Focus. Pay Attention.

Focus. Pay Attention. We're in it. We've got this. 

Hello church and happy September! Can you believe we've already come to this part of the year? Over the weekend, we had a team of men from church who went down to serve in Mexico. Sierra Bible Church has held a long-standing friendship with these pastors and missionaries, and with the funds raised by the kids during VBS (Vacation Bible School) week in June, they were able to re-roof the church as well as the roof of a single woman's home from their congregation. Thank you, church, for your continued generosity!

We had the privilege of hearing Nate Milnik, long-time congregation member and teacher of Philosophy, preach the service this past Sunday. He walked us through the latter part of the Sermon on the Mount, speaking specifically about Matthew 7:13-20 as Jesus instructs us to be discerning of truth from false prophets, and the narrow gate from the wide gate. What does this all mean?

Whether you have been a Christ-follower for many years, are a newer believer, or curious about faith, we have all made choices. Those choices come to us with facts, opinions, sometimes pressure. Some are easy to wade through. Other choices are life altering and heavy hitters. The way of the world is wide. It will say that all good people have a peaceful after life. It will tell us that no good person deserves pain or illness. The world will try to convince us that there are many ways that lead to eternal life.

I'm currently reading through a book called, The Night is Normal, by Alicia Britt Chole. Throughout this book, she tells readers that often times our view of the darkness or of the night- when those dark seasons or moments of our lives can be perceived as being void of God, void of goodness and void of growth, that the Bible is full of the opposite. Let us not forget that God's design started in the darkness. He was still there. Genesis 1:2 tells us, "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters". The narrow gate is settling your life in the truth of God and scripture, regardless of how the world will challenge it. In John 16, Jesus says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (vs. 33). It's not that Jesus promises that dark and difficult times will never come, we should rather expect them in this broken world, but He has overcome. That is the promise. That is the narrow way.

Currently my uncle is terminal. Cancer is awful and I absolutely hate it. There are friends and family members mad at a god I'm not sure they believe in, claiming it's unfair. And at times throughout this all-too-quick cancer journey, I've been tempted to believe the same. It's unfair. He's a great man. A wonderful husband, father and grandfather. The best uncle. And yet. If we really consider Christianity, we all deserve death. We all deserve the pain. It is by the grace of God that He sent His son to make atonement for our sins. So how does pain make sense in this world as a believer? In the Psalms, David is full of lament and grief in his desperation of God's presence and yet stands firm on the promise of God's faithfulness, being found known as a man after God's own heart. As Job loses almost everything in his life, he calls out to the same God. In Job 3:20-26 he says, “Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave? Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? For sighing has become my daily food; my groans pour out like water. What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” Then a friend of Job responded. This is what he says in Job 4:17-21, "Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker? If God places no trust in his servants, if he charges his angels with error, how much more those who live in houses of clay, whose foundations are in the dust, who are crushed more readily than a moth! Between dawn and dusk they are broken to pieces; unnoticed, they perish forever. Are not the cords of their tent pulled up, so that they die without wisdom?" The narrow gate is to know that our understanding is not above God's, that our ways are not above His and that His faithfulness endures despite what we may or may not believe about Him. He does not change.

"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). The narrow way is not wide. It does not give any other option of a savior. Friends. This is a hard one. I'm with you. It is so tempting to be discouraged in the faith when our lives or situations don't pan out how we hope or expect them to. As Nate asked, how do you consider Christianity? How do you observe fruit and discern it's contents? In 2 Timothy 4, Paul writes, "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry" (vs. 3-5). How much have we seen that to be true in the world today? Consider the cancel culture. Consider the hesitancy to proclaim truth in a world ravenous with lies. Jesus said many things the world didn't want to hear and yet we know just how much we need it. People are starving for the truth. I'll leave you with these words from Paul as he wrote to the church in Ephesus, "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith- that you, being rooted and grounded in love, many have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen" (Ephesians 4:14-21).

If you are curious about faith and what the Bible says about who God is and who you are in Him, consider signing up for our Alpha group. This will begin on September 19 at the White Barn off Phoenix Lake Road. This group is our new on-ramp for new or curious believers. If you'd like to continue your journey of faith, growing in community and the Word, join our Rooted group or one of our many LifeGroups, which will also begin the week of September 17. Sign up here.

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