Saturday, May 18, 2019

When in Rome--Week 4

Our Road to Romans has been a twisty turn of hills and valleys. And like any road trip there are highs and lows to the journey. I remember road trips to my grandparents home. The lows of car sickness, bickering parents and a bit of homesickness for a forgotten toy. But, there were the highs of the trip. The excitement of the journey, the anticipation of hugs, Dixie cups, cheerios, sweets from the pie shop my grandparents frequented. The best part? Grandma’s rice crispy treats made especially for us, to make us feel wanted, like we belonged.

This month we have taken what I call a crash course into the book of Romans. First, the Bad News was delivered in such a way that made me catch my breath like a bug on a collision course with the windshield of life. “God abandoned them to their sinful desires.” Talk about some bad news! We were stuck on the side of the road with a blown out tire saturated in a sinful and broken world. But, we do not have to stay stagnant in the wreckage that is the bad news. A New Way to be Right explained that we have roadside assistance! We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus. When we looked at The Struggle and the Victory we came to understand we are no longer bound to the law but we are free by the grace of Jesus. God sets out before us a roadmap to navigate the perils of human life. But, who exactly did God invite along on the journey through the twisty turn of those hills and valleys? Who exactly belongs?

Romans 3:2 tells us the Jews were entrusted with the very word of God. And yet, both the Jews and Gentiles are all under the power of sin- no one is righteous, not even one (Romans 3:12) We are all subject to the penalty of sin, sin touches us all. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God but the good news for us is that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. We don’t have to do any work for ourselves, it has already been done on the cross by Jesus. Our salvation rests simply in Jesus not by any works that we have accomplished. The journey heavenbound will accept our passports regardless of our bloodline. 

Therefore, when we consider our own wondrous opportunity to be called children of God regardless of our Gentile status we can accept our inclusion with grateful hearts. The price of belonging to God costs nothing. We are saved by faith in Jesus and that really truly is the good news. We as Gentiles inherit the rich blessings of the Father when we were grafted into the family of God. The invitation to belong is irrevocable. Out of Two- the Jews and Gentiles we become united through our faith in Jesus and become one people, people invited to belong.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Challenge to Assemble.

Heb 10:25: …not staying away from our meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

So today I’m putting the finishing touches on a Romans 6-8 talk, and this passage just blows me away every time.  It’s like the climax of the whole Bible!  Truly life changing, if we understand it and embrace it.  Whether I can deliver the goods this weekend or not, we’ll see, but I’m excited to teach this stuff to the church I love.

Then the thought hits me and guts all my excitement, “no matter how good this talk is, only about 1/3 or less of my church is going to hear this, take this in, to be encouraged by it in the company of their sisters and brothers.” That’s based on trends in the church in America overall, and trends at AC3 currently.

Now, I ask you the question, what constitutes a “habit of staying away from church meetings”?  How would you know if that’s YOUR habit or not.  You’d want to know that, wouldn’t you?  You’d want to know if you were in standing violation of a clear Apostolic order, right?  The church meets (and has since Day One) every 7 days – so out of roughly 50 chances a year, how many do you have to miss before you call it a habit of “staying away”?  ½ of them?  Two thirds of them?  Is it only a habit of “staying away” if you stay away from all but two – Christmas and Easter?

Now, I’ve gone and made you uncomfortable probably.  You’re already charting your attendance in your head – don’t bother, we already know, for the average AC3er, it’s about once a month or less.  And now, maybe you’re getting a little defensive and muttering something about “legalism” and “church isn’t a meeting” or some other nonsense we say when we know something is amiss and we don’t want to look at it.

As to legalism, would you say the same thing if we talked about the habit of neglecting your diet and exercise?  The habit of neglecting sleep?  Would we call that being legalistic?  No, we’d put that in the category of “stuff we warn ourselves and each other about because we love and we want to see ourselves flourish and grow and get what we need and live within our design”.

Ok, so maybe that gets at something underneath the “habit of staying away from our meetings”.  You say, “that’s just the thing, frankly, I don’t NEED them every 7 days.”  Some beater cars need tune ups every few miles, BMW’s every 100,000 miles – I guess I’m just a spiritual BMW!  I don’t get a lot from the inputs, the worship or the messages, I mostly get what I need for my Christian life away from our public gatherings.

Really?  I debate whether that is so, but let’s say it is.  Go back and read the verse enjoining you and me to not neglect our weekly gatherings.  For whose sake is this important?  Is it primarily so you get a spiritual shot in the arm?  Is it primarily so that you can say you served in KK and did your duty?  Is it primarily so that you got fed? 

I’m reading something different, let’s say it together:  The primary reason I should not neglect coming to the public gatherings of the church is so that I can ENCOURAGE OTHERS. 

Hmmm… maybe you’ve never thought about that before.  Maybe, you need to be here – weekly – because someone else needs to see you here.  Maybe – except for obvious breaks on vacation, illness, etc. – you need to be here, for others, not for you.  How individualistic are we that we think the church gathering is only about meeting my need?  And if I deem it meets no need, the gathering itself is expendable, superfluous, not a priority.

I challenge you to rethink this whole thing, with one final thought: 

The apostle notes a reason to meet “all the more” – because you see the Day approaching.  I know many of you are deeply disturbed by the waves of secularity sweeping not just this nation, but the world.  It does seem, does it not, that a climax of confrontation is coming that only the “Day” will fix.  And yet often it’s the very people who wring their hands at the coming storm, and who curse the darkness the most, who do not bother to double down on the only thing Jesus ever gave us to feel hope in this broken world:  his Body, the Church, holding out the Word of Life.

Finally, the Church is by definition an “assembly”.  Those that are called out – out of world, out of chaos, out of the mess and out of darkness and into his wonderful light.  And how will we stand as light, unless we see each other – regularly – doing so?

-Written by Rick Thiessen

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

When in Rome-Week 3

Not to Be Undone

Inseparable: Unable to be separated, parted, or cleaved from another.  Growing up there was that one best friend whom people would say we were “inseparable”; but we are now far from one another and haven’t even talked in years.  It as “inseparable” as it seemed, I guess. 

When we think of things that are inseparable, we think of solid rock formations, bonded steel, or Superman’s grip.  Even these examples, however, fail due to their inherent weaknesses.  Rock can be broken up with the right set of tools or explosives, steel can be cut up or melted down, and even Superman has kryptonite to break his grip.  So, this begs the question of what is truly inseparable?

When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior in our hearts, we are made inseparable from Him.  And Paul defines this relationship as such: “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans‬ ‭8:37-39‬).‬‬

Now we have a complete picture of what inseparable means.  Not even “angels or demons” could pull us apart.  This is a permanent togetherness that withstands time, life or death, or “anything else in all of creation”. 

Once we have fully accepted our Lord, we are his children forevermore.  He is with us in our joy, our sadness or times of trouble, and also in our successes.   He sees our tears and hears our hopes.  Jesus has us and holds onto us through every storm and every battle.  He knows we are weak and broken, He knows that we are still fallible and capable of sin despite His presence in our lives. Yet, He sticks with us, comforts us, strengthens us, and yes, He forgives us.

Our God; Father, Son, and Spirit has always been there and always will be there for us.  With this knowledge I echo Paul’s question: “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans‬ ‭8:31-32‬)‬‬

-Written by Christian Love 

AC3 VB202 Applications Done

Check out our latest video blog as Rick and Dan discuss our Applications course that is now up and available for you to take! Watch a how to video at the end of the VB. Enjoy :)

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

When in Rome-Week 1-Introduction

We can hardly do Romans justice in the 5 weeks we have planned to cover it because this is simply the most comprehensive and rich description of Christian belief in the whole Bible.  It’s the clearest A-Z compendium of the Fundamentals of our Faith.  And there’s a good reason for that.

Of all the 13 letters of Paul that we have preserved in the New Testament, this is the only one where Paul is writing to a church he never planted or even visited.  So Romans is missing the impassioned, paternal sternness of Galatians; it’s missing the warm familial tone of Philippians; it’s missing the specific addressing of specific problems of Corinthians.  In fact, most scholars note a more regal, magisterial tone in Romans style, and Paul’s introduction of himself is remarkably more formal than other letters.

But we are the beneficiaries of all the ways Romans stands out!  You see, because Paul doesn't know this church personally, and because he doesn’t know anything other than there’s a mixed Church of Jews and Gentiles in the heart of the Empire, he decides to write them a comprehensive treatise on the good news of Jesus.

There are probably two reasons for this.  One is to prepare for a visit he plans to make to Rome in the near future.  Paul was always planning, always on the move.  He had a strategic mind which he reveals in the intro, when he says he’s always, “…asking in my prayers that if it is somehow in God’s will, I may now at last succeed in coming to you.” 

Two is that he wants them to see that he has the Jesus-message straight, and conversely, the letter is his help to them, to make sure they get it straight too.  So without a bunch of inner church problems to deal with, Romans could address Christianity at the level of pure 101 and answer the question, what is the basic message of Jesus we hold out to the world?  So this letter became Paul’s affirmative Case for Christ, and laid the intellectual foundations of a revolutionary new worldview built on His Gospel.

Because of that, Romans became so much more than a mere, A-Z of Christian belief.  This letter has become monumental in the history of the church.  F.F. Bruce (a prominent New Testament Scholar) said this about Romans:
“Time and Again, in Christian history, it has liberated the minds of [people], brought them back to an understanding of the essential Gospel of Christ, and started spiritual revolutions.”

This isn’t an exaggeration.  The early period of Christianity was marked by the monumental writings of Augustine, whose conversion began by reading this book.  The entire Protestant Reformation, which transformed Europe and realigned the Church with the freedom, the beauty and the wonder of its original message of Grace, began after a Roman Catholic monk named Luther read this book.

I can say I myself have had my Christian journey, and all subsequent ministry utterly formed by this book.  The end of the 8th chapter has always seemed to me, a sort of climax of the entire Bible – the conclusive, eloquent stamp on everything Jesus came to bring us!

If you have never done so before, this series is a great time to dive into the meat of this Spirit-inspired treatise.  Because this treatise will (re)introduce you to an idea that cannot help but change the life of everyone who grapples with it in faith.  That idea?  Grace.

-Written by Rick Thiessen

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Who is AC3? Love the World

How To Hate The World
(Disclaimer: I think I've made it painfully obvious, but just in case... The following is satire - an extreme opposite of what I would like to actually say)

Welcome to my blog! The New Scrooge!
Many of you have reached out to me at The New Scrooge (#DaGeezerEbenezer) asking for a basic tutorial on this subject because you have noticed how well-practiced I am at hating the world. When I say "world" I don't really mean the "Earth" like you see on the nature documentaries - that stuff is alright I suppose - no what I really mean are the people in the world. And when I say hate, I don't really mean the kind of hate you might get out of some club-wielding skinhead at a some supremacy rally... no... I just mean a low-level disregard and indifference (bordering on latent hostility perhaps) for everyone who has not given me some really good reason for treating them with respect. So let's get to it.

Number One: (Pragmatism)
Well I sort of already teased this one... but if another so-called "human" person has not lately done something for me personally (and by lately I mean very quite recently) then there is no pragmatic reason for giving them any respect or consideration. That lady with 3 kids in her shopping cart at the Costmeco - what has she done for me lately besides get in my way and slow me down? I need not even ask to let me by - I just push past. Who cares that she thinks me rude. General courtesy towards other humans might have worked when there were very few of us around - but with nearly 8 billion fighting for my space and my air, who's got the energy to be nice?

Number Two: (Dehumanization)
I really helps to perceive other people as accidental combinations of molecular matter. After all... what is really all that bad about objectifying people? Why not dehumanize someone you don't like or even know? The antiquated notion of personhood can just go rot in my opinion...
Defining personhood is a controversial topic in philosophy and law and is closely tied with legal and political concepts of citizenship, equality, and liberty. According to law, a natural person has "rights, protections and privileges". Blah blah blah... like I said - antiquated stuff. People are essentially no different from cattle and chickens when you look at the science of it, so let's just get over the moldy-oldie notions,

Number Three: (Divisionism)
Speaking of law and politics... you can really express your hate for the world in the voting booths and in the memes you post on social media. Chances are you will be in disagreement with a lot of others in today's political climate. The time for rational and reasonable discourse with a willingness to see things from the others side is over - way over. The only truly effective method of argument these days is the ad-hominem attack - so learn it, practice it on facebook or whatever - get really really good at delivering vicious chat-attacks against any disagreeing person - rather than trying to argue only the position they are maintaining.

Number Four: (Indifference)
All these religious types keep talking about being compassionate towards the suffering. Well I got enough suffering of my own to worry about... why should I invest in the care of fools I know nothing about? If you follow my advice above - only help those who are in a position to help to you back - for the rest - just disavow their humanity and you're golden. If anyone thinks differently find some flaw in them to point at and thereby negate everything else they might say.

Rather than taking my queues from the book that has led humanity for thousands of years - I choose to follow after my fore-bearer Scrooge

I Hate People
(as expressed by Scrooge in Scrooge the Musical - 1970

Scavengers and sycophants and flatterers and fools
Pharisees and parasites and hypocrites and ghouls
Calculating swindlers, prevaricating frauds
Perpetrating evil as they roam the earth in hordes
Feeding on their fellow men
Reaping rich rewards
Contaminating everything they see
Corrupting honest men like me
    Humbug! Poppycock! Balderdash! Bah!
    I hate people! I hate people!
People are despicable creatures
Loathesome inexplicable creatures
Good-for-nothing kickable creatures
    I hate people! I abhor them!
When I see the indolent classes
Sitting on their indolent asses
Gulping ale from indolent glasses
    I hate people! I detest them! I deplore them!
Fools who have no money spend it
Get in debt then try to end it
Beg me on their knees befriend them
Knowing I have cash to lend them...
    Soft-hearted me! Hard-working me!
    Clean-living, thrifty and kind as can be!
    Situations like this are of interest to me
I hate people! I loathe people! I despise and abominate people!
Life is full of cretinous wretches
Earning what their sweatiness fetches
Empty minds whose pettiness stretches
Further than I can see
Little wonder I hate people
And I don't care if they hate me!

~Written by Shea Caperoon 

AC3 VB201 GLS Final Update

Check out this video blog with Rick and Dan as they talk about the Global Leadership Summit and what our role in that will look like this year. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Constructive Connections-Part 13

Muddied Hands

Constructive Connections is a fiction series.  They are beginning tales of how each person is crafted by God to fulfill a purpose, to enhance the narrative of life.  By contributing unique talents to serve one another, a tower God calls us to construct begins to form for His joy.

“Hey Harper, what’s your shirt say?” 14 years old, Mason, asked me in the kitchen today.  He had on a hoodie, ripped baggy jeans, and plenty of attitude about how his mom had “made” him come help in the kitchen tonight.  
I knew the boy could read, but I read it out loud anyway, “Says: ‘He restored me’.”  I remember when I ordered it online a couple of months ago, the artwork was cool; a painted pair of ragged hands reaching up-rugged rough hands, working life hands.  And there was one bright spotless hand reaching down; the forgiving hand.
“So…is it like a God shirt?”  he said with a smirk.
My gloved hands were covered in meatball mess, while Mason’s were clean and clearly holding tight to the cell phone in his sweatshirt pocket.  My 4-year-old son Charles has a security blanket; apparently there’s such thing as a security-cell. “No, not a ‘God Shirt.’”  I stopped and thought about what kind of a statement I was making by wearing my favorite black tee.  How could I explain?
Do I tell him?  Would this kid actually listen as I told him of my life as an only child; one who fought for attention from my folks?  Should I tell him of the long list of trouble I got into when I was his age, with individuals camouflaged as friends?
Do I tell of the ways I failed?  How when my need for attention was not met by my wife Ramona, I found attention from someone else?  Do I reveal the agonized sound of my best friend’s heartbreak and how it wrecked and ripped at every fiber of my being?   
Do I tell him of how I almost lost my life?  Would he listen to me yammering on about how I saw my moral failure as something I wasn’t in control of; that it was everyone’s fault, not my own?
Do I tell him how I let my family, my treasure, fall away from me?  When I told of my heart being packed up, along with my wife and son, as my body watched it all drive away to live without me across the country; would he comprehend?  Would he get it?
Maybe I could tell him about when I got broke.  About the time I found myself in men’s group at our church; the church where my wife and I met, the church where we looked like Christians, had the membership card, wore the t-shirt, but forgot to let Jesus (or anybody else for that matter) into our problems.
Then I could tell him about the time I confessed to everyone I hurt; especially to Jesus, who I claimed to follow.
Suppose he might understand why I left my job, left my home, why I gave up that sinful man, to reclaim what God had freely offered me once more…hope.
I wonder if this youth just sees a man rolling meatballs and labels it inconvenience, or chore, or boring.  I wonder if he could recognize my pure joy knowing my son and wife and I are in the same house again.  No, it isn’t where we sleep, it’s our church home; it’s where we are awake. Providing a meal for family, sisters and brothers in Christ, is something that is done effortlessly.  If he understood, maybe, just maybe, he’d take his hands out of his pocket to open the cans of spaghetti sauce.
“It is not a God Shirt, Mason.  It is a statement of who I owe my life to.” I rolled another meatball.  “I wrote a life story I was not proud of. God and I are writing a new one.”  I held up the meat covered gloves, “These hands were so dirty. But when I reached,” I took off one of the gloves to reveal my clean left hand, “He cleaned me up, because he loves.  He absolutely loves…me.”
He brought me out into a spacious place; he restored me because he delighted in me.
2Samuel 22:20

Written by Jennifer Love

Who is AC3? Love the Church

Fill in the Blank

“The Church is just a _____” ; you can fill in the blank and it probably has come out of the mouth of one or more people in a religious debate.   I cannot blame people for what they say, and I even see that some of their points are valid. There are all too many examples of churches doing wrong.  With the scandals, hate disguised as Jesus’ Word, and historical wrongs that still play out today, ALL leading to the divide that has caused so many to fall out of love with the church.  
Others I have conversed with have argued not against the church as directly; their argument is more about not “Needing” the church to be a good Christian.
So, what does my defense sound like when faced with all of these real accusations and attacks on the church?
First, we have to look at the attack on church failures.  It is unfair to look only at the wrongs church has done. How about the humanitarian efforts that have come from Christians doing church right? Without the church medical treatment, food distribution, shelter, and compassion for the poor would be nonexistent in some places around the world.  As for the haters who use scripture out of context; haters are gonna find a way to hate, even if it means misquoting the Bible.
The world’s media love to highlight the failings of the big “C” church, but just as with most things in this world the majority is not what gets air-time attention.  It is the few that stand out; the weakness of one pastor that destroys a church, the extremist holding a sign stating “You are going to hell!” whom the media loves to call “Fundamentalists” (True fundamental Christians spread love not hate).  But these make the broadcasts, because the ones who get it right are not deemed “news worthy”.
Now about not needing the church?  We are called to gather: “For where two or more gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matt 18:20).  We are not meant to be alone, we are called to love one another. We are called to love the church, not the organization or the building, but the people.  Fact: There are 59 “one another” commands in the Bible, I leave you with this question: How do you “One Another” if you don’t gather?

-Written by Christian Love

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Who is AC3?-Love God

Who is AC3?

Love God-
Imagine for a moment what it looks like for you to love God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all our strength and with all your mind. What do your neighbors, co workers, friends, immediate and extended family see?  Does your life look any different in your imagination as it appears in your day-to-day life experiences? For me, there is a clear distinction from my life before I accepted Jesus as my savior and my life after my conversion. But, that's not what I am really talking about. I am honestly evaluating my life against the lens of who I am for God. I am frankly asking myself how can others tell that I love God? More importantly how do I see in my core that I truly love God with all my heart, soul, strength and mind? Does my life reflect my deep love for Yahweh in ways that are profound?

Just last week I thought I could squeeze into my already packed day a quick workout at the gym. I was trying to manage my mental to do list with limited time to really get the things done that I sought to accomplish. When things were not going the way I anticipated I began to spiral into a frazzled and frustrated form of myself. Have you ever been there? My heart was distracted and my mind in chaos and yet God in His perfect timing corrected me, gently and lovingly in the form of service. I was rushing down the hall and a woman rushed by me even more frazzled than myself. She was really  in need of help. And she needed that help immediately. Two things were evident: no one else was available and this was not the kind of help that would be easy. She needed the type of help that requires time, effort, compassion and love. So there it was friends, the profound moment when my own timetable became irrelevant and God pressed upon my heart to love my neighbor as myself. I was obedient to His prompting. These revelations help me to see that I really am different.But, if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him. Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:5-6  Only through the Father may I have the heart and strength to love extravagantly. Loving God with my all my heart, soul, strength and mind looks like Jesus and how He calls us to live everyday.

The process in which we grow more like Jesus has a fancy word, sanctification. As we grow in our faith and in our disciplines we embody the word Christian- which from this past weekend’s sermon means to be little Christ. I move forward in my growth in my relationships with the people whom God places in my life. I find that with the form of grouping I can love God in ways I never would have imagined a decade ago or even just a few years ago. But, in stepping out to look more like Jesus I am surrounded by many who are doing the same thing. Growing in profound ways that show others that the church isn’t a building but the bride. My groups challenge me to speak truthfully, walk faithfully and love the church in beautiful ways.

I will add for the sake of transparency that I am hesitant to admit how often I find myself caught up in things that don’t feed my soul and distract my mind. The things of this world that tie up valuable bandwidth, things such as my never ending laundry, my constant drive to declutter our home and my desire to be productive and seen as worthy. All of the chaos created by me or thrust upon me robs me of opportunities to just love God with my soul and with my mind. I tend to become preoccupied  by circumstances and not what truly matters, which is HIM. As I am growing in my spiritual disciplines I do find myself more and more stopping to sit in His presence. I regroup my scattered thinking and rest in HIM. I pause to revel in His abundant blessings.(John 10:10) I am sustained as the Lord draws near to me when I cease to run ahead of Him or lag behind Him but instead choose to rest in Him. How do I do this? Like Dan suggested in his teaching on the topic, I come to HIM and glorify my Father in Heaven. I have my go to scriptures that recalibrate me back onto the narrow way. I sing songs of praise. I call out to Him and in my pleas for mercy He feeds my soul and calms my mind. I confess, repent and love Him with all my heart, soul, strength and mind. And in those moments of honest and heartfelt devotion I discover I am loving God in profound ways.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Forgotten God-Week 3- Holy Spirit 101

Let me confess:  I don’t know what I’m talking about.  When we’re talking about what God is like, (and the Holy Spirit being key to understanding Him) no one does.  We’re talking about something – some-One – so utterly beyond us, that we’re just scratching at the edges of a profound mystery.

Imagine a single ant trying to understand humans as we lumber over an anthill in the woods.  The Ant might form some rudimentary idea about a human from your boots crashing nearby, but could it even begin to comprehend detail?
  • What we are?
  • How we’re similar to the ant? 
  • How we’re different?     
       - No way.


Unless what?  Unless we could directly reveal information about us to that ant.  How?
  • Maybe someday we could inject it directly into its tiny little nervous system. Or:
  • Maybe, if we became an ant, we could communicate something its own rudimentary language.

But, to do either of those things, we’d have to simplify, right?
-First, we’d have a very short time to do it in, we live 75 years, an ant lives 75 days!
-Second, the ant has no capacity for complex thought, it has 250,000 brain cells, compared to our 10,000 million.
  • So we’d have to pare down the information.  Lots of info would forever be a mystery to the Ant simply because the Ant has no capacity for all the information – it would fry its circuits!
  • Remember, Moses – got to see God’s “back”, not his “face”.  Isn’t that the same?

Now, do you believe God is as far above us, as we are above ants?  At least, right?  So how can we know any detail about what God is like?   The same way the ant could know about us: IF and only IF the higher Being stoops down to reveal itself.

We believe he has; throughout history, climaxed in the Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  So Christians believe that the ant analogy actually happened. God stooped to reveal himself to us.
But not everything about himself.

Moses, who received some of this Revelation, said:
Deut 29:29  The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

As we talk about the Holy Spirit this month, let’s admit always, there’s secrets here we’re never going to understand.  They belong to God, and we can NEVER access them, because we’re ants.
-BUT, there’s things that have been revealed.  Like ants we’d never know these things on our own.  But once revealed by a source we trust, Moses says, it belongs to us, and we can KNOW it.

It’s not just dry doctrine, either.  Tozer once said, we will live up or down toward the vision of what we think God is like.  So, we should seek to get to the edges of the secrets we can’t know and ask, what can we know?  What has God revealed?   Because believing it and cherishing it, will change us.

SSo first God has revealed that there’s only ONE of him. Deut 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord  is one.”  This might be a “duh” for you, but it’s a shock to Israel, immersed as they were in a polytheistic world.  But after God saves them, He reveals there’s a God above all other gods.  Who existed BEFORE the world.  One all-powerful Architect. One Source and Father of all creation.  One.

uBut secondly, Jesus revealed that God is a “COMPLEX UNITY”.  And after Jesus promised the Spirit, his apostles and all subsequent Christians have noted the more than 200 times an entity known at the SPIRIT of God is talked about all over Moses and the Prophets.  Jesus brought what was cryptic and secret out into plain view:
John 14:16-17:  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth.

Emphasis on “another”.  The Spirit is not the Father and the Spirit is not the SON…but the Spirit is equally God.  So Three. God is one in BEING, and three in PERSON.

Let us then, never forget, the Spirit is personal.  As such He can speak and guide and he can remind.  
-He can be lied to: Acts 5:3-4
-He can be grieved: Eph 4:30
-He can lead us: Gal 5:25
-He can be insulted: Heb 10:29
-He comforts: Acts 9:31

This is a person!  And this person is God, along with the Father and the Son.  As a person, the Spirit of God cares deeply about you, about conforming you in the Image of Christ.  And when we resist His refining work, we do grieve Him deeply.

Doesn’t that put a finer point on the relationship we have with the Counselor, inside?  I believe if we believe the Spirit was really God and really a Person, we would care more deeply about the Holy Spirit’s grief.  And if we did, there would be fewer fights, squabbles, gossip in the church. Fewer divorces, fewer splits, fewer moments of entrenched unforgiveness… why? Because we’d care more about the Spirit’s grief, than our own.
Gal 5:26: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

-Written by Rick Thiessen

Monday, March 11, 2019

Constructive Connections-Part 12

Parable Queen

Constructive Connections is a fiction series.  They are beginning tales of how each person is crafted by God to fulfill a purpose, to enhance the narrative of life.  By contributing unique talents to serve one another, a tower God calls us to construct begins to form for His joy.

What a reflection.  Golden wig, pink fairy wings, polka dot clown pants, and blue sweatshirt with “Save the Unicorn Lamas!” screaming across my chest.  Mam-Maw would be pointing and laughing her pretty little grey-haired head off, askin’ me, “What did you sign up for this time, Dra-Mona?”  When I was six, I had an ear-splitting rant-trum (like a tantrum, only I had my reasons and made them known for all to hear) at the Save-A-Lot grocery store.  Ever since my passion ignited regarding obtaining that particular cherry fruit roll up, I lost the name Ramona and was dubbed “Dra-Mona, the reigning Drama Queen” by my loving family.
My 4-year-old Charles and I moved to Washington after some real-life drama exploded on our front lawn.  My husband of 10 years decided I wasn’t all that and had a girlfriend on the side. I thought it fitting to leave his possessions on the lawn with a large Sharpie sign, “Free to any 6’5, size 13 shoe real man!”.  Yah, I got a temper. All that was left when he came home was a few of his bowling trophies and his reading glasses.
Being a single parent has been the hardest challenge of my life.  I had Mam-Maw to look to for direction the first few years of Charles’s life, but now I feel like I’m going solo.  Well, there is also my ex-husband, Harper. He followed us up here to the Northwest a few months after Charles and I moved.  Harper showed up on our apartment doorstep with a basket of fruit, introducing himself as my new neighbor. Sure enough, he rented an apartment a stone’s throw away; and believe you me, I was tempted to throw that stone!    
Harper and I didn’t do much for reconciling before we left Tennessee; that’s not my way.  If he was brazened enough to do the crime, it was not worth takin’ the time. Sure enough, Jesus kept trying to get my attention.  I understand that we need to be forgiving, but I just couldn’t do it. My heart was full of the rage of being wronged. I had seen it enough times in other people’s lives to understand why I wasn’t ever to take back a cheater.  Even if he was the father of Charles. Even if he had been my best friend from the time we were 8 years old. Even if he sent me letters, flowers, fruit, and all the rest. Cheatin’ was cheatin’ and there was no forgiveness in me.
But then it was Harper who was the one who found the church preschool.  “Charles needs to find Jesus in this mess of what we did to upset his life.”  Oh, yeah, I heard it too and called him out.
“We did?  Are you serious?”  My crossed arms and unbelieving eyes said it all.
“You and I both needed to come together, but you were busy.  I was busy. Busy became life and we must’ve forgot to schedule each other in.”  He wasn’t wrong, I guess. I was occupied being Charles’s mom; I might have forgot Harper also had to be part of the whole parenting process.
I met Amy at my son’s preschool.  She didn’t even have kiddos, but she was doing what she loved; teaching sticky-crafts.  We became fast friends, bein’ we were both from the South and had accents to make any Washingtonian stop and say, “Oooo, I just love how you talk!” I was thankful to meet Amy when I did.  She was light in the dark of bitterness.
Amy and I attended a women’s retreat recently and I found out I wasn’t the only one who had trouble with that whole “forgiving” thing.  There were a few divorcees in the group and a few that talked about putting their marriages back together after separation. Their testimonies about how God was their strength through all of the bumps and bruises of life was inspiring.  But what I took from the weekend wasn’t about the endin’ or mendin’ of marriages. It was about the slowing down; praying for God to show me what part I had to play in the offence. Guess that is when Jesus got a hold and showed me the reflection of the drama I had allowed into my life.
I sat down with a group of ladies to play a game during the evening at the retreat.  We got talking about life as we pondered which letters would fit the triple word score space.  I was telling one of my silly stories from childhood and the ladies laughed so hard they dabbed at tears.  Someone said, “I think I could listen to you read off a grocery list and be thoroughly entertained!” I smiled and something in me stirred.  “Have you ever thought of acting in the dramas at church?” she asked.
Now I know who was responsible for the stirrin’; that Holy Spirit.  Then I felt somewhere deep within, not audible, but just a feeling: What if I changed my focus of unforgiving angry, and put that negative…oomph into the telling of a story?  Jesus was keen on story telling. Picturing Jesus weaving tales of thieves, rulers, and farmers to the people he met along the way must have been the best method to get his message across.  People can watch a play and relate to the characters, they can read between the lines of the story being told. Tales of being mistreated, life decisions made in the name of justice, and the such, all lead to the redemption or the ruin of character.  
Looking out into the audience, I see in the middle row a familiar face.  Anger wanes as I realize the importance of changing the focus of anger, applying energy to creativity, and entertaining a smidge of forgiveness.  
And I also realize how humility plays out in this crazy zany parable we are acting out for the church today, and how hard it is going to be to get the image of me in this ridiculous getup out of my head!  
Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.
Matthew 13:34


Friday, March 1, 2019

Exciting News!

A Pathway for Vocational Ministry

As a non-denominational church, AC3 stands independently. In other words, organizationally speaking, there is not an authority outside Allen Creek to which we are accountable. Of course as leaders and as people we are all accountable to God (Romans 14:12). But responsibility for day to day operations, establishment of mission and vision, preparation of teaching materials, church discipline, finances and evangelistic efforts fall to men and women from inside the church family of AC3.

This provides us great freedom. As a church we can be very “light on our feet” and the decision-making process stays very close to the people whom the decisions directly affect. There’s not a lot of “management”. It also means that when insuring we stay aligned with historic, Biblical faith, we must be doubly aware and intentional about how teaching and decision making authorities are conferred. There is no one else but “us” to decide if someone is qualified “to teach”. (2 Timothy 2:2)

Our Elder selection process reflects the sobriety and weight we give to this responsibility. Since there is no “higher authority” for approval, the process is extensive, detailed and very thorough.

In recent years, our attention has turned to a similar leadership role: that of pastor. A technical case can be made that “pastor” is not an office or position in the church. While it’s true that the term “pastor” is not used in the Bible for a specific position, Paul does mention “…elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” It’s from this (and other) Biblical references that we see the role most people refer to as pastor emerging, and it’s from this passage in particular that we see a precedent for vocational (paid) positions.

AC3 has an Elder selection process that has served us well for nearly 25 years. But how do we select a “pastor”?

First: Don’t worry. No one is leaving! But the pastoral staff IS aging, and consideration must be made for the next generation of “teaching elders”. Without denominational oversight, it was up to the existing leadership team to develop a process as robust and effective as the elder selection process for the welcoming of new members of the pastoral staff.

We think we’ve done that, and we want you to know about it. If you would like to read about in detail, just click HERE.

Following is a brief summary:

Candidates for vocational ministry must complete a 4-step process before they are eligible to be considered for ordination at AC3.

  1.    Affirmation. The church body must recognize the giftings, character, and capacity of the individual. This recognition is codified in the following 4 steps:
1.    A formal interview with the pastoral staff.
2.    A formal interview with the Elders.
3.    Submission of (2) written references from AC3 members.
4.    Submission of (2) written references from Christians outside AC3.
  2.    Academics. Candidates must have successfully completed Bible school training from an institution recognized by AC3 Pastors and Elders.
  3.    Apostolic Succession. The completion of Bible School studies must result in that institution awarding a license to the candidate under their by-laws. This connects the candidates training to an unbroken line of training extending back to the Apostles.
  4.    Apprenticeship. Candidates will serve under the direct supervision and mentor-ship of existing AC3 pastor(s) for a minimum of one year.
Completion of these 4 steps results in the candidate meeting basic qualifications for acceptance as an AC3 pastor, but does not guarantee it nor guarantee a paid position.
It is hoped that this monumental step is seen with great joy! It was motivated, in part, by conversations with AC3’rs who expressed a longing to serve this church vocationally, and that is a huge encouragement. It speaks to the hope and expectation that what God has begun at Allen Creek will endure far beyond the direct influence of those with whom He started!

Philippinas 1:6 “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Forgotten God-Week 1

Not a Third Wheel

The last thing you ever wanted when dating was a “Third Wheel”; the extra guy or gal hanging out while you are on a date.  Recall the image of Shrek and Fiona on their Honeymoon and there is Donkey, popping his lips right between them (Shrek 2, DreamWorks, 2004).  In fact, just about every romantic comedy these days involve a scene with a third person making the situation awkward. Believe it or not, some if not most Christians, at one time or another equate the Holy Spirit as something akin to a Third Wheel.  This thought is not born out of disrespect for the Holy Spirit, rather a misunderstanding of it.
What causes us to misunderstand the nature of the Holy Spirit?  Well, for me it was as simple as tangibility. I can cast a mental image of God, for many God looks like an old man with a long white beard.  Jesus was even more tangible, He was human. Whether you visualize Him as a European white male with a beard or a Middle Eastern man; He is conceivable.  But what can we ascribe to the Holy Spirit? A spirit is by its very nature intangible; if it has form, it is always changing. A spirit does not have a physical embodiment in the same sense as the other two aspects of God’s nature. The Holy Spirit is felt rather than seen, it is heard introspectively rather than audibly.  When in tune with the Holy Spirit you know its there, but you cannot describe how you know.
As we mature as Christians, we begin to grasp a better understanding of the nature of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus promised us the companionship and counsel of the Holy Spirit. He refers to the Holy Spirit as the “Advocate” whom He will send to us (John 16:7).  Jesus declares that we need the Holy Spirit as our guide because: “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear” (John 16:12). If God were to truly reveal Himself all at once, we could not bear it; we would simply crumble.  Jesus came to save us all; the Holy Spirit is what guides us to Him and along the path He has set for us.
Psychologists will equate the Holy Spirit to a conscience, which we equate to a moral compass of sorts.  Not to be confused with Jiminy Cricket, the Holy Spirit is so much more. It is the source of power that lives within us; yes, it is the “Spirit of Truth” (John 16:13), but it exceeds any description we can put on it.  The Spirit is how we carry on when we are too weak to do so, it is how we look toward a better day even when we cannot see it, it is a driving source of our faith, hope, and love.
The Holy Spirit is not a Third Wheel, it is not just our conscience nagging at us (nope no crickets here), nor is easily described or explained.  It cannot be fully defined in human terms, but it is undeniably a whole and complete aspect of the Blessed Trinity, the Godhead Three in One.
Lord God I pray for an open heart, a receptive mind, and strong body that is mature enough to hear, feel, and listen to the Holy Spirit within me.  Thank you for giving me this part of you to be forever with me as my guide, my light, and my strength. Lead me, Lord, for I am nothing without you.

~Written by Christian Love

Monday, February 18, 2019

Happy Where You Are--Week 4--Retirement


 “Retirement is for the birds & I'll just work til I drop” would best sum up my long held attitude toward how to spend my senior years...That is until recently, as I've moved into my mid 60's and am finding I'm not quite as spry as I used to be. Lately I have started to think more seriously about how I might spend my time, and invest my resources to remain productive, healthy, & content over this coming life season. Fortunately I still enjoy good health, and I do love my current job as AC3's music director, but also realize at some point in the future the time will come to turn the music leadership reins over to the next generation. So what will I do then? Will I be out of the game and watching from the sidelines, or do I have a choice to stay active and involved?

 I've never liked our prevailing modern retirement model where one leaves the work force behind to live a life of recreation & relaxation. Certainly, I will look forward to spending more time hiking, cycling, gardening, & playing music gigs, but those activities alone won't be enough to avoid becoming restless & bored. I believe I'll need a bigger, more compelling reason to get out of bed every morning. My greatest fear in growing old is to not have a significant life assignment to keep me motivated & moving. I've seen what can happen when a man loses his purpose for living. This happened to my grandfather & dad late in their lives when both, retired, widowed, & without significant other interests, quickly descended into bad health & dementia. 

 So do I have any hope of avoiding the same, sad ending? I can't say for sure, but certainly want to do everything possible to stay healthy and sharp. For guidance on this I have, of course, looked to the Bible for some instruction, but It has very little to say about retirement in general and doesn't address our current day retirement as leisure model at all. It does, however, have a lot to say about work regardless of our age. First, we are told that work is a gift from God. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work and keep it” (Genesis 2:15) Throughout the Bible we are encouraged and instructed to be productive and work as we are able, and are reminded that we ultimately work for God. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

 So continuing to work will be a big part of my plan as I move into this season of life...but what kind of work? Hopefully, it will be something that utilizes my talents, spiritual gifts & experience. Maybe it will require some retooling on my part and a willingness to try something new and different.

 As for the timing, I'll leave that to the Lord. Right now my music assignment at AC3 continues as we mentor & train our younger team members. First and foremost I'll continue to seek the Lord's guidance and will and will trust that He will direct me into useful service. For inspiration I aways come back to one of my favorite verses, Proverbs 3:6. “In all thy ways acknowlege Him and He will direct thy paths”. That'll be my go-to plan as I start to chart a course into my retirement years. 

Jeff Swanson February 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Happy Where You Are-Week 3-Parenting

The Bumps and Bruises

BANG, CLANG, CRASH! The yelling ensues…no this is not a description of an accident scene…this is the sound of two teenage sisters doing the dishes after dinner.  This scene plays out almost every evening, usually escalating to the point of Mom or Dad intervening, also loudly to be heard over the noise. I would like to say this is a thing of the past, I would like to report we have mastered the art of peace and tranquility in our home, I would love to say we have this parenting thing solidly under control; but it would be a lie.  Truth is I am not the perfect parent, nor is my wife, in fact we are more in tune with the phrases “that will leave a mark” and “they will be in counseling for that someday”.

So, what am I, a self-confessed imperfect parent, doing writing a blog about parenting? Well for one, we could not find anyone who was a perfect parent who would write one.  We have more books on how to raise our children than any other self-help topic, there are TV programs and documentaries on how to teach children, magazines that offer confusing instruction, websites devoted to the subject, and yes there is no shortage of well-meaning advice and opinion from people in our lives.  Interestingly enough most of these sources are conflicted and do not agree with each other. Truth is, there is only one perfect parent and He has given us a great handbook to use, not just in parenting, but in our own life as well.

Proverbs 22:6 tells us “Start children off on the way he (or she) should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (NIV).  Oh, how true this statement is. How many of us are living out pieces of our lives simply because that is how our parents raised us? How many times have we heard the words our parents said come out of our mouths towards our children (especially the ones we swore never to say when we became parents).  The fact is, it’s not just the good teachings that carry over to our kids, it’s the good, the bad, and the ugly. So how do we make our children better? How do we become better parents? It’s in the Book.

Step One: Forgive ourselves as we have been forgiven…we are broken and imperfect.  We are not perfect people and we carry the baggage of our past into everything we do; especially our own homes where the world cannot see.

Step Two: Accept our children are not perfect either:  Yes, infants a are cute and amazing gifts, but the Bible tells us that our flaws and brokenness start early.  “Even small children are known by their actions, so is their conduct really pure and upright?” (Proverbs 20:11).   While a young child is given much grace for their actions, they are not perfect angels.

Step Three: Be happy where you are succeeding…just don’t be too proud of it.  While the media and those around us are more than happy to turn a mirror on us reflecting our mistakes, it is so hard to get the positive feed back we need.  Celebrate the successes, even the small ones, sometimes they may be far between amidst a sea of chaos. Listen to the great Counselor we have been given as believers, the Holy Spirit will be your guide to know what actions good ones are, and which will leave the bumps and bruises.

Step Four: Seek and you shall find…God has a plan; it’s there for us to follow, but not always clear for us to see.  Look for the godly counsel of people you trust and respect to help you through the tough stuff. There is a lot to be said about the sage advice of a parent who has “been there”.  Keep in mind however, all advice comes from other broken people so we must pass it through the God filter.

Step Five: Trust in the Lord for strength and guidance for you and your children.  “You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light” (Psalm 18:28).  Our God lifts us up and makes us walk when we are weak and weary, He will make even our darkest paths light when we let Him and he will help to fix our mistakes.

Are there more steps…yes; do I know them all…no; have I mastered the ones I have listed?…Not in the least.  I am an imperfect person who has been blessed to have a beautiful, yet broken, wife and three beautiful, yet broken, children whom God has entrusted me to be the earthly guide that shows the way to Him.  I am damaged with my own brand of bumps and bruises that God is working on healing and using for his great purposes. I am not a perfect parent; I am way out of my league in writing this blog, but I feel God has a plan in this too.  I will try to make the good calls that guide my children to the best choices they can make, but accept that I may and will fail again. So, forgive me and even lift me up in prayer the next time I am seen carrying my 5-year-old out on my shoulder kicking and screaming.  Inside I am screaming and kicking too, because God’s not done with me…renovations are still underway.

-Written by Christian Love