"Magnifying the Greatness of God" - Pastor Bri Hickman - January 16, 2019

In the book of Psalm, David shows the appropriate starting point for worship. It involves thinking about, magnifying, and responding to the glory and splendor of God. He reminds us in Psalm 145:3 by saying "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable!" If we go along with the starting point of worship, to praise him, to magnify Him for his greatness... We are doing it right! 

      Many times, it is so easy for us to get caught up in a million other things in our lives. We may get distracted by our jobs, our family, our finances, etc. When this happens, what size does God appear to be when our mind is preoccupied with all the cares, worries, and concerns of life? Extremely small. But the good news is that God is not small. God is GREAT. J.I. Packer reminds us that our personal lives are limited in every direction, in space, in time, in knowledge, in power. But God is not limited. He is eternal, infinite, and almighty. Like us, he is personal, but unlike us, he is GREAT. 

      The first priority of our time together as believers and as worshippers is to magnify the Lord. Sometimes we may get caught up in catching up with friends, family, our personal lives, our personal preferences, etc. but… our FIRST priority should always be to magnify the Lord. God is bigger than our problems and joys, greater than our sorrows and successes, more significant than our tests and triumphs. It can be so easy to get distracted by things in our life and by our own preferences, but in all reality, God needs to become bigger in our eyes. The distractions and preferences need to fade away and we need to focus on glorifying and magnifying God’s greatness. God’s greatness never changes… our focus does. 

One beautiful example that the book “Worship Matters” gives for this is our view of the stars. The book states, "It's like looking up at the stars. To the naked eye they appear like tiny pinpoints of light, barely visible against the black backdrop. Twinkling dots suspended in vast darkness. We can walk outside and barely notice them. But when we look through a high-powered telescope, we're awestruck by what they really are: massive spheres of raging fire, millions of times larger than the earth, brighter than our human eyes can bear. The stars haven't changed... Our vision has… He doesn't change... We do."

So the question is now... HOW do we magnify?
There are 3 categories in which we can magnify God's greatness: his Word, his nature, and his works. 
1. God's Word is his self-revelation to us. We come to know God's greatness through His Word. Psalm 19:7-9 states that the Word of the Lord is "perfect", "sure," "right," "pure," and "true".  As believers, we live in awe that God would speak to us - encouraged by His promises, challenged by his commands, fearful of his warnings, and grateful for his blessings. We desire to see God's greatness in His Word.

2. The Psalms also focus on God's nature, conveying the reasons he deserves our praise. We'll never reach the end of them! How beautiful is that?!? All of God's attributes, the way He loves, the nature of who He is exist together in perfect harmony, perfect balance, perfect cooperation, with no contradiction, no confusion, and no diminishing of their glory forever. 

3. Magnifying God's greatness, as we learn from the Psalms, also includes drawing attention to His Works. One of the problems we as humans face is that we tend to be more impressed with what we do than with what God has done. God has revealed to us all the works He has done. He has revealed them to us for our comfort, correction, strengthening, protection, and joy. He has revealed them to us for our worship. 

Magnifying God's greatness, then, involves proclamation and passionate worship. Through our worship of glorifying God and magnifying His greatness, we have every opportunity to magnify and encounter our GREAT and awesome God.

 May we encounter our GREAT and Awesome God as we magnify His greatness this week!

"Back to Basics" - Pastor Jerry Carter - January 10, 2019

Most likely you've heard this story before. It has become legendary. The Green Bay Packer football franchise had been struggling and morale was sagging. Enter Vince Lombardi as the new coach. He is charged with turning the franchise around.

On a July training camp day in 1961 it’s reported the Coach saw the problem. "Everybody stop and gather around," he said. Then he knelt down, picked up the pigskin, and said, "Let's start at the beginning. This is a football. These are the yard markers. I'm the coach. You are the players." He went on, in the most elementary of ways, to explain the basics of football.

It wasn’t that they didn’t have the skills, knowledge, and determination to win. The problem was they weren’t on the same page in every way imaginable. Every lineman had been trained differently which led to chaos for the lineman coaches and so on, down the roster. By relaunching everyone at page one together, Vince Lombardi created a behemoth. Basic common terms and shared experiences were key to becoming an unstoppable force.

Every now and then, it is good to get back to basics, together.

The worship wars of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century had the same effect on local churches that losing had on the Packers; struggles ensued, moral sagged and churchgoers stopped going to church. Richland Nazarene was no exception.

In the aftermath, Christians and spiritual seekers alike began to wonder; why do we even bother to gather? What’s the point? Maybe we should we just embrace a “post-church” Jesus.

Or, could it be that we’ve just lost sight of the basics and value of what it means to gather weekly in a Christian worship service? Like last week’s look at Counterfeit Messiahs…maybe some counterfeit ideas about what a worship service is all about has muddied the waters and caused unnecessary division, angst, or bitterness.

Like counterfeit Messiahs, partial, inadequate views of what a Christian worship service is will necessarily limit what God wants to do in your life and the life of the Richland Nazarene by way of the weekly Christian worship service.

It’s time to clear the air and get back to basics!

Join us for our new series starting this week and bring a friend! My prayer is that Bringing Heaven to Earth will either create or rekindle a love affair between you and yours and Christ’s Bride, the Church!  See you Sunday!

Please be in prayer as our district searches for a new District Superintendent and as we begin our own search as Andrew & Bri begin a new chapter in their lives and faith journey!

New Year's "Practice Makes Results" - Pastor Andrew Hickman - January 3, 2019

The whole idea of New Year’s Resolutions has never been that popular for me; mainly because I never make it out of the month of January with keeping up with the resolution. I have set resolutions in the past and when the New Year began, I began to dive head first into what I believed would be a transforming new me in just a few short days. HA! Yeah Right! I was looking for instant transformation, instant gratification, I wanted a year’s worth of results in mere couple of days. As I sat and thought about the New Year last week and this week, I have been thinking that I want to get back to the basics in my life and things that bring proven results in my life. As I thought about that, I was reminded of my days playing high school and college basketball. I reminisced about how much fun I always had playing in the games and the challenges of facing new opponents, and the thought process going against familiar foes. It got me thinking even deeper, “How did I get into shape for basketball games?” or, “How did I get prepared for those moments in my life?” and, “How can I apply the same determination in my life today?”

In basketball or sports in general, a lot of times you will hear the phrase, “Practice makes perfect.” Well in my life I have never fully believed that to be true and better like to think, “Practice makes results.” Whatever your practices may be they will bring results based on how you prepare in practice. For instance, in basketball if you want to become a prolific three-point shooter like Stephen Curry, Larry Bird, and Reggie Miller you have to be willing to work on every aspect of your shot in practice day-in and day-out putting up countless shots, watching film, analyzing your form, release, legs, follow-through, foot placement, and many more. On top of that you have to put in time running, ball handling, running through plays, and analyzing your coming opponents and their tendencies. I remember as a student athlete everything revolved around practice. During the season the games were great and all but practice is where all the hard work was put into play, the feeling of pure exhaustion as the coach yells, “ON THE LINE!” after a mistake in practice. This idea of practice can be carried over into our daily walks with Christ.

As Christians we often want the instant gratification of results of our relationship with God to go from acquaintances to the very best of friends overnight. And we are often discouraged by the lack of results over night. I am guilty of this misconception many times over in my life. So as I was thinking about what I wanted to see in my life for the year 2019 (By the way, WHERE DID 2018 GO?) I wanted to apply this principle of “Practice Makes Results”. I have a few goals of where I would like to be spiritually, physically, and personally by the end of the year. One of those goals is by the end of 2019 I want to be able to say that I am constantly spending at least one hour a day of quiet time with God in prayer, reading scripture, reading devotionals and other spiritual health books.  For me personally, I struggle with quiet times with God because I am an overly analytical person, and when all other noise is eliminated, my brain tends to kick into high gear analyzing everything in my life. So I struggle to silence my own mind to be able to rest in God’s peace. Furthermore, as I thought about this particular goal for the year, I had to come up with a plan that would get me there in a year. I began to apply the practice idea to my spiritual goal. In sports, practices begin early before the season starts with intention to get all of the athletes in shape for the length of the season ahead. Which boiled down means pre-season practices are all about CONDITIONING aka the nasty RUNNING word. So my thought process was what is a good conditioning practice for my goal, and I came to the conclusion that I need to start off slow and intentionally set aside 10-15 minutes a day to spend in quiet time with God until it becomes a healthy habit. Once it becomes a healthy habit, then I will gradually increase the time I spend with God to the point where I can easily say that I spend at least an hour a day quietly with God with no outside distractions.

I tell you all of this to encourage you to set healthy spiritual, physical, and personal practices for your 2019, and to not expect instant results but put in the long hard fought work in your practices of daily living. Remember that practice does not make perfect, but Practice Makes Results. What goals have you set for 2019? What are the practices that will get you to your goal this year?

In Christ,

-Pastor Andrew Hickman

Ride of Hope - Pastor Bri Hickman - December 18, 2018

In painful times a God is strengthening you. In peaceful times he is restoring you.
In all times He is providing hope for you.

As the last couple of weeks have gone on and during some conversations with others I remembered an idea I had a long time ago about life being like a roller coaster that is CONSTANTLY under construction. How many times are we told, or do we compare our own lives to a rollercoaster? I know that I have done it a lot!

We go through life with the expectation that it’s a roller coaster with ups and downs, twists and turns and sometimes we have to get off the ride and let it be under construction. But, if we really thought about it though, we don’t have the option to “get off the ride” and let it be under construction. We have to be on the ride while it is under construction. That’s a scary thought, and NO amusement park would allow that to happen, but on our metaphorical rollercoaster ride that is life, God is constantly working on our life through the ups and downs and twists and turns all while we are on the ride.

So let me ask you, during this christmas season full of hope, what part of the ride are you on? Are you on the uphill just waiting for life to take off? Are you on the downhill that looks so scary, but is so thrilling? Are you on a constant twist that makes you queasy? Are you on the loops that make you feel like your life is being flipped upside down anytime anything happens? Are you coming up to the part of the ride that is under construction and you feel like you will fall off the ride? Is your rollercoaster in complete devastation and ruin and you feel as if you can’t even go on?

That’s that thing, all we can see is what is right in front of us at that exact moment when we are on this rollercoaster of a life. Sometimes our lives feel as if we are in complete devastation and ruin and there is absolutely NO hope of the future. I want to challenge you this christmas season to remember that Jesus coming as a baby was the ray of HOPE that we all need. At times we can forget that little ray of hope that came so long ago, but as we talked about a couple weeks ago during our morning worship, Jesus is coming again, and we must hold onto that hope until that day comes.

In the advent devotionals that the teens are going through, one of the messages spoke about hope in times of desolation…

“Perhaps all you can see right now is a destroyed forest. The desolation might be your marriage, or your family, or a child who has turned away from you and broken your heart. Perhaps your health is broken, or a career crashed and burned. You had such hopes, such dreams, yet they stretch out before you now like a burned-out forest.

But wait, what’s that? There coming up through the mud and ashes, a little shoot. There is a ray of hope and a sign that God is bringing life where we would only expect death. It is Jesus, who is making all things new.” (Jeren Rowell, A Thrill of Hope, p. 84)

Remember that even when we are on the rollercoaster, no matter what part of it we may be on, God is still in control. He is sending us that ray of hope we all need. He sent that ray of hope 2,000 years ago, and is still providing Hope to this day. Hold on for the rollercoaster ride and allow God to provide Hope while it is under construction.

The Bible, Church, and Sanctifying Grace - Pastor Jerry Carter - December 13, 2018

The Bible, Church, and Sanctifying Grace

Last night my class was discussing the premises of Dan Boone’s (President of Trevecca Nazarene University) book, A Charitable Discourse; Talking About the Things That Divide Us. One premise in particular dealt with the biblical understanding and use of the word authority, as in the authority of scripture.

Dan Boone writes, “The word ‘authority,’ as used in scripture, does not mean being right or wrong, winning an argument, or proving a point. ‘Authority’ in scripture has to do with God’s power to create, save, forgive, heal, and raise the dead.”

In other words, our Bibles should be used to save and heal, not beat down, judge, or force folks to agree with our opinions.

In a letter from Paul to his young protégé, Timothy, Paul describes the authority of scripture within the church;

 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17

Hold on to these thoughts for a moment.

We then spun into a short discussion on why God desires our attendance at weekly worship services where we worship Him and Him alone. Critics fairly ask, “Is the God of the Bible that egotistical or insecure that He demands the total obedience and worship of over 7 billion lives?”

Actually, no. The power and purpose of the body of Christ gathered (the weekly worship service) to worship God and God alone is revealed in a slightly different question, “What might it look like if everyone were free to worship something or someone else? Genesis 6:5 describes a culture without a weekly worship service worshipping God and God alone and without holy scriptures to guide them;

The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.  Genesis 6:5

Northwest Nazarene theology professor Brett Petersen writes in Created to Worship that worshiping God and God alone is really a means of sanctifying grace. When we are reminded weekly that God loves us even when we fail spiritually and that if we continue to repent (turn away from worshiping ourselves and back to worshiping God) we actually move closer to being beautiful and loving human beings. This process of becoming fully human is called sanctification and it happens in the divine-human event known as the Christian communal worship service where God offers transformation and healing to help people become more fully what God created them to be and do.

Here’s my point. Last night a loving member of our church was able to gently speak words of rebuke and correction into my life because both of us are committed to regularly worshiping God and God alone and to being transformed and healed in the ensuing sanctification process. I have been and continued last night to address a part of this spiritual family as the “old people” as if that title was the sum total of their lives and contributions to Richland Nazarene. For this I am truly sorry. There is no excuse.

Now consider the alternative. Not being transformed by attending weekly worship services as a means of sanctifying grace and not allowing the authority of scripture to renew my mind. Over time, I would become blind to the use of mean words. Eventually my worship would shift from God to self. At that point everyone around me loses as I use them for my own glorification.

Now multiply that by 7 billion and reread Genesis 6:5. See you next Sunday!

What Is Advent All About? - Pastor Andrew Hickman - December 4, 2018

What Is Advent All About?
December 4th, 2018

When I was younger, I never understood what Advent was; seems strange that I’ve grown up in the church and never quite understood what this Christian event is surrounding Christmas. As the years have passed, I never wanted to ask what it meant for the fear of seeming ignorant, stupid, or foolish (Yes, I tend to care about how others perceive me…). So I did the research and tried to find the answers on my own. Now, if you look up the word “advent” in the dictionary you will probably find a definition similar to this one found at www.dictionary.com, “advent: noun the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” Dictionary.com continues with definitions for the church celebration of the proper noun: “Advent: the first season of the Christian church year, leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays…” as well as, “the coming or second coming of Christ.” After doing the research, I felt a little foolish for over thinking the whole idea of Advent, because it boils down to celebrating the gift of God’s Son, in the form of baby Jesus some 2,000+ years ago, as well as, hopeful expectation of the return of Christ. 

However, I was not satisfied with the basic understanding of this season, so I proceeded to continually watch and observe how other Christians celebrate this time of year. I was not looking for how they celebrated Christmas, but how they celebrated Advent. Through my observations I have noticed that a lot of focus is put on reflection of Jesus’ first coming to the earth as a baby boy born in a manger, and not a whole lot is focused on hopeful expectation of Christ’s return.

Before I continue, let me preface by telling you I do not find anything wrong with quiet reflection over things that have already happened, in fact, I myself, find quiet reflections with God one of best ways in which God speaks to me. What if we change the way, we as Christians, celebrated the Advent season? What if we put more emphasis and energy into waiting in hopeful expectation for Christ’s return to this earth? Now, hear me out; we should be celebrating with as much enthusiasm, joy, and excitement the return of Christ as we do the birth of Christ. Shouldn’t we be living and celebrating Advent everyday of our lives in hopeful expectation of Christ’s return? We are charged by the words of Christ to live our lives in such a way that others around us want the joy, hope, and peace that comes from living in a relationship with God. Yet often we quickly forget as soon as the holiday season is over because we go “back to the grind of work” or “back to reality” once Christmas and New Years are over. Believe me this is a difficult task, and I am just a guilty as the next person; because it is so easy to be distracted by our everyday lives that we lose sight of the hope of Christ’s return. 

So through this Advent season, as I think and reflect on the precious gift of Jesus that God blessed us with so many years ago, I am also preparing myself to come out of this season kicking and screaming with hope, joy, and excitement for the second coming of Christ; just like the shepherds who were greeted by angels that night Jesus arrived once they saw Him they believed and began sharing everything they had witnessed (Luke 2:8-20). I want my life to be a reflection of Christ in this world not so I will be remembered, but so others can see Jesus through me and my testimony. 

-          Pastor Andrew

Abstinence in New Wine Skins - Pastor Jerry Carter - November 29, 2018

Abstinence in New Wine Skins

I began following Thom Schultz some 20+ years ago. I subscribed to his youth ministry publication,Group Magazine, and soon found myself ordering nearly everything from Group. While not Wesleyan, Group provided (and still provides) the very best in Sunday School curriculum, VBS programs, online resources, trainings, retreats, and mission trips. I read his Holy Soup blog regularly.

Group’s stuff is the best because “learning by experience” permeates everything they do. They hold tightly to their R.E.A.L. philosophy of learning;

Relational…learner to learner interaction enhances learning and builds Christian friendships.

Experiential…What learners experience through discussion and action sticks with them up to 9 times longer than what they simply hear or read.

Applicable…The aim of Christian education is to equip learners to be both hearers and doers of God’s Word.

Learner-based…Learners understand and retain more when the learning process takes into consideration how they learn best.

But, in his 2013 book,Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore, Thom concludes something is a-miss with several startling questions that must be faced head-on;

1. Even though more than 90 percent of Americans say they believe in God, why did most of them avoid church last weekend?

2. Why are nearly one in five Americans checking “none” for their religious affiliation-the fastest growing, highest-ever documented segment?

3. If 88 percent of adults say their faith is important to them, why do the majority of them choose not to grow their faith in church?

4. Why are nearly two thirds (64%) open to pursuing their faith in an environment that’s different from a typical church?

5. Last weekend most people in America avoided church. And a sizable portion that did make it to church wished they were somewhere else. Why?

While their work revolutionized Christian education for the better, Thom and Group Publishing concluded they had missed the boat! Their laser focus on education was a distraction. That’s because faith is not a subject to be studied as much as faith is a relationship. A relationship with God, our neighbors, and ourselves.

Which means as disciple-makers we need to discuss and explore new educational practices that focus more on learning the lost art of Holy Conversations that build relational bridges with unbelievers with common ground rather than propositional and normative statements that draw doctrinal and theological battle lines in the sand and divide us from each other and the lost.

Ed Stetzer from Lifeway Research and The Billy Graham Institute writes…Some of our inherited evangelism paradigms don’t serve us well in this moment we find ourselves in. We need to ditch reductionist sales pitch approaches to evangelism.

The gospel could never be tidily reduced to four or five propositions. At best, these approaches were guide rails or perhaps coat hooks on which a thorough, thoughtful exposition of the gospel could be hung.

These approaches shrunk the gospel down to a commodity for mass distribution. Evangelism as per Jesus and his primitive movement was messier and more fluid and adaptive than that. We need to move towards evangelism as an encounter with Jesus.

Over 20 years ago the late Stan Grenz advocated a “post-rationalistic gospel.” He contended that,“We must make room for the concept of ‘mystery’…as a reminder that the fundamental reality of God transcends human rationality.” Grenz argued that the heart of Christianity is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and that an experience of Jesus is recounted by propositional categorization. However, “propositions…have a second order of importance…Our goal in proclaiming the gospel should not merely be to bring others to affirm a list of correct propositions.”

I hope you caught that. Propositional truths are simply a way to explain what happened but do a poor job of explaining what is happening right now. Propositional truths are static but my faith is incredibly dynamic and messy. I always wondered how the encounter with Jesus might have continued on Monday morning or next week had she gone back to prostitution or the prodigal son had taken off again or the once lame had returned to their crippling additions?

In other words, how do we have holy conversations with wine connoisseurs, evolutionary biologists, and other “open-minded” folks with radically different worldviews?

I don’t claim to have the answers for all this but I’m excited to be traveling this road with such passionate people! Together we are going to renew our love and understanding for what the church-the bride of Christ-can really be. We have a choice. We can stay the course and cling to the status quo…or we can choose to do something.

Let’s have fun, continue to think outside our “box” and do some amazing things for God’s glory!

Thanksgiving Traditions & Thankfulness - Pastor Bri Hickman - November 20, 2018

Thanksgiving Traditions & Thankfulness

           It’s Thanksgiving Day morning as the sun peeks through the blinds and hits your face, bringing a slight warmth to the chill of the air. You get out of bed, hop on down the stairs and walk into the living room where the TV is playing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. You sit on the couch with a warm cup of coffee or cocoa and watch as the sesame street float goes by, a marching band from some random high school somewhere, and then you see the massive turkey float. All while watching, there is bustling in the kitchen of your mom and grandma making some of the traditional Thanksgiving menu items. Peeling potatoes, prepping the turkey, yeast rolls under the heater vents to help them rise, the smell of the rolls is FILLING the house. Your grandma then starts to make the homemade noodle recipe that has been in the family for years that only 2 people know the recipe for. This scenario is what every Thanksgiving Day that I can remember was like. Traditions filled with family, yummy food, and thankfulness.

          Maybe I am being nostalgic because we are currently flying to Michigan to be with family for Thanksgiving, or maybe I am a sucker for family time and traditions, but either way, traditions mean the world to me. Routine of something special that maybe just your family does, or maybe a new tradition you are starting this year!

          Other than those memories and traditions that I mentioned above, my favorite tradition my family had was to sit at the table when Thanksgiving Dinner was ready and go around the table and list off things that we are thankful for. We would thank God for the blessings He gave us throughout the year and thank him for the family that He placed each and every one of us in. When it was my grandpa’s turn he would thank the Lord for every person in our family, every opportunity that he had the past year to share the gospel with unbelievers, for the hardships that he faced through the year, and would thank Him for another year of blessings and hardships ahead. When he was finished, he would sometimes break out in singing the doxology (my grandpa sang ALL THE TIME). We as a family would join him with harmonies that were beautiful and the sound of family joining together to thank the Lord for what He has done filled the house. Sometimes He would lead our family in prayer instead, but either way this was a huge blessing for me and my family to be raised around someone who literally thanked God for EVERYTHING he had.

          Sometimes I think we forget how to thank the Lord for everything. It’s so easy for us to thank the Lord when good things happen to us, but do we thank Him for the hardships we may face? Do we thank Him for pruning us like he prunes the branches? Do we thank Him for truly everything or just the good things? This year for thanksgiving, it is my desire to be able to proudly thank Him for absolutely everything… including the tough times.

          I challenge you to do the same with me. Try to think of the times that may have been tough for you this year, and thank Him for walking through those times with you and for never leaving you. Thank Him for the blessings, the good things, and even the tough things. So I leave you with this…

What are you thanking God for this year?

1 Chronicles 29:10-13
“Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.”

Continuing the Party - Pastor Jerry Carter - November 14, 2018

When we think about our time, or our money, our talents, or even our lives, our natural inclination will always lean to a scarcity model.“I don’t have that much, and if I share it with you, I won’t have any left…”

Specific to Richland Nazarene this model plays out in our decision to tithe or not, to serve or not, to participate in a class or life group or not, to pray or not, to share our faith or not.

In business speak each is an investment or a hope in things unseen. In Christianese it’s called faith.

For we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7.

In John 6, we have the feeding of five thousand. Understanding that with John, there are nearly always two meanings, physical and spiritual, Christian theologians have long posited the miracle was relational as much as it was physical.

Consider that each adult male would have had a pouch-like basket around the waist holding enough food for his family on a day out listening to traveling preachers. Apparently they had been out a bit longer than anticipated. Jesus and the disciples now had two choices; send them home or pool the resources to extend the party.

Enter a small child with the fish and bread his mama had given him that morning. Can you imagine the shame and embarrassment of every man in the crowd when by simple faith and generosity a small child offers to feed five thousand people? Funny if it weren’t so sad because each man in the crowd knew they still had enough in their travel satchels to also share.

Business writer Seth Godin calls what happened next the magnetic generosity of the network effect. I still call it a miracle as each man discovers he just might have enough to share and does. Call it the first potluck if you like but it was a miracle none the less.

Seth writes that if you share a pizza with a large crowd, no one will be very satisfied. But if you share an idea with a group, it creates cultural impact and becomes more valuable as it spreads, not less. The tragic fires in California and the communities’ response proves this principle to be true in material goods (pizza) as well.

Most of the time, we adopt the scarcity model of pizza. But in fact, the useful parts of our life are better characterized as, “If I share it with you, we’ll both have it.”

An idea shared is more powerful than one that’s hidden. A technology standard outperforms a proprietary one. A community is stronger than divided individuals ever could be.

When we give away our time, or our money, our talents, or even our lives, by building the network or the community around us, we’re not giving it away at all. The party just gets better for everybody!

"Those Foolish Israelites" - Pastor Andrew Hickman - November 6, 2018

“Those Foolish Israelites…”

            As I was going through the Sunday School lesson for the teens on Sunday morning we were reading out of the book of Exodus in chapter 14 where the Israelites were on the run from the Egyptians and come face-to-face with the Red Sea. They begin complaining about being taken out of Egypt and into the wilderness to die. They were afraid that they fled safety and oppression to only be slaughtered by the hands of their previous captors, and they cried out to the Lord and Moses in Exodus 14:10-12,

“10 As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, 11 and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? 12 Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’”

The lesson we were working through is found in Carl Leth’s, “A Holy Encounter,” and Leth writes the following commentary on the actions of the Israelite’s in the above passage,

“Those foolish Israelites! How quickly they forgot God’s faithfulness and care. They are barely out of Egypt, and they complain at the first sign of trouble. They have already forgotten God’s mighty acts of power performed to free them. Oh, those foolish Israelites—how like us they are.” (Leth, pg 31).

As I read those words aloud, I almost felt a physical slap across my face. As we read the Scripture verses my thoughts were, they are so stupid to be complaining after God just brought them out from the oppression of Egypt. These words from Dr. Leth (who was a professor of mine while I was at Olivet) were so profound and real to me this week, because I am just like the Israelites in this story. When things are going well; I am rejoicing and praising God, however, the moment things take a turn for the worse I go right back to complaining saying “Woe is me!” or “Why are you doing this to me God.”

As we read scripture it is very easy to fall into the trap of removing ourselves from the reading and casting judgement on “Those Foolish Israelites” forgetting that we often act just like them in our own lives, yet God loves us anyway. I was thankful for the proverbial slap in the face that I received that morning when reading the words of Dr. Leth, and I encourage you to allow God’s Word to shape your life by not casting judgement on the characters your reading about but allowing their stories shine on the areas of our lives that need improvement. We are reminded of the importance and usefulness of God’s Word in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

In Christ,

-Pastor Andrew