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Sunday, May 3, 2009

How Much Does He Love Me?

"How much does he love me, let me count the ways..."  We have all seen little girls play this game, haven't we?  They pick up a flower to find out if the little boy they are "in love" with loves them back by plucking the petals off of the flower and saying, "He loves me, he loves me not."  And, if the last petal plucked comes when the little girl says, "He loves me!" then it is true love for life!  BUT, if it comes on "He loves me not" she understands why he is playing in a sandbox pretending to be a mutant and not proposing.

We have all kinds of bizarre ways we try to find love.  As we grow up, these ways certainly change, but often are just as effective.  We try to find love in romance, sex, spirituality, friendship, and on and on.  Some of these places have pieces of love in them and often times love can produce romance or friendship.  The love that produces these things may be of a different kind, but at the end of the day, we want to know and feel that someone else cares about us and desires us to care about them.

As we get into a new sermons series on the book of I John, we will find that, though many of the ways we try and find love may be good, they will not help us know true love.  Our efforts to find love are in vein if they do not get us to God, who is love.  And, remarkably, we cannot get to that God by our efforts.  And this is a great thing!  We do not have to work hard or go through difficult relational drama or pluck petals to find out if God loves us.  No, God loves us too much for that.  God, instead, GIVES His love to us in Jesus Christ.  He does not wait for us to find it, He does not have a hidden path we must follow to get to His love.  He seeks us out, He comes to us, He pursues our hearts and makes them His own.  And He does this all through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ. He demonstrated His love for us in this, while we were yet sinners (looking for love in all the wrong places), Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8) And now, through the Holy Spirit, God has sought us out to give us this love won for us on the cross.

How much does He love you?  With an unending, undying love that sacrifices everything in order to have you in a saving relationship with Him.  Don't pluck petals, look to the cross to see the love that God has for you!   It is my prayer that as we get into this new series, you will be built up, transformed, and encouraged by the love that God has for you in Christ Jesus.   

Pastor Bob

Speaking of Jesus - May 2009

Last time in everyone's favorite newsletter column, Speaking of Jesus, we discussed the importance of presenting who Christ is and what He has done for us in His life, death, and resurrection before we begin to proclaim the benefits of being a Christian.  Sticking with this theme, this month we will begin to lay out various ways to do this when we embrace our friends and loved ones with the Gospel of Jesus.  Over the next few months we will discuss who Jesus is by showing how He is the one who reveals God to us, what he reveals about God, and why that matters to and benefits us. 

People are very curious about God these days.  Bookstores are full of books which describe one person's or another's pursuit of God.  A broad spectrum of religions will be studied so that a well-rounded view of God can be arrived at.  "Seekers" will become disciples, so to speak, of the Dahli Lama or Joel Osteen or Oprah or some enlightened guru who knows the "secret" of the universe in order to better know God or know themselves.  ABC Nightly News even hosts debates among influential religious types so we can discern teachings more clearly and understand each other's views of God more fully. Indeed, people are incredibly curious about God these days. 

This is nothing new.  People have always gone to gurus, practiced rites, and worked hard to find God in the universe.  In response to such activity, St. Paul once said in a letter he wrote to the church in Rome, "But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) "or, 'Who will descend into the deep?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).  But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, " that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming..." (Romans 10:6-8).  In other words, Paul says, God is not someone we are to seek out by religiously climbing up to heaven or searching in the depths, no, God reveals himself to us in Jesus Christ, the very one Paul was proclaiming!

The only way we can know God is for God to reveal himself to us, and this is what He does in Jesus Christ.  Do you want to fully know God?  Read the Gospels.  There you will meet Jesus of Nazareth, God in human flesh.  When we go out to proclaim Jesus, to embrace others with the Gospel, we don't go out to wax philosophical on our religious opinions.  We go out to introduce others to this guy Jesus who is God for us and with us.  God reveals himself to us, He does not hide so that we must seek him out (Paul says there is no such thing as a seeker in Romans 3:11 anyhow).  God becomes flesh in Jesus Christ.  The Father sends the Son to reveal Himself to us.  We believe what we do about our salvation because, as Paul says, God is as near to us as the word that was proclaimed to us.  This is a fancy way of saying the Holy Spirit gives us Jesus when we hear the gospel.  AND, when you share the gospel, the Holy Spirit works through your words to introduce people to Jesus.

All of this is to say that, if you have people in your life who think they are "seeking" God, it is your calling as a Christian to introduce them to Jesus.  And when they hear about who Jesus is they will have met God.  And they will know that God loves them so much, that He sent His only Son to die for them, to suffer the greatest agony in the history of the world so that they would be saved, and that he conquered death so as to promise them eternal life.  They will meet God who loves them and gives Himself to them.  It is the Gospel, the good news of Jesus, that we proclaim which brings God near, for there He seeks and finds us and reveals Himself to us.     

Pastor Bob

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Centro Cristiano Moorpark - May 2009

The Hispanic Outreach Ministry at Faith continues to move forward as Pastor Dennis Bradshaw makes contacts within the Hispanic community here in Moorpark. However, Centro Cristiano Hispano (CCH) is in need of our help.

In this newsletter is a letter from Pastor Dennis that I hope you would read with a prayerful heart. This is a letter that went out to all the churches in Circuit One and Two of the Pacific Southwest District, not just to Faith. Much of the funding upon which CCH has relied in the past is expected to be much less in the coming year. But the need to reach people with the Gospel is just as great as ever.

As a congregation, we at Faith have supported CCH for many years. By God’s grace and mercy, this important missionary ministry of the Church in the Hispanic community has flourished over the years. We have seen the Gospel take root in Santa Paula and now it’s beginning to grow here in the Moorpark Hispanic community. We have seen our own congregation continue to grow. So we know that that where the Gospel is preached, Christ’s Church will grow.

Your help is needed to make sure that CCH can continue to work in the Hispanic mission field. Please consider giving an additional $20 each month as a designated offering to Centro Cristiano Hispano. That’s only $5 a week, much less than what most of us spend at Starbucks! So if all the families of our churches within Circuit One and Two would each give $5 a week to CCH, this shortfall in funding would be solved. And Christ’s ministry in the Hispanic community would continue.

On April 25, the Bradshaw along with Blight Lifters, a local church group which has removed graffiti from our property, held a picnic in the park behind the church. The Bradshaws have made additional contacts with a number of people within the community.

Leo Garcia from Centro Cristiano Santa Paula, who has visited with us several times and has been working with Pastor and Tara Bradshaw to make contacts within the Hispanic community, suffered a very serious injury when he fell 12 feet and fractured vertebrae in his back. Fortunately, there was no paralysis and after surgery, he is now up and walking about. Please keep Leo in your prayers.

Pastor Dennis is planning on beginning an ESL class at Faith for Hispanic members of the neighborhood on Saturday, May 2. This is an opportunity to meet a real need of people in the community, develop personal relationships, and bring the church to the neighborhood.

For those who are interested, Pastor Bradshaw is also willing to teach an SSL class affectionately known as Spanish for Gringos. If you are interested, contact Pastor Hiller or Dave Bovey and they will make arrangements.

As this ministry begins to grow, more people will be using the church facilities. If you are planning an activity, be sure to check with Tina in the Church Office so she can schedule your activity.

http://www.centrocristianohispano.com/centrocristianomoorpark/centrocristianomoorpark.html

Contribution Information
Please send support to:
Centro Cristiano Hispano
c/o 1200 Maria Way
Oxnard, CA 93030
or call Pastor Dennis at 805-983-1619

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Centro Cristiano Hispano

Maundy Thursday, April 9, 2009

To all of you who support the mission and ministry of Centro Cristiano Hispano

Hermanos y hermanas en el Evangelio de Jesucristo,

As I reflect this evening upon the Last Supper which our LORD Jesus shared with His disciples in the upper room, I am reminded that He promised them the glorious delights at His banquet table in His Kingdom which is yet to come. He said to them, "For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God." (Luke 22:16) There will be no lack at His table in glory and we by faith know that He will provide us with all that we need for His Great Commission until that glorious feast in heaven. What we do now to get the Gospel out increases the attendance at the heavenly feast in glory!

Centro Cristiano Hispano (CCH), the work we do together as missionaries at large in Hispanic ministry in our circuits, has historically been richly blessed by individual, congregational, district, and on occasion special synodical support. By this support, for over twenty-five years we have been able to get out the Gospel in the Spanish and Mixteco languages, plant ministries in many locations, see leaders raised up, educate God's people for mission and ministry, and see deacons sent to the seminary and ordained into pastoral ministry. While there is much economic need in the lives of many Hispanic immigrants, yet there is also much grace and commitment to serve Jesus and reach the lost in our Hispanic communities.

We now find ourselves at a time of significant financial need in order to maintain the important mission support work of CCH. The finances which we have been receiving have decreased from all sources and we anticipate receiving less from the District in the year to come. It is therefore my heart's desire to lay this great mission need on your heart as you have always been important partners of this mission team reaching into the Hispanic communities of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties and beyond.

CCH is working hard to plant a new side by side mission congregation in Moorpark. We continue supporting the educational needs of our Hispanic congregations, and we are developing our Hispanic Bible Institute to better equip congregations, missionaries, and deacons, and to send pastoral candidates to the seminary in the future. For this to continue we need your partnership now more than ever before!

Would you pray and seek the LORD's guidance about being a continuing partner with CCH in this year and in the year to come? Your partnership is essential! The missionary vision which the LORD has given us is great and we know that He will use you to help provide all that is needed to continue to plant missions, train leaders and equip deacons and pastors for the Hispanic mission of today and tomorrow.

Muchisimas gracias for your consideration and prayers,

Pastor Dennis Bradshaw
Mission at Large, Hispanic Ministry
Circuits One and Two, PSD-LCMS

Contribution Information
Please send support to:
Centro Cristiano Hispano
c/o 1200 Maria Way
Oxnard, CA 93030

or call Pastor Dennis at 805-983-1619

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