Waste God

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls today. May you walk and talk like Jesus so that others may see God on earth.

Horeb aka the Mountain of God, aka Sinai aka where God appears to Moses in the burning bush aka where the Ten Commandments are given—is a word that literally means “waste.” It’s just like God to appear in a wasteland, a forgotten and neglected place, and make it purposeful and sacred.

This Bible truth gets embodied with the donation we as a church received of the new red chairs for the fellowship halls at Bayside. These chairs were considered waste, stored away in a huge facility, not being utilized, taking up space and forgotten. Then God moved. He moved to connect us to these chairs which we needed as our old chairs were falling apart and ruining the carpet. With the help of a church member and his business connection, the chairs were donated to our church. We now have nice looking, sturdy, and very expensive chairs that are like a gift to us. BOOM. Just like that. No longer are the chairs considered waste. God transformed this secular basic furniture into his sacred holy pieces for the sanctuary with his people. This is God’s power of Horeb.

The transformation of waste with God is a theme in scripture. Think about the morsel of two fish and five pieces of bread that Jesus had when teaching to five thousand people. This was waste. Nothing much to give to the large crowd. I love how a boy had the remnant of food, as if he was the only one to scrap up what was around. Yet Jesus knows the God of Horeb. He takes this morsel waste and multiplies it and feeds everyone in attendance. Waste no more; this waste of crumbs became a feast. When as though it appeared insufficient and hungry stomachs would be heard growling during Jesus’ sermon, God transforms what seemed mundane and minimal into something miraculous and fulfilling. This is God’s power of Horeb. Luke writes, “Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude. So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them,” Luke 9:16-17. Perhaps we need to be better at looking at our waste? Not mourn over it or be made about it but offer our garbage and the things we think are meaningless to God and wait to watch Him bring forth our own burning bush.

There’s an old saying that says, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and I believe God is in the recycling business because he loves using what is garbage to recycle it into a valuable asset for his glory. There’s something so powerful about this ability of God that can nourish our faith. The mountain of waste tells us about the transformation God can do in and through us, no matter the waste we find ourselves in. If God can do this for mountains, surely he can do this for us. Are we not of more value than mountains?

Flowers for Kobe’s Birthday

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls. Is it me or does time go by faster and faster as you get older? Schools back in session, vacation days are used, new TV shows are on break and beach days are over. It felt like summer just started a weekend ago and now it’s over.

August 23rd is one of my hero’s birthdays, Kobe Bryant. Now I know many of you don’t have any affiliation or interest with him but I do believe his birthday can remind us that life is a precious gift to be opened and cherished. In fact, Kobe changed his number from 8 to 24 for this exact truth. He shared in an interview that his name change was symbolic of the time he has and was inspired by the the Latin aphorism, Carpe diem, which means “seize the day.”

Today would’ve been his 44th birthday. Kobe tragically passed away, along with eight other people, in a freak helicopter accident in January of 2020. It was the crash that shook not only the sports world but also the rest of the world. Kobe was known beyond America and crossed over to the arts, the education and business world. He was an author, olympic gold medalist, Oscar winner, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and story teller. Basketball was merely the tip of iceberg. Kobe was as Michael Jackson sang, “a comet, blazing ‘cross the evening sky, gone too soon. Like a rainbow, fading in the twinkling of an eye, gone too soon.”

His unfortunate passing makes me want to appreciate life even more. Regardless of being a fan of Kobe or not having any connection to him, his sudden death acts as a parable for us. Kobe’s quick short life, due to the awful accident, is not an anomaly. By the clock of eternity, we all have sudden deaths. From God’s perspective we all are here today gone tomorrow, whether we live to be eighty-nine years old or only reaching age nine. Now of course living up in our nineties is a long life, which is a great thing, and we all naturally aspire to live that long but even that length of age is still a super tiny speck to God’s eternal timetable. We mortals are mere subtle currents in the endless crashing waves of the sea. For some of us, we think we have a surplus of time to dispose because of our young age. For others we know exactly how little time we have but the problem is we have so much to do we don’t know how to prioritize the cares of this life. Crunched on time, we end up neglecting life’s blessings indirectly from trying to do everything and that leads to a massive existential headache. But what Kobe teaches us is life, no matter what age, is ephemeral, curt, and sudden. The Bible says so, “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone,” James 4:14. Did you catch that? We are like the morning fog that dissipates when the sun comes up. Well that’s depressing. Another verse says we are grass that easily gets cut and like a flower that quickly blooms and dies (Psalm 103:15). The good news is we are like a beautiful flower; the bad news is we fade away as soon as we show off our pretty petals. Don’t you love how the Bible keeps it real and avoids sugar coating the harsh realities of our existence?

So from Kobe, scripture, and frankly just by noticing our birthdays speed past us every year, let’s gain wisdom to open the gift of life that God has given us and cherish it to the fullest. How do we do that?

We love recklessly! We love without a receipt. We love when it hurts. We love when tired. We love to whatever maximizes the most joy. We love no matter what time it is because a Christian goes by eternity’s timezone. We open the gift of love by not discriminating our love to others and instead give our love to the people that don’t deserve it. We go the extra mile so that love can be felt. We turn the other cheek so that love can be our weapon to take down wrongdoing. We freely give to those in need, strangers or to the siblings who take our clothes without asking, so that love is made unconditional and not a quid pro quo. We love by giving God our hearts to take on our worry load. Faith is another word for love because we show God we trust him. This is the wisdom Jesus tells us about living this difficult life of responsibility and sustainability. Jesus literally tells us in Matthew 6:27, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Worrying actually subtracts the gift of life and makes you lose time because you attend to the things that don’t matter and end up losing on moments to open God’s blessings. Why waste time on things that keep you away from the gift of life? Life is too short to get caught up in things that are out of your hands, life is too precious to be preoccupied by things that steal your joy, life is too much as a gift to not have the attitude like its Christmas morning every day as you murder the wrapping paper opening presents under the tree. Reckless love makes us focus on what is actually vital in life without distraction and makes us not care about who will judge us for doing so.

Parabolically, we live life to the fullest when we realize life is like Kobe’s; it’s what makes life so valuable and not meaningless. God considers everyone’s life is essential no matter the length. It’s so essential that God leaves his eternal realm and enters in our time dimension, coming as a human and experiencing the gift of life, and becoming a gift on the cross so we can have eternal life. Jesus came to save us from time’s destructive power, which is everlasting separation from God. This means love is spelled T.I.M.E. God is not afraid of our brief physical existence because he knows time goes on into eternity, becoming one just as Jesus and God are one; the temporal and eternal are married forever. This means the past is forever the present and the future is always now, according to God’s clock. Time is never gone when it’s coupled up with eternal love. This means nostalgia doesn’t have to be crippling because all of time is one place in the kingdom of God and Jesus has already told us it’s arrived and how to live on earth as it is in heaven. Nostalgia is time travel according to the physics of eternity. This is the outlook we can have and where we are fully heading towards. Understanding the marriage of time and eternity grants us courage and zeal to seize the day, squeezing out of ourselves the juice to make sweet lemonade for God’s glory. The life of Jesus tells us time is eternity’s love language and it’s not lost no more than a current is lost in the ocean. Jesus is time from eternity and he takes us back with him so that love remains forever.

So bloom. Even though it might be a short spectacle. Grow. Burst. Attract bees to pollinate. Ignore the gloomy days. Don’t hold back your petals. Because for Jesus, you are the lovely flower he planted that blooms in his beautiful garden and he thinks you are worth every second.

Grace and peace,

Pastor (:^)

More Than Two Words

Hello Baysiders! Hope Summer is treating you well in your souls! May you all enjoy the last several weeks of summer and walk in the Spirit to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

“I’m sorry.” So short. So powerful. If you’ve lived on this earth long enough you’ll realize those two words have become common to you and I as recipients or orators of such contrition. Our human species has a knack for causing trouble and inflicting pain to one another and those two words can be a new rope to a broken bridge . Whether the harm is intentional or not, saying I’m sorry can be the most powerful words that can be spoken.

However, as common as those two words are and our physical faculty in knowing how to mechanically say them, in addition to understanding their meaning and the right way to apply them, we as a human species are NOT that great at actually using them. Sure, maybe the small stuff we are really good and quick to say them, like stepping on someone’s foot on the bus. Or when you didn’t hear the words from the bank clerk and need the words repeated, you say “I’m sorry I didn’t catch that, what did you say?” But that’s easy. Very few struggle saying the two words in those situations. I am talking about the big stuff of life, like resentment you had for months against your spouse and need to apologize with those two words. Or like finally realizing your behavior is the one causing the friction in the relationship yet you are also proud and don’t want to admit you’re wrong even though you know you need to confess your misbehavior with those two words. Or like apologizing with those two words because you offended someone in order to protect your inflated ego. All are hard situations to say I’m sorry. Some people are a forty-four year old married man, with a mortgage, masters degree, and two kids and struggle with saying those two words. Those two words are a problem for a lot of us.

The Bible has a lot to say about those two words. The whole book of Leviticus is one large I’m sorry manual for Israel; God wants his people to know how to go about apologizing. The prophets are full of instructions and pleas for Israel’s wicked leaders and indifferent people to apologize and turn back to God. The Bible has one word for the two words I am talking about and that word is repentance. The parable of the Prodigal Son is full of lessons about repentance, apologizing, reconciliation, and is a spiritual mosaic of the two words. In fact, Jesus tells us saying, “I’m sorry” is the same as saying, “I repent” to someone who disrespects or harms us. In Luke 17:4, Jesus says, “…if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” The way to restored relationships, the right direction to forgiveness, and the solution to unending conflict is repentance and repentance starts with those two words.

I want to end with some practical steps for us to apply so we can be great orators of saying I’m sorry. There is additional action to take place besides saying those words. Just like repentance is more than just saying the word, saying I’m sorry implies a lot of work in the order to fix the broken bridge. Apologizing is more than two words. Though the two words are powerful, helpful and important when facing reconciliation, they are not sufficient. At times, only saying those two words can be a way to rid responsibility of an offense to see its real damage or be an easy excuse not to make any changes to the relationship or even a way to manipulate a conflict to your own agenda. Also, these six steps are equally efficient when applied to apologizing to God and should be the right path towards healthy faith.

Here our six steps to apologizing in a Christ centered way for our conflicted and broken relationships. First, express sorrow. This is done by saying the two words, “I’m sorry.” You can add flowers, coffee, a toy, or any other gift with those two words but it’s crucial these two words are spoken because if not, no matter the gift, the apology will be void and fake. This is the first step because it leads to all the other steps and if you skip this step, then apologizing is futile. Secondly, own guilt. This is you saying, “I was wrong.” Taking responsibility for your offense is telling the truth of the circumstance and not lying about it with your own proud smear brush on the beautiful painting of that relationship. Most of the time apologizing is never Christlike because the truth of the crime, wrong, offense, or story is never told by both parties. The truth shall set you free as Jesus once said. When the offender does not own the wrong, then he or she is holding up the lie over the truth of the victim’s pain. Only when the full truth of the situation and offenses are confessed will healing start. Thirdly, you need to name the specific(s) wrong. “I did x, y, and z,” is how you would do this step. By calling out your own wrongs, you are telling the hurt party that you understand their pain and role in the breakdown of relationship. This steps is for all the details of your wrong to be exposed and mitigated. Fourthly, name the impact. This is, “I hurt you.” When you talk about the impact that your actions had on the victim, you are emotionally empathizing with them; you’ve moved on from the ethical premise to now the relational fact of reconciliation. This is guilt that is healthy and good because it shows you are aware of someone’s else’s feelings besides your own. Often our problem with not apologizing or not going further with the steps is we only focus on our own feelings, pain, and point of view. Fifthly, don’t blame. We can poison the reconciliation by saying “but you…” There is no need to defend yourself if the goal is to have the other party restored back as it once was. Playing the blame game just shows you are socially immature and have no skill at addressing hard emotions in conflicting relationships. Lastly and sixthly, make amends. This comes out like, “What can I do to make us better?” There needs to be an action plan to your two words of I’m sorry. If not, then the behavior will continue and you will show the offending party that they are not valued. Repentance is an action word in the Bible. It means to turn around the other way that you were going. Before you were going the way of unconfession and pride but now you are heading to the way of humility, remorse, and reconciliation. When you’re actually interested in changing the relationship for the good of all parties involved, then the hurt party is loved as they need to be. It means the relationship matters and when you offer your services to make things better, the potential for a far better relationship arises. And when we do that, we come closer to understanding the relationship God has with us, a relationship started at offense (sin), but moved to repentance and ended at resurrection with Jesus saying, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Pastor Aaron (:^)

Summer Vibe

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls! Happy Summer and blessed are you if you wear sunscreen, for you shall never be burned.

Memorial Day is the commencement to the summer season and as we transition from spring to full on sunny days, let’s not confuse God’s sun with God’s son. See what I did there? God’s sun, you know, that fireball in outer space he created on day four of creation that keeps our planet nice and warm and makes it possible to have light in in our day, is in competition to God’s son Jesus. For the moment let’s appreciate the gift of the solar sun. So many planetary and social blessings comes from it. The sun lavishes us with its heat, no more jackets or pants, no more cold evenings when walking the dog, no more school (for those who are on summer break or graduated), no more absence of summer fruit in the grocery store. Watermelon is finally here! Big trips, sleepovers, and vacations occur in the summer time. The biggest movies of the year come out during this time of year. Fourth of July is one of may people’s favorite holiday. I can go on and on about all the fun summer vibes. Summer’s sun heats things up and makes this time of season enjoyable. Here’s my point Church, in all summer things, do them for the glory of Christ.

This is where the other son comes in. Jesus doesn’t change as the seasons change. We have many desires, concerns, and plans this coming summer but can we prioritize the right son? God’s son Jesus is similar to the gas ball in space. Both have the power to light up darkness, hold all things together in its place (gravity), and both are radiant with power. So it’s easy to put God’s son on the back burner or be in cruise control while you are at the beach. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Here is my remix of the verse, “Whatever bbq chicken or homemade lemonade, do every summer thing for God’s glory.” I believe this verse can also be said, “Whatever mundane or trivial the activity you do, let it be to the glory of God.” For most of us, summer is still the usual busy, long, nine to five schedule. Let that be for God’s glory too!

This verse reminds us seasons come and go but our instruction to glorify God never changes. In our summer pursuits, God’s glory is the goal. How we have fun and the activities we participate in matter to God. God’s sun is important but not as important as God’s son. Seasons come and go, Jesus does not. In your future bliss this season, remember God’s son saved you from outer darkness and brought you into His wonderful light. By the end of July, you will be dissatisfied and weary of the season of God’s sun. Only by God’s other son will you be rested and find true vacation for your soul.

TGIF

Happy Holy Week Baysiders! Hope spring is treating you well and the good Lord is blossoming in your souls this season.

Those four letters in the title of this blog entry bring so much joy and relief. Fridays in our culture are happy days. Friday is the day we can let go of the stress from work, the evening of the week you finally get to take the girl you asked out on a date, the time to meet up with your girlfriends, a jump start to the fun weekend plans you have, and the day to have movie night with the family. It’s a pretty darn good day. So it makes sense there is a Friday on the Church calendar called Good Friday, right? It’s something we do for fun and relaxation. Well, not exactly. Good Friday is good because its about what God has done for us and is wiling to do to be with us.

In Church history across all Christians (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant) Good Friday commemorates the suffering, crucifixion and death of Jesus of Nazareth more than 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem. The name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save his people from their sins. This moment in human history was the worse thing that has ever happened: the death of God. We killed God. With our violence, sins, and self idolatry autonomy, we defaced God. What makes this Friday so special among the rest is God allows this for the sake of love. The sacrifice of God on the cross is God’s visible, tangible, and historical expression of love for the created world. He was willing to be with us at the cost of losing heaven and God the Father. The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, ” For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” The cross is the pivotal moment of love displayed. God in Christ becomes one with us being treated as a sinner and taking on our sinful consequences. As ugly as it was, its so so good and beautiful because this sacrifice of love changes how we see God. He is willing to go to most extremes to be with us, in our suffering, sin, fear, troubles, and never leave us alone. No matter what issues we might have against God, it can’t be that he doesn’t love us; the cross doesn’t allow us think that.

Good Friday is the day we remember God becomes not just empathetic to our humanity but embodies our experience. So before you start singing Rebecca Black’s Friday or Katy Perry’s TGIF, consider how deep the Father’s love is for us, that Jesus went through the fire for you and I so that not only every Friday can be good but everyday of the week is now good.

Lucky Charms

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls on this first day of March. I can’t believe its already two years since the world changed from Covid-19! Glory to God for keeping us together as a church and also for making us stronger through the pandemic.

One of my favorite cereals as a kid was Lucky Charms. I always asked my mom to purchase them when she went to the grocery store and it was a very good day when I saw them in the kitchen pantry. The mascot for Lucky Charms is a youthful leprechaun with a four leaf clover on his green top hat, who went around chasing a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, with, of course, a bowl of Lucky Charms in hand. Confession: I thought Saint Patrick was that little leprechaun on the cereal box. What can I say, my church history was weak as a seven year old. But all that to say, who is Saint Patrick? And why do we wear green on March 17th and get pitch if you and I don’t?

Google sheds some light for us by informing us that Saint Patrick lived during the fifth century and was the patron saint of Ireland. Born in Roman Britain, he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. For years he lived a painful and drugged life as a slave. By God’s grace he later escaped back home with his family but only to return to Ireland and was credited with bringing Christianity to its people. He was determined and made it his object to help the Irish by preaching and teaching the gospel. In the centuries following Patrick’s death, (believed to have been on March 17, 461), his followers started an annual celebration of his life. Many years later the legend surrounding his life became ever more ingrained in the Irish culture by the most well-known feature of his story with his explanation of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using the three leaves of a native Irish clover, the shamrock. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years and on Saint Patrick’s Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Modern-day celebrations and themes continued to take shape during the rest of the 1700s. In 1762, the first New York City parade took place. It wasn’t until 1798, the year of the Irish Rebellion, that the color green became officially associated with the day. Up until the rebellion, the color associated with St. Patrick was blue, as it was featured both in the royal court and on ancient Irish flags. But as the British wore red, the Irish chose to wear green, and they sang the song “The Wearing of the Green” during the rebellion, cementing the color’s relevance in Irish history. And that whole leprechaun thing started from the Celtic folklore which got attached to the season of Saint Patrick because it shares the same cultural history. As for why do you get pinched for not wearing green? Well, according to folklore, leprechauns like to pinch people and on Saint Patrick’s Day you get pinched for not wearing green because green makes you invisible to leprechauns.

What made Saint Patrick a legend was his commitment to a people to love. He surrendered his family and home life for total strangers and enemies. He is remembered this month by his determination and courage to face whatever dangers lay ahead, as well as the compassion and forgiveness to work among a people who had brought nothing but pain to his life. This is our encouragement for the month of March, to be determined to do what God has told us to do. Big or small, whatever the job is God has told us to do, to do it. Acts 20:24 says, “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” I wonder if Saint Patrick read that verse and was motivated to do the same with his life?

Gothic Bayside

Hello Baysiders! Hope the start of the new year is treating you well! Let’s thank God for all the rain that we have been getting in the Bay. We need it so much in our dry environment and for our wells and reservoirs to be refilled.

I have a question. Did you know our church has a Catholic and medieval feature to it? How you might ask when we are Southern Baptist as a denomination? It’s true, our church is gothic. No, not gothic like the fashion style of a teenager who wears all black and dark eye shadow. I mean gothic as a style of architecture prevalent in western Europe in the 12th–16th centuries, characterized by pointed arches, rib vaults, elaborate tracery, and with large stained glass windows. Bayside Church physically has a gothic feature and its our stain glass window. Our goth feature and a staple art piece is the stained glass window of the dove descending down behind the baptismal on the stage in the sanctuary. Every time I see it I am captivated by the blue colors and image it’s expressing to us as we worship.

I am no art enthusiast but I do have some Bible knowledge to the point of winning at Bible trivia and I believe the stained glass at our church is telling us three truths by it’s artistic meaning. First, Christ is with us. The dove falling down from the sky is from the story of Jesus’ baptism. This account of Jesus’ life is one of the few that is mentioned in all four gospels! This means it’s a pretty important event to know and not to overlook. After John baptizes him, Jesus is lifted out of the water and then Matthew says the Holy Spirit descended down to Jesus like a dove! Matthew 3:16 says, “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.” This image on the glass communicates to us that Christ is here with us and is at the center and purpose for every baptism and ministry effort we do. Jesus obeyed God the Father to fulfill all righteousness and the act of his baptism is a picture of dying for us yet resurrected as he comes up out of the water. This is the gospel in a nutshell. Jesus knows our humanity and understands our plight with sin. In his baptism, he demonstrates the oneness of our humanness. Jesus here at Bayside is the primary truth of the stained glass.

Secondly, I believe it tells us we have peace with God no matter what we face and who we are. A dove in scripture symbolizes peace. Think of Noah in the ark waiting to board off the boat and walk on land when God sends a dove to him with a palm branch letting him know there is peace on earth now. There is no more storm, rain, and destruction but it’s time to start anew, fresh beginnings and peace is possible. This is the promise of the dove. In Jesus, we can have peace; peace at church, peace for relational drama, peace over sin, peace in anxiety, peace between God and our fellow human beings. Where do you need peace right now? Enter church and find it. How do you attain peace? Come to church and get it. Who do you go to for peace? Be part of a church and learn it. That’s the promise with the dove falling down on the water. The dove flies over peaceful quiet waters and not rowdy rough waters. Church is the place with still waters and we as God’s sheep are invited to come drink from the living water every time we gather. The second truth is the dove of Christ is over Bayside Church.

Lastly, I see the ongoing Spirit of God active in our lives and he speaks love over us as a church. You want God’s love? Go to Bayside Church. Right after the dove descends on Jesus, God speaks and says He is well pleased with Jesus being his beloved son. The stained glass of the dove descending is a continual reminder that God is at work in our lives and we are well pleasing to him. Isn’t that good news? God is descending upon us right now, at church or when you are at home alone trying to make the wise choice in a difficult situation. God is descending upon us with his love. You don’t have God’s wrath, sadness, or judgement falling on you but rather his love falling on you. There’s a false caricature of God out there in the world that says he throws thunder bolts at us when we upset him. But that’s a false theology and actually comes from the theology of the Greeks, from the god Zeus. God sends a bird on us. That’s right! A pretty pure white bird is falling on us. That’s not threatening at all because it’s a peace sign that God is on good terms with us. He wants to give us his peace by his love. That’s the power of the stained glass! His peace is falling on us no matter if we are in the middle of sin or don’t feel like worshiping him. Peace is still always available to us if we choose to see it.

So next time you are at church, gaze and think upon the gothic image of the gospel’s descending dove. Jesus is buried with us in our sin and resurrects us with him for new life and peace with God, who is active in our lives, descending always upon us with his love. That’s motivation for worship at church all the time.

New Year New You

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls! The Christmas season is upon us and the fight to keep Jesus at the center of it all is always the challenge around this time of year. I pray you all are seeking first the kingdom of God and all these holiday things will be added unto you.

I want to move past Christmas. I know. You just started playing your favorite Christmas songs. But time waits for no one! I want to focus on the new year, 2022. Rather than wait for January, I want to get ahead start because it’s right around the corner and I want to encourage you to push into the new year and be passionate of new beginnings and not be afraid of the unknown. Sometimes we can be sluggish to new things and changes. But if you start preparing for it now, it will be easier to follow through. New Years is our cultural’s celebration of new starts, fresh perspective, letting go of past regrets and pain and looking forward to starting something new or over again. It’s the perfect time to create new habits and develop character that resembles Jesus.

New Year resolutions, fixes, goals, whatever you want to call them are very Christian actually as they center on absolution of what has been done and on determination to do better than before. It’s what confession of sin and repentance is all about. I like what Paul says in Philippines 3:12-14, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Paul was all about the prize of heaven. He did whatever he could to obtain it. He welcomed anything that would make him take hold of Jesus. Isn’t that an awesome pursuit? To live in such a way to hold more onto Jesus is not just the yearly goal but daily goal for every Christ follower. Paul was determined and didn’t allow for his past to ruin or impeded his future. Thats the essence of New Years, to reframe, refocus, reimagine, and start anew with any habits, ideas, and personality traits to lay hold of Jesus.

Here are some questions to ask yourself on beginning new this year in the attempt to hold onto Jesus more.

  1. Who do I want to become as an individual and what aspect of my personhood needs to be let go?
  2. Where do I want to be at the end of next year?
  3. How can I accomplish this pursuit and what practices can I do to obtain more of Jesus?
  4. Why am I doing this again? (This question is the most important because it will constantly remind you of the reason for the prize of heaven)

Grace and peace ?:^)

Pastor Aaron

Bad Turkey

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls this week. As the holidays are arriving, let’s dig deep in prayer and fellowship to be strong during this season. It can be joyful but also stressful and a solid devotion life can be a source of strength.

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? What is the traditional meal? What time is the eating? The fun is learning all the different ways we participate in the spirit of thanks. Let me tell you one way NOT to celebrate the holiday, don’t make Thanksgiving be focused on your desires and expectations. The worse thing you can do is make Thanksgiving about you. If you do, you will not be celebrating Thanksgiving but twisting it; you will be contradicting the holiday. The reason is at the heart of the holiday is everything and everyone else but you. This is because fundamentally being thankful requires you to not be the focus or receiver of celebration. When we say thank you, we are admitting our vulnerability and dependence to or on something outside us. To say thank you means you are bankrupt and helpless thus appreciate the help and resources that you received. From someone opening the door for you, taking out your trash, surprising you with coffee, a clerk giving you the receipt, friends inviting you to dinner, and to a simple text message with an encouraging word. These are all transactions apart from your doing. Thankfulness can only be done by making it about others or someone else.

I get this from scripture in Luke 18 where Jesus shares a story about a very pious religious man who goes to church and prays to God, thanking God he is not like other people, thanking God that he is a good moral person, thanking God that he every year is honest with his taxes and was not a scumbag. This person is a Pharisee and in verse 11 we learn about how he was such a bad turkey, “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” His thankfulness was about him and his doing, his achievement, his actions. But thats not thankfulness. He made the prayer about him. There was no humility, no vulnerability, no appreciation for what God has done for him. He never once considered the external factors that made his life and his own character so great. It was everything about what he did for God and how it made him look good among others.

Bayside, can we be thankful in the correct way? Can we be good turkeys? If you are having a hard time being thankful about your life right now its probably because you are focusing too much on yourself. But that is not how you find thankfulness. Maybe you are finding it difficult to be thankful in your crummy situation because you are concentrated on what others have not done and comparing it to what you have done. You put in the hard work but someone else gets the promotion. You are always the spouse who is flexible and forgiving but never receive the same grace. The President is not doing what he said he would do and you voted for him. You always do what is right yet always get the short end of the stick. When we think this way, we are a bad turkey, being like the Pharisee thanking yourself because of the good you have done and belittling others who have not done those things. Thats not the spirit of thanksgiving. You find thanksgiving by seeing what others have done for you. You will be thankful when you realize all the good in your life was given to as a gift that was not at all part of your doing. When we admit our neediness, thankfulness will arrive in our hearts and the turkey will be good for all to eat.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Aaron ?:^)

Church Motto

Hello Baysiders! Hope is well in your souls! Sweaters are worn, beanies are out and girls are posting their pumpkin spice lattes on their Instagram. As the seasons transition, let’s enjoy each day as they come.

I want to share with you our church motto. Yes. That’s right. Bayside has a church motto. It’s displayed on our welcome packages and on the info table sign in the foyer. Many Churches have one or they call them a mission or vision statement. Bayside’s is a mix of both telling others who we are and where we want to be. I implemented the motto when I first came to Bayside as the new Senior Pastor. Bayside’s motto is, “Falling in grace to talk and walk like Jesus.” The scripture inspiration, support, and verse that encompasses the ethos for the motto is 1 John 2:6, “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” I will break the meaning of the motto in this blog entry.

The word falling has implications for the kind of people we are in our faith. It has a twofold meaning. First, falling refers to our fallen state as humans who sin and make mistakes. We all have this brokenness as humanity and Christians are no different. The good news is we as Christians say we are aware of our sin, confess our sin, repent from our sin and find wholeness and forgiveness from God. The other meaning to falling is poetic to our relational status with God. Like new lovers who fall in love with each other, displaying uncontrollable passion and their hearts enlarged from their romantic relationship, we also as the church are falling passionately for God and are madly in love with him. We are constantly discovering new lovely ways of God. Thats what faith is, it’s a crush on God knowing he is crushing on us. Our faith is a divine romance.

The next word in the motto that is grace. Grace is God’s love experienced. Grace is the power, presence, tool, feeling, allowance, and intellect to all that God does. We want to be people with those same features. Saint Paul says it was by grace we have been saved, and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God (Eph 2:8). Grace is the reason we have all that we have that is good in life. We acknowledge our undeserving position yet grace grants us blessings we didn’t earn. Without grace we are merely moralist, people who do good for the sake of reward and to feel good about ourselves. Without grace, there is no forgiveness. Without grace, there is no helping the poor, unprivileged, or those who are inferior to us because grace doesn’t exist in the economy of meritocracy. Grace is what makes the church standout from the world and is the currency in the kingdom of heaven.

Thirdly, the trajectory of falling for God and into His grace is our personal responsibility to live like Jesus lived. God bestows on us the grace needed but it is up to us to receive and use grace. God doesn’t spoon feed us strong faith. We have to put in the work to be intentional on learning theology, disciplined in a regular healthy devotional practice, applying scripture to our lifestyles, regularly be part of the church community, and strategic on how to create and foster the character of Jesus. This means our goal at Bayside is to orient our lives that prioritizes and centers on the works and words of Jesus. All that Jesus said we want to hear and understand to follow his words. All that Jesus did we want to see and know to properly implement and do also. We need both the works and words of Jesus in our lives. If we only know what Jesus said, memorizing Bible verses but don’t have the actions to back them up, we become hypocrites and our words are void of any meaning. If we only do the works of Jesus while avoiding the words of Jesus, our actions will confuse people on who we are and we fall back into dead religion. Words reveal our motives to our actions and actions give authenticity to our words.

Lastly, the word we have left is a name. The name of Jesus. The name above all other names (Phil 2:9-11). The name that is so holy you feel inadequate to call yet so lovely, saying it eases all nerves and puts our hearts at rest. Jesus is the purpose for why we do everything. The logic we understand the way the world works. The guide as our road map at life. He is the wisdom we use to make decisions when its hard and not black or white. His character is the standard we strive to be like. We define our lives by how Jesus defined his life. The success Jesus had is the success we want to pursue and accomplish. Jesus is the ground for all our hopes, the perfect human for what we long and pray to grow into of the obedience and intimacy with God the Father. He is our finally authority for truth, beauty, and goodness. This is the motto of Bayside. Baysiders are saints bumbling around in grace to be talking and walking like Jesus. It’s a tall task to attempt to follow this motto but what joy it is to fall in grace knowing we will land in the arms of Jesus when we do.

Grace and peace ?:^)

Pastor Aaron