Called for Relationship, Not Religion

May we never grow weary sharing that God is a Father we can always run to. “Religious people drive me nuts, always putting others down and spouting off about their beliefs.” I was talking to a landscaper who was helping me with a lawn project when he shared an argument he had overheard between two churchgoers about a doctrine their particular denominations had different views on. I responded by saying, “That’s OK, Jesus didn’t think too highly of the religious people in his time.” About this time the landscaper remembered that he had previously asked what I did for a living, and I answered that I wrote for a Christian denomination and I was a supervisor/resource consultant for about 50 pastors. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he... Read the article

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Where is the Good News?

Healthy churches are known for what they are for, not what they are against. Most people know what churches preach against - sin. Depending on the pastor, certain sins are preached on more than other sins. It quickly becomes clear to a new believer that there are all kinds of things God is against, and it can be discouraging. A new believer can easily conclude they may never be good enough to experience God’s love. I grew up in a church environment like this. I could easily tell you what my church was against, but if someone were to ask me what my church was for, I’d struggle to answer. The correct answer was, we are here to make disciples who make disciples. Another answer would be, we are for sharing God’s love. However, the... Read the article

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Hope, Faith and Love in a Fellowship Group

Our focus on healthy church and the three avenues of Hope, Faith and Love are applicable to any size group or congregation. “We only have eight people in our group; how are we expected to have a champion or coordinator for the Hope, Faith and Love avenues?” The simple answer is you aren’t. While we encourage larger congregations to have Hope, Faith and Love avenue teams, which work with the pastor in a team-based, pastor-led model, your small group is the team. We do not have a “one-size-fits-all” approach to helping you be the healthiest expression of church/group you can be. With that said, we do believe every small group can and should keep the principles of our Hope, Faith and Love avenues in mind in everything they do. Allow... Read the article

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Faith Avenue: What Is Your Reality?

One of the most important things for a Christian to know is about identity. Who is Jesus? And who am I in Jesus? For most of my life I referred to myself as a sinner in need of a savior. I would often focus on my challenges, my shortcomings, my sins, and I always knew I fell short of the man I believed God wanted me to be. I spent hours and hours praying, days fasting, constantly studying, continually trying to prove myself to God—trying to prove my worth to God. It was never enough. There were times I wondered if trying to be a Christian was worth all the effort. But fear of failure kept me going. Knowing God wasn’t pleased with me kept me trying. I just wanted to be forgiven, be included, be loved. At this point some of you are... Read the article

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Easter — A Day and a Season

Easter is more than a memorial of the resurrection; it is a 50-day celebration focused on triumph and victory. The wonderful phrases of Easter never cease to remind us of the wonder and power of Jesus, the Christ.  Religion could not limit him. Sin could not control him. Evil could not defeat him. The cross could not stop him. Death could not hold him. The grave could not keep him. He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Oh Glorious Day! But it’s more than a day. Easter is a season of 50 days—50 days of celebration that lead to the ascension and end on the eve of Pentecost. Bobby Gross, author of Living the Christian Year, said this about the 50 days: Why 50 days? First, because the enormity of the resurrection invited a lengthy... Read the article

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God’s Great Saving Act

A triduum is a religious observance that lasts three days. The best-known example of this is the three days from the evening of Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday. Called Paschal or Holy Triduum, this one event is the not only the center of the Christian year, it commemorates the great saving act of God. The Bible is full of mysteries; the story of Jesus is full of mysteries. How did God become human? What does it mean to be fully human, and fully divine? Why did Jesus have to die on a cross? Why did he have to spend time in a grave? What did God accomplish in Jesus’ death? What does it mean that death has been conquered? These are mysteries that humanity will continue to ponder, to research, to discuss. The apostle Peter said of these... Read the article

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An Easter Preparation Challenge

In a world full of social and political division, we are not called to take sides and thus be part of the division. Easter Preparation season reminds us we are called to be centered in Jesus and to point others to him. The Easter Preparation message is simple—Jesus saves. Social justice doesn’t save, political affiliation doesn’t save, leaders don’t save, pastors don’t save—only Jesus saves. It isn’t that we should not pay attention to these other things, and we are not saying these other things are not important, but the noise and polarization should not cloud out Jesus and become our new center of focus. Easter Preparation is a time for recentering on Jesus—who he is, what he did, what he is doing, and what he is going to... Read the article

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Faith Forward

Jesus, having returned from the 40 days of temptation in the desert and beginning his public ministry, enters a synagogue and is handed a scroll of the prophecies of Isaiah. He unrolls the scroll and reads these powerful words, which is part of Isaiah’s prophecy about himself. The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19, quoted from Isaiah 61:1-2) What are the chances of Jesus just happening to turn to that passage? We can surmise that Jesus was intentional about reading that passage on that day to introduce... Read the article

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A New Birth

The birth of a child is not only exciting, it changes everything. I’ll never forget the excitement that filled our home as we anticipated the birth of our daughter. We decorated her room, we bought furniture, a car seat, clothes and all the items needed to take care of a newborn. We talked and talked about what it would be like to have her in our life. We celebrated her birth with great fanfare. Friends and family came over to share in our joy. We were now a family of three and we knew everything was going to change. And then a few days after her birth, we put everything away and waited for the next year to celebrate. Wait! What? OK, the last sentence was completely fictitious. Kayla is now 32 years of age and we are still enjoying... Read the article

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The Omega and the Alpha

November marks the end of one worship year with Christ the King Sunday, and the beginning of another worship year with Advent. The title of this article is a play on words. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end—and this month gives us the opportunity to celebrate with the end and work back to a celebration of the beginning. The worship calendar gives us constant reminders that all our worship centers on Jesus. We can’t make him the center of the center—he already is. The GCI worship calendar keeps us focused on him. So let’s start with the end. Christ the King Sunday  Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom... Read the article

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