Sincerity + Truth

Dani Beth Crosby, Family + Communications Minister
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little leaven leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new unleavened batch, as indeed you are. For Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us observe the feast, not with old leaven or with the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread, Passover, and the Feast of Firstfruits happen all together each year. It takes most Jewish families about a month to prepare their homes to celebrate these feasts–think spring cleaning to the extreme! Families clean every corner of their home, removing all of the yeast, or leavening agents. They completely remove it from their property—no sticking it in a closet or boxing it up in storage—all of the yeast is thrown out.
Today’s Scripture passage is a portion of Paul’s letter to a church he knew well. Unfortunately, this church family had become distracted from following Jesus alone. Instead, they were dividing themselves with labels and classifications, and they were drifting from their call to holiness. They were boasting in God’s grace and goodness through Jesus—grace that covers our sin–while living according to their fleshly desires. They were divided and drifting. These two struggles may sound familiar to struggles of the global Church today.
In response to their drift from holiness, Paul implores them to, “Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new unleavened batch, as indeed you are.” He calls them to examine themselves, to search under the couch cushions of their motives, thoughts, will, and desires to find what crumbs of the old, sinful life have been left unchecked.
Throughout this past year, I have returned to the words of D.A. Carson pretty regularly. He wrote, “People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”
As we prepare our hearts to celebrate Jesus–our risen, Passover Lamb–this Easter. May we each be diligent to apply the needed grace-driven effort to clean the leaven of sin from every nook and cranny of our heart. May our faith in Jesus be sincere. May we follow Him alone. As we open ourselves to cleaning of God’s Spirit, may our hearts and minds be drenched in His truth.
Thinking of Passover, the story of Moses & the Israelites, and the 10 Commandments, here is a simple exercise to help you examine your heart before God (taken from Adele A. Calhoun’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook):
Imagine you are in a safe place, surrounded by the love of God. Ask God to help you see yourself as He sees you. Remember He sees you absolutely and with love. Using the 10 Commandment (Exodus 20) as a guide, journal your sins. When you have finished, go through each commandment one at a time, asking God to forgive you and help you to change. Then burn your list in a symbolic act of what it means to have God remove your sins from you.
Here are some extra questions to help you walk through the 10 Commandments:
1 – What gods of this world have I placed above the One True God?
2 – What do you think about most? Is that person or thing an idol?
3 – Have you used the name of God in a way that is not glorifying to Him?
4 – We are commanded to remember and keep holy a day of rest for God. Have you been following this command? What does the way you spend your time reveal about what you truly value? How are you trusting, or not trusting, God with your time? Are your times of rest holy and glorifying to God?
5 – Is your relationship with your parents honoring to God? How is God glorified through your relationships with those in your family and oikos? How has your fear and love of God transformed the way you relate with those placed in authority?
6 – Have you loved your neighbor as yourself? Have you honored God in the way you treat your own body and the bodies of others?
7 – Have the things you watched, listened to, thought, said, did, or not done honored God? Have you used for your own pleasure your ears to hear stories or your eyes to incite cravings for the body of one who is not your spouse?
8 – Have you been diligent in the work God has entrusted to you? Are you glorifying God with the use of your resources, including your time? Have you stolen things, information, or credit due to someone else (or to God)?
9 – Have your words been deceptive or manipulative? How have your words, or self-control with your words, brought glory to God? Have you gossiped or delighted in being discouraging and critical to others? How do your habits with social media/the news honor or dishonor God?
10 – What are you discontent about? Is that discontentment bringing glorying to God?



Complete Adoration

Amber Irving, Pastor’s Wife
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord. Jesus Christ, The Word, became flesh and made His dwelling among us.
The Word who was in the beginning with God, the Word who was God himself. The Word who spoke into the darkness and created the light, who hovered over the surface of the deep. The Word, whose sanctuary is strength and glory, who inspires the trees of the field to clap their hands, the heavens to rejoice, and the earth to be glad. The Word, the Truth who sanctifies me and sanctifies you. The Word.
For unto us a child is born – a newborn baby lying in a manger, a child teaching in the temple, a man healing the sick, raising the dead, crying in the garden, walking out of the tomb, fully alive. Unto us a son is given. The Son of God, the blessed hope, our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, wrapped in flesh. The Word became flesh.
Reigning not just on His own heavenly throne, but on the throne of David, here on earth. The government upon his shoulders, its greatness knowing no end. Establishing and upholding his kingdom with justice and righteousness, because of the zeal of the Lord Almighty, not just now but forever. The word became flesh and made his dwelling.
But do not be afraid. Go and see this thing that has happened, that the Lord has told us about. The Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace has come to be with us. The heavens rejoice and the earth is glad that He is here, dwelling with us. Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, with us, peace to those on whom his favor rests.
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.
The only right response to God’s wrapping himself in flesh and coming to live with us, is complete adoration. Once He opens our eyes to see the deep, wide, long love that reached down to rescue us in our greatest need, we can’t help but respond in adoration. The pure and holy Word became like us and lived among us so that he could pay the price of our sin for us. O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

His Love Is An Invitation

Dr. Chris Irving, Pastor
I vividly remember the time I discovered what fun can be had with a magnifying glass, sunlight, and dried leaves and sticks. When you have a magnifying glass and hold it up to focus sunlight on a dried leaf, or dry piece of wood, it won’t take long until you set the leaf or piece of wood on fire. Charles Spurgeon asked this question, “Now, while you see the wood burning to ashes, will you tell me what it is that burns? Does the heat of the sun burn the wood or does the wood burn? The heat that you feel while the wood is burning, is it due to the sun or the wood? Of course, at first the fire is purely and simply the flame of the sun, but afterwards the wood itself begins to burn; the sun burns the wood and then the wood itself burns.”
The challenge of this last week of Advent is to figure out what do we do with the love God has miraculously lavished upon us? The love of God is clearly displayed in the sending of Jesus, it is through Jesus the love of God comes into our hearts and our lives. Through the life-changing love and grace of God, our hearts must display this love. One of the greatest commands God gave is the calling to love one-another as He loves. We follow Jesus and love Jesus because He first loved us and gave Himself for us. As we follow Jesus, we are called to love BIG like Jesus. That love of God sparks the fire that burns in our hearts. Not only does that keep our hearts set a blaze for Christ, but it also keeps us in the love of God. Finally, as we grow in that love, our expectation of His second appearing grows exponentially. Pray and ask God to give you the opportunity to love one another as He first loved you and sent Jesus as the proof of that love. His love is an invitation.

God With Us

Dr. Chris Irving, Pastor
“Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12
Our family has experienced many firsts since we arrived on island. One of those is the arrival of very dear friends and family from Texas. It was not so strange to us back on the mainland to have people come to us traveling in a car, but it was a very rare occasion to travel to the airport to pick up someone special. The anticipation of their arrival just about drove the kids crazy! Waiting to hear the arrival announcement only stirred up more impatience and anticipation.
You see, God made a promise in Isaiah 7 that the virgin would conceive, and the special child’s name would be Immanuel which means “God with us.” Matthew’s Gospel quotes Isaiah 7:14 as a part of the angel’s message to Joseph. But in Luke 2, the story of the shepherds is captured. You know the story well I’m sure, the heavenly messenger announces the arrival of the Christ child to these lowly shepherds out tending their sheep. This good news of great joy was truly life
changing. The people of God waited for generations the announcement of the arrival of the Messiah. On this night, the shepherds had a front row seat to the arrival of God’s amazing unending love…in the form of a baby named Jesus, God with us had arrived.
Pray today that you can experience a refreshing arrival of God’s amazing unending love this advent season.

Because of God’s Great Love

Dr. Chris Irving, Pastor
I remember one of the coolest gifts I received as a kid was my remote-control dirt car. It was jet-black with yellow, blue, and white racing stripes. The wide back tires could kick up dirt in the competitions face. I’m certain it could have jumped the Grand Canyon if it had been a part of the racetrack. Ok…I’m exaggerating quite a bit, but it was a great gift. My son’s 7th birthday was a great day for him as he received his very first remote-control car. My experience, and his experience were quite similar in the fact that neither of our cars worked right out of the box, and neither one of us could figure out why. Questions raced through our minds just as fast as the car was supposed to run, but with few solutions we were left with the thoughts of what could have been.
But then…the solution presented itself when someone else stepped in and offered us power. For me, it was my dad, and for Ben it was me. Once the car received the battery pack, fully charged and properly inserted, there was no stopping in sight. That story reminds me of our verse today. We all are in desperate need of life-change because sin took control of our lives. In fact, you will remember that Paul says we were “dead in our trespasses and sins.” Just like that remote-control car without batteries, without God’s loving intervention, we are powerless, lifeless. But because of God’s great (BIG, HUGE, THE BIGGEST IN THE UNIVERSE EVER) love, He provided the way for us to come to life. Not because of who we are, or where we are from, or anything that might find merit before Him, but simply by His mercy and grace.
We might have questions about this Christmas and Advent season, and about how this 2020 season is different because of COVID, but even if COVID wasn’t a thing, you’d still need the love of God to bring you life through His love. Do you know the love of God today through the person of Jesus Christ? Is He your source of power filling you with His offering of abundant life?

Celebrate God’s Love

Dr. Chris Irving, Pastor
In just a few more days, children all over the world will open gifts that will certainly be brand new on many levels. New technology with new designs, or the latest new superhero will rule the day and suddenly the toys from last year are no more. Some toys will become junk.
I read a story recently about a man named Billy Taylor. Billy is a junkyard specialist. He goes to junkyards to find stuff that other folks have thrown away, discarded, and considered broken or worthless. Billy Taylor brings it back to his garage and turns the junk into contemporary art pieces, which he then sells for upwards of five thousand dollars a piece. He goes and finds junk that is worthless in everybody else’s eyes and then turns it into a masterpiece. When Billy Taylor looks at the junk, he sees more than meets the eye. He sees a masterpiece in the making. He takes things that are worthless and makes them into something beautiful.
Is that not what God did by sending Jesus into the world so that if we believe in Him, we perish not, but gain eternal life? Isn’t that the Good Shepherd looking for the lost sheep? You might feel worthless at times, or even before you met Jesus, but once you meet Him, even if you were in the junkyard of life, He’s able to go into that yard, save you, and turn you into a valuable masterpiece.
Have you opened the gift of faith in Jesus Christ? The gift that takes our junk and makes it into treasure? Celebrate God’s love today by thanking Him for sending Jesus to save us from our junk filled sinful selves and creating us, in Christ, to be His masterpiece. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.”

Praise Him All Creatures

Dr. Chris Irving, Pastor
I read the story of a little 5-year-old girl who attended her church pre-school. Each day before the kids were dismissed; the teacher would lead the class in singing the Doxology. This little girl loved to sing this beautiful song. But is often the case with little ones, she used her own lyrics, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures, here we go!” I love her creativeness. This week, we focus our hearts on God’s love in the sending and appearing of Christ Jesus. God’s love displayed in the sending of Jesus is one of the great truths and doctrines we celebrate during advent. Psalm 136:1 remind us that our God, YHWH, is the exact representation and expression of covenant faithfulness and love. Therefore we should give thanks to God for this marvelous and extravagant love.
First, notice that His love is “faithful.” The faithfulness of God defined as the doctrine that God will always do what He has said and fulfills what He has promised. It is God’s guarantee of goodness in Psalm 136, and His guarantee of forgiveness for those who call on Him in Psalm 86:5. The Advent season directs our hearts to understand and experience that God’s guarantee of goodness and forgiveness is completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Second, notice the thrust behind His goodness and forgiveness is His love. This love references God’s covenant faithfulness to His people. It speaks of God’s loyalty to Israel, and now to those who call on Jesus Christ as Lord, the Church. There is no place in time before or after, where God displayed His love than at the Cross. Let us give thanks and praise our God this Advent season for the covenant faithfulness of our God…and yes… Praise Him all creatures, HERE WE GO!

Trusty & Obey

Brent Young, Associate Pastor of Students & Outreach
Most of us can only imagine but will never really know how difficult it would be to live without the precious, essential, and often taken for granted ability of sight. Without seeing things we can utilize our other senses, but largely lack a simple assurance that sight immediately provides and validates, thus the idiom seeing is believing. For many of us to completely believe in something we cannot see is beyond our human abilities and is only possible with God’s help.
God is calling us to continuously develop our levels of faith and trust in Him, and to do so often without being able to actually see Jesus with our own eyes and hear Him speak. Jesus said to Thomas in John 20:29 “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And that’s all of us now, since Jesus has left Earth and returned to Heaven, and has not yet returned. But thankfully we have His Word that was written under His inspiration and sovereignty, and kept for us to always have and see with our own eyes.
The “ancients” that are commended in the following verses in the Hebrews 11 list,
often had to take seemingly-blind steps of faith in what God asked of them. But their trust was
not foolish, ignorant, or blindly following, it was because they knew the one leading was faithful. In the same way we can ask God to help us have the faith to confidently trust and obey His direction in our lives, even and especially when we cannot see the short-term outcomes.

Embracing The Unexpected

Brent Young, Associate Pastor of Students & Outreach
Embracing the unexpected. Life is full of surprises, both welcomed and unwelcomed. It’s easy for us to trust and praise God when these are what we are hoping for, like Elizabeth finally and miraculously becoming pregnant in her old age. She is easily able to thank God for taking away “my disgrace among the people”, not to mention the devastating pains that accompanies infertility that so many women face. But what about times when we are not hoping for the surprise that comes our way? Like Mary being told that she would also become pregnant, but in her case as an unmarried virgin. The confusing and significantly troubling results were many from within as well as all around her. But God chose Mary for a reason, and although she wasn’t perfect by any means, she was extremely faithful to God.
Mary’s end reaction to the angel Gabriel’s shocking news was demonstrative of this faith, as she said “I am the Lord’s servant”, or more accurately “slave”. She trusted God and knew that this must be part of His plan. She may have recalled Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” Or she understood the powerful words that her baby would be the ‘Son of God”, the one and only prophesied Messiah that the Holy Spirit would miraculously have her conceive. Or she was comforted by the words of Gabriel “For no word from God will ever fail.”
We can all remember her humble example of faith when unwelcomed unexpected things happen.

Faith In God’s Story

Brent Young, Associate Pastor of Students & Outreach
We can have faith in God’s big picture and His-story that has past as will come to pass. We don’t have to worry about the conclusion of this story, since we know that God created the world with a purpose and has not forgotten His benevolent and perfect plans. Despite God’s people often losing sight of Him, His people being trimmed down and persecuted through time, and even when things seem bleak, God’s people will always remain and be victorious in the end.
Unlike any king in history, God will provide our Messianic King who will return and rule perfectly. He will be a new kind of king, from the line of Jesse, who was King David’s father, and the ancestor of King Jesus. He will possess three main attributes that will enable Him to rule in a just, effective, and perfect manner. He will be wise, an able counselor, and loyal to God. We can long for the omniscient and omnipotent rule that will never fail us.
The second half of this passage paints such a utopian and exciting picture that we all long for as we continue towards the last things in world history. As we anticipate Jesus Messiah’s return, to usher in the end times, we long for the return of things to their initially created state that God said was “good”, before sin entered and began to corrupt and distort everything. We have faith that God will return things to state where we will not have to fear anything. The most vulnerable young animals and children will be forever safe from the most vicious and dangerous things in the current world. All will be “glorious” and we will live in this new Kingdom of God forever.