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Nahum

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We live in a very broken world. Almost every day we hear new stories about a mass shooting, government corruption, global health epidemics, violence and crime in neighborhoods, and global tension between nations ravaged by war and terrorism. The sheer amount of brokenness in our world is enough to make a person wonder if things will ever get better. Do you feel the weight of the world we live in?

As disciples of Jesus, it’s all too easy to try and pretend like these things aren’t our problem or that these issues don’t have any relevance for us today where we live. But I believe the the Bible has given us timeless wisdom and instruction on topics such as this and one of the books that speaks to this issue in profound ways is the book of Nahum.

While Nahum is a short book of only three chapters comprised of 47 verses, we would be wise to pay attention to the message of Nahum.

Nahum was a prophet of God and his message comes in the form of a prophetic vision. This prophetic vision is addressed to the city of Nineveh, which happens to be the central hub for the evil and cruel Assyrian empire. The Assyrians were brutal enemies of God’s nation, Israel, and practiced some of the most evil and violent methods of war known to mankind. The message of Nahum to the Assyrians is deeply haunting yet simple and goes something like this: God will utterly destroy, devastate, and humiliate you and your people for your blatant evil, bloodshed, and injustice upon the innocent. In three short chapters we see that God will bring destruction to Assyria in such a way that has never been seen before. The sad irony is that Assyria will reap the very consequences of violence and destruction they had been sowing for years (Nahum 2:10-13).

Ready for a plot twist?

As you read Nahum, you may be wondering how Nineveh will be destroyed when Jonah (another prophet of God) physically went to Nineveh, preached to them, and the whole city repented and God relented from destroying them (Jonah 3:6-10). So how does this compare to the book of Nahum? Well, the story of Jonah going to Nineveh happened 100 years before the message of Nahum was written. Therefore, the city of Nineveh did actually repent and turn from their evil ways and God spared them. Unfortunately, after a few years the Assyrians went back to their old ways and not only did they return to their wicked ways but, as history shows us, their evil became worse than ever (Nahum 3:1)! This blatant refusal to maintain God’s ways was the final straw and thus Nahum was given a prophetic vision to deliver as God's final message to the Assyrians.

What does this mean for us?

Let’s be honest: it’s pretty ridiculous to see Assyria given so much grace through God sending the prophet Jonah to warn them, right? Not only does God spare them but they remain in God’s favor for almost another hundred years. Yet we see them turn right back around to embrace their sinful and destructive past once again and we scratch our heads. However, before we get too self-righteous, we would be wise to consider how many times you and I have done the exact same thing. In fact, how many times have you and I done the exact same thing this week?

While we may not have led an army to burn cities or slaughter innocent women and children, you and I still have the disease known as sin living inside of us. This rebellious cancer seeps into our heart, mind, and soul and causes us to one day embrace God’s forgiveness and the next day get right back to the sin we were so disgusted by the previous day. This is the human condition.

The book of Nahum serves as an example, both then and now, to encourage us that God does not take evil and injustice lightly. Nahum, and many of the other minor prophetic books, is a bold indictment upon evil and injustice and gives us a glimpse of how God will one day bring His sovereign justice to these horrible injustices in our world today. While we mourn and feel the weight of living in our broken world we must take encouragement and hope that God will not remain silent. In His perfect timing, there will be swift and unfathomable judgment to His enemies. At the same time, as in every story in Scripture, there is good news that points to God’s steadfast love and mercy. For those that trust in God and submit to His ways there will be refuge and comfort until His day of judgment occurs (Nahum 1:7). 

Also, for a quick overview of the book of Nahum, I'd highly recommend the video below. 

For the Kingdom,
Pastor Brett Ricley

We Appreciate our Staff

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This past Sunday, Pastor Brett and I lead our faith-family in thanking and appreciating our staff.  Do you realize how fortunate we are to have a staff?  We are a church-plant with a staff.  We are blessed!  

Through faithful supporters and partnerships, we have two full-time pastors leading a bi-vocational Minister of Students (Josiah), a bi-vocational Minister of Worship (Ming), a bi-vocational Pastor in Residence (Derek), and a bi-vocational Women's Ministry Intern (Arin).   

Our staff team did a great job this year.  I hope you'll thank each of them the next time you see them or consider sending a text or email sharing your appreciation of the work they've done.  

As internships and residencies end, there may be some adjustments to roles and responsibilities.  We will likely have more interns and residents.  It's my hope and prayer that our church will support and care for them like they have our present intern and resident, as well as our other bi-vocational staffers. I pray our staff will continue to faithfully serve the Lord as we grow and serve in this area even as it changes and continues to develop.  And above all, I hope you'll continue to keep your staff leaders and pastors in your prayers.   

For the Kingdom!
Pastor Bryan 

Micah: Remnant and Restoration

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As we dig into the message Micah has for Judah, we notice something we haven't seen yet in our series, "The Message of the Twelve."  The other minor prophets were telling Isreal they'd be cut down and hauled off.  At some point, God would restore his people, but Isreal would never see the restoration of their nation.  Now Micah is preaching to Judah, the country to the south.  And he seems to say that there will be a restoration from a small remnant, and in that restoration, the people will one day have a King from the line of David.  They will be restored in such a way that once more they will become a great nation of priests to the world, something they had forgotten. 

Isaiah, a prophet to Judah around the same time as Micah had a vision.  Describing his vision of this remnant and restoration he writes, "And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled."  The holy seed is its stump" (Isaiah 6:13).  The picture is a dead and burned stump that somehow will birth a new tree.  Because of the tree, while it looks done for, is still alive.  There's a small remnant of life.  

Micah says something like Isiah's vision:  "In that day, declares the Lord, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away and those whom I have afflicted; and the lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation, and the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion from this time forth and forevermore" (Micah 4:6-8).   

And what might become of this remnant? It's not going to be restored to its original state, but to something better.  Micah 5:7-9 says, "Then the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the Lord, like showers on the grass, which delay not for a man nor wait for the children of man.  And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among the flocks of sheep, which, when it goes through, treads down and tears in pieces, and there is not to deliver.  Your hand shall be lifted up over your adversaries, and all your enemies shall be cut off."  

This week, I'll be sharing a message from Micah's message.  We'll look at the remnant and what all this means.  We'll see that coming king from the line of David.  And we'll see so much more.  

I'd like to encourage you to read the seven chapters of the book of Micah.  You might also consider watching this overview video. 

See you Sunday!
Pastor Bryan 

Hosea and the Story of the Cheating Heart

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The conclusion of Hosea says, "For the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them" (Hosea 14:9b).  The statement comes after a charge that we, the readers of the book of Hosea, would be wise and discerning to understand Hosea's writing and know it.  Therefore, I encourage you to read the 14 chapters of Hosea this week as we prepare for Hosea's message in our series, The Message of the Twelve: A Journey through the Minor Prophets.

Here's a fantastic video from the team at the Bible Project.  It summarizes the book and well worth the few minutes to watch it. 

At the heart of the book of Hosea is the unfaithfulness of God's people.  They (we) cheat on God all the time.  It's called idolatry.  The original hearers of that message were destroyed and cut off from God, but we are afforded the love and grace of God even as we play the whore and cheat on the Lord all the time.  Too often, we often take God's grace for granted.  Too often we cheat on one day and play the religious game the next.  

How would you advise a friend who's spouse repeatedly cheated on your friend with other lovers?  What if the spouse asked for forgiveness on Monday but cheated again on Wednesday, then again on Friday? And what if, on Saturday that spouse made breakfast-in-bed for your friend?  Would that be enough for all to be right?  Probably not.  What if this happened over and over and over again?  The book of Hosea says we are like that unfaithful partner. 

While we would not likely have love and grace for such a cheater in our marriages, God shows remarkable patience and love for us.  God is not a harsh task-master who must be appeased.  He's like a loving husband who genuinely cares for his bride.  He says, "For I desire steadfast love, not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6). 

On Sunday, we'll open the book of Hosea and see the message God had for his unfaithful, covenant people. It's a message for us, but it's also a message of hope.  As is apparent, the cheater does not deserve any grace or forgiveness, but God loves us so much, he does what we could never do for ourselves--he transforms our cheating hearts and redeems us.  We don't deserve his grace and love, and a cheater could never really earn it.  And that is why we worship our wonderful Lord and Savior. 

I hope you'll join us in worship and for his message on Sunday. 

For the Kingdom!
Pastor Bryan Catherman  

Joel

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Ever wonder when God is going to confront all the evil in our world? It’s not hard to see that the world we live in is full of evil, hatred, and brokenness. If we’re being honest though, we must also acknowledge the reality that each and every person on earth also struggles with evil, hatred, and brokenness within their own hearts. What is the remedy to all of this?

Enter the book of Joel.

Joel was a prophet of God whose writings appear in the minor prophetic books of the Bible. Joel’s message, while short, is incredibly important in our understanding of evil, repentance, God’s mercy, and a future hope.

Joel spends a majority of his time writing about the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord is a very common theme throughout the minor prophets and is a declaration of God’s judgment of evil to both the past and the future. This judgment is for the nation of Judah, Jerusalem, as well as the people of God, Israel. This judgment is horrific and will completely devastate all crops, livestock, and well-being in the land (Joel 1:8-10). In light of this judgment, Joel calls the people to repent from their sin, turn back to God, and cry out to God for deliverance (Joel 1:13-14).

It’s important to notice that while Joel is calling the nations and Israel to repentance, he’s not simply encouraging them to repent with lofty religious words; he’s calling them to repent by changing their actions. Notice what the Lord says through the prophet Joel:

return to me with all your heart...and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster
— Joel 2:12-13

What a beautiful picture of how genuine heart change (repentance), from the inside out, leads to God being eager to demonstrate His love and mercy despite the obvious reality that none deserve it. Now that’s good news! This leads us to the last part of Joel as he elaborates on what a future hope can look like for those who repent, turn to the Lord, and fully embrace His ways.

In the future Day of the Lord God will confront all evil, there will be a renewal of all creation, and God’s spirit will fill all His people. This future is one of blessing, abundance, favor with the Lord, and a restoration of things once lost or destroyed (Joel 2:25). Once again, this is not because we deserve it but because God has chosen to show love, mercy, and kindness to those who fear Him and obey Him.

As we’ve seen in this sermon series, the prophetic book of Joel has many timeless principles that apply to you and me today. While there are multiple timeless principles we could reflect on this week, I’d like to encourage you to begin pondering on the following this week:

  1. Sin is serious. Do you sin lightly? Do you take your own sin seriously? Do you see your sin as rebellion against God? Why or why not?
     
  2. How often do you repent from your rebellion against God? What sins do you need to confess to Him and repent of right now?
     
  3. While sin is strong, God’s love and mercy are stronger. Do you believe that? When you sin, do you come to God with confidence He’ll forgive you?

There’s a lot more going on in the book of Joel but these are the major themes that will be relevant to the message on Sunday. I’d encourage you to read the three chapters that make up Joel this week and I look forward to hearing what God speaks to you from His Word this week.

I'd also highly encourage you to check out overview video for Joel below by The Bible Project. It's incredibly helpful!

For the Kingdom,
Pastor Brett

Amos

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The next prophet in our series, "The Message of the Twelve: a Journey through the Minor Prophets" is Amos.  Amos was an interesting guy.  It would seem that he was a shepherd and a migrant worker in the orchards ("a herdsman and dresser of sycamore figs" according to Amos 7:15).  He wasn't a prophet or a priest or had a history of ministry until God called him to proclaim a message of the impending destruction coming upon Israel.  Where most of us would say, "That sounds bad, that can't be my calling." Amos was faithful to obey the Lord. 

Amos was from Tekoa, which is in Judah, but his message was for Israel.  It's difficult to say where Amos called home at the point of his commission, but scholars argue that there aren't sycamore figs around Tekoa, so Amos likely crossed the border for work.  Either way, Amos' message was a difficult one. 

God told Amos to warn the people of Israel that they were going to be cut down and exported to Assyria or killed in the process.   God tried to get the people to return to him by giving them riches, but they did not turn to the Lord in thanksgiving.  So God decided to call them back by sending minor calamities, but they would not cry out to him for help.  Finally, after hundreds of years, time ran out for the nation of Israel.  "Therefore," God said, "thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I do will this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" (Amos 4:12). 

For generation after generation, God gave good things and trouble to draw his people back to him.  He was patient and gracious.  He was loving.  They continued to sin, all the while thinking they were spiritually fine because they were still offering the sacrifices and works.  They were like the unfaithful spouse running off to prostitutes but expecting no ramifications, over and over again.  They were going through the religious motions. But they didn't understand that God wanted a meaningful relationship.  They didn't, and they assumed that God would never bring his justice.  Then time ran out.  

Amos' message is a tough one.  There was no opportunity for salvation for the people of Israel, so why would God even send Amos?  

I contend that the message of Amos was not for the people of Israel because they only rejected it.  A priest in Bethel named Amaziah said to Amos, "O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel for it is the king's sanctuary and it is a temple of the kingdom" (Amos 7:12-13).  Amos' message is for us if we are willing to listen to the timeless principle. 

The message of Amos is a warning to those who, like Israel, are slothful, lazy, and full of hypocrisy.  It's a message for the complacent people who are far from God and don't want to be near God on his terms.  It's a message for those who only desire to silence the Word of God as if silencing God will hold his judgment at bay.   But it is not a message of condemnation, so much as a warning because there's still time for us to repent of our ways and turn to the Lord.  

While it was too late for Israel (because they were so hard they only wanted to kick Amos out of the country), it is not too late for us.  Through Amos, God says, "Seek me and live!" (Amos 5:4, and Amos 5:6).  God told them to turn to the Lord, not their cities, or politics, or any other idol, or even empty religious behavior.  He's telling us the same.  It's not too late.  

Jesus calls us to himself for salvation.  Will you turn to him, or will you be like the Israelites who ended up meeting their maker on bad terms?  Are you willing to hear a message of God's truth or would you rather try to silence God in your own life?  Yes, Amos' message is very relevant today, for us individually as well as for us a church, and even for our community.  

I'll be discussing more about Amos and his message this Sunday.  I encourage you to read the book.  It's nine short chapters.  Pray.  And come anticipating that God might speak to you.  We meet for prayer and communion at 10 am and for a worship service and teaching at 11 am.  I look forward to seeing you there.

For the Kingdom!
Pastor Bryan Catherman 

Jonah

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While Jonah may or may not be the first Minor Prophet chronologically, he's the first in our new series, "The Message of the Twelve: A Journey Through the Minor Prophets."  This Sunday, we'll be looking at the Book of Jonah, but not from the perspective, "check out the dude who ran from God and got swallowed by a big fish."  Instead, we'll look at the message that he carried hundreds of miles to a foreign people called the Ninivites.   

When Jonah finally arrived at Ninevah, he preached a single-sentence sermon, or at least that's all the Bible recounts.  "Yet forty days," called out Jonah, "and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"  (Jonah 3:4).   That sure doesn't seem like much of a message, but it's so much more than one sentence.  

First, his message was one of truth, and the people knew what to do with the truth.  They prayed and fasted and repented.  Clearly, God was already preparing the hearts of the Ninitives. 

Second, God sent his messenger on an 800-mile journey (one way) because God desired to save the Ninivites. 

Third, Jonah 3:10 shows the readers that the bigger message was that God was calling people to salvation.  While Jonah may not have wanted to see his enemies saved, God wanted otherwise.  The message of their destruction was a statement of truth and a message of the hope and salvation of the Lord.  

Fourth, Jonah's message is the same message the Bible proclaims to us today.  It might not be that physical destruction is coming in 40 days, but apart from Jesus, we are already facing God's wrath.   Jesus preached the same message because it's the message of the Bible.  It's the gospel.  

In Mark 1:15, Jesus says the Kingdom of God is near so people should repent.  In Luke 5:23 Jesus says he has come not for those who are getting all the rules completed and EXPECT that they have earned salvation, but for the sick sinners who need the help of the Great Physician.  Luke 13:1-5 tells us of the consequences should we not repent.  (I think we know what would have happened to Ninevah if they wouldn't have believed Jonah's message and then repented; just as we are aware, down deep, that the same is true of Jesus' message and us today.)    

And finally, Jonah's message shows us that the Gospel is a message for the world, not just a special people, special nation, or a particular race.  It is a message of hope, even though it speaks of frightful things.  It's a message of salvation from those frightful things and into God's wonderful family.  Luke 24:46-47 tells us that the message or repentance must be preached to all nations and it's our job as followers of Jesus to take that message anywhere God calls us to go. 

We'll be talking more about Jonah on Sunday.  Like Jonah, I'll have to express that we are facing spiritual destruction without Jesus.  That's not a popular message in our culture, and nobody wants to think about what that destruction looks like (the Bible calls it hell), but it's true, and it's coming.  But the good news of Jesus Christ is that he came to save those who repent and believe from that destruction.  That's true too, and it's a beautiful message of hope!    (Hear this message of hope and learn how to join God's family in salvation here.) 

I pray you might join us on Sunday as we pray and worship together, as well as hear from God's Word.  We meet at 10 am for corporate prayer and communion, and then at 11 am for our worship service and message.  See you Sunday!  

For the Kingdom!
Pastor Bryan Catherman 

The Message of the Twelve

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For many of us, it's difficult enough to be in our Bibles, reading daily.  So it's not a stretch to guess that most of our faith-family doesn't quickly turn to the Minor Prophets for Bible study and reading.  (Some of you might even be asking, "Minor Prophets, who are they?")  Therefore, we are going to spend the next 12 weeks journeying through the Minor Prophets.

Each week we'll look at one of the prophets and the message he carried from God.  The message is the focus, which means when we look at Jonah, we'll spend more time looking at what he went to Ninevah to preach rather than his journey in the belly of a fish or his poor attitude service God.  Those things are great, but there's also a lot to learn from the Message of the Twelve. 

We'll be going through them in chronological order rather than the order they are listed in your Bible (which has more to do with the length of the writing).  I'd like to encourage you to take the week ahead of the sermon and read the book.  Or, if you'll find it more helpful, set yourself to read the book after each corresponding Sunday.  

Here's the order: 
Jonah
Amos
Joel
Hoseah
Micah
Nahum
Zephaniah
Habakkuk
Obadiah
Haggai
Zechariah
Malachi

Come join us on Sunday mornings at 11 am for a journey through, "The Message of the Twelve." 

For the Kingdom!
Pastor Bryan  

Fire, Floods, Wind, Waves. . . Oh My!

Church, 

The West is on fire, Houston is only starting to think about recovery, and a hurricane is threatening Florida.  Many in the West, to include some in Utah, have been evacuated from their homes and watched them burn.  Wind and water have destroyed homes in Texas and will so do the same in Florida.  And let us not forget that Mexico was busted down by a massive earth quake. 

Hurricanes, forest fires, tornadoes, earth quakes, floods, land slides, and much more.  Natural disasters happen. Church, when these things happen, it's important that we pray and point people to Jesus.  And we dig in and help our neighbors.  

We know how to pray, so let's pray.  I mean really pray.  Pray our faces off. 

How about pointing people to Jesus?  Did you know Jesus used a disaster to teach people about God and call them to repentance and belief?  He did not say the weather was because of some sin, but instead, used two 'in-the-news' events to talk about theology.  

In Luke 13:1-5, some people told Jesus about some locals who Pilate killed or hurt and put their blood in their sacrifices.  It was a horrific event, and the people were talking about it.  Some asked if this happened to them because they were worse sinners than others.  In his reply, Jesus discussed another current event--the collapse of a tower that killed 18 people.  (Wow, Jesus was speaking into the culture with contextual events!)

First, notice that Jesus did not say the disaster came upon them because they sinned worse than others.  That's not how it works, so when people say stuff like that, tell them the Truth.  Second, notice that Jesus says we're all sinners and without Jesus, we're all going to suffer the same fate--death.  The people under the tower rubble were not worse sinners, but they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  

Finally, how can we help?  There are lots of ways to help those in need.  I'd like to encourage that we support Send Relief (an arm of NAMB) and Disaster Relief with the UISBC.     

Pray, point people to Jesus, and help your neighbor as God leads you. 

For the Kingdom! 
Pastor Bryan 

Vision Sunday, 2017

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This Sunday is Vision Sunday. We do it every year. Some might say it's silly, but I disagree. Knowing that we will stand in the pulpit and share a plan for the coming year causes me to start praying for God's vision in June. I think about it. I discuss it. I think about it some more. I pray. I pray some more. And an amazing thing happens--God shares his vision for our church.

It was evident last year that our church needed to spend intentional time learning (some of us learning again) what it actually means to love God. How do we really abide in Jesus? What does our relationship look like with the Lord? Is it about what we do for him or him for us, or is it about how we love him and he for us? It was a good year of growth for our church. Could I have done more to help you? Of course. So we'll continue to push into learning to love God this year as we march on in our Christian Journey at Redeeming Life.

As Pastor Brett and I were praying through this, it became apparent that we need to lead our church in learning how to love our neighbor. We need to be a church that loves people. (I am embarrassed to say it, but it didn't hit me that our mission is to Love God, Love People, Make Disciples, and Multiple Churches. God finally got my attention about a week later. It seems he's just keeping us on track!)

On Sunday, Pastor Brett and I will step up to the pulpit together to discuss Matthew 20: 37-40 and what that will mean for our church this year.

It's our prayer that we will be a church that learns to love people well. I hope that loving people will mean we are blessing people and we'll be able to look back on this next year and call it, "A Year of Blessing." Also, Pastor Brett and Pastor Derek and working hard to develop a roadmap and some training to help our church on the Christian Journey. I'm very proud of what I'm seeing, and I can hardly wait to share it with you. I hope you'll join us on Sunday to worship the Lord, celebrate how far he has brought us, and hear where we believe God is taking us in the future.

In the meantime, here's a brief video with more to chew on.


For the Kingdom! 
Pastor Bryan Catherman