Adventure with Pastor Aaron

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Stay Hungry - April 2019

As I’ve shared in a few places recently, both in big spaces like public worship, and also in private, I LOVE…(yes, all caps!)…LOVE March Madness!  It is, in my way of thinking, one of the few unblemished arenas of athletic prowess and public competition. The Olympics are a close second, in my humble opinion. I know that some would be quick to debate with me on this fact, saying that the lackadaisical, passionless nature of professional sports has begun to leach down into collegiate athletics. I wouldn’t too hotly contest that point. Earning potential and scholarship considerations have certainly taken a toll on the desire of college athletes to win. But there is still nothing like the Madness!

And madness it is! Anything can happen! A team with the lowest seed, 16, can upset a #1 seed who has been highly touted as a potential champion. In 2015, my Michigan State Spartans were taken out in the first round by Middle Tennessee (who’s ever heard of Middle Tennessee? I wondered before the game. I know where it is now!). The Bradley Braves almost did the same thing this past weekend.

It drives people practically out of their minds!  They’re passionate for their team. They yell at the TV (and the refs, who remain unwavering, despite their outbursts). They stand up from the couch, sometimes upending refreshments, when a buzzer-beating 3-pointer goes up, hoping that it goes in…or that it doesn’t!  People are hungry, passionate for a win.

And God is passionate for us. He wants a win for us, a satisfying, long-lasting, wholesome win for us.  It’s His greatest desire for us. But He also knows that we only find the deepest level of fulfillment, the greatest “win,” when His Kingdom comes in our lives. When it is vibrantly alive in our relationships. When our hearts beat in rhythm with His, passionate about the same things He so desperately desires for us and for all human beings. He is hungry for YOU!

And so a deep part of His nature, played out in your life, is a deep hunger for Him. His Word.  For conversation with Him. For opportunities to serve sacrificially like He did on the cross. To give your life away to those around you, one tiny piece of attention at a time. To go into the places and spaces where the needs are the greatest. His passion, His hunger is for you, and for all. He wants your hunger to be for
Him and for all.

So, from one person who is eager and passionate about God’s Kingdom coming, to another, here’s my admonition to you: Stay hungry! Don’t get too settled or comfortable where you are! Be willing to listen to the voice of the Spirit, driving you to places He’s preparing for you. Find joy in the adventure of faith. I believe that God has put us together, this merry band of peculiar people (thanks again, Pastor Haney!), for a purpose. So let’s stay hungry! Here’s to passionately pursuing the Kingdom together…and everything God brings to us along the way.

Adventure is out there!  Pastor Aaron

Tilting the Table - March 2019

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This African proverb is something that has been resonating with me as I consider Jesus’ command to all of us to GO and make disciples. That mandate is clear. But it’s not something that we are made to do alone. We need each other, by God’s design. So one of the key questions we must answer as a community is, “Where is God leading us? Where does He want us to GO as a community, following in Jesus’ footsteps?"

At its core, the work of the church has never been to build and maintain buildings, or to maintain a balanced budget (although these pieces have certainly become a necessary and godly part of how the American church functions and stewards its resources). The work of the church isn’t even primarily focused on the weekend gatherings, though the importance of being in God’s Word together can hardly be understated or undervalued.  To be clear, all of this activity is moral and godly, and it’s necessary for good order in our community.

But the purpose of the church is, as Paul put it, "equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12, CSB).  Worship services, and the gathering of God’s people (church, from Gk. ekklesia) serve as an opportunities to be filled with the great Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection, what it means for our daily lives, and how we live it out. Equipping ALL of God’s people, not just the leaders, to be a light in a dark place, maximizes the impact of the Gospel and our common mission, given to us by Jesus.

God’s Word, the inviting and challenging words of Jesus, is the best tool for our equipping. And Lent is a season of reflection, prayer, and intentional study of the Word. The Red Letter Challenge (RLC for short) is a vehicle we’re using to engage not just our minds, but our hearts and our lives, too, in the process of faith- and life-formation. It’s my prayer that as we engage in the RLC together, God’s Spirit will begin to bolster our hearts for the road ahead, and give new insight and direction as to where we should go together. We must seek the heart of the Father, and spiritual maturity before we start to move!

A few weeks ago in church, I brought out a table, marking it with a starting line and an X for the finish line. With a bouncy ball on the table, I and a group of people, of various ages and other characteristics tried to land the ball on the “X.” It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t a straight line. And I’m not sure if we actually ever got the ball to stop rolling. But it was fun!

Our journey together will be similar. I pray it will not be swift and lonely, but far and together. May God grant us vision to see where He wants to go. And may His Word continue to be the thing that fills us up and gives us strength for the journey ahead!

Adventure is out there!  Pastor Aaron

Conversation Starters from Pastor - February 2019

Right before Jesus ascended, He gave His disciples their marching orders: “Go!  Make disciples (people who imitate you as you imitate Me). How? Baptize them! Teach them how much I and my Father love them! I’ll always be with you!” (That’s how I’d put the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19-20, in my own words).

But the story continued. Jesus ascended. He gave the power of His own life and Spirit at Pentecost.  The church grew in Jerusalem, but eventually it was scattered into the world (Acts 8:1). And the world has never been the same, as the great Good News of Jesus has been shared, over and over.

I’m certain that the people of God in that season of the world, our spiritual ancestors, weren’t thinking that that scattering after Pentecost was a good thing. But like so many things in our world, what people intended for evil, God turns into good (i.e., Jesus on the cross). The church wasn’t allowed to get too comfortable in its original surroundings. It became an apostolic church, a gathering of the “sent-out ones."

So it is, even today. We participate in the gathering together of the church, only to be sent out again.  My prayer for you, as your pastor, is that our time together become a time of being filled up, fueled up, for the way that God is calling YOU to engage in His mission. I want our church to be a Launching Point for you, launching you into the world. And I want you to go, being able to identify what He’s trying to tell you, or how you’ve heard from Him while you’re here, so you have something to share wherever you go. That’s my intention for the Launching Points-To-Go we’ve been writing down the past few weeks.

So, where is God sending you? To whom is God sending you? Where is He leading us as a church? The answers to these, and many other questions, come from sitting at the feet of Jesus, inhaling His presence and His Word, and exhaling our prayers through His Spirit. My encouragement to you is to be in God’s Word, intentionally, regularly, prayerfully, as we seek His guidance as to where He’s going to lead us. I’m not sure of the details myself, but I’m ready for the journey with you and the adventures it will bring.

Adventure is out there!  Pastor Aaron