Shortly after Pastor Ron and Annette left Albania, the country was hit with a major earthquake. They just received the following update from Pastor Sokol Zefi, the leader of Foursquare Albania.
Hope that you, Annette, your family and church are doing well.
We are good although the situation in our country was so sad.
God has protected our lives, and every one else from the church is doing well too.
We are so thankful for your heart and support in The Foursquare Albania churches and we pray that God may bless you abundantly..Looking forward in the good things that God will do through your ministry in our country..We feel a heart connection with you and can't wait to have you and other people from Canby church here in Albania.
As you think and pray for us during this time, I would like to share how the situation is right now....
550 continuous aftershocks, 49 victims, 900 injured, hundred of damaged buildings, colossal economic damages, great pain and psychological traumas...
Thousands of people are in the open sky. Some of them yet without a tent. It is cold and rainy. There are a lot of children and infants outside. Is happening a big exodus, because of fear many people are leaving the city and even the country. Many shops are closed dawn.
Please pray for God's protection on all the potential diseases that may develop due to lack of hygiene, cold or other conditions and pray also for wisdom and good cooperation of government and all the humanitarian organizations to bring the resources in time to the people in need. Pray for a better communication and coordination between volunteering groups.
Hundreds of people are left with no housing, many buildings are partly or totally destroyed. Many houses needs to be rebuild and furnished, people have lost everything....
More than ever we are hoping and praying that God may turn this situation into a blessing for our country..
Lots of love and hugs from our family,
Pastor Rene' Bogue
If you’re like me, you have moments of scrolling through social media and wondering why everyone else has all the fun. And, although we have heard the encouragements, and read the memes – that what we casually observe is not the real lives of those we watch, but rather their highlight reel – we can’t help but wonder if we’re behind the curve.
Sometimes the same thing happens to us in our Christian walk. The stage in our church is 27.5 inches high. That barely-over-two-feet somehow has the power to elevate the perception of those on it to a much higher level. To be sure, our Pastors study hard, our Worship Team practices and worships in preparation for service. But, their location and calling does not presuppose any sort of perfection, or greater affection from the Father. These are people. Like us. We are seeing their highlight reel.
Even as we embrace the equality of those within our own tribe, surely those folks in the Bible are of a far higher spiritual status than we are. Surely. A careful reading of the Book of Acts – and a quick Google search – shows a timeline that brings perspective. Each of the books we read by Paul, each of the mighty acts of Peter and John, are, in fact, parts of their highlight reel. These were men with dusty feet and earthly faults.
And I have to think that’s intentional.
If God had created super-human heroes to lead us in our walk – would we even try? If not for the humanity of Peter and Paul and Pastors and Leaders, would we see ourselves able to walk a path toward greater closeness with God? Would we even put on our shoes? With every post that shows our dusty feet, every ironic “nailed it!” meme, every honest post from a harried mom, we have encouragement to keep going, to draw closer, and to embrace our humanity and the humans around us.
Your highlight reel is pretty great. So is your real life. I’m so grateful that Jesus loves us in the middle of both.
Pastor Sammy Jamison
The story is told of a silversmith who refined his silver and heated it to burn off the impurities until he could see his own reflection in the silver. God is refining each of His children is that same way until He can see His own reflection is us.
When you wait for God to charge your heart with His Spirit, you will see your life begin to gain power. You have not fully seen how much He is willing to guide and direct your path in life. God dearly loves you and wants to serve you. We are used to thinking that God wants us to serve Him, but He is Who and What He asks us to be. God is motivated by a servant’s heart. That is His mercy and grace at work.
How do you think life will be in Heaven? It will be love-motivated, service-motivated, others-motivated. You have read, “He shall wipe every tear from their eyes.” This is a picture of how God wants to serve His children who come into His presence. All of God’s creation is a reflection of His heart to serve and proof that He seeks harmony in every star, in every planet, in every solar system, in every galaxy. He says, “Let there be” perfect love as each and every element serves the whole.
Give God your heart. Let Him fill you with His Holy Spirit and give you the inner motivation that reflects His very heart.
Pastor Rene' Bogue
In the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 3, we meet John the Baptist at the river. After a hefty rebuke to the surrounding crowd, John is asked a simple, bold question:
“What should we do?”
This question spoke for many in the group. These had not walked away at the harsh truths, had not laughed him off, or crumbled at the conviction of their own bad behavior. They wanted to go forward, and so, asked, “What should we do?”
In the space between the question and John’s ensuing answer, time stops. Here, the man who is preparing the way for the Messiah is about to tell us exactly how to behave. Exactly what God’s will is for our lives. How do we, truly, repent? Of what should we repent?
To the expectant hearer – and now reader – he says:
“If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”
He continues, answering specific questions from specific people. Tax collectors: don’t demand extra and skim off the top. Soldiers: don’t extort money or falsely accuse people.
Be kind. Be as generous as you’re able. Don’t abuse people.
This is the pinnacle of God’s will. Later, Jesus calls loving our neighbor the second commandment, likening it to the first and greatest – to love God with all we are. This is important stuff. In the book of Matthew, we see Jesus telling a story that highlights the importance of giving even a cup of water to the thirsty. This is so close to His heart that He says that showing these seemingly small kindnesses to the least among us is akin to showing it to Jesus Himself.
As we search for God’s perfect will in our lives, let’s start here. Who might be considered the least in our world, community, or lives? Who, regardless of status, just might be thirsty? As the world has become our community, where do we see suffering that we can help with in some small way? How many shirts do you have?
I am grateful that, with all that might be confusing in our world today, God has given us, through His word, a very clear picture of His will.
Joy Strube, Community Engagement Coordinator
In my recent Internet wandering, I stumbled across an "Engaged Feedback Checklist" by Brené Brown. The checklist has some pretty challenging (but important) guidelines to help users know when they are fully ready to give constructive feedback to another person.
Some of the checklist items are:
I was humbled as I reflected back on ways I gave feedback definitely not practicing these principles.
I also found it a great paradigm for engaging our neighbors. Whether we are settling an argument or serving, it is easy to unconsciously create a category of “other.” Whether it be “that person who is wrong,” or “that person who is poor and broken.”
What would it look like to begin using this checklist for every conversation, encounter or every argument, even? What if we started seeing ALL of those around us through the lens of their strengths and gifts, rather than their weaknesses and deficits.
Let’s be a church family that is known for seeing, living and leading through the lens of love.
We have a few opportunities this summer to live this out:
Alpha – Weekly in the Fall - People from all backgrounds are invited to this safe and judgement-free space to connect with people, ask questions, express doubt and explore faith. Each week includes dinner, a talk via video and a discussion. This is a great place to invite our neighbors! We are also looking for team members to help greet guests, serve meals, and guide discussions.
Carus Serve Day – Sat. July 20th \\ 9am-3pm - We are so excited to partner with Carus for our third Summer Serve Day. All ages, skill sets and physical conditions welcomed and valued! To sign up visit canbyfoursquare.com/carus-serve-day.
Carus Lunch Buddies – Make an impact by investing in the life of a student once a week during lunch times! To learn more, attend a no-obligation info meeting in the Conference Room on Sunday, August 18th at 10:30 or 12:30.
Want more info about any of these opportunities? Email me at email@example.com or check out Canbyfoursquare.com/serve-our-community.
Through the Lens of Love,
Pastor Chris White
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” –1 John 3:1-2
The Cross of Jesus has multiple implications for everyone, but in this series I have focused our thoughts on ways the cross speaks to our mind and heart. I call this “the Four Peaces” of the cross, because ultimately each of these, when embraced, bring us to a resting place of peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding.
The first peace was Shalom. In the Bible, the Shalom of God speaks of well-being, wholeness, soundness, completeness, harmony, and tranquility. The second peace the cross brings to us is relief. When you are forgiven by God there is no more guilt and condemnation. The third “Peace of the Cross” is validation. Validation is the idea that you are important. You are important enough to God that he sent his son to die that you might live. If that be true, you really do count for something in this world.
The fourth and final peace of the Cross is enlightenment. The opposite of enlightenment in the Bible is living in the darkness and futility of worldly thinking: following the wrong gods, pursuing the wrong goods, achieving the wrong ends.
Virtually every religion and philosophy on earth seeks to explain three things: who am I? what am I here for? Where am I going? The degree to which these questions are answered is the actual degree of satisfaction and enlightenment a religion or philosophy offers.
Just a side note, satisfaction with an answer is no guarantee of truth. You might find great satisfaction with the idea that the human race was seeded here by aliens from another galaxy millions of years ago or that we are descended from the invisible people that live under Mt. Shasta California in a secret subterranean city, but that doesn’t make it truth. Truth is its own thing. And truth corresponds to reality. But real truth will satisfy.
That said, the cross does give us the peace of enlightenment.
Who are you? Why are you here? Where are you going? 1 John 3:2-3 (see above) speaks to this end. Where are we going? What will be the ultimate end? We can say heaven is our end, but heaven is being with the Lord. We are children of God and our end is to be with him and to share in his glory. Because this is our future, we are live like this in the present. That’s why you are here now. To learn and grow in this reality. St. Athanasius said the reason Christ became man was so that man might become like Christ. As John states it, we only know this dimly and vaguely in our lives now, but we know the end for which we were made, to be sons of God in the image of Christ.
In the final analysis, I think the three questions: who am I, what am I here for, and where am I going are answered best in Christ. What becomes most important though is not remembering who I am, but whose I am. We belong to Christ because he purchased us with his blood on the cross and that makes all the difference.
May you attain to all the Lord wants you to be,
Pastor Chris White
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. –Ephesians 5:1-2
The Cross of Jesus has multiple implications for everyone, but in this series I have been focusing on ways the cross speaks to our mind and heart. I call this “the Four Peaces of the cross,” because ultimately each of these, when embraced, bring us to a resting place of peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding.
The first peace we considered was Shalom. In the Bible, the Shalom of God speaks of well-being, wholeness, soundness, completeness, harmony, and tranquility. The Lord said peace I give to you. It is not the peace of favorable circumstances, but a peace from a new heart. The second peace of the cross brings is relief from guilt. When you are forgiven by God there is no more guilt or condemnation.
The third “Peace of the Cross” is validation. Validation is the idea that you are important. You count for something in this world. To have this missing in your life is to have a hole in your heart. Many of us were fortunate to have this in our family of origin where we were given confidence because our achievements and aspirations were celebrated and championed. It sent a message: you do count for something.
The converse is also true. Some of us were given the message, either directly or in ways unspoken, that we somehow don’t measure up. And what do you do with that? You either wear yourself out in a lifelong attempt at proving this wrong or you build an identity around being a failure; both of which entail a lot of stress even if in different forms.
The peace the cross brings to us is that we do count for something in this world and that we are important to our very Creator.
The very basis of the command for us to love and seek the best for each other (see Eph. 5:1-2 above), is because we ourselves were important enough and loved so much that Christ sacrificed himself to save us. If someone is of concern to God, as a Christian, they should be of concern to me and you as well.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (Jn. 15:13-15).” In the cross you are validated as a person because you really are important to God. Important enough that he would consider a friend of his son to be one of his friends.
That is some amazing news.
You are good enough because He is in you!
Pastor Chris White
“ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” –John 19:29-30
The Cross of Jesus has multiple implications for everyone but in this series I will be focusing on ways the cross speaks to our mind and heart. I call this “the Four Peaces of the Cross” because ultimately, each of these, when embraced, bring us to a resting place of peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding.
The first peace is Shalom. In the Bible, the Shalom of God speaks of well-being, wholeness, soundness, completeness, harmony, and tranquility. The cross of Jesus brings us shalom because we are healed of our sins and given a new heart through the Holy Spirit sent to us by Christ at his ascension.
Another form of peace the cross brings to us is relief. Relief from what? Relief from the guilt we feel from the weight of our sin. Some people do a lot of mental gymnastics to get some relief from their guilt. They can deny the very premise of guilt and call it a socially-constructed falsehood or, as many do, assign it to an antecedent cause. I was born this way or I did those things because I had bad parents or I grew up in a bad neighborhood. Remember Adam in Genesis? Lord, I ate the forbidden fruit because of the wife YOU gave me. I’m sure the Lord felt guilty after hearing that line don’t you think?
But in our heart of hearts we know the truth. We are sinners and we need someone greater than ourselves, someone greater than our excuses to actually forgive us. And when we are completely forgiven, without reserve, we do find relief.
The very last word Jesus spoke, which translates as “it is finished” in English, is “completed”. On the cross, as Jesus suffered the last measure of our punishment, God’s full plan to redeem a fallen and lost humanity was brought to completion. Nothing more needed to be said. Nothing more needs to be done. It is fully completed and the debt of our sins before a holy God is paid in full.
The full weight of your sin was laid upon his shoulders that you might not carry that weight. That is a relief that came at a great price but gladly given. For God so loved you, that he gave his only-begotten son, that if you believe on him you will not perish but have everlasting life. What a hope. What a relief.
Hope your heart is lighter because Christ alone has taken your sin and given you His righteousness,
Pastor Chris White
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” –John 14:27
The Christian faith stands alone in the world as “Crucicentric” meaning it is centered upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on a cross. Remove the cross and sacrifice of Jesus and you might have a moral compass or some wise ideas to draw from, but you wouldn’t have authentic Christianity. The Cross of Jesus has multiple implications for human flourishing but in this series my focus will be on four types of peace the Lord brings to our hearts because of his sacrifice.
The first peace is Shalom. Shalom is a greeting used today by millions of Jewish and Arabic speakers. Used as such, it is nothing more than a simple as hello or goodbye, but Shalom has a deeper meaning. In the Bible, the Shalom of God speaks of well-being, wholeness, soundness, completeness, harmony, and tranquility. Remember waking up early as a child and suddenly realizing it was Saturday and you didn’t have to get ready for school? You just rolled over and half-asleep thought of the fort you were going to build with your buddies in the afternoon. That feeling is merely a glimpse of shalom.
The very night of his betrayal, in the full knowledge of the horrific death he was about to suffer, the Lord was concerned about the well-being of his disciples. I would have wanted to be comforted by my friends but Jesus offers his comfort to them. When he says let not your heart be troubled or be afraid, he is not telling them to whistle in the dark or sing a happy tune and get a grip on their feelings. He is looking past the trauma and what is ultimately to be accomplished.
Not only will there be the complete remission of all our sins and the righteousness of God given to each believer, but he will be sending the Holy Spirit to indwell everyone who trusts in Him. The Holy Spirit, sent after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, will create a new heart in us (Jeremiah 31) which will make possible a progressive wholeness and harmony with God. The presence of the Spirit in our lives is also the assurance that God’s grace is operative in our lives and that in death we will be resurrected to an eternal life of beatitude in heaven.
The world does offer an alternative peace. That peace comes in the form of large bank accounts, life-saving medical treatments, items to be smoked or ingested, beautiful children who get straight A’s and never misbehave in school, freeze-dried food, gold coins and enough guns to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, even a good university education that will secure a good job and a bright future. I’m not suggesting these are bad things, (well, maybe a couple of them are!) but the world’s goods are always subject to reversal of fortune and if lost, so is your peace and well-being.
The peace Christ gives, the shalom of God, is available to everyone and cannot be lost, taken away or subject to change. This peace was purchased with Christ’s blood at the cross and it is a transaction that stands for eternity.
May you know His Peace today!
Pastor Ron Swor
Dear Church Family,
I’m praying that your New Year will be filled with God’s presence and His joy. These past few weeks I have taken some time to look over some goals I set for myself in 2018. Now that’s a dose of reality.
To evaluate how I was doing, I divide my goals into three categories:
1. Accomplished; 2. In Process; 3. Needs a lot more work.
Here’s what I came up with, I found that my list of goals were evenly divided between categories, or in other words, each category was one third of my list. This seems pretty accurate and if you set goals you might reflect on your experience as well. Some things get accomplished, some things are in process and some things need a lot of work.
I have not only been looking back over the 2018 year, I have taken some time to think and pray over the year ahead. Annette and I have been asking Jesus for a theme for 2019; the phrase that keeps coming up is: A Year For Radical Love. We believe that radical love is something the Holy Spirit is up to in our lives and our church community.
God’s radical love changed our lives forever when He sent Jesus, “. . . who, being the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage . . .” (Phil 2:6). Now that’s crazy, radical love. It’s this incredible and eternal power of God’s love working through us that makes a transformative difference in the world.
Jesus told us how this works in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you; LOVE one another as I have LOVED you, so you must LOVE one another. All men/women will know that you are my disciples if you LOVE one another.” What if in this next year we see and expect God’s love in ways that aren’t passive but as the most powerful weapon against the schemes of Satan . . . hate, darkness, selfish behavior and all other things that destroy relationships and deceive people. What if we expect this coming year to experience God’s love as an active force that’s seen in our prayer life, our giving and, of course, our relationships. This kind of love runs to the lost and broken, runs to those who mourn, runs to . . . (this one is scary) . . . our enemy, pretty audacious, isn’t it?
Honestly, when the Holy Spirit started speaking to me about His radical love, I didn’t want to listen and i am still extremely uncomfortable with this theme. Mainly because of what it will require of me - humility, generosity, sacrifice. But I know it’s the only way, what really stood out was this Holy Spirit conviction about what I live for. So much of my time is spent living for things that aren’t bad, just not the best. Here’s what God spoke to me, “Live more for the things you would die for.”
Here’s what I am asking from you, put this to prayer, to conversations with trusted friends/family and then commit to ways you can show God’s radical love to others.
You are deeply loved,
PS - I will be unpacking this more with you on the first Sunday of the New Year.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.