The Three Little Pigs…and Jesus

One of the best-known children’s stories in American literature is the simple tale of The Three Little Pigs. It is actually a fable, and was first published in the 1840’s in England, but the story is thought to be much older.

I assume you know the story, but just in case you haven’t heard it, consider this your spoiler alert. It’s about three nameless pigs who each build houses from different materials. Each of the pigs then had visits from the dreaded big bad wolf, who apparently had a particular hankering for pork. Each heard the same polite plea for entrance to their home, and each made the same defiant response: “not by the hair of my chinny, chin chin.” In the end, the big bad wolf blows down the first two pigs’ houses, made of straw and sticks respectively, but is unable to destroy the third pig’s house, made of bricks.

The story has a simple but universal message and has been adapted and told in several variations over the years. Interestingly, it was included among Uncle Remus’ stories as “The Story of the Pigs,” with the major difference being that there were five pigs in his version. For the record, their names were: Big Pig, Little Pig, Speckle Pig, Blunt and Runt.

However the story is told, it actually reflects a parable of Jesus, which is included in the sermon on the mount. Jesus knew a little something about building, by the way, having taken over his dad’s business as a carpenter. Like the three little pigs, Jesus’ parable also included as its primary characters a couple of builders who are constructing houses. There is a contrast between wise building and foolish building. And in the end, each house faces a test, when the storms come. The rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against both houses. The house that was built wisely, stood its ground. The one built foolishly fell, “and its collapse was great.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

The difference in Jesus’ story was that it was not the building materials that made the difference, it was the foundation upon which the houses were built. One was built on the rock, the other on sand. And when the storms came, the one built on the firm foundation lasted, while the one built on the shifting sand crumbled.

This was, in effect, Jesus’ concluding illustration to his sermon on the mount. He introduced it with these words: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” And then he goes on to tell the story, contrasting the two builders, two houses and two foundations.

In this light, we are all “house-builders,” constructing our lives by the choices we make. And the application is simple. If we listen to Jesus and obey his words, we will build our lives on rock solid foundations that can weather any storms–and even handle any big bad wolf that comes our way. Conversely, if we fail to hear and obey his truth and make bad choices, thus building our lives on the wrong foundation, we are destined to collapse.

It’s the gospel according to the three little pigs. Simple enough for children, and for all of us who are willing to listen.

My prayer is that your life is built on the Rock, and that you live in the wisdom of obedience to his word. I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Social Media Distancing

I am sure by now you have heard that this past Monday, the social media platforms Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp shut down for several hours. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth all around, as the world tried to remember what it was like to function without looking at their phones. Many folks headed to Twitter, somewhat ironically, to see what was up, while the instant messaging platform Telegram added 70 million users while the other apps were down. There was no truth to the rumor that MySpace used the opportunity to make a big comeback.

Eventually, it came back online, prompting the satirical website Babylon Bee to produce an article with this headline: “In Major Disaster for Humanity, Facebook Comes Back Online.”

In light of the big story this week about a whisteblower trying to expose some of Facebook’s alleged corrupt practices, the conspiracy theorists were out in full force. The official explanation for the shutdown was that “the BGP routes serving Facebook’s authoritative DNS were withdrawn, rendering all Facebook domains inaccessible,” whatever that means. Mr. Zuckerberg and his stockholders reportedly lost as much as $7 billion in ad revenue during the time the apps were down.

After the initial panic, what was left of social media did what it does, and made jokes. One person tweeted that without Facebook, things got so bad that he had to go door to door in his neighborhood to show everyone his dinner. Another tweeted, “Facebook is down. God help us if there’s a photogenic sunset tonight!”

My favorite came from a friend, who wrote: “Facebook has been down for three hours now, and I’ve already forgotten everyone’s vaccination opinion. We will have to start from scratch I guess.”

Actually, I was kind of hoping that some people would realize that life was not that bad without it, and that contrary to popular belief, it’s okay to go a few hours without logging on to your account. It would even be okay if people put down their phones and actually had face-to-face conversations with friends and family members. I know, that may be asking a little much.

All jokes aside, those social media platforms do have their place, and they can be useful in helping us keep up with old friends and disconnected family, sharing information (as we do as a church), and even for storing photos of your kids and grandkids, which is its primary use for me. With the demise of the local daily newspaper, social media is also where I get my news–particularly in sports coverage. And Facebook Live and YouTube have sure been effective tools over the last 18 months for us to share our Shelby Crossings livestream with our extended church family and community.

But there are also plenty of negatives from the stranglehold that apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have on our lives these days. Most basically, they feed our pride, with self-centered cries for attention, and an almost addictive need for “likes.” They also feed our discouragement, as we constantly compare ourselves to others who always have it together (or so it seems). And because there is no filter, we tend to communicate our opinions with an attitude from behind a screen, leading to a toxic divisiveness on just about every issue, from politics to pandemics. And of course, it’s a perfect platform for the spread of dis-information from both sides of the political and cultural spectrum.

Not to mention the behind the scenes workings within the different social media apps that are actually designed to manipulate our choices, emotions and behavior, and spread things like “fake news” and conspiracy theories, all to enhance their profits. If you haven’t seen the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” I would certainly recommend it. It will open your eyes, for sure.

More than anything, social media has all become a huge distraction to our lives. It is strangely seductive and thus addictive, and in the end, it’s easy to forget that it is not “real life.” I can only imagine the cost to productivity in the American workplace, and I know it keeps many of us from focusing on things that really matter.

I am reminded of what John Piper said about social media several years ago: “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not for lack of time.” Or this tweet from Paul Washer the day before the Facebook crash: “I challenge you: over a week’s time, compare your screen time and your prayer time.” That’s a pretty valid challenge for all of us.

So consider this week’s little time-out from Facebook and Instagram as a gift, a respite from the insanity, and perhaps an invitation to re-evaluate how much time you spend there to begin with. Maybe it’s time for a little “social media distancing.” We all need to ask ourselves if our social media use is glorifying to God, edifying to others, and encouraging our walk with Christ. If not, perhaps we need to consider shutting down our accounts; or at the very least, planning some regular times of social media “fasting” into our schedules to make sure we keep a Christ-focused perspective.

In the end, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp…and even Pinterest (yeah, I said it!), won’t last, but His kingdom will.“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3).

I’m praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Make Every Effort

Last week, I wrote in this space about Christianity’s best kept secret, the grace of God. Contrary to what some would teach, God’s grace is still sufficient for us. We are saved by grace, through faith–not of works, lest any man should boast.  And it is on God’s grace, only, that we stand.

Yet, on the other side, Scripture also calls us to “work out our salvation” with fear and much trembling. (Philippians 2:12) So, what is it? Should we be hard at work for God, or hardly working at all? Is our faith active, or passive; or perhaps actively passive, or passively active? 

In so many ways, we mistakenly try to work our way toward God’s favor, as if there was anything we could do that would improve on the incredible sacrifice He made for us at the cross to pay our price in full. Yet, most of us have also discovered that when it comes to our daily walk with God, and our service for Him–like most everything else in life–we get out of it what we’re willing to put into it. Truly, we reap what we sow. 

But here’s the good news for the confused. It’s not an either/or, and there is really no conflict between divine empowerment by God’s grace and human effort. As Dallas Willard used to say, “Grace is not opposed to effort. It is opposed to earning.”

Whether it be in our individual walk, or our commitment to the community of faith we call church, the Christian life requires effort, and is often hard work. But never does that work nullify God’s grace, and never does it help us earn our way to God. Instead, it comes as a response to God’s work on grace in us and for us. And it’s always worth it.

Check out the common theme in these verses from the New Testament:

“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door (God’s way)…” (Luke 13:24)

“Make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19)

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)

“Make every effort to enter that rest (God’s rest for His people).” (Hebrews 4:11)

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14) 

“Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.” (2 Peter 1:5)

“Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with the Lord.” (2 Peter 3:14)

God has done so much for us, and it’s so exciting to see how He is at work in the life of our church these days. Let’s be sure than in all we do in serving Him, we give Him our best and make every effort to serve Him with our whole heart and give Him the glory He’s due.

I’m praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Our Best Kept Secret

A little more than a half century ago, a conference on comparative religions was held at Cambridge University in England. Scholars, theologians and clergy-types had come from around the world to explore various religious ideas. 

One of the primary topics discussed was, “What belief or doctrine is unique to the Christian faith?” The scholars compared and contrasted the different religions, batting around the distinguishing marks of each. 

It was determined that in actuality, many of the things that Christians believe are not uncommon to other religions. Most religions have moral laws and ethical codes. Most have some kind of “plan of salvation” whereby the believer seeks to settle his eternal destiny. Most relate to the supernatural, and would suggest that their “god” is the one true supernatural being (or in the case of some religions, that the millions of gods they worship are the real deal). There are even some religions that have stories of incarnation and resurrection.

C.S. Lewis happened into the room during the discussion, and someone told him that they were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among the world religions. Lewis thought only for a moment.

“That’s easy,” he said. “It’s grace.”

After some discussion and debate, those at the conference agreed. Christianity is the only religion that suggests that God’s love is offered to us for free, no strings attached, and that His mercy is available to everyone, even the most “undeserving.”

We are all sinners, “yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” (Romans 3:24, NLT)

That sums up the message of Christianity so well. It is the gospel–the good news–and it very well may be the absolute best news we’ll ever hear in our entire lives, even if it is often our best kept secret. How many in our world think that’s what our message is about? If asked what is unique about our brand of “religion” what would they say? Do they see us as just another religion of rules and laws and moral codes, or one centered on a gospel of mercy and grace, where the God of the universe took on flesh and died in our stead, motivated by His love for us.

Moreover, can they see from the lives that we live as Christ-followers that we have been emancipated by that grace and captivated by God’s love for us? Or, are we just another religion to them?

May each of us live in and by the grace of God this week in such a way that the world would know the uniqueness of our gospel, and would yearn to know our gracious Lord. I am praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Faith, Even in Dark Places

A little boy was afraid of the dark. One night his mother told him to go out on the back porch and bring her back the broom. The little boy turned to his mother and said, “Mama, I don’t want to go out there. It’s dark.”

The mother smiled reassuringly at her son. “You don’t have to be afraid of the dark,” she explained. “Jesus is out there. He’ll look after you and protect you.” The little boy looked at his mother real hard and asked, “Are you sure He’s out there?”

“Yes, I’m sure. He is everywhere, and He is always ready to help you when you need Him.”

The little boy thought about that for a minute and then went to the back door and cracked it a little. Peering out into the darkness, he called, “Jesus? If you’re out there, would you please hand me the broom?”

That’s how we want to handle difficult situations sometimes, especially when it’s dark and scary outside in the real world. I’ll stay here, God, and you hand me the broom. We don’t really want to walk where we can’t see, even if we know the Lord is there beside us. We’d rather He just handle things for us, sparing us from ever having to “walk by faith, and not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7) 

However, genuine faith usually requires that we walk through trials and tribulations of some kind, because we aren’t always inclined to cling to God unless we have to. It is very often frightening, but it’s where God grows our dependence on Him. Even in the dark places. And even in pandemics. 

The secret, I believe, is learning to live our lives daily in the presence of the Lord, so that He becomes more to us than a superstitious good luck charm when we’re afraid. I hope and pray that your relationship with God is vibrant and growing these days, and that He is building your faith as you learn to walk with Him in whatever circumstances that come your way.

I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Never Forget?

Tomorrow will be twenty years since the fateful day we simply refer to as “9/11.” I may not have remembered the significant anniversary of that tragic day had my favorite college football team, UAB, not unveiled a new helmet design for Saturday’s game, which includes their dragon logo in red, white and blue. As part of the announcement on social media, they included the hashtag #neverforget.

I thought that was a little ironic, since even the oldest players who will be wearing those helmets aren’t old enough to actually remember that day to begin with. Not to mention that a good percentage of those players were not even born in 2001.

But for those of us who were, and who do remember, I wonder if we have forgotten. No doubt, we remember the events of that day, and even where we were when we heard the news. I am sure we remember seeing those planes crash into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, live on TV, and then watching in horror as those iconic Twin Towers came crashing to the ground. And if we have forgotten any of those particulars, I know we will be reminded of them again and again this weekend with TV specials and news reports from Ground Zero.

But I wonder if we have forgotten how we felt. There were feelings of fear, as we were shaken that such terrorism, usually reserved for other parts of the world, had finally made it to American soil. There was anger, as our shock turned to a desire for vengeance: “Somebody’s going to pay for this!” And there was sadness, as more tears were shed that week that any in American history.

And more than anything, the people of our nation were humbled together during those days and weeks after the events of 9/11, which included the greatest displays of unity and genuine patriotism since World War II. And it wasn’t just flag-waving; it was a heart-felt love for country and for all she stands for. It was an appreciation of the freedom we share, and a fear that it may be taken away from us. To this day, it is still hard to imagine, especially in today’s political climate, seeing members of Congress, Democrat and Republican alike, standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, holding hands and singing “God Bless America” together.

That day, and the days that followed, changed our perspective as Americans. Suddenly football games and home run chases didn’t really matter any more. The declining stock market lots its significance, and the petty bickering of partisan politics turned to harmony. For all of us, usually frustrated in our own daily trivial pursuits, it was suddenly hard to complain when we saw thousands of fellow Americans lining New York streets holding out little hope, as they held up photos of their missing loved ones.

There was a sincere broken-heartedness in our land, evidenced by the tears shed. There was fear and uncertainty, for sure, of the possibility of more attacks, but really it was a weeping for America. I believed then that God would use that tragedy to bring us as a nation to our knees and cause us to seek the Him like never before.

For a season, that happened. People sought the Lord openly. Church worship services filled up on Sundays, and many of us participated in interdenominational city-wide prayer gatherings, which sprang up all around. But eventually people got back to their busy lives, and forgot God again. And along the way the patriotism and unity that came after 9/11 seemed to wane as well. We said we would never forget, but by and large, we forgot.

I thought the tragedy of this Covid pandemic might take us back there once again, and break us of our self-sufficiency, but this time it turned into more of a source of political and cultural division–and arguments over masks and vaccines and shutdowns–more than coming together to seek the Lord for His deliverance. I pray somehow still that the Lord would use this to “shake us” and remind us of our need for Him.

That’s a common theme in Scripture, that we are to remember Him, and “never forget” that He is our source of hope and peace and deliverance, and yes, even unity. I hope this weekend you will remember those tragic events of September 11, 2001, but that you will also be sure to remember–not to forget–that the Lord is faithful no matter what trial any of us ever face. Seek Him with all your heart. He never fails.

I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Why I Believe in Small Groups

The past two Wednesday nights, we gathered as a church body for ReGroup. For those who were able to be with us, I hope you caught a vision for what our small groups can be at Shelby Crossings, and that you were reminded and encouraged to be about our Father’s business in the co-mission the Lord has given us. It’s always a helpful time for us, as we take a step back from our regular routine and regroup–to “sharpen the saw” so that we can be better at doing small group ministry in the year ahead. 

I wrote in this space after ReGroup a few years ago that I believe that small groups are the most important ministry in the church. We often say that groups are where church happens at Shelby Crossings, and I believe that is true. And at the risk of being a little redundant, I’d like to give you a few reasons why I believe so much in small groups.

First, as we discussed this week, they are biblical. From Jesus’ ministry to His first disciples, to the embryonic structure of the early church life, the New Testament blueprint of church structure was much more in line with small groups than the large group congregational gathering that defines much of the modern church. Over and over in the book of Acts the operative term for where the church gathered was “house to house.” That is, the church thrived in homes more than in sanctuaries; if you know church history, you know that it was the 4th century before there was any such thing as a church building. As someone has said, the church was from its beginning a “living room religion,” and I think it still functions best in that setting.

Additionally, I think small groups are the most effective and efficient means to do what every church is supposed to do: make disciples. Christian discipleship happens best in the context of interpersonal relationships, not auditoriums filled with audiences. Sitting in a circle with friends, learning God’s word together, is much more interactive than sitting in rows looking at the back of someone’s head, listening to someone on a stage. When fellow followers of Christ are there to pray for you, encourage you, support you, and hold you accountable, you are much more likely to grow in your walk with the Lord. Plus, a small group of caring friends who share a common bond in Christ–where you can get real with one another–is the environment where genuine community is best experienced. 

And speaking of community, another reason I like small groups is their location and purpose: they are in the community, and for the community. That is, they are not building centered, but community centered. Our Lord’s Great Commission called us to go into all the world and make disciples. But many have reversed that commission from a “go and tell” to an invitation to “come and hear” at the church building. When we meet in homes in our neighborhoods, we are better positioned to reach out to our neighbors where they are. As the old saying goes, if you want to catch fish, you need to go where the fish are. And we who have been called to be “fishers of men” need to begin our mission in our communities where the fish are hungry, and the fields are white unto harvest.

Now none of that is to say that I don’t believe in our church gatherings on Sunday to worship together and hear from God’s word. I do, and I can’t wait to see you all each Sunday as we come together as His people to honor Him. But one without the other is an incomplete church, and leads to an incomplete and immature church body.

Last year when we went through the book of Acts for several months on Sunday mornings, we called that series “20/20 Vision,” in reference to Acts 20:20 where the church’s ministry was “publicly and from house to house.” That vision of church life reveals a both/and of public congregational worship and small groups in the home. I remember hearing someone refer to it as the two wings of church. Both wings are necessary, and if you try to fly with just wing, you will have a hard time getting off the ground, and you will be destined to crash.

We are still living in crazy times, with the Covid pandemic still hanging around and altering how we do life, and sometimes, how we do church. But I am excited about what the Lord has in store for us in the year ahead as our groups continue to make disciples, care for our members, and reach out to our community–even in the midst of a pandemic. I hope you will join me in praying for the Spirit to be at work in us and through us as we seek to honor Him through this important ministry.

For those interested in being a part of a small group this fall, several of our groups will be kicking off this week, but we are still working out details on all the groups schedule. We will let you know as soon as we get it finalized. In the mean time, I hope to see you Sunday as we gather together for worship.

–Pastor Ken

On ‘Spacial Distancing,’ etc.

Well, it’s time we have a little talk about Covid-19 again.

If you have been paying attention to the news, you know that the infection rates of the virus have been rapidly increasing of late, and hospitalizations are up to the point that some local hospitals are having trouble finding beds for patients. The new Delta variant seems to be more contagious than the first run, and it appears more younger people are now being affected. And the occurrences of “breakthrough” infections of fully vaccinated people are much higher than had been anticipated.

I know many of us are weary of hearing and talking about the virus. There is no shortage of Covid-fatigue, and I don’t mean a symptom of the sickness as much as the non-stop news and the high-volume arguing about how we are to deal with it. Many of us thought that we were all but finished with Covid back in the summer, and were looking forward to getting back to some semblance of normal as the fall approaches. But it appears that the virus isn’t going away any time soon.

The reality is we will probably be dealing with some version of this coronavirus for the rest of our lives, just like with the influenza virus and the common cold. What we must do as Christ-followers is learn how to live our lives with a proper balance of wisdom and faith, all with a selfless focus on loving our neighbor and being considerate to others.

It is not hard to understand that in a church even the size of ours there are all kinds of beliefs and opinions about what our approach should be to Covid. Even if you remove the politics from it all–which should have never entered into the discussion about a virus to begin with–opinions about vaccines and masks and the level of measures that should be taken range from one extreme to the other. And certainly, as we have seen over the last year and a half, one of the biggest dangers of the virus may be its ability to divide us.

By God’s grace, we as a church body navigated the first year of the virus fairly well. We have had somewhere around 70-80 confirmed cases of Covid, but there have been no hospitalizations from our church members, that I know of. And thankfully we have not lost anyone to the virus, at least not yet. The reality is, in time, that will probably change.

In the mean time, we have a responsibility to ourselves, to our families and to our “neighbors” to do a few things. From all indications, a good majority of the regularly attending adults in our church have already been vaccinated, and as stated above, a sizable percentage of our church family have already had the virus. And though there are so many inconsistent reports about who can spread the virus and how it is transmitted, we still need to take every precaution necessary to ensure the safety of our families and our church family.

As for how all this affects our church gatherings, well there are several measures we need to be sure we are taking. Obviously, as we have said all along–and this should be common sense even if there was no coronavirus–if you are feeling any symptoms of sickness or fever, you should stay at home. Likewise, if you have been around someone who has tested positive for Covid, you will also want to stay away for a period of quarantine, as the CDC recommends.

Also, be sure to wash your hands and use hand sanitizer, which we have available in all over our buildings. We are currently not requiring masks in our services, but we would certainly recommend them, especially if you have concerns about the virus. And no one should be made to feel judged or shamed for wearing a mask, or not.

And we ask that you keep your distance–and refrain from hugs and handshakes for now. We have used the term “spacial distancing” instead of “social distancing,” because by definition we as a church are called to be social. I want us to love one another, care for one another, encourage one another, and bear one another’s burdens–and all those things are “social.” But we can do all of those things even as we try to keep some safe space between us, for now.

Through it all, our calling is to put others first, as Jesus did for us. To be humble, and loving, even toward those we disagree with. And I will add that not only has condescension never worked in trying to persuade others to change their minds, it certainly does not reflect the image of Christ. Don’t give the enemy a foothold! (Ephesians 4:27)

And please pray, both for God’s protection from the virus and from any disunity as a result of it. He has brought us this far, and I am confident He will continue to lead us and provide for us.

I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Some ‘Telling’ Statistics

How long has it been since you’ve invited an unbelieving or unchurched friend to come and worship with you at Shelby Crossings? How long since you’ve told someone about the difference Christ makes in your life?

Did you know that 82% of unchurched Americans say they would come to church if someone invited them. That polling was done prior to the pandemic, so I am guessing those numbers may be affected some now, but it is still noteworthy that in our increasingly irreligious culture, eight in ten people would come to worship if only there was someone who would extend to them an invitation.

If that surprises you, then how about this: 89% of lost, unbelieving people in this country say they would go to church if someone–a friend, neighbor or relative–walked in the door with them. That is, not just inviting them verbally, but offering them a ride or meeting them at the door, and walking in with them.

I don’t know about you, but I’m more than a little encouraged by those numbers. We have often been led to believe that in today’s culture our lost friends and neighbors are antagonistic against all things church-related, when in fact they are just waiting for us to care enough to invite them to join us.

In another survey, people who are actively involved in their churches were asked, “What or who was responsible for your coming to Christ and your church?” Here are the results: Special need, 1-2%; Walk-in, 2-3%; Pastor, 5-6%, Visitation, 1-2%, Sunday School, 4-5%, Evangelistic crusade 1/2-1%; Church Program, 2-3%; Friend/Relative, 79-86%.  

In other words, it was almost always the influence and invitation of a friend or relative that brought them to Christ and church, and had the greatest lasting spiritual impact on their lives. Not a pastor, and not a program–but a friend.

But that brings me to a more disturbing statistic: only 2% of church members in America actually invite unchurched folks to attend on a regular basis. It’s not hard to do the math to realize that if they are waiting on an invitation, and we are not inviting them, then they will continue down the same hopeless path, without Christ and without the loving community we experience in His family.

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Rom. 10:14, NLT)

Let’s tell them. Let’s invite them. Let’s reach out to our lost and hurting world with the love of Christ this week. I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

–Pastor Ken

Illuminating a Dark World

Did you know that there is a light bulb at a fire station in Livermore, California that has been burning for more than 120 years? The world famous bulb has shined non-stop since June, 1901. It was first powered up three months before President William McKinley was assassinated, and has outlasted 21 presidents since. Actually there was one brief interruption in May, 2013 for 9 1/2 hours when the power failed, but it has been busy illuminating ever since.

Physicists are baffled at why the bulb continues to shine, and hasn’t burned out after more than a century of continuous use. It has been left burning in Fire Station #6 as a nightlight over the fire trucks. One explanation for the longevity of the bulb is that the filament is eight times thicker than the normal ones. Also, a bulb that is constantly turned on and off will burn out quicker than one that is left on– and this one is always on. Beyond this, it’s just a mystery.

It has been declared the oldest known working lightbulb by Guinness Book of World Records as well as Ripley’s Believe-It-or-Not. Thousands of people visit the fire station each year to see the bulb, and it has been featured in several national and international TV programs, and recognized in declarations from the President and U.S. Congress. A book has been written about the bulb, and it also had its own Centennial Bulb website, including a webcam where you can see it burning all hours of the day.

There is an obvious spiritual parallel for us as Christ-followers. Jesus called us to be “the light of the world,” and said that we are to let our light shine before others in such a way that they see our good works, and thus glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:14-16). Elsewhere, Jesus called Himself the “Light of the World” (John 8:12) so in reality we are just allowing His light to shine through us, bringing His illumination to our dark world.

But what stands out most about the amazing bulb is not the brilliance of its light. It is its consistency–its “faithfulness.” It is not known for its brilliant light–it only burns at four watts–but it is sure and steady, doing what it was intended to do, all the time. That is our calling as Christians, to be faithful and steady, in our place, shining His light into the darkness.

There may not be a non-stop webcam monitoring our light, but the world is watching–and so is the Lord. My prayer for each us is that His light would shine through each of us this week, pointing people to the hope we have in Him.

I am grateful for the privilege of serving as your pastor, and I look forward to seeing you look Sunday.

–Pastor Ken