Be Grateful

I was drawn this week to a story in the Bible that has both a happy and tragic ending at the same time. Jesus comes upon a man who has been an invalid, who for 38 years has been discarded, unnoticed, and uncared for. His hope had been in the healing properties of a pool of water that was always beyond his reach. Jesus not only noticed him, but learned of his condition, took time to listen to him, and then cured him. (John 5:1-15) After 38 years the man is standing, walking, free!
The tragedy of the story lies in what happens, or rather what doesn’t happen next: Not a single “thank you”. No gratitude expressed, no appreciation given to Jesus for the life-changing gift he’d been given. Later the same day the man has a second encounter with Jesus in the temple, a second chance to give thanks, again not a word. How sad.
Saying thank you to God is a form of worship that not only acknowledges God, but also magnifies him in our lives. When a spirit of thanksgiving exists, grumbling and complaining cannot. When a spirit of thanksgiving is present, self-centeredness is not. When is the last time you took time to thank God for the gifts of your life? Regardless of your circumstances, there are always blessings for which we have reason to say “Thank You” to God.
Live grateful!
Pr. Dave

Is God Distant?

Do you ever feel like God is distant? Most of us do at various points in the journey. I have found that it is not God who is distant, but rather more of my failure to see him up close. This week Brasilia has enjoyed wonderful life-sustaining rains. Rains that not only give basic necessities like food and water, but also color, beauty, scents, freshness, growth… Can you see God’s reflection in the rain? “But he showed that he was there by the good things he did. God sends rain from heaven and makes your crops grow. He gives food to you and makes your hearts glad.” (Acts 4:17 CEV)
There is a saying that “distance makes the heart grow fonder”, and often that can be true in our human relationships. But distance that we create between ourselves and God, whether through negligence, neglect or disobedience, will always make our heart “grow colder”. Know that a feeling of distance from God, is never the desire of God. He wants nearness and intimacy. The whole purpose of Christ’s sacrifice, was to draw us close: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13 NIV) God makes us a promise: “Come near to God, and he will come near to you.” (James 4:8) Your move.

Pastor Dave

Created to Worship the Creator

One thing I love about Brasil is the song birds. Most of the time I thoroughly enjoy hearing them, though at 4 o’clock in the morning I’m not quite so enthusiastic. One early morning last week the “concert” became so loud I was prompted to google: “why do birds sing so loud early in the morning?”. I learned that scientists call this the “dawn chorus”. They are not certain why, but birdsong during the dawn chorus is louder, longer, clearer and livelier than at any other time of day. It is theorized that because light levels are so dim, and there is little else for a bird to do at this time, it is a great opportunity for them to sing. Another scientist stated: “Singing is an essential part of bird life… Singing loud and proud first thing in the morning tells everyone within hearing distance that you were strong and healthy enough to survive the night.” It sounds to me like the birds are simply fulfilling a purpose for which they were created. They can’t help it, they were meant to sing.

One day Jesus was ordered to silence a crowd that was giving him adoration and worship. Jesus replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40 NIV) In other words, the people were doing what they were created to do. The purpose of the created is to worship the Creator. When you hear a bird singing this week, let it serve as a reminder to create your own “dawn chorus”: a prayer, song or act of love that is louder, longer, clearer and livelier than the last. We were made to worship God!

Blessings,

Pastor Dave

 

Fixed Forever

This morning we conclude our series on Pursuing Greatness, with a focus on the greatness of Christ’s victory. His resurrection from the dead really does change everything: Our past, present and future! In a world that seems increasingly chaotic and confused, it is good to have certainty. If you’ve yet to truly experience the life-changing impact of a relationship with Christ, let me encourage you to be open to this morning’s teaching.
I was thinking earlier this week about the most important interview I was ever a part of. It was 13 years ago, and I was interviewing a surgeon who was a candidate to do open heart surgery on my wife. After explaining the procedure of deflating her lung, rerouting blood flow, stopping her heart, cutting her chest, accessing her valve, and making the repair, my first question was: “Would the fix last?” His response was “it would be fixed forever”. (He got the job!)
When Christ, who is the physician of our soul, fixes our heart, it is fixed forever. And not just in this life, but in the life to come. Jesus said: I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). His healing, hope, and victory truly are great!
Peace,
Pr. Dave

Faith

 

I’ve been giving some thought recently to what is commonly referred to as the “Faith Chapter” of the Bible, Hebrews 11. In this chapter, we are reminded of the faith-filled acts of a lot of people we are familiar with: Abraham, Moses, and Joseph. And then the chapter concludes by telling of a band of Christ followers known only as “others”. We don’t know their names or their stories, but are given only a glimpse of their faith: “There were others who were tortured…,  Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute…They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 11:35-38)

What?! Sawn in two, flogging, goatskins, living in holes….! Talk about radical. That is a faith that I am not familiar with. Sometimes my faith can shrink from the mere possibility of being inconvenienced, or embarrassed. But I don’t want us to be made to feel guilty by their faith, I want us to be spurred on by it; challenged to live a life that is radically counter-culture, a life that looks, lives and loves differently for the sake of Jesus Christ. This week let us live out our legacy of being “uncommon others”.

Pastor Dave

Be a Minister

Occasionally I am asked by some of you: “Pastor Dave, who is your pastor?” And though I don’t often stop to think about it, the answer is YOU ARE. At Bridges we believe that every member is a minister, and with great regularity you, the Body of Christ, love, serve, challenge, and care for me.  Do you think of yourself as a “minister”? I’m not talking about a foreign or diplomatic minister, but as a minister of the Gospel- someone who demonstrates the love of Christ to those around us.

This week we are going to encounter a lot of hurting people, desperate to be loved. On the outside they might portray that everything is okay, but on the inside they wrestle with fear, doubts, emptiness and loss. It’s not that we have our “act” together that allows us to minister to another, it’s that we have an answer in Jesus Christ that allows us to offer hope.

God wants to use you this week to minister to others. It might take the form of an encouraging word, a listening ear, an act of kindness, a generosity of time or resource… Don’t shrink from the opportunity, but rather embrace it. If we will make ourselves available to God, he will not only do a work through us, but in us.

Peace,

Pr. Dave

 

The Love of Christ

 

There was an afternoon this past week when I just needed to “unplug”, and disengage the world for a couple of hours. I put in my headphones, put on some music, and took a long walk along the lake. I was wrestling with the sadness that had come with the news of thirteen people killed in Spain, and another murdered in the United States. All killed by vehicles driven by hate; one religious, the other racial.

As I walked, I thought about the depths of that kind of hatred. It is nearly incomprehensible. And then I thought of something even more incomprehensible- a love that would sacrifice everything to defeat such hatred. This is the love of Christ- a love abounding in grace, forgiveness, and justice that overcomes evil.

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away…I am making everything new!” … “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers…—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” (Revelation 21:4-8)

Hopeful,

Pr. Dave

Applause to God

On our recent return to the States, we took advantage of a seven-hour layover in Rio, to visit Sugarloaf Mountain. It was late afternoon by the time we got there, and when we arrived at the peak, we quickly joined an international audience of a couple hundred people to watch an amazing sunset. Countless pictures were taken, but otherwise people were unusually quiet. We all seemed to be mesmerized by the big orange ball that was painting the sky with indescribable color. After several minutes, the silence broke: As the sun dipped below the horizon, this randomly gathered group of global strangers began to applaud. It was pretty cool.

Later I wondered “who” people were applauding- the sun, mother nature, a cosmic connection of some sort? I truly believe it was a spontaneous, innate reaction of human creation doing exactly what they were created to do- worship God. It was as if they had to respond, for we were made to worship God. It’s our ultimate purpose. “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” (Psalm 47:1)

Life might not look like a breath-taking sunset all the time, but let me encourage you this week to see your family, friends, co-workers, your house, your health, your stuff, the beauty around us…and give God a heartfelt round of applause. He deserves to get it, and we were made to give it.

Enjoy the Journey!
Pastor Dave

Outdo!

Next Sunday I will have the honor of marrying our oldest son Caleb to his new bride Kati. (Please pray for Sharon and I as we travel to the States, and for God’s blessing on our family.) In preparation for the ceremony I’ve been thinking about this passage of Scripture: “Love one another deeply… Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10 CSB) This word “outdo” is truly unique.  In the entire Bible, this is the only time the word is used. It has the literal meaning of “taking the lead, and staying ahead”. In other words, if showing honor were a race, God would want us to win…every time.

The world encourages us to get ahead, but usually with the thought of gaining honor instead of giving honor. Can you imagine what a different place the world would be if everyone was trying to outdo the other in showing honor! More importantly, think how different your marriage, your job, your church, your family might look if you were taking the lead, and outdoing others in showing honor.

Loving deeply and showing honor are not easy things to do, but they are certainly worthy things to do. This week let me encourage you to choose three or four of the most prominent people in your life (e.g. a spouse, boss, co-worker…), and determine to take the lead in showing them honor.

Outdo!

Pr. Dave

 

Let Your Gentleness Be Evident to All

As I was reading this week from the conclusion of Paul’s letter, I was struck by one of his final instructions:  Let your gentleness be evident to all.” (Philippians 4:5) Seems like of all the qualities Paul could have emphasized, that gentleness isn’t really that important. Then I started thinking about the opposite of gentleness, and how that pervasive “not gentle” is: harshness, critical, unkindness, rudeness, insensitivity, self-promotion, and hatred seem to rule the day.

If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t give a lot of thought to being gentle. Perhaps we identify gentleness with weakness, and therefore think it is something to be avoided. In reality, however, gentleness requires great strength. To choose tenderness, self-control, love, kindness, empathy, understanding- all of the things that define gentleness, demands great courage.

Jesus was described as follows: “He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged…”

(Isaiah 42:2-4) This week might we be a force of gentleness. Our world will notice, and be better for it.

Peace,

Pr. Dave

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