Wednesday, December 19, 2018

It's Not What You Think...

Image result for image christmas cross

It’s Not What You Think

    So, the time of year has come again where we redecorate our homes, sing a different set of songs, and are barraged with sale after sale.  Yes, my friends, it is Christmas time. The secular side of Christmas is that of Santa Claus bringing toys, snowmen (and women), cookies, and sleigh rides.  The Christian side of Christmas will paint the picture of the neatly designed nativity. Mary, Joseph and a few important guests; the shepherds, wisemen, and a few animals crowded around the manager.  While both Christmases have their place, even in my life, neither gets truly to the nature of what Christmas is all about…its not what you think.
    To start, I will mention that Santa Claus (aka Saint Nick, Pair Noel, Sinterklaas, etc.) has very diverse roots; many of them pagan.  Saint Nicholas the person was a follower of Christ as well as a giver of gifts. He was once defrocked for hitting a peer in full assembly when a Bishop, named Arius, downplayed the divinity of Christ when he stated Jesus was not equal to God the Father; painting a lesser picture of the significance of Christ in the church.  Being a believer today often makes us the minority, watching what we say and how we say it in the workplace and in many public settings (sometimes to extremes in places such as China). Christmas is the one time of year we can get a little braver, declaring our faith by the carols we sing and the nativities we display.
    The focal point of every nativity scene is the manger and more important the baby that lay in it- Jesus.  Much is said in the Bible about this baby that bears many names beyond that of Jesus, “and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Might God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).  The entire Old Testament foreshadows His coming and the New Testament is about His time here and why he came.  While the nativity scene is a symbol of celebration and the birth that changed everything, it is not completely what Christmas is about.  If the meaning of Christmas is only about the baby in the manger, then I will challenge that Christmas is not about what you think it’s about.
    So what is Christmas really about then, you might ask...? The musical group Go Fish sums it up very well with their song “It’s about the Cross”. The first verse and chorus are as follows:
“It's not just about the manger
Where the baby lay
It's not all about the angels
Who sang for him that day

It's not just about the shepherds
Or the bright and shining star
It's not all about the wisemen
Who travelled from afar

It's about the cross
It's about my sin
It's about how Jesus came to be born once
So that we could be born again

It's about the stone
That was rolled away
So that you and I could have real life someday

It's about the cross
It's about the cross”

Go Fish – Album “Christmas with a capital C”

    Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, but really, it’s about the ending of the story 33 years later.  It is about the cross, “it’s about the one who came to be born once so we can be born again” (Go Fish). Yes, the birth is important, and we must always celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, but we need to remember what it is really about…” God so loved the world He gave His one and Only Son for us” (John 3:16).  

Merry Christmas everyone!  Now I call you all to go tell it on the mountain; not just that Jesus Christ was born, but why.

Please enjoy the link to Go Fish’s “It’s About the Cross”

~Written by Christian Love

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Animated-Week 3-Jesus

Anyone who knows me, I mean really knows me, knows I love movies. I have always loved the ways in which I could get lost in a story. The way I could be transported into whimsical fantasy or a swashbuckling adventure. As a child I would exchange dismal reality for a grand adventure revealed to me either on the big screen of the local movie theater or the small screen that had 3 channels. As I grew into adulthood I found that while some people collected ceramic figurines, snow globes or stamps I was collecting moving experiences of a character on screen. A few of my favorite adventures were of Indiana Jones narrowly escaping a runaway boulder or the epic  battle of swords and wits between Edmund Dantes and Fernand Mondego or the harrowing quest of Frodo and Samwise. Yet, with all the intensity of those adventures I find myself considering my favorite movie Frank Capra’s 1947 film It’s a Wonderful Life and how beautifully that story resonates with me.

It’s a Wonderful Life is the story of George Bailey and how life knocks him down, hard. He finds himself on Christmas Eve in a very dark and broken place, the place where hope is absent. The place where the roadmap has been torn and you cannot see true north. George Bailey in his despair decides to jump off a bridge but inadvertently “saves” his guardian angel, Clarence. George Bailey is a bit dumbfounded when through the course of the movie it is revealed how different the little town of Bedford Falls would be had he never been born. George Bailey had no idea that his life had such an impact on his community that his very absence affected the characters in monumental ways.

Can you imagine what the world would look like if you yourself were never born; if you did not exist? If you were absent from ever coming into being? If you did not inhabit your skin. Take that a step further and imagine Jesus, God incarnate not coming to us in the form of that tiny baby in a manger? God not with us! How would our very nature be affected without Immanuel here with us? What a sobering thought.

The Christ Child came to us as a precious gift from the Father. He is an opportunity for us to truly see God with us. Jesus says anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. Yahweh in all of His sovereignty in all of His righteousness and in all of His goodness knows our need to feel His presence on a corporeal level. There is something about skin to skin contact that we as humans crave, it is almost as if we have been designed that very way. And God in all His mercy animated Himself so that we may have God incarnate through the Son, Jesus.

And that is the hope that we are abundantly blessed with. Hope resides in the Christ Child wrapped in swaddling clothes. Hope that we are not alone that God is truly with us. Jesus in all of His lavish love for His disciples did not leave us without hope. Jesus promises His disciples the Holy Spirit as our own roadmap pointing to true north where God passionately pursues us so we too can say it’s a wonderful life.  

~Written by Dea Braaten

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Animated-Week 2-Humanity

Imago Dei

Why should naked equal sexual?
And why should sexual equal lust?
Or why must desire and lust be imagined the same?
Something is wrong.
Unless you can convince me
that all is precisely as it should be -
I'm going with my gut -
something is wrong

It is almost as if a toxin has been dripping
into the good things
into our hearts and how we love
into our minds and how we think
turning good things into opportunities to war and fight
and just sometimes spit and spite
causing our good desire to desire the not-good

and how shall we know
good after all this time?
how shall we detox our imaginations?

The Imago Dei
The Image of God is there in the distance within us
pale and shadowy behind the dust as on an attic mirror
and yet a true north for humans who look to it

How can human beings overcome
the ways by which we divide ourselves
one from another?
Is solidarity possible beyond race, class, and gender?
Can we find a source of value for every individual
 regardless of their sin,
 regardless of their hated of us,
 regardless of their status as our enemy or slave?

Before the first followers of Jesus found confidence in Him as the true Son of God, Jesus taught them that they too were the children of God. This ancient creed was recorded within the folds of a letter of Paul the Apostle. It claimed a thing amazing about the whole human race: there is no race...  there is no class, there is no gender by which to divide ourselves. To a world in which foreigners were feared and hated, slaves were human cattle, and men questioned whether women were really human at all, Jesus claimed something shocking. Into this world Jesus proclaimed (through Paul): "There is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male and female, for you are all one in Christ. In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith"

The Imago Dei gets very little press these days.
I would like to see that change.
It has, I think, power.
Power to encourage us
to love one another and the rest of the world - not pragmatically,
but through the very love we have of God.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Who's Who at AC3--Chad Dodds

In our mission to be a safe church for seekers, we sometimes hear those attending say that they don't know who someone is. We want you to get to know the faces you see around AC3. We are starting with the Triad, and last time we introduced you to Braeden Crain. Next up, we have Chad Dodds, one of our AC3 Board members.

Questions: Spiritually-minded
  • How I clear my mind after a challenging day:
Loud, very loud music on the drive home, typically rock or metal; I try to get the frustrations out and leave the problems behind me. I also try to stop and workout on the way home, which works even better! On the drive in, I usually listen to worship music to charge me up for the day.
  •  Advice to a person of faith dealing with a broken relationship with their church:
My advice here is to do what I say and not what I do! I left my childhood church and didn’t go back to church regularly for 20 years. I knew something was missing from my life and so we went searching. We were very fortunate to find AC3! We love it. My advice would be to attempt reconciliation, but then don’t hold a grudge against God or all Christians based on the fallen people of one church.
  • When I declared I was going to walk along with God, instead of away from him:
As soon as I saw the profound, positive changes he was working throughout my family very shortly after we opened our hearts to him.
  • Change I’d like to see among Christians today:
Chad and wife of almost 19 years, Jaime
Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Matthew 7:3 (NASB). I am guilty of this, judgmentalism, and a few other things. I find it far more valuable to try focusing on my own issues instead of complaining about or judging others for their own flaws.
  • Moment I saw significant change in my servant life:
Right around the same time God pointed out my own flaws for me! (See the previous answer.) I had never wanted to volunteer for anything, even when I was in the military and it was highly encouraged. I was always too self-centered to spend my time worrying about others. Now, I enjoy serving others, mostly in the background, and just wish I had more time to do so (maybe after school ends!).
  • How I found my way to AC3:
Google! I’m not even joking. We searched and created a list of churches and were going to start shopping until we found one we liked. AC3 was at the top of the list and we loved it right away, we never even visited church #2 on the list.
  • Advice I’d give to Younger Me:
You have a lot to learn, you do not know everything; don’t pretend that you do.
  • Gifting I most admire:
Compassion and Mercy
  • Favorite serving experience: 
First Fruits Farm! I miss going there on Saturday mornings. It sounds weird and smells even weirder, but the smell of compost in the morning can be very therapeutic after a tough work week. It always put me into a better frame of mind for the rest of the weekend.
  • What I tell others about serving:
YOU will gain more from serving than you will ever be able to share with others.

Questions: Secular-minded
  • If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Ribeye steak and baked potato, mmmmm...

    • There is a zombie apocalypse...What is your weapon of choice?
    A huge double-bladed ax! Zombies aren’t so tough without their heads or limbs.
    • What is your dream vacation?
    Any place that does not require work or allow me to receive messages from work. Sun, water, and maybe a beach are bonuses. I would also sign up for historical sites where I can see or learn from something ancient, but I don’t want to be on the run the entire time. Oh, and I need at least a week of vacation to mentally disconnect from work before the real vacation starts. Where do I sign up?
    • You have a day with NOTHING planned and no responsibilities! What do you do? 
    Hang out with friends, grill or smoke some meat to enjoy, maybe watch a movie or two.
    • What is the last thing you binge-watched? 
    Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I’m only about halfway through Season 5, no spoilers. 
    • Morning person or night owl? 
    Night owl, but I have trouble sleeping in past 7:00 AM most days now so that may be changing.
    • What is your favorite sport to watch? Team to follow?
    Pool. I like Efren “Bata” Reyes, The Magician, Shane Van Boening, Earl Strickland for the drama, and a guy I played against named Brandon Shuff. I don’t watch a ton of professional sports, but I have liked hockey (Capitals) for a long time. I am a fairly new football fan; I only became interested after we moved to Seattle in 2010 and got pulled in by the 12s. They are contagious!
    • You can only listen to the same song OR watch the same movie for the rest of your life. What do you choose? 
    That sounds dreadful! One song? I don’t even get to pick a band? I feel like I’m getting better value from a 90+ movie vs. a 4-minute song so I’ll pick The Matrix.
    • What are your top 3 hobbies?
    Pool, video games, and just about anything technical (spreadsheets count, right Dan?).
    Chad, wife Jaime, daughters Hannah, Courtney, and Amelia
    • Marvel or DC?
    Marvel. No doubt.
    • Favorite season? Why?
    Spring. It’s like the rope that someone throws you to pull you out of the cold, wet, dark winter slush.
    • Beach or Mountains? Why?
    Beach! You don’t have to climb a beach.

  • Best advice I’ve ever gotten:

  • Don’t eat yellow snow.

    • Something that your mother/father said to you when you were little that you now say to your kids (or did when they were younger.)
    Close the window/door! I’m not paying to heat/cool the entire neighborhood!