. Bethlehem was bustling with people. What a place and time to find yourself having a baby!

Where was God in all of this? He was there, in every detail, fulfilling the prophecy of the birth of the Savior. The lineage, the location and the manner of circumstances. Mary and Joseph were taken from everything they knew and God was in the midst of each moment.

God would continue to orchestrate things in His infinitely creative way even after Jesus was born, from taking Him to Egypt out of Herrod’s reach and then all the way to the cross.

How does the Christmas story relate to you and me? Besides the obvious of sending us a Savior, there is the understanding of the involvement of God in our lives. Despite anything we face, God is there. He is working in ways we cannot imagine.

He orchestrated events through Caesar Augustus related to the prophecy of Jesus’ birth. A Roman who was not focused on anything related to Jesus played a part in fulfilling God’s plan. God was there, making things happen. He does that for you and me. God isn’t just watching us live our lives; He is working in our lives.

God watches and works in the midst of your personal circumstances. – Michael Cook

As we enter into another Christmas season, stop and look around. God desires to be intimately involved in your circumstances. How is God working in your life right now?

 

 

 

 

 

Compassionate Community – Time for Compassion

By Karen Polich

Who are you looking out for?

Pastor Michael Cook completed his sermon series, Compassionate Community, with five reminders. (Listen here.) Galatians 6:1-10

For most of us, we can’t easily take on much more. Margin? We just don’t have it in our busy lives. Compassion compels us to make room. When we lift the burdens of someone else’s life, we take that weight onto our shoulders. Are we willing to take on a little more and “carry each other’s burdens”?

Everybody should be looking out for somebody.

Five Compassion Reminders

  1. Centrality True compassion comes from a way of life. It is foundational to the Christian faith and can’t just happen on the fringe. Mark 10:45
  2. Priority Compassion can’t come from leftovers in life. We have to make it a priority as we meet the challenges of our day. We should set our standard of living after we set our standard of giving. 1 Timothy 6:18
  3. Family We give special people in our lives special priority. A compassionate community lets the world know how important it is to care for others, no matter who they are. Galatians 6:10
  4. Opportunity Our abilities intersect with the needs of others. We see it and step in to help. We should pray that God would make us specialists in identifying the burdens of others. Galatians 6:10
  5. Longevity We rarely reap the harvest in the season of sowing. We need to be in it for the long haul, adopting a lifestyle of compassion. Sometimes it can get hard, but consistency matters. What if the benefit comes more to us than the person we are helping? Galatians 6:9

Along the road of compassion will come heartache. Those we help may bring pain. It isn’t about us. It’s about extending ourselves for others. There will also be those who bring joy as we watch them heal. God calls us to a life of compassion.

It’s time for compassion! Who are you looking out for?

Compassionate Community – Compassion “In Tandem”

By Karen Polich

When transformational teaching and humble servanthood collide, fusing together in tandem, the magnetic overflow is compassion.

Pastor Michael Cook continued his Compassionate Community sermon series, teaching from Acts with a look into the early church. Listen to the podcast here. We find believers about fifty days post Jesus’ death.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Acts 2:46

Why was it important that they heard God’s teachings daily? We have the gift of digging into our bibles, but they learned straight from the disciples who had lived with Jesus for the previous 3 years. New Testament text was yet to be written. The Jesus way was being taught daily by the disciples.

Along with daily teaching, they were living lives of humble servanthood. (Read “Why” Compassion) Transitional teaching and humble servanthood result in compassion. It is the fruit of a life focused on Jesus’ commands.

Solid biblical teaching and people helping people…

Things were going well and the church was growing. Then complaining and divisiveness started. (Why can’t we all just get along?)

Acts 6:1-7 tells us, In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

Pastor Michael Cook broke it down into four parts that demonstrate transitional teaching and humble servanthood in tandem.

  1. The Crisis. Everything was going well and as it does, the whitewater moments hit.
  2. The Proposal. The Disciples knew they couldn’t do it all. They remained focused on teaching and chose seven men to oversee the needs related to the conflict. Neither teaching nor servanthood should be neglected. It takes many (THE BODY…)
  3. The Response. Everyone was pleased with the proposal. (FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT). The chosen men were full of the Spirit and full of wisdom.
  4. The Result. The Word continued to spread and the number of disciples grew. Compassion that stems from transitional teaching and humble servanthood moves lives in a mighty way.

Soaked in the Word over and over, God whispers into our hearts and lives are changed. More than a “church” experience, it becomes a way of living, a result of transformation teaching. Add to this a servant’s heart and compassion flows.

Who are you looking out for?

 

Why Evangelism Matters

By Karen Polich

Evangelism is the fabric of followers of Christ.                    – Kevin Linthicum

The idea of evangelism causes most of us to stop dead in our tracks. Me, share the Gospel? The thought can paralyze us and drive terror through our minds, but it shouldn’t. The enemy would have us remain silent. He smiles as we sit in silence. Breaking our silence means communicating the life changing power of Christ.

On Sunday, Pastor Kevin Linthicum shared 12 Reasons to Share the Gospel. Listen to the podcast here.
1. Jesus commanded it. “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:15. Enough said, but here’s more.
2. The Apostles commanded it. (2 Timothy 4:2-5) Keep your head in all situations.
3. Many people will be encouraged because of the truth of God’s Word.
4. It creates opportunity to work with and for God. (Luke 10:2) Not only are we called into the fields, but there is nowhere we can go outside of the fields. We should be seeking to do what God is asking of us.
5. It precedes baptism and salvation. (Mark 16:16)
6. It proves our love for Jesus Christ. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. John 15:12-14.
7. Evangelism opens the door for healing to take place. (Luke 10:9)
8. It is the gateway of repentance and remission of sins. (Luke 24:47) God IS the authority, not majority opinion.
9. It brings understanding of scripture to humanity. (Acts 8:30) Our evangelism efforts may bring new understanding to someone’s life.
10. It causes the Holy Spirit to move. (Acts 10:44)
11. It is the fruit of righteousness. (Proverbs 11:30) It should break our hearts when someone we care about doesn’t know Christ.
12. Evangelism unites nations, races and cultures by reconciling humanity to God through Christ. There are NO boundaries.

What do we need to share the Gospel? We need obedience. That’s it! Everything else God will give us. He will give opportunities, words and His presence. We are called to reach out.

Jesus has commanded us to be a light in this dark world. How can we choose to be anything less?

Learn more about Time for One here.