It’s Written In The Scars

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls so far in 2023! I am thrilled about what God is going to do for us and through us with this year. I am still full from that delicious Brazilian bbq we had with the our brothers and sisters from Catedral De Familia. Let’s pray for more of that deliciousness between us.

I know its early since its not Easter season but its not misplaced to talk about the resurrection of Jesus. I mean, it is the foundation of our faith and as Paul said, without it, our faith would be meaningless and we should be of all people most pitied. The Easter story is a gift that always keeps on giving no matter what season of life we find ourselves in. One of my favorite scenes from this meta narrative of our human existence is how Thomas is initially skeptical at first about believing Jesus truly was back from the grave. But honestly though, who can blame him? No one has ever done so like that before up that point. This was physically impossible. Yet we see that God is not upset or saddened with this doubt of his as Jesus gives him what he needs. Thomas declared that he wouldn’t believe unless he touched and examined the wounds and scars of Jesus. He needed empirical proof. And that’s what Jesus does; he gives him just that. He says in chapter 20:27, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” Notice what gives Thomas the evidence to believe and trust in Jesus as God, its the scars and wounds.

I love how, even after his resurrection, Jesus chose to appear with wounds on his body. Ain’t that a strange concept? God who is perfect and yet has scars. He could have shown up with baby smooth skin but he doesn’t; instead he models something different for us. This is what Jesus reveals to us about our humanity. The past pain and trauma we have experienced are part of the Easter story God wants to share through you to others. God’s story is written in the scars. Perhaps new life, healing, and positive change doesn’t come from ignoring our wounds and scars or neglecting our humanity—but by participating with God as we embrace the pain of our stories. Jesus never covered his scars. The fact that Jesus openly revealed them to others should encourage us all to do the same who have experienced any type of wounding. However it is done, (therapy, counseling, a long chat on the phone with a good friend, AA, online meetings, coffee with a pastor, etc)—wound sharing is resurrection power and how we become more like Jesus. As a meme once said, we repeat what we don’t repair. If you don’t heal from what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you. Jesus is offering us an invitation to be healed from the hurt we have; he models for us what our hurt can turn into, something that is beautiful and powerful like resurrection. But that’s witnessed by scar sharing.

Maybe we too can have this power from our scars and wounds to lead people to newness of life. Maybe the past trauma you experienced as a child or teenager is not baggage to lump around but is the proof of God’s love and power in your life? Maybe not being embarrassed about your scars and wounds is the DNA test and data people need to verify to believe in God’s resurrection. Easter is experienced more by showing your pain rather than a Bible verse or link to a sermon. Let’s invite others to read our scars.

Grace and peace (:^)

Pastor Aaron

Advent’s Heaven

Hello Baysiders! Hope you are all in the holiday spirit and holding onto Jesus in all that you do. Happy Advent season church. May we all dig deep in our waiting, despair, and hope for our coming Lord.

What I like about Advent is the grittiness of it. It is not fluffy, fun, sentimental or cheery as Christmas. Now of course there is a time for all that good stuff and I can’t wait for Christmas to party for Jesus’ birthday. But it’s that “I can’t wait” that is the problem. Why can’t I wait? Advent reveals our rushy spirit and impatience with God. Advent is a teacher that instructs us to slow down and contemplate and live through the cries, sins, hardships and troubles of our world, personally or globally. Advent instructs us to have our hope for the second coming of Christ where all will be made right and when our future is made perfect.

This season of Advent is a time to reflect on our future state, judgement, hell, repentance, and end time prophecies. As a teacher and preacher of the Bible, I admit there is not a whole a lot about heaven in scripture. Most of what we believe in heaven is from pop culture, wishful thinking, folklore, and misunderstanding. Let’s explore for a little bit on the subject of heaven and how it relates to Advent.

First we need to define the term. What do you mean by heaven? If you mean a place where God lives, you would be correct. But if you mean a place where we will go after we die because we are faithful Christians, then you are wrong. We will not be in heaven forever. Heaven from the Biblical view is not where we will live forever. Heaven is where God is and lives forever, not us. Where we will be forever is earth. I know, this is not what you expected on your afterlife bingo card. No one has ever told you this in church and that’s a shame. We as Christians have been hoodwinked or just poorly taught on our future home and it ain’t heaven. The future place of the disciples of Christ is, surprisingly, earth. And here you thought you were going to get your own private cloud to sleep on and harp to play Led Zeppelin’s stairway to heaven.  

The fact of the matter is scripturally speaking, we get commercials and trailers but never a full movie about heaven. BUT! From the little bit we do have in the Bible of heaven, it is amazing. A sneak preview example is found in Isaiah 11:6-9. In context, Israel is doomed to judgment by falling into exile for their disobedience to God. But in a range of images and prophecies, Isaiah prophesizes about the future state of the world, like the coming of God to rule and reign and in the last days, all will know and follow God, Israel as a nation will be reestablished, the temple restored, Zion the holy city of Jerusalem magnified by all people, and weapons and war eradicated. Then in chapter eleven he goes further with the heaven prediction: no more violence between animal and humans.

Isaiah is describing earth. Not some ethereal, non-material glowy reality. Heaven is earth fully covered in God’s presence. This is the description in the original plan with the Garden of Eden, it was a little heaven on earth and Adam and Eve was to spread that presence and enlarge the territory of the garden to the whole world. But we know what happened. By the second page the Bible they failed and forfeited that opportunity to bring heaven on earth.

Because Advent is about the second coming and also the first coming, there is a dynamic to heaven’s territory. This is why Christmas comes right after. God’s return is two fold. The past and the future. The past is Christmas. We are reminded every year God does not lie and celebrating the birth of Jesus is assurance God is worthy to be trusted. The past was worth the wait, trust, and hardship because it was glorious, fulfilling and joyful. Advent’s logic is surely the second coming of God will be the same and much more. We are confident with our hope because the second coming has already come in the first coming. Its already hear but not quite yet. We have some of the promises now and available but other features of future heaven is still to come. We live in a strange time of history. Theologians call this era the already but not yet. We can have a little taste of this heaven today. When we forgive, we live as though it is heaven. When we love and help the needy, we make heaven arrive on earth. When we stop fighting and end war, we make heaven visible. When we welcome everyone and not judge based on appearance, we make heaven touchable. All these things can happen are possible and why it’s already. But some things are not yet happening, like evil, suffering, sin is still here, and death is always a threat to our bodies.

But this is why Isaiah’s words in chapter eleven is so powerful and beautiful. We can hope and long with joy for a better tomorrow for earth and everyone in it. Did you catch verse 6-9?  Isaiah predicts, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain.” All animals and humans will best friends and dogs will no longer be the ones to have that title. This might mean that Vegetarianism will be the diet for all of us! But who cares when we can swim with great whites, walk among lions, and run with leopards. This means I can finally have a bear as a pet! Our ecosystem and planet will thrive and we will be part of that thriving with them. No more violence against each other. We will be like Adam and Eve how it was supposed to be, perfect harmony with fellow humans, living creatures and God.

Is this heaven description and hope the best Christmas gift to long and hope for? It’s what Isaiah wanted for Christmas. Is this on your Santa wish list?

Wisdom Over Fear

Hello Baysiders! Praying that your Thanksgiving is a blessed one with family and friends and that, no matter your situation, your heart would be full of gratitude for all what God has given you.

This morning it was reported that Russia fired missiles into Poland, killing two people. This is a big deal because Poland has nothing to do with Russia’s unreasonable provoked invasion and war with Ukraine, which means, because Poland is under NATO protection, this one assault might be the flick of the match to escalate this war to World War III. As I am literally writing this blog, NATO is in the middle of investigating to confirm that Russia was the one behind this violent act. This is one of many reasons to fear for our lives and to think the end of the world is near. The list goes on: Global Warming, A.I. takeover, another pandemic, North Korea’s nuclear threats, Republicans regaining house majority or “alleged” election fraud, the Taiwan China hostility, a lukewarm church in America, ect. But there are also the personal life threats, cancer, career goes out of business, stock market crashes, old age, divorce, parental difficulty, child bullying, debilitating health condition, loss of a loved one, retirement. These are all reasons to cause anxiety about our future as a species. Our existence is so fragile right now. But, when was it not? Since day one of man’s first breath, we have always been on the brink of extinction. Our survival insurance is no greater than the dinosaurs. It is only by God’s grace we are still around.

To be alive is to be on the brim of destruction; that’s what it means to be human. A newborn baby comes out of the womb screaming and is precarious to newly found life. Our existence has been fragile since God said “Let there be light” in the chaos of darkness. I believe there are three ways to live facing this reality. The first way is escapism by parting. This is a hedonistic lifestyle, live with no regrets which also feeds into the nihilistic aspects of our culture; eat, drink, be merry for tomorrow we die. All we have is this life is take what you can. The other way is to find shelter in the panic. By panicking and being frantic, some feel safe because by feeding into the panic, some gain a sense of control and nourishment. Stress for many is fuel to function and stay somewhat balanced in life because it’s all they know or been taught to cope. But this outlet is an illusion at best as it doesn’t offer the peace and comfort it solicits. People who live this way are always on edge about something, not trusting God. The last outlook to have in our fragile existence is to live with prudence. Prudence is wisdom to know how to respond to incoming danger or challenges. Wisdom is what is needed in our souls. Prudence grants us the strong faith to live between the reality of Christmas and history of Easter. There will always be the Herod’s of our world seeking to kill the messiah, ending our hopes. There will always be a cross in our lives, threatening our faith. But we know how each story ends: Jesus is victorious. There is always going to be a reason to fear and stress. But there are always reason not to. One lesson I have learned in life is that most of my greatest fears NEVER come true. We need prudence to wisely know what items on our responsibility list to concern over and which ones to lay down and let God take care of them.

This is why whether global or personal, whenever the “new world will end threat,” comes (which is every month in the news cycle), we don’t have to panic in despair or party like nothing else matters. It’s always peculiar to me and slightly humorous to see a lot of my frantically Christian peers all of a sudden become expert economists, scientists and end time theologians when a threat to our humanity arises. Everyone has an opinion on how the world should be managed, everybody is opinionated about the dangers to our livelihood, and all have opinions that are self-coping and self-serving. So that being the case, whose opinion matters that we should follow and stand on? We should heed the voice of someone who has the spirit of God in him, has wisdom and a life that is worthy to follow. One person I can think of is King Solomon when he was young and first became king. He had maturity beyond his age and was an old soul. He had very little life experience yet God’s wisdom in his soul made him a wise sage. He offers us wisdom saying in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” He does not say the panic of the Lord or party of the Lord. By the way, fear here in this context does not mean to be afraid or timidity but rather comes from the old english root word for reverence and high esteem. When we greatly respect and cherish God as he should be, then we gain confidence to walk on this planet with wisdom to face any obstacle in our way.

I don’t know what we should do or have any answers for our end of the world woes but I do know some things we are NOT to do. Walking in wisdom is needed in this time and not more political articles, talking points or statistics. The book of Proverbs illuminates for us some wise steps—We are not to share everything that’s on our minds or always share our thoughts (Prov 10:19, 29:11). We are not to be gullible and believe everything that feels right (Prov 14:15, 21:2). We are not to be aggressive and contentious (Prov 29:22). We are not to spread conspiracies or propaganda aka lies (Prov 12:17, 19-20). We are not to emotionally haphazardly throw info around without doing our homework (Prov 18:2, 13). We are not to find hope in facts or news alone (Prov 4:5-7). We are not to act like we know what the future will look like (Prov 27:1). We are not to be proud but humble (Prov 29:11). We are not to be afraid (Prov 29:25). We are not to worry but trust God with everything (Prov 3:5-6). 

Nothings wrong having an opinion about world threats or even about the new Taylor Swift album. But not all opinions are created equal or beneficial. May we all be prudent and follow God’s opinion because its the only one that ultimately matters.

UPDATE 11/16/22: After preliminary analysis, the Poland missile incident was caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile fired to defend Ukrainian territory against Russian cruise missile attacks and was no indication this was the result of a deliberate attack by Russia.

Make Pastors Great Again

Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls. The Fall season is always a good time to consider the wonderful blessings God did during the summer and motivate us to trust him more as we move into the Holiday season.

In honor of Pastor Appreciation Month, I want to talk about pastors. The job of a pastor is a really tough one and it is not for everyone. God has to call someone to take up the role. I can tell you from my career experiences, pastoring is the hardest. Some days I’m like, “why did you call me to do this?” Yet it is the most rewarding, fun, and exciting job. I LOVE BEING A PASTOR. I am so honored and humbled God chose me for such a task. Being that it carries a lot of responsibility, dealing with people’s souls and deep vulnerable aspects of a person, a pastor needs to be good at his or her job. But what qualifies as good? Did you know the pastor is the number one person judged at church. Everyone has an opinion on the job. Don’t pity me, it just comes with the territory. But that begs the question, what makes a good pastor? There are numerous opinions on what a good pastor is and should do. Many people think a pastor should be the face and brand of the church. Lots of believers think a good pastor is someone who runs the church like a CEO, making executive decisions and only does sermons. Others think a pastor should be a member’s best friend and always available for every need. Some dangerously and incorrectly think a pastor should be a politician and work the church as a democracy. Few actually define a pastor based on the Bible standards.

What makes a pastor good is if the character and leadership is mirroring that of Jesus’ shepherding. When we go to scripture, we see Jesus being a pastor in the good standard way we should uphold for any local minister we are under. Unfortunately, many Christians judge a pastor based on cooperate and social-media type standards like: number of people brought in, building renovation, donation increase, marketing influence, entertainment driven, shallow consumerism and making members (customers) feel comfortable. All these are terrible ways to measure a pastor with. Why? Because Jesus doesn’t care about those things in the gospels and what we find is him pastoring in ways that are counter-cultural with how we modern pastors do ministry. Jesus actually didn’t care about the numbers as he only had twelve committed members and by the end of his time on earth, one betrayed him, another one denied him and the rest scattered. Jesus was not interested in large crowds and big followings as he intentionally did things that turned people away. He didn’t see people as customers to appease and he didn’t serve shallow food for people’s souls. Never did Jesus count the donation box to determine if his pastoring was fruitful. He didn’t use his fame to bring in more influence as he regularly worked in the shadows, telling the people he served, to tell no one how he helped them. Jesus was not in it for his own glory. Yet today’s pastors we see an overdose of me-centered pastoring. The good news is Jesus is our true shepherd. In John 10:11, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” When our earthly pastors fail us, Jesus does not. Ultimately we follow Jesus, our true and better pastor. We can and should still honor the pastors God has given us. We should appreciate them and tell them thank you. Not just in the month of October but all the time because they are on the front lines in the spiritual dark war taking most of the hits. They too need encouragement. It’s not because they need their ego stroked but they are human like us all who get banged up, bruised, misunderstood, make mistakes, get it wrong, and get hurt. The church is to uphold the pastor as he or she upholds the church.

So let’s see a pastor through the eyes of how Jesus pastors. Let’s judge pastors based on Jesus’ shepherding skills. When we do so we will have a correct Biblical lens to asses a pastor to uphold and honor them and also keep them accountable when error occurs. We need pastors to actually pastor like Jesus does. This is, what I believe, is the biggest problem with the church in America. Pastor’s don’t pastor. They do everything else but sheep rearing in the church. Why are there fake, bad, lukewarm, Biblically illiterate Christians? One main reason is because there are shallow, bad, lazy, non-convicted pastors.

The church can survive pastors who aren’t celebrities, podcasters, entrepreneurs, cultural influencers, or change agents. But the church can’t survive if pastors don’t pastor. This is gonna sound crazy, hear me out for a minute, but what if the real qualifications for pastors are proven character, priestly care, courage to denounce social injustices, meekness, discernment to resist partisanship, and devotion to God’s word and prayer. What if pastoring is not about having a social media presence or managerial ability to build and maintain sprawling campuses or church planting like a Silicon Valley start up? What if there are many at church who are first will be last and those last in the prayer email who will be first? What if getting invited to preach at big crowds is not what God is looking for but the invitation is to humbly wash feet? What if being famous for Jesus is actually idolatry and working in the shadows is actual glory? What if brainstorming with your church staff over what entertainment and fun activists to do on Easter is not the co-laboring Paul was referring to? What if having a large network and creating a brand for yourself are attempts to store up treasure here on earth? What if preaching isn’t about a pastor’s comedy hour or a platform to express his personality but for exhorting God’s people? What if Instagram and Twitter followers are mere crumbs to the feast that is stored up for those who denied themselves of attention? What if being successful is really about being faithful to the one lost sheep? What if your name wasn’t famous as a pastor but through your ministry others found Jesus’ name? What if mini church, not mega church, is a more biblically accurate description of God’s kingdom? What if attendees are not the same as disciples? What if a dynamic praise team with talented and fashionable singers are unimportant and God desires a broken and contrite heart for acceptable worship? What if never writing a book, speaking at a conference, making it on the radio or having that certified blue check mark in your profile are things Christ will not judge you on? What if being a pastor is satisfactory and other labels, prefixes, adjectives, or isms to your calling is you being soul thirsty for other beverages besides the living water? What if it’s actually the invisible pastor and seemingly insignificant local small church who are doing the really important eternal work? What if the church must again be characterized more by the mustard seed, where it will exist in small, seemingly insignificant communities that live an intense struggle against evil and bring good into the world?

Let’s make pastors pastor again!

Pastor Aaron (:^)

Grace and peace

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 these steps, we come closer to understanding the relationship God has with us, a relationship started at offense of sin, but moved to repentance and ended at resurrection to his disciples with Jesus walking in their midst, saying, “Peace to you.” Then by grace, a miracle happens in our conflicted relationship, two words become three words.

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?