Thursday, January 29, 2015

Living in awe

Hey Friends and Family of TCC,

Our “Engage” series comes out of a time of seeking God about His direction for our church. Ultimately, what we’ve heard is that He wants our church to be about His business. He isn’t necessarily calling us to be busy as much as He is calling us to be purposefully engaged. The past two weeks we’ve learned God’s plan for His church. We are all a necessary part of the organism called church. Notice that I said, “organism.”

A church is a living organism made up of members who are alive in Christ. As a person comes to know Jesus, He makes them fully alive. I remember my friend Scott Owens started a church a few years ago in San Francisco called Fully Alive after that truth.

Folks, I wish we could all come to the place of faith where we realize this truth. Knowing Jesus has made us new, set us free, and called us to serve Him is the most liberating knowledge we can have. The past two weeks we’ve been encouraged to Engage in Community and to Engage in Calling. These messages are critical for us to realize our full potential in Christ. If you missed them please watch them soon.

The huge distinction I want to make is this: God is not giving us life and unity and community and meaning just so that we can be self-actualized. No. Instead, He’s calling us to a place where we realize our blessings in Christ were given to us so that we could be empowered even more to shine for Him.

On Sunday, we’ll be talking about how to “Engage Culture.” When we come to church each week and hear from God, the experience is not just for us and our growth. What happens is that as God works in us, we are so inspired and live with such awe that everywhere we go we want to influence others to know Jesus and show His love to our world.

Engaging with you,

Saturday Prayer Focus: Penn Valley Community Church. On September 13, 2014, the church was engulfed in flames and completely lost. We want to continue to pray for Pastor David Hagey and the church as they look to rebuild and move into the future fully equipped for God’s calling on them. Let’s pray that there will be unity and willingness as they pursue the next steps in their journey.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Praying for transformation

Hey Friends and Family of TCC,

Last summer our pastoral team spent some time together praying, listening to God and talking about our church and our responsibility to lead our church to fulfill its mission to lead as many people as possible into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. At the end of that time away, we sensed God giving us a clear direction – to encourage His people to engage in their individual piece of what God is doing in us and to engage corporately in what God is doing through our church.

Folks, you’ve heard me say again and again over the years that Jesus Christ and His church are the hope of the world. If we truly believe that, then, honestly, it really should be observable in our actions. One action of engagement that surprises me – and it’s not just Twin Cities – is how many people attend church so irregularly. In fact, the latest study shows that twice, and in some cases once a month, is considered “regular” by many who claim to be followers of Jesus.

I just don’t think that is enough. On Wednesday evening, Kim and I were able to share with a group of young families how we kept Christ at the center of our home. Next to our personal devotion, church involvement was a strong component of our vision for our family and how to raise them to know Jesus. As you know, we even go to church while on vacation. I wanted them to see that we didn’t just attend church because we had to, (our jobs), but we attend church because we want to.

Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” Church involvement will help you grow in faith, trust, peace, joy, humility and a host of other attributes the Bible says are to be evident in those who know Jesus. On Sunday, we’ll look at the life of engagement God offers those who are “called” by Him. I can’t begin to tell you how relevant and integral the words of Paul will be to our transformation.

Engaging with you,

Saturday Prayer Focus: Courage Worldwide and the premier screening of the documentary, “In Plain Sight,” is at TCC on January 29. We recently learned that the first two girls to go through their program are transitioning out of the Rocklin Courage House into permanent Courage Homes. We’ve been asked to pray for that transition and for the selection of the two new girls who will be able to be accepted at Courage House.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I am so proud of our church!

Hey Friends and Family of TCC,

I’ve been engaged in praying for you this week, and it’s been so inspiring. As I told you on Sunday, I am so proud of our church. When I wrote a letter that will be included in our annual giving and contribution statements, I was moved to tears in my gratitude for your faith and trust in God that shows itself in your generosity and love for people. I mentioned to the 10:45 service on Sunday that you might read each line of the section of the letter listing the numbers of people we helped or assisted in 2014. Will you do that? You’ll discover that our church is making a huge impact. Each number represents a life and possibly even a home that our church touched with the love of Jesus last year.

On Sunday, I presented our 2015 Church Prayer modeled for us by the Apostle Paul and recorded in Ephesians 1. Hopefully you can watch the service soon if you weren’t able to be there. I received some amazing feedback, and I’m already seeing spiritual fruit as I’ve prayed each day this week. I can’t wait for Saturday when I get to pray for the Christ-based Ministry Partner of the week. Look at the end of this email for this week’s Saturday prayer focus.

I was so bummed on Sunday when I realized that I had forgotten to mention two ways you can jump-start your prayer engagement. First, the Prayer Garden is now officially completed. You can stop by and pray anytime day or night. You can even reserve it for your group if you want to pray with others. Where is the Prayer Garden? It’s outside off the southwest corner of our building (think Children’s wing) next to the parking lot. Stop by and spend a few moments of silence with God. Second, the Prayer Trail signs have been changed to reflect our 2015 Prayer. You can come and walk around our building any time you want and be inspired to pray.

This week we’ll be focusing on Engaging Together in Community. Our Groups Team has done a superb job this winter of giving us even more groups with even more studies to help you engage in your spiritual growth. I hope you’ll be here on Sunday to hear how engagement in a group can stimulate your spiritual growth and development.

Engaged with you,

Saturday Prayer Focus: LivingWell Medical Clinic and their Sanctity of Life emphasis. WE can celebrate that 143 women chose to sustain their pregnancies in 2014 after counseling with LivingWell. Let’s pray that God uses this community ministry partner in even greater ways in 2015.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

What I have discovered about change...

Hey Friends and Family of TCC,

I have another confession to make that may surprise you – sometimes I wonder why you follow me. At times, I struggle in my devotion to God’s plan for my transformation. And I know why. I struggle in my transformation because I struggle in my commitment to God’s plan. I was thinking about this today in my newly cleaned up office. What will it take to keep my office clean and clutter free for an entire year? Daily cleaning. And that, my friends, is my struggle.

When I began 2014, I had great ideas and hopes for how this was going to be the year I finally attained what I desire – anxiety free living. As I ended 2014, I realized that even though I had made progress, I was still fighting anxiety and the depression that anxiety creates in me. Last January, I was privileged to be part of a spiritual formation group that met for an entire week. After that, I followed up with weekly and bi-weekly spiritual coaching sessions. I am so glad I did. But what I realize is that I was relying on these sessions to be all that I needed to really change.

That’s true for every one of us. If we’re going to change, we must engage in certain disciplines that will help us be the kind of person tomorrow that we’re not today because there is no magic wand. There is no secret short-cut. It’s about engagement. So, this year, I’m committing to more than just good intentions concerning God’s plan. I am committing to engagement in God’s plan. You’ll hear more about this in the weeks to come.

For now, let me say that the number one method for spiritual formation is – get ready, drum roll, please – Bible engagement. Engaging in the Bible and listening for God to speak is more than just attending church once a week and hearing a pastor talk about the Bible. Bible engagement is when we read it, listen for God to speak, and then write out a prayer or thought. And it’s helpful to do this daily.

Last week we introduced our daily Bible reading plan. In today’s world of devices and apps, many people want a plan that can be delivered to their device. If that’s you, let me recommend my favorite Bible app and site. It’s called YouVersion. You can click here and follow the link to the page for yearly reading plans. Pick one – the one that matches our plan is called “Life Journal Reading Plan.” I look forward to hearing your stories of how God is using your engagement in His Word to transform you.

On Sunday, I’ll be introducing our 2015 Church Prayer. Please be in church to hear how to apply this prayer we’ll be engaging in together for the entire year. I’d still love to hear how the 2014 prayer impacted you. Please email me and let me know, or post a comment below.

Looking forward to a year of engagement,

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Getting ready to move forward into a new year!

Hey Friends and Family of TCC,

I have a confession to make. I am a hoarder. So, this week I did something way out of my comfort zone. I convinced Kim to come with me to the church office for a purge and organize session that was WAY overdue. As difficult as it was to part with 9 ½ years of valuable stuff, I’m now sitting in a super clean office and ready to move forward into a new year without the clutter from the past.

I say that for this reason. I want to encourage you to end 2014 with some purging and organizing. Will you spend some time asking God what He’d like you to leave behind as you step forward into a new year? I’d like to ask you to spend some time looking at your schedule, finances, health, work and relationships and ask God to help you clarify what is most important.

On Sunday, January 4, we’ll begin a new series designed to help all of us to engage in God’s plan for our transformation. It’s my hope that we can launch the year with renewed vision and passion for what God wants to do in us and through us. It’s my prayer that He will use us as His vessels to unleash His love, compassion and gospel message in our community and world.

Bible engagement is number one in the latest studies of what helps people grow in their faith. I want to encourage you to begin the year with a plan for engaging with your Bible. If you want to follow our church’s reading plan, you can get it here. Make sure to do more than read.  Process and pray over what you sense God saying to you. Engagement with the Bible includes letting the words you read go from your mind to your heart.

In a few weeks, we’re going to share the 2015 Church Prayer. If you prayed the 2014 Church Prayer consistently, will you drop me an email and let me know how this practice helped you grow closer to God? I’d love to hear from you.

Looking forward to a year of engagement,

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Christmas Devotional for Mary’s Song

Instead of our normal email blast, this week we wanted to provide a special devotional tool as we contemplate the birth of Jesus. We encourage you to sit down and reflect on Mary’s song.

READ: Romans 8:19-23
The world God made is filled with wonder and blessings and joy, but because of sin, it is also cursed with tragedy and heartbreaking sadness. The world has been turned upside down by sin. Nothing is what it was intended to be.

READ: Isaiah 9:6-7
The prophets pointed to a Messiah who would come to deliver God’s people and give hope to the world. Mary knew God’s loving promises and was waiting expectantly for Him to fulfill them.

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.
Hymn by Charles Wesley, 1745

READ: Luke 1:26-35
God chose Mary to bless all of us by bringing the Messiah into the world. Imagine the severity of Mary’s predicament. At best, she would be ostracized for the rest of her life. At worst, the law allowed for her to be stoned. She knew her life would never be the same. Her part in God’s plan would be personally painful and yet reflect on Mary’s response.

READ: Luke 1:46-55

How do you think Mary had developed the faith and trust that allowed her to respond to the angel this way?

READ: John 1:1-4,14
Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King!

The Messiah coming as a baby was the beginning of many surprises for God’s people. In fact, Jesus’ earthly ministry disappointed many. The Jewish leaders expected their Messiah to praise them, but Jesus condemned their hypocrisy. Jesus’ followers often didn’t understand what He was saying. They expected Him to free them from Roman oppression, but Jesus had a different mission. Instead of turning the entire world right side up, He came to turn individual hearts right side up.

Sometimes God works in ways we would not expect in order to accomplish His redemptive plan. How has God worked in surprising ways in your life this year? How can we prepare for the future surprises He has in store?

As Mary contemplates being the mother of “God her Savior” and all that will mean for her personally, her people, and the world, her love and trust in God’s plan is unwavering. She was going to be a part of God’s redemptive plan!

Think about God’s redemption in your own life. What would your life be like without it? Consider a prayer of gratitude for our Savior who came into the world to save us.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I wish you could have been here yesterday...

Hey Friends and Family of TCC,

I was deeply moved by your generosity AGAIN concerning stockings for At-Risk Students. I hate to say this because 2nd service folks will feel left out, but 1st service folks ended up filling 72 stockings. I wish you could have been here at church yesterday as 60 high school age kids received those stockings, a home cooked meal, played games and best of all – laughed. From what we have heard, this might be the only “normal” Christmas event these kids will experience. Many won’t even receive presents. So, our gift was a tangible way of showing them that someone cares. Twin Cities Cares, and as we do, they can begin to grasp the fact that God does, too.

Here’s another really cool thing. Because you gave extra stockings we are able to do a similar Christmas party for 25 students who are part of a new continuing education program for kids 18–25 who, by their own choice, want to get the diploma or vocational training that would allow them to become positive contributors in society as productive citizens. This is a new ministry we’ve just become involved with over at John Muir Charter School. We are currently providing lunch there three days per week. I’d love to see more of you get involved.

Today’s Union newspaper had an editorial about Courage Worldwide, and our partnership with them. What great exposure we’ve been able to garner for this awesome new ministry partner. Courage Worldwide is doing their best to educate us concerning the sexual exploitation of young girls worldwide. Their goal is to build Courage Houses where girls can find a place of healing and restoration as they leave the trap of the sex business. Our next event with Courage Worldwide is a screening of a documentary on January 29 here at Twin Cities. We’re inviting anyone in our community who wants to be involved to come and get informed.

Why is there such a spiritual surge happening in the people of our church? What’s different around here? I believe it can be attributed to the prayers of a few who felt God call them to help raise the banner of prayer in our midst. If you’d like to engage in prayer with these folks, come early on any Sunday at 8:00am and pray with them. They meet in room 136.

This week we’re going to hear the words of another of the Songs of Christmas. We’ll be looking at Mary’s Song of Trust. If you missed last Sunday, please watch or listen before you come. It will inspire you for this Christmas season.

Loving you more than I can express,