2016 Theme: Unshakeable Truths
"As you come to Him, the Living Stone--rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him--you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."- I Peter 2:4-5
Perhaps the event that has most "rocked" Southern California over the last twenty-five years was the Northridge Earthquake of 1994. Anyone living here at that time remembers where they were and what they felt as the earth moved on January 17th at 4:31 am. I remember running out of my bedroom, huddling with others, and crying out to God. There was not only the trauma of the event but the graphic aftermath of the quake for years to come. I can recall driving through the valley seeing apartment complexes laying in rubble as the force of the quake caused many building structures to come crashing down.
In thinking of that event and those images, we fast-forward to the beginning of a new year of our faith in Jesus. Each year I seek the Lord for what is to be the word, the focus, the pathway, and the theme for our church family. I am pleased to declare that 2016 is to be...
The Year of UNSHAKEABLE TRUTHS!
The new year is a time to focus on the promise of new strength and greater victory that God wants to release in our lives. The Lord is at work forming us, strengthening us, and increasing us in faith, love, and power to withstand all the struggles and shaking of this world. I John 5:4 tells us, "For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." Throughout the year we will discover key TRUTHS that are to be our foundation of faith by which we stand, rest, and take shelter in. We will be looking to God's unchanging Word to give us clear direction and a living hope for each day and every circumstance. Our year-long study will take us to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7); a special Easter series entitled "Man-Busters: What the Bible really says!"; a summer teaching in 1 and 2 Peter; and a look at the life of Joshua.
This faith journey will be amazingly rewarding and enriching, but for today let me provide three overarching statements/targets that will guide our Year of Unshakeable Truths:
1) We will BUILD our lives on the truths from God's Word.
"Now I commit you to God's and to the Word of His grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified."- Acts 20:32
That we would be a people who hear His words and hold them close to our heart. We would observe His commands and ways knowing that they are perfect in every way and best for every dimension of our lives. That we would measure how to live in faith, how to walk in love and forgiveness, and how to serve God in a pleasing manner based on what His Spirit has spoken through the Holy Scriptures.
2) We will GUARD our hearts from the temptations of this World.
"Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you--guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us."- II Timothy 2:14
In our world there has been such a compromising of truth and such a craving for finding new ways to define ourselves, express ourselves, prove ourselves, and govern ourselves. Often the world approaches God in the same way a multiple choice question states, "Mark ALL that apply..." rather than there being only one correct answer. The world presents a message that may seem most reasonable, most accepting, and most popular, but in the end it is a narrow view by creating a broad path. As believers in Jesus Christ we must walk out the truth with love and speak the truth in love. We must not allow any other gospel or philosophy to be our standard and rule. We must ask the Lord for His Spirit to give us understanding and wisdom in these times.
3) We will DEFEND the truth to those we cross paths with.
"But in your heart revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."- I Peter 3:15
Let me bring clarity to my choice of words here. To "defend" God does not mean that we have to shout others down by proving His existence and/or superiority. I once had a seminary professor say of our attempts to defend God, "Let the lion out of the cage and he will defend himself!" What I am speaking of are the people we have interaction and audience with. In our life there are people God has sent our way so we would be His shining light. They are people who are either seeking the Lord or needing hope. They come to us because we love them, will listen to them, and are compassionate towards their situation. In these moments we have a wonderful opportunity to tell of God's good news and to share the ways in which God has rescued us, provided for us, and loved us through His Son. Our defense in not an argument that needs to be won, but an account of the One who has won our hearts and is wooing the very people we engage each day who have yet to recognize and receive His truth.
I can't wait to see all God establishes and reinforces for the next twelve months so that our lives are built on the Rock and our stand the test of time no matter all the shaking happening around us!