Blogs

A New Name

“And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty” Genesis 35:10 (ESV)

If there is one thing I learned in my time on a construction site, it was the power of a name. I met many men, that came and went all normally with one thing in common, a past. Finding no where else to escape this burden of their name, the job site provided a sense of new identity. Although unsaid, you sensed it in the morale. There is something about sweating together in a common purpose that bring men together. Even men with pasts that many would deem insurmountable to overcome.

My grandfather and father had a keen ability to fully describe ones demeanor or attitude into a shortened call sign. Some were welcomed at first, while others reluctantly submitted to the newly designated name over time. One I always remember was “boots.” You don’t have to analyze this name with a fine tooth comb or look it up in the Greek to get the gist of its meaning. He wore enormous combat boots. Which with His slender frame, just jumped out at you. Some names, well let’s just say, could be seen as a hit to the ole psyche. But time and time again these guys became that alias, an avenue to start a fresh during the days of hard labor. It was almost as though their past was shed with the provision of a new name.

Jacob had quite the past. A deceiver of family and a man deceived by others. Much like our pasts, it wasn’t pretty. However, Jacob had favor with God. Not because Jacob was the perfect example of the one who did everything right. It was quite the contrary. But more importantly because God loved him. Yes Jacob is known to be the one who wrestled with God, and there God both changed his name and gave a great blessing. But it is obvious that Jacob needed to be reminded of this new name.He needed to be reminded of the future lain before him to get his eyes off of who he had been. This reminder came to him here in Genesis 35:10. One of the things we see in this passage is that God not only reminds Jacob of who he is to be, but reminds him of who He is, God Almighty, calling him to something new. He was calling him to move into the identity Israel. An identity that would become something greater than simply himself. Something that would ultimately do the same for others lives, shedding burdens of pasts and giving new futures in God.

How has your past defined you? Do you live in the confines of your past name? A name that others recognize for all the wrong reasons? If so, maybe you, like the men who found their way onto my families job sites, need a new name. You need a new identity. You can find that in Jesus. He has a plan and a hope for you. One that is greater than yourself. One that goes all the way back to Jacob and all the way into a future far beyond yourself.

Perhaps you may have already had that renaming experience, Jesus blew in and totally upended your life, but now you having trouble living in that name. Maybe you need to be reminded that it was God Almighty whom favored you and set you apart as a new creature. Unlike the names given on the job site, the name God has given you is one that brings you closer to a new source of life. Closer to His son Jesus.

What’s your name?



Deceiving Breeds Deception

“As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” 35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.” 36 Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Genesis 27:34-36

Growing up near the water provides many life applicable lessons. One of these is the deception of distance. You may have noticed it yourself. There is a place called Shell Point on Harkers Island, NC. Standing there on the point, on a clear day, you can see the Cape Lookout lighthouse. It is quite the spectacle to see. There glimmering with her white and black diamonds shinning in the sun feels as if you could walk up and touch it. From the looks of things it would appear to be a quick journey to get there. Maybe only a few minutes. However, this is merely a deception, a trick played on your eye. All you have to do is ask someone one that has made the journey via kayak. It is farther away than it looks.

In the above verse we find ourselves in the after burn of a hot deception. Jacob, with the help of His mother Rebekah, has deceived his father Isaac into giving the elder blessing to him rather than the intended elder son Esau. With the poor vision of Isaac and the help of an animal hide, Jacob is passed off as his elder brother. Needless to say, and we can clearly see in the passage, Esau is crushed, infuriated and moved to break away from his family. For many of us we could identify or completely understand. This would be like having a sibling come in and take away something of value promised to us by our passing mother or father. It would hurt.

Deception. It isn’t pretty. Jacob learns this later when he goes to Laban to seek out the marriage of his daughter Rachel. Jacob promises 7 years of work for her hand. At the end of seven years here comes the marriage celebration. Jacob is ecstatic to say the least. Seven long years waiting. However, with his fill of wine, ensured by the family, Jacob awakes the next morning to a startling discovery. He has consummated the wrong sister. Not by accident but by deception. Purposefully planted by the one he had trusted to make good on his promise, Laban. Could you imagine the feeling? Maybe you have experienced something as deep seeded and painful as this by another’s hand or doing.

Deception. It really gains you nothing. It may appear to bring you closer to that desired place in your life, closer to that glimmering lighthouse on the horizon. But, when you buy into the lie, you find out the journey is a harder and longer than you could have imagined. Really, in your efforts to deceive you become the true recipient of all that deception has to offer. Look no further than Jacob. A deceiver himself becomes the deceived.

No one likes to be deceived. But if deception is what you sow, then deception may be what is harvested. Are you living in deception today? Or are you living in the truth that only Jesus brings? If our life is lived in full submission to His, then people will find truth in our lives not the promoting, securing, elevating and centeredness of self injected by the poison that is deception.



Digging Ole Wells

“And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them.” Genesis 26:18

If you have ever lived on the coastal plains of the Carolina’s you have probably ran into issues with digging wells. One of the reasons for the problems is the exuberant amount of salt water that saturates the ground. According to the location, there are times that well drillers have had to move around a specific location in an attempt to tap into a fresh water source. If there is a great deal of trouble in finding water, the question often arises, “has there ever been a well here?” If the response is yes, then the best attack is to then retrace those old wells in an effort to dig nearby them.
Much like these wells we see in the verse provided by Genesis, Isaac, Abraham’s son, returning to the land of His father and began re-digging the wells. Yet again, there was a famine in the land. Isaac, now left in heir of all his father’s possessions after the death of Abraham. He sought shelter. Moving to the land of King Abemilech, of the Philistines, Isaac is prompted of the Lord to not descend into the land of Egypt, but to remain in the land of father Abraham. Isaac obeyed. He became wealthy. So much so that Abemilech and the Philistines asked Isaac to depart because of the threat of his strength. Isaac does just that and sojourns in the land of Abraham. Verse 18 recounts the first move while on the land, That was to re-dig the old wells of Abraham.
Sometimes we need to go back and re-dig the wells, to go back to the sources of life, where God spoke to us or moved greatly in our lives. I say re-dig because the normal stay of life tends to contaminate those once life giving places. Our forgetfulness often becomes like salt water seeping into the wells. Where we once drew for life has now become filled in and in need of some uncovering. Today where are those sources of life you need to uncover and revisit? Where are those places that God so evidently moved, of which you need to go back and draw strength from? Go, re-dig the wells and glean off of how good your God is!



THANKS (The not so norm)

         Thanks. We have all said it. We have at times meant it. But thanks really isn’t the norm. Webster defines thanks as , “a good feeling that you have towards someone who has helped you, given something to you.”  Yeah, you read that right, it is a “good feeling“  in response to a “good thing” someone has done for you. Example. You have heard thanks given in the midst of an athlete receiving a championship, or some kind of award. You have heard singer thank everyone back to their mother for helping get them to this place in their life. Heck, we have said it in response to a small act of someone doing something as small as passing the salt at dinner. Typically our thanks follows the perceived “good things” done for us. But, what happens if those so thought “good things” took a turn for the worse? What is ones attitude in the midst of a storm? In the midst of a death? In the midst of great loss? Can you truly be thankful in the middle of a not so good situation? The norm would say there is little to be thankful for in these types of scenarios. The norm would say, you have a right to be upset because things have not gone your way. Good things have not happened, therefore, good feelings should not follow. The norm deceives us. The norm is conditional.

        First, let me ask this. Being today is thanksgiving, who is the recipient of our thanks? I know you may be saying thanks for your family, friends, job, home, food and all other good things in your life. But who has provided these things? Is it yourself? Is it from others? The Psalmist writes in Psalms 136 of who should be the recipient of our thanks. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His steadfast love endures forever.”  Our thanks is to be presented to the only one worthy. To the one who is only truly good. The one who only truly loves us. Think about this. The norm says that I do good to receive good in return. I give thanks because you may have something for me in return. Those who give to us, often times have strings attached. They want something for themselves in return. They want to be the provider in the moment. They want the praise. Even closer to home, the they most of the time is us. In contrast to this, the psalmist reveals for us that God is good. It is not a manipulative love, but as Paul writes a love that has been lavishly poured out on us even when we have been enemies against Him. Even when we have not deserved it. Jesus shows us how good the Father is. He has withheld nothing from us but has given everything to us in His son.

         Some of us may find ourselves in tough situations this thanksgiving. We may be having a hard time giving thanks for our current circumstances. This is the norm. But let’s resist the norm. Today look to Jesus, the one who has shown us the father’s love for us. The one who came and gave all for us. The one who is good even beyond what we currently experience. When we see the steadfastness of His love, our gaze will be lifted from the trappings of our world to the heights and beauty found in the ONE TRUE KING! When He is the recipient of thanks, we begin to find ourselves thankful in all things. “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).



Constant Jeff Gordon

Picture

      Yeah, for all of you out there that can’t believe it, I have been a big Nascar fan for most of my life. Even further, since Jeff Gordon made his move to stock car racing in 1993, he has been my guy. My car. The one I pulled for. When he announced his retirement at the beginning of this current season, I couldn’t believe it. Even though I am not one of those cry when your driver loses type, something in me wanted to mourn. I mean ever since I was 9 years old this guy was a constant. Every Sunday after church I knew I could flip over to the Nascar race and see Jeff turning laps. And not just turning laps taking up room on the track, but ultimately either leading and winning or somewhere in the top 10. No matter what fad arose or passed by, what type of music was all the rage or where I was in my particular walk of life, Jeff was there. It was much like Michael Jordan retiring from basketball(even though he did so with less style), something parted from the sport. There was, and still is,  a hole that has been hard to fill.
        One of the things that drew me to Gordon was his faith in Jesus. Early on in his career, at every win, he was giving Glory to God. He was not ashamed. In a day when culture and Christianity were in this weird transition of quasi “rap groups” and hair band wannabe music trends, to have a guy actually being who he was and excelling at what he did, without it being a “Christian” environment was awesome and encouraging to see. Heck, the guy made the name “Rainbow Warrior” a house hold phrase. I mean in a day of the “intimidator” and the “man in black”, here is a guy dominating with a rainbow colored car…. It may have carried some baggage with it, but in the early 90’s this car carried a status that equated it with the latest multi colored Oakley glasses. It was a mix of surf and turf. He brought radical Cali to a good ole boy southern dominated sport. Needless to say his career has had an impact. You don’t have to read my thoughts and reasons Jeff changed the sport, because there are a lot of other qualified people that can detail all the reasons why. However, what I want to bring into correlation here, is how Jeff’s constant in Nascar should be what our run in the faith ought to resemble.
    Many of us are familiar with the words of the prophet Isaiah in 40:31 where he said, “but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Our journeys all have ups and downs. We have days where we know we will be in the winners circle and days when it feels like we will be lucky to squeak out with a DNF (did not finish). While Gordon has posted a record of numbers in his career, he has had those seasons. Those with no wins in sight. Those plagued by wrecks and havoc.Those with extreme personal struggle. But he kept constant. He pressed on. Unlike Gordon who placed his hope in the car and his ability to preform, we place our hope in the Lord. We place our hope in what has already been accomplished on our behalf through Jesus. We place hope in what has already been won. We don’t have to wait until the end of the race to see if we win or not, because if we place our eyes on Jesus, He has already overcome the world. Don’t believe me? Then take Jesus’ word for it. John records in his gospel these words of Jesus, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Because He has overcome, we who place our hope, trust and faith in Him are overcomers.
      Think about this. When Jeff finishes his final race this Sunday, there will be a hole in the sport of Nascar. Many will come along and claim to be the one that is the next big thing, and try to grapple at the host of spectators lost in denial of losing their man. In contrast to this, what I love , is that Jesus, when ascending into heaven, didn’t leave a hole. He just gave us more of himself. He paved a way that really filled the hole, not in a sport or a religion, but in our hearts and lives. He came to not just propel a religion to the next level, but to bring us all back inline with our God intended purpose. Because of this, we can be the constant. We can resemble Gordon’s career without retirement. We can run and finish the race well, as Paul wrote to his protege Timothy. In the midst of those off seasons, we can remain faithful, because we have a Lord who has lavishly poured out on us. He has not left a hole in our lives, but promises to be the one who can only fill it.
      I’ll admit, Sunday will be sad. A part of my love for Nascar will waver. I will truly miss that 24 car with Gordon’s name on it. I will miss having this constant in my life. But what I hope and glory in is that my King and redeemer has not left me. He is constant and I want to be ever constantly walking, running and persevering in this faith. I pray that my life will carry with it a wake that breaks on the shores of others lives. That proves a testimony that you can find life in Jesus. A life of abundance. A life that is constant a midst this life’s ups and downs. A life that is celebrated by a persistent hope in a constant Savior.

Aaron Golden
    
P.S. I will miss ya behind the wheel Jeff!




How Do You Know? 

        This is not the letter I wanted to write.  This was not the thing I wanted to share.  I mean its the new year and everyone’s looking for that particular piece of enthusiastic challenge that will only feed the fire, being a catalyst that propels one to a positive beginning of a new year.  However, God so impressed my heart to simply share with you what this past year brought for the Golden family. 

      Reflecting on 2014, I find myself squarely faced with the reality of both God’s sovereignty and His grace. I can’t quite remember a time in my personal life when I was more aware of and challenged by the reality of walking in faith.  Like many, I have both preached, taught and conversed on the necessity of fully surrendering one’s self to and placing one’s full faith in the life and lordship of Christ.  However, I could honestly say I had never fully taken a step out into complete darkness, with only the faith and hope that God would be true to His calling and leading. 
   
        Last year at this time, Lenee’ and I were facing an ever quickening reality that God was quite possibly leading us away from the familiarity and comfort of the life we had been so given to.  We knew that God was leading us to a certain place, New Bern, for a specific purpose.  The purpose we knew was to simply go and be what we had always preached, the love of Christ.  And we knew that these, both fluid and intentional relationships that God would ordain would only blossom and grow into a gathering of a people unto Himself.  This was clear because we had so clearly been presented with this reality in John’s Gospel 12:32 where Jesus says, “When I be lifted from the earth will draw all people unto myself.”  This people would be gathered under the name of Union Point Church.  This name was clearly presented to us because of its geographical and historical significance to New Bern.  Also, jokingly, I said it was because no one had taken the name.  These were all the things we really knew this time last year.

        Over the next months we would begin a journey that would lead us to the realization of God’s plan.  Through countless meetings, assessments, vision and fundraising campaigns, God would only continue to confirm in us and others hearts that this was where He was calling us.  These affirmations would only lead to further open doors, of which we would simply walk through.  (Don’t let the ease of that sentence cause you to believe we had little struggle in accepting this or even being faithful to proceed.)  There were hard days. There were great spiritual battles. However, through faith we pressed on believing that God was faithfully ahead of us working all things together for His and our good.  Everything was going great until around July.  Coming to the close of a four month tour of speaking engagements and vision casting, we were worn and frail.  We knew our deadline to be relocated to New Bern in the fall was quickly approaching and we had very little to no success in securing a home. 

        After several attempts to make things happen on our own, we saw some slammed doors.  “Was this not what you wanted?” “We thought this was where you wanted us!”  These were the questions and statements that plagued our weary souls.  One door that was slammed caught some fingers.  We had entered in a contract to buy a lot in the neighborhood we had felt God was placing on our heart.  With great hopes we sought to secure funding to construct a home.  After exhausting every option it was clear to us, yet again, that this was not going to happen.  I was frustrated.  I didn’t understand.  It seemed like God had brought us this far and was now just going to go silent.  I gave up.  That’s a good place to be.  Lenee’ made me hold on.  She would not let me back out of the lot.  All I could think was well I guess we will have to pitch a tent on the lot cause we have no money to make this happen.  Then one day upon finding out what was going on, we received a call.  One we never expected.  A private organization had heard of us, our call to New Bern, and the overwhelming draw we had to this particular part of town.  (On a side note, being in the right place is half the battle to effective ministry, you have to be where God wants you and where the people are.)  This organization wanted to assist us in constructing the home but we had several hurdles to jump.  We did so and began to wait for the verdict.  Weeks went by and we were growing concerned that this was going to end disappointingly yet again.  Then, one day Lenee’ received a call from our local attorney.  She had not been made aware of this possible arrangement, and began questioning Lenee’ on the specifics.  It had happened, God, in only His ability had came to our rescue and proved that only He could bring forth the completion of a vision only He had given.  We couldn’t believe it. 

        I am here now sitting on the very place, in the very part of town, amidst the very people that we knew over a year ago, God had called us to.  While there is still great uncertainty of what is on the horizon, we simply know by looking back that if we are surrendered, Christ is faithful.  Maybe you are staring at a year of great uncertainty, lets be honest we all are.  Maybe you have never truly taken a step of faith outside of your comfort.  I encourage you, do it.  What you will find is that God is more real than you could have ever imagined, and in this uncertain trust you will find a life that has more security and freedom than one you could ever fabricate for yourself. 

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,” Romans 4:20

IN His Peace,
Aaron Golden



Joseph

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
  (Matthew 1:18-24 ESV)


Picture

 ’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house; Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”  You may have heard or read these opening lines from Henry Livingston’s, “Twas the Night Before Christmas” either as a young child or even quite possibly reading it to your young children.  Either way, accompanying these words swirl a great deal of emotion and anticipation of what this night will bring or did bring, for many of us.  When I think of the birth of Jesus, I seem to be magnetically drawn to the narrative presented by Matthew.  While Luke, in his normal Doctrinal approach, provides for us a concise, elaborate and detailed manifest of this account, there is a piece missing that speaks into me every time I read it.  It is the six verses listed above.  The reason for this is because here we find one of the more rare, if not only, views into the person who was Jesus’ foster father.  This of course being Joseph.  You know, I’m not so sure that Joseph finding himself in the condition he was in, was quite as peaceful as I am in this moment.  While I sit by the tree simply waiting for morning and the coming excitement for our children to open their gifts, I think of how Joseph must have struggled, sacrificing so much to preserve not just one life, but the lives that would be saved through this heavenly Gift.  It took shear faith to fully trust in the plan that God had set into motion, and I am certain that Joseph, although most likely in awe, had never even considered such a interruption to be brought forth in his life.  Yet there he was, a carpenter, standing on the threshold of a honest life, with an honest wife.  All things seemed to be going as planned.  But then, seemingly bad news.  I can almost hear the words as if they were said to me “your fiance’ is with child.”  “How can this be,” Joseph must have cried. I know I would have.  Even though this could be solved, with no harm done to the reputation of Joseph, who would want a promised life to get started this way?  Having every right to cast her off, to have her put to death, Joseph was prepared to quietly handle the situation, for the desire that Mary not be put to shame.  Maybe this is why he was chosen to be the caretaker of the Christ.  Maybe it was the fact that Joseph sought to protect that made him such an eligible father figure.  For this I am not certain, simply because I cannot read God’s mind, but as far as speculation goes I have much room to wiggle.  You know, placing myself in this situation, I’m not so sure I would have handled it as well.  Maybe you could say the same.  However, what is it about this scripture that the Holy Spirit through Matthew desired us to understand.  What is it about Joseph that his story would be accounted for? 
    Here’s what I think.  I think like you and I Joseph struggled with God’s plan simply because it did not align with Joseph’s laid plan or expectation for his life.  Like you and I, Joseph thought he had it all figured out, what he wanted out of life and who he wanted for his life.  Could this really be God? Why would God want me to go through this? Yeah these are definitely the questions that would infiltrate my thoughts and mind.  In all actuality it is these thoughts that plague me today.  “Are you sure God?”  “You can’t mean for me to do that?”  But what if?”  Although Matthew doesn’t provide for us a play by play of every thought and action, there is clear tension found in the story.   It’s there all you have to do is read it.  It is there because it exist today.  It is that element of faith that keeps us on our toes, it keeps us drawn close in trusting uncertainty, to the Saviors will.  Like Joseph, many of the struggles we face are simply because of our lack of foresight and attempts to grasp and hold onto this wind we call dreams and life.  Like Joseph we all will come to that point of surrender in our life, where we will either surrender to the dreams and desires for a life of our own, or to the will and perfection of a God that has such good planned for us.  If Joseph had not surrendered to God’s perfect plan I’m not sure all would be the same.  It wasn’t like Joseph was the catalyst or the provision for salvation through the Messiah, but there is no doubt that God saw something in Joseph that made him the one for the job. 
    So, the tree you sitting by tonight, is it truly filled with the peace that passes all understanding?  Is it filled with the same peace that was found with Joseph in surrendering to God’s plan.  There is a hope that is here and coming that is much greater than that which Livingston wrote about in his poem.  There is Someone much greater that wants to come more than once a year, and his name isn’t St. Nich.  Are you awaiting with great anticipation of what the Savior will bring into your life tomorrow?  Even if it looks like an impossible situation, don’t quietly dismiss the great life that God so desires for you.  Don’t miss out on the journey that brings you unto surrender and fellowship with the Almighty. Don’t choose the empty life you have planned for yourself, it could cost not just you, but others greatly.
In His peace,
Aaron Golden



The ANCHOR

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:18

If you live anywhere near the coast you are familiar with an anchor and it’s function.  One day while visiting Shackelford island, a part of the southern outer banks directly adjacent to the town of Beaufort, with some friends we saw quite the sight.  After firmly securing the anchor and nestling our boat to harbor tight to  shore, setting up shop and settling in for a relaxing day here he came.  A wayward stragler.  Yes he was with us, but few would be willing to claim him in the moment.  He was an outsider, new to the area, and most certainly new to the nautical scene.  While some would simply define him as a newbie or recreational, we as local folks would define him as a dingbatter, a woodser.  (I.E.  woodser or dingbatter refers to someone not from down east carteret county.  A transplant with little hope of ever gaining the status of local.) 

Upon reaching the shore with a starboard wind and a stirring sea, our friend would proceed to attempt anchoring his vessel yards from shore.  Now this would be fine and dandy, if one were securing a yacht or other large craft.  However, for a 17 foot V hull, pulling up on shore to unload and then putting off just a mere feet is common practice.  As if this little endeavor were not gaining enough attention from the captivated audience on shore, after several circles and wind driven attempts to reach his determined mooring position, my friend would draw back and cast his anchor with a  voracious thrust.  Standing on the bow of his boat my friend, in a glimmer moment, would project a confident stance followed with a celebratory fist pump. Mere seconds later, to his shagrin, the anchor along with his rope go abashingly overboard, only to realize he had never secured it to the vessel.  If this was not demeaning enough, to go along with this precarious and failed attempt, the whole beach erupting in laughter could be heard for miles. 

Like my friend, sometimes we have trouble tying our lives to the proper anchor.  Many times we tie ourselves to our position or social status.  Possibly even our wealth or financial security.  Maybe for some it is the lone of work you do or the business you own and run.  Or for most of us its to other people around us.  Maybe this is our family, our kids, our spouse or significant other.  All of these we try to tie our lives to in a hope that they will help us weather the storm, or a faith that they will provide rescue in times of trouble.  However, what becomes ever certain is that none of these things can provide the saving grace one needs in this storm we call life.  If anything all of these things only provide a glimmer of hope, a glimmer of confidence, only to see the rope slipping through our fingers and our lives sliding back into the grasp of life’s uncertainties.  It is in these moments that we begin to ask, “what can hold in this life?”

I love how the author of Hebrews writes, to his newly converted, Jesus following, Jewish recipients, of how Jesus is the anchor for the soul.  You see, much like us, this audience had begun to think that maybe Jesus wasn’t enough.  Just maybe they needed more to make it through this life.  But what they had forgotten was, as did Peter in his attempt to walk to Jesus on the troubled sea, that their anchor wasn’t compromised.  It hadn’t moved.  They had begun to allow the troubles of life to move them to question the security if the true anchor. 

The author of Hebrews tells us that this anchor, this steadfast hope has “entered behind the curtain.”  Like that of the anchor, Jesus has plunged to the depths and has securely fastened us to the promises of God, to the redemption of His grace.  And while it cannot be seen from the surface, because it is hidden behind the curtain, it will hold fast when our soul moors to it.  Notice that the passage does not say, the hope that carries one away or rescues one from, but rather says the hope that steadfastly  anchors.  Many of us desire escape from trouble, escape from problems and many time escape from this life.  This is not possible.  However, what is possible, is to anchor your life to the One who steadfastly created, steadfastly redeemed, and steadfastly secures. 

My question for you today is, what are you anchored to?  Is it Jesus, our steadfast hope?  Jesus, our calm in the storm?  If you have tied up to anything else it will not hold but only cast you out further into a raging sea or eventually sink your boat. 

Who are you anchored to? 

Aaron G

Like that of the anchor, Jesus has plunged to the depths and has securely fastened us to the promises of God, to the redemption of His grace.



WHY PLANT A CHURCH?

Picture


As you may have read on our bio page, God has been leading us to church planting.  Specifically this has become the vision of Union Point Church. The question that many confront us with when they hear of this vision is, “Why plant another church?” In our minds one of the greatest challenges has been to answer, “What would this look like?  Would it be like every other church?  And if so, is that really what God desired?”  Through our research of the town and its demographics we were blown away by the number of churches available and the poor percentage of attendance.  It much correlates with the numbers provided by Reggie McNeal in his book entitled, “The Present Future,” where he states that his findings, “pegged church attendance at only 26 percent of Americans.”   After clearly seeing this and getting my head around the stats, I began to re-frame my questions.  Why not plant another church?  If the established faith communities were currently being effective through their various ministries, certainly the numbers would be much higher.  But they aren’t.  It is clear that, “we don’t need God to operate the church,” and, “the culture does not want the powerless God of the modern church” (McNeal 6).  

So, planting a church, or for that matter trying to revive an established one, all boils down to this simple reality, “you can build the perfect church-and they still won’t come” (McNeal 10).  This leaves one to assess that, if the culture does not want anything to do with the “powerless God of the modern church” nor the idea of a “perfect church” what is it then they desire? The answer to this question is where the beginning of a movement will be seeded.



The answer to this question is where the beginning of a movement will be seeded.


It all boils down to the quickening reality that, “the North American church is suffering from severe mission amnesia.  It has forgotten why it exists.  The church was created to be the people of God to join Him in His redemptive mission in the world” (McNeal 15).  Many have sought the answer through programs and church growth pursuits only to find them short on growth and true outreach.  “As a result we have the best churches men can build, but are still waiting for the church that only God can get credit for” (McNeal 23).  The very thing we claim to be the greatest support and proponent of is missing, and those that are unchurched see it clearly.  “The North American church culture is not spiritual enough to reach our culture” (McNeal 27).  

We are left to wonder and think of how we can pierce the culture in our communities with the true spiritual transformation of the Gospel.  Many churches have fallen into the trap of trying to harness this revitalization through the process of adding further “ministries” to their already over bloated, ever strangling menus of programs.  “The call to take the gospel to the streets is more than the call to think up some new evangelism or outreach program” (McNeal 31).  “Taking the gospel to the streets means we need church where people are already hanging out” (McNeal 35).  This is the challenge.  However, reaching people where they are is exactly what Jesus did.  Rather than requiring the people to come to Him, He went to them establishing relationship.  By not following this example, we have not only pushed people away from joining in true fellowship, but have driven them away from the freeing truth needed within their lives.  “Since the church is absent from the streets, people are turning to all kinds of false answers to their spiritual guest.  Church members then have the gall to sit inside the church and pass judgement on people for their errant beliefs” (McNeal 41). McNeal offers a simple answer to this problem, “we need to go where people are already hanging out and be prepared to have conversations with them about the great love of our lives” (McNeal 42).

Why plant a church? I say, why not?  Why not see it as greater than simply a church. Why not see it as a movement of the Gospel.  I like how McNeal pointed out that the church was a by product of the salvation experienced by the people whom Paul encountered.  If a church plant is concerned with and driven by this purpose, there is much to be gained by its existence.  The church is the people, not an organization thereof. While many, in church, typically take this offensive, it is not meant to be so.  Rather what we believe God desires is that all people be reached with the gospel.  As Paul writes in his first letter to Timothy, we should pray and seek for “All People” to believe on Jesus the Christ, for the salvation of their lives not just for the future hope, but a hope that reigns in their present lives.  Let’s lift Him UP that He would draw all men to Himself. 

Aaron Golden


Works cited

McNeal, Reggie. The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church. (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series). 1st ed. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2009. Print.


Up The Sails

Picture

Up the sails.