LET GO AND LET GOD? WHAT THE...?

"Let God and Let God?"

The saying is quite popular.  In fact, it’s been the go-to penicillin for many an aching soul.  But is the meaning of this phrase really good Christian theology?
In one sense, the sentiment of “let go and let God” is admirable:
   *  “Don’t worry so much about stuff and let God take care of it.”
   *  “You can’t control a lot of life.  Leave it in God’s hands.”
   *  “Learn to forgive.  Move on with your life.”


In this sense, who wouldn’t want to “let go and let God”?  If God is who He says He is in the Bible, then we’re leaving our circumstances to God’s determinations for our lives (or so the thinking goes) and we don’t have to do much.  But that’s not what the Bible teaches.

Often we think “letting go” means to stop caring about something. But rarely does that work.  In order to let go of something, we’ve got to grip something else.  I’ll admit that this is where Christianity parts ways with much of the thinking in our culture. Being a Christian positions us to grip God’s promises and provisions in our problems. We don’t just stop caring less or choose to stop worrying.  We turn our attention to holding on to something else.

We’re in a series at NorthCreek right now called, “Uncommon Joy”.  But having an uncommon joy in difficult circumstances without a source or reason for the joy is like saying, “Don’t worry, be happy.”

There’s got to be a source of the joy.  

The Sunday school answer of “Jesus” isn’t specific enough.  In fact, Paul tells us in Philippians that his greatest joy is seeing the gospel advance because of his circumstances. Paul loves the good news about Jesus (aka “the gospel”).  He treasures it.  He lives for it.  He values it beyond his own life. When he was in prison, he took the opportunity to share the gospel with prison guards and fellow prisoners.  Seeing the gospel advance in all situations was the source of Paul’s joy.  His life is an open book proving this time and time again. He let of of the world definition of meaning, fulfillment, and happiness and gripped God's plans and promises for his life.

So, letting go means that we grip something. Here are a few things you can hold on to as you let go of the right things:


1) You can let go of the goal of self-preservation and grip partnering with God to advance the gospel (Phil 1:12, 18). Letting go doesn’t mean we don’t do anything.  It means being actively engaged in sharing our faith, telling our life story, and showing love and compassion for all people regularly in all circumstances. It's risky, but worth it. 


2) You can let go of the worry for the things you can’t control and grip the peace God brings because of the cross of Jesus (Phil 4:7). Jesus died so that we can live, and live abundantly. But we still need to be connected to Jesus the vine. When we understand that Jesus brings peace that passes all understanding, then we can actively pursue changing something about us or our circumstances with God’s strength to please Him. Know the difference between what you can control and what you cannot. 

3) You can let go of the idea that you need to prove that you’re a good person and grip God’s finished work on the cross for your approval.  As a follower of Jesus, He’s already saved you, redeemed you, and reconciled Himself to you.  His work is finished.  But, you’re not.  Day by day he wants to change us. Grip God’s intent for your life.  Hold on to God, not to people. They’ll always disappoint. So, don’t set them up for failure by making them out to be your source of joy.

Letting go means we grip something.  Grip God and his purposes for your life today. 

NorthCreek Church exists to help people take their right next step toward becoming the person God wants them to be.  We meet on Sunday mornings at 10:00AM at the Woodinville Movie Theaters.  If you don’t have a church to call home, we’d love to have you join us.

Posted on January 12, 2016 .

SPIRITUALLY FORMED: Pouring Out

                               Gary Chupik

                               Gary Chupik

One of our New Year’s goals as a church leadership is to encourage our church family and friends through a blogpost that builds the spiritual frame of the house that God is building at NorthCreek. Growing in Christ is an intentional work of the Holy Spirit where we engage and agree with what God wants to do in and through us. Every month we’ll have a different emphasis and the emphasis for the month of January is the spiritual grace of letting go or releasing things to God.

2 years after I was married I had a significant spiritual experience.  I was in prayer and said, “God, I want less of me and more of you.”  It’s a prayer many people pray not fully comprehending the consequences of our petition! Neither do we expect an immediate answer!  I’m not one to say that God speaks to me through an audible voice, but, if there was a next step down from that, I experienced it.  What I heard in my heart was, “You can’t.  Unless you eliminate something.”   I wasn’t quite sure I understood, so God brought to mind a large pot of melted metal.  “Your pot is already full. Unless you pour something out, there’s no room for Me.”  

I wonder if you’ve ever prayed a similar prayer: “God I want more of You.  I want to see life the way You see it.  I want to be like You.” It’s a faith-filled prayer, but one that requires a specific response. I needed to give up or let go of some habit in my life to have more of God. In my case, I decided to go after the biggest lion in my life: sports.  I was a sports nut.  I played sports.  When I wasn’t playing, I was watching it on TV. When I wasn’t watching, I was reading the sports page.  When I wasn’t doing any of those, I was listening to sports radio. When I wasn’t doing that, I was talking about it. So, the next day, I decided to pick a fight with the biggest lion in the jungle (my idol) and give it all up cold turkey. People thought I had lost my mind.  I thought I had lost my mind! But by faith, I did it anyway.

molten metal.jpg


I remember praying, “but God, how do I stop loving something?” “Just ask Me to help Gary. That’s it.”  I literally asked God to take away my desire for sports, even though it was part of my identity, even though there is really nothing intrinsically wrong with it, and even though people thought I was crazy.  The unexpected answer to my prayer was that God, the very next day, took away my desire to do all those things I thought I could never give up. He took away my obsession with sports.  With God’s strength I did it and He filled the empty space in my life with other meaningful things that included Him.  I was a slave to sports and didn’t know it.  I thought it was just a hobby.  But it was an idol wrapped up a jersey. The most camouflaged idols are the ones we react to most violently to the thought of giving up.

January is a new year and a month for re-evaluating our lives. If you want more of God, consider pouring something out of your life to have God pour more of Himself into you.  The amazing thing is a few years later, God gave me back my passion for sports, only now it wasn’t an idol, it was just a thing I could take or leave. Letting go, pouring out, or releasing something you cherish might be the most joyful thing you do this week.  

NorthCreek Church exists to encourage people to take their right next step in their spiritual journey. Join us Sunday mornings at 10am and community groups throughout the week to go further faster in your relationship with God!

Posted on January 4, 2016 .

Somewhere Between Hope and Desperation

A few months ago a good friend of mine, Mark Morrison, asked me how I was doing. I paused, then I said, "I'm somewhere between hope and desperation Mark." He looked at me and said something to the effect, "Gary, that's preachable!  That's where a lot of people are right now."

Being desperate isn't a sign of weakness.  It can be an honest assessment of a situation or relationship.  It could be a sign that we need to make a decision to do something different. Being desperate can be a blessing in disguise because it's a door to open and to consider something different...better.

Are you desperate? Hopeful? Somewhere in between? You're invited to NorthCreek Church this Sunday to hear how God views our desperate circumstances and how he wants to change our perspective on those situations. 

Topics: 

  • Faith and Prayer
  • Marriage
  • Parenting
  • Attitude
  • Our Country
  • The Future
  • Our Emotional Life
  • Our Health

THRIVE: GIVING --Jess Griggs

If you’re anything like me, when you hear the pastor mention “giving” from the pulpit, your thoughts turn to money, and are immediately followed by a heavy feeling of guilt somewhere in your stomach lining as you finish off your three dollar latte and slouch further into your seat. The good news for you is that I’m not here to persuade you to tithe more, or to tug at those weary heartstrings. My aim in this post is to encourage you, wherever you’re at today, towards freedom in Christ, and a new perspective on what it means to give.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1

Up until very recently, tithing was such a burden for my husband, Doug, and I. We both came from families where money was either not available, or it was mishandled to the point of bankruptcy. We justified our little-to-non-existent financial contribution to the church by telling ourselves we contribute in other ways. And we really did – from Sunday school teachers to small group leaders we did it all. We sacrificed time, we invested in relationships, we felt the sting of cramped schedules and over commitment. Yet in all that time, not more than a few dollar bills made their way from our pockets to the offering plate.

I’m not saying that serving is less important than giving, or vice versa; both are required of us as healthy, contributing members of a church family. Acts paints a beautiful portrait of how the church should work, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.” – Acts 2:44-47

For Doug and I, it was a matter of trust. Both of us were starting out in new careers, and we had no savings to speak of. Living paycheck to paycheck was all we had known, so the idea of having anything left over at the end of the month was so strange, let alone actually giving the first of our earnings to the church, and trusting that our needs will be met anyway. We came before the throne of God willing to sacrifice everything except for financial stability, and were discouraged when we felt like we weren’t growing. It became apparent what needed to happen; yet like stubborn children, we continued to cling to a false sense of security and safety we built with every paycheck. The gnawing guilt of not tithing festered, but we were determined to ignore it.

One evening, Doug broke down and said, “I have lived in fear of money my whole life. I’ve never wanted to be controlled by money, but I’m learning that even when you have nothing, you can still be a slave to security.” We confessed our selfish desires and ambitions, and discussed our fears. That night we promised to hold each other accountable for our giving, and started by writing out the first check to the church.

“For Doug and I, it was a matter of trust.”

There was nothing super spiritual about that decision, and so far the floodgates of heaven have not opened and showered blessing upon financial blessing on us. In fact not much has changed on the outside. But we do not give in order to receive – we give out of obedience, and our obedience turned into joy. An amazing thing happened when we decided to surrender our finances to God – he took away our shame, just as He promised He would. The burden and stress of our feeble attempts to “hide” our sin from God was wiped away, and we were free to “walk in the light as he is in the light.” (1 John 1:7)

I want to challenge you today to take these words to heart, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” – Philippians 2:14-15

Guilt or shame should never be the driving force behind your giving; but rather a holy desire to be obedient to your calling as children of God, honoring Him in everything you do.

Posted on September 29, 2015 and filed under THRIVE.

THRIVE: SERVE. SERVING VS VOLUNTEERING.

I make a lot of resolutions. I fail a lot of resolutions. But one new fall resolution I have is to celebrate more. I don’t do that very well both in my personal life and church life.  And I should.  I tend to look more analytically at stuff. But God wants us to celebrate early and often!

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

"Rejoice always" means to find something positive in everything. Pray continually.  Give thanks in all circumstances, including church! The church needs to celebrate better!  If not for us, for all the people who attend our church to see that God is doing some amazing things in people's lives!

So, what does serving and celebrating have in common?

When you get to be my age (I'm in my mid-40's), you start to care less about your own birthday but make a big deal out of your kid’s or grandkids birthdays (no I do not have grandkids yet).  You get more joy out of their wins than your own.  You get more joy out of seeing other people’s successes more than your own. 

When we serve and we see our service benefiting other people’s lives as we point them to Jesus, it makes us joyful!  We celebrate!

So the Apostle Paul makes a big deal out of this issue of serving others in 1 Corinthians 12:1.  He says, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.

This is crucial.  Paul says, "Ya gotta know this.  Don’t ignore this.  Don’t treat this lightly. The entire functionality of the church hinges on this idea of joyfully using your spiritual gifts to benefit and grow the church!"

He goes on to say: “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body. 1 Corinthians 12:11-12

Think about this: body parts get their very existence and definition from being part of the body.  The liver is a liver because it’s part of a body.  The eyes can’t exist independently of the body. And we, like a physical body, get our definition and purpose by being part of a body of believers: the church.

Paul says it is God Himself who distributes the gifts, just as He determines.  What a comfort to know that we can’t earn gifts like gems on a game on our smartphones.  We can’t buy them, earn them, or sign-up for them!  Each gift is given for the building up of the church for God’s glory.

So, what is a spiritual gift?  It is a divine, God-given ability that He gives to people to use to build up and strengthen the local church.

Here’s a great list of the spiritual gifts and a free online test you can take to learn more about what your spiritual gift(s) might be that God has given you: www.spiritualgiftstest.com.

Here’s a few spiritual gifts fact checks:

1. Serving is God’s idea. It's not a religious pyramid scheme to get office work done.

2. Serving with zeal is God’s plan for the growth of the church and the kingdom. We should be fanning into flame the abilities God has given us.  We should use our gifts with zeal, not boredom!

3. You can serve with supernatural joy. If you try to serve in your own strength, it won't last.  God offers his strength to do His tasks.

So, what is a spiritual gift? It is a divine, God-given ability by which God gives to people to use to build up and strengthen the local church.

I think we are officially going to ban the word “volunteer” at NorthCreek. Why?  Well, it might be just a matter of semantics, but follow me on this one:

  • My volunteering is based on my schedule
  • My serving is based upon my obedience to God
  • My volunteering is based on a cause I care about
  • My serving is based upon what God cares about
  • My volunteering is based upon what I want to do
  • My serving is based upon what God wants to do

Serving is better than volunteering!

So, here’s where serving starts:

  • It starts in your heart. Jesus came to serve you and me salvation, forgiveness, and joy.
  • Then it moves to our homes.  Great family members serve one another.
  • Then it moves to our church. Our gifts are not for us. They’re for others!
  • Then it moves to our communities and world.

So how do you know what your spiritual gift is? Try these:

  • 1. What turns your crank? What makes your heart thump when you hear about serving?
  • 2. Take a spiritual gifts survey. www.spiritualgiftstest.com 
  • 3. Test drive some spiritual gifts. Find out what you might be good at.
  • 4. Ask other Christians. They can reflect back to you what you're gifted at!
  • 5. Just do it!  There's nothing like just going for it.  Start while you wait if you don't know what your spiritual gifts are yet.
  • 6. Talk to your church leadership and let them know what your gifts are!

Finally, Paul gave one final piece of advice to the Ephesian church in Ephesians 6:10- Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

  • You can’t be a great father or mother for a lifetime without God’s strength.
  • You can’t be a great son or daughter for a lifetime without God’s strength.
  • You can’t be a great church member for a lifetime without God’s strength.
  • You can’t be a great leader for a lifetime without God’s strength.

Jesus knew this well. It was the Father’s power that God tapped into when he was tired, exhausted, discouraged, and criticized.

So what's the formula for serving?  This is it: when we serve, God gets the glory, we get the joy.

“for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

Serving really is celebrating what God is doing.  When we use our gifts for God, something awakens in people’s lives to God.

Looking for a place to SERVE Jesus and others?  Join us at NorthCreek Church and use your gifts for God’s purposes.  

THRIVE: LOVING BY LIVING THE GATHERED AND SCATTERED LIFE

The Book of Acts was written to show us the history of the early church and how it grew to be one of the most powerful entities in the world. The early church modeled for us how they became strong and expanded:

Acts 2:42-45: And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

Now, pay attention to the geographical nature of verse 46:

46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Did you catch that?  They GATHERED together in the TEMPLE regularly, AND, they SCATTERED out into PEOPLE’S HOMES or more intimate spaces and places regularly.  It was their rhythm.  It was their pattern.

Gather.  Scatter.

Temple.  Homes.

One place.  Many places.

Large space.  Small spaces.

Many voices.  Few voices.

Not either/or.  It’s a both/and.

Just like a football team gathers together for the team huddle, Sundays is when we gather to get the play for the week. Then we scatter in groups to run that play out on the playing field of life.  If the play for the week is forgiveness, we are to run with forgiveness on our minds and hearts into every area of life.  If the play for the week is prayer, we are to run with that all week long. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a football locker room at half-time, but it’s a crazy (and quite frankly, a smelly) place.  Often what happens is different parts of the team get together (like the offensive line, DB’s, etc) and they ask each other 3 questions:

                1. What do you see out there?

                2. What adjustments do we need to make?

                3. How can we help each other accomplish the play?

There is great power and value in gathering together in church on Sunday morning.  We can accomplish so much more together than apart.  We're better together! There’s also great power in meeting together in homes to encourage one another, pray for one another, and explore the Bible as a playbook for how to know God and live life. We're better together there too!

In the past few decades I’ve noticed a lot of people want to redefine church.  Honestly, it doesn’t need redefinition.  We don’t need to mess with it.  God knew what he was doing and knew how it would function best.  Acts 2 says it perfectly.  Church is where messed up but growing people gather who want to know God more and are walking together to make known God’s riches, blessings, forgiveness, redemption, and Jesus known.

“Nature is my church”.

“I watch church on TV/online.”

“CenturyLInk Stadium is my church.”

Check it:

If you can do Acts 2 stuff like devote yourselves to the apostle’s teaching, true Biblical fellowship, take communion, publically pray, do baptisms, share stuff, and see God move in the hearts of people on top of a mountain or on your TV or ipad, or at CenturyLink, then count me in!  Let's do church there! That’d be very cool. But if not, those may be “spiritual experiences” for us, but, it’s not church.  Church is so much more. 

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."  We need each other!

Want to thrive?  Live the gathered and scattered life.  Live in community with one another. Join a community group or find a few other Christians to connect with in a smaller space.  Then gather with us at NorthCreek Church in the Bothell Woodinville area.  Come take your right next step with us!

You're a Real Brick

You’re a brick. Well, if you're a part of a local church that is.

Individual bricks can serve some purpose, but bricks used together can accomplish much!

One of the deepest convictions on my heart lately is that, at NorthCreek, God is building His church and we want everyone who calls NorthCreek Church "home" to THRIVE!  Ephesians 1:19-22 says it like this:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

If you belong to a local church, make no mistake about it, God is using your very personhood and your spiritual gifts to build and strengthen His church. We are “being built into a dwelling place for God.”  Yes, God is everywhere, but, there is something quite different when people gather in His name to celebrate and worship him. He is right there with us!

Everything healthy grows.  Children grow in every way.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:14:20 to not be “children” in our thinking, but to grow and be mature in our thinking.

Pastor Mark Batterson has a way with words.  He says it this way: “I know some people who have been saved for twenty-five years, but they don’t have twenty-five years of experience. They have one year of experience repeated twenty-five times.” This is so true.  Instead of basking in the joy of knowing God for 25 years, it's easy to live on autopilot and stay childish in our thinking and just keep living with the same issues over and over again.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

So, the question is not whether we should mature or not, but, how?  How do we partner with the Holy Spirit to grant Him access to every part of us to do his transformative work in us?

I know some people who have been saved for twenty-five years, but they don’t have twenty-five years of experience. They have one year of experience repeated twenty-five times.

When you join a club or sign-up for a calling plan, you want to know what’s involved in your commitment.  At NorthCreek, we want you to move forward. To thrive.  We want you to know what we are cheering you on toward. We want to meet you where you’re at in your life, and help you take the next step closer to God.

Here’s what we believe, in general terms, how you can grow and move forward in your personal life and be a part of what God is building at NorthCreek:

LOVE- Be in intentional community with other believers

SERVE- God gives us gifts to build up and strengthen the church

GIVE- Joyfully tithe a portion of your income knowing God desires your first and best offering.

GROW- Be intentional about your own spiritual growth.  Very intentional.

Being a part of NorthCreek is exciting because not only are we as individuals not done growing yet, but our church isn't done growing yet either!  We’re a young church that God is building that challenges people to live the way of Jesus both corporately and personally. Come to NorthCreek knowing that God is building His church with you and I being his building blocks!

For the next 4 weeks we'll be taking a look at these 4 critical areas of growth.  

Be a part of what God is doing at NorthCreek Church!  Join us Sundays at 10am at the Woodinville Movie Theaters.  KidzCity is a great place for kids too!

A Party, A Pouter, and a Plea

Charles Dickens was famous for works like Oliver Twist and a Christmas Carol. Dickens is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the twentieth century critics and scholars had recognized him as a literary genius. Charles Dickens said that the story of the prodigal son is the greatest story ever told!

This past Sunday we looked at this story about a son’s journey from arrogance and selfishness to brokenness and shame.  But the story doesn’t end there for him.  He calls a meeting with himself at his lowest point and says, “Self: you suck.  Remember how good you had it when you lived in your father’s house?  Look at where you are now!  Starving, dirty, and abhorrently smelly. Are you finally ready to go back to father?”

The story ends with the father receiving, no, embracing his son back into his arms.  Knowing he would eat crow for an appetizer, he fully expected to also partake of the main dishes of guilt, punishment and shame.  He was ready for it.  After all, it would be better than dying of starvation. But what he received from his father was joy, embracing, fatherly kissing, honoring, and a full restoration to sonship without having to “pay” any restitution for his actions.  The repentant act of coming home to the father was enough.

The father’s joy is to welcome those who feel far from God…home! Death, according to God, is when people live independently of Him. Listen to the very words of Jesus telling the story: “We had to celebrate! My son was dead but is now alive.  Was lost, but now is found.”  The father restores the son’s ACCESS to the father’s household privileges, AUTHORITY of the family name with the family ring bearing the family’s coat of arms, and, the IDENTITY and honor of the family name with the covering of the best robe.

It’s an epic story and we’ll have the audio online soon on our website.

But in my message, I never got to the story of the older son (hey, I ran outta time!)—a crucial character in the story.

So, the father threw a HUGE party because his son came home.

But…

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go into the party. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” 

Luke 15:28-32

The older brother became “angry”.  He had served his father for a long time. But he didn’t understand his father’s heart. The father is relentlessly loving and pursues his older son out in the field, but he’s met with a stern “Look”.  No address of “father” or “dad”.  Only anger, bitterness, resentment.

The older son was lost too, just lost in a different way. They were both outside of the house of their father.

To the pharisees and scribes listening to Jesus’ story, the only sensible one in the story was the older brother.  They identified with him. They wanted justice and restitution performed on the rebellious but repentant younger son.  Jesus’ point of the story must have stung hard.  The implication was clear: they were like the older brother because they resented Jesus celebrating the faith of tax collectors and sinners.

By telling this story, Jesus was insisting: “If your god doesn’t look, run, embrace, kiss, and throw a party for lost people who return home to the father, you don’t know God.”

What ever happened to the older brother?  Does he ever come into the celebration?  We aren’t told.  Jesus purposefully leaves the parable open-ended. And Jesus never writes anybody off. But the prospects don’t look good for him unless he has a real change of heart.  While there were some Pharisees who received Christ throughout his ministry, most stuck together and did not.  

It’s easy to be resentful of other people.  It’s especially easy to be resentful of a God who we think should give us more or better.  But the father's kindness reveals the sin of resentment in our hearts.

When I am feeling the part of the older brother, I have to look around and see the gifts and graces that are mine, and remember that the Father has come out to me, to welcome me and invite me in.
—Jenni Groft

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

Romans 2:4

A sign of the kingdom is when someone, anyone, repents and starts to walk in a different direction—home to the father. A sign of the kingdom is when we team up with God to walk people back to God.  It’s a sign of the kingdom when we throw parties and celebrate anyone’s journey from lost to found.  It’s a sign of the kingdom when Jesus tells us to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven and we party like heaven’s partying (“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10).

At NorthCreek Church, you can come as you are (unless you’re a 49er’s fan).  We love to see people’s lives transformed by the good news about Jesus Christ.  Lives that were once far from God but have been brought near by the compassion and grace of a God that accepts us at our lowest points is what we're all about.  Come party with us!

 

New Summer Series: Signs

The Curse of “They”.

We’re starting a new series this summer called, “Signs”.  It’s about the stories Jesus told in the form of parables to teach spiritual truths.  In fact, the word “parable” comes from “para” which means “to come along side or compare” and “ballo” which literally means “see”.  Jesus used parables as a primary way of teaching because he wanted to juxtapose two scenes or ideas.  A real-life scene with a spiritual scene or lesson.

In many of the parables Jesus told, he often would confront the irony of a real-life situation.  For example, in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus knows that to many, "they"—the Samaritans, were a highly disliked people group (for various reasons).  They were despised, looked down upon, and even hated. And yet in this story, it is the Samaritan that’s the hero.  Two very religious people walk by an unknown man who is dying, but don’t bother to stop and help him.  But, a Samaritan man stops, lifts up the hurting man, cares for his wounds, takes him to a safe place, cares for him, and makes sure he has the care he needs to recover. He is a true, loving neighbor.

As guest speaker Mark Morrison shared this past Sunday, Christians are known for many negative things, but, we should be known for our compassion, our lack of prejudice, our loving actions, and our imitation of the Father’s heart for all people. God will one day judge all things…including us Christians (Acts 10:42). The “us” and “they” recipe is a dangerous one for Christians.

How often have I walked by a dying man on a street?  Not often. Never I must confess.  But how often have I walked by someone and said to myself, “Well, they need help, but, they probably have their own race, religious group, or support system?  They probably have their own friends. They probably wouldn’t want my help. They are different." Far too often I'm afraid.

The “us” and “they” idea in the parable of the Good Samaritan exposes the irony of who actually needs help—the self-righteous religious or everyone else?  It’s easy to assume it’s others who need help, yet, Jesus seems to intimate to his listeners the exact opposite.  Ultimately God (like the despised, looked down upon, shunned Samaritan) is the one who notices, heals wounds, carries, provides shelter, and takes additional care of those who are willing to receive care from Him.

NorthCreek Church is a place where Jesus is the organizing principle and fidelity to the Bible is crucial. When the Bible is interpreted well and in context, its implications and applications are life-changing, life-giving, and life-rescuing. 

If you’d like to chat or have questions about Jesus, shoot us an email at Gary(at)NorthCreekOnline.com.  We love talking about Jesus and would be happy to carry on a discussion about a Jesus-centric life. 

 

Not Even a Zombie's Twitch

Here's Sunday's recap in our current series in Ephesians called: Realigned. 

Dead. Spiritually dead. Dead as in the-body-is-in-the-morgue kinda dead. No signs of life. Cold. Pale. Lifeless. Not even the a zombie’s twitch.


And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Ephesians 2:1-3

Pretty cruel diagnosis of the human condition before Christ, isn’t it? These few verses really are quite offensive if you think about it. Expounding on these verses won't exactly attract the masses. That's why America's most popular TV pastors won't speak on this stuff.  

You see, the general consensus in our culture is that by nature we are good people. We just need to tap into our “inner winner”. The “champion inside of us.”  But the Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesian church the exact opposite idea.  Paul says that we, by nature, we are diseased with sin.  Adam and Eve were created good but sinned because of their disobedience to God.  And that’s where your and my stories start.  Our stories don’t start in perfection. They start in sin. We were born into sin. Our spirit inside of us was dead.  Still.  Pale.  Cold. Our body?--Alive.  Our soul?--Alive. Our spirit?--Dead. 

DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SIN
To "trespass" is to do something that violates the law. To go someplace we shouldn't go. Steal a pen.  Cheat on a test.  Listen to Nickelback. You know, the garden variety kind of trespasses. We all fail here.

But sin means “to miss the mark”. To not do something we should have done. To fail to make a wrong--a right. We all fail here too. We all don't do things we should have done or stopped evil we should have stopped.

But no matter how much we tried to insulate ourselves from this sin, it didn’t work.  It was already in us. We were born with it. Born to be sinfully wild.

DEAD IN 3 WAYS
1.    Paul says we followed the course of the world (verse 2).  Our worldviews were once primarily influenced by popular opinion. News headlines. Textbooks. Magazines. Advice from friends. TV shows, movies, and music. Instead of being “aligned in Christ”, we were aligned with the world and its values and worldview.
2.    Paul says we followed the prince of the air, who is Satan. Now, the vast majority of us wouldn’t intentionally follow who Jesus calls the Father of lies and who others in the Bible refer to him as a murder, deceiver, accuser, tempter, and thief. Who would intentionally do that? He’s a prince alright! He has a personality.  Volition. This is no impersonal, vague spirituality or Star Wars dark side force.  
3.    Paul says we followed the flesh. We followed our desires.  We suppressed the truth of God and exchanged it for lies that feel and sound more politically correct. We would justify our sin and make it sound normal to do so. We’d condemn anyone or any book that would poke our god and mess with our fleshly desires. 

And this is what we did before we knew Christ. 

BY NATURE
“By nature” we did these things.  It seemed right to us.  It was normal. It was politically correct in the court of public opinion. By nature we envied our neighbor’s house or car or husband or wife, or their season tickets or TV.  By nature we tended to excuse people’s sin because “God created us that way.” According to Paul, we are by nature, born with a propensity for addiction.  Born with a propensity for violence.  Anger.  Psychopathy. Dogs bark.  Cats meow. They do what they do. Infants are born thinking “MINE” before they could say it. Watch your little nephews for two minutes and the sinful nature will be alive and well and on full display.

CHILDREN OF WRATH
Ok, so, this part isn’t very friendly either, but, follow me on this one. Because of our disease of sin, we sin. It’s the natural thing to do. And because we steal, cheat, lie, and envy, we are subject to judgment.

“But I can’t serve a God of judgment or anger or wrath!” Are you sure?

This past week I was moved to anger when I read about the Islamic terrorist group ISIS beheading 21 Egyptian Christians. I know unspeakable evil goes on in the world every day, but, somehow this act grieved me and angered me like never before.  I’m sure it grieves and angers God.  The act deserves God’s wrath. If God isn’t intensely moved to anger by murder, abuse, torture, and rape, then He’s not worth worshipping. God one day will make all things right.  He won’t leave one thing uncovered or hidden.  He is just and I’m thankful for that.

But we were deserving of God’s wrath for our sin and for breaking God’s loving laws.  We were sinful, broken, rebellious, trespassers who couldn’t stop sinning because it was our nature…and we deserved judgment just like a speeder who gets nailed by the cops goes before a judge to receive his penalty for his wrongdoing.

BUT GOD


4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
Ephesians 2:4-5

Let these two words rock your world and let them sink in: But God….  This is the gospel message wrapped up in two simple words. But God…..walked into the morgue, unzipped the body bag, bent down, and breathed on your cold, lifeless, pale face and said, “get up”. And your spirit, for the first time, gasped its first breath and breathed in the very breath of God.

The only way the Jesus and the cross becomes mind-blowingly beautiful is for Paul to remind us of our pre-Christ diagnosis: we were dead in our trespasses and sin. How astonishing the miracle of salvation in Christ becomes!

DON'T FALL BACK INTO OLD HABITS

So, check this: Paul made a habit of reminding the churches he started to live out their new identity and to not let their old identity creep back into them.  Shadows of the world can influence our minds once again if we’re not IN CHRIST and following him daily.  Shadows of our former self can follow the Prince (of Darkness) even though we don’t know it.  Shadows of our former self can return in old fleshly habits. But this must not be. Jesus breathed life into us and changed us from the inside out…from dead to alive in Christ! Let us live out who we truly are IN CHRIST!

NorthCreek Church is a great place to learn about who you are in Christ!  We’re all exploring. We’re all learning.  We’re all growing.  And normally that takes time. There’s grace here. We’re all invited to take the next step in our walk with God. If you’ve never made a conscientious decision to follow Jesus, this might be your time.  Even right now. Simply pray (prayer is just talking and listening to God) and receive Him and He will breathe life into your spirit.  If you are already a Christian, ask Him to enlighten you so that you will know Him better. Recommit your life with thanks for the life and spiritual blessings He has given you.

So, what’s your next step?  Join us Sundays at 10am at NorthCreek for great music, great atmosphere, great people, and a great message that will help you grow in your faith in Jesus.