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If You Were There

I have often wondered what it would be like to have been just an average person in the crowd during Jesus’ ministry. We hear the stories of the disciples, or Zacchaeus, or Nicodemus, but what about the nameless people who heard Jesus was in the area, came out to listen to his teaching, witnessed his miracles, and then returned to their regular day-to-day lives? How long did they reflect on and talk about what they had witnessed?
And what about the people in the crowd as Jesus made his way into Jerusalem, who were asking “Who is this?” (Matthew 21.10). Would I have watched from a distance as the crowds shouted, or been caught up in the excitement, and joined in with my own cries of “Hosanna! to the son of David,” hoping that this man could indeed be the long awaited Messiah.
Then, just days later, what must it have been liked to be in the crowd and see Jesus again, this time in the custody of Pilate, standing with Barabbas. Would you wonder if this could possibly be the same man you had seen on Sunday? Once again, the crowd begins to shout, but rather than pleas for salvation and praise, they yell, “Crucify him!” How would I respond?
As much as I like to think that I wouldn’t, I probably would have joined in. This seeming imposter Messiah who had caught up our hopes that he would be the promised savior, is now in Roman custody. This is not what we expected. This is not what we wanted.
In the end, no one stood with Jesus. Judas betrayed him. The others fell asleep. Peter denied him. Everyone left him. If we were there, you and I would have done the same.
And yet, there on the cross, alone and ridiculed, he prayed for their forgiveness. And ours. He did not stop loving us, but demonstrated the full extent of his love for us, for his betrayers and executioners.
“Here is a trustworthy saying… If we are faithless, he will remain faithful” (2 Timothy 2.11, 13)
May you be reminded this week, that no matter the sins and betrayals in your life, God promises that He “will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31.6).

Half Full or Empty?

I am sure you have heard when discussing a person’s tendency to be optimistic or pessimistic that they are either a person who tends to see the glass ‘half empty’ or ‘half full’. The idea is that when a glass of water is filled half way it can be good news (you at least have a half glass to drink) or bad news (that’s all you have to drink). Thinking about the rainfall we have received this past winter we could all probably agree that our rain gauges are well over half full. We have had plenty and more than we need. So, has that been good or bad? Is lots of rain a good thing or a bad thing?

Our Lord, when speaking about how we are to treat our enemies, reminds us in Matthew 5:45 that God “sends rain on the just and unjust”. For us living in the NW our thoughts might be that God punishes both the just and unjust by disrupting their lives with lots of rain. However, if you lived in the Middle East you would probably have a different perspective. A lack of rain for them meant massive crop failures and famine, poverty and hardship. Their concern always was not the odds of getting too much rain but rather they always lived under the threat of getting too little rain. In the Old Testament, the early and latter rains were always a sign of the blessings of God, not of his punishment.

So when the Lord reminds us “he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” his point is that our attitude towards our enemies should be the same as God’s. He cares for them, even when they won’t acknowledge him, and he still provides the sustenance of life and showers his blessings on humanity. God is the one who is over all and his plans are always good and right and even those we think undeserving of his goodness still are recipients of it. If we want to follow our Lord’s example then we are called to be people who show mercy, kindness and care even for those who we consider our enemies, and leave the results to the Lord.

Jesus Loves Gamers

This last weekend was Emerald City Comic Con, a huge comic convention that has called downtown Seattle home for the past 15 years.  The event features celebrities, artists, writers, discussion panels, gaming opportunities, and several football field sized rooms full of vendors selling anything your geeky heart desires.  Last year ECCC saw almost 90,000 people attend over the four days of the event, and this year’s numbers were expected to exceed that.

As a proud geek and comic book enthusiast, I entered the Con on Sunday morning feeling a tiny pang of guilt for skipping church, but excited for what the day had in store.  The night before, I had decided upon a reasonable amount of money I could spend that day, vowing to not exceed my budget.  But upon entering the exhibition hall, that number suddenly seemed less certain as I gazed upon the vast expanse of awesome in front of me.  It seemed that Belinda Carlisle was right…Heaven really is a place on Earth.

As I began to weave my path through the endless vendor booths, I caught a glimpse of a familiar face in my peripheral vision.  After a quick double-take, I looked to my right, and sure enough, there was my longtime friend, Jesus!  But this wasn’t exactly the Jesus I knew.  The face looked the same, but he was holding a gaming controller, and had giant headphones on with a microphone extending to in front of his mouth.  “What in the world??” I thought to myself, as I began to walk in his direction.

As I got closer, I realized that Jesus’ image was on a huge banner for an organization called Game Church.  Game Church is made up of a bunch of gamers who love Jesus, and are dedicated to spreading the Word of God through videogames.  During online videogame sessions, players can talk to each other and interact while playing the games they love.  This interaction usually consists of being sworn at by 14 year olds, but Game Church wanted to add a new conversation to the mix.  They started talking to people about Jesus, and sharing the gospel with the other gamers in their chats!  I wanted to call their strategy unconventional, but considering the location that was hard to do.  After a great 10 minute conversation, I left their booth feeling energized, and asking myself an important question.

What unconventional evangelism strategies are out there waiting to be discovered?

The world today is vastly different than it was even five years ago, and certainly almost unrecognizable from what it was 50 years ago.  And yet our evangelism strategies have stayed mostly unchanged during that same period of time.  We build fancy churches and cross our fingers hoping someone will walk through the door and hear the Gospel.  But is that really working?  We need to go to where the people are, and interact with them on their playing field, even if that field is digital.  What are the hot trends in entertainment, leisure, travel, dining, etc.?  How can we meet people in those areas, and offer them the good news of Jesus Christ?  Most importantly, are we even willing to do it “their way,” and not ours?

I don’t know the answers to all these questions.  But as I exited Comic Con late Sunday afternoon with a backpack full of comics, shirts, stickers, buttons, and posters, the best thing I left with was a new hunger for the lost, and a desire to try something new to reach them.

 

400 Silent Years

Below you will find the audio for Pastor Jim’s six week study on the 400 Inter-testament years (the years between the writings of the Old and New Testament).  This study was done at Berean Bible Church in Shoreline Washington, during the months of November and December of 2016.

Preparing to Journey to Israel (part 1)

This is the audio from Pastor Jim’s first lesson on the Holy Land. Here we look at the key historical coastal areas of Israel and connect them with significant Bible lessons. One correction, Pastor Jim notes that Tel Aviv is the capital but actually West Jerusalem is the capital today (Tel Aviv is the site of U.S. embassy).

1 Peter Study

Below you will find the audio for our six week study on the book of 1 Peter, taught by Josh Herman.  This class was presented at Berean Bible Church in Shoreline Washington during November and December of 2016.  The study covers the major themes of the book, specifically focusing on the question, “How are we as Christians suppose to live in the midst of the larger, secular society?”

We hope you enjoy listening to this study, and please check back in the future for more audio of our Sunday School classes.

 

Where Does Our Help Come From

While driving around the Puget Sound area one cannot help but notice the many hills that our area is comprised of. Sometimes when I am downtown in the business district I think to myself ‘there are not many cities where you can enter the ground level first floor and exit on the fourth floor and find that too is at ground level due to the incline’. Tourists who start there visit at the waterfront are often unprepared for the number of stairs they have to climb to visit the Market and Downtown.

 

In Psalm 121 the author states “I lift up my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.’ The most natural understanding could be that he is stating that the hills remind him of the Lord who is on high that is his helper. Another thought to consider is that given the fact the pagans always built their temples and places of sacrifices on the ‘high places’, maybe he is reflecting that God’s people do not look to the ‘high places of worship’. Rather, they look to the Lord, who is the maker of all the earth and above the ‘high places’.  We often read in the OT where Israel sinned by building alters on the ‘high places’ and worshiping idols there.

 

Indeed, in our hour of need it is to the Lord that we are to look for our constant help. While we might be tempted to look to other means of security and help, ultimately it is the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, the one above all creation, who is our final source of help, comfort and guidance. Where does your help come from? The Psalmist’s help came from the only true God and Lord and so does ours.