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In Our DNA

Blog from Pastor Jim

DNA, you hear this acronym quite often these days but do you know what it stands for? According to the Oxford Dictionary it is defined as follows, “deoxyribonucleic acid, a self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms as the main constituent of chromosomes. It is the carrier of genetic information.” You will notice the word ‘self-replicating’ which suggests that once in motion this material will continue to reproduce and this is why you will often hear someone say in reference to an organization or even church ‘this is in our DNA’ in reference to a core value and mission.

This week we have been sharing in our Annual Berean Missions Conference and I personally have enjoyed greatly all eight families who have been sharing with us. I believe we can truly say that World Missions is part of the DNA of Berean Church and hopefully always will be. We are privileged to support, pray for and encourage our missionaries both from the US and the many from the countries we have partnered with as ultimately our role is to help in training and partnering with national churches so they are equipped to provide the ministry needed for their communities, both local and for their countries.

When Berean was founded 53 years ago in 1964, missions was an integral aspect of our ministry. In our Library you can find the volume The Ministry of the Berean Bible Church and the following quote from p. 414 “From the day that the Berean Church began in 1964 until the sanctuary was completed in 1967, there were two missionary families that were supported on the Missionary Roster, and that included the Marlin Olson family at the Bethany Christian School in Taipei, Taiwan, and the Vernon Bigelow family in Ozamis City, Philippines.”

From that point on our Mission commitment has continued to grow to where our pledge goal this year is $140,000 and this is in addition to many other gifts as well that Bereans contribute. Truly mission work in our own community and throughout the world is part of our DNA and this week has been a great reminder to us of how privileged we are to be a part of God’s great work. Your participation enables us to be assured that our DNA, ‘the carrier of genetic information’, will continue to be a core value for the Berean Bible Church family.

Pastor Jim

The “Unscience” of God’s Call?

img_mouseover3 (3)I have had the privilege to lead several small groups throughout the past five years.  In those groups, I have always spoken of the innate human desire to observe, predict, and control.  These three drive many of our actions on a daily basis.  We naturally try to observe past experiences so that we can predict present circumstances so that we can control future outcomes.  Let me give an example:

  1. Scientific method.  All the sciences use the observe, predict, and control model.  They do this in order to form hypotheses, experiment using controls, and formulating theories that can be either proven or disproven by repeating experiments.  The goal of science is to explain and understand natural phenomena.  From Physics and Chemistry to Psychology and Ecology, these methods hold true.

Consider this, it makes no sense to the natural human mind to put its trust in something that is both unpredictable and uncontrollable.  And yet that’s exactly what God is.  He is and always will be unpredictable and uncontrollable.  Let me share with you a passage from His word that demonstrates this.

Acts 13:1-3 “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” (ESV)

Did the Holy Spirit tell them exactly where to go, what to do, and how to do it?  No.  All Barnabas and Saul knew was that God had told them to go.  They did not know where nor for how long.  They just knew that they had to go.  They made the decision to follow where the Holy Spirit was calling them, even though it left them open to unpredictable, uncontrollable circumstances.

Is God calling you to something?  Is God asking you to follow Him somewhere, even if He has not revealed any details about it?  This week at Berean, we have our Missions Conference.  We will hear from many whose lives have been transformed because of their simple response to God’s call: “go”.  Now, God may not be calling you to leave everything you are familiar with and leave the country, but I do want to urge you to quiet your soul during the conference, and ask God what He is calling YOU to.

To clarify, God is not opposed to science.  But who knows, He may be calling you to do something that completely defies your desire to observe, predict, and control.  My prayer is that you will boldly step into that conversation with God anyway.

 

In case you didn’t know beforehand, this week begins our blog series on missions.  And just in time for our Missions Conference that begins TONIGHT at Berean Bible Church.  Check out the church website at http://www.berean-shoreline.org/  for details!

Whom Do You Glorify?

There is a banner that hangs in the chapel at camp that asks the question, “whom do you glorify?” It doesn’t hang from the front, it doesn’t hang from the side, it is right above the doorway for you to see when you are walking out. This question can seem like an easy answer for me sometimes…”well, I glorify God.” When I worship through song, I am glorifying. When I am spending quality time with my housemates, I am glorifying. When I am volunteering in the youth ministry, I am glorifying. I would even say that I am glorifying when I am meandering through the isles of the grocery store looking for those doggone marshmallows that are never in the isle I think they will be in. (they’re in the ice cream & toppings isle by the way..because that’s a logical place for them to be.) We are taught that everything we do can be done for the glory of God. “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” 1st. Corinthians 10:31 That’s GREAT!

But are we willing to ask Him to give us opportunities to glorify Him outside of our normal routines?

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” -Colossians 3:23-24

We believe the truth, and rightly so, that anything we do in life has the potential to bring honor and glory to our Creator, Lord and Savior. But there can also become this false sense of assurance when reading Paul’s command in Colossians that there is not a high urgency to stretch outside of our everyday routine. What we are already doing from day to day is good enough. There’s no need to look for more ways. The way we live out our busy lives is bringing enough glory. But is it? Were we called to a life of comfort, of saying, “it’s good enough” or to an ever changing life that is to be continually transformed? OF COURSE we have been called to an ever changing life that is to be transformed! And how wonderful and terrifying is that?! Think of the ministry that can come if we are willing to look outside of our everyday routines to serve God! Think of all the growth and possibilities that can come from just being willing, not to mention the joy and contentment that will reside within our lives if we are seeking first and foremost to bring His name glory!

I first read this banner as a 6th grader, ready and excited for a life of service and dedication to following after God and I am still reading it today as an adult, being reminded and challenged to walk out of those doors with the same mindset I had as a youth, excited for what was to come, and to ask for opportunities, whether easy or hard, to serve Him.

So here’s my challenge to you: Start reminding yourself that everything you do, whether work or school or daily tasks, these things can bring glory to God. For those of you who are already living life with this mindset, good for you! Now start to look for ways to bring Him glory outside of your day to day routines. Don’t worry, He will give you plenty of opportunities.

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Bearing witness to God’s love

It’s been over a week now that we have woken up to a deep red sun rising through the smokey skies here in the Northwest. It’s a strange feeling to have hot, dry summer days with the sun barely visible because of the fires in British Columbia.

Imagine if you had no way of reading or watching the news, or you had been away for awhile can returned to this type of event. What might you theorize was happening in the world? You might be able to come up with all sorts of reasonable sounding explanations for why the air quality was so poor.

Ultimately, to know the truth, you would need to have someone explain to you what was happening (or go see for yourself). And that person would have had someone explain it to them, who had someone explain it to them, and so on until the source of information leads back to someone who has actually witnessed the fires for themselves. Just because you or I have only experienced the smoke and haven’t seen the fires for ourselves doesn’t make them any less real, or make our explanation of what is happening less valid than someone who has seen the fire. And just because someone might not about the fires at all, doesn’t mean the smoke isn’t there.

God’s love is always present for His creation. At some times and to some people, His love is as obvious as if we were standing directly in front of the flame. Often, it is more subtle – smoke on the horizon that shows us that something might be going on, but we aren’t able to quite name what it is. But He’s there, and He’s loving.

Sometimes we need someone to stop us and tell us about the source of this love. We need someone who can bear witness to the reality we are experiencing. As Christians, as those who have at one time or another been exposed to the flame of God’s love. And because of this, we are able to identify effects of His love and bear witness to those around us of that reality. Thought the Holy Spirit, we have eyes to see the reality of God’s love in our world and explain the ways He is working in the lives of others so they too can understand that reality.

What do you want your legacy to be?

The young adults from Berean went on a camping trip two weekends ago.  While there, someone asked me a question that has sat in my mind ever since.

The question is in the title…

I was caught off guard by the question.  It was the most serious conversation I had that weekend.  This is a very important question, because as I look at my past, my present, and my future, I only want to do what God wants me to do.  When He tells me GO, I go.  When He says STOP, I stop.  When He says SLOW DOWN, I slow down.  That’s what I want my legacy to stem from.  A pastor friend of mine back in Illinois once told me that a legacy should be built on and focused around those who come after you.  So that when they rise up and take our place, they will look at us and say “thank you”.

The most common way to illustrate legacy is the image of passing the baton.  I am sure you all know that after a lap, the runner holding the baton must pass it to the runner taking their place.  That’s a very simple way to describe legacy.  It works, but I wonder if there is a better way to illustrate it.  Honestly, the image of passing on the baton does not cover the consistent interactions that take place in real legacy-making.  A better image for understanding legacy would be planting a garden.  Incidentally enough, planting was a common symbol Jesus used in His teaching.  Trees are planted with the hope that they will grow to produce fruit.  But that hope is a long-term hope, because trees take years to grow.  Other plants take less time to grow, but need constant maintenance to make sure they aren’t choked out by weeds or wilted from too much sun or not enough water.  Clearly, gardening takes daily work.  The same is true of leaving a legacy.  Legacy is not simply emanating the life that you want to see others live, as though they were an audience watching you run a relay.  Legacy is a daily, personal interaction with a particular person or group of people from which they get to experience, on a personal level, the life you lead, as though they were a garden you are charged with tending.  Gardeners do not leave their gardens untended for a day.  They stick with it!

The same is true of legacy.  Legacy is not running solo like a relay racer, hoping people are watching you.  If you want to leave a legacy for those who come after you, place yourself in the position of genuine, personal, and consistent interaction with intentionally chosen people, so that when they will rise up to take your place, they will look at you and say “thank you”!

The Apostle Paul once wrote to one of his churches, “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but our lives as well.” (1 Thes. 2:8)

Jesus Himself crafted his twelve disciples into men who would change the world with the truth of salvation.  He did this by intentionally selecting, interacting, and teaching them.

This is legacy.

Perfect Timing

Of all the vegetable or fruit plants we have had in our yard over the years, the ones that are most dependable are the raspberries. Other than some weeding, trimming and replanting some new shoots they are very low maintenance. There is something about the NW corner on our property that is conducive to the raspberry as I can remember having plants there when I was a child and when Teresa planted them again some years ago they took right off. So now is the time we enjoy the fruit as every day or two there are ripe ones to pick. The catch is a that there are always some just about ready and since you may forget tomorrow you are tempted to pick them today even though you know they would be better left. If you wait two days, then you may find them on the ground and wishing you had picked them before. When the timing is just right they come off the vine with hardly any nudge and are perfect on that day. It is all a matter of timing; too soon, too late or just the right time to pick (I am probably not going to have this problem with my fig tree since I only have two figs growing right now and the window to pick will be longer).

God’ timing is always just perfect and we are reminded as we see His hand at work in our lives and realize how caring and loving He is. Sometimes we might think He does something at the wrong time from our perspective, maybe we would not have chosen that particular time for that very important experience. However, His perspective is perfect and we are not always privy to His reasons but ultimately we have to ‘walk by faith’ and trust Him. The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us that ‘to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven’ and we are so blessed to know that the season and time coordinate with His purpose and ‘all things work together’ for God’s good and hence ours. Whatever God brings into our lives right now we can be assured it is the perfect season, the perfect timing and fits with His perfect purpose.

-Pastor Jim

When Jesus Sat Down

There were quite a few from Berean Bible Church who traveled to the holy land in May. There, they were able to see a lot of Old Testament sites, monuments, and memorials. These many stops are testaments to the work of God in that land. Unfortunately, all good trips must come to an end.

As we all get settled back into work and summer routines, let’s continue to contemplate the powerful ways that God continues to use the Old Testament today. In the days of Israel, God used priests to perform sacrifices in the Temple. These sacrifices were intended to keep the people clean from their sins, to demonstrate their sincere repentance, and to worship the God of all creation. Every Jew who followed the law of Moses would bring these sacrifices and the priests would stand at their positions and perform their duties, sacrificing what was brought according to what the law prescribed.

Everyone who visited Jerusalem last month got to see where the Temple stood and learn how it acted as the cultural and religious center for the Jews. The Temple WAS and IS STILL an influential part of the nation of Israel.

But let’s move on to the here and now. Today, we can learn a lot from the Law of Moses. The Book of Hebrews is an incredibly profound treatment of the Old Covenant/Law of Moses and how it applies to us today.

Jesus Christ is the grand subject of Hebrews. Over and over again, the author of Hebrews demonstrates that Jesus is SUPERIOR to the Old Covenant Law in every aspect! Here, let’s look at what the author of Hebrews says about Jesus as the priest of a greater system than that of the Jews.

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Read Hebrews 10:11-14

“every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

Imagine being a Jew who is accustomed to offering sacrifices. You would go to the Temple and see the priests who stand there all day long taking the sacrifices of the people. Their work never ends, which is why they are always standing.

Now imagine being this same Jew and reading the above passage. Previously, you would be following the argument of the author of Hebrews. He had just written that there is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22) but that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin (Heb. 10:4).

So, you are left wondering, “if the blood of bulls and goats don’t take away my sin, but if it must be blood, then whose blood is it?” The author of Hebrews knows.

Jesus Christ’s blood.

Jesus Christ’s blood takes away sins.

But the author of Hebrews does not leave us there. As a Jew, we would think that Christ would need to continuously offer his own blood to pay for our sins. Every time we sin, He would need to sacrifice Himself all over again in order to cover it. But the author of Hebrews once again proves that Jesus’ blood is SUPERIOR to the blood of the animal sacrifices.

His blood is SUPERIOR because it covers sin ONCE and FOR ALL!

…once for all…

There is no more constant work to be done. The priests at the Temple needed to STAND while performing their duties because the work of covering peoples’ sin was continuous. But Jesus SAT DOWN after offering his sacrifice, because His duty was completed forever. He does not need stand anymore, as if His work of sacrifice still needs to be done. The author of Hebrews says, “Christ offered FOR ALL TIME a SINGLE sacrifice for sins” (v. 12) and that through this single sacrifice “he has perfected FOR ALL TIME those who are being sanctified” (v. 14).

So, if we have trusted in Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice for sin, all our sins have been covered, even future sins. Jesus is SUPERIOR to the old priests.

If Jesus has paid for all our sins, why do we strive to do what is right?

Motive. A proper motive is key. From this scripture, we know that doing right things in order to make ourselves “right with God” is a wrong motive. Ask yourself if you are doing good things to make God proud of you. Ask yourself if you are doing good things to make Him forgive you for the evil thoughts, actions, and desires, for the selfishness, for the complacency in your life.

Ask yourself.

 

No, really. Ask yourself.

 

I know I often fall into this trap of believing that I can somehow impress God with my good behavior and service. I too often think that if I just do more good things, serve more at church, then maybe God will forget the things I have a guilty conscience for. And maybe as a result, I can finally be freed from the guilt and regret I always carry around with me.

As Christ-followers, one of God’s deepest desires is that we understand it is finished. We no longer need to strive to impress God with our service, make Him proud to be called our Father, or force Him to forgive us. That is no longer our motive for doing good, because He already forgave us. The theologian David W. Chapman writes…

“believers look to Christ and not to themselves for a cleansed conscience, full forgiveness of sins, and total flawlessness in the future.”

As the routine of summer kicks in, let’s keep this truth at the forefront of our minds as we serve those around us and seek to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Together, let’s have a different motive for serving the Lord…