Groundbreaking Remarks // 2022.09.18

Comments from Pastor Nate Powell, shared at the Family Life Center Harvest groundbreaking on September 18, 2022:
 

The great king Solomon once wrote these famous words in Psalm 127: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stay awake in vain.” Solomon was a great man to write such a thing. It was he who oversaw the construction of a Temple in Jerusalem. It was he who oversaw the vast expansion of the great city of Jerusalem. He knew a thing or two about construction and overseeing construction. And he knew that if the Lord was the one establishing something, it would be built to last.

Today, we are here on this field, in with the dirt, looking at the beginnings of a construction project that has been more that 20 years in the making. We have dreamed, hoped, prayed, given, sometimes argued, sometimes stalled, sometimes doubted, yet we persevered so that this day could become a reality. It is the day the Lord has made, and we will rejoice and be glad in it!

110 years ago, that building behind us opened so that for generations in this community, the people of God would have a place to gather in unity as Christians and the gospel of Jesus would be proclaimed in Auburn, Nebraska. Each of you have played a roll in that, as have your parents, grandparents and many others who have gone before.

Now, more than 100 years later and nearly 150 years after this church’s founding, the message and hope of Jesus Christ continue, so much so, that we continue to bring families to faith in Jesus and we continue to minister to youth so that they may know the goodness of God just as we did in our youth. We continue to value the fellowship and gathering of believers in groups large and small, for feasting and for prayer, the young and the old.

It is to those ends we gather today and we break this ground for Auburn Christian Church’s Family Life Center. I’m certain that many of you had to pinch yourself today, as I have, just to remind yourself that this is actually happening. We are doing more than talking about it! We are taking the step of faith to do it. And today we pray that we will not be building in vain, as Solomon spoke of. As I have walked with our church and these leaders thru this process, the Lord’s hand has been clearly seen and felt. He provoked the generosity and provided the gift from Zella Franz that helped initiate this project. He gave the leaders who guided us thru the process of making those funds available to use to these ends. He gave this piece of land to us at a good price. He gave our leaders vision for the type of facility that would sit on this land. He brought our current leadership team together and kept us working in unity. He held our church unified, healthy and strong thru the challenges of COVID. He provided partners from The Giving Church, Construction Team Management & Genesis Contracting to give us a floor plan, a financing plan and a contractor that will see the project thru. He provided The Solomon Foundation that would work with our church to provide the needed financing and fill the financial gap so that we could take this step of faith. It is He, the Lord, that is holding us together at this time and he that will see us thru.

I truly believe that it is the Lord that is building this building, so that he may build the true spiritual building, his church. It is because we have hearts for Jesus and hearts for our neighbors in Auburn that we build this building. It is not to make much of ourselves, but so that the name of Jesus would be glorified for another 100+ years in Auburn and Nemaha County. To those ends I have a couple of exciting announcements regarding where this project sits today.

First, we want to celebrate the fact that 47 different family units that made initial commitments to the Harvest campaign have continued to give toward their commitments. Those families have given a total of $216,000 toward the project.

As well, we have had another group of unpledged donors that have stepped up to the plate. There have been another 26 giving individuals/groups that have given another $28,000 to the project. That brings the total in both pledged and unpledged giving to $245,000! Praise the Lord for the Harvest gifts that have been given to move this project forward.

Secondly, I want to speak regarding one of our sisters in Christ, Jackie Williams. Many of you know that Jackie lost her battle with heart disease this past June. If you’d ever visited with Jackie in these past months and years, you know that she was a woman with a strong faith and a fierce love for her church. She was a tremendous encouragement to me and to so many of you. She wanted the ministry of this church to continue long after she was gone. It was after her passing that we were contacted by her family, and notified that the church would be receiving a gift from her estate. I’m pleased to report that within the next two weeks, the church will be receiving a check of more than $143,000 from Jackie’s estate! I truly believe that Jackie would be so excited by the arrival of this day. She would be so excited to see dreams becoming reality for this church family.

I say all of that to say this: Thank God for the provision and generosity of his people. We know this is not the finish line. But it is a milestone. We know that the giving is not done. There is more construction to happen. There is plenty of planning to do in how we will use this facility for ministry. I want to say to those who are here who may not have been able to partner in giving to this point … maybe you had kids in college, or medical issues, or career changes you’ve been dealing with. You couldn’t get involved in this project then, but you still can now! The Harvest campaign will continue. You can pledge with us toward making this facility a reality. For those who have questions about what all is entailed in this facility and how it fits into the future of ACC, I would love to visit with you. Please make sure that you let me know you’d like a visit, and I would be glad to do it.

Church, let’s give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever, from generation to generation. The Lord is building His house, his church, the people of God. And toward those ends, let’s strive as a church to carry the gospel of Jesus forward her and to always be for Jesus & for Auburn. Today, we break ground on this tool God has given to His church to grow His Kingdom.



Jesus: The Hated One

One thing that cannot be understated from this past Sunday’s sermon (and that we should continue to emphasize and expect) is that the world hates the followers of Jesus because it hates Jesus and hates the Gospel. (If you didn’t get to catch up on that sermon, give it a listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0vqhRY63bQ)

 I’d like to take a moment to pick it apart even further than I did in Sunday’s sermon because it is important for us to see that on every level of the Good News of Jesus, the world still hates him. There are two passages I’d like to explore and quickly outline. One is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. There Paul writes: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”

This passage is one of the clearest passages in the Bible in terms of the Gospel being spelled out. But on every level of it, the world hates and opposes the truth of who Jesus is and what Jesus did. Look at it piece by piece:

  • “Christ Died for our Sins”: There are several implications about these five words that the world hates. “Sins” means that there is a standard of right and wrong, which is out of our control. It is a standard that is both written and judged by God Almighty. “Our sins” implies that we do wrong, and that we do it a lot. We own this wrong, and we can’t pin it on someone else. And the wrong was severe against God, to the point that he sent is Son “Christ Died FOR our sins”. He loved us that much. To believe Him is to believe that He died for your sins so that you can say with the church: “He died for OUR sins.” But the world opposes and hates such a standard and such a love.
  • “According to the Scriptures”: These four words are a threat to the world as well, because to imply that there are scriptures is to imply that there is an Author … and not just any author: an authoritative author. One who could prophesy hundreds and thousands of years before hand what his plan would be and then would bring it to pass. This means that there is a God, he has spoken clearly (so that we are without excuse for not responding to his love and his offer). It means that God has a plan, a story that he is writing. And it is a story that he will bring to completion. The world hates that we have such an author, such a book, and such a plan that is being carried out within his providence and sovereignty.
  • “He was buried”: These three words don’t get enough press, but they are a key part of the Gospel. Jesus was buried is the ground. This means that his body was dead. It wasn’t some theoretical sacrifice. He was placed in a tomb, again according to prophecy. The world hates the tomb, because it implies that what is claimed about the life and resurrection aren’t merely theoretical, they are empirical. The Tomb in which is body laid no longer has a body in it. He didn’t faint, his body wasn’t stolen, we won’t find some other grave of Jesus. But the world wishes if there was one place that Jesus actually could still be found, it would be in a tomb so it could be claimed that he is just a man and not God.
  • “He was raised on the third day”: These words the world hates because they speak of the power of God to raise himself from the dead. He has a power that no one else knows and that no other religious leader can lay claim to. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead (Rev 1:4), and he died and rose to bring his sons and daughters with him into glory. His resurrection is a conclusive proof that every other claim he made was true, and that he can be trusted.
  • “He appeared to Cephas … the twelve … the 500.” Again, these words add to the verification factor. It’s not just that these people saw him in some vision or vapor. They saw him in the flesh, they recognized him and they worshipped him. When we see testimony of multiple eyewitnesses submitted to the court, those who are open to receive evidence will receive it gladly, and those who’s minds are made up to be opposed (for selfish reasons, I might add) will respond accordingly with rejection and hatred.
  • “He appeared to me.” This may be the most offensive of all. Paul has a personal testimony of encountering and responding to the risen Christ. This is true of every one of his followers as well. Those who claim to be Christians claim that he is risen and living, and they have encountered Him as well. The world hates the one who claims “God spoke to me.” But in Jesus, that is what God has done to each of us who believe. The world will hate us for it.

If we had more time today in this article, I’d love to spend it examining in the same way Titus 2:11-14 and the Gospel truths of what Jesus is returning to do and what he is doing in his church. If you have some time, read that passage as well and ask yourself as you examine it: “What does the world hate about Jesus & his followers?”

From top to bottom, what I want you to see is that those who embrace Jesus love him fully for all that he is, and those who oppose Jesus hate him fully as well. As you embrace Jesus, take Him fully for all that he is, and rest is His love as you face whatever challenges today may hold. The world may hate us, but Jesus loves us, and that love should hold us and compel us to live in this world with that Love in mind everyday, seeking to save the lost and to bring to belief those who would believe.

Standing strong in His love with you,

Pastor Nate



Peace Be With You

By Pastor Nate Powell

No matter where you look in the world, there is trouble. Nearly everyone wants peace of some kind. Obviously, the peace that the pot-smoking hippie of the 60’s and the war-scarred Vietnam vet seem to be at the opposite of a political scale. One seems to seek a peace that puts aside all rules and cultural taboos, the other seems to seek a peace that waits in a future free from communism. But I think there is a common desire on the part of both the pacifist and the warrior: they long for a day that all weapons are laid down, and there is peace in the world.

What they long for is eternity. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that God “has put eternity into man’s heart.” [Ecclesiastes 3:11] There is an innate knowledge and longing for what is to come outside of this flesh, this time, and the confines of this life. We long for God’s peace. But what we want in this life, we will not have in the tangibles senses in which we want it. That peace will truly only be achieved when the forces of evil are vanquished on the day of Jesus’ return. Until then, we will have trouble. Jesus promises that for all of us in John 16:33: “In the world you will have tribulation.” We can count on it, that until the end of time, trouble with surround us, conflict with happen, battles and wars will rage. But Jesus goes on to remind us “take heart; I have overcome the world.” This is why he says these things to us, “so that we [his followers] may have peace.”

The peace of Jesus Christ is not always an external peace in this life. It can be. He can heal wounds between families, between brothers or between enemies. But his peace that he promises to each believer in this passage is a deep and abiding peace that we encounter thru the presence of the Holy Spirit. It’s not some “peace” of which the hippies spoke but never realized. It’s beyond a peace which is simply a laying down of arms. It’s a knowledge that when we are in Jesus, when his words abide in us, we have peace with God. His Spirit is living in us and guiding us.

That’s why I’m thrilled to be offering both of our support groups on Monday nights. GriefShare is a wonderful group where grieving people find support that they need to process their grief, and continue in their grieving process. DivorceCare is a new support program we are offering where individuals who are divorced or separated can find support to get thru this difficult period in their lives. I love both of these programs, because they are pointing people toward finding peace. But it is not a vague peace that the world offers. We are pointing people toward our only source of true hope and peace in life and death, Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ has given us his peace so that we may share it with others. I hope you’ll be praying for our church in these days and as we share the good news of the peace he brings that sticks with us thru the most difficult of days. Remember and cling to His words: “Take heart; I have overcome the world.”

May His peace go with you this week,

Pastor Nate Powell



Childlike Faith

by Youth Pastor Zach Shackelford

The other day while running various errands, I found my mind wandering as it so often does while driving familiar routes and streets. However, this time instead of the usual random or inconsequential thoughts that I so often drift toward I began to ponder how I might answer certain questions my son is bound to ask in the coming years. Why do we go to church? Who is God? What does he look like? All these questions and more are sure to come. Now I’m not sure why I considered such a topic that afternoon, perhaps it was due to having concluded VBS days prior, but I am sure that it was both important to think on: for those future conversations and also my current walk.

Now I promise this is not another parenting message, Nate did a very good job of that last week. As I considered how I might respond in those potential scenarios, I was drawn to how necessary yet satisfactory truly simple answers can be for a child. I found myself reminded of passages like Luke 18:17 and Mark 10:15 where Jesus made clear the importance of receiving the Kingdom of God “like a child”. 

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.

These passages and others lead to the common expression of having a “child-like” faith, and it is this idea that I want to explore with you today through an encouragement, a challenge, and a caution.

 

Our Encouragement: One of the countless beauties of the Gospel is its clarity and simplicity; a message of truth able to be shared with our children in an impactful way. We never outgrow our need for this simple truth to be understood at the core of our lives. Sometimes though, these truths can be taken for granted in their simplicity, I know I often treat them as little more than neat trivia facts as opposed to the life impacting encouragement they ought to be. What a true comfort it is to be told “Jesus loves you”. How incredible is the security to hear “God has forgiven you”. What can match the awe and wonder of hearing “God created everything and He created you”. It is my hope that we would gain incredible encouragement from having a childlike faith, by drawing immense impact from even the simplest of truths.

 

Our Challenge: Much in the same vein as the passages from Luke and Mark, as they pertain to being like children in receiving the Kingdom of God, Matthew 18: 4 adds in a challenging addition to the concept of having a childlike faith.

Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Receiving the Kingdom of God like a child is to receive it in full recognition of our neediness, smallness, and dependency within the Kingdom. In the face of that reality a posture of humbleness would of course be the natural response. However, as we are all too well aware, humility is not often our natural bend. I believe that our challenge is twofold; we of course should feel the call to be humble before others, as we read in Philippians 2:3 … but in humility count others more significant than yourselves that is quite clear. What we are also challenged by is the need to be humble before God, like a child is to a parent. I know I often assume the posture of a young child at the grocery store, adamant that they can push the cart all by themselves. Of course they are on their tip-toes, can’t see what is before them, and left to their own devices would cause an aisle to look more like a demolition derby than grocery store. I am just as much in over my head as one of those young boys or girls, just like them declaring “I can do it. Don’t help me. I want to do it myself!” The pride that leads a child to have such misguided confidence, is the same as the pride in us to act the same. Our need for, dependence on, and smallness compared to God cannot be overstated, yet I know I live a faith that often blatantly ignores that. It is indeed a challenge to have a faith that draws us to humbly recognize our true dependence on God in all our life situations, good or bad, and to take the posture of a needy child to a perfect father.

 

Our Caution: It is important to note that to have faith that is childlike is worthwhile, to have a childish faith is not. Just as there are clear biblical calls to have trust, awe, and humility toward God; we also read of the call to grow in maturity. 1 Corinthians 14:20 says:

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 

There should be a succinct distinction between how a childlike faith affects our posture and mindset versus having childish thinking and wisdom. God desires for us to grow: grow in our knowledge of Him, seek deeper truths, and continue to align our lives with that of Christ. To apply having a childlike faith to mean not growing or maturing would be both incorrect and damaging to one’s relationship with God. Our desire should be to seek further connection to and understanding of God, while staying in the same right relation to Him as his child.

 

It is my hope and prayer that each of us would seek to have a faith that is marked by trust, awe, joy, and humility; like that of a child towards a parent while also continually growing towards holiness and maturity. 

 

Zach Shackelford

Youth Pastor



Pitfalls in Parenting

By Pastor Nate Powell

At ACC, we love kids and families. That was apparent in the previous week of VBS, and it is apparent in all that we do to invest in our kids and students. But as a guy who has been at this parenting business for more than 23 years, I’m reminded everyday that parenting is a hard business, especially if you are seeking to raise your children to love, follow & serve Jesus. And that is exactly what we are called to do.

Parents, let’s be clear about our biblical calling as parents:

  • Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Prov 22:6)
  • Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
  • And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
  • Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. (Proverbs 29:17)

So, understand that in the raising of your children, they are not neutral parties to be raised in some neutral way. We, as disciples of Christ, are to guide the to walk with and in Jesus. We are to guide them to follow the Lord’s commands. And we do so because children are a blessing from the Lord. As the Psalmist writes: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127:3-5)

As I said, we are to raise our children in the Lord. But that task seems to be growing ever more challenging, especially over the course of more than 2 decades of parenting. As I look at the landscapes that have changed drastically during my own time as a parent, I see four big challenges in the lives of every parent/child relationship, challenges that parents need to help students navigate.

Smart Phones/Tech: Many of us growing up had no TV in our rooms, let alone a gaming system, an unlimited video library, a phone or even a carrier pigeon. Yet, all of these things are combined in the Smartphone & other tech advances that we’ve seen in the past few years. While (like most things) these can be real blessings, they can also be real distractions. More and more, I see teens in a room full of people, isolated on their screens. This is monopolizing their time, pulling them away from relationships with people around them, and if left unchecked, will make them both unfruitful and unproductive. I was visiting with an educator recently, who reminded me that parents forget the power they have in both giving and taking away the rights of the smartphone. There are many parents who are unwilling to take away the cell phone from their kids for fear of appearing unloving to their child. There is a lot of power and authority that you have in both giving and taking away the privilege of the phone and other tech. Pro tip: Use device leverage to your maximum advantage. Give & take away the phone to promote the activity and attitude you want in your kid/teen.

Social Media & Internet: Until the last 20+ years, nobody had to deal with the pitfalls of the internet or social media. It has come with tons of blessings, but perhaps even more negatives. The reason is because for every positive we get from the internet (education/research, quick communication with friends around the world), there are more negatives (porn, toxic influences). Learning to limit the negative flow of content into our lives is very key, and our kids definitely need guidance on how to use these tools wisely. Knowing what I know now, I recommend keeping your kids off of social media as long as you can, and certainly not allowing them to open accounts before they are 13. It is good to not allow students to use the internet unsupervised or unfiltered. No devices in the Christian house should be off-limits for accountability from a parent. Pro tip: Set up your internet router with software like Circle, which can filter bad content, and can allow parents to turn on/turn off different social network access points.

Sexuality & Indoctrination: On every corner these days, we see the LGBT Agenda getting pushed, as well as an attitude that (for years) has pressed our kids into sexual activity and identity questions at ages that are younger and younger. This is why we see schools, libraries, and all kinds of kids TV being targeted to indoctrinate kids to the sexual agendas of those who would seek to convert them. The Bible is not silent on this stuff (Romans 1:16-32 & 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 for starters), and neither should parents be. We must be informed, and we must be open with our children about what the scriptures say. We must not just have “a talk” about sex, but many, age-appropriate talks to answer questions about gender & sexuality with our kids/teens. Pro tip: Educate yourself on what the Bible says & what Christians believe so you can have a ready answer when it comes to talking to your kids about such things. Walt Mueller & the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding have put together and excellent handout on “God’s Plan for Sex & Gender”. You can download the PDF by clicking here.

Schedules & Busyness: The final challenge I’ve seen in my days as a parent is one that I saw when I lived in Indiana when I started in youth ministry, and it worked its way here to Nebraska. It is the rise of club sports & year-round training in student athletics. Don’t get me wrong: I love sports, and we all love basketball around here. But the desire to fill the calendar with wall-to-wall training, lifting, practices and games has gotten out of hand. My reason for saying that is this: where is there Sabbath in the lives of families? Where is a day of rest and worship? Where is the priority of Jesus and the modeling of faith on the part of parents? Parents, if your kids see you minimizing the importance of church for an athletic or training schedule, don’t be surprised if they don’t exhibit signs of faith when they get older. Pro tip: Here is your permission from your pastor. Say no to games, activities & sports that involve Sunday morning. Make youth groups on Wednesdays a priority. If enough parents are willing to say no, there will eventually be change.

I hope you know that I am sharing these things humbly with you. I certainly don’t have everything figured out, either as a Christian or as a parent. I’m simply a disciple who has a few years of discipleship and parenting experience on me, and just wanted to share some bits of wisdom to help you as you seek to point your kids to Christ. I’m in your corner. I’m happy to be a resource. And I’m always praying for you.

I would encourage you to check out more from the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. They have tons of good helps on their website for parents. They have weekly emails and multiple podcasts that deal with a variety of relevant topics to Christian parents. Read more at their website: cpyu.org.

May God bless and guide you in parenting today’s kids!

Pastor Nate

P.S. Have a bible question or other topic you’d like Pastor Nate to write about? Suggest it in an email to him: nate@auburnchristian.org.



All of my Animal Friends

By Pastor Nate Powell

VBS is always one of my favorite times of the year! It’s a time when the whole church chips in and makes something incredible happen for our kids, church memories that will last for their whole lives. To do that this year, we are traveling to the outback and seeing what the fascinating animals of Australia have to teach us!

  • There’s Jumpin’ Jack the Kangaroo, who reminds us that we are specially designed by our creator. We didn’t evolve, but were specially made in God’s image, male and female. (Genesis 1:27)
  • There’s Shimmer the Coral, who reminds us that each of us our fearfully and wonderfully designed, with a body full of special features. (Psalm 139:14)
  • There’s Bill the Platypus, who reminds us that every person matters to God. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, healthy or sick: You matter to God! (Luke 6:31)
  • There’s Paula the Koala, who reminds us that God loves us so much that he sent his son Jesus to die for us. We should respond by believing in Jesus so that we may know we have eternal life. (John 11:25)
  • There’s Ringo the Dingo, who reminds us that our creator made us for a purpose, and we find out life’s true purpose in HIM! (Ephesians 2:10)

These are great truths of the scripture, and I’m thankful for every volunteer who is helping deliver them to these kids this week. Every child matters to God, and I hope their faith and love for the Lord grows because of the truths they encounter this week. Keep praying for our kids and volunteers this week, and meditate on this truth with us: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14)

To Australia and back with you,

Pastor Nate

 

Have a question from scripture or other issues that you’d like to see Pastor Nate address in future emails/articles? Drop him an email at nate@auburnchristian.org, and let him know!



Playing in the Dirt with the Punks

By Pastor Nate Powell

 

You have your favorite bands and I have mine. We love to sing along to the words of those songs that we know, and those lyrics often have a deep resonation within us, reminding us of truths that we hold to or people that we love.

 

That being said, a favorite band of mine penned some of the following lyrics, and I will often be found singing along when I’m jamming to them in the car:

 

  • “My sleep was shattered by blinding light / High and lifted up upon His throne / Was the great I AM and me alone / Jehovah´s glory was all about / All heaven shook with the angel shout: / “Three times holy is this God of might” / Here am I / Send me / Here am I / Take me / Here am I / Use me / Here am I / Spend me / Send me, take me, use me, spend me / I am not my own.”
  • “Let´s hate all that is evil / And stick with what is good / or else we mock the Man who died / Upon a cross of wood.”
  • “Offering’s the time when proving piety’s a cinch / Thumbing Andrew Jacksons, so that all can catch a glimpse / Your right hand tells your left hand the great sacrifice you’ve made / But the widow’s penny next to you just blew your wad away.”

 

I could go on with great quotes from one of my favorite bands. The name of the band is One Bad Pig, and they are a Christian Punk Band that landed on the Christian Metal scene in the late 80’s and early 90’s. They had some super quirky, funny and novel things about them, but the funny part is that they have lyrics that have dug their way into my head, and have left a tremendous impact on my faith from the time I was in High School. The guys in OBP love the Lord, a couple of the guys in the band are pastors and their lyrical theology chops are as deep as reading a systematic theology book.

 

As I was preaching about the washing of the feet and what Christ was willing to do in his incarnation, I was reminded of the lyrics of another OBP song. These lyrics remind me of what Jesus did in his foot washing, his healing and all that he did in his ministry to people. He was clean. They were dirty. But he was not afraid to get his hands dirty.

 

Get Your Hands Dirty (music/lyrics by Paul Q-Pek):

Click here to listen to the song, if you dare!

 

“You were sinking deep in sin

You were lost but now you’re found

Been washed whiter than snow

Don’t be afraid to touch the ground

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty

 

To the punks and the prostitutes

The homeless, poor and needy

You are called to the least of these

Don’t be afraid to love the unlovely

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty

 

The Son of Man wrote in the dirt

He spit, made mud and healed the blind

He saw me wallowing deep in my sin

And he embraced this filthy swine

Christ our Lord, he got his hands dirty!

Praise the Lord, he got his hands dirty!”

 

As a pastor, I don’t really care that much about getting you into any type of music … Christian Punk may not be your cup of tea. But I am very into growing a group of disciples at ACC who are becoming more like Jesus. Remember this week: He washed feet. He got his hands dirty so we could be clean. And he calls us to love like he has loved us. Remember his words: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” (John 13:14-15)

 

Are you willing to get your hands dirty this week with the savior to love and serve those God has placed around you?

 

Hearts clean. Hands dirty. Let’s serve!

 

Pastor Nate

 



Where is Your Spine?

By Pastor Nate Powell

Spineless // Definition: 1) having no spine or backbone, invertebrate. 2) lacking resolution, weak or purposeless.

Again, this past Sunday, in preaching thru John, there was a short 2 verse section that I didn’t comment on, but wanted to make sure I addressed in this space this week.

In John 12:37-41, John is reminding the reader of the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled when people did not believe in Jesus. All who were opposing Jesus were unwitting tools in the hands of God in their unbelief. But there is another group of people noted among the Jewish leadership. We read of them in verses 42-43: “Nevertheless, many did believe in him even among the rulers, but because of the Pharisees then did not confess him, so that they would not be banned from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than praise from God.”

What is John describing here? He is describing someone who is spineless. They say they believe something, but they don’t believe it enough to speak up. He’s saying that there were Pharisees who had fully put the signs, words and clues together. They knew that Jesus was the Messiah. They were leaders in a position of leadership. But it says they did not confess him because they didn’t want to be banned from the synagogue. Their life was not in danger. Their health was not in danger. But their social status was in danger. They were too afraid to speak about Jesus, because they cared way too much about their standing among the other Jewish leaders.

“They loved human praise more than praise from God.” We can look at this statement on its face and understand that this is as despicable as the mindset of those who rejected Jesus, which is why the two types of Jewish leaders are listed together in this passage. Those who don’t believe and those who believe but stay silent are cut from the same cloth.

This idea of loving praise from people more than praise from God will ALWAYS be one of the biggest temptations for the Christian. It will always be easier for us to stay silent when it comes to wrongdoing & injustice than it is to speak out. It will always be easier for us to stay silent about the fact that we follow Jesus than to speak up. Praise of people will always be more desirable because it is immediate, it is convenient, and it is pleasing to our sinful flesh. Pride wants the praise of people. Humility seeks to serve people and honor God. These are directly opposed to one another.

There are currently Christians in our own country who have faced lawsuits, lost jobs, and faced very public derision because of their public stands against what is false and for what is right in their own lives. The articles I’ve linked to above are just the tip of the iceberg of the challenges that are increasingly faced lately, and may even be faced by us or people close to us.

Christian, today is not the moment for the spinelessness of the church. We must remember who we serve and who we are founded upon: Jesus Christ. He is the cornerstone of the church. (Ephesians 2:19-21) He is the King of Kings. (1 Tim 6:15) And he demonstrated the way of the cross, to lay down his life for his church and for what is true. (John 10:11) We should ask a few critical questions today:

  • What cultural/philosophical idols are we being asked to bow down to? (Col 3:5)
  • On what truths are we being asked to compromise? (2 John 7-11)
  • In what senses are we being asked to call evil good, or good evil? (Isa 5:20)
  • Toward what ends are our words being pressured into silence? (Eph 5:11, Prov 31:9)

There are answers to these questions. Are your eyes open to see them? Do not be pressured into silence to please people. Do not be pressured into losing your identity in Christ. “Do not conform, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) Let’s stand strong in the Lord and be known as a people who have a spine.

Looking to stand stronger today than yesterday,

Pastor Nate



The Cutting Floor: Poor Always?

By Pastor Nate Powell
 
The process of preaching is both a blessing and a challenge. I want to make sure I understand the text clearly. I want to make sure I communicate it accurately. And occasionally, in the process, I have to leave some things unaddressed in the text, for the sake of time, conciseness and clarity.
This last week was one of those weeks, when there was a topic/verse I really wanted to address, but there wasn’t time to chase that rabbit. Occasionally, when I believe it’s warranted, I want to use this article in the ACC Extra to address one of those rabbits that are worth chasing.
The verses in question are John 12:7-8. In the passage, we see Mary approaching Jesus and anointing his feet with this expensive Nard ointment. She wipes his feet with her hair and the room is filled with the fragrance. As the skeptical Judas notes, this gift was over the top. It was enough that it could have been sold for a year’s wages. His cold heart pretend to care about the poor, saying that he wanted to sell the ointment for those purposes. But the text makes clear that Judas only wanted to pillage the money for himself, because he was a dishonest thief.
 
Jesus then responds to Judas in verses 7-8: “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” In saying this, he makes it obvious that she’s not using the full amount of this ointment on him now, but only a portion. His implication is that the remainder of this ointment is to be saved for Jesus burial, as this nard was one of the common ointments or spices used to care for the body of the dead after their burial. In fact, you’ll remember that just over a week later, it’s very likely that they are taking this very ointment to the tomb to care for Jesus body after his burial.
 
But listen to what Jesus says especially in verse 8: “The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” In that phrase, Jesus is speaking of course to the fact that he will not always physically here with his disciples. While he is here with them physically, it is time for those who recognize him as Savior and Lord to worship him. But I really want to clue in on that previous phrase: “the poor you will always have with you.”
I think these words of Jesus communicate three important truths about poverty that we should make note of.
 
We cannot hope to fully eliminate poverty: There seems to be a general idea that gets promoted in political circles today that poverty is like a disease, and that if we could just put enough money and resources into it, then it would go away. Jesus makes it clear that this is not the case, and that there will always be the poor among us. Why is that? In order to know it, we have to actually know poor people and know that there are a myriad of reasons why they are poor. Some of those reasons are out of their control, and some of them are of their own doing. Some of those who are poor are poor because of the poor decisions of a parent or family member, lack of education, being stuck in low wage jobs, losing value of the dollar due to cost increases and inflation. Others are poor because of wasteful decisions and unwise lifestyle choices, or thru money wasted in substance abuse or addictions. Often, there is a mixture of these factors in play. But one thing that Jesus is noting is that as long as there is sin in the world, there will be poor people in the world. Their needs will not go away. They will be here until his second coming. Don’t fall for ideas that try to communicate the possibility of eliminating poverty. From now til the end of time, people will have bad things done to them, and they will make unwise decisions with their resources.
 
We can identify & meet the needs of the poor: At the same time, Jesus’ words here are not a discouragement from seeking to meet the needs of the poor. In fact, a desire to help the poor is an indication of a compassionate heart, which is exactly what God desires for his followers and what believers in both the Old and New Testaments are supposed to be doing. Consider:
 
• Proverbs 22:9: Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.
• Psalm 140:12: I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy.
• James 1:27: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
• 1 John 3:17: But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
 
There are tons more verses we could note, but we simply want to note that God’s heart is for the poor, for providing for their needs. To ignore the poor would be to act in an unchristian manner and to ignore God’s will and desires for us. So, it is good for the church to keep her eyes open to the needs of the poor. To those ends, we as individual Christians and collectively as a church ought to meet needs as we can. Regularly at our church, we get calls from those with needs. We occasionally also have members who point out needs, and we seek to meet a need when it is appropriate & wise. As you know of a need, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Pastor Nate.
 
We can have dedicated generosity toward meeting those needs: One thing that is also implied from Jesus’ statement is that this type of generosity can and should be directed toward the poor. As we noted Mary’s great generosity yesterday, so we encourage generous gifts to aid the ministry of the church, and the needs of those around us. As God has been generous to you and has blessed you, so you are to be a blessing in what you can give. One expression of that dedicated generosity in our church has been in giving to our SOS fund (which stands for SomeOne Special). A few years ago, Pastor Corey Miller established this area of giving so that we would have some funds on-hand to deal specifically with the needs of people as they arose. Those funds are cared for by our finance team and are overseen toward expenditure by the office staff (Janell & I). In just the past week, we met needs for different families by aiding with fuel and food costs, and aid with housing costs for a family in need. We cannot meet every need, but we can meet some. If you know of a need, let us know. If you feel so led to give to SOS, please give.
 
As Jesus taught us, we will always have the poor. But we can do something as God’s compassion moves us. As we can, let’s meet a need and seek to help lead them to a better place of God’s provision and blessing, in Jesus’ name.
 
Serving Jesus as we serve the least of these,
Pastor Nate


Every Life Matters

By Pastor Nate Powell
 
The past three days have been some interesting days. This past Friday, the United States Supreme Court upheld the case of Dobbs v. Jackson regarding the Mississippi abortion law that banned the procedure at 16 weeks of pregnancy in that state. But the court did not stop there. They went on to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, two decisions that (for 49 years) found a right to abortion for women in the constitution. It is not an outright ban of abortion in the country but places the legislation of abortion regulation back on the states. I will not deal with the legal arguments here, but would simply ask those who thought the courts findings in the Roe or Casey cases were legal and just: Where in the original text of the constitution is there a “right to abortion”? (Hint: You won’t find it. It takes a lot of mental gymnastics to get there.)
 
From 1973, the church gradually awakened to understand what abortion actually was, especially as ultrasound technology has enabled us to look inside the womb and find that this organism is much more that a clump of cells, it is a human being worthy of dignity and respect. Abortion is the taking of a human life, an innocent human life. From 1973, the church prayed for and petitioned for an end to this unjust court decision. From 1973, the church promoted crisis pregnancy centers, adoption agencies and other means to support women in choosing life.
 
On June 24, 2022, Roe was overturned. This is what Christians who love life had prayed and hoped for over several decades. I believe it needs to be said today that it is both allowable and acceptable for Christians and for the church to express joy because a wrong has been righted and because justice is being done. We should not gloat or be proud, but simply be thankful that God has granted on request. The work is not over for life, but this is certainly a victory.
 
That said, it has been a taboo subject in the pastoral community as to whether or not to speak up on this subject. Sadly, some presume that to remain evangelistic and winsome to our communities, we must not speak up on issues by which others would judge us and consider us unloving.
 
To the contrary, I believe that a church and a pastor must speak for truth, defining sin, calling all people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
For the benefit of our church family, I am writing this short article today simply to remind you where I stand and where our church stands with regard to abortion and with regard to life. Our church’s bylaws, which we have voted to approve and which we agree to upon our placing of membership, address the issue this way: “The sanctity of life – We believe in the sanctity of life which begins from the moment of conception. We believe there is a Christian alternative to abortion. Instead of terminating the life of the unborn child, the newborn can be placed for adoption by loving Christians. Adoption is a concept authored by God, for all Christian believers have been adopted into the family of God. By choosing to give birth to her baby rather than having an abortion, the birth mother spares the life of a child created in the image of God.”
 
So is this just an opinion of man? Or does this have deeper roots in the scripture? After all, the word “abortion” is not in the Bible. Does this mean the Bible is silent on the issue? Not at all. What does the Bible say? The basic biblical argument looks like this
 
  • Humans are image bearers // Genesis 1:26-27: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” When God creates humans, he says they are his special creations. To take a human life is much different that simply a decision to put a cat to sleep or to take the life of livestock for food. The human life is distinct, with God-given dignity and worth. We are the pinnacle of his creation and should be treated as such.
  • Man and Woman’s gift of sexuality are intended for marriage and family // Genesis 1:28: “And God blessed [man & woman, created in His image]. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.’” Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” From the beginning, God’s plan was for mankind to form families as husband & wife. Their calling is to live in covenant as one flesh, “til death do us part”, and to reproduce as God blesses and allows. This is God’s intention for our sexuality, our marriages and his design for the safe upbringing of our children.
  • Children are a blessing // Psalm 127:3: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Mark 10:14: [Jesus said] “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Children are to be viewed by all people as a blessing, not a burden. They are his beautiful creations, and He loves them.
  • Murder is the taking of innocent life // Exodus 20:13: “You shall not murder.” The sixth commandment of the 10 commandments is quite clear: Murder goes against God’s law. All the rest of biblical morality falls in line with this command. To murder in the biblical sense is to put to death improperly; that is selfishly for selfish reasons. Specifically, this has to do with the taking of innocent human life. By all means and definitions, a baby or child is the most innocent and defenseless among us.
  • Children in the womb are people // Psalm 139:13: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Jeremiah 1:5: [The Lord says to Jeremiah] “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” As well in Luke 1:41, when Mary and Elizabeth meet, each pregnant with Jesus and John the Baptist respectively, the text says that the “baby leaped in [Elizabeth’s] womb.” John has an awareness of being in the presence of Jesus. In all these cases, the scripture clearly treats the child in the womb with personhood and respect. They are worthy of being called a person, and are worthy of life.

 

To be clear, we as a church want to be unambiguous and full-throated in our support for life & the family. This is why we are investing heavily in the future of our church. Our children matter to God. Our families matter to God. We will not back down from that position or apologize for it. Children and life matter to God, and they must matter to us!

 

In conclusion, I will readily admit that I understand the reasons why churches are negligent to address this issue at points. There are women in their church or community who have had abortions. They have family members who have had abortions. We all know someone who has had one. What we, as a church, must preach and teach is that there is forgiveness and grace in Jesus Christ for all who murder, for the cold-blooded killer, for the abortion doctor, and for the woman who has made this choice. When you repent and turn to Jesus Christ, you can know forgiveness and new life. In all things, we as a church call all people to see that they have sinned, to turn from their sin, and embrace Jesus as Savior & Lord.

 

In all things, Jesus has called us the light of the world. (Matt 5:14-16) We bring light to the darkness, exposing it for what it is (Eph 5:11), and we call people to step into the light of Jesus. (John 8:12)

 

Walking in His Life and Light,
Pastor Nate