Keeping The First Things First

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls during this Summer! What a difference a year makes. Last Summer was plagued by pandemic lockdowns and restrictions. Today we are freer to enjoy the season, so lets have a good attitude and be grateful for our progress from the pandemic.

I recently heard a radio station stating that airlines are busier than ever, how its hard to get tickets because people are packing the flight schedules to make up from last year’s stay-cations due to Covid. Restaurant spots are constantly booked, gas prices are up yet it is not stopping people from making road trip plans, and traffic is back ruining our travel timetables. As life is slowly getting back to normal, its easy to de-prioritize faith. Because faith has sustained us throughout the year, when something else comes back (like movie theaters, travel, concerts, amusement parks, gyms) its tempting to put God at the end of the priority line. I mean God will understand right if we focus on the little things?

It’s so easy to get lost in the business of life. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in yourself. It’s so easy to lose focus on what really matters. The fact of the matter is God is not one of the little things but the biggest thing among all things that makes all those little things work. The concerns of this life can and does blur our vision of God. We cannot let the world, the Devil, yourself or pandemic resolutions dictate our faith. Let your faith dictate your faith. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Jesus reminds us to keep God one in our lives because when we do, all the other important stuff will fall in line. Have your eyes on God, keep your mind above, and stay focus on the truth. Putting God first in everything is the means by how we live purposefully and wisely. I can’t tell you the amount of times I ruined a good thing because I didn’t have my priorities lined right. Every time God was moved to number four or eight on the priority list, the primary desires of my heart were unfulfilled or wasted. When God is number one in your life, above anyone or anything else, he adds all that is needed to you. C.S Lewis once said, “Put first things first and you get second things thrown in; put second things first and you lose both first and second things.” God knows your priorities, he is asking us to make him our main priority because when we do all other things will take take their rightful place. The Lord is aware of your situation and needs, and he will help you with all of them by paying attention to God and not the second thing. What’s distracting you from trusting God? What’s getting in the way of your commitment with Jesus? What’s stealing your peace and joy? Christians can’t let secondary issues distract us from our primary need for God. Believers at times get burdened on the practicalities of life and the worries of tomorrow and we push communion with our Lord aside. Church, here’s the good news, if you seek and keep God first, all these summer things will be added to you.

Grace and peace ?:^)

Pastor Aaron

Leave It With Me

Happy Summer Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls and you all are wearing plenty of sunscreen!

This month’s posting I wanted to give you all a break from reading my words and change it up and give you someone else’s words. I was encouraged by a blog post from one of my favorite preachers Sam Wells. He is a priest in England and I want to share with you his short message because I was encouraged by it. It spoke to my heart and I hope it speaks to yours.

“Some time ago I was approached by a man I’d never met before. I quickly realized he was frightened. His voice quavered, and he was reluctant to hold my gaze. He had in his hand a box, and it was clear that whatever was inside the box was very precious to him. He had a strong accent, and I struggled at first to understand what he was saying. But there was no doubt he wanted to give the box to me. I’m always open to receiving random acts of kindness, but it was evident this wasn’t a present. I said, “Let’s find a place to sit down and talk.” Gradually I learned why he was so scared. He came from a country where democracy was unknown and the rule of law was a joke, where being opposed to the regime was a dangerous thing to be. He had observed many ways in which the government oppressed its people, and he’d compiled a dossier which had got him into trouble. I could almost feel him looking over his shoulder during the conversation, even in the safety of London.

But it became apparent that he intended to return to his country, in spite of the danger that almost certainly awaited him there. He had commitments, he loved his people, and he had no plan to stay in London and claim asylum, despite the considerable evidence of the jeopardy he would be in. He said, “I know where my home is, and it’s not going to get any better if all the people who want a better future leave.” London had been good to him and had given him a sense of well-being and welcome he hadn’t known for a long time. He’d only spent a small part of his life in London, but, he said, “It’s the closest I’ve known to feeling safe.” Eventually I asked him what was in the box. With gentle hands, entrusting something very precious to me, he handed it to me. Inside was a small animal. By this point I wouldn’t have been surprised if it were alive. But it turned out to be a toy, to which he’d given his own name, because he identified with its vulnerability and tenderness. He wanted me to keep the box, and the creature inside it, so that a part of his heart could be safe in London even if the rest of him was in danger in his home country.

I said the only words he wanted me to say: “Leave it with me.” I still have that box. I keep it in the safest place I know.

There are many times in life when we feel scared, troubled, or in exile, and perhaps seldom more so than in the last year. The simple claim of Christianity is that however bad things may feel now, ultimately we will be safe. When Paul writes about heaven, he speaks as though it’s not so much somewhere we go as a place of which we can say, Part of me is already there. “You have died,” he writes to the Colossians, “and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Think about that image. The way I see it, Christ has a flowing, wraparound mantle, and you and I are tucked into that mantle in a secret place, safe until we come fully into God’s presence. In romantic films, the two lovers—doomed to part, generally at a train station—leave each other with a keepsake. Perhaps it’s a ring with entwined initials engraved inside. Maybe it’s a bracelet, the circle of silver enclosing the arm like a lover’s embrace surrounding the beloved. Or possibly it’s a locket, hidden beneath a shirt, somewhere near the heart. The message is clear: things may be hard, we may be far apart, it may seem hard to imagine how we’ll ever be together again. But you’re safe with me, tucked away in a safe place. I’ll never let go.”

Wise and encouraging words from priest Sam Wells.

The pandemic is training in remembering that what we currently see isn’t a reliable guide to what we’ll see forever. COVID-19 and its consequences may seem all too real right now, but they won’t last forever. The truth of our lives and the eternity of our being lie hidden with Christ in God. And here’s the paradox. Jesus is the mysterious lover, who has to depart—and on departing leaves with us a locket, a ring, a bracelet. It’s the Holy Spirit, a token that means we know however bad things seem right now, our forever belongs in God. But at the same time, Jesus is the one who dwells in forever, and if we give him a keepsake—our heart, soul, mind, and strength—we can know that one day the rest of us will follow. When I look at that little box the frightened man gave me, I think of him, of where he might be now and what danger he might be in. I wonder if he’s still alive. But alive or dead, I still keep the part of him he gave me, because London was the safest place he knew. And I think of how I have a similar opportunity. I can give to Jesus something that represents the whole of me, and I can know that one day the whole of me will be there too. Because every time we pray, we stand before Jesus and hold out our fear, our faith, our doubt, and our hope, and he quietly but conclusively whispers back to us, ‘Leave it with me.'”

Grace and peace, ?:^)

Pastor Aaron

Verbal Sunshine

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls on this sunny May day.

I am excited to be at the cusp of summer, where swimming, BBQ’s, late nights, and watermelon are in season. (To be truthful, I am really excited to bring out my Rainbow sandals from the closet and regularly wear them). What are your favorite aspects about summer? For many its a time for vacation, rest or leisure time with family and close friends; for others it’s a time for more work, summer school, and busyness with no fun. However you face this summer, let’s do it with joy in our hearts and not rely on the sun for the only sunshine in our lives. What if you can be the sunshine for someone else’s cold winter? It’s what we can be by how we talk to one another. Words matter. A short sweet compliment can put a smile on someone’s face and joy in the heart. A sour comment can cause the dark clouds to rain on someone and bring insecurity or discouragement. This summer, can we bless others in our lives with the sunshine from our words?

In a world with a 24/7 news cycle, nonstop social media posts, and the countless of words passing through your brain, being conscience with how and what we say to each other is critical for warming up someone with our words. If we are honest with ourselves, its much easier to say what we feel on the spot than to stop, and think how to respond to someone. Holding my tongue has to be the hardest undertaking for me to do. Holding back any word is easier said than done, especially with my personality because I am a typically a brash and presumptuous person. But my personality has no say so in God’s agenda, he wants me to be prudent and show discretion when I communicate. How can I ever be sunshine for anyone if I cover my sun rays with my loose tongue? I can’t be the only one with this problem because all our tongues can be a loose canon. James from the Bible says, “…no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison,” (James 3:8).

There is hope though, wise Solomon tells us, “He who guards his lips guards his life,” (Prov 13:3). Verbal sunshine is only done by considering our words before we burp them out. When we stop, consider the matter before us, we can use our words appropriately and create beauty, truth, good, not hurt, dishonesty or destruction. The wise thing for our words is to guard our hearts and minds because thats where our words come from. The person who watches what they say and thinks before speaking will avoid trouble. Are you dissing people, bringing them down or are you encouraging people, bringing them up. Being wild with your words can be demeaning to other people and put you in a position where you are imprisoned with your words. Use wisdom when you communicate. Don’t get caught up and twisted in mindless jargon. As someone once said, “The words you speak today should be soft and tender, for tomorrow you may have to eat them.” Be the sunshine with your words for someone, its how you can have a great summer.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Aaron ?:^)

Spring Cleaning: Friendship Edition

Hello Baysiders! Hope is well in your soul this lovely spring day! Yes, its spring already, the time when flowers bloom, Daylight Savings occurs, the color green covers the hills, and when new life sprouts out. Now that we have passed the Easter hangover, let’s focus on growing in the Lord.

As we move along in 2021, let’s have a spring mentality to our relationships. Spring is a time for new life, old ways gone, dead branches trimmed, making room for healthy growth and there is no better area for spring power than friendship. Friendships are so crucial for the blossoming of our lives. The people we confide in, trust with our deepest secrets, laugh and cry with, rely on when times are rough are the people who shape and mold us to the people we are going to be. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” You become who you surround yourself with. It’s human nature. Who we admire and trust with our hearts are those we will be like. If you associate with people who gossip, you will eventually gossip. If you spend a lot of time with cynical and judgemental people, you will eventually be judging others and think the worse of people and their situation. On the other hand, if you are close to graceful and humble friends, you will develop grace and humility in your life. As a kid my mother would call all of us brothers together and organize a spring cleaning day for the house. No one liked it because it implied hours of chores and cleaning but my mother knew it was the time of year to get rid of the dust and unneeded clutter, clear the home of any misplaced house items and provide a clean environment to thrive in.

My pastor encouragement today for us is do a friendship inventory, examine who are the people that blossom your life to the direction you want to grow and who are the ones dwarfing and suffocating your growth as a child of God. Maybe some spring cleaning with your friendships is the solution to your parched circumstance or disheartening progress in life? Jesus shows us a few good friends are better than many friends who are no good. Jesus’ circle was small. He he was friends with everyone but only had friendships with a select few who were part of the same mission of God. Jesus had to draw away from people, abstain from toxic individuals and even said no to certain friendships that were fun for the moment but for the health of his relationship with God, he avoided. Jesus hung out with twelve men, and really was close to only three of them as his closet friends, Peter, James and John (some would say John being his BFF). Jesus was deliberate and selective who he called friends (John 15:15) and I think we should do the same and take a lesson off the old Jesus page. Be conscious who you associate with, call friends, or allow to have influence on you because they can either grow you or stunt you. It’s ok to only have three friends. It’s more than fine to only have one great solid friend. Jesus did. Do some spring cleaning with your friend circle and find out who you need to water or those who are the dead branches you need to break off. The power of spring cleaning with friendships is it provides a soft fertile soil that cultivates an abundance of fruit for your life. You will be enriched in life and it wont be from any amount of dollar bills.

Grace and peace ?:^)

Pastor Aaron

Pandemic Anniversary

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls and you are adjusting from daylight savings over the weekend. The time changing always prepares my mind for spring and Easter.

Today marks the last church service we conducted a year ago before the pandemic shutdown in our country. It’s been one year since everyone’s lives in the world changed. Last year this time toilet paper was a hot commodity, hand sanitizer was the new gold, and Costco was a zoo to get in with a three hour wait time in the line. And if you forgot, let me remind you of the Tiger King phenomenon as we sat in quarantine seeking some form of entertainment and escapism. A lot of our fun social venues were shut down. I knew it was really getting serious when Disneyland shutdown. Many of us were afraid on what the future would look like. Is the virus deadly? Will this be forever? Do masks work? All these questions were big headlines in political news. Last March 15th before Church started some members texted me they were not coming due to the uncertainty of the virus, others texted me on if service was still going on and a few showed up to worship the Lord. It was a weird time for pastoring as no one has ever gone through this before. The last sermon I preached on was from Matt 6:24-34 and it was about not worrying because God will take care of all our fears and needs. That lesson is still true today. So much has happened in 365 days but in the midst of all the ups and downs God remains faithful and is here with us. We have been together through Webex, YouTube and the traditional home visits and phone calls. Despite the pandemic, God has been working miracles, as the church is flourishing, growing faith in members, a baptism, we celebrated our 60th church anniversary last month and we have a great newly installed live stream system for our online viewers. God has been busy at Bayside.

It’s always good to look back in life and consider all that God has done for you and I. In this fast passé and quick lived life it is easy to forget the wonderful works God has done for us. Let’s not have covid memory fog and remember the great blessings God has done for us. Psalms 143:5 says, “I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works. I think about what you have done.” Numerous times from all of scripture, we are given examples of memorials and instruction to remember the past for all what God has done for us. When we do this we are transported to heaven’s file cabinet of records on all the blessings we have from God. We need this. Why? Because we quickly forget how God has been faithful to us just as quickly time moves in our calendars. Reminiscing humbles us and quiets our souls of any worry or need to control the situation. Church, look back to one year ago today and what do you see? Do you see progress? Or do you see regression? Or maybe you see stagnation? Whatever it is, there is room for God to work because hope is always there and grace available to those who seek it. The Pandemic might have affected 2020 and have lingering results for years to come, but grace is more powerful than some virus and we are God’s children and His power and love is what we are defined by. This is truth to be remembered.

Grace and peace ?:^)

Pastor Aaron,

The Love Chapter

Happy February Baysiders! Hopefully you all have enjoyed the rain so far this year. Its always good to see God’s good green earth get hydrated.

It’s no secret that the month of February hosts the day of love in the year, Valentine’s Day. It seem like retailers start selling kisses and chocolate hearts the day after Christmas. Love, love, love, love is everywhere. The radio has their love songs playing on repeat, advertisers market love with catchy slogans and banners, Netflix rolls out their cheesy chick flicks that have been in storage all year.

And you know what? The Bible is full of love too, from beginning, middle and end. God is all about love, in fact, the Bible says God IS love (1 John 4:8). There is a whole chapter in the Bible dedicated to love; it’s actually known as the love chapter for Christians. But surprisingly there are no romantic poems, cupid, hearts, no reference to finding your true love, or chocolate boxes. But there is love and a description of it. The Apostle Paul takes time in his letter to the Corinthian church and writes out what love looks like for God’s people. And it’s action. True love, according to the love chapter is a verb, not a feeling or romance. Actually there is no romance in it at all. It’s better. It’s an action dependent on a choice to better someone else. It’s not about you. Once you make love about you, it’s no longer love. This is what was one of the problems in the Corinthian church, they loved but it wasn’t godly love, it was worldly love which is really lust–“whats in it for me?” They only thought about themselves on how they can be served rather than serve others. It was a divided church who complained about their leaders and wasn’t being a good example to the world. They were proud, tribalistic, ambitious, and selfish in their relationships. So Paul says, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth…” In all of that description, there is not a self serving or self centered attitude but its all other-centered. This the essence of true love.

1 Corinthians 13 was not written with a wedding ceremony in mind. It’s not meant to give us warm, fuzzy feelings. This chapter is Paul’s word of rebuke to a church marked by great miracles and charisma, but by little maturity and character. One sign of mature faith is how you love. How we love others will prove we are one God’s children. Here is the good news, we can have it because God has given us love and shows us love. By faith we can enter into divine love and act it out in our lives. This what God wants from us, to pass along his love to others. When we are unloving, God loved us, when we are unlovable, God makes us lovely. And when we have this deep in our hearts, then all our relationship, causal, romantic, marital, platonic, will be deep and dressed in divine love from heaven. Let’s love like God church.

Grace and peace ?:^)

Pastor Aaron

Keeping the First Things First

Hello Baysiders! Hope the new year is treating you wonderful and you all are keeping up with your New Year goals and resolutions.

I don’t think there is ever a non-busy season of life. Even on vacation busyness can steal away from the rest. 2021 didn’t give us any rest as it seems the issues from 2020 overflowed into this year. The pandemic, election, earthquakes, closed down businesses, unemployment and other struggles has drained us from our focus, keeping us busy yet not really making any significant progress in our lives. It’s so easy to get lost in the business of life. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in yourself. It’s so easy to lose focus on what really matters. It’s so easy to just give up and be negative about life.

The concerns of this life can blur our vision of God. You cannot let the world, the Devil, or yourself to dictate your faith; thats the easy thing to do. We are called to do the hard thing. The hard thing is to choose hope, love, patience, and the beautiful over the ordinary. Let your faith dictate your faith.  Be on top of your circumstance and soar over the issue and find peace and joy in God. Have your eyes on God, keep your mind above, and stay focus on the truth. Putting God first in everything is the means in living peacefully. When God is number one in your life, above anyone or anything else, he adds all that is needed. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” God knows your problems, He is aware of your situation, and he will help you with all of them, but you need to pay attention to God and not the busyness and stresses.

What’s distracting you from trusting God? What’s getting in the way of your commitment with Jesus? What’s stealing your peace and joy? Christians can’t let secondary issues distract us from God or let doubtful situations to deplete us of our faith. C.S Lewis once said, “Put first things first and you get second things thrown in; put second things first and you lose both first and second things.” Believers get taken up on practicalities of life and the worries of tomorrow and we push faith aside. Keep God first and he will bring everything into place. Even when it seems like life isn’t going your way, keep trusting in God, do the hard right thing and the fruit will come.

Grace and peace ?:^)

Pastor Aaron

Just In Time For Christmas

Howdy Baysiders! We have made it to the end of 2020 as the celebration of the birth of Jesus is around the corner and I hope we all are trusting God for the last days of this year .

We arrived just in time for Christmas because baby Jesus is the answer to our current pandemic crises around the world. We all have been through so much in 2020 and the message of Christmas is the gospel message we need to hear. During the holiday rush and stress, there is hope in Christmas. I love what the angel of the Lord tells the shepherds outside of Bethlehem, “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger,” Luke 2:12. In the midst of their job, in the dark, under government oppression, God comes to them with good news. This news is God with us. Thats the power of baby Jesus, God came into our human condition to be with us and save us.

In a time when we might not feel like being in the Christmas spirit or decorating and we prefer to be upset or critical Jesus in the manger reminds us there is always time to have joy. Christmas tells us its not about the stuff or material things we have made the holiday to be but about our hearts being humbled and receptive to God when its least expected. God chose a poor girl, tiny town, and farming tool to bring forth his promise for the world. Think about that. God’s ways aren’t our ways. This is the essence of Christmas, a joyful heart over God’s love for the world. No virus or bad economy can take that away. Some of us have lost our Christmas mojo, perhaps its covid related, or maybe its just getting old and so we are grumpy, cynical, depressed. The manger offers us good news. It’s not about you. Never has been or was. Its about God entering our world and Jesus being the star of the show. We graciously get to be the audience to witness this miracle. The angel tells the shepherds go find Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem. This is our application this holiday season. Go find Jesus. No matter the circumstance you are in, go find him, he is there, Christmas is available if you seek it. Find Jesus today and share joy to the world.

We will be remaining with our online church services and Bible Studies entering the new year until further notice. Wednesday Night devotion will be going on winter break starting on December 23rd and resuming January 13th. Any questions or concerns please reach out to me.

Grace and peace ?:^)

Pastor Aaron

Finish Strong

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls in this Thanksgiving season. The holidays are upon us and the woes of 2020 tempt us to rush through the end of the year to start fresh for 2021. But this isn’t the movie Click (a must watch film about appreciating your current circumstance).

We must finish strong. In the midst of stress and hardship of our season we as God’s people are to remain strong and hopeful. God’s strength is available to anybody who is willing to receive it. When we are weak and tired, God is ready to equip us and give us the strength to finish the task. In order to sustain the difficulty, you must rely on God’s supernatural power, and not depend on your natural power. My natural abilities tells me to give up, don’t try harder, take it easy, don’t trust God anymore, and to be hopeless. Being confident in God’s strength is the route to rest in his arms while he carries us through the fire.

The first step in attaining God’s strength is confessing your weakness and asking for his help. Nobody likes to admit “I’m weak.” No one enjoys or wants to feel out of control or helpless. But, in reality, you and I must learn that in our weakness moments, the Lord is free to do his greatest work in us. It is in these trying times that you can experience God’s power. 2 Corinthians 12:10 says, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. All strength needed is available to you through Jesus for any time of your life—good or bad—adversity, suffering, or misfortune.  Resist your pride and confess your inadequacies and frailty to God, and dwell in his everlasting grace and love. There is no guarantee that 2021 will be better, and sorry to be the bearer of bad realistic news but this pandemic is so unpredictable and assuming a fresh start to a new year will fix everything is fanciful. Most likely all the issues and stresses will be there on January 1st 2021. But this is no reason to panic or be down. What is guaranteed is God’s strength for the weak who want it and need it. God is who is promised and never changes and is our stability in the ever changing seasons of life. God’s strength is more than enough for this year, next year and even today.

As for now, Bayside Church is open for in person service on Sundays and for Bible studies on Sunday morning and Wednesday night. Webex is available for those who rather stay at home for health concerns. Mark your calendar for November 29th because its our Christmas Decorating Day. Come join us and help decorate the interior of church with Christmas decorations. This will occur right after service. Let’s come together each week and take advantage of this time as we don’t know when we will be lockdown again during this pandemic.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Aaron ?:^)

Waiting With God’s Word

Happy Autumn Baysiders, hope all is well in your souls!

There is so much going in our world right now, from the global virus to the presidential election, its easy for us to be stressed out and just rush to the finish line of 2020 and start the next year. Probably for anyone, one of the hardest jobs to do is to wait. Wait for next year, wait for the virus to have a vaccine and social distancing be done with, wait for the church to reopen again for Sunday service, wait to go to the movie theater, wait for the NBA to start up again, wait for the election to be over, wait for your left overs to be heated in the microwave.

Waiting is the place no one wants to be in however its a place we all are aware of. Can we be good waiters? Can we be so good at waiting that waiting looses its sting and blow and we thrive in the wait? Psalm 19:7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” A way to rest from waiting is God’s word. The Bible is jammed packed with truth and its truth that pushes away false ideas and negative thoughts. The word of God is perfect and complete, it has everything you need to know for your particular situation. Sometimes we can get stuck in an emotional rut and our feelings dictate the course of the day but whatever the reason may be, you can always trust God’s word. His promises and words are faithful and will not let you down. Truth awakens, revives, and affirms the soul. God’s word is medicine for our stress in waiting, just as water is for thirst. So you must not listen to the voices in your head, but instead talk to the voices. Talk against the negative words with God’s words; fight back with scripture! The fight against hating waiting is the battle to believe the promises of God, and faith comes by hearing the word of God.

Be encourage Baysiders! Christ is on the throne and is working all things together for our good and his glory. The holidays are upon us and its time to refocus on the gift of love in Jesus coming as a baby. This is what we have now, no more waiting on God because he has already given us himself for overcoming anything this life throws at us.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Aaron ?:^)