Friday, November 22, 2013

Welcome To Our World

Advent is the Christian holiday to welcome and celebrate the coming of Jesus into our world. Advent means coming or arrival. Our Lord, the one who was and is and is to come, came first as a babe in Bethlehem on a holy mission to proclaim the Kingdom of God and save us from sin and death. He is with us now, dwelling among us by the presence of the Holy Spirit. And he will come again to our world at the end of time to make all things right. John the Baptist came with a message saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord”. God told John that, even though the people had the prophecies and promises and were waiting, their hearts and souls were not ready for His arrival. John called the people to repent, consecrate themselves and make straight the crooked and wild places in their lives because the King was coming – in fact He was already at the door. That was over 2000 years ago. Every year Advent causes us to ask again: Are we ready for the coming of the True King? Are we prepared to welcome him to our world? This Advent, let’s welcome Jesus and prepare for his advent in our world. Welcome to Our World by Chris Rice Tears are falling Hearts are breaking How we need to hear from God You've been promised We've been waiting Welcome holy Child Welcome holy Child Hope that You don't mind our manger How I wish we would have known But long-awaited holy Stranger Make Yourself at home Please make Yourself at home Bring Your peace Into our violence Bid our hungry souls be filled Word now breaking heaven's silence Welcome to our world Welcome to our world Fragile finger sent to heal us Tender brow prepared for thorn Tiny heart whose blood will save us Unto us is born Unto us is born So wrap our injured flesh around You Breathe our air and walk our sod Rob our sin and make us holy Perfect Son of God Perfect Son of God Welcome to our world CCLI Song # 2317391 CCLI License # 751712 Chris Rice © 1995 Clumsy Fly Music (Admin. by Word Music Group, Inc.)

What is a relational covenant?

After the Relational Covenant Workshop, the Vitality Team began working on the writing of our Relational Covenant. A Relational Covenant is guide for how to deal with conflict and hard conversations in our church family. Relational Covenants are not new. They are found all through scripture from the Garden of Eden to Mount Sinai and in Paul’s letters to the early church. Actually every family and every church already has a relational covenant. But they might not know it! We all have ways that we “agree” to handle issues and conflicts. Only we might have never actually spoken about these ways to handle conflict or even discussed how we view the role of conflict in our lives. In most of our families and churches we “agree” by simply slip into these ways and habits over the years. Problems arise when the ways that we deal with issues and conflicts have never really been explained or even discussed. Sometimes the accepted ways we deal with issues and conflicts are neither healthy nor Biblical. Sometimes issues and conflicts are not resolved and linger hidden under the surface coloring all we do. Sometimes important differences are never realized, truth is not spoken in love, and growth does not take place because conflict is feared. A Relational Covenant is not a law, but a lifestyle. A Relational Covenant is just as much about process as it is about outcome. It is also something that we need to talk about and understand and practice as we seek to grow in Christ and serve Him together. On Sunday January 12, 2014, we will have a special Service of Consecration. This will be a time to set ourselves apart for God’s use, let go of the past, commit ourselves to follow him today and also follow Him into the new future He has prepared for us. It will also be a day to lift up our Relational Covenant and agree to use it as way of dealing with the conflicts and issues that naturally face us as we walk with Jesus together. Please be in prayer for our church family as we continue to boldly step into God’s new future. Make an effort to attend worship on January 12 and encourage others to attend. Following the Service of Consecration, we will have two weeks for each friend and member of New Hope to complete a brief on-line survey, Pulse, that will help guide our strategic ministry planning.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Advent Conspirarcy

 During the holidays advertisers are doing everything in their power and budget to creatively increase your level of dissatisfaction and get you out of that easy chair and into the mall. Or at least to the computer on their website, credit card in hand. 
Big Business thrives on our dissatisfaction, displeasure and unhappiness. Why? Because the more displeased, dissatisfied and unhappy you are- the more profits for Wal-Mart, Kmart, Costco, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Honda, Toyota, Ford, Volkswagen, Apple and Microsoft…. 
Intended or unintended there is spill over. In a consumer culture it is normal to become chronically critical, dissatisfied, unhappy, hard to please people. We also become dissatisfied with our homes, our spouses, our kids, our church, ourselves. And maybe even God…. 
The Bible teaches that there is another conspiracy in the works. An Advent Conspiracy. God is conspiring to enter your heart, change your life, pluck you out of the dissatisfaction conspiracy and plant you firmly in the kingdom of God. There is intended spill over. We become people who are changed and filled with a love for God, a love for life and a love for others. As we change, so does the world around us. We can trace this conspiracy back to Abraham and Moses, but it is seen most clearly in a baby born in a stable in Bethlehem, 2000 years ago. Christmas is about his birth and rule and reign as the true king of our world and the entire universe. 
We need to understand that Wall Street has conspired to thwart Christmas and turn it into yet another moneymaking opportunity. And we need to admit that they have done a pretty good job of hijacking our holiday. This holiday season let’s take back Christmas. Come be a part of the Advent Conspiracy. Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Global and National Day of Prayer

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2: 1 - 4 This month we celebrate both the National Day and Global Day of Prayer- Special days of prayer set aside as a reminder that we are to pray for our nation and world on a regular basis. This year the pastors in Fremont are asking Christians to assemble at their communities flag pole and pray at noon on May 3. This could be city hall, school flagpole, post office, or library. We will celebrate Global Day of Prayer in worship on Pentecost Sunday. As we pray for our nation and world we need to remember that God’s kingdom has no geographical or national boundaries. How can we be citizens of a kingdom without boundaries? Peter writes about this in his first letter. Peter tells us that God’s people are chosen race, a holy priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for God’s own possession. He is also very quick to remind us that once we were not a people, we were separated from God and each other, but now we are the people of God, united by the common bond of belonging to our savior, Jesus Christ. With this is mind, Peter urges Christians live as resident aliens, like those with dual citizenship. Have you ever noticed that we have two flags in our sanctuary? One is the national flag. The other flag is the Christian flag. We have two flags in our sanctuary to remind us that live in two kingdoms – The kingdom of God and USA. Christians live in geographical countries and we have ethnic cultural backgrounds , but our true allegiance, our true citizenship is the kingdom of God. Through out history and even today many Christians live in countries where they do not experience the religious freedoms that we enjoy. During the early years of the church the Roman government oppressed and persecuted those who followed Jesus. They did not have a vote or voice in politics as we do today. It is interesting that despite persecution, Paul instructed the church, in as much as it was possible, to obey the laws of the land, pray for national leaders, and live at peace with their neighbors. When the law of the land commanded worship of Caesar as God, the church found that it was not always possible to submit to Roman rule. Jesus taught to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to give to the Lord what is the Lord’s. Worship belonged to God, not to Caesar. When the early Christians refused to worship Caesar, they were saying, “Yes, we live in Roman and might even be Roman citizens but our primarily allegiance is to Jesus – not Caesar.” Many early Christians paid with their lives for proclaiming Jesus as Lord, but even in the face of oppressive cruel governments the Bible says we are to pray for our nation and nation’s leaders. What are we to pray concerning our nation and national leaders? Especially when they do things and promote things that are not pleasing to God? We can pray that they would come to follow the Lord and be lead by him. We can pray that they would practice justice and mercy, protect the hurting and oppressed, and do the will of God – even if they don’t know God. An interesting study would be to read through Scripture and find all the times that nations and leaders who were opposed to God, were actually used by God to accomplish God’s purposes. You might be surprised at all the times God did just that! Psalm 33: 10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; 
 he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 
11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, 
the purposes of his heart through all generations. We have an awesome privilege in our country- we get to vote for our leaders and we have a voice in our government. We live in a beautiful land rich with freedoms and opportunity. But in our freedoms and national pride we need to be careful in our prayers. We need to pray not so much that God would be on our nation’s side. but that our nation would turn and be on God’s side… For our hope is not in who sits in the white house – our hope is in the Lord who breathes stars into existence and thwarts the plans of nations. His plans are accomplished and stand firm forever. Let’s pray often for our leaders to be in line with plans of God.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Small things done with great love

Maybe you are like me. I believe with all my heart that part of following Jesus is to share my faith with others, but in reality I find this very hard to do. When it comes to talking to someone about my faith, I can think of a hundred reasons why it is not the time or place and oh- by the way did I forget to take out the trash or brush the cat? I recently rediscovered a classic book on sharing the good news of Jesus that is helping me with this. You might have read it or heard about it. It is Out of the Salt Shaker and Into the World by Rebecca Pippert. This book was written about 32 years ago has much to say that the church still needs to hear and practice.
Rebecca Pippert kick’s off the book with her now famous quote, Christians and non-Christians have something in common. We’re both uptight about evangelism. The idea of telling other people about our faith in Jesus seems awkward at best and offensive at worst. It seems like an extra chore or task added to an already busy and weary life. Becky turns that around and shows how faith sharing can be a normal, natural part of our Christian lives. Sharing about our faith becomes something we get to do instead of something we have to do. When we are relaxed with ourselves and in love with Jesus the good news just flows from us with out us even realizing it. On the other hand if we are uptight, bitter or cynical about life and God, that flows out too. Sheldon Vanauken wrote, The best argument for Christianity is Christians; their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the biggest argument against Christianity is also Christians – when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.

The reality is that we can only authentically share what we know to be true and have come to experience in our own lives. The Apostle John writes We saw it, we heard it, and now we're telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy! (1 Jn 1:3,4 The Message) We must know Jesus if we are to share Jesus and even then we only can bear witness to what we know from the word and from experience.
We can share with words and we can share with deeds. Usually words and deeds work best in tandem. God knew that words alone lacked power and credibility and that actions alone could be easily misunderstood. That is why the word became flesh and dwelt among us. That we would hear, see, know and experience God among us.
One of the many ways we share our faith at New Hope is by connecting with people through simple acts of kindness (deeds) that hopefully, by God’s grace, might lead to spiritual conversations (words). Since this doesn’t come naturally we need to practice so we can grow and it can become a natural normal part of our lives. On Nov. 5th we will practice kind deeds by going through the neighborhood and offering to replace batteries in smoke detectors. Starting in September we will be collecting batteries. Right now you can begin praying that God would open doors for good connections and good conversations that will bump people a bit closer to Jesus.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Easter is coming!

Easter is a special Sunday when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the grave, victorious over sin and death. What good news we have to share with the world around us. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! I think we sometimes loose sight of the wonderful message that God has given us to share. This world seems to be in a tailspin, with earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns, wars and rumors of wars. It is important that God’ people remember that God has not given up on us. The risen Lord is still moving across the world, reaching the lost, healing the broken and changing lives. The surprising thing is that He has chosen to do this through us. Those who love and follow Jesus are his hands and feet in the world today.
There are many ways to serve the Lord and share his love. Isaiah puts it this way: and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. Is 58:10 We can boldly spend ourselves on behalf of God because He has freely given himself for us. God desires that we bless others as He has blessed us. And He has blessed us abundantly.
Saturday April 23, the day before Easter, we will be sharing the good news of Jesus by way of a simple act of kindness. We will meet at the church at 10 Am and then head over to a local self-serve car wash to dry cars. Why dry cars? It is a simple way of letting people know that God loves them. It is also a simple way for us to learn how to bless people. I hope you can come and help. Many towels are needed for this event, so please bring towels to worship and leave them in the basket in the lobby.
Another way you can spend yourself in blessing others is to step outside your comfort zone and bring a friend or neighbor to worship. When surveyed about how people came to be part of a church the number one answer is that someone brought me to church. Think of someone you know who needs a touch from the Lord, ask them if you can pick them up on Easter Sunday. Come worship the Lord!
Pastor Steve

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

lent at New Hope

A special addition to worship during lent is art work by Ron Garcia. Most folks at church know Ron as our bass player, but he is also a very accomplished artist. Each Sunday, Ron is painting a picture based on the sermon and theme for the day. Jim Olsen has made big cut out letters for each Sunday's theme. Thanks Jim and Ron! After worship the pictures are hung along with the theme word in the lobby. Ron also is a professional picture hanger and art display person. We will use all the pictures on Maundy Thursday for our worship celebration that evening.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lent 2011

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
These are the well-known words of the best known and best loved Psalm – Palm 23. Many of us memorized it as children and we hear it read at many funerals. We see it on plaques, wall hangings and sympathy cards with a portrait of Jesus carrying a lamb.
The Psalm does reference the valley of the shadow of death, but it is not a death chant forever to be lost in funeral liturgies! This is a life song! It is a hymn of praise and joy about a living relationship with a living God. Lambs can be cute, but this psalm is not a children’s story. This is a song about real life. Life packed with danger, predators and enemies. Life packed with joys, wonder and adventure.
What could a song about a shepherd and his sheep, written some thousand years before Jesus, have to do with us? Plenty! Come to worship during Lent and discover and explore the 23rd Psalm. Each week we the message will apply a line or phrase of the psalm to our lives and walk with God. Ron Garcia will create a work of art based on the message each Sunday while I preach. We will have moving music and other visuals – but most of all we will gather to praise God and come to a deeper understanding of what it means to be his people and the sheep of his pasture.
Lent is about our walk with God. Let’s walk through the 23rd Psalm together as we prepare our hearts during lent (March 9 – April 17) for the celebration of Easter Sunday (April 24).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

New Sermon Series Starting June 27 at New Hope

One day Jesus’ disciples came to him and made this request: “Lord, teach us to pray.” Of all the requests and questions the disciples brought to the master, I have a feeling that this was one of His favorites. This was music to Jesus’ ears! “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Who taught you how to pray? When did you learn how to pray? Was it bedtime prayers with mom and dad? Someone saying Grace before a meal? Sunday School? A Prayer group? Maybe it was the night you knelt by your bed and asked Christ to be your Lord and savior? Maybe it was in the hospital? Or by a graveside? Whenever and wherever it was and even if you don’t remember - at some point you learned how to pray.

I am intrigued by this idea of learning how to pray. Is prayer really something we have to learn how to do? Doesn’t it come naturally? Why can’t I just pray in a way that I enjoy, that feels comfortable to me, that suits my schedule, that makes me feel fulfilled and happy? Well, that would make sense if you were simply talking to yourself or only talking to the four walls. But if prayer is talking to God, then I am in a conversation with a person. And if I am having a conversation, then I am part of a relationship - a relationship with the Lord God king of the universe. And maybe, just maybe God has some preferences on how he would like to be addressed.

This example might help. I was teaching the children’s Sunday School class a few years ago and one of the children wanted my attention and called out over all the others. She got my attention!

“Hey, Steve!”
“Just who are you talking to? I don’t want you to just call me Steve.”
“Oh, so do you want me to call you Pastor Steve like everyone else does?”
“No, I don’t want you to call me Steve or Pastor Steve because you are not everyone else. You are one of a select group of the only three individuals on this planet who are allowed to call me Dad - and I don’t want either of us to forget that.”

It was my daughter who was trying to get my attention. She accomplished her goal, but I don’t think she was pleased with the attention she received. I was not happy with the way she addressed me. It is important that she call me, Dad, because that is our precious relationship to each other. Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven” because that is how God wants His children to address Him. We never can forget that God is a person and not a force or a thing. Prayer is conversation with the Living God, who loves us deeply, and is always to be honored, respected and worshiped as Lord and God.

I hope you join me in worship as we learn how to pray by studying the Lord’s Prayer.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Church Sign

Summertime is coming soon!

There is an old blues song that is ringing in my ears this morning:
Summertime, and the living is easy.
Catfish are jumping, and the cotton is high.

May is just getting here, but this is the time when most of us are firming up our summer plans. The days have been getting nicer. The sun is shining. Summertime is right around the corner. I’ve been thinking of camping, getting away to Lake Almanor, fishing, Spirit West Coast, Vacation Bible School and all good things summer. And of course my upcoming wedding in June is foremost in all my thoughts about summer.

As you get your summer plans in order, I want to plant a seed and get a plug in for the Lord. Vacations are good and God wants us to find times of rest and reconnection, but we never take a vacation from God. It is easy to allow worship and time with God to fall to second or third place and even be forgotten during the summer. I would encourage you to keep God present in your summer plans. Think of things like: How can I arrange my plans so I don’t miss worship on Sunday? If we’re away over a Sunday, what church could we visit? What can I do to help my family be aware of God’s presence during our vacation time?

That old blues song has another line that I love:
One of these mornings, you're gonna rise up singing
You're gonna spread your wings and take the sky

I feel like that is happening at New Hope. I have been so pleased and energized by the good participation and growing attendance on Sunday mornings. There have been many good reports from members and visitors of how they have been growing closer to God through being a part of New Hope. A recent visitor commented, “I really enjoyed your services - very on the mark and informal. I loved the message on love and the spirit-filled worship.” I also keep hearing great reports that we are warm and welcoming church. I am hoping that over the summer this trend will continue. May all our vacations and summertime fun bring us closer to God and renew and refresh us to serve the King of Kings with heart and soul and mind and strength at New Hope Community Church!