5 Aspects to Church: Worship

January 14th, 2015 by RevBT
Today we started a new sermon series on the 5 aspects of a healthy church. Each week we will talk about one of the following: Worship, Discipleship, Fellowship, Ministry, Evangelism.
- There are five parts to a church.
- 5 things that when done well make for a healthy church that is growing and vibrant.
- Worship, Discipleship, Fellowship, Ministry and Evangelism
- There are not ranked. One is not more important than another.
- All must be done well and in balance with another.
- All must get equal time and energy. Some will get emphasized at certain times but over arching theme is all of them.
- When one is emphasized over another it creates problems and in extreme cases and become a cult.
- For example: When Fellowship is put above discipleship then it is just a bunch of people talking and hanging out and there is no Jesus involved
- Another Example: Worship put above fellowship where people come and feel good about themselves without ever being connected to one another.
- For the next 5 weeks we are going to talk each week about these and see if we can learn something that will help us along.
- Today is Worship.
- Worship is about giving praise and honor to something.
- We are designed to worship.
- It is in our nature to worship something bigger than ourselves.
- We want to worship. This is why we fall in love with the Steelers, because we believe that are bigger, better, stronger than us. So we worship them.
- Since we are designed to worship it should be no surprise that we all worship something.
- We all worship something.
     – Some of us worship the Steelers.
     – Some of us worship money
     – Some of us worship drugs, alcohol, pornography.
     – Some of us worship ourselves or our spouse or our kids.
- We all worship something, the key is to know what to worship.
     – If you aren’t sure what you worship. Look at your checkbook and your calendar. Where does your time or money go?
- Jesus has called us to worship God and God alone. That means if you worship anything other than God you are not a follower of God.
     – The first commandment of the 10 commandments in Exodus 20. You shall have no other idols above me.
     – Jesus goes so far to say in Luke 14:26 that if you love your family more than him you are not a Christian.
          – This certainly puts the Steelers into perspective?
- there are two main parts to how we worship.
     – Corporate and Private.
          – Private worship is when you are alone. Maybe on your motorcycle or in your car singing KLOVE at the top of your lungs.
          – There are lots of ways to privately worship.
     – Corporate worship is when we come together and worship God.
          – 1 Corinthians 14:26 “ What should be done then, my friends? When you come together each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
          – This, right now is corporate worship. As we are gathered here we are corporately worshiping God.
     – Christians are called to both private and corporate worship.
     – This means if you show up here every week but then never open your Bible at home you are not fully worshipping God.
     – This means if you read your bible every day at home but never come to church you are not fully worshipping God.
          – Those of you watching on TV, you still need to go to a church. Any church.  Corporate worship is vitally important to who you are as a Christian.
- Corporate worship is so important, to the life of a Christian. Here, turn with me to Hebrews 10:25
Hebrews 10:25 Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near.
When we gather together and read scripture and sing songs and worship God it helps us to encourage each other.
We can’t stop doing this.
Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian.
Going to church encourages you to keep being a Christian.
See, as Christians one of the things we have is hope. Hope for a better day. Hope for a day when injustice, poverty, hunger, abuse, oppression will not win!
A day when all things good and lovely and beautiful will rule the day.
In this world it is easy to get beat down, exhausted, worn out, and just tired and lose hope.
- We turn on the TV and see hatred, injustice, we see people killing others because they don’t like a cartoon.
- We go to work and see privilege and power instead of equality and fairness
It becomes so easy to lose hope.
Church is where we come together and encourage each other to not lose hope.
This is why we gather in church for worship. To encourage each other.
But let’s be honest, sometimes church is just boring. Sometimes the preacher is boring, the choir rocks but the songs fall flat and we rather be anywhere else than in church.
Worship can’t be boring, we can’t let it fall flat. Worship time must be quality, passionate and inspiring.
so what makes worship boring? Could be the preacher, the music, the prayers, or it could be a lack of application. Who knows.
What matters is we make our worship as passionate, inspirational, and applicable as possible.
If we can do that and you can join us, then we can have a pretty great time in corporate worship.
This would be the kind of worship service you want to come to.
This would be the kind of worship you would skip a Steelers game to come to.
This would be the kind of worship you want to bring your friends and family too.
I don’t know if you have noticed but it has even 8 weeks since a brand new person has joined us for worship. We have stopped bringing our friends to church. Why?
- So then, I think this means for us is that we need to be in worship. It means each of us, all of us.
- “When you feel like it” is not enough
- 1 week a month in church is not enough.
- Unless you are sick, working, or it is unsafe for you to be out we you need to be here.
- This is why we don’t cancel church, ever!
- We need to gather, for encouragement and for worship.
- But we need to gather for worship that is encouraging, passionate, inspiring, and applicable.
- Imagine what that would do for us, having us all here gathered together to encourage each other.
- Imagine what that would do for our world, to have a group of people who were passionately committed to worshipping God.
- That would be amazing! We can do that. But it takes all of us.
Let us pray. Sermon Audio 

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2014 Books I read!

January 9th, 2015 by RevBT

I love to read! I have a personal library of nearly 1,100 books. Most of them I have read. Unfortunately I don’t get to read as much as I would like so I try to read one book per month. I also try to read a novel once a year. So without further ado here is my 2014 book list. With links to Amazon to buy them, but I don’t get any money if you buy them.

  1. Divergent by Veronica Roth: I read the whole series and it was wonderful! It is an easy read and a great story.
  2. Autobiography of Peter Cartwright: He is one of the early traveling Methodist Preachers and has quite a story to tell from the time he beat Abraham Lincoln in an election to the time he got in a fist fight with the Baptists. All great stuff!
  3. Christmas is Not Your Birthday by Mike Slaughter: Too often Christmas gets commercialized and we create a system of gluttony and debt. This book addresses those issues and calls us to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.
  4. Making Disciples by Ralph Moore: This book is the one I would recommend the most. It gives practical tips and ideas on how to introduce people to Jesus.
  5. Change the World by Mike Slaughter: This book was part of a book study I led at my church. It was a great study and led to some significant changes at the church.
  6. Leadership Prayers by Richard Kriegbaum: A book of prayers for leaders in any capacity. The temptation was to read the whole book in one sitting but I didn’t. I read one prayer per day and it was beautiful.
  7. Unleashing the Word by Adam Hamilton: A good book on preaching. Great for new pastors who are struggling with preaching.
  8. Sabbath as Resistance by Walter Brueggemann: This book wasn’t as good as I was told it would be but I still enjoyed it. All about giving up the culture of now.
  9. Becoming a Healthy Church by Stephen Macchia: I do not recommend this book. I found it outdated and focused on the “Church Growth Model.” I have major issues with that model and as a result I did not like this book.
  10. Shiny Gods by Mike Slaughter: Another decent book by Mike Slaughter. Easy read about giving up idols in our life.
  11. Dare to Dream by Mike Slaughter: How to have God sized dreams and actually accomplish them. I enjoyed it.
  12. Momentum for Life by Mike Slaughter: I really enjoyed this book as it talks about practical ways to live out a life of faith for a lifetime.
  13. Making Sense of the Bible by Adam Hamilton: This is one of my favorite books of the year. Adam Hamilton breaks down the hard topics of the Bible and makes them understandable for people who do not have a Master’s Degree. I would highly recommend this book.
  14. Leading Beyond the Walls by Adam Hamilton: This book is helpful to pastors trying to turn around a church or plant a new church. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to any pastor.

So, there you have it, all my books from this year. I didn’t plan to read so much Adam Hamilton or Mike Slaughter but that is how it worked out. For 2015 I intend on reading some non-methodist stuff and try and read a few more novels.


Evangelism through Change John 1:1-18

January 7th, 2015 by RevBT
Finally got the sermon audio back up. Podcasts are now available. You can subscribe by clicking here.
- January 4 is a state of the church sermon which is one of my favorite Sunday’s because I get to brag about all the awesome stuff we have done this year. 
- After that we have a sermon series on the different areas of focus are for a church.
- Right now we are on a series on Evangelism
- Remember, the definition of Evangelism is how we share the gospel of Jesus with those around us. It isn’t always about knocking on doors, or standing on street corners. Sometimes there is more to it. 
- It is evangelism when we Sacrifice.
- It is Evangelism when we are in relationship with others
- Now we look at how it is Evangelism when we change.
- This is the last one, but there are so many more ways we can share the good news with those around us.
Everything changes. All the time. Even you. Your body replaces every cell in your body every seven days or so. Which means every week you are a completely different person.
The entire world is designed toward change. Everything is different now compared to last week. Last month and last year.
Yesterday. Anniversary went back. So much had changed.
- Somethings stayed the same and were different at the same time.
Change is inherent to the way the universe works. Everything is in constant flux and will never be the same again.
However, in some circles change is a four letter word.
We don’t like to change.
Even simple things like changing seats, or dinner routine, or even what time the Good Wife comes on TV can be enough to drive us over the edge!
Maybe some of you know exactly what I am talking about. Maybe you have experienced that kind of disruption. 
And yet, in our scripture, change is inherently evangelistic. 
What, How, why, and when we change makes a giant statement about what we believe about the gospel.
Here, listen to what God has to say about change.
John 1:1-18Common English Bible (CEB)
1 In the beginning was the Word
    and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
The Word was with God in the beginning.
Everything came into being through the Word,
and without the Word
nothing came into being.
What came into being
    through the Word was life,[a]
and the life was the light for all people.
The light shines in the darkness,

    and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.
A man named John was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him everyone would believe in the light. He himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light
The true light that shines on all people

was coming into the world.
10 The light was in the world,
and the world came into being through the light,
but the world didn’t recognize the light.
11 The light came to his own people,
and his own people didn’t welcome him.
12 But those who did welcome him,
those who believed in his name,
he authorized to become God’s children,
13         born not from blood
nor from human desire or passion,
but born from God.
14 The Word became flesh
and made his home among us.
We have seen his glory,
glory like that of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth.

15 John testified about him, crying out, “This is the one of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than me because he existed before me.’”

16 From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace; 17     as the Law was given through Moses,    so grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God.    God the only Son,        who is at the Father’s side,

        has made God known.
The word of God for the people of God.
This is a mystical story of the birth of Jesus but also a story of Change. How Jesus went from being in heaven to being incarnate in the world living among us.
Let’s start with breaking this down into a few pieces that answer the questions of Why, When, and How Jesus changed.
Verses 1-5 answer the Who question. Who changed.
- Jesus is the Word who always existed. Jesus is God. Jesus is the creator of all things.
- Jesus made everything! The sun, moon, stars, snow, trees, your heart, your beloved, all created by Jesus. 
Verse 9 answers the question of how did Jesus change.
- Jesus changed. Jesus went from being in heaven to on the earth.
Verses 12-13 answer the question of why did this change happen.
- Jesus changed so that those who would believe in him would become children of God. 
- We might say it this way: That Jesus changed to save us.
We could sum it all up this way:
Jesus is God who became flesh and blood and dwelt among us so that all who would believe in Jesus would be changed from sinner to saint and receive  salvation and eternal life as God’s own children. 
So if this is why and how the savior of the universe would change. Perhaps that tells us something about change.
We don’t change for the sake of change. It isn’t about running around just randomly changing whatever we feel like. 
Jesus changed because the goal was to bring people into a relationship with God.
We only change because it brings people closer to Jesus. 
Jesus changed everything about himself.
When we change, we don’t change just the stuff we don’t like.
We change so that we can introduce more people to Jesus.
Jesus went from being all-powerful and all-knowing to human. Jesus gave up everything comfortable and became a frail human. Subject to injury and illness, loneliness and exhaustion.
So, we don’t change things just because we don’t like them. We change even the things we do like, if it is what needs to happen so that new people can know the gospel of Jesus. 
Jesus changed himself at the right time to have the most impact.
Jesus changed at the exact right time to have the biggest impact. That is when we change. Not 50 years after it is needed. We need to be ahead of the cultural curve. Not behind it. 
Jesus did not change who he was. Jesus was still God. Jesus was still the savior of the universe. That didn’t change. Jesus’ mission never changed.
We don’t change our mission or our doctrine. We do change anything and everything else to make sure our mission is accomplished. 
We might say it this way: We have the Bible and a blank sheet of paper.
Maybe you are sitting here and you have hated every word I have spoken. You think change is a quick way to hell and we can never EVER change anything.
Let me show you something:
This is a 1990 Apple SE.
- In 1990 this computer cost 2,900 dollars and was considered one of the first “portable” computers. It even came with a backpack style bag and was promoted with people wearing it as they rode bicycles around cities.
- It has a 20 megabyte hard drive
- 8Mhz processor
- 1 Megabyte Ram
- Weight is 17 pounds
- To give you an idea of what this means: It takes 10 minutes to be useable and that includes constantly swapping out discs to do what needs done. If I want to type a word document I have to input and swap out about 5 discs before I can even start typing.
- This one still works. I could use this to do my job.
- In 1990 it had about 6% of the market share.
Now, fast forward to today.
This is an iPhone 5s. 
- It is literally 125,000 times faster than the Apple SE
- It can do everything the Apple SE can do and connect me to all of the information in the entire world.
- I bought this computer on eBay for 30 dollars. It is essentially worthless when compared to this iPhone. 
- If we look at our life and refuse to change we will stay this way which was great and amazing 25 years ago. Today it is a dinosaur that has no relevance to the real world.
If you hate change you are telling the world you do not care about them and you do not care about the Jesus who changed you from sinner to saint.
If you do not like change you cannot follow Jesus.
When you refuse to change we say that Jesus does not have the best plan and that Jesus does not get control of your life.
So what does this mean for California UMC?
- If we do not change we will become irrelevant
- we don’t change our doctrine or our mission. We change anything and everything so that we can reach out to the world with the gospel of Jesus.
- it might mean we have to change things we like.
- it will be hard and it will take work.
- That being said, when we change the church might look completely different, be filled with new people who don’t look or act like you. Maybe they have different political opinion or their spouse is a different gender than yours and they are here, with us. Worshipping the same Jesus and that is a beautiful thing. 
- That is why Jesus came to earth and that is why we must be in the business of evangelism.
We don’t change because we feel like it. We change so that new people can hear about the gospel of Jesus. Why and how we respond to change sends a message to the whole world about what we believe about grace and mercy and second chances. And who they are as a person, beloved by the God of the universe who change to become flesh and blood to change all people from sinner to saint.
Let us pray.

Evangelism Through Relationships Luke 1:39-45

January 5th, 2015 by RevBT
What it is, how do we do it? What’s the point of it all?
I don’t know what your thoughts are on evangelism but I know when I was very young in my faith as a 18-year-old kid I thought evangelism meant going door to door and asking people “If you died tonight, where would you spend eternity?” Or I thought Evangelism was this stand on the street corner and scream at people to “turn or burn” or “where do you want to spend eternity, smoking or not?”
I even tried those kinds of evangelism a few times and it was just awkward.
People were not receptive to this kind of evangelism. Generally they got really angry and yelled at me or they would start asking me questions that I just couldn’t answer.
This one time, I was in college and I was talking to this one student and I asked him “Where will you spend eternity?” His response was an explicative laden tirade on the injustices in the bible and how could God let those things happen and killing kids and ended with him saying he could never believe in a God who allows his dad to be killed by a drunk driver.
How do I answer that? I mean I just met this guy and now I’m supposed to convince him that God loves him and his dad and that God has the power to stop this and for some reason chose not to? No wonder this method of evangelism didn’t work.
As a result, I got pretty turned off from Evangelism. I didn’t want anything to do with it and didn’t want to talk to people about Jesus. 
Maybe you’ve been there? Maybe you have been in those awkward situations? 
Or maybe you don’t know what evangelism is supposed to be? And so you clearly just don’t do it? 
Here, in our scripture today is a good working definition of what Evangelism is:
Luke 1:39-45New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country,40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
So, one of our quintessential Christmas verses and it perfectly illuminates evangelism. 
Mary finds out she is now an unwed, pregnant teenage mother. This is not the easiest place to be. If you have ever been in that situation you know how difficult things just got. So Mary needs help and needs someone who knows a little more than she does. Someone who has been around the block a few times.
Mary goes to someone who can help her. She went to see Elizabeth. Some say Elizabeth was Mary’s cousin or at least a “relative” but whatever she was Mary trusted her enough to give her good advice and help her out.
When Mary got there she found exactly what she needed. A friend and helper. Mary didn’t need a lecture about making smart decisions or condemnation for lying about where babies come from.
Mary needed someone who would walk with her and help her and care for her and teach her about morning sickness and nursing and labor and all those things.
Elizabeth didn’t do this just because she was a good person. She did this because she loved Mary and because she loved God.
This is evangelism.
There might be a place for evangelism that is standing on the street corner but more often than not evangelism looks very different.
Evangelism is about more than screaming at people from the street corner. Evangelism is about being in an intentional relationship with someone to teach them about Jesus.
When we are in relationship with people and we ask them about Jesus then we are practicing evangelism.
We are already in relationship with all kinds of people. Family, friends, co-workers. And it isn’t always about sitting them down and having “the talk” with them but it is about getting to know who they are and talking to them and living life together with them and being able to have a real conversation with them when the topic comes up. Because it will.
when you are in relationship with someone they will ask you about church, faith, hope, love. Naturally questions like “Why do you go to church?” or “Why is it you can be married for so long?” or “Why do you wear that cross necklace?” These questions happen when you are in a relationship with people.
If people aren’t asking you these questions you either aren’t paying attention or you aren’t listening to what they are saying. These questions are happening all the time.
Your answer defines evangelism.
“Because it is tradition” is not evangelism. Your answer of “Because I believe in Jesus” is evangelism. Not as a jerk and not as an arrogant “know it all” but as a friend who doesn’t have all the answers but at least knows about the grace of God.
Now to me, that is a lot less terrifying than trying to talk to random people about Jesus.
It becomes a much easier way of evangelism because it comes from a place of genuine care and compassion instead of some weird “I have to do this so I can go to heaven” idea.
However, it also becomes a lot harder. Because it means that everything matters. When you are around people they get to know you. The real you. After time people will see what you really believe and if they see hypocrisy then they won’t ask about Jesus and church and eternity.
If you are living a life that is inconsistent with Jesus then people will not ask you about Jesus because they don’t believe that you actually believe in Jesus.
So, if you say you believe in grace and second chances and then look down on people who are poor no one will ask you about Jesus.
If you say you believe in a God who gives you rest but you are frazzled and worn out and not rested then no one will ask you about Jesus.
On the other hand though, when people see you full of joy and love despite of the circumstances they are more likely to ask you about it because they want that Joy in spite of all that is going on in their life.
Please note, you don’t need to have all the answers. You don’t need to know the finer points of substitutionary atonement or transubstantiation. You only need to know that Jesus loves you no matter what and has called you live a life following Jesus.
So this is easier and harder all at the same time. So what do we do with it?
I think it means we as a church need to make sure what we are doing is in accordance with scripture and it means we need to be in relationships with as many people as possible.
I think it means we need to align not just our individual lives but the church as a whole in line with scripture. How God has called us to live as a church family and at the same time we need to know as many people as possible. That no matter who they are, drug addicts, gay, straight, young, old, rich, poor, college student or professor, boro council or bar owners. We need to know who they are and be in relationship with them. And so maybe that means we invite college students to our house for dinner or we have lunch with our older members of the congregation or it means we call up those members who haven’t been here for a while or we just get to know the people sitting in the pew next to us or behind us. Maybe it means when we go downstairs for coffee we find the people sitting by themselves and we sit with them. I mean, no one should ever be sitting by themselves during coffee hour because that is the easiest way to get to know people.
Sure it is terrifying and different but it is that one easy step that can change the world.
Let’s pray.

Evangelism Through Sacrifice Luke 1:26-38

January 3rd, 2015 by RevBT
Today, new series on Evangelism.
Looking at what it is and how we do it.
A lot of times evangelism gets awkward stereotypes of people on TV talking about giving them all their money or random people knocking on your door to talk to you about the end times or people standing on a street corner screaming “Turn or burn” or “Get sanctified before you get chicken fried” I don’t even know what that means!
Maybe you have seen those kinds of people and you think “I don’t want anything to do with that?”
I mean, who wants to walk up to a random person and say to them “Have you thought about your eternity lately?”
Or maybe we do that and they fire back with some question we can’t answer yet. They start asking you about dispensationalism in the 18th century or the difference between consubstantiation versus transubstantiation.  and you just want to shrink away because you feel like you aren’t smart enough to answer that question.
If that is what evangelism is then what’s the point? It seems a little ridiculous and it seems like a lot of work.
Why would anyone want to do that kind of stuff? I can’t imagine anything more terrifying than to walk up to a random person’s door and ask them if they know Jesus.
So maybe there is something more to evangelism than all of that.
Here, listen to what Mary the mother of Jesus has to say about evangelism.

Luke 1:26-38Common English Bible (CEB)

26 When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee,27 to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!”29 She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. 31 Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. 33 He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son.36 Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. 37 Nothing is impossible for God.”

38 Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

To begin breaking this down and talking about what this scripture has to say about evangelism we need to have a working definition of Evangelism.
The dictionary defines Evangelism as: The preaching or sharing of the Gospel.
It does not define what the gospel is, but since we are a church and we believe the Gospel is the grace of Jesus who lived and died for us then we can say that:
 Evangelism is the preaching of the good news of Jesus.
So how do we preach that? Sure, for some people it might be about standing up on TV or the street corner but for the average person it probably isn’t. It needs to be about something else.
Look at our scripture we just read.
Scholars think Mary was somewhere around 14-16 years old. The normal age for a woman to be married back then.
So here is this teenage girl with hopes and dreams and plans. She was set to get married, settle down, have a nice family with a nice home. Maybe some pets.
But God has other plans for her. God has BIG! plans for her. Huge plans! Plans that will change everything for her. These are plans of things that are impossible for any human being to conceive.
God’s plans disrupted her plans.
God decided that she was highly favored and as a result God has specific plan for her and it isn’t what her plan is.
I mean, no one of that day plans to get pregnant before marriage because that was an offense that could get her killed. No one plans to get murdered.
And yet here she is, her plans disrupted and destroyed.
Her response is telling. Her response is the most evangelistic response anyone could ever give.
In verse 38 Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.”
That response is evangelism.
See a lot of times we have plans and desires and dreams and then they get derailed.
They get derailed for all sorts of reasons. Illness, injury, poor choices, unintended consequences, unemployment, netflix, age, even kids…Kids will mess with your plans like nothing else. 
Evangelism comes into play when we respond to our plans being derailed.
Sometimes, when plans get derailed we have this, almost, defense mechanism to try and force our plans. To muscle what we want out of life and make it work out.
Other times, when our plans get derailed we have this response of “okay, whatever I need to do.”
We have a choice of which one we choose to do.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. We may still grieve the changing of our plans. We may still desire our plans to happen but there is also this reality that those plans we made were not the plans we get to have.
One author writes that as Christians, there is a belief that God is in control and is working all things together for good for those who love God.
Mary’s plans got derailed and she could have strong armed her own plans. she could have secretly gone and terminated the pregnancy and who would have stopped her? She could have ignored what god called her to and done her own thing.
But, she understood that as a follower of God that God holds all things and will work them together for good for those who love God. As a result her response is mixed with sorrow but is an acknowledgement that God has plans and she gets to be a part of them.
Maybe you have been there. You had plans for your life. You know, get married, have kids, a nice house with a white picket fence and a good pension and then you can retire and travel the world without any cares. Then the doctor comes in and says it is incurable and you have only months to live.
Maybe you have been there with your plans all laid out. Your kids will grow up, get a good job and be famous and then your kids are gone all to quickly.
Or it is cancer, or a job loss, or foreclosure, or who knows what.
Not always will the plans changing be a result of God’s work in us but how we respond to our plans changing will speak volumes about the good news of Jesus.
As Christians the world is watching how we respond when our plans get derailed.
As Christians it becomes evangelism how we respond when our plans get derailed.
We can either strong-arm our plans back into place or we can accept a new reality. We grieve the change but still move forward in a new direction.
This is hard, giving up our plans is hard. Yet, how we respond has the power to share the gospel with those around us.
Lauren Demoss writes that being a Christian doesn’t change what you deal with it changes how you deal with it. And that reaction is exactly what the world is watching. How we deal with the curve balls of life speaks volumes to people who do not believe in Jesus.
This is where communion comes in.
We gather here, at this table to celebrate that God has plans and we get to participate in them. That because of what Jesus did for us through the cross we get to try a different plan at life and that we get to start over on a new path that leads to eternal life.
Too often we have heard gods plan for our life, for ministry, missions, relationships, retirement, calling, and we have ignored that.
Charles Xavier writes that no matter how far down the wrong path you may have gone you can always start again on the right path. Communion is a physical and tangible reminder of that truth.
At this table we get a reminder that Jesus didn’t follow what he wanted. He followed God’s call and that gives us a new chance at life and a new chance to say yes to God.  Because of Jesus work on the cross we get a new chance to say yes to God.

God is not angry with you Matthew 5:1-2

January 1st, 2015 by RevBT
Next week, is a tradition that my very first church did that one week during Advent we had a Music Sunday. No sermon, just singing. But I don’t pick the songs. You pick the songs. As long as our pianist next week can play it we will sing it. Christmas, Advent, or anything else that is in the hymnal. Of course, we don’t just leave it at that. We need to wear ugly sweaters and sing loud! Because the best way to spread christmas cheer is to sing loud for all to hear. 
Then we will spend a few weeks talking about Evangelism. Then we are in the new year! I am very excited because there are big things happening at Cal UMC in 2015
But for now, let’s pray and jump into the start of Jesus’ ministry.
In Matthew 5
Jesus is brand new on the scene and his first words are divine announcements. There are no recorded words of Jesus in the book of Matthew prior to this event.
So what are the first words Jesus speaks? We call them the beatitudes
The Beatitudes Matthew 5:1-12 page 4 of the second half of the bible.

 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

These are announcements.
Not instructions, commands, advice, teachings, blame, or information on how the world works.
These are divine announcements from on High!
Greek word for Blessed: Markiros: “I am with you”
 “I am with the poor in spirit”
“ I am with those who mourn” 
 Before it is a ministry, a healing, or a resurrection, a theology, a church, a movement, or a worldview  it is a divine announcement of  “I am with you.”
“First and literally the beatitudes are Jesus’ surprisingly countercultural God-bless-you’s to people in God-awful situations” – Frederick Bruner.
Other modern interpretation say it this way:
“Blessed are the quiet ones, the shy ones, the unnoticed, the wall flowers, the “average.”
Blessed are those who live with a deep, nagging sense that life is passing them by, that they are missing their slice of the pie, that they aren’t in some profound way keeping up.
Blessed are those who can’t seem to get it all together, who can’t seem to get on top of things, who constantly feel like they fall short, because God’s world has plenty of room for them.
The religious system of Jesus’ day left out those who didn’t have it all together and those who didn’t fit in to some arbitrary binary identity, but Jesus welcomed them all into his kingdom. Anyone could come in as well as any other,
and they still can.
That is the gospel of the beatitudes.
Blessed are:
  • the losers
  • those at the end of their rope
  • the spiritual zeroes
  • the bankrupt, pathetic, and lame
  • the out of it
  • those without a trace of good
  • the morally empty
  • the pathetic
Why are they blessed?
Blessed are you, for God is with you, God is on your side, God meets you in that place.
Blessed are those who on a regular basis have a dark day in which despair seems to be a step behind them wherever they go.
Blessed are those who stumble, trip, and fall in the same place again and again and again.
Blessed are those who ache because of how severely out of whack the world is.
Blessed are those who have run out of strength, ideas, will power, resolve, or energy.
Blessed are those who don’t have it all together.
This was the vision statement Jesus made.
Before he stood up and gave a commandment, healed anyone or did any miracle He gave his vision.
He said God is on your side.
God is on the side of the sinner, the pathetic, the loser, the messed up, the incomplete, the hated, and the generally so messed up that when they walk into a room everyone else leaves, God is on their side.
This is the gospel of Good news, that no matter where you are, what you are, when you are, or who you are,
when you come to a place of despair God is on your side.
This is the vision at the core of how Jesus acted. Everything he did came out of this moment. Every person he healed, everyone he touched, everything he taught was a followup to this divine pronouncement that God is on the side of the weak and not the powerful.
Jesus hated the powerful, Jesus was against those in power. Whenever Jesus spoke to those in power it was not nice. It was mean. They were words full of sarcasm and anger and wrath. 
This means for us that the moment we look down on somebody because they aren’t as disciplined, hardworking, upright, smart, responsible, moral, God-fearing, Bible believing, or Jesus trusting as we are
or that they have made idiotic, stupid, immature, immoral choices again and again and again then we are in fact rich in spirit and therefore Jesus is not announcing anything to us and Jesus is doing nothing for us because we don’t need him.
You cannot make yourself poor in spirit. There is nothing good, noble or honorable about “poor in spirit.”
So then, what is our vision at the core of us? We are the body of Christ. California UMC serves as the body of Christ right here in this place and in this time.
Can we say that this is what we do? Do we pronounce to each other that God is on your side?
Do we pronounce to those who are poor in spirit that God is on their side?
Do we pronounce to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness to hang on for just one more day because life is worth it and there will come a day when they will be satisfied?
Jesus declares that when we feel pathetic, cut down, that we have lost it all, and we have no right to anything that He is in fact on our side.
What do we declare?
Christianity is not found in the Bible. Christian is only found 3 times in the Bible. Disciple is found over 200 times in the Bible and means one who follows Jesus.
If you follow Jesus, you are not a Christian. You are a disciple of Jesus. Learning and doing all that Jesus did.
If we follow Jesus then we must declare that God is on your side?
In our brokenness, God is on our side. In others brokenness are we, like Jesus, on their side?
The world has already decided that God loves the rich, good-looking, and skinny people who have it all together.
Can we as the church declare, like Jesus did, that God is on the side of those who are an absolute mess? Those who struggle to pay their bills, those who make stupid decisions day after day and don’t know why, those who have hurts and struggles in their marriage, those who are in pain because their world just isn’t the way it should be?
Can we declare that along with Jesus, we are on their side?
Maybe if we declare that with Jesus then people will desire to worship the God who is on their side instead of running from some imaginary God who is against them.
Maybe that is our call as a church. To stand as a place for all people and remind them that God is not angry with you. God does not hate you. That no matter how broke down, beat down, or how oppressed you are God has not forgotten you. God has not left you to your own devices. God is on your side. 
So how do we live that out? It can be a difficult thing to live a life that is constantly about reminding people who God is not angry with them and that God is on their side. So, in your pew is an advent calendar. Each day during the week is an activity specifically put their to help you know how to remind others about the love that God has for them. Your challenge is to do each thing on there each day through advent. So you have a week to prepare and then get started. And if you lose this there will be more in your pew next week.

Giving thanks for the unfinished.

December 29th, 2014 by RevBT
Welcome, thank you for coming
Worship times for all the churches in bulletin
Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks over what we have been blessed with.
I know I am thankful for my wife and kids and the privilege of being up here in front of all of you.
Maybe you are thankful for lots of things
Food on the table
But have you ever thought of being thankful for the things that aren’t done yet?
Maybe being thankful isn’t just about the stuff we have now but also about being thankful for the things that are in process.
Like being thankful we are in the middle of our work week
or being thankful that we are a junior in college and the end is coming soon
or being thankful that while we aren’t completely healed yet we are on our way.
Sometimes I think those can be the hardest things to be thankful for.
I mean who wants to be thankful for the healing that is taking forever.
Who wants to be thankful that it is only Wednesday and the weekend isn’t here yet.
Who wants to be thankful that we are 2 days without a drink or a smoke when the withdrawal is so painful that it makes us shake?
These are things that we don’t always want to give thanks for.
And yet, it is in those spots that Jesus is still at work and we can give thanks because the middle of the journey is still where God works.
Here, check this out.

Mark 8:22-26 Common English Bible (CEB)

22 Jesus and his disciples came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch and heal him. 23 Taking the blind man’s hand, Jesus led him out of the village. After spitting on his eyes and laying his hands on the man, he asked him, “Do you see anything?”

24 The man looked up and said, “I see people. They look like trees, only they are walking around.”

25 Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again. He looked with his eyes wide open, his sight was restored, and he could see everything clearly. 26 Then Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t go into the village!”

This is just weird stuff.
Look at what is going on. This guy needs healed and Jesus heals him but the first time it doesn’t seem to work.
After Jesus healed this guy the first time all he sees are trees walking around?
This brings up all sorts of questions.
What went wrong?
What happened that this didn’t work?
Did Jesus do something wrong?
Why wasn’t Jesus able to heal this man the first time.
This is Jesus, who is God in the flesh. The same God who put the stars in the sky and put leaves on an oak tree, made your heart beat is now in the flesh and is unable to heal a blind guy on the first try.
What is that about?
Why would Jesus need a multi-stage process that involves spitting directly in a person’s eyes?
1. Jesus takes him out alone, possibly so he doesn’t freak out the first time he sees all these people. Possibly to avoid copy-cats.
2. Jesus spits on his eyes. This is weird to us, but in the day spit was considered healing and the man would have known this. Jesus is using what the man already understands. And when we think about it, it isn’t that weird. What is the first thing we do when we cut or burn our finger, right in our mouth.
3. Jesus does it again, the first time wasn’t complete. Jesus laid hands on the man again to finish the process.
Imagine being this man. You were completely blind, can’t see anything and you hear about this guy who can heal you. Your friends, who are probably sick of your whining, take you to see this healer and you beg him. Maybe you are skeptical because you have tried everything else but this healer doesn’t say a word. Simply, gently, takes you by the hand and walks you away from everyone else. Then he spits on your face. Maybe you would think that this wouldn’t work because this healer is just doing what everyone else has already tried. But then this healer does something else. This healer lays hands on the man a second time. this time it takes.
I love our text it says he looked with his “eyes wide open” and for the first time he can see everything clearly.
Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you have been that guy.
Maybe you are going through some stuff right now. Grief, loss, addiction, unemployment, health issues, or just stuff….
Maybe you have begged God for healing and all you feel right now is alone?
Maybe you feel so alone and everything normal that you are trying isn’t working, or it is only working a little bit?
If that’s you, then there is good news and that good news is right here. In this verse where Jesus spits in your face is where we find good news.
The best news you may hear all day is that Jesus isn’t done yet.
Jesus didn’t stop with a partial healing, Jesus didn’t stop with only doing a job half way.
Jesus will see you through to the end.
You might feel like you are in the middle of a tunnel with no light at the end, and it is there that Jesus is still working. Still in the process of bringing healing.
I don’t know why some people are miraculously and instantly healed and others are not but I know that what we get in our scripture is that Jesus will not stop until it is all done perfectly.
Another author writes that he is confident that the Jesus who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.
Jesus doesn’t do anything halfway, Jesus will finish what He started in you.
So, you might be going through some stuff and you might feel alone in all of that, but Jesus is with you.
That is where the church comes in. We are all here today, many of us from different churches and backgrounds and yet the church serves as a reminder that you are not alone. That Jesus is with you in the midst of all that you are going through. We gather in our churches on Sunday mornings to sings songs and here a sermon and pray and while those are great things they serve a higher purpose. A purpose to remind us that Jesus is walking with us and even when we can’t see him or feel him there will come a day when our healing will be complete and we can see perfectly again.
So then, as we finish up our worship and we sing again. Know that if you find it hard to be thankful this time of year you can at least be thankful for the process. It might be painful and it might not look like much but we can be thankful that Jesus is in the midst of it with us.

A word on Tithing

December 26th, 2014 by RevBT
Talk about the most important thing Jesus ever talked about and what it means for us today. Jesus has two major topics. The Kingdom of God and Money. More than anything else those two things are important to Jesus. We have spent some time taking about the Kingdom of God and how Jesus instructs us to introduce new people to the Kingdom of God. Now let’s talk about money.
Let’s pray: God, it is easy to beat people up over money. Instead, let me encourage people about money.

Checkbook is where rubber meets the road.  Where what is really in our heart is shown.  Your checkbook will tell what you really care about.

  • No matter what you say your checkbook gives away what you really believe
  • Think back to your 10 most recent transactions.
  • Most of it goes to home, cars, food.
  • What is next? Yourself? Your family? Healthcare?
  • If you only had your checkbook to describe yourself would it be accurate? would it say you love yourself most, your family most or would it say that you love Jesus most? in luke 14 Jesus says if he isn’t first you are not a Christian. even says you must hate everyone else.

As followers of God we are called to make every part of our life look pleasing in the eyes of God, including our checkbook. Part of what that means is we are called to give back to God

Leviticus 27:30 says that first 10% of everything is holy.

Hebrew: Ma’hasar = 10%

Malachi 3:10 says bring the whole 10% into the store house – Local Church

  • Above 10% goes elsewhere but first 10% is for the local church.
  • store house is where priests kept supplies to help those in need.
  • Yes, this is what keeps the lights on, pays my salary, pays mission share.
  • It is also what keeps VBS, Choir, Outreach, and Revivals happening and making disciples of all nations.

A lot of times we don’t do this. The reality is it becomes more difficult to give the more we have.

  • If I only make 10 dollars a year it is easy to give away 1 because you can’t do much with 1 dollars, we do this even for children’s sermons
  • But if I make 10 thousand a year giving away 10% is hard because that 1,000 is something we can do something with.
  • If God blesses me and I make 100,000 a year giving away 10k is a lot. There is no way I am giving away that much money.
  • Ain’t no way I am giving away 10k I can do something with that.
  • We can justify to ourselves why we shouldn’t give away more.


That isn’t how to be rich it is how to be selfish. As followers of God we aren’t called to be selfish. Instead we are going to be intentional about returning to God what belongs to God.

Tithing teaches me to put God first. Deut. 14:23

  • The purpose of the tithe is to teach you to always put God first in your lives.
  • tithing is 10% of your income into the offering plate of the church. Without designating it. If you are designating your tithe it isn’t a tithe. If you say “I’m going to give my tithe to a specific fund.” You are not tithing. Tithing is left up to the will of God and you give up control over how it is spent. 

As a result….

  • If the first check you write is to God then your life will begin to reflect God first in your life.

Most of the time we don’t give to God first

  • For example we have a pie
  • Mortgage – big piece
  • Car payment
  • Credit Card Debt
  • Kids and activities
  • Cable
  • Self Care

We forget god and give God our leftovers.That isn’t being rich, that is being selfish

Tithing teaches us to put God first.

  • First fruit belongs to God.
  • Take whole pie and cut out 10%
  • we say thank you for blessing me with this whole pie but this first part isn’t mine so we give it back to God.  It is my honor to worship you with 10%
  • This teaches me to prioritize my whole life around God.  I am worshipping with 10% but my whole life is around God.

Tithing increases my faith in God.

  • 90% with the blessing of God goes further than 100% without the blessing from God.
  • It takes faith to give to God first.
  • If we give what’s left over it doesn’t take faith.

Malachi 3:10

  • Test me.  See if your 90% goes further than your 100%
  • We must be intentionally giving back to God what is already Gods.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:7 We must decide in our hearts what we are going to give and not make excuses.
  • No giving less because of a bad sermon, bad hymns, or you are angry. What is your heart telling you to give?
  • that is robbing god and allowing others to steal what already is god that is saying you are going to let someone else determine your worship to god.

2 Corinthians 9:7

  • Give with Joy.  God has given you oxygen, food, intelligence, salvation, and so much more.  Giving back to God in joy is a natural response when you realize everything you have and are is a gift from God.

This is how God gave to us, with joyful and intentional faith.

  • Romans 5:8 While we were yet sinners Jesus died for us. Jesus believed by Faith that we would respond.
  • if you say ten percent is old testament you are right. new testament is everything. every penny and your very being on the altar as a living sacrifice. so maybe we will start with a tithe until we learn to give our whole being to god.
  • At the cross Jesus died for the whole world believing in faith that his sacrifice would change the world.
  • If you can’t decide is it 10% of the net or the gross, you make that decision with joy and knowledge that Jesus gave everything He had so that you can have eternal life. 
  • God doesn’t care if you put in 10k or 10 cents. What God wants is for you to put him first in your life. To prioritize your life so that everything revolves around God and your money is included in that. So start with 10% and see what God does next.
  • Not about equal giving, it is about equal sacrifice.

I once heard a tv preacher say that when we give his ministry a hundred God will repay a thousand. That is an abuse of scripture. We don’t give to get rich. We give because we trust in God and understand that God has called his followers to be faithful in all aspects of our life and that includes our wallet. You may not get a return and a new rolls Royce but you will get a life revolving around god and that Is more important than anything else.