There has been a lot of media attention on some recent faith-based films recently. “Noah”, “Son of God”, “Heaven is for Real” and “God is Not Dead” have all had a measure of success at the box office. Some like “Heaven is for Real” are surprisingly big hits considering their low budgets and B-list cast. I confess that I haven’t seen any of the four although I have an interest in each.
If economics are any indication of our nation’s faith pulse than there is a surprising percentage of our population that is not only interested in but hungry for movies that point to a greater reality. We all know that the Science Fiction genre has sold billions of movie tickets over the years. Why are we so interested (seemingly all of the sudden) in faith-based films?
I propose that the more our government, schools, and secular culture try to rid us of any ties to a Holy God that our hunger for spiritual food increases. We have long thought and even complained of the power of the media. God is not afraid of the media and even utilizes it to communicate stories of redemption and love that will point wayward hearts to His ultimate love and glory. (not just in “Christian” media – see Shawshank Redemption, Titanic, Les Miserables, The Chronicles of Narnia, Glory, and on & on.)
God is not new to the movie scene
Whether implicit or explicit “faith” has been on film since the onset of moving pictures. The script is the same for many a blockbuster: “a story of love that conquers any obstacle in order to redeem one who is lost”. This is the core of the Gospel. It has been repackaged for generations but the author of the Greatest Story Ever Told is also the producer of the Greatest Movies Ever Seen. God is even overseeing a global drama that is unfolding in our midst called “the Kingdom of God”. Let’s let Him direct the part we play in it.
Some friends and I intended to go fishing in the ocean. The ship was called the Princess out of Point Pleasant, NJ. It was a chilly January day but nothing like the January we are currently having. When we arrived at the dock we were informed that due to a Nor'easter out at sea the ship would be staying in the harbor that day.
We were happy to hear of a ship whose crew was crazy enough to go out in the storm anyway! (I can't remember the name of this boat but it might as well be called "insanity I")
A couple hours later we were still in calm seas but with our course eastward we eventually found the reason the other boat stayed put. The waves churned and one by one the hearty fisherman left my side for safer, dryer quarters. The waves began to crash around us. I can remember looking at eye level and some of the waves being above me! Surely the captain will turn around! My friend and I kept fishing and enjoying the absurdity of it all.
I don't share this story because it highlights good decision making. Quite the opposite. Enough storms blow our way that we never need to go looking for them. The decisions we make,however, can lead us to rough waters. When we choose to venture into the grey areas between right and wrong or blatantly choose sin we are lifting the anchor and need to be prepared for whatever the storm holds.
2 lessons: #1 don't go looking for trouble
#2 when in trouble call out to Jesus
"He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm."
Dear Church Family,
The Advent of our Lord is a unique time of year for
the Christian. There is a perfect collision of tense in our language that can be
confusing. How can we wait for Christ to be born after all? Wasn’t Jesus born
over two millennia ago? Why sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” if He already
This month long period is really a snapshot of our existence. We can take our lead from
the Old Testament. The prophets and scribes wrote for the purposes of:
1. the time in which they lived
2. reminding the people of what has been before (the Exodus from Egypt, for example)
3. helping God’s children look toward the future (prophecies of Israel’s return from captivity, the Messiah, etc.)
And so Christmas encapsulates the full gravity of all time. We open up the book of Isaiah and are reminded in chapter 11 that “a shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse”. We understand
this more as we reflect on Jesus being the one that would be born from David’s lineage. We look to the future and await the second coming of Christ. Jesus said in John 14, “I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”
The present might just be the most glorious realization for us this Christmas. To celebrate Jesus’
birth is to acknowledge the God that invades time. The holy God enters into our mess. He casts “out our sin and enters in”. The very son of God is born to us then and we are reminded that His spirit comes to us now.
Thank God for the gift of Jesus for all people in all time. That he came to you then, He comes to you now and He is coming again.
Blessings in this life and beyond,
*The Christmas Offering will go toward our local ministry and the missions we support
as a congregation. If you wish to designate your gift to go wholly in support of one of these, please indicate that desire on your envelope or check.
Our discussion in Sunday morning’s adult class included tyrannical leaders and even Mahatma Gandhi. All this discussion stemmed from Romans 13. The church in Rome is receiving startling instructions from Paul about the fact that they should submit to their governing authorities as they have “been instituted by God”(13:1). We wrestled in class with the theological and practical implications and I imagine that I wasn’t the only one that left class less comfortable about the idea than when I first entered.
The final twenty minutes of our class time was spent in a surprising place: the supermarket. The second half of Romans 13 turns the attention from that which we cannot change, to that which we can; ourselves! Our actions, our attitudes, and even our thought life, are to demonstrate love for God and love toward our neighbor. What do we do when that inconsiderate person jumps in line ahead of us or brings twenty items into the 10 items or less line? How many of us can say we have made God proud by our thoughts and actions at the store?
Love is challenged in such places. We may be the only ones at Shop Rite thinking “How can I show love to a stranger?” If we are not thinking this than we are not prepared when an opportunity arises to show: grace; by allowing the woman with three children to get in front of you, mercy; to an otherwise undeserving line-jumper, the precious gift of your time; in helping an elderly gentlemen find the paprika. The truth is that there are infinite ways to demonstrate love.
May we take our hearts out of the frozen food aisle and help others in their shopping quest. The storehouse of our Lord’s shelves never run empty of love and neither should our hearts.
When we refer to something that is “ours” alone we usually use the terms “my” or “mine”. As in “that car is mine”, “they are my kids”, “get off my lawn” and “that is my favorite ______”. God’s church is a gift that is uniquely “ours”.
As your pastor I want this to be your church. This should be a gathering where you experience growth, community, and blessing. My hope is that your spiritual needs are met amongst this body of believers in Jesus Christ.
When we look outside our own wants and desires we see the vision for this fellowship more clearly. The person at the end of your pew or next to your name in the directory has struggles and needs too. Jesus encourages us to put others’ needs above our own. Shifting our attention off of ourselves means that there is now a new center of gravity to our universe. Existence does not revolve around us anymore. Our perspective expands and we see ourselves as part of something bigger and better.
In our study of the Holy Spirit in recent weeks we may have noticed that the Holy Spirit was not sent to do all the work of advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of God’s grace, you and I are invited to play our part. We will never find a better ally, companion, or friend. The Holy Spirit and YOU is a unique force only rivaled by the Holy Spirit and US in the advancement of God’s kingdom on this earth.
There are many to learn from here at SCBC. I witness the genuine care that folks have for one another. These same individuals have their own struggles! At some point they have stopped being consumers of ministry and have decided to be ministers themselves! Does this describe you?
One person was not given the responsibility of bringing the life-saving message of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. We are all to share in this charge together. Administering God’s love and care is also our responsibility. We are called “co-heirs with Christ” in the kingdom that is here now and yet to come. Let us be co-laborers as well as co-owners of our responsibilities to one another in the meantime.
Hello SCBC Family!
I talked to many of you after church about my debut album and a great many asked for information so here it is!
If you are able to pre-order your album and spread the word, the first 48 hours are crucial for ranking and exposure on kickstarter's main page so would love you to consider doing so early on!
DIRECT LINK http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/estabrooks/jonathan-estabrooks-debut-classical-crossover-albu
JONATHAN ESTABROOKS' DEBUT ALBUM
CROWDFUNDING A DREAM.
Photo Credit: Shannon McCookI am so excited about this crossover record and hope you'll join the team! This 12-track album will including originals and covers of classical pop, folk and classical songs (John Denver, Neil Diamond, Stevie Wonder, Gardel, Telson, Sondheim and others). We are excited for these songs to come alive through the richness of sound that only a full orchestra can achieve.'
'To bring this professional quality album to life takes time, talent and funding. I can't do it alone and that's why I'm turning to you through Kickstarter. As a team we are looking to raise $25,000 to $30,000 to cover the cost of hiring a team of 50+ musicians, engineers and producers as well as CD production and promotion.'
We will be working with the Bratislava Radio Orchestra, top Juilliard Jazz musicians, Producer/Arranger Oran Eldor (John Legend/Julie Andrews), Mastering artists (Josh Groban/Michael Buble), and musical collaborations with Jonathan Antoine (Youtube Sensation/Britain's Got Talent/SYCO Label) and Jennifer Thomas (Award-winning classical-crossover pianist and composer).
God vs. You or God & You
One of the wrestling stars from my youth was "Roddy Piper" (the Hulk Hogan era). He had what was called a "submission move" which was the "Sleeper Hold". Once a competitor (also an actor) found himself in this predicament the match was all but over. Submission, in wrestling, has always been something to avoid.
Paul, in Ephesians Chapter 5 verse 21 implores us to “submit to one another out of reverence to God". Who does Paul think he is? We are groomed to be independent thinkers with the freedom to act for our own good pleasure and so the idea of intentionally giving up power, opinions, and "rights" is an alien concept.
Without actively submitting we are actually wrestling with God. (Jacob tangled with God in Genesis 32 and came out of it a little worse for wear). There is a clear and present tension between the will of the Spirit and that of our flesh (just ask anyone in Sunday morning Bible Study). When we choose self over others we find ourselves overmatched. It is an ugly thought indeed to imagine ourselves aligned with Satan. But if we are not FOR God we find ourselves doing the enemy's bidding. Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me”.
This favorite hymn rings true:
All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give.
I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.
I surrender all. I surrender all. All to thee my blessed Savior; I surrender all.
Give up already! How freeing it is to lay down your arms and surrender to a God that has no intention of imprisoning your soul but to bestow an abundant life to the fullest! Giving up the fight involves receiving the kingdom! As a child of the living God, remember that for your next battle and all along, God is in your corner!
The virtue of love has been turned into an enterprise: movies, music, commercials (I recently saw a highly suggestive “Liquid Plumber” commercial!) billboards, and novels, will usually employ some form of love (usually romantic) in an attempt to catch our attention and turn a profit. Valentine’s Day is coming (gentlemen take note!), and many males will be on the hot seat to show love in predictably routine gestures. Chocolates, roses, and cards will be in high demand. I confess that I am to Valentine’s Day what Ebenezer Scrooge is to Christmas. “Ba Humbug!” –as a Christian I can’t help but think we are missing something.
“Maybe the slightly cynical pastor will be assuaged by having four love holidays!?”
There are four terms for love that appear in the Greek New Testament. All four terms are simply translated as “love” (or charity as is the case in the King James). In C.S. Lewis’ book, The Four Loves, he names and expounds the four words; storge refers to a familial kind of love in which the givers and recipients did not choose the other, phileo is the love shared between friends, eros is romantic in nature, and agape is a higher, godly-sort of love.
Thinking of love in a multi-dimensional way makes sense. Valentine’s Day is primarily romantic in nature. This is why my brothers would be “creeped out” if I sent them a card and a box of chocolates with an “I Love You” sentiment attached. We tend to overuse the word and say things like, “I love those shoes” or “I just love football”. Join me in my campaign to protect the word!
I am reminded often as I meet with folks and discuss the intricacies of relationships that we experience the best results when we choose to love. When we wait for love to happen or hope to “fall-in” it (almost sounds like something you step-in), we miss the flowers for the cellophane wrap. God gave of His best to Jesus and Jesus gave His best in return. Love isn’t just pontificated upon by Jesus, it was lived out in His caring for the poor, fatherless, widowed, deprived, shamed, scorned, forsaken, lame, and sick. This agape is what we are to strive for and it is a far cry from being a movie on the Hallmark Channel. The way of agape love that Jesus lived out was the way of the cross.
Lent means “springtime” which refers to a period of forty days prior to Easter. This is a time when Christians worldwide observe practices like fasting. You may hear conversations like, “what are you giving up for lent?” Sacrifice is what brings love out of the murky realm of the intangible and allows it to step into the light of a noonday sun. Let us not miss the point in our observations. Loving sacrificially is our calling if we are to follow Christ’s lead. Empty practices and observances are what our Lord detested.
How will we know that we found this agape love? We can measure it up to I Corinthians 13 for starters. The truest, God-given love “never fails”. My prayer is that we can experience what Paul hails as the greatest virtue today and always.
How Fasting, Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication
can lead us through life's wilderness.
5 Wednesdays of Lent (Feb.20th - March 20th)
We will begin with a light meal followed by a time of worship, study and prayer.
Adults and children of all ages are welcome. After our meal and some singing the children will share in some more "kid friendly" activities.
“The Value of a Life” - Pastor Mark Snyder
The question, “How much is he/she worth?” is something that we, as a society, have come to ask. This inquiry deals with a person’s “net worth” (the sum of bank accounts + investments + property + annuities, retirement, etc. minus debts). This question may be helpful in the financial world but I propose that this is an obscene way to measure the intrinsic value of an individual life. Who or What dictates the value of a life? Does the stock market? Ben Bernanke (Federal Reserve Chair)? President Obama? We do not rely on any one person or institution for the answer. We look elsewhere. Perhaps we are still looking….
The year 2012 ended tragically. Our nation and world is still reeling from the needless loss of life that occurred in a Newport, Connecticut school on December 15th. The deacons of the church made calls that evening to announce a prayer service for the following day. We sought God aloud and in silence, asking for the Almighty to come to the rescue. We prayed for the individual families by name on Sunday. We grieved for those much closer to the tragedy and shared an unspeakable void for we, too had experienced loss.
The value of life is the issue that is now front and center in the national arena. Politicians, activists, lobbyists, health officials, psychologists, lawmakers, and others will continue to weigh-in on the subject. In all our human efforts we simply cannot rewrite the story. We can only work at preventing another horror. The fact that a person is irreplaceable should awaken us to the fact that we simply are unable to value life adequately.
God values life infinitely more than us. Christmas is God’s response to a terrible tragedy. God’s own people have rejected their first love incessantly and must pay the penalty for their sin. God intervenes. “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus is born to us so that we may learn the way of LIFE.
The grand resolution to our human tragedy is found in Jesus. God sent Jesus “so that the world would be saved” (John 3:17). God understands our loss in a profound and intimate way. If we are truly growing in our understanding of the nature of God than a person’s “net worth” will be ever on the rise. May our worldly methods of assessing human worth be replaced with a Godly understanding that our lives are worth the death of His one and only son. In this light, a life could never be more valuable.
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” -Jesus