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All posts for the month November, 2013

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Pastor Mike is sharing this coming weekend on the Good News and the Bad News? Which do you like to hear first – bad news or good news? I’m a good news first person. I think it helps me prepare for the bad news.

Christianity’s message is not just good news. It’s primarily good news, but as Mike will share with us: “Without bad news, good news is just news.” Why is the message of Christianity good news? Jesus Christ came to save us. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news: we need to be saved. Most people don’t want to hear the bad news, but if we don’t first understand our hopelessness without Jesus, realize the divide between us and our creator (the bad news), can we really understand and know the good news?

Did you see the movie, Gravity? In one scene Sandra Bullock gets untethered from her ship and she floats out into space to the point where communication is lost and she’s just floating further and further and further away until it’s deathly quiet with no hope of rescue (sorry if you hadn’t seen the movie). Ultimately that’s what life is like without relationship with God. We try to fill our lives with all kinds of things to mask our aloneness, but the reality is we need a savior. We need to be tethered to the One who gave us life and can sustain our lives.

I’m looking forward to this weekend to hear how we can both embrace the good news, but also share this good news with the people around us. What a great season we are in as a church.

On another note, did you know that through the shadows series, the past six weeks, over 90 people have given their lives to Jesus? That’s good news!!!

Pastor Steve

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What does it take to be a friend of God’s?

This weekend at Westside, I’m looking at our relationship with God as seen by the actual appearances of Jesus in the Old Testament. One of which is when Jesus came to see Abraham and Sarah.

In Genesis 18 Abraham and Sarah have a conversation with Jesus about them having a baby when they are over 100 years old and about not destroying the city of Sodom.

Their conversations with Jesus include both argument and negotiation.

When I first began to ask Jesus to speak to me I spent a year of wondering if it was me talking in my head or him. I checked everything I heard with the Bible and with spiritual leaders around me. Over time I gained more confidence until it became more and more clear when it was me thinking something and God speaking something.

I think that a lot of people never go through this process and just live without ever hearing the voice of God. But He does speak and He does direct and guide. Matter of fact, He loves to talk.

And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. (James 2:23 NIV)

What made Abraham a friend of God was that he had conversations with God that were two-way and he believed they not only happened but he based his life on what he heard from God.

Action: What has God said to you lately? Journal your thoughts and I would love to hear what He’s saying to you (smickel@westsidechurch.org). If you haven’t heard God yet, start listening and go through a similar process I went through described above.

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This past weekend Corey shared a story from the Bible about Boaz marrying Ruth. It’s a great story. It reminded me of the importance of marriage. One of the reasons God told Adam and Eve to get married and Jesus reiterated it in his teachings, is that marriage is one of those sacred analogies of our relationship with God. It describes the same type of union we can have, should have, with Christ. That’s probably why some Christians get really revved up when the government tries to re-define it. It’s an example, a model, of our relationship with Christ. But I do understand why people in a secular society don’t embrace my view of marriage – they have no biblical context to identify it as this example of the kind of relationship we can have with God.

As a Christ follower I’m more concerned with how Christians get hooked up then I am the state re-defining marriage. I don’t expect anything less from a society that’s moving away from God. But how Christians move in and out of relationship, that’s a concern.

When Boaz took Ruth as his wife, it was the strongest tie he could have made with her and her family. They became one. Jesus would later say, “Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” (Mark 10:9).

The physical union that happens when a man and woman have sex was never supposed to be just physical. We’ve made it that, but that’s because our consciences have been seared over time. Sex is sacred. It’s a joining together that intertwines not just bodies but souls.

The church lost the marriage battle the day we lost the sex battle. When we stayed out of the conversation about sex, we let our society slowly drift towards multiple partners, bi-sexual, safe sex, casual sex, etc. It’s time for the church to define again the value and sacredness of a marriage between a man and a woman. And it’s not to keep people who have different views on the topic out of our community, but to be clear about what we believe the Bible does say and help people understand why it says what it does the way it does.

I would love to see the marriage ceremony under God revitalized. Where people who are living together decide to bring their union under the covering of God and His word. To recognize the sacredness of it as both spiritual and physical.

It’s time to rejoin the conversation.

Open to discussion…smickel@westsidechurch.org.

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When my brother died at age 34, leaving 3 little boys, I was mad at God. I didn’t understand why He let it happen. I couldn’t get my mind around it. I knew God was faithful and good and just and it didn’t seem just or right. But it happened. As a result Jesus and I had a wrestling match.

It reminds me of a guy I’m going to be talking about this weekend – Jacob. In Genesis 32 it says, “The man said, “Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.” Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!” (Genesis 32:28, 30 MSG)

Jacob had a wrestling match with Jesus. Full on UFC-style match and Jacob is holding his own with God. Eventually Jesus has to bring in his divinity and end the match by crippling Jacob with a touch to his hip.

I’ve noticed that what some do when facing a seemingly unjust God, is they make blanket statements about His character without ever getting in the ring with Him. I think that’s weak. If you have a problem with God, step up and get in the ring and have it out or shut your mouth. You might end up with a limp, you probably needed that reminder anyway, but you will walk out of it alive and have a face to face encounter with God that will change you forever.

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Last night I had the amazing privilege to baptize over 20 people at First Wednesday. Every person that was baptized has a story of how Jesus personally impacted their lives.

Towards the end of the night Corey Parnell, our worship pastor, invited people from the crowd to spontaneously be baptized. Out of the crowd came several people who did not come prepared to be baptized. They responded to the preaching of God’s word, to an authentic presence of Jesus in worship, and to the Holy Spirit calling them out.

What I love about this is that I can not think of anything else in our culture quite like someone stepping out, unprepared, and with the clothes they wore to church, get in a tub of water and be baptized in front of hundreds of people. If you took away everything else about God, the Bible, Creation, my own experience, and I saw what I saw last night for the first time, I would believe Jesus is real. Baptism is such a powerful witness to God’s incredible love and how very personal and family-oriented the church can be in one moment.

Thank you Westside for being such a great family to so many. Thank you for all those who were baptized. And thank you Jesus for being such an amazing friend and savior.>