Worship Service - 10:30am
Education Hour - 9:15am

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Cutting Room Floor – Pivotal Circumstances

Yesterday I stood in front of our congregation and proclaimed that a deep, robust faith is more valuable than anything else. I said that it’s worth the pain associated with pivotal circumstance. But as I looked out over the congregation and saw people who have suffered unthinkable tragedies in their lives, I honestly wondered how that can be. Is the pain of powerful loss really worth a stronger faith in God?

I think the only way it can be worth it is if we look at life in the scope of eternity. If all we live is this life, I really don’t think it would ever be worth it. But when we place our lives against the backdrop of eternity, our losses are not final. Tragedy does not have the last word. The pain we bear has an end point. One day we will regain everything we’ve lost. It’s sort of like investing money. It’s unavailable to us while it’s tied up in an investment. But down the road we will get it back with interest. That interest is a deeper faith.

Cutting Room Floor – Personal Ministry

When it comes to making a purchase, there are some things that you can order online. You don’t need to see them for yourself or try them on. Certain electronic devices fall into this category. Some kinds of clothing – socks, for instance – doesn’t require you to try it on. But what I’ve discovered is that the more important the purchase is, the more invested a person will be come in making sure it’s right for them.

I think following Jesus is like this. It’s not something you can really decide on from casual, outside observation. To really understand what life with Jesus is like, you have to live life with Jesus. And there is no better way to do that than through personal ministry. When you partner with Jesus to make a difference, you get the best taste of who He is and what following Him will be like. After all, Jesus didn’t call His disciples and only do seminars and lectures. Neither did He just wander around the countryside having fun. He worked with them. Perhaps our best opportunity to really know Jesus is by serving with Him.

Cutting Room Floor – Private Disciplines

The theme of this Sunday’s service was how God uses our private disciplines to grow our faith. We talked about financial giving, prayer, and Bible reading specifically. One of the biggest causes of inconsistency in these areas is a lack of accountability. God designed us to be relational being and this extends to our spirituality as well. Even monks and nuns who go long stretches in silence have each other to help with accountability. Below are a few more simple ways to add accountability to your private disciplines.

  • Find someone to read through the Bible with you in a year (or two). Find a Bible reading plan and commit to doing it together.
  • Get a prayer partner – someone who will pray for you and you for them. Touch base each week and share prayer requests.
  • Use your small group as a source of accountability by committing to reading a specific book of the Bible between meetings.
  • Listen each day to the Daily Audio Bible (click for more info).

Building Project Update

As you can see, work is underway on our church building. Several things have come together to allow Clifford-Buck Construction to get started on the clerestory repairs. They have ordered the windows and siding and are preparing the exterior of the building for their installation. Clifford-Buck is also working with Sheriff-Goslin Roofing to coordinate the shingling of the rear exterior of the sanctuary. We feel very good about getting these urgent repairs finished before winter.

Things are also progressing with the refinancing of our church mortgage. Rates have been rising and fluctuating over the last month. However, we are confident of a good rate for the refinance. We’re grateful for those who have given financially toward this project. The more we receive in special donations, the less we have to refinance. If you have made a commitment or are considering a financial gift toward this project, please follow through on that in the next week or two. We hope to be finalizing the refinance in that time frame. Thanks for all the support you’ve shown throughout this process. If you have any questions, please talk to me (Tom TenCate) or Chuck Holman.

Cutting Room Floor – Providential Relationships

I’ve been using this space to share some thought on Sunday’s message that didn’t make the final cut. I’ve done a lot of thinking about the Church and how we can show the Gospel to the world. We can try to show the Gospel by putting on amazing worship services. However, it’s tough for us to compete with laser light shows and million dollar movie budgets the world is capable of. Sometimes we’ve tried using the fear of hell or playing on peoples’ guilt. This hasn’t been a great long-term strategy. We’ve offered people the promise of a better life, but the better life Jesus offers doesn’t always seem immediately better to many people.

The thing that I believe we can do better than the world around us is community. In fact, this has always been the calling card of Christians. Read the end of Acts 2. It is a beautiful picture of people in community. That’s who God has called us to be – a network of providential relationships. In our tradition we’ve placed great emphasis on this. In baptism we commit to being providential in the life of an infant or new believer. If we can only do one thing well, let it be community. Let us create a safe place where people can belong and grow.

Cutting Room Floor – Purposeful Obedience

Yesterday we looked at the first of Five Things God Uses to Grow Your Faith: Purposeful Obedience. When we say yes to God even when it is difficult or inconvenient or embarrassing, God uses that obedience to expand our trust in Him. Here’s something from the margins of yesterday’s message that didn’t make the final edition.

I worry a little that some people might feel like they missed their chance to obey God and be rewarded with stronger faith. There may have been a time years ago when you knew God was calling you to do something for Him. For a number of reasons you just couldn’t say yes. And now you’ve heard me imply that you blew your big chance to gain more faith. Don’t despair. God never stops working in the lives of His children. Perhaps that missed opportunity years ago was an inoculation against missing an even greater opportunity that God brought (or will bring) later in your life. These things keep coming around. Opportunities abound. And God works in a number of different ways to grow our faith… as we’ll see over the course of the series.

Cutting Room Floor – Prescription for Faith

With almost any sermon I am not at a loss for material. It’s usually a matter of subtraction and paring it back. So I’d like to use this space to share some thoughts or ideas that didn’t make the final edition of the Sunday message. This week I spoke about the importance of having big faith. I talked about how it created an environment when God could work in us and through us. I spoke about how life is just easier with big faith. But there are still other benefits that I didn’t have time to mention. Here are a few.

  1. The ability to forgive. If you believe that God has it all under control, then even those who hurt you can’t thwart God’s plan. You don’t have to be bitter because God will work it for your good.
  2. Life without regrets. If you trust that God can work all things for your good, then that even includes your failures and mistakes. Faith allows you to move past your mistakes because God can redeem them.
  3. Patience. It can be hard to see your prayers go unanswered for many years. But people of faith trust in God’s timing. They wouldn’t want God to answer their prayers a second before He intends. His timing is perfect.

Education Ministries This Fall

In less than two weeks we will kick off a new season of educational ministries at FCC.  While I love summer, I deeply value the faith nurture opportunities we provide at FCC from September through May.

Our Sunday school is awesome!  Each week our kids have the opportunity to hear part of The Big God Story from another member of our congregation.  The high school student, parent or retiree who shares the story usually also shares a personal story from his/her own faith journey.  Every week we have caring small group leaders who get to really know our kids and build relationships with them. Each week we invite the Holy Spirit to teach and transform us during our times of stillness, listening, worship, prayer and creativity.  We also have a lot of fun as we celebrate together with games and active challenges.

At 9:15 on Sunday mornings we have wonderful opportunities for faith nurture for other ages too!  Our 7th-8th graders are fed physically and spiritually in catechism with Mr. Aardema.  Twenty-seven mentors and their high school students often meet for a video session and discussion.  Every Sunday our adult education class meets to explore topics that matter to Christians.  (You can access the fall schedule by clicking here.)  We even have nursery available for those too young for Sunday school.

Please commit to joining us on Sunday mornings at 9:15 and pray for God to bless us with a great year of spiritual growth.

Seven Ways to Connect, part 2

Last week we looked at a few ways to connect with people in a missional way. It strikes me that once the weather turns cold, the natural opportunities for meeting people become fewer. Make the most of the good weather that remains! Here are several more way to connect.

  1. Serve your Neighbors. Help a neighbor by weeding, mowing, or fixing a car. Stop by the neighborhood association or apartment office and ask if there is anything you can do to help improve things. Ask your local Police and Fire Stations if there is anything you can do to help them. Get creative. Just serve.
  2. Talk to Your Co-workers. How hard is that? Take your breaks with intentionality. Go out with your team or task force after work. Show interest in your co-workers. Pick four and pray for them. Form mom groups in your neighborhood and don’t make them exclusively Christian. Schedule play dates with the neighbors’ kids.
  3. Eat with Non-Christians. We all eat three meals a day. Why not make a habit of sharing one of those meals with a non-Christian or with a family of non-Christians? Go to lunch with a co-worker, not by yourself. Invite the neighbors over for family dinner. If it’s too much work to cook a big dinner, just order pizza and put the focus on conversation. When you go out for a meal invite others.
  4. Hobby with Non-Christians. Pick a hobby that you can share. Get out and do something you enjoy with others. Try city league sports. Share your hobby by teaching lessons. Teach sewing lessons, piano lessons, violin, guitar, knitting, tennis lessons. Be prayerful. Be intentional. Be winsome. Have fun.

Seven Ways to Connect, part 1

For those of us who have been with a church community for a long time, there is often a problem that arises. When it comes to mission, we just don’t know that many people who aren’t Christians. And the ones we do know, we certainly don’t know very well. Here are a few easy, simple ways to get to know people better outside your circle. (Credit goes to Pastor Jonathan Dodson of Austin City Life Church for compiling this list.)

  1. Walk, Don’t Drive. If you live in a walkable area, make a practice of getting out and walking around your neighborhood, apartment complex, or campus. Instead of driving to the mailbox, convenience store, or apartment office, walk there. Be deliberate in your walk by saying hello to people. Attract attention by walking the dog or bringing the kids. Take interest in your neighbors. Ask questions. Pray as you go. Save some gas, the planet, and maybe some people.
  2. Be a Regular. Instead of hopping all over the city for gas, groceries, haircuts, and coffee, go to the same places. Get to know the staff. Smile. Ask questions. You’ll be surprised at how many other regulars there are for you to get to know. Build relationships. Be a Regular.
  3. Participate in City Events. Instead of playing X-Box, watching TV, or surfing the web, participate in city events. Go to fundraisers, festivals, clean-ups, summer shows, and concerts. Participate missionally. Strike up conversation. Study the culture. Reflect on what you see and hear. Pray for the city. Love the city. Participate with the city.