Children’s Ministry Summer Volunteers Needed!

Summer’s coming and we’d like to give our Live the Adventure (LTA) weekly volunteers the summer off.  However, LTA runs through the summer and we have up to fifty kids on a given Sunday.  Can you help by serving one or two Sundays this summer?  If so, please sign up here.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Being born of God is a life shaped by faith, love, and obedience

Are you “born of God”?  John uses that phrase 9 times in his letter, including 3 times in yesterday’s sermon passage, 1 John 5:1-5. Being “born of God” is nothing short of a supernatural process of spiritual rebirth.

Remember the Nicodemus’ conversation with Jesus in John 3:3-4:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[b] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

Nicodemus is dumfounded, but his logic is sound.

Nothing short of supernatural regeneration, and the consequential gift of faith, can bring those dead in sin back to life.

John challenges his readers to recognize the 3 identifying characteristics of the children of God: faith, love and obedience.

Do you believe the Gospel?
Do you love others?
Do you obey God?

Those 3 diagnostic questions are repeated throughout the letter, but in chapter 5, it’s clear that the 3 characteristics are unavoidably interconnected. They are inseparable.

Postmodern, popular culture is increasingly embracing a “cut and paste” theology that draws from the most appealing aspects of world religions. But the Christian worldview ought to be grounded in the entirety of God’s word and by the leading of the Holy Spirit. Children of God believe the Gospel, love others and obey God.

As we discussed yesterday, by our words, our actions, our checkbooks and our Google calendars, we are modeling a worldview for the next generation. Does that worldview boldly claim and reflect the necessity of being supernaturally reborn? If we aim to clearly communicate, and even legitimize the Gospel for kids today, then we can’t separate right belief from a genuine love for others and obedience to God.

The beautiful promise of the Gospel is that “everyone born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4a). Jesus overcame the world, the abandonment of God’s will in exchange for the embrace of sinful desires. And in his victory, we have the radical freedom to believe the Gospel, love others, and obey his life-giving commands.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A note from Pastor Tom on the recent events in Charlottesville

We all condemn the appalling nature and tragic outcome of the recent events in Charlottesville. Superiority (or inferiority) based on ethnic backgrounds stand counter to the message of Christ and His sacrificial love for us. Paul cuts racism at the knee when he says “there is no Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). It is in Christ alone that lasting peace can be found. He is the one who has “broken down the dividing walls of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).

As we pray for those directly affected by these events, let’s also remember our own role as messengers of reconciliation and freedom. As Micah put it in his own times of social unrest in Israel: “He has showed you, O Man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” May the Lord give us the opportunities “to do justice” in our own context here in multi-cultural Metrowest!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to deal with setbacks on the freedom trail

Pastor Tom’s Note
August 9th, 2017

How to deal with setbacks on the freedom trail

In case you missed it, you can listen to Sunday’s sermon here.

On their own freedom trail, the Israelites have already faced significant setbacks (Exodus 16-17). However, what happens at the foot of Mount Sinai in Exodus 32 defines ‘epic fail.’ In fact, this building of the “golden calf” becomes THE symbol of idolatry in the Bible. Yahweh has a zero-tolerance policy for the worship of other gods (see Exodus 22:20). Ezekiel gets extremely graphic about it (Ezekiel 16). John warns us, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21).

In the West, we might take comfort in that we don’t have big idols on every street corners. In fact, idolatry is not even about the cultural icons we revere (our sports team or cultural traditions). A look at what happens with this ‘golden calf’ episode reveals that idols of the heart are the real issues.

First, it was the people’s impatience that got them into huge trouble. Moses delayed in coming down, so they “quickly” (Exodus 32:8) took matters into their own hands. Recount the times you and I have gotten into trouble because of our impatience. We just couldn’t wait for God’s “way” so we manufactured our own. Dr. Donna Petter boils it down to an issue of who do you trust for guidance: “we don’t have what we need, so let’s build our own means for guidance and instructions.” Our impatience becomes the soil into which the idols of the heart are planted.

Second, idolatry thrives in the secret places. Moses is not around so let’s build this calf and deceive ourselves into thinking it liberated and guided us. (“the gods who brought you up out of Egypt” Exodus 32:4).

So what is our answer to these catastrophic failures in our lives? When Jesus says, I am the way, the truth and the life (John 14:8), He addresses the problem head on. He alone has walked the walk. When tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:8-10), He didn’t ‘turn aside quickly out of the way’ (see Exodus 32:8) and He didn’t worship other gods. When Jesus says He is the truth, He refused to “exchange the truth about God for a lie” (Romans 1:25). Unlike idols who cannot do anything because they are lifeless (Ps 115), Jesus is the Life. When we put our trust in Him (His Way!), He alone is able to overcome our own catastrophic failures (as well as our ‘bumps’ along the way). In these struggles, we are never left alone! He is always with us (Matthew 28:20) and He provides the way back to the Love of the Father. Just as Yahweh’s ‘relented’ from destroying the Israelites based on Moses’ intercession (Exodus 32:14), Jesus has provided a safe passage to the Father through His perfect sacrifice on the Cross.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

God’s Law: A Tale of Two Mountains

 

Summer of Freedom

God’s Law: A Tale of Two Mountains

Pastor’s Note July 31, 2017

Listen to the sermon here

Outside Magazine has come to represent the symbol of life in the Great Outdoors in North America.  The thrill of climbing higher and more difficult ascents seems to be on everyone’s bucket list.  However, the death of Ueli Steck last spring, one the greatest climbers of this generation, serves as a reminder mountains leave precious little margin for error, even for folks as sure-footed and experienced as Steck.

The Bible conveys a similar sense of respect and awe with the idea that God is holy. The Israelites, after their ‘deep sea’ adventure and gnarly trek through Mount Sinai ‘National Park’ (Ex 15, 16-17; see Psalm 114:7-8) finally come to the foot of Mount Sinai. They are terrified at the sight of the Mountain of God with its summit engulfed in a huge thunderous cloud.  What really gets to them is God’s voice (read Exodus 19-20 for the full context). Moses, in response to their terror, challenges them: “Do not fear, for God has come to test you that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin” (Ex 20:20).

The obvious point is the law and the Mountain of God are very much restricted access.  Only Moses, the covenant mediator (their ‘mountain guide’) is allowed to summit to hear God directly. On the other hand, the law also represents freedom and identity to the Israelites: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex 20:1) that is deeply couched in terms of endearment (God calls His people His “treasured possession” Ex 19:3).  The sense of tension in the narrative between the goodness of God’s law and its awesomness is palpable.

But God has a second mountain. Figuratively speaking, Mount Zion is very much part of the same range as Sinai, but far higher in elevation  (Isaiah 2:2) and a much harder ‘climb.’ Jesus puts it this way on the sermon on the “mount”: “You have heard that it was said,” “but now I say to you…”(see Matthew 5:21-22). Yet, in spite of being such a hard climb, Mount Zion actually feels more like Beacon Hill (or the hills of Galilee).  It is now completely accessible because we have a new ‘guide’, Jesus Himself, the mediator of a New Covenant (Hebrews 12:24). In the Gospel, by taking our place on the Cross, Jesus actually carries you and me up to the summitHebrews 12:20-24 contrasts the two mountains powerfully.  At Sinai, even an animal drawing near the mountain would die. But we have come to Mount Zion, to Jesus Himself who has made it through the ‘death zone’ (an infamous section of the climb to Mount Everest), all the way to the top, into the Presence of God.

For Isaiah and his own description of the two mountains, Mount Sinai’s centrifugal forces are now replaced by Mount Zion’s centripetal forces (Isaiah 2:1-4).  God’s teachings in His Word functions as the main attraction and “many” are coming to Him.  Isaiah’s attractional vision of God’s Word offers a powerful counter to the antinomianism (= ‘against God’s laws’) of our time!

Where do we go from here?  Those of us who have summited Mount Zion through our faith in Christ have an experience to share with others.  It’s time to ‘come down’ and invite those who are very much afraid of God to draw near Him.  As we ourselves are attracted to the Word, we too explore it with the zeal of modern days mountaineers: “open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18).  We no longer are afraid, but with awe and respect, we come to the Word and store it in our heart, so that we might not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11).

Are we afraid of drawing near God’s Word? Are we determined to explore and learn His Word with the same attention we give to our favorite Outdoor (or Indoor) past time?  Do we really believe that His Word, not buildings, personalities or programs is the main attraction for the Gospel to take root in our hearts? Let us know in the comments or reach out to a pastor.

Posted in adult, Pastor Tom's Note | Leave a comment

Pastor Tom’s Note: “In-N-Out Egyptian Flesh Pots”

Pastor’s Note July 24 2017 – “In-n-Out Egyptian Flesh Pots”
Listen to last Sunday’s sermon here.

“Where’s that God of yours?” angrily asked Lieutenant Dan in response to yet another empty net on the shrimp troller Jenny in the 1994 picture Forrest Gump played by Gary Sinise. In his inimitable way, Forrest Gump [Tom Hanks] responds: “It’s funny Lieutenant Dan said that, because right then, God showed up.” The next scene switches to hurricane force winds with Lt. Dan up the mast screaming at the top of his lungs:

“You’ll never sink that boat! Come on! You call this a storm? Blow!…. Blow! It’s time for a showdown! You and me! I’m right here! Come and get me! You’ll never sink this boat!”

 

In Exodus 16-17, the Israelites, right on the heel of Yahweh’s great salvation from Egypt (Exodus 4-15), put Yahweh to the test in the harshest way, denying even His presence in their midst (“Is the Lord among us or not?” Exodus 17:7). Their hearts are shown to be hardened, just like Pharaoh’s! (Psalm 95:7-8). So, as the Song of the Sea becomes a paradigm of salvation (Exodus 15), this testing at “Massah and Meribah” (literally, the place of testing and contending with God) becomes a paradigm of our own hardened hearts (see Hebrews 4:7). Salvation is a rescue operation, but it’s not complete if our hearts aren’t transformed (John Wesley’s heart was ‘strangely warmed’ in his conversion experience; see Hebrews 3:19).

 

There are three layers to this test of the heart:

First, how do we react when God takes us into a place of want and need? The text explicitly states that Yahweh led them into a place that had no water (Exodus 17:1; see also Genesis 22:1; James 1). The people’s failure to respond properly is equally unequivocal: “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” (Exodus 17:3).

This then leads to the next question: Are you satisfied with God’s provision, whether it is little or much? When the Israelites are craving for the “flesh pots” of Egypt (Exodus 16:3), they are also saying: we are not happy with our circumstances, we want something else! (or to put in real terms: we want In-N-Out Burger, not Five Guys!). In our culture when “increase” is the metric of happiness and success, how do we react when God gives us in different ways when what we think we deserve? In Philippians 4:11-13, the Apostle Paul forges for us the pathway to true freedom: he is able to be content with little and with much. His heart is at peace no matter the circumstances, whether the Lord choses to manifest His goodness to us through times of measurable increase or through wants. Paul says with confidence that he can put up with both: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). His heart, like John Wesley, has been ‘strangely warmed:’ it is no longer hardened by unbelief, but has been softened (“tenderized” as Gordon Hugenberger likes to say) by the transformational power of God in his life (Jeremiah 17:9; Ezekiel 36:26).

The third layer of the testing brings it home to us even more powerfully: do we trust that Jesus Himself in our provision in the test. Jesus Himself is the “way.” He “provides a way out” in our testing (1 Corinthians 10:13), because He is “faithful.” Do we really believe that Jesus is the One who completely empathize and sympathize with our “weaknesses” (i.e., our hardness of heart and brokenness, Hebrews 4:15)? When we fail the test, He succeeds (Matthew 4:1-11). This is why in our failures, we approach the “throne of grace” with “confidence” so that we receive “grace and mercy” in our “time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

The hardness of unbelief is a powerful force, far more powerful even than the great temporal might of Pharaonic Egypt. In Jesus and His victory over his own “Massah and Meribah” (he was “without sin” Hebrews 4:15), we have the confidence that He has the power to change our heart and give us true contentment in His provision.

In the end, Lieutenant Dan “got it.” It was a long hard road from hardened unbelief to peace, but in Forrest’s own words: Lt. Dan finally “made his peace with God.”

 

Are you ready to let God give you a new heart? Are you ready to make peace with God and accept His provision in your life, even if it is less than you think you should have? Let the Lord Himself be Your provision this week. Allow Him to soften your heart and come to a place of peace.

Let us know in the comments or reach out to a pastor if you’d like to tell us more!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Pastor Tom’s Note – What is your song of triumph?

July 17th, 2017

What is your song of triumph?

Listen to the sermon here

As they finally witness the defeat of the Egyptians, the Israelites remember the victory in the “Song of the Sea” (Exodus 15), which gives us great insights into what salvation actually looks like:

  • Salvation is a rescue operation. Without a rescuer, the Israelites are about to die as the Egyptian armor (600 chariots) is bearing down on them in hot pursuit (see Exodus 14).
  • It is always against all odds. The Israelites are facing the might of Egypt, the Superpower of the day. Without divine intervention, all hope is lost!
  • Salvation is in extremis. It seems the Lord waits until the very last moment to manifest his salvation!
  • All of a sudden, the enemy is gone. In Exodus 15, the threat literally disappears in front of the people’s eyes, engulfed in waters. The motif plays itself out elsewhere: in 2 Kings 7, the Syrian camp is suddenly emptied out. The threat is gone. At the very end of the days, “Babylon” (=everything which stands against God and His Kingdom) will be gone in an instant:

    “Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying: So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence and will be found no more” (Revelation 18:21).

So the Song of the Sea becomes a paradigm to remember the Lord’s salvation. Yahweh “drew” David “out of many waters” (Psalm 18:16). Jonah, who got himself into deep waters through his disobedience, has his own “song of the Sea:” “For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me, all your waves and your billows passed over me” (Jonah 2:3). He too knows that in the end “salvation belongs to the Lord” (Jonah 2:9).

Why would the Lord embark in this rescue operation? Because of His deep love for us as individuals. In the Song of the Sea, Moses speaks of the corporate salvation of Israel in very personal and intimate terms: “I will sing to the Lord! He has become my salvation!” (Exodus 15:1-2). David’s own confidence in the love of the Father is unflinching: “He rescued me because He delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19; see Exodus 15:13).

The deeps of the sea is a powerful imagery because it represents the threat of death and the grave. In the Gospel, when Jesus calms the storm on the sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35ff), He anticipates his victory over death (1 Corinthians 15; Romans 6). Jesus rescues us from death so that by believing in Him we gain eternal life. In the new Heavens and New Earth, death has been defeated, so the “sea is no more” (Revelation 21:1).

When John Wesley faced a great storm during his crossing to America in the 1700s, he witnessed the peace and joy of Moravian believers as they were singing hymns in the midst of the chaos and mayhem aboard. This is a peace he himself didn’t possess at the time. Bernie Webber and his crew aboard a 36 ft/90 hp Coast Guard Motorized Life Boat faced up to 60 ft seas to rescue the crew of the tanker Pendleton off Cape Cod. On their way over the Chatham bar (deemed an impossible fate in the midst of this February 1952 “Nor’eastah”), they began singing “Rock of Ages.”

So what about us? What will be our song of triumph when our enemies are “too mighty for us” (Psalm 18:17)? Do we remember and celebrate the times when the Lord has saved us against all odds? What is our Song of the Sea? Do I really believe, like King David, that God loves me so much as my Heavenly Father, that He delivers me because He delights in me? Perhaps some of us are in the midst of 60ft seas right now. Perhaps, like Jonah, we got into these deep waters all by our own foolishness. Whatever the circumstances, let Him be our rescuer and let Him put His song of triumph in your hearts.

Posted in adult, Pastor Tom's Note, worship | Leave a comment

Pastor Tom’s Note – Bruno’s Stiff Neck

This past weekend, for the Lord’s Supper, individuals and families across generations joined together to receive the Bread and the Wine.  By coming forward to the Table, Communion was beautifully expressed in a powerful and reverential way.  TCC is privileged to have so many generations worshipping together!

If you missed it, you can catch the sermon here.

Celebrating our heritage.

The call to remember the history of the fathers is very strong in Scripture. The people of God especially remember the great victory of the Lord at the Red Sea (literally: “sea of reeds”) when they left Egypt, “the house of slavery.” On that day Yahweh “made a name for himself” when He defeated Pharaoh through His servant Moses: “You divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters” (Nehemiah 9:10-11).

Thus, Pharaoh learned the hard way the popular logo from Haleiwa, Hawaii HE>i

We want to be our own masters.

But God’s people also remember their own stubbornness in responding to God’s favor of deliverance. This ‘stiffneckness’ is expressed through an image of an obstinate beast of burden who refuses to be led: “Our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments” (Nehemiah 9:16). This image is much like our own family dog Bruno, who is very cute, but he also needs a “gentle leader” to cooperate and walk with us.

Bruno’s “gentle leader”

In Christ, we renounce all other masters.

In Jesus, the Exodus victory takes on a significance of its own. He has become our Passover Lamb (John 1) and the One who has come to deliver us from our powerful enemies: sin, death and the devil. In the Gospel, we celebrate our victory through the ‘great exchange:’ our sinfulness for Jesus’ righteousness; His obedience for our rebellion. What a glorious way to celebrate the Fourth of July weekend by declaring our own independence, this time from much more powerful enemies than Pharaoh or King George III! At the cross, God showed Himself to be even greater than our own stiffneckness, so that we are able to heed the kindness of our savior: “Come to me , all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon me, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

HE>stiffneck

Reflection for the week:
The God of the Bible is “the God who forgives our sin” and who is greater than our own stubbornness and brokenness. Come to Him and He will give you rest.

Is God calling you out of brokenness and stiff-necked-ness into his light and easy yoke? If God’s been working in your heart and you would like to speak with a pastor, just reach out and let us know!

Posted in all-church, worship | Leave a comment