From Hacked Email to Changed Lives

Our church email got hacked this morning. Someone pretended to be our secretary, and made it sound like they were stuck in the Philippines and needed money. Needless to say the rest of our morning was full of changing passwords, creating a new email account, answering the unending phone calls of helpful people letting us know they received that email, and rebuilding email lists that the hacker deleted. What a pain!

On the positive side, we were able to create a better email work environment for our church office! We now have all email accounts on the same domain as our website (www.eastsidefamily.church), and we now have access to a number of resources and really awesome tools that we didn’t have with our old email setup. We were able to recreate new, more usable email lists and found a few mistakes we had in the old ones. As of now, our email setup is far better than it has ever been, and none of this would have happened if someone hadn’t hacked into our email! We were able to take a frustrating, bad event, and turn it into something great! (Even though our secretary’s fingers are still tired of retyping all the email lists!)

God often works in a similar way in our lives. All of us have made mistakes, or have failed at some point in our walk with Christ. Some of us lived lives we’re not proud of before we found Jesus. Most people I know are afraid to even talk about their failings. As a dear sister phrased it, we wear our “church face.” We don’t want anyone to know we struggle.

Paul lived a life he wasn’t proud of before he met Jesus. Yet the change in his life was so great that it encouraged others. Paul wrote this about his conversion:

22 …the churches in Christ that are in Judea didn’t know me personally. 23 All they knew was that people were saying, “The one who used to persecute us is now preaching the very faith he tried to destroy!” 24 And they praised God because of me. Galatians 1:22-24 NLT

We often run from our pasts, but our past in conjunction with our changed life can produce a powerful testimony for Christ! The group I Am Second produces tons of inspiring testimony based on changed lives. The testimony of a changed life is powerful. Don’t run from your past…share your testimony!

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Never Gonna Give You Up!

This is the season of Lent. If you are unfamiliar with the season, allow me to explain. Lent is supposed to remind the observer of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, where he was also tempted by the devil.

Observers of Lent are encouraged to go without…usually this includes fasting, as well as giving up something you enjoy. A friend of mine has decided to give up coffee.

But not all Christians participate in the observance of Lent. Some choose to give something up, others choose not to participate. But whether you do, or don’t participate there is a lesson to be learned here.

Paul addressed a situation in Rome where some people were observing certain days as holy, and special. Others treated them as just another day.  There was also questions about what foods could be eaten or not. Here’s how Paul handles it.

In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. – Romans 14:5-6

So to all of you during this season of Lent, whether you choose to observe or not observe, do it in a way that honors the Lord, and honors one another. After all, that’s what Jesus called us to do.

Favoritism in Church: Is it really a problem?

Yesterday we looked at how Christians are called to be different, and that being different when compared to the world is a good thing. Every day this week we’ll be looking at examples that Jesus and his followers left us of just how different we are supposed to be in this world.

Today we look at both the early church, and the modern church. James, Jesus’ brother, gives us a view of how the early church struggled with this very thing. Apparently the early Christians were treating some of their members and visitors in a way that God didn’t appreciate. Here’s what he has to say:

James 2:3-4 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well,doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

Now to fully understand what was going on here, we have to understand where these Christians were coming from. Virtually all of them were Jewish converts, and as such carried their Jewish customs into their new Christian faith.

If we look at the example of the temple worship, it was all about people being treated differently. Only the high priest was allowed in the Most Holy Place once a year. There were other sections of the temple where only priests could go. There were areas where only men could be present. There were areas where only ethnic Jews (non-Gentiles) could worship. There were areas where Gentiles could be present. And the ceremonially unclean could not be present.

Additionally it would seem that worshippers were treated differently based on how they prayed in public, as well as the offerings they gave. This was common practice.

And in many ways it still is. Men and women aren’t allowed to sit together in some synagogues. And other synagogues today where you sit depends on how much you can pay.  This practice of treating people in an uneven way was very common.

As James tells us, Christians should be different! We are not supposed to show favoritism!

James 2  – Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin…

I think churches still struggle with this. In most Sunday morning gatherings one can look around and see far more similarities than differences. Everyone has about the same income. Everyone dresses about the same way. Everyone looks about the same.

What James was calling the early church to do, and what we as a modern church are still being called to do, is to not be afraid to take the Gospel to those who are different. Yes, it’s easier to share our faith with the people we spend the most time with…the people who tend to be the most like us. But we are to treat everyone as if they have equal value to God. Because they do!

This is different. And Christians are called to be different. In a world that thrives on labels: outcasts, awkward, rich, poor, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, liberals, conservatives, gay, straight, black, white…it shouldn’t matter. EVERYONE needs the Gospel, and needs to feel welcome in our assemblies because every person we meet is a child of God, and he wants his love and his message and his salvation to reach everyone.

It’s time to be different. It’s time for each of us to share the Gospel, and to share it with everyone.

John Glenn and Jesus

john-glennThe world has lost a giant among men. John Glenn, Astronaut on Mercury 7 and Discovery, U.S. Senator, U.S. Marine, and a Christian, made an indelible impression on human history.

One would guess that such a man, surrounded by science and fame, might lose his way. During his historic return to outer space aboard Discovery in 1998, Glenn gave the following statement that showed his faith in God.

“Looking at the Earth from this vantage point, looking at this kind of creation and to not believe in God, to me, is impossible…To see (Earth) laid out like that only strengthens my beliefs.” – John Glenn, Nov. 1, 1998

Thank you Mr. Glenn for sharing your amazing gifts with us. For teaching us more about the world we live in, and showing us that we can believe in the one yet to come.

I doubt I will ever be able to see the earth and the universe in a way equal to Glenn. But even without that stellar view, we can still arrive at the same conclusion!

We first have to stop and consider how improbable our lives really are. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal the chances of our existence just happening through natural means is infinitesimally small, it should have never happened. And when we realize how improbable the existence of human life is, we should look to a Creator far greater than ourselves. click-here-to-tweet

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1

The prologue to John’s gospel goes into a bit more detail.

In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
    and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness can never extinguish it.

There’s simply no other way to explain how our universe was created. No theory can explain how something came from nothing. That is, unless you account for our Creator.

God has blessed us with such an amazing creation. He even designed it so that when we explore the magnitude and complexity of our surroundings, it points a huge arrow right back at Him.

19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. – Romans 1:19-20

We serve an amazing God. One who created us, surrounded us with a creation that points back to Himself, sent us a Savior to help us when we fail, and continue to provide for our every need.

Today, be proud that God saw fit to create you too! Of all the places, and all the times of history, God saw fit to place you where you are today. John Glenn changed the future of humankind with the life and time he was given. What will you do with today?

December 7th, 1941

December 7th, 1941 – A day that too many have forgotten.  As you read this blog you may still have no idea that on this day 70 years ago Japan attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii.

On that quiet Sunday morning our world was literally shaken and the scope of history changed forever.  Still, so many have forgotten this day.  I asked a class full of 6th grade students if they knew anything about this infamous day, or FDR’s speech.  None of them really did.

Maybe if we take a moment to educate our children on the history of this great country and the struggles and attacks it has overcome, then just maybe when they grow up they’ll appreciate all the blessings our country has to offer, and the brave men and women who fought and died so you and I can live here in peace and freedom.  If we teach our children about the history of our great country perhaps they will grow up and not join the growing ranks of those who seek to destroy our founding father’s intentions, destroy our freedoms, remove God from our founding documents, and spit upon everything this country has stood for since those brave men stood up against the tyranny of King George III, or since those men and women we know as Pilgrims sought to start a free Christian nation when they landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620.

Why have we become so enamored with the present, and completely ignored our past?

Deuteronomy 32:7 – New International Version (NIV)

 7 Remember the days of old; 
   consider the generations long past. 
Ask your father and he will tell you, 
   your elders, and they will explain to you.

If we continue to allow our future generations to completely ignore the past of our country, to be ignorant of what truly makes the United States of America great, then our country will lose its greatness.  And if we continue to allow God to be removed from our society, pretty soon there will be nothing left  of our great nation.

Deuteronomy 8:18 – New International Version (NIV)

18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

May America bless God, and may God bless America.