Are You Stalking Jesus?

I had the opportunity to attend a destination wedding and it was a beautiful experience. I was part of the wedding party and as we were walking down the aisle, I realized that the wedding wasn’t only going to be the invited guests but all the people in the resort were joining us from afar.  At that moment I became very aware that people are staring, and if I make a mistake they will know. I was feeling the pressure of being perfect. Chasing perfection always comes with pressures. Pressure in finding a good job, pressure in making money, pressure in making your parents proud, or even your spouse proud. Pressure in raising your kids right; even pressure in naming that child right. Now we are all stressed and have no rest. Matthew 11:28 says “Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” Jesus calls all of us who have no rest and promises to bring relief to our souls. We all need rest because one way or another we are always looking to be perfect. As I walked down the aisle I did stumble on my long dress but no one seemed to care. The other bridesmaids stumbled a little too; even the bride did as the sand didn’t make it easy to walk. We were all trying to walk perfectly and in the end we all didn’t. So no matter how much money we make or how our children to turn out to be we can find relief in Jesus. He can take all of that stress away so cast your burdens on to Him. Let’s not just chase Jesus but let’s stalk Him.
Blessings,
Jacki


Storm the Gates of Hell

Matthew 16:18, “…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
 
I love the International Feast! The food is amazing and the worship is probably as close as we are going to get to being in heaven. Everyone pitches in and takes care of all the work that is necessary to pull it off. Did I mention how much I love the food?
 
This year the feast has really gotten me thinking about “the big C” Church-not just our congregation but the entirety of God’s Church around the world. Throughout this year we have been talking about the importance of discipleship-growing closer to Jesus and helping others grow closer to him too-but then the Lord revealed another aspect of what we are supposed to be doing as the church.
 
We don’t just help others. We storm the gates of hell. We don’t just help people feel better. We take back what hell has stolen. We don’t sit in a service hoping we have paid enough for fire insurance. We willingly take on the fires of hell in the power of the gospel to bring salvation, restoration, healing, and wholeness.
 
Here is the message I’m hearing from God in all of this. “Don’t stop short.” Don’t just pray. Cry out to God with all your heart. Don’t just read the Bible. Study God’s word like your life depended on what it says. Don’t just fellowship with others. Build real relationships that help you and others make disciples. Don’t just come to a church building. Be the church that storms the gates of hell to take back what hell has stolen. Others are depending on us to have the faith to lead them to faith in Jesus.   Let’s show this world what “the big C” Church can do!
 
In Him,
Pastor Tim


A Chosen Race

Dear Church,
 
I love the diversity at Houston First Church of God; on any given Sunday you will see different races, worshipping and praising God together. As many of us already know, the nation’s population is becoming more diverse, racially and ethnically. However, according to the Pew Research Center report on global religious diversity; the top diverse religious groups are the Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Buddhists. Why is that? Why are these groups more diverse than the church? There could be many reasons for the lack of diversity amongst evangelicals; such as different styles of worship, familiarity, and cultural relevance. But the fact still remains that Sunday morning (11am) is the most segregated hour in America. In 1 Peter 2:9-10, it says “But you are a chosen RACE, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. I am proud of the fact that I am an African American man, however; when I gave my life to Christ, I became born again. So what does this mean? My allegiance is to my new RACE, which is the CHURCH. The world needs to see the church come together in word and in deed. They need to see different races, cultures, and ethnicities; serving side by side, and loving one another. Racial Reconciliation starts with the church, and it’s our love for one another that draws the unbeliever to Christ. And let the church say AMEN!
 
Pastor Marcus


What’s Your Next First Step?

This summer my schedule was a bit crazy. So many things just threw my daily routine out the window, and the first thing to go was exercise. But sure enough, the end of summer arrived, the kids went back to school, and I could get back to my routine. A weird thing happened though. I got used to sleeping in a little instead of getting up to exercise. In my mind I wanted to get stronger again but I just got used to this new way of doing things. I needed to figure out how to take that first step… again.
As we have continued to talk about the Vision to Multiply I have seen great progress in so many, but I also know that it can be hard to do these new things over a long period of time. Routines change and life happens, but I still believe that we can bring Lazarus back to life. We all want to be stronger as a church and stronger in our faith. Now we just need to figure out how to take that first step… again.
Maybe your first step is to set an alarm on your phone to write down (journal) something that you have seen God doing in your life or some way that he is challenging you. Maybe you could put the weekly discipleship material on your kitchen table or television as a reminder to read it each week. Maybe you could talk to me or someone else (discipleship coach) about how you are growing as a disciple.
I know you have taken steps to advance the Vision to Multiply and I am so thankful to you and the Lord for the revelation that he is giving to us. Now I wonder if there isn’t another first step we can take—a step that will move us from interest to involvement, a step that will move us from dipping our toe to jumping in. Together God will accomplish the Vision to Multiply through us. Let me know how I can help you take that first step… again.
 
In Him, Pastor Tim


Pins in Your Map

Dear Church
 
The map on the wall is full of red and blue pins. Each pin represents a city that has been visited. They represent stories. They are reminders of what happened there, who you were with, and whether you are interested in going back or not.
Throughout our lives we have dropped pins—places we have been that we can look back on. Those pins represents the stories of our lives, the people we were with and lessons on how to live. For many, a pin was dropped with the church but life has pulled them away. That pin might represent wonderful memories of singing songs in the children’s ministry, but for others it might represent a conflict that deeply impacted their family.
This Sunday is Back to Church Sunday and I am encouraging all of you to invite others back to church. Your invitation can be just what they need to return to the pin that God dropped in their lives which represent him and his community. We can help them go back to where God would have them to be—with him. Do not underestimate the power of your invitation because with it goes God’s invitation. So talk to your co-workers, talk to your neighbors, and talk to your family. Let’s help each one get back to where God would have them to be.
 
In Him, Pastor Tim


Maker Space Mondays

You might have heard by now that I will be ‘officing’ out of Bane Elementary on Mondays this school year, along with Pastor Tim as his schedule permits. This is such a unique opportunity and we are beyond excited about it! They have a flexible teaching space that is free for all teachers to use as they might need; last year they dubbed it ‘the maker space’ as students could turn in their recess tickets to go build or ‘make’ things instead! It is just off the library, which is in the heart of the school. All hallways lead to the library, and therefore this flex space!  I will not be changing that name at all, because it is completely aligned with our purpose in being there. I do not think there is a coincidence that the space has the word ‘maker’ in it. I am aiming to build relationships there in order to make disciples who make disciples.

            We have been looking at how we can better support the Bane Elementary teachers and staff, but I never imagined the opportunity that is now before us. A few months ago Pastor Tim found a video talking about school safety, which I sent to Dr. Marz, the principal, asking if there was a way for us to be around more. I never dreamed she would immediately say yes! We quickly set up a meeting to discuss what this looked like, and “Maker Space Mondays” were born! On the 1st day of school, so many staff members stopped me to say they are so excited to have us on campus and look forward to our relationship growing! I am just as excited, if not more so! I cannot wait to see what God does at Bane Elementary this school year!

 

Please join us in praying over Maker Space Mondays, the staff, students, and families at Bane! For other ways to support Bane, check out the spotlight table in the lobby!

 

~Many Blessings

Pastor Sarah



Happy First Day!

What an amazing day yesterday at Bane Elementary for the first day of school!  Houston First Church of God was all over the place.  We greeted students with a high five as they got off the bus.  We helped kids get breakfast before they went to class.  We helped kids find their classrooms.  We helped pre-schoolers get adjusted to school life.  We helped administration get pictures for kids’ ID badges.  We helped direct traffic in the cafeteria at lunch.  We comforted crying kids.  We prayed for administration dealing with a tough situation.  And we rode buses to help make sure that kids got where they were supposed to go.
 
Houston First Church of God made a huge difference on the first day of school and the teachers, faculty and staff of Bane Elementary were so appreciative.  Maybe you didn’t get to help this time but there are more opportunities coming.  Together we are going to show everyone connected to that school what the practical love of Jesus looks like.  Thank you for influencing the world with the kingdom of God.
In Him,
Pastor Tim


Taking Jesus to School

On Wednesday Beth and I will be walking our kids into the first day of school. We will be there to help them find their classrooms, to carry all the extra stuff they need on the first day, and then we will give them words of encouragement before we leave. We don’t have to do all this. We think that in some small way it will help alleviate some of the stress that comes with the first day of school.
 
On Monday August 27, Bane Elementary School will have its first day of classes. Unfortunately though, because of work and transportation issues, many parents will not be able to be there with their children on the first day. Over 90% of these children live below the poverty line and for almost 30% of them this will be their first first day at Bane Elementary. That is a lot of stress to have to deal with but you can help.
 
Pastor Sarah and I are looking for as many volunteers as possible to be at Bane Elementary with us for the first day of school. Starting at 8 am we will help welcome children with high-fives, smiles and encouraging words. There we will get to help kids find their classrooms and carry the extra first day stuff. There we will be able to love the least of these.
 
Then they also need Bus Buddies to help make sure that kids get home safely and at the correct stop. As  Bus Buddies you will serve from 2:45-4:45 p.m. Monday, August 27 and Tuesday, August 28. The bus driver will know where everyone is supposed to get off but Bus Buddies help make sure that no one sleeps through their stop or tries to get off too early.
 
These kids have a lot to deal with in the normal course of life, but you can show them God’s love in the midst of it all. We have experienced God as our refuge and now, as ambassadors of Jesus Christ, we can be a refuge for the students of Bane Elementary as well. I genuinely hope to see you there.
 
In Him,
Pastor Tim


Disciples Making Disciples

Over the Spring/Summer season of Children’s ministry, I found myself in one of the classrooms every week and what a rich season it was! I love spending time with our students; seeing the progress they are making in their understanding of Scripture and in their personal relationship with Christ is truly a blessing!
On Sunday mornings in Sunday School, we have been studying individual discipleship, beginning in the Old Testament. We have been discovering who God is and what that means for us. For example: God is creative, therefore we are creative; God gives, therefore we give; God is loyal, therefore we are loyal. On Wednesday evenings at Bible Kids Club we have been learning about peer discipleship, digging into 1 Thessalonians 5 learning that we are church (‘church’ is a people, not a place), and that Christian fellowship is key to accountability and discipleship. During worship hour on Sundays, we have been adventuring through the New Testament letters and the life of Paul, learning about as-we-go discipleship. The idea that discipleship can happen on a boat, in prison, in a house, on the road, in the middle of a raging storm or a shipwreck, etc. has opened the eyes of the students to the fact that discipleship opportunities are all around us!
One of the students regularly connects whatever topic we are discussing to the phrase ‘Disciples Making Disciples’, pointing out his discovery to his classmates. Making good choices the first time? That’s obedience, and an example to friends of how we should obey authority, which is ‘Disciples Making Disciples’ because it’s an opportunity to discuss how God has changed his heart! Serving in the local body? That’s ‘Disciples Making Disciples’ because working hard in all we do is part of being the church and when others ask us ‘why?’ we have an opportunity for discipleship! Discerning the voice of the Lord and the prompting of the Holy Spirit? That’s part of your relationship with God and growing deeper, and ties into ‘Disciples Making Disciples’ because you can tell your friend why you are doing something the Holy Spirit told you to! This kid is seven. SEVEN!
‘Disciples Making Disciples’ is a phrase this student has heard Pastor Tim say, as well as his teachers; however, this principle has solidified in this mind and heart because of the day to day example that his parents give. His parents are intentionally pouring the truth they are learning in worship and/or learn group into their young son. This is family discipleship. Supporting and resourcing parents who seek to intentionally disciple their children to become disciples who make disciples is my newfound passion. I cannot wait until every student (and parenting unit) in our program has the excitement and hunger that this seven year old has!
This process primarily begins at home; the church secondarily supports, encourages, and trains as a supplement to what is being done daily at home. As students see their parents daily digging into God’s Word and living it out, as they hear their parents regularly speaking of what God is doing in their lives, as they see their parents consistently serving the local body and community, they will begin to develop deep roots in individual, peer, as-we-go, and family discipleship. And the HFC Kids teaching team will be here to cheer the family on and help support them every step of the way.
I am beyond excited to see what God does in this next season, both in the children’s ministry and the church body. As we begin our Fall Semester, I cannot wait to partner with our families as they train up their children to be ‘Disciples Making Disciples’!
 
Many Blessings,
Pastor Sarah


So Much to Celebrate!

Who would have thought that God would move like He did in a service where the preacher started talking about giving? What an amazing day though! I want to give a special word of thanks to DJ Jones and Melissa Garza for sharing their testimonies through baptism. They are wonderful examples of what it looks like to re prioritize your life and place great value on Jesus and the church.
 
Maybe the Lord is showing you how to re prioritize your life around Jesus too. Maybe you have decided to follow Jesus and you want to get baptized as well. However the Lord is working on you, please let me know about it so that I can celebrate with you. You can do that by replying to this email, calling me at the office (713.460.0104), or by filling out a YES! card the next time you are at the building. And if you know someone who has responded to God’s word by going to the altar or otherwise make sure you ask them about it so you can celebrate with them too.
 
Believe it or not, all this has to do with giving. The faith that it takes to trust Jesus to forgive you of your sins is the same faith it takes to give to God’s church. Trusting Jesus to heal your past wounds is very similar to trusting Jesus with your money. I am so excited to continue talking about the spiritual nature of how we spend and how we give. I believe God has more celebrating for us to do.
 
In Him,
Pastor Tim