How have you been uniquely gifted by God, and in which direction is He leading you? What does God's calling have to do with the future direction of our church? Healthy things grow; in what ways is God leading us to grow at Bridge in the coming years?
Our Second Core Value has to do with the way that "we" love each other. I have never served on a church staff in which the church was smaller than 2,000 people before coming to Bridge. While I believe that there is something special about the smaller congregation, that is not what I love most about Bridge. What has been the greatest encouragement to me, and my wife Sandra, has been the way that people love each other. If you have not yet experienced it, then get to know more Bridgers - as they are a serving and loving group of people!
For the past couple of years, Bridge has celebrated the first Sunday in October as International Sunday. What does that mean? This Sunday is a reminder that the world is a big place, and that God has given us a mission. What does that mission look like, who are we to reach, and what does the "reach" look like on a daily basis? Join us this Sunday at 5PM as we come together to be reminded of our mission and purpose in this great big world.
What does it mean to "Love Everyone Else?" When we consider our Bridge Core Values, we simply take the two greatest commands and break them down. The first command is the same: to Love God with every part of our lives. However, when it comes to loving others, as we love ourselves, we break down who the others refers to. The Bible is very clear about the way you and I are to love other believers: those within our own church (each other), and those in the larger church (around the world). However, Jesus has a great deal to say about loving those outside of the church, the "everyone else." He modeled this love, and on numerous occasions was accused of being a "friend of sinners." Are we guilty of the same title? Do we have friends who we love and spend time with who do not share the same beliefs?
The early church shared meals together, they shared what they had for the common good, and if anyone had a need they helped meet the need as a group. They devoted time to the Apostle's teaching of Jesus (what later became the New Testament), they prayed and worshiped together, and stayed connected on a daily basis. They experienced miracles, they loved each other and the Lord together, and as a result, the Lord continued to grow the group. How does this picture of the early church (Acts 2:42-47), differ from the American church that we know today? In what areas do we need to grow if this is the model of church?
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"This is a football", the statement that Vince Lombardi coined, was what he said whenever he was handed a new NFL team to coach. His coaching style was to simply drill the basics of blocking and tackling, passing and receiving. His philosophy was simple: if a team executed the basics well, then they won a lot of games. His record was proof in his understanding of the game.
When asked about the basics of the faith, Jesus responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind." While we have spent the summer considering the brokenness of mankind and faithfulness of God, it is always a good thing to return to the basics.
"Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." - John 16:7 Jesus promised that after His resurrection, He would send the Holy Spirit to be present with us always, to guide us into all truth, and to empower us to serve. How are you and I doing when it comes to inviting the Spirit of God to direct our paths, and to give us what we need to serve and bless others? Many churches rarely speak of the Spirit of God, while others might take too great an interest in "feeling or experiencing" the Spirit. What a shame to misunderstand His role and presence all together.
This past Sunday we considered what an unlikely selection Saul would have been after arresting, and murdering, followers of Jesus. But God made such a profound selection. Reading from letters in the New Testament that chronicle his life, they demonstrate his relentless commitment, and love, for Jesus. In fact, in his thinking he even said, "To live is Christ, but to die would be gain." In other words, his life was all about following the One who had knocked him off of his high horse, and he viewed death as an opportunity to spend even more time with Jesus.
How do we view Jesus? What does our time and week say about who He is in our lives?
If you were trying to select the best of the 12 disciples to send on a mission to reach the Gentiles, who would be your pick? You can obviously rule out Judas. And you may want to rule out the other disciple named Judas just to avoid confusion. Thomas is known for doubting, so now you have it down to 9. Can you remember the names of any besides Peter, Andrew, James, and John? So to make it easy, go with one of the most memorable. Man's logic is often so far from God's logic. Earthly perspective is far from Kingdom perspective. God's ways are not our ways, and His timing is not our timing. The Lord would answer, "none of the above."
God's logic made a unique selection. He choose the murderer of Stephen, the man who was the first martyr. God's choice was Saul of Tarsus. He was feared by Jesus' followers, and anything but a logical choice. It is the equivalent to admitting that the USA is divided, and asking the question, "what human could lead us into a positive change?" When we all finish making our guesses, God responds, "No, I will use Kim Jong-un, the current leader of North Korea." That is perhaps the reaction of the early church to God's choice. How could you reach such a hard heart? God chose to knock him off of his high horse, strike him blind, and accuse him of wrong doing. God's choice had unbelievable results, not to mention the fact that it sends another power message. That being said, if God can extend grace to a man like Saul when he humbles himself, who is beyond His reach? And the answer is: no one.
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Imagine your boss asks you to sleep with their spouse. In fact, they tell you to do so. Does that sound odd to you? What is even more disturbing is the fact that they believe that they are making this request in an attempt to "help God." God had promised Abraham would have children, and he was not getting any younger, nor was Sarah. They decided to take matters into their own hands by attempting to have children through their servant. We have no record that Hagar resisted, and Abraham does not put up any sort of argument to his wife's idea. Sarah's plan works, and yet she clearly had not thought it through. Before you know it, Hagar resents Sarah. Sarah asks her husband if she might mistreat Hagar, (once again, Abe does not put up an resistance), and before long, Sarah's mistreatment leads to a runaway servant. What a mess. But God...
But God intervenes. God shows up by sending his angel to comfort her, and to encourage her. He then sends her back to be part of this dysfunctional family, and Hagar decides to obey God, and return to a home in which her master Sarah despises and mistreats her, and where Abraham will not stand up for her. Yet God promises Hagar to make her into a great nation through the son that she was about to give birth to. What can we learn from this unique account from Genesis, and from Hagar?
It is interesting to note that the man referred to as "the disciple who Jesus loved" was also once nicknamed one of the "sons of thunder”, along with his brother James. Fisherman by trade, he and his brother were called to follow Jesus early in His ministry, along with their fishing partners Peter and Andrew. John was known for love. He wrote more about love than anyone else in the New Testament, and is credited as the person who wrote the second largest amount of the New Testament (second to Paul). He wrote the gospel of John, 3 letters, and the book of Revelation. He was also the disciple to outlive all the rest. Is John known most for his love? What do you think others in your live would say that you are known for?
No one wants to be rejected. In fact, everyone wants to be loved. The far reaching impact of parents or siblings who reject a child can be catastrophic through someone's entire life. I am not sure what kind of family life you had growing up, but Joseph's life was far from easy. Favored by his father and the Lord, yet he dealt constantly with sibling rivalry, which led to his eventual road into human trafficking. Sold as a slave, falsely accused, time in prison, the list of trials continued...
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Imagine being given an ultimatum: "Do this, or you will die." This was the situation for Daniel, regarding his daily prayer life. This was also the situation with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, regarding idol worship. In addition, Daniel exercised his integrity when it came to standing up to the powers that be, regarding the diet that he felt God wanted him to adhere to. These four men were willing to put their lives on the line, rather than disobey God.
Are there... any values that you feel so strongly from God that you are willing to lay your life down if need be? How seriously do we take the top two commands of loving God completely, and loving our neighbors the way that we love ourselves? Jesus said that those were the most important commands of the entire bible (more than dietary laws). Consider the life God is calling you to live, and the price you are willing to pay, to step into that purpose and God given identity.
Top reasons for divorce in our culture today: Unfaithfulness, Money, Communication (bad or lack of), Lack of Intimacy, Weight Gain, Abuse, Loss of a Child, the list goes on... Imagine you had a failed marriage, and then another failed marriage, and again... At what point would you call it quits and say, "Marriage is not for me!"
The woman in this week's primary passage, does not have one failed marriage, or even just two or three, rather, she has five. Five failed marriages, can you even imagine? Who would have the energy? Perhaps this is the reason she is on the 6th man, and has chosen to live with him, rather than tie the knot. What sort of shame, and blame, might people have for a person such as this? How would you view them, and would you be tempted to judge them?
I love the fact that Jesus is well aware of the woman's situation and background, and yet He engages her. He does not bring up her past to shame her or drive her away. In fact, He offers her living water. She is not even from the same Jewish culture that Jesus is from. How do we handle relationships like this one?
What sort of trials have you faced in your life? When you consider the answer to that question, have the difficulties that you have endured drawn you closer to God, or pushed you further away? There is no person I can imagine, in the bible, who is more well known for facing suffering than Job. He did nothing to cause his suffering, but he trusted God despite overwhelming problems and loss.
I once went wake boarding, and was surprised to get up on my first attempt. A few others in the group took more than one attempt, but two people did not want to try. When I asked them "Why?", they responded, "We did not want to try and fail." I was reminded of a quote by hockey player Wayne Gretzkey, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." There are those who try and fail, and those who fail to try. While it is rare to have things go our way the first time we make the attempt, faith requires that we take the first step.
This week we are taking time to look at a fisherman by trade, who was not afraid to try. His name was Simon, and he was later renamed Peter (rock), by Jesus Christ. He has numerous recorded mistakes throughout the gospels, yet Peter was never afraid to try, whether that meant stepping out of a boat onto a tumultuous sea, or offering to build shelters atop the Mount of transfiguration.
Imagine if God asked you to obey Him in one area of your life, and when you did, people accused you of sin, and called you a liar. In all probability, you would wrestle with ridicule, and perhaps shame, but you would do your best to follow God regardless. Young Mary must have felt absurd telling her fiancé that she was pregnant, yet that she was entirely faithful. Who could have blamed Joseph for walking away? Mary did not choose the path, yet she accepted it, regardless of what others thought. How do we trust God, when doing so may make us look foolish?
I once woke up and could not see a thing. I shouted, "I can't see!" hoping my roommates would hear me. My eyes were covered in a sticky crust that had formed over the night, and as a result it was almost impossible to open my eye lids. I had a bad case of pink eye that had spread from one eye to the other. With some warm water and medicine, I was able to get my eyes open, and see clearly, after 5 or 10 minutes with my head over the sink. The experience left me wondering, what would it be like to wake up blind without a remedy?
In Mark chapter 10, we read about a man named Bartimaeus, who was born blind. He had an encounter with Jesus which severely impacted his future. Imagine seeing color for the first time! What was it like to see his family, take in the surrounding area, and gaze at a sunset? He must have been overwhelmed. Join in reading along this week as we consider Bart's story, and others like him, who were fortunate enough to be touched with the power of God.
Have you ever seen a person that started off well, but who did not necessarily finish in the same way? You see this in athletics, in business, in relationships, in the music industry, and even on silly shows like Dancing with the Stars. I have sat on the edge of my seat, cheering for my favorite sports teams, thinking that this might be their year. Despite the start of the season, you never know how they may perform when it really counts; when they are in the running for the playoffs. It can be extremely frustrating to watch them (yes, the Redskins), blow it when they have all the talent, and opportunity, to pull it off.
At the same time, when I do a wedding and have high hopes for a couple, only to hear from them a few years later that they are considering throwing in the towel, I wonder what happened. And so it is with King David. He has an amazing start. He is humble, he loves God, has Goliath size faith, and then along comes Bathsheba. What can we learn from David's life? No one wants to fail in the things that matter most in this life, especially in relationships.
Have you ever had a boring job? Some jobs have a great deal of downtime without a lot of busy work. That sort of scenario can lead to boredom, and a sense that the hands of time are creeping along at a snail's pace. David was a shepherd boy with a lot of time on his hands, surrounded by animals that were unable to converse.
What do you do with downtime, when there is no one to talk with? Or what did you do before you had an iPhone, and earbuds, with music to ...play? Imagine having no technology in the outdoors with shifting weather patterns. I am not sure what you would do in such a situation, but the young shepherd boy used this time to talk with God, sing praises, and fend off potential threats to his fur-ball friends. What can we learn from his example?