Advent 2020 (part 2)


   “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God.” (Is. 40:1 NKJV) “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” (Mic. 5:2 NKJV)
   “During the first months of occupation, the hardest thing to get used to was the German uniform everywhere, German trucks and tanks in the street, German spoken in the shops. Soldiers frequently visited our store.”, writes Corrie Ten Boom. “Newspapers no longer carried news we could trust, only long glowing reports of the successes of the German army. So we depended on the radio. The curfew, at first, was no hardship for us since it was originally set at 10:00 p.m. What we did object to were the identity cards each citizen was issued. These small folders containing photographs and fingerprints had to be produced on demand.”
   It is hard for any American to imagine what it might be like to be ruled by a foreign government. After all, we live in the greatest nation in the world but when you read accounts like that of Corrie Ten Boom’s during the German occupation of Holland you begin to get a sense of the oppression and bleakness that the situation might bring. Just for a moment consider a foreign government with a strange culture, different language, and a feeling of superiority taking control of your daily life. You may begin to feel a bit hopeless.
   This is the world that Jesus’ first advent takes place in. The Jews were under the foot of the Roman Empire. Before the Romans were the Seleucids. Before the Seleucids were the Greeks, and before the Greeks the country was ruled by the Persians. The Jews had been under foreign rule for more than 600 years! It was in 63 B.C. that Pompey conquered Judea and Roman rule was implemented. When the Romans took control they introduced a new system of taxation. Each household must return to their hometown for a census every five years.
   It happened by divine providence that Mary, the wife of Joseph, was pregnant during the time of the census. Joseph packed up the things that he and Mary would need and set out on the 90 miles or more journey from Nazareth to his home town of Bethlehem. It is interesting that immediately this journey brings to the imagination a picture of Mary sitting on a donkey led by Joseph yet in the scriptures there is no mention of a donkey. That is not to say they did not use a donkey but who knows they could have borrowed a camel! The Gospels do not focus on the arduous journey, the route that was taken, or whether or not animals were used. The Gospel narrative puts the emphasis on God fulfilling a promise He made over 700 years earlier that in Bethlehem the Messiah, God incarnate, would be born!
   The Jewish people were waiting for the advent of the Messiah with great expectation. God had given so much information regarding the Anointed One through the mouth of the prophets. Messiah would be: born of the line of David (Isa 11), born in Bethlehem (Mic 5:2), that He would comfort His people (Isa 40), that He would establish the throne of David forever (Isa 9:7), Messiah would return their land (Gen 17:8), that the gentiles would be drawn to the light of Israel and with them, they will bring their wealth (Isa 60), and so many more hope-filled promises of Israel's Messiah.
  With the promises of a conquering King and glory for Israel God also gave less popular promises of a suffering servant Messiah. Of the need for Israel to be redeemed from their sin, as well as the need for a new and greater covenant where God would put His law in His rebellious people's hearts (Jer 31). These less popular promises were not just invitations for the oppressed but also for the oppressor.
  I know, I know, generally when people are suffering or oppressed it is not socially acceptable to tell them they also have a deep spiritual problem and are sinners who need to be set free. Oppressed people tend to disregard their own faults due to what they are suffering. When suffering people are confronted with sin it is often received as belittling or harsh. With all that said let me communicate a truth to you and that is that God does not care about being socially acceptable or politically correct! Rather He cares for the lost sinner waiting to be found. The Holy Spirit prophesied through Zacharias the father of John the Baptist, “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David...To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins...To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:68–69, 77, 79 NKJV)
   We all desire a quick solution or remedy to our physical oppressions or oppressors. No one wants to be oppressed! We all want to be free! God knows that true freedom starts in the soul of every person! The wonderful hope that Jesus' first advent brings us is freedom from sin and freedom from the bondage of death. It is because of His first advent that I am invited into a kingdom with no end! I am no longer afraid of that which previously oppressed me. “... neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38–39 NKJV).

See you Sunday! God bless you! 

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Advent 2020


   Sunday, November 29th 2020 marked the first Sunday of Advent on the ecclesiastical calendar. The Advent season has always brought up warm memories of my family sitting down for Sunday dinner. After Thanksgiving the Christmas decorations would come out and with them the Advent wreath and its five candles would be placed at the center of our dinner table. As we sat down for Sunday dinner one of us three children would be selected to light the Advent candles. It was quite an honor to play with fire at the dinner table! Each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas would welcome a new candle to be lit with the fifth being lit on Christmas. My Father would proceed to share what each candle represented and proceed to read the corresponding scriptures.
   The first candle is called the Prophecy Candle and it represents hope. This candle recalls the prophecies given in the Old Testament that foretold God’s salvation through the coming Messiah. The second candle is the Bethlehem Candle. The Bethlehem Candle represents love and symbolizes Christ’s manger. The Shepherds Candle is the third candle and it represents joy and celebration for the news of Messiah’s birth! The fourth candle is the Angels Candle and represents peace. The Christ candle, white in color, is the fifth and final candle to be lit on Christmas. The Christ candle represents Jesus Christ the light of the world!
   I admit as a child I did not fully understand what the word advent meant or how important those scripture passages were that my Dad would read to us. Over the years, each year, I would catch something new. The depth and meaning of the season became more and more important to me. As this year’s Advent season begins I want to take the next few articles and dedicate them to remembering what God has done for us in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. This year more than ever people are in short supply of hope, love, joy, and peace. I believe if we remember the reason for this season you will find and unending supply of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace.
   The Prophecy Candle being lit on the first Sunday of advent represents hope. It is interesting to me to see how the definition of hope has changed over the years. Well, maybe not the definition of the verb but the object of the verb. In Webster’s 1913 dictionary the verb “hope” is almost synonymous with “trust”. Hope is defined as - To place confidence; to trust with confident expectation of good; — usually followed by the word "in". “I hope in thy word.” Psalm 119:81. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psa. 42:11). The modern Webster Dictionary just states, “Archaic: Trust. To want something to happen or be true.”
   If our hope is based on mankind it is no surprise that hope is in short supply today. After all just look at the turmoil we have experienced over the last nine months. Our hope must be in someone greater than us or our circumstances. Our hope must be founded upon God! The few prophecies below were given by prophets over 700 years prior to Jesus Christ. They prophesy that he would be born a virgin in Bethlehem. They reveal his family heritage and his purpose for coming. Consider these prophecies from the Old Testament:

"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Is. 7:14 NKJV)

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Vacation Bible School 2020

    This past week at VBS was amazing! We saw God show up in many ways. I began working on VBS in January, before any of us had any idea that the world would change in a matter of three months.  I had picked John 16:33, as our theme verse, which says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  Fast forward to June 2020, and that verse was a beautiful reminder that God already knew exactly what we needed to hear.

I had about three weeks to plan, and gather volunteers to make VBS happen in a few short weeks. God brought people to me, and in the first week, I had the same number of volunteers signed up to help, as we did kids attending.

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Prepare to Reopen!


 

Sunday, May 17 is only a few days away, and we are excited to worship our God with all of you in person! Our staff has been extremely busy with preparations, and now I ask that you would help us with these preparations.

 

First, and most importantly, let us endeavor to keep our unity! Our church has always shared such a wonderful koinonia (fellowship, love, unity), and we want to guard it. The current trials we are enduring have created divisiveness in our culture and the church in America. Many of us have differing views about our current politics, wearing masks, not wearing masks, COVID-19, Stay at Home, Open Now, etc. In preparation for your coming to fellowship this Sunday, prepare your heart and minds that you will keep Christ and His church the most important and essential focus. 

 

There is a beautiful exhortation Paul writes to the Ephesian churches that I believe is more applicable than ever for us. In context, Paul has just finished declaring the power of God to do abundantly more than we ask or think. He continues in the letter with the following, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1–3 NKJV).

 

Believers are to “walk worthy”. The word “worthy” is “axios” literally meaning equal weight as balanced scales. The believer is to have an equal balance between his/her confession and his/her conduct. In modern-day slang, we would say this kind of person is the “the real deal” or “not only talks the talk, but they also walk the walk.” Every Christian’s desire should be “to walk worthy”! 

 

So, how does a genuine believer act? How do we balance our confession and our conduct? Paul gives a wonderful list for us to consider. The genuine believer in the Lord is humble and gentle with others. The genuine believer bears other’s burdens and endures hardships for others. As we make these sacrifices for others, we make them unto Christ. Our lives become a wonderful act of worship that proves our confession true! The more you meditate on this list the more you will see Jesus enduring the cross for us! The genuine believer takes up his cross and follows his savior! 

 

The result of all this sacrifice is unity and peace. Paul writes, “…endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit…” The church in Ephesus is not trying to obtain unity in the Spirit, they already have it! The exhortation is to keep it! When we are born again, we experience unity and peace in the family of God almost immediately. We begin to lose it as we make our comfort the priority over our calling in Christ. The Church of Jesus was never intended to be comfortable; it was meant to be contagious! It is in our discomfort that we see God’s power on display! 

 

King David writes “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psa. 133:1 NKJV) The unity of our fellowship is so good and pleasing to the Lord. Guard our unity against any divisive attitude. In his book, “The Treasury of David” Charles Spurgeon writes, “We can dispense with uniformity if we possess unity: oneness of life, truth, and way; oneness in Christ Jesus; oneness of object and spirit—these we must have, or our assemblies will be synagogues of contention rather than churches of Christ.”

 

Our church services will be different this Sunday. The services will be uncomfortable. They will be shortened to one hour for young families and sanitation time. The bathrooms will have limited use. We will sit in different seats than normal. We will wear masks. BUT, we will joyfully make ourselves uncomfortable for others. 

 

Every time in my life that I have made myself uncomfortable I have experienced the Lord in the most powerful and tremendous ways! Prepare to see God’s power poured out on our fellowship this Sunday!

 

God Bless you all!

Dave Johnson

 

FAQ About Church Reopen

Will you still live stream services?

Yes, we will Livestream all our services on Facebook and Youtube. We understand that some are not ready to attend services in person, and we will keep our streaming services available. 

 

Why do we need to RSVP for church?

You do not need to, but it will be very helpful. We have no idea how many people to expect per service, and we need to prepare for social distancing.

 

Do I need to RSVP every week?

No, just once is fine. 

 

Am I not obedient to God if I do not attend services in person?

Whether you choose to attend in person or not is between you and the Lord, and we support you. We encourage you to pray and check the CDC guidelines.

 

Are we opening church as a protest?

No. We are reopening our church to worship our God and have fellowship with one another. We believe that we can operate Sunday services safer than Costco, Home Depot, Stater Brothers, Walmart, and the like. Our worship has always been essential to us, and it is time to reopen.

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Message from Pastor Dave

Local newspaper headlines have become tally counts of those infected with the corona virus in the last week. On Drudge Report this morning one of the major headlines was “April Canceled”! Weddings have been postponed (sorry Jenna and Jacob) and baby showers canceled. We are all fighting the temptation to not allow our fear to take hold of us as we live our lives day to day. I am sure many of you parents have experienced a new level of stress as you work from home and home school your children. Sadly, many have found themselves jobless and are praying for it all to end in hopes that your their jobs may become available again. The worst part may very well be the isolation and separation from friends and family. This virus has left the majority of society afraid, anxious, isolated, alone, and wondering if anyone has missed them. 

I want to remind you dear church family that you have a rich heritage of worshiping our Lord and serving others through the worst of situations. It is quite miraculous when you consider what the church has survived throughout its history! The church has never been extinguished through persecution, plagues, sieges, wars, or anything else the enemy would try to destroy her with! During the Bubonic plague, despite the pleading of his parishioners, Martin Luther refused to leave Wittenburg so that he could care and minister to the sick! The choice cost him his daughter's life, but his resolve was unwavering. Luther said, “We (Christians) die at our post! The plague does not dissolve our duties: It turns them to crosses, on which we must be prepared to die.” Oh what a wonderful and heroic family tree we have! 

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Himalayan Center For Missions


Greetings from India! I am so excited to give you an update on the Himalayan Center For Missions here in India. The class started a week before we arrived and studied through the Gospel of Luke. Since we have arrived we have studied through the book of Daniel and are now studying Revelation! 

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Missions Christmas List




“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” (Is 9:2 ESV) 

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West Africa Update


“Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.'” (John 4:10ESV) 

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Hope Children’s Home Uganda

The phone conversation started out with, “I heard you have a heart for Ugandan orphans!” I was not sure how to respond. I was receiving the call because our church had just hosted a Ugandan Kids Choir on Mother’s Day 2016. You see, a School of Ministry brother was touring last spring with the Ugandan Kids Choir and was asking for places to perform. It was a blessing to have them come. Children were sponsored, but it was really done as a favor to my friend. I know this may sound dismissive, but I hadn’t really thought much about Ugandan orphans up until we hosted the choir. So when I got that call, the only response I could come up with was, “I don’t not have a heart for Ugandan orphans.” I know it’s a double negative, but I mean really, how else was I supposed to respond knowing that God’s word is very explicit about orphans. James 1:27 states, ”Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction…”(ESV). The person on the other end of the line was Fabi Harris. She had heard about the choir from her sister, CCOT’s own Nadia White. Fabi Harris began to explain how she and some friends had started working with an orphanage in Uganda. After hearing about my involvement with the Ugandan Kids Choir, she really wanted to sit down with me and share more about it. 

 

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CCOT Missions Update

This week's Messenger message is brought to you by Pastor Dave Johnson

"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."(2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV). What a wonderful privilege we have been given in Christ Jesus to be appointed as ambassadors! God making known to His enemies the wonderful gift of grace through you and me! 

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