Six years and growing again

This Sunday, October 3, marks the sixth anniversary of the launch of New Venture Christian Church. What a ride it has been. We have been through some enormous highs and some deep lows. To say it has been a journey of adventure would be a huge understatement. It has been a journey beyond any adventure we have ever experienced before. Some of the journey has been welcomed, other parts have been dreaded and endured. Never the less, we have grown and developed as followers of Jesus through it all.

And I would not be honest with you if I were unwilling to admit that the sixth year has been the most challenging of them all. We have faced huge obstacles during the past twelve months, some we understand and expected, other have caught us completely by surprise. We have gained a few families during that time and have lost even more. Some, who have been with us most of the journey, decided that the new church setting was no longer for them and have sought spiritual pastures in other settings.

The great news is that the church has been strong enough to weather the challenges, hard knocks and surprises. Our people have matured to the point of stepping up to the plate and providing whatever is necessary to pull us through the rough spots in the road. We have sought the Lord endlessly and the advice and counsel of outside sources. In so doing, we have remained faithful to the purpose and mission of NV, reaching the unchurched of our community and being the authentic presence of Christ in our community. As a result, we have bottom out and turn upward again with renewed excitement and enthusiasm. We are once again focusing on our purpose for existence, helping people discover a growing adventure with the God of the universe.

No doubt the road ahead is still cluttered with obstacles. Some old challenges will continue, and new ones are waiting in line. But we have a group of Christ followers who love the Lord and New Venture with a depth of devotion that will not quit. They will pay the price of sacrifice, however high or low it might be, to assure the continuing witness and effectiveness of NVCC in our community and beyond.  I am proud and privileged to lead such a group of courageous disciples.

Just Jesus

Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18) What was the rock he was referring to? The rock was the rock-solid truth the apostle Peter had just declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The church is to be built on the rock of Jesus, the time tested and anchored truth that He is the “Appointed One” of God and God himself. When the church is built upon the Rock the “gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” (16:18) as Jesus went on to affirm.

The gates of hell and the schemes of the devil are firmly focused on destroying the church of Jesus Christ. He wants to shut the church down and if he cannot close the doors he will do everything in his power to render the church weak, unfocused, divided, complacent and ineffective. Make no mistake about it, the devil wants to put the Kingdom of God out of business.

To counteract the schemes of the devil and to assure the strongest possible foundation, we are going to devote pretty much all of the next year to the teachings of Jesus. We are determined to build on the solid Rock. Here’s an overview of some of the Jesus subjects and series we will be exploring.

EPIC-a study of the greatest teachings Jesus ever spoke, known as the Sermon on the Mount.
HOW TO BE RICH-the teachings of Jesus on bling
RED LETTER DAY-the last words of Jesus on the cross
THE GREATEST COMEBACK STORY EVER
MIRACLES-learning from the miracles of Jesus
DISCIPLE-what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus
QUESTIONS-what question would you ask Jesus if you could?

This will be perhaps the most growth filled year in the life of New Venture Church and those who consistently, week after week, expose themselves to the teachings of Jesus. You will never be the same again.

EPIC Is currently playing.

ONLY A PERSON WHO RISKS IS FREE

by Author Unknown

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach for another is to risk involvement.
To expose your ideas, your dreams, before a crowd is to risk their loss.

To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To believe is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken, because the
greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The people who risk nothing, do nothing,
have nothing, are nothing.

They may avoid suffering and sorrow,
but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.
Chained by their attitudes they are slaves;
they have forfeited their freedom.

Only a person who risks is free.

No longer necessary to envy the rich

I just read this highly unusual report that surveyed 450,000 people from the last couple years about their level of happiness in life. It appeared in the Sept. 6 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Here’s the bottom line of the report. The happiest people in America are those who have a family income of $75,000. It seems that, according to the research, happiness increases as income increases up to $75,000 but after that there is a leveling off on the happiness scale. Beyond $75,000 you might have the ability to buy more stuff and do more things but they don’t necessarily bring a higher level of happiness. So I guess I can stop envying the rich for all the money and things they have, because I have one thing they don’t have, happiness.

I think there is a better answer to all this money and happiness talk. It comes from God and not a study or academic journal. And since He is the Creator of life I guess he should know best about what brings happiness to life. This is what he says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Tim 6:6-10

In my first church, several years ago, I met my first example of this teaching gone south. The city was Norfolk. The person was Denny. He was married to Sandy. They were a great couple. Denny was a huge guy. I don’t know if I ever knew someone as massive as he was, at least not at that point in my life. He had graduated a couple years earlier from the University of South Dakota where he had enjoyed a heroic football career. He was on top of the world and determined he was going to get a huge chunk of the world’s wealth.

Denny was driven to earn more and achieve the level of affluence that “successful” people reach. He worked long hours, hardly ever took time off and drove himself to succeed. I think he may have achieved at least some of his goal, but in the wake of it all he left a broken marriage, destroyed relationships and “many griefs.”

Don’t make the same mistake. Here’s a better course.

1. Learn to be content with what you have. Until you do, you’re not ready to handle more.
2. Realize everything you have is not yours. It belongs to God and you are not going to take it with you. There are no U-Hauls following funeral processions.
3. Be satisfied with your needs being met instead of being driven by your greeds. Greed will destroy you. It IS a green eyed monster.
4. Love God and people rather than money. It will take you much farther in life and in death.
5. Protect your faith. It is far more precious than any fortune you might accumulate.

So relax. If you are anywhere close to the $75,000 family income level, it doesn’t get any better than where you are right now. Or, better yet, whatever your income level, you have the ability to enjoy your greatest happiness. You are the captain of your ship.

This will blow your mind

The Bible begins with the words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1) Do you have any idea how big the heavens are? Do you have any idea how vast and far reaching the universe is?

If you’ve ever wondered how big the universe is, you’re not alone. Astronomers have long pondered this, too, and they’ve had a hard time figuring it out. Now an estimate has been made, and it’s a whopper.

The universe is at least 156 billion light-years wide.

Think about that for a moment. A light year is the distance light travels in a year. Light travels approximately 186,282 miles per second. And there are 31,536,000 seconds in a year. So to get an idea of how vast the universe is multiply 31,536,000 X 186,281 X 156 billion and you come up with a number that won’t fit on this blog post.

The size of the universe absolutely blows my mind. Even more so, though, God created it. The word “created” in Genesis 1:1 means “to make something from nothing.” God just called it all into existence from nothing. He spoke it into being.

But here’s the most mind boggling part of it all. That same God became one of us so that he could provide a way for us to spend eternity with Him. At his birth the angel announced, “They will call his name Emmanuel, which means, “God with us.” (Matt 1:21)

The God who spoke the universe into existence, came to be one of us, lived and faced life’s temptations just as we do, and died as a perfect sacrifice for our sins to provide a way of forgiveness and hope for all eternity.

That same God, “is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but wants everyone to come to repentance.” ( II Peter 3:9) The God who created it all is patiently waiting for you to decide that His way is better than your way.

That just blows my mind.