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


Desensitized

By Pastor Nate Powell
 
I’m not sure if we often pause to consider the effect that is being felt in our everyday lives regarding what is taking place in the world around us: both in what we are exposed to, and what we are being desensitized to. Once I’m up and around for the morning, the shower has run, the prayers are prayed, the coffee is on … that’s when the news starts. Of late, my eyes just start to gloss over and it become hard to feel anything, when you hear of:
 
• Another shooting at a school or business.
• Another crime spree or riot in another city.
• More bad news on the economy front, from gas prices to grocery prices, which gets felt in the pockets of all the poorest among us.
• Another means of sexual deviancy and degeneracy being foisted on our country in the name of “pride” or “choice”.
 
This steady drip everyday on all of these fronts add up to the point where I turn on the news podcast out of habit, but I tune out half of it because it’s just the same bad news coming over and over. Maybe I’m not alone in this, and some of you are struggling in the same way.
Last week’s message from John 11 reminded us that when Jesus comes into our pain and grief with us, he is not unfeeling or uncaring. He is not desensitized to the pain of his friends. He weeps with us, he reacts, he feels. In that moment, Jesus is very present with his friends Mary and Martha. He is, as Paul writes in Ephesians 4:32, being “kind to one another, tenderhearted.”
When it comes to our tears as believers, we must let them flow. No excuses and no apologies. And we must be ready to cry them with other believers. I actively and pastorally cried last week with several family members who lost or were losing loved ones last week. But those tears came in spite of all that the world is trying to do to desensitize me to the suffering I see around me, that is very present in each of our lives.
 
I mention this about desensitization, because the world has become a different place than it was two years ago. We stay apart from each other more. We stay at home. We binge stream more shows. We consume more news & social media. And our online lives give a false sense that we are actually with or caring for people. It might be good for us to prioritize a few things to help with the desensitization of all that the world throws at us daily.
  • Prioritize Prayer Daily: Set timers if you have to. Keep a list. Let the news you receive from the media or from others impact your heart enough to bring it before The Lord in prayer. We are called as believers to never cease in praying (1 Thess 5:17). It is our first ministry. Let’s give it our first priority and not be desensitized to what is happening in the world or in the lives of those around us.
  • Turn Off the News: Your pastor is giving you permission. If your TV gets tuned to the news each evening for an entire evening of learning what’s wrong with the world, you have my permission to change the channel or turn the device off. Bad news filling all your free time does nothing to help your attitude in terms of loving your neighbor or doing something to address the issues the world is facing.
  • Give Social Media a Break: Your pastor is giving you permission on this one as well. Social media is a powerful tool, but without limits, social media can fill all the other free time that you TV can’t. Those news feeds are meant to monopolize your time, feed off of your fears and the things that fire you up, and like many things in life, are not healthy if they are not used in moderation. So, commit to a break, set limits, delete the app if you need to.
  • Connect with People and Needs around you: Who are you connecting with to help grow in their faith? Who is helping yours to grow? Your first impact is to be with your family, then with your neighbor. So go to coffee, connect with others, share the love of God and study His word. Serve at your church. When you see the needs around you in the world, let them stir you to action. Attend a school board meeting. Write a congressman/woman. Give time or money to a charity that helps meet the needs. We are to be the people living out Micah 6:8 every day and every week: doing justly, loving mercy, walking humbly with God.
 
Will you continue to live a desensitized life under the slow drip of bad news every day? Or will your senses be awakened to turn to the one with the power to do something about it … turning to the Lord and both prayer and service? Let’s be growing in the kindness and tenderheartedness that Paul spoke of every day.
 
Have any good tips you’ve noted to remain sensitive to the needs of people and the world around you? Email me: nate@auburnchristian.org.
 
Pressing Onward and Upward with you,
Pastor Nate


Preaching Thru John and What I’m Learning

By Pastor Nate Powell

              I don’t just wing it to come up with what I’m going to preach each week. I pray about it over the long term. I come to rest in a portion or book of scripture. Then we preach tactically and fully thru it.  In doing so, we try to make sure we preach thru the whole thing, especially the parts that may spark lots of questions.

Currently, we’ve been preaching thru the Gospel of John, and all I can say is “WOW!” I knew John, and I have loved John as a gospel, but studying it in depth has been both a true challenge and a blessing to me. It’s challenging in that the messages and patterns of the book are very clear, purposeful and repetitive. The purpose is to call you to belief in Jesus! (John 20:31) The book is laser focused on that purpose. But within that purpose, it really challenges me in my preaching. Is what I am saying fresh bread from God’s Word for his church today? Pray for me as I handle God’s word to handle it rightly, and to bring it to bear on our day and age in a contextualized and engaging way.

That being said, we are almost thru the Book of Signs (Chapters 1-12). In fact, I’m currently prepping this week’s message on the 7th Sign, the raising of Lazarus from the dead. It’s been eye-opening to see just how systematically John builds his case for who Jesus is, and I am hopeful that this series has been not only convincing for the church (as to who Jesus is), but convicting as well. Jesus calls the church to be the agents of his message of salvation and his call to belief for the world. Will you answer that call to give the call to salvation to your unbelieving family and friends?

As with any comprehensive book study, there are things which you notice, come to believe or become more convinced of in the process of your study. It is in that spirit that I share with you 3 things that I have become more convinced of as I’ve studied this great gospel.

  • John is the Author: I had already thought that I believed this before this study, but you would be surprised at the number of scholars (even pastors) who at times come to a study with certain presuppositions, deconstructing what has been written, and become less convinced that the scripture is authoritative and has authoritative sources. But I am more convinced than ever that this book is written by John. Kostenberger’s excellent book, “Signs of the Messiah”, outlines three internal criteria of identifying the author. The author “a disciple who (1) was at Jesus’ side at the Last Supper (hence one of the twelve) (2) who was at the scene of Jesus’ arrest and trial; and (3) who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and saw Jesus following his resurrection.” This limits the field of candidates to a VERY small number. On top of that, the author always refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, and he is closely associated with the apostle Peter. This seems to be some authorial modesty on the part of the author candidate. The other item that has stood out to me regarding knowing the Author is that it closely aligns with the other books that are commonly attributed to the Apostle John. John’s gospel has all the closeness & tenderness of John’s letters, someone who knew well of the deep love, compassion and forgiveness of Jesus. John’s gospel also shares a great fascination with signs and numbers, which are greatly emphasized in Revelation. As well, both John and Revelation emphasize the identity and Lordship of Jesus. In my own mind, I have no doubt: John is the author of John, and this increases my trust in the eyewitness testimony of this book.
  • You can’t separate the OT from Jesus: An argument could be made that all of the gospels show us this truth, but it’s been clear to me throughout the book that Jesus is not throwing the Old Testament scriptures under the bus. When he goes into clean house in the temple (in John 2), he doesn’t criticize or crush the worship taking place there but crushes the immoral money-changing practices taking place there. When Jesus is confronted about the Sabbath actions, he is taking concerning healing (as in John 5), he does not crush the Sabbath command, but confronts the legalistic tendencies of the Pharisees to pile their opinions on top of God’s words. When it comes to the celebration of the Jewish festivals (in several passages in John), Jesus celebrates and worships with everyone else, rather than tearing their holy days down. We must remember that Jesus was a Jew who came to and for the Jews. The modern tendency and call to unhitch from the Old Testament is not something that Jesus would have either recognized or blessed. As Jesus taught on, honored, and upheld the Old Testament scriptures, so should we. He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. (Matthew 5:17) As Jesus said: “Scripture cannot be broken.” (John 10:35)
  • Modern Pharisees aren’t just Legalistic Christians: Often, when Jesus is facing criticism from the people in the book of John, they are referred to as “The Jews.” But Jesus is not simply being criticized by the Jews as a whole, but by the Jewish leaders and those that they influence. They are the Pharisees, the Sadducees and Teachers of the Law. They are the ones who are supposed to be the closest to God and know His Word the best. They are the ones who should recognize Jesus, but they don’t. Each time Jesus heals in this gospel, each time he does another miracle, there they are to criticize and condemn. One of the things we do in preaching or teaching (and we must do this work) is that we must cross a contextual bridge from then until now. Often, when you hear the Pharisees talked about, they are always likened to religious hypocrites, Christians who say one thing and do another. Certainly, that tendency is there in the church and must be fought against at every turn. But what has struck me in our current cultural moment is that there are Pharisees on every corner, not just “church” pharisees, but “irreligious” or even “atheistic” pharisees. Don’t believe me? Try speaking either on social media or publicly about a moral position that is formed by your biblical worldview. Whether that be a position regarding abortion, sex, marriage, race, expect to be chastised by the irreligious pharisees, because you have broken their manmade rules. There are even whole companies that are cancelling employees for taking a stand, or social media giants that have been locking down voices they’ve selected for cancelling. You see, you don’t have to be a Jew or a Christian to be a pharisee, you just have to be someone who values man’s rules and opinions over God’s law and objective truth. There is a Pharisaic tendency in every human heart. But Jesus calls us away from these thoughts and attitudes to come and follow Him.

These are just some thoughts that I’ve had in studying John. What have you been learning? What questions have you had? My inbox is always open: nate@auburnchristian.org.

Keep growing in God’s Grace and the knowledge of His Word,

Pastor Nate



A New Year, An Old Psalm

by Pastor Nate Powell

Welcome to the year 2022! Again, probably not enough posts from me on the website of late. But which of us doesn’t fall down on some of our New Year resolutions and goals, right? It’s funny to think of the calendar turning over again, since the last 2 years seem to have caused many of us to lose our sense of time. In some ways, it has felt like the longest 2 years of my life. In others, it seems like it’s happened in a blink. I guess that’s what these pandemic years can do to a person
 
In case we haven’t seen one another lately, I want you to know directly that I am thankful to serve here as your pastor for another year, and I’m eager to see what the Lord has in store for us. On December 26, I preached what I call my State of the Church sermon. I preach it after Christmas every year, looking back at the past year, and looking at what is ahead in the next. (If you didn’t get to hear it, you can listen to the sermon audio here.)
 
The point of that sermon was that I want to see our church seeking & following the Good Shepherd Jesus together this year, and learning to pray the 23rd Psalm together each day and/or week. That famous prayer and psalm teach us and mold us in many ways. It teaches us to be content in the guidance and care of our shepherd. It teaches us that the shepherd’s path will wind thru both times of blessing and times of difficulty. It teaches us that our shepherd guides us and disciplines us. Our shepherd protects us and gives us victory.
 
I do not know if this will be a good or a bad year, but I do know that it will be the Lord’s year. May God bless and grow us. May God bless and grow his church.


A Harvest Campaign Update // Summer 2021

Dear Church Family,

I truly hope that this post finds you and your family well. It’s been some time since we’ve had a “formal” update on the front of the Harvest campaign and our Family Life Center that we’ve been hoping and praying about building for some time. It was just a year ago that I was making the rounds to visit with 70+ families. You’ll remember that our church family committed together to give over $350,000 over the next 3 years to this project! It was this past April that we displayed the Harvest/FLC plans, and made the announcement that we were working to get bids. In January, our leaders announced at the annual meeting that it was our hope to be breaking ground on the FLC in July.

Well, it is August, and ground has obviously not been broken. We want to give an update as to where things sit. We did put out for bids from two different contractors to get solid numbers to move forward with in the Spring. What we heard from both contractors was disappointing, but not totally unexpected. Neither contractor could give us a full bid. There are two reasons that they could not do that. First, the prices of construction, and especially the price of steel, are currently VERY high. Most who know construction expect these prices to correct eventually, but they are currently at too high a cost for us to consider construction reasonable or affordable. Secondly, we were informed that even if we ordered the steel at these high prices, we would still not be able to construct until next Spring. That is how backlogged the steel mills are. So, because of these issues, we have been forced to wait on construction. The contractors we have visited with would like to re-approach the bids around the end of the year, so that is our current timetable.

While this is a bit disappointing, it is also wise for us to be patient and wait, both as a leadership and as a church. If we were to force the project thru now, we would certainly be paying too much for the building and we would not be good stewards with the Lord’s money and resources he has provided. The elders of our church are in full alignment and stand fully confident that the Lord wants us to wait on His timing to move forward.

So, what can you do in the meantime? Certainly, the work of the church continues. We are continuing to move forward with youth groups, new kids programming in our new kids ministry/nursery space, and new ideas for bible studies and small groups. The work of the church continues. Toward the ends of the Harvest campaign, I would encourage two things. First, please pray. Pray for costs to come down. Pray for the contractors/financing to fall into place. Pray for us to have patience as a church for the Lord’s timing to be clear and right. And secondly, it is a great time to continue to give. We have been doing very well at following thru on our pledges. In fact, we are ahead of schedule! And if you’ve not joined us, there’s no time like the present to consider joining us with either a one-time gift or a three-year commitment to equip this church family for the next 50+ years of ministry. Feel free to click here for more info. As well, I’m always glad to visit with you and your family on an individual basis on any questions you may have about the project or any other needs or questions you may have. I’m here to serve.

Let’s continue to move forward as a church: patient and persistent in prayer, continually growing in love, generosity and service!

Pastor Nate // Joshua 1:9



On Standing & Falling

Pastor Nate here. Back from blogging exile to once again post on the site. It’s not that I don’t write anything. I write a sermon every week. I write to our church leaders to encourage and grow them frequently, but I don’t post as often here as I should. Today, I just wanted to share a few words that I wrote to our church elders in my weekly briefing to them. When we see the fall of leaders, it is important to take heed. It is a lesson to all of us. Here’s what I wrote to the ACC Elders: 
 
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Today I simply want to encourage your reading and meditation on this one verse from 1 Corinthians 10:12. There Paul writes: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

These haunting words remind me of revelations that have come to light in the past weeks and months regarding a speaker, apologist & evangelist by the name of Ravi Zacharias. Ravi’s writings, talks, debates, radio broadcasts & podcasts have been incredibly helpful to many believers. In fact, the college groups that I have taken to Passion conferences have been able to hear Ravi speak twice, the latest time being last January for Passion 2020. This was just a few months before he passed away from cancer.

In the 9 months since he died, terrible things have come to light about Ravi’s ministry and his sexual sins that have come into the light. You can read many of the details that investigations found in a variety of media outlets. (For examples, check out Christianity Today’s report or The Dispatch). A man who said and wrote incredible things, was (behind the scenes) guilty of saying and doing horrible and deplorable things to women. If you think you stand … take heed.

It is important for us as leaders (and as a church) to take heed that we feed a culture of transparency & accountability, rather than one of assumption, power-plays or duplicity. It is important that you hold me accountable and I hold you accountable. It is important that we ask hard questions. One thing that is abundantly clear from Ravi’s ministry is that there was no accountability structure to hold Mr. Zacharias accountable for his time and habits in the midst of all his travels and schedule.

Some of you are probably thinking “What the heck is he going on about? Does any of this actually affect us at all?” Granted, I wonder that at times too, but not this time. I have seen affairs and sexual abuse wreck churches both bigger and smaller than us. We are not above it.

Take heed if you think you’re standing. Your fall could be around the corner. Ravi’s example reminds me that no leader (or Christian) is above it. Which is why we must be ready. We must support one another. We must be accountable to one another. We must pray for each other. 1 Peter 4:8-9: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith …”