Thanks to our Blog Writers!

As we come to the end of our 2017 40-day Summer Stretch Blog, let us say, “Thank You!” to all of our blog contributors…

Rita Bewry

Peter Borsella

Hazel Campbell

Patrick Chin

Lisa Gonzales

Monica Hidalgo

Annje Hutchinson

Chris Linderman

Michelle Morse

Michelle Musselman

Monique Myers

Will Newton

Bernie Peterman

Lisa Primavera

Vance Rains

Olivia Reynolds

Steve Rivera

Rhonda Said

If you missed reading any of the blogs, or would like to reread or share one with someone, they will continue to be available for the next several months.

Each of these writers have shared their stories, their spiritual insights, their spiritual journeys and their hearts with us.  Some have made us laugh.  Some have made us think.  Some have made us cry. All, in their way, have helped us to get to know the writers better – and perhaps, ourselves.   All, in their way, have revealed insights in Scripture.  All, in their way, have pointed to Jesus, and who Jesus wants to be for each of us.

In the comment section below, please express your thanks!

Not Ashamed…

Today’s blog post is by Chris Linderman, Director of Youth Ministry, 

One game that our high school students love playing is Ultimate Frisbee.  The game is a mix between soccer and football, but with a Frisbee. You have students that are fully in the game. They are jumping for passes. They are attempting to throw and catch even when they don’t feel confident in their abilities. Then you have others that just stand in the end zone and not really do anything.

In Student Ministry, I typically see two types of students—a participant & an observant. The participant student is engaged in what the student ministry is doing, even if it’s not something they feel comfortable with or enjoy. The participant is typically the student that understands that they have a role in the ministry and takes the initiative in fulfilling that role.

The observant student is the one that enjoys being on the team, but sits on the sidelines and never really wants to play. They just want to watch. The observant either doesn’t really want to fully invest in to it or they don’t think they fit in or have anything to offer to the rest of the team.

I believe that we have all played the observant role at some point in our faith journey, where we would rather watch what is happening in the church, rather than being a participant in what is happening in the church. It’s easy to sit and watch. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. We can’t fail if we don’t try. We don’t feel “spiritual” enough or knowledgeable enough to speak to someone about the love of Christ, so we stay silent.

Paul, in Romans 1:16-17, is making this statement “I am not ashamed of the Gospel,” because he knows the importance of this message—Salvation is here for EVERYONE for the Jews and the Gentiles. Everyone that he encounters needs to hear it, see it, and experience it. The Gospel is GOOD NEWS and we can’t be ashamed of it. We have to be bold in our faith. We can’t just observe. We MUST be participants in this Gospel mission!

Our mission as a student ministry at First Church is to “Be the Gospel to Those That Need the Gospel.” We have a mission as followers! It’s time to play in the game and not just be on the team.

A few questions to reflect on…

  • Where is God calling me to step out in faith and participate?
  • Who around me, whether at work or home, needs to hear the Good News of Christ?
  • How can you serve in your church?

 

Guard Your Heart and Mouth

Today’s Scripture is Proverbs 4:23-24

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.” 

Today’s blog post is by Pastor Vance…

At first glance, these two verses appear to be unrelated.  The first is about guarding the heart.  The second is about what comes out of your mouth.  Heart?  Mouth?  What’s the connection?

The key words are, “for everything you do flows from it.”  In essence, if you don’t guard your heart, nasty things may flow from your mouth.  Or, the nasty things that come out of your mouth come from an un-guarded heart.

Jesus echoes this in Matthew 15:16-19,

Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

Let me make this very plain.  When we eat something, it enters the mouth, then it passes through the body, and later exits elsewhere in a less desirable, stinky, revolting form.  But, according to Jesus, what comes out of the mouth can be equally revolting – lies, gossip, grumbling, insults, slander, etc.

Where do such nasty words originate?  According to Jesus and Proverbs 4:23-24, the words we speak originate in our hearts.

Elsewhere, the book of James says that the tongue is the most difficult of all human organs to maintain control of.

Think of it this way.  If it is in your heart, it will come out in words.  Thus, the words you speak are an accurate indicator of the condition of your heart.

If your heart is hurt, your words will be hurtful.  If your heart is full of envy and jealousy, your words will be resentful.  If your heart is full of judgement, your words will be condemning.  If your heart is prideful, your words will belittle.  If your heart is full of lust, your words will be perverse.

Here’s a suggestion – pay close attention to what you say today.  How frequently do you use obscenities?  How often do you gossip? How often are you critical?  How much do you grumble?  How many of your words are unkind?  How often are your demeaning to others?  How many opportunities do you miss to say something kind, encouraging, or affirming?

Where does that crap come from?  Your heart.  Why is it there?  Maybe it’s time to put a lot more of Jesus in your heart, and a lot less of the other stuff.  You’ll be amazed by the difference.

Through God’s Eyes…

Today’s blog post is by Bernie Peterman, Business Administrator

One day, I was walking around my neighborhood – something I don’t do often because I don’t like to sweat – I started noticing people, houses etc.  I found my self talk to be something like, “man is this neighborhood changing,”  “Who would paint their houses that hideous blue or bright orange,” “When did THOSE people move in?”,  “OMG look at that guy, I don’t think he’s showered in weeks – Gross!”  Pretty negative – but that’s what my eyes saw

Then I read today’s scripture   Ephesians 1:18-19 (NIV)

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength.

And, I thought, “what does that mean?”  So, I started wrestling with God’s words and my thoughts.  I realized that these words have both external and internal meaning.  Paul is praying that we see through the eyes of Christ (external) and that we then feel in our hearts (internal).

With this in mind, I walked around my neighborhood, (and, yes, sweated again). As I noticed people I saw a father and his son working on their yard together –  a father teaching his son.  I noticed the brightly colored houses and my self-talk was “Wow those bright colors add some liveliness to the drab beiges and grays of other houses.”  I found out “Those people” moved here from a different country, worked hard to start a new life, because their country had nothing to offer.  He completed college here and could finally buy his own house. I also wondered what the homeless man’s story was, “Why was he living on the streets?”

It wasn’t easy to change from looking through my jaded eyes to looking through Christ’s loving eyes. But the beauty and hope I saw was so much different than the negative and bleak I saw before.  It takes God’s mighty strength and incomparably great power – namely the Holy Spirit living in us – for us to see people and situations through hope, through beauty, through the idea that we are ALL children of God.  I was filled with peace and joy.

Considering the world we live in, it’s a stretch to live a positive, loving lifestyle – one where we view life from the eyes of our heart which is in Christ Jesus.  It’s a daily choice that gets easier as you practice doing it.    So take a walk around your neighborhood, or maybe a not so good neighborhood, and see the beauty and hope God has for all of us.  You will be stretched and hopefully awed by God.

 

 

 

 

 

How is Your Faith?

Today’s Blog is by Patrick Chin…

Faith is a tricky word. Its definition is tough to pin down. Dictionary.com has seven, yes, seven definitions for faith!

1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.

2.  belief that is not based on proof:  He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

3.  belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.

4.belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.

5.  a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.

6.  the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement,etc.:

Failure to appear would be breaking faith.

7.  the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one’s promise, oath,allegiance, etc.:

He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.

We all have faith!

We have faith that drivers will yield the right of way, that there will be a tomorrow, that the elevator that we’re on won’t plummet into the ground, etc.

Georgia Harkness put it this way… “One does not eat his dinner or lie down on his bed at night without faith that the food will nourish and not poison him, that the bed will support and not suffocate him.”

But what about faith in God? The God that governs all of the above. I sometimes feel that my faith is weak. That I do not have enough of this gift from God. That I need more faith. Ironically the disciples felt this way as well. Jesus’ reply in Matthew 17:20 was interesting. “And He *said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”

The word “littleness” (how does your bible version translate this verse?) brought about more questions and so I took a look at Luke 17:5-6   And the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’  So the Lord said, ‘If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.'”

Faith in God is like a muscle. Use it and it will grow bigger and stronger. Ignore it and you risk atrophy. Even the best bodybuilders weren’t born that way, but they were given that potential and then worked hard to develop their muscles. Some of us may have puny or “little” muscles, but if we exercise them properly they will grow. It is the same with faith.

So…how’s your faith?

All Things New

Today’s Scripture: Revelation 21:5

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Today’s Blog Post is by Bernie Peterman, First Church Business Manager

When you read this passage, Imagine the season of winter. The earth looks drab and gray. The trees are barren, the earth feels lifeless.  Has there ever been a time in your life you have felt this way?  Maybe the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or relationship, depression about the way you look or the direction or lack of direction in your life. Drug addiction, no self-confidence, just blah. We all can identify with those feelings at some point in our lives.

Then we read “He who is seated on the throne,” meaning Jesus Christ, makes all things new. If we are willing, He will make all things new in respect to our situation and spirit. He will restore our hearts, lift the sadness and sorrow, and show us the path and journey that is His plan for us.  Just like the trees and flowers in the spring, that starts as small blooms and grow into majestic trees and beautiful flowers. God will nurture us, fulfill our needs and love us till he has brought us to enjoy a complete relationship with him.

Then he tells us “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true”.  This is God’s promise –  that he will make us new creations made in His image. He tells us to journal our journey with him.  Many times we need reminding of the amazing things God has done in our life.  Just as the cycle of the seasons happens every year, the cycle of life’s trials and triumphs happens in people’s lives.  Keeping a written memory of God’s blessings and our transformation into a new “ thing” helps us to remember the Hope we have in Christ Jesus. Then when we are in the “ winter season” of our life we know “ Spring” is coming, we just need to trust the ONE who is seated on the throne.

Inheritance

Scripture of the Day – 1 Peter 1:3-4

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

Today’s Blog Post, by Pastor Vance

I’ve inherited…

  • My father’s flat feet.
  • My father and grandfather’s love for motorcycles – but I didn’t inherit my grandfather’s Harley, and I’m still a little bitter about that!
  • My mom’s love of antiques and artistic flair.
  • The Rains’ family hardheadedness.
  • My grandfather’s tools – as though I have a clue what to do with them!
  • My mom’s good looks – we both did a little modeling (no comments please…).
  • My grandfather’s early 2000’s crappy purple Ford Ranger – not the 1963 garage-kept, low-mileage, antique Ford Ranger that he traded in for $500 to buy the crappy purple one.  I’m still a little bitter about this too.
  • My mom’s family’s “southern” charm.
  • A really good head of hair, and no apparent risk of balding.  Hopefully I will also inherit the pure white hair my grandfather had in his senior years!

As an only child of an only son, someday I will inherit whatever is left of the Rains’ estate. Depending on what is left – money, property, belongings, photos, papers, memorabilia – it will all pass on to me.  I will be glad to inherit some things.  Some, I will be glad to pass on to others.  Some, I’ll probably just be stuck with – until I can make my kids take it!

It’s interesting to me that Peter uses the language of inheritance.  As a follower of Jesus, I have been given a “new birth” into a “living hope” into an inheritance that will never “perish, spoil, or fade.”

Ultimately, everything in this life will “perish, spoil, or fade.”  Stuff get’s lost.  Achievements are forgotten.  Memories fade.  Things rust and rot.  Everyone, eventually, becomes worm food.  Everything we inherit, eventually passes from our hands to another’s, or simply passes away altogether.

But, there is another inheritance that is eternal.  Receiving it, is like being born a second time.

So, the question for all of us is, “What inheritance are we living for?  When you think about your hopes, dreams and aspirations, are they primarily for this life, and this world, or for the world to come?  Are we investing for this life, or the next?”  

Keep stretching.