Earning vs Effort

I have to admit that I don’t have kids who rise to attention whenever I call their names. They don’t respond with “yes sir,” whenever I ask them to do something. In fact, I have a feeling that my kids are pretty normal kids who often complain and argue and try to get out of doing anything we ask them to do, especially their chores. My three kids are also rarely on the same page on any topic, unless that topic is their joint opposition to doing their chores. One day, my kids all ganged up on us and said, “Why do you need us to do chores all the time?” My wife and I looked at each other and almost laughed out loud. We explained to these little humans that we don’t NEED them to do chores. In fact, it would be a whole lot easier for us to just do the chores most of the time. We could get them done a lot faster, we wouldn’t have to spend time asking them to do it, and we’d get the chores done the way we want them done. That would make a lot more sense. So, the question is, why do we keep asking them to do chores? It’s because as their parents, we know that it is good for them to learn how to contribute and show a little effort.

I think that this is how God, our Father, sees us. He doesn’t NEED us to “do our chores.”He doesn’t need us to do anything. He can do whatever he wants and he doesn’t need our help to do it. However, he wants us to be involved, not because he is lonely or bossy, but because he knows that it is good for us to learn how to contribute and show a little effort.

The problem is that as humans, our natural bent is toward earning. We often fight for what we are owed. We earn money, but we also earn privileges, rights, positions, influence, respect, and on and on. The American Dream is that this country would be a place in which everyone’s effort would directly correlate with what they earn. If we’ve learned anything lately, it is that this is still just a distant dream, but we are so entrenched in the attitude of earning, that we can’t think of a way out. But deeper the problem is that this attitude and expectation of earning affects everything we do, even our faith.

One of the big temptations that we face is to confuse effort for earning. Just because God wants us to show effort in our faith, doesn’t mean that he is doing so from an attitude of earning. God’s desire for us to show some effort comes as much out of a heart of love as any good parent’s. Just like it would be terrible for any child to think that a parent’s love is dependent on the amount of effort they give, so it would be terrible to think that God’s love is dependent on the effort we give to faith. Effort is supposed to flow from love, not to earn love. So today, go and show some effort, but not from an attitude of earning, but from out of a heart of love.

Josh Rose
Teaching Pastor


We are Generous

Series: This Is Us
Text: John 6:1-15
Speaker: Pastor Ryan Paulson

On Sunday, October 17th, Lead Pastor Ryan Paulson continues our sermon series for the fall months, This Is Us. We have been studying some of the reasons why the church exists and answering several questions related to that. This message in the series is entitled We are Generous.


Smart vs. Stupid

Smart vs. Stupid, who would win? You might want more information about the contest or about the contestants before making a prediction. Generally speaking, however, smart beats stupid every time.

Jesus doesn’t give more information as he wraps up the greatest sermon ever given. Instead, he simply states that the people who put his words into practice are smart and the ones who do not put his words into practice are stupid. Jesus of course uses the more polite version of these words, wise and foolish, but in practicality, they are the same.

Author and then pastor Randy Alcorn wrote a surprising phrase in his book “The Purity Principle” that expressed the heart of what Jesus was saying as he wrapped up the Sermon on the Mount. Alcorn was describing the wisdom of trusting God in all areas of life, but especially in regards to one’s sexuality and he says that “purity is always smart and impurity is always stupid.”

Too often, believers think of Jesus’ standards as limiting, but for unknown or unknowable reasons. The truth is, putting Jesus’ words into practice is always the smart thing to do. He has people’s best interests at heart and wants to protect us from the emotional, physical, and relationship pain that is an automatic consequence of not trusting him (putting his words into practice).

As Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 7:24-28, he explains that the smart person builds their life on his words for security against the storms of life, but the stupid person doesn’t. That life is built with no stability and when the storm comes what they built comes crashing down around them.

Are you putting Jesus’ words into practice? Be smart and spend some time praying about putting what he says into practice today.

John Riley
Jr. High Pastor


Concrete vs. Sand

One of my favorite childhood memories is that of building sandcastles with my dad at the beach. My dad would level off a large area with a shovel, build a moat and I would start running buckets of wet sand back and forth from the ocean in order to build a wall surrounding what would be a fabulous drip castle in the middle. That part was my dad’s job. He was the artist and had just the right touch to be able to create tall ornate spires high into the air. With that, the race against the mighty ocean had begun. The goal was to complete the castle before the tide rose enough to destroy our creation. Sometimes we were able to complete the castle and other times we watched in dismay as the ocean knocked it down. We acted, through laughter, that this was a tragedy, but in reality, it just meant that we got to build another castle. The joy came from spending time creating something together.

Contrast the sandcastle to the great room that my dad added to our house. I can picture him and a few of his friends pouring yards of cement, leveling it, and waiting for it to dry. The months that followed included hours of framing, nailing up sheetrock, adding a roof, stucco, and paint; the project continued for what seemed like an eternity. This was not nearly as fun as building a sandcastle and a lot more work! What followed though were 40 years of memories. In that room, I met my baby sister for the first time, spent countless holidays with family and friends, and watched my own twins take their first steps. Today, that room is still standing, and another family is building memories in the security of a strong structure.

These are sweet stories, but this is also where the analogy breaks down because both the castle built on the sand and the room built on concrete yielded beautiful, lasting memories. Yet, imagine with me what it would have been like to live in that castle on the sand. It’s simply impossible and would have been foolish to even try. Matthew 7 talks about a wise man who builds on rock as opposed to a foolish man who builds on sand. Verse 24 says,Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man.” God is calling for wisdom; for obedience. Building on rock takes longer and it takes more work, but the result is worth it!

Do you ever try to race through a project; knowing that what you will yield could be so much better if you just took your time and did it the right way in the first place? This is God’s desire for us. He has given the blueprints; the guidance to obey and follow His perfect plan, that will provide a strong and lasting structure. Which foundation will you choose?

Lynette Fuson
Director of Care & Counseling


Storms

There is a movie you might have seen called "The Perfect Storm." The film tells the true story of the Andrea Gail, a commercial fishing vessel that was lost at sea with all hands after being caught in the Perfect Storm of 1991. A tropical cyclone is forming behind them as they venture further out to sea than normal in quest of fish. The crew decides to risk the storm to catch more fish and make money. Their unwise decision resulted in two powerful weather fronts merging and causing them to sink, even after repeated warnings from other ships to turn back. The whole crew is lost due to the captain's unwise decisions. The longer we live the more storms we encounter in life. We were never promised calm seas, but just the strength to withstand the storms when they come, and they will come. The storms Jesus talks about in Matthew 7 are symbolic of other kinds of storms in our lives. It's a symbol of chaos, negativity, trauma, difficulty, weakness, and even depression. Storm symbolism also signifies change and transition because storms are only temporary, but can have lasting effects. It could be an unexpected diagnosis or even the death of a loved one. It could be the end of a relationship or marriage with no awareness that the storm was brewing. You could be the parent of a teenager that rebels and makes decisions that change the course of their life and yours. The scenarios are endless but what does scripture teach us about the storms of life?

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 ESV

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV

Sometimes storms humble us into learning new patterns of behavior or bring us into a closer walk with the Lord. Storms don't have to destroy us; they can cause us to grow. They can bring people closer together as families and communities. When trusting the Lord in difficult times, go to the promises of God. Scripture is loaded with promises that teach us about having faith in God during hard times. He tells us to not worry, to pray and He will give us peace like you can't imagine. He tells us that He is there with us, in the trenches. If you have those promises hidden in your heart already, you are prepared to stand strong in the hard times because the Holy Spirit will bring verses to mind reminding you, He is with you. We also have each other to lean on during the storms and keep us accountable. We have many resources here at church to help you as well. If you are walking through a storm, you’re not alone, we want to come alongside you.

Deb Hill
Executive Assistant


We are a Classroom

Series: This Is Us
Text: Matthew 7:24-27
Speaker: Pastor Ryan Paulson

On Sunday, October 10th, Lead Pastor Ryan Paulson continued our sermon series for the fall months, This Is Us. We have been studying some of the reasons why the church exists and answering several questions related to that. This message in the series was entitled We are a Classroom.


Differences Make You Better

In the garden of Eden when God created the first two humans, God did not create similar humans. Instead, he very intentionally created two humans that were VERY different. In fact, they were the most different they could be while still being called humans. Did you know that from a DNA perspective, Adam and Eve have less in common than Adam does with all other men? You see, the biggest difference between humans is not the color of our skin, our hair type, facial structure, size, or heritage; it is the difference between males and females. Yes, as far as DNA goes, you are more different from your own sibling of the opposite sex than you are from any other person of the same gender in the history of the world.

This means that God felt like it would be good (in fact, his words were “very good”) for humans to have someone very different from themselves. God could have given the first human a more similar human to build a relationship with, but he didn’t. He gave him the polar opposite in the spectrum of humanity.

This clearly shows that the way that we tend to separate ourselves into separate “races” is completely cultural and has zero basis in the physical building blocks with which we were created. Once again, from a purely genetic standpoint, you have more in common with a person of the same gender from around the world than you do with any person of the opposite gender. However, it does show us that differences make us better! Wherever the difference comes, be it cultural, linguistic, political, philosophical, demographic, socio-economic, personality, or whatever, we need different people in our lives. Differences make us better. Even theological differences within the global church make the Church of Jesus better. That is, as long as we can find unity with our differences. As soon as we start dividing and declaring people enemies because they are different, we start denying the one thing that makes us special, others.

Do you believe this? Do you believe that God has put people who are different from you in your life to make you better? I hope that you do. And if you do, then make at least one decision today to engage with someone who is different. See how God uses them to grow you and make you better.

Josh Rose
Teaching Pastor


Working Towards Unity

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—  I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:20-23

Social media has been part of my existence since high school. I first discovered MySpace (remember that?) in High School and Facebook in early 2008 during college. What started as a meager friends list and quotes has shortly turned into a friends list of 1000 people (most I really don’t know well) and a sad realization of what the online space has become over the past 10 years. At least in my experience, these online spaces seem to be fraught with contentiousness and disagreements. Everyone from acquaintances to Christian friends and family saying things online to one another that they would never say in person (at least I hope not!). Was it always this way? I don’t remember it as such. From the outside looking in, Facebook and Twitter may be the most polarized places on the planet.

Despite disagreements throughout history, Jesus has called his church to be unified. Reading the New Testament, it seems that unity in the church was just as much of an issue then as it is today. Jesus facing the end of his life on Earth prays one thing for his followers that are to come. He prays that “all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”Jesus’ prayer illuminates his heart for his people; unity. Unity though is difficult to achieve. Mainly because Jesus is easy to get along with, but sometimes, I’m not! So, how are we going to get there?

Unity is something we have to work towards, it doesn’t just happen organically in most cases! The one who knits our hearts together in love is Christ himself who breaks down perceived barriers to create a holy family (Gal. 3:28). But, as I experience in my own family, family can be full of love and full of disagreement. So, how do we become a family that better reflects the relationship of Jesus and the Father? One of the biggest things that we could all work on? Giving each other the B.O.D.; the benefit of the doubt. If we’re going to strive towards unity, we have to fight against taking offense and being stirred towards anger based upon preferences. We have to discern what is biblical and what is preference and do the hard work of striving towards unity (and it is work!). This isn’t to say that we stay in situations that are abusive, manipulative, or unhealthy, but it is to say that as much as it depends on us, we give others the benefit of the doubt and we hand over anxiety, anger, and frustration to God first before others.

Let’s strive together for unity, allowing God to work deeply within us as we lay ourselves down in humility and value others above ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4). There’s so much work to be done and yet, it is by our unity that Jesus says others will know Him. We strive towards unity, in-person, online, and everywhere we’re present so that we may represent the triune God who is in Himself perfect unity.

Seth Redden
HS Pastor


Praying as a Family

The older I’ve gotten the harder it’s been to make real friends. When I was younger it was far easier. Two of my grade school best friends, Jonathan and Trevor, I met while in kindergarten, with the simple opening question: “Do you want to be my friend?” With that simple opener, we became fast and close childhood friends, despite tremendous differences in our personalities and interests.

However, the older I got the more my friends were built around the things that we had in common: common hobbies, passions, and interests. Altogether, these things built a self-selected pool of individuals who had a common comfort zone. In Junior High and High School, my friends had similar interests in bands, sports, and hobbies. That’s the way we often make friends in the world; through a common comfort zone.

Christ calls us to make a different set of relationships. These relationships are built between people with tremendous differences of personality, cultures, and passions. We can even see this reflected in the sort of people Jesus selected as his disciples. Levi, the tax collector sellout, is in the same circle as Simon, the religious extremist zealot. And yet, though Levi, Simon, and the other ten disciples, have tremendous differences, they are all gathered around a common person: Christ. What gave Christ the tremendous ability to unite these different people? The answer is, at least in part, found in what Christ does at the very beginning of this passage in verse 12: “he went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”

Before he entered the tension of the twelve men he had assembled, Christ spent an abundant amount of time with his Father. This reveals the secret of the people of God: they are gathered and united together by prayer. Prayer is the only way that we can hope to connect a group of people who are totally different from one another: in culture, in personality, in interests, in backgrounds, and in giftedness. Because time spent in prayer is time spent with the Father, and from being one with the Father in prayer, we can experience what it’s like to be one with one another (John 17:21).

As a church, we engage with a monthly night of prayer, the first Wednesday of each month at 6:30PM. We have such an opportunity tonight! We would love to see you there and experience together the power of prayer to unite our church family.

Ryan Lunde
Young Adults Pastor


Motley Crew

There is a story about baseball player statistics becoming a huge deal in building teams that changed the way teams function still today. The story became a book and movie called “Moneyball”. Essentially the general manager and some scouts saw players based on non-traditional values or statistics and they built a team that ended performing really well. They didn’t pick players based on home runs, miles per hour of pitches, or other normal stats. They looked for things like how often someone got on base, which made a big difference without as much fanfare. No one would have believed it or guessed that this new style would change the almost 100-year-old player scouting system, but it did. Jesus scouted a little differently as well.

Jesus selected fishermen (long hours, probably smelly), political activists (yes those were a thing back then), and tax collectors (I can’t believe either), to be a team of disciple-makers that would change the way people connected with God. Jesus did not go after the people I would have picked first. He did pick however a group of men with who he would share life with, invest in, and grow. Jesus created space for them to come alongside him to learn how to rely on God for life. He created a seat at his table for them to come and be fed and in turn help others. He picked men who maybe at first glance looked like a motley crew of individuals, but would end up becoming a tight-knit family.

In a way, the church is kind of like that motley crew Jesus picked a couple of thousand years ago. Some of us are related, some of us work together, maybe we went to school together, we have a wide range of backgrounds and a lot of different skills and abilities. BUT we have Jesus, we are connected with him learning and growing to be the people he has called us to be. I think he is calling us to do the same. To call people to him and to create space for people to meet him during the normal everyday stuff we do. They might not be people we would think to pick, but I am sure God can do something amazing if we intentionally create room for his Spirit to work in the people around us. Here is the challenge: will you pray for God to bring you some people to disciple and will you create some space in your life for them? Maybe you are in need of someone to come along beside you, please let me know if we can help.

Pastor Jeremy Johnson
Family Pastor