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Sunday, October 29, 2017, is Reformation Sunday, and I (Pastor Reinaldo) will be teaching about the Reformation.  Reformation Day falls each year on October 31.  But this October 31 is a very special Reformation Day as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation.

Let’s start with the basics.  First, what is a “reformation”?  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary,

reformation – a :the act of reforming; b :the state of being reformed

I don’t know about you but I don’t find that very helpful.  Let’s back up a bit and look at the definition of the word “reform.”  Again, from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary,

reform – a :to put or change into an improved form or condition; b :to amend or improve by change of form or removal of faults or abuses

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.  Let’s couple that definition with the definition of “The Reformation” (the article “The” and uppercase “R” make all the difference here),

The Reformation – a 16th century religious movement marked ultimately by rejection or modification of some Roman Catholic doctrine and practice and establishment of the Protestant churches

Consistent with this definition, the Reformation, which officially began on October 31, 1517, was a 16th century movement aimed at changing and improving the condition of the Roman Catholic Church (only church denomination in Western Europe back then) by way rejecting its abuses, removing its faults, and returning it to the doctrines and practices of the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, as prescribed in Scripture.  You might say that the Reformers rediscovered the gospel in much the same way that King Josiah rediscovered the Law and enacted reforms in Israel during the second half of the 7th century BC (2 Kings 22-23 & 2 Chronicles 34-35).

Depending on which Church historian one listens to, the Church began a steep decline—moral, ethical, doctrinal, etc.—some 1,000 years prior to the 16th century.  One of the Reformers, John Calvin, admired Pope Gregory I (in office from 590 – 604) and commented that he was “the last good pope.”  Over the years the decline escalated—or deescalated, rather—to the extent that by the 16th century the Church bore little resemblance to the Church Christ founded and which the Apostles established in the 1st century.  Sad.

Next week: REFORMATION 102 – Why Is Reformation Day Celebrated on October 31?

To kneel, or not to kneel during the national anthem, that is the question. 

You may be surprised to know that this isn’t an important question to me because I was thinking of posting my NFL availability on Monster.com. Actually, I was just tired of the debate, so it seemed wise that AnchorPoint would decide for the nation. Once we decide, I believe the civilized world ought to follow.  

There’s the rub. 

I want the world to be Kingdom Cooley. When people aren’t driving the way I believe they should, I’m frustrated. When the NFL doesn’t play by my rules I can yell at the TV or post on Facebook. When things aren’t going the way I want them to go at home, JoLynn straightens me out. I didn’t say it was Kingdom Dan Cooley. 

I’ll admit it, if I tried out for the NFL, I’d be the victim of age discrimination. However, this football thing really does bring up a much more important question. What is true Christianity? What does the Christian life look like? How should it affect playing in and responding to the NFL, driving on 528, and loving my wife?  

The Christian life is the opposite of Kingdom Cooley. Its focus is Christ, He loves us, and that changes everything. He gives us new life, and makes us part of a kingdom where He is King. Christianity is giving up Kingdom Self for Kingdom Christ. It’s lived out by answering the question, "How can I better love God and others?" 

That can be a bit convicting when thinking about driving habits and Facebook posts. Am I really advancing the Kingdom of God with my behavior? Before I judge an NFL player, I’d best look in the mirror. 

One thing I hate about the book of James. It convicts me. This week we will be in James 1:19-27. I hope you can read it through a few times and join us on Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Good Things Happened,

and

4 Bad.

 

#1 Good Thing:

On September 10 our daughter Amanda, husband Jake and 3 children moved to Marble Falls Texas to work for Camp Peniel. We are thrilled, as JoLynn and I worked for this Christian camp back in the 80s, and we love seeing our kids grow up to serve our Lord.

On the 10th, when I was gone, Pastor Emeritus Don Schlichte spoke in my absence to finish our Renovate 250 series. We have already raised about 25% of the money we need, and are almost halfway there with pledges! Some asked some questions about Don’s sermon – so Reinaldo and I answered some of those questions at the end of this blog.

#1 The Bad Thing: I’d be less than honest if I didn’t also admit we are bummed as we watch our kids and grandkids move away. Why can’t Peniel move to NM?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2 Good Thing:

Last Sunday we were in Illinois for Taylor and Jessica’s wedding. This was one of the most special weddings I’ve been able to be part of. During our premarital counseling they told me they wanted to do foot washing at the wedding. I said to myself, “Self,” I said, “This is weird, how do I not show it?”

I showed it.

However, they went forward with the wedding foot washing. It was the high point of the wedding. About half of the crowd were not believers, and speaking to them afterwards it was the foot washing that impacted them the most. They used words like “raw, real,” and said things like, “they really believe, you can tell.” It was so cool to be a part of a wedding of two strong believers.

#2 Bad Thing: I was wrong. I suppose that is good, but still… wrong again? The picture is of the rehersal, wedding was in the park.

 

 

#3 Good Thing:

We were able to spend some time with our youngest, Caleb, who attends Moody Bible Institute in downtown Chicago. My parents went to Moody, as did I. The buildings D.L. Moody was able to build while working with students and the poor always impress me. He had a real heart for the generations coming after him, and had no issue asking for those with means to give to this vision. While walking through the same halls as my parents, and visiting Moody Church built in the 1800s, where my mom attended during WWII, I was reminded of Renovate 250. It’s not about us – it’s about the generations yet to know of AnchorPoint that we do this.

In one building, there were three long walls with names of Moody graduates that have gone on to ministry around the world.. Now they use a digital screen for newer names, as they ran out of room on the walls in the 90s. We took a picture of my parents names who went to France. There were also hundreds of names with stars before the name. Those with stars were martyred for their faith.

#3 Bad Thing: I missed Clay Holderman opening our James series with his explanation of trials from James 1:1-18, as well as telling part of the story of Macen. I was excited that Clay wanted to tell Macen’s story, yet apprehensive. Talking about the death of a child in front of a group of people isn’t for cowards. Yet there are few alive better qualified to speak on James chapter 1. Certainly not me. If you haven’t heard the sermon yet, check it out at anchorpoint.life under resources. Our video computer died, so we apologize for the video quality, but the audio should be sharp.

The other bad thing? Chicago isn’t cheap.

 

#4 Good Thing:

This week Ron Bouthillette will be speaking to us. He is an Adjunct Professor of Practical Theology at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, and spoke to us at this same time last year. He will be leading our elders, staff, and spouses through a training this weekend.

#4 Bad Thing: I’m bummed to not be speaking for 3 weeks in a row. It does get difficult week after week, but I miss it when out so long. Next week, we are back in James, and Lord willing, you’re stuck with me speaking for a change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Pastoral Thoughts from the final Renovate 250 Sermon

Some have been asking questions about the Sept 10 sermon by Pastor Emeritus Don Schlichte. After listening to it, would like to highlight some of the main points of his talk, with Pastor Reinaldo explaining the last point.

1: God’s love and commitment and intentionality to you are firm, and can be an anchor to your soul. I love that. If His coming here to die for us doesn’t make that clear, what does? Well said.

2: There is a benefits package for being a child of God, and realizing those benefits can be conditional on what we believe and do. One example that was given, was the benefit of a Christian Marriage—IF we deal with each other with love and respect. If we don’t believe what God says about husbands loving wives and wives respecting their husbands, or if we believe it but don’t do it, we lose the benefits and our marriages suffer. I thought that was a great illustration of the truth. By the way did you know that…

  • Couples who sometimes go to church have a 10% GREATER chance of divorce than average. Maybe one wants to go, the other doesn’t, but for either lack of belief or doing, the benefit has been lost.
  • Couples who attend church regularly have a 46% less likely chance of divorce than average. That’s an amazing benefit. And there’s yet another married benefit.
  • The University of Chicago also reported that monogamous married couples report significantly higher satisfaction with their sexual lives than singles, including those who live together. But pastors aren’t supposed to talk about that stuff, so we will go on to point 3.

3: Trust God, not human institutions. This is certainly wise advice, as only God is totally trustworthy. However, many of the examples given on Sunday were political in nature, and I’m sure that bugged many of you—especially those of you with different political views. Sometimes our examples can remove us from the main truth, rather than make it stick. Democrat, Green Party, Republican, or even Canadian, we should be able to worship together. Therefore, here is what I am asking. Can you do your best to put the political examples aside, and except the greater truth? Psalms 118:8 puts it this way, it is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans (NIV).

Trust me on this.

Kidding – trust God on this! OK, just two other thoughts

4: What you give doesn’t affect God’s love for you one iota. Don began and concluded his talk with an opportunity to give to Renovate 250. By giving, you can help to create a safer, more spacious, inviting church facility that can support 250 people a service—including children, youth, and special needs—for the unforeseeable future. But, although your giving will help to bring more people to Christ, it won’t help you to be more loved by Christ. You are already totally loved by God. Done deal.

So, don’t give over and above your tithe to be loved by God. Give because you love God and want others to know Him. We will keep the envelopes in the bulletins for a while longer.

5: You set the measure of the benefits package. God wants to bless us, but we can limit those blessings through our lack of belief, and our behavior. Sin limits God’s blessings, we talked about that in point 2. However, if we go down this road too far, we can start teaching that if we have the right beliefs and behavior, God will have to give us unlimited finances and health. Or maybe 300 wives like Solomon, or 300 kids since they are called a blessing in Psalms 127. How does God bless us when we yield to Him? Does He have to do what we want? Would God be wise to do so?

I’ve asked Reinaldo to lean into this last issue at greater depth here.

This is Pastor Reinaldo sharing with you my take on the "blessings" and "benefits package" which Pastor Dan mentions above. I will do my best to explain this by looking at a passage from Luke’s Gospel.

We read in Luke 10.1-20 the story of how Jesus sends out seventy-two disciples into nearby towns to preach the kingdom of God, cast out demons, and heal the sick—in His name. The seventy-two return rejoicing and saying that "even the demons are subject to us in your name!" (Luke 10.17) But here’s the clincher, Jesus then tells them,

20 "Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Luke 10.20

As I understand this, the better reason to rejoice when we are obeying God, the real blessing, the most important feature of the benefits package, was not their authority over demons, power to heal, nor even their ability to preach, but that they will live in heaven for all eternity. In other words, it’s not what we gain through our efforts or through faith that’s most important, but what God freely gives us—eternal life—which is most important.

In this passage—and consistent throughout the four Gospels—we see that the teachings of Christ indicate that the ultimate blessing and the most important item in the benefits package is not the good things we receive in this life—family, friends, knowledge, skills, wisdom, wealth, health, spiritual power—but what we will receive in the coming kingdom of God.

Two further thoughts… First, we should not confuse the benefits of the gospel with the gospel itself—they are not the same thing. As we’ve seen already, the primary blessing and benefit of the gospel is eternal life, because the gospel tells us that Jesus Christ took our sins upon Himself, suffered, died, was buried, and rose again victorious over sin and death. And like grace—because of God’s grace—eternal life is a gift which cannot be earned but is freely given without merit or cause or effort on our part.

And second—and having said all that—the gospel does bring about social, economic and political blessings and benefits. As one who has first-hand experience living under economic and political suppression and social limitations (Havana, Cuba), I am most thankful for the socio-economic-political benefits we experience in this country. But these things are secondary, not primary.

My hope and prayer for us is that we keep these things in perspective, or as someone once said, "first things first"—first the gospel, then its spiritual benefits, and as a "common grace" blessing (i.e., everyone can benefit from it) the blessings of social stability, economic prosperity, and political—and religious—freedom.

On October 29 I will be teaching on the Reformation as this year marks the 500th anniversary of the "official" launch of the Reformation on October 31, 1517. I will be teaching mostly with regards the cobwebs which were cleared from the gospel in the early part of the 16th century, its principal spiritual benefits, and the secondary benefits of social tranquility, political & religious liberty and economic prosperity which came about as a secondary outcome of the Reformation—and which continue to this day.

Poor James. He was Jesus' little brother. I'm the youngest of five kids, and I rather liked it when my older brother or sisters got in trouble. It took the heat off me. I wonder how many times James heard, "Why can't you just be more like Jesus?"  

James knew what it was like to grow up in the shadow of Jesus, have his dad die when he was young, have a brother who grow up to make crazy claims about being God, and then watch that same brother get lynched by a mob with the help of the government. Then he saw his brother come back from the dead. 

Not your average childhood. 

James became a believer in his half-brother, and an in-your-face teacher. He also seems to be more than a little ADHD to me as he jumps from topic to topic in this letter. I rather like that. 

We hope you can join us in this series as we look at what James has to say to us today. He covers topics like real and dead faith, words that unleash hell, surviving through hardship and conflict, and lots of other practical stuff in this short letter. We conclude the series on November 19. But we begin the book with the most difficult topic of all. 

Hope you can join us! 

Dan

 

 

Five Pastoral Thoughts from Last Sunday’s Sermon

 

Some have been asking questions about last Sunday’s sermon by Pastor Emeritus Don Schlichte. After listening to it, would like to highlight some of the main points of his talk, with Pastor Reinaldo explaining the last point.

God’s love and commitment and intentionality to you are firm, and can be an anchor to your soul. I love that. If His coming here to die for us doesn’t make that clear, what does? Well said.

There is a benefits package for being a child of God, and realizing those benefits can be conditional on what we believe and do. One example that was given, was the benefit of a Christian Marriage—IF we deal with each other with love and respect. If we don’t believe what God says about husbands loving wives and wives respecting their husbands, or if we believe it but don’t do it, we lose the benefits and our marriages suffer. I thought that was a great illustration of the truth. By the way did you know that…

Couples who sometimes go to church have a 10% GREATER chance of divorce than average. Maybe one wants to go, the other doesn’t, but for either lack of belief or doing, the benefit has been lost.

Couples who attend church regularly have a 46% less likely chance of divorce than average. That’s an amazing benefit. And there’s yet another married benefit.

The University of Chicago also reported that monogamous married couples report significantly higher satisfaction with their sexual lives than singles, including those who live together. But pastors aren’t supposed to talk about that stuff, so we will go on to point 3.

3. Trust God, not human institutions. This is certainly wise advice, as only God is totally trustworthy. However, many of the examples given on Sunday were political in nature, and I’m sure that bugged many of you—especially those of you with different political views. Sometimes our examples can remove us from the main truth, rather than make it stick. Democrat, Green Party, Republican, or even Canadian, we should be able to worship together. Therefore, here is what I am asking. Can you do your best to put the political examples aside, and except the greater truth? Psalms 118:8 puts it this way, it is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans (NIV).

Trust me on this.

Kidding – trust God on this! OK, just two other thoughts

4. What you give doesn’t affect God’s love for you one iota. Don began and concluded his talk with an opportunity to give to Renovate 250. By giving, you can help to create a safer, more spacious, inviting church facility that can support 250 people a service—including children, youth, and special needs—for the unforeseeable future. But, although your giving will help to bring more people to Christ, it won’t help you to be more loved by Christ. You are already totally loved by God. Done deal.

So, don’t give over and above your tithe to be loved by God. Give because you love God and want others to know Him. We will keep the envelopes in the bulletins for a while longer.

5. You set the measure of the benefits package. God wants to bless us, but we can limit those blessings through our lack of belief, and our behavior. Sin limits God’s blessings, we talked about that in point 2. However, if we go down this road too far, we can start teaching that if we have the right beliefs and behavior, God will have to give us unlimited finances and health. Or maybe 300 wives like Solomon, or 300 kids since they are called a blessing in Psalms 127. How does God bless us when we yield to Him? Does He have to do what we want? Would God be wise to do so?

I’ve asked Reinaldo to lean into this last issue at greater depth here.

 

This is Pastor Reinaldo sharing with you my take on the "blessings" and "benefits package" which Pastor Dan mentions above. I will do my best to explain this by looking at a passage from Luke’s Gospel.

 

We read in Luke 10.1-20 the story of how Jesus sends out seventy-two disciples into nearby towns to preach the kingdom of God, cast out demons, and heal the sick—in His name. The seventy-two return rejoicing and saying that "even the demons are subject to us in your name!" (Luke 10.17) But here’s the clincher, Jesus then tells them,

20 "Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Luke 10.20

As I understand this, the better reason to rejoice when we are obeying God, the real blessing, the most important feature of the benefits package, was not their authority over demons, power to heal, nor even their ability to preach, but that they will live in heaven for all eternity. In other words, it’s not what we gain through our efforts or through faith that’s most important, but what God freely gives us—eternal life—which is most important.

 

In this passage—and consistent throughout the four Gospels—we see that the teachings of Christ indicate that the ultimate blessing and the most important item in the benefits package is not the good things we receive in this life—family, friends, knowledge, skills, wisdom, wealth, health, spiritual power—but what we will receive in the coming kingdom of God.

Two further thoughts… First, we should not confuse the benefits of the gospel with the gospel itself—they are not the same thing. As we’ve seen already, the primary blessing and benefit of the gospel is eternal life, because the gospel tells us that Jesus Christ took our sins upon Himself, suffered, died, was buried, and rose again victorious over sin and death. And like grace—because of God’s grace—eternal life is a gift which cannot be earned but is freely given without merit or cause or effort on our part.

And second—and having said all that—the gospel does bring about social, economic and political blessings and benefits. As one who has first-hand experience living under economic and political suppression and social limitations (Havana, Cuba), I am most thankful for the socio-economic-political benefits we experience in this country. But these things are secondary, not primary.

My hope and prayer for us is that we keep these things in perspective, or as someone once said, "first things first"—first the gospel, then its spiritual benefits, and as a "common grace" blessing (i.e., everyone can benefit from it) the blessings of social stability, economic prosperity, and political—and religious—freedom.

On October 29 I will be teaching on the Reformation as this year marks the 500th anniversary of the "official" launch of the Reformation on October 31, 1517. I will be teaching mostly with regards the cobwebs which were cleared from the gospel in the early part of the 16th century, its principal spiritual benefits, and the secondary benefits of social tranquility, political & religious liberty and economic prosperity which came about as a secondary outcome of the Reformation—and which continue to this day.

 

This weekend’s service is an exciting milestone in our Renovate 250 project. Pastor Dan and I have been sharing over the past three weeks, the vision, need, history, and improvements we would like to make to our facilities for improved handicap accesses, expanded children’s ministry spaces and much needed long-term storage at an estimated cost of $100,000. 

At the end of Sunday's teaching, we will be asking you and your family to make a financial commitment to the Renovate 250 project over the next year. I believe this a noble and needed project which will help AnchoPoint adequately and safely minister to 250 souls per service. As a result, facility wise, AnchorPoint will be able to grow into a five or six hundred member congregation through multiple weekend services. Nice vision right?

 

For a congregation of our size, $100,000 is not a, "this is impossible without God" large number for a capital campaign, but it is still large enough that we need each family and single person to actively and fully participate in a prayerful process. The AnchorPoint leadership will trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance in meeting the need through your Renovate commitment. 

If donations exceed the cost of the renovation, "overflow" monies will be used to pay down the churches current mortgage obligation.

If you’ve missed any of the previous three Sundays, you can view them through the AnchorPoint website. I shared on August 20th the sacrificial and miraculous account of how a small Rio West congregation built the original structures with vision, faith, and sacrificial giving.

If our congregation will approach this project with a similar faith and commitment, I am confident God will meet the need through our corporate participation.

For a prayerful heads up – your "commitment card" will list these four giving options.

A one-time gift/offering totaling $_______________.

An incremental gift/offering over the next year totaling $__________________.

A sacrificial gift/offering totaling  $____________________.

A "believing for increase" gift totaling  $ __________________.

Total offering (add lines one through four)  $ ___________________.

I will walk through and explain some of the nuances or differences for each line. Hopefully, the variety of options will help you to make a faith pledge from a joyful heart.

Saints, view this as a "God opportunity" instead of an obligation and you’ll experience a greater blessing.

Grace to us and through us,

Pastor Emeritus, Don Schlichte