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    Week of January 17, 2021

    This Week

    Blindfolded Man

    There's a story of a man who dreamed that he went to Heaven, and oh, he was so delighted to think that he had made it. An angel came and said to him, “Come, I want to show you something.” He took the man to the edge of Heaven and said, “Look down and tell me, what do you see?”

    “I see a very dark world.”

    “Look and see if you know it.”

    “Why, yes,” he said, “that is the world I have come from.”

    “What do you see?”

    “Men are blindfolded there; many of them are going over a precipice.”

    “Well, will you stay here and enjoy Heaven, or will you go back to earth and tell those men about this world?”

    At that time the man awoke from his sleep. He later mused to a friend, “I have never wished myself dead since.”


    These times are tumultuous and precarious for believers. We see men who live with ill-intent thrive and those who are struggling to make their way in this world struggle even more. All the while, godly leaders falter in their way. There are wars and rumors of wars. There is unease in our neighborhoods, injustice in the streets, and deception in our halls of justice. There is tension in the eyes of those we pass in the stores; faces are hidden behind their mask.


    Without Christ, people are blindfolded and are walking straight towards the edge of eternity. The world needs a Church alive in Christ and living in the power of the Holy Spirit more than ever. A Church united under the saving banner of Jesus. A Church that will step out of the rhetoric and fear-mongering of our day and shine the light of the cross. A Church that lives and understands that time is ever so short. This is the message of John the Baptist, the Apostles, and the Church. We’ll see you Sunday -pb

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      Week of January 10, 2021

      This Week

      Couple In Car With Man Driving

      As John the Baptist comes on the scene in Luke, he preaches a message of repentance and baptism. The idea of repentance today is lost in the church, and even more in our society. Instead of repentance, we focus on feelings. Instead of prayer, we’re concerned about style. Instead of the Word, we’d rather drink the coffee. It all comes back to repentance.


      What if you and your spouse are on a road trip. You have the directions available, but you feel you know the best way to get to your destination. You head off, and while driving down the road, you decide to turn left (the directions advise to turn right). After a while it is clear you are heading in the wrong direction. So you turn to your spouse and say, “I’m sorry,” and then continue to drive in the wrong direction. You will never get where you are going without turning around and going in the opposite direction.


      Saying you're sorry isn’t enough. Repentance requires recognition of the wrong direction, surrendering to God that you need to go His direction, and then making the choice to follow Him. That’s repentance. See you Sunday. -pb

      1. published a newsletter

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        Week of January 3, 2021

        This Week

        Senior mother with daughter selfie

        In Ontario, there was a 16 year old homeless teen named Cheyenne who was working with child welfare to find a foster home. In Ontario, around a thousand teenagers age out of the foster care system every year without being placed in a foster family, so it seemed very unlikely that Cheyenne would find a foster family.


        Four years later, Cheyenne beat the odds when she was adopted by Shannon Culkeen, a woman who’d been serving as her mentor. For years Shannon and Cheyenne had kept in touch and celebrated several milestones together, including Cheyenne’s high school graduation and her first pow-wow honoring her Ojibwe heritage. But it wasn’t until Shannon applied to become a first-time foster parent that she began to wonder about formalizing the relationship she had with Cheyenne. When the paperwork asked if she had any other children, she realized, “I think maybe I do.”


        Cheyenne has since legally added the Culkeen surname to hers, and has court documents to prove that they are now legally related. For Cheyenne, she’s taken comfort from Shannon’s consistent presence. She said, “Someone has faith in me to do the right thing and will also still be there even if I don't. It's not like I'm doing anything out of fear of losing her."


        Shannon’s motivation was simple. "I don't think it's ever too late to make a family.” Everyone needs a mentor and someone to mentor. Your relationship with other believers in the church is critical to your faith and their faith. This year, I want to challenge you to seek out relationships and purposefully work to build up (disciple) your Christian brothers and sisters.


        We’ll talk about this more on Sunday (and the weeks and months to come!) -pb

        1. published a newsletter

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          Week of December 27, 2020

          This Week

          Screen Shot 2020-12-22 At 3.41.31 PM

          “Christ is born, glorify Him. Christ from heaven, go out to meet Him. Christ on earth, be exalted. Sing to the Lord, all the whole earth; and that I may join both in one word, let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, for Him who is of heaven and then of earth. Christ in the flesh, rejoice with trembling and with joy; with trembling because of your sins, with joy because of your hope.” (St. Gregory of Nazianzus (AD 380))


          I can’t help but feel in awe of all we’ve come through as a church this year. I am thankful for God’s care and mercy and for the faithfulness of God’s people. GCC impacted our community. We touched lives. We’ve cried together. We’ve embraced each other and we've socially distanced. We gave food to those in need. We laughed, we prayed, and we kept looking forward with hope and anticipation of God’s plan. 


          Tonight and on Christmas Day, let's pause and reflect on Christ our Lord. And let us sing with choirs of angels to the glory of God. 


          Merry Christmas,


          pb

          1. published a newsletter

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            Week of December 20, 2020

            This Week

            Japanese Christmas

            I recently read about how Christmas is celebrated in Japan. It is one of their major holidays. They put up decorations, exchange presents, send cards, sing yuletide songs, decorate trees, serve special seasonal treats (especially strawberry-decorated cakes), and make a big fuss over St. Nick, Rudolph and Frosty. Their version of Santa is sometimes dressed like a Samurai (I wonder if he carries a sword). It is very important for single adults to go on a romantic dinner date on Christmas Eve. And for reasons I could not determine, a big Christmas tradition is attending a concert of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.


            The one thing the Japanese do not do at Christmas is honor Christ. That’s because the Japanese are nearly 99% Shinto or Buddhist. A missionary to Japan was once asked if Christmas was Santa’s birthday. Only ½ of 1% of Japan’s population is Christian.


            So where do you think they got this commercial version of Christmas? From us. They are attracted to the glitter and romance of the American version of Christmas, and have adopted nearly everything- except the TRUE reason for Christmas. We have an opportunity to celebrate Jesus and share His significance with the rest of the world. This year, more than ever, let us not miss the opportunity! See you on Sunday, -pb

            1. published a newsletter

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              Week of December 13, 2020

              This Week

              Christmas Peace

              Howard Thurman wrote the poem “The Work of Christmas:”


              When the song of the angels is stilled,

              When the star in the sky is gone,

              When the kings and princes are home,

              When the shepherds are back with their flock,

              The work of Christmas begins:

              To find the lost,

              To heal the broken,

              To feed the hungry,

              To release the prisoner,

              To rebuild the nations,

              To bring peace among brothers,

              To make music in the heart. (Howard Thurman)


              With Christmas approaching and 2020 coming to a close, we are ever aware that we are different, our lives are different, and our communities are different because of the events of this year. Some are reeling in the dizzying pace of change, and some are exhausted from how complex life has become today. Some are worried about what the future holds, some are in mourning, and some are thankful that their experience was not as bad as they anticipated.


              We all need hope. I heard someone say that the plagues of Egypt were as much to get Israel to want to leave as it was for Pharaoh to let them go. Maybe God is readying His Church for departure because we are too comfortable in our temporary home. Are you ready to go?


              There is hope for us all through our faith in Jesus Christ. He left heaven, came down to Earth, and in the silence of night our Savior was born, crying the cry of life. That alone gives us hope. We need it this Christmas more than ever. I’ll see you on Sunday. -pb

              1. We have been contacted that there is a need for a sofa bed or a futon. If anyone would have one of these you are willing to give away, please contact the church office.
                1. published a newsletter

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                  Week of December 6, 2020

                  This Week

                  Jesus resting on a manger while light from the star filters into the room

                  Do you ever wonder why Jesus had to be born in a barn? Why laid in a feeding trough? Every part of the nativity story was carefully orchestrated by God. Jesus could have been born anywhere. Among the animals, among their sweat and dung, no one could say “That little baby is out of my reach.” No one could say, “He’s too good for me.” No one could say, “He doesn’t understand my life.” Isaiah 57 tells us that God dwells “with the contrite and lowly of spirit, in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” 


                  Then I started to realize, this has less to do with economics and more to do with relational connectivity. We tend to identify with Jesus in a way that keeps him close to us. Do you see Jesus as a religious conservative preaching on the morals of God? Do you see Jesus as a social justice warrior standing up against the ills of our culture? Do you see Jesus as the compassionate humanitarian caring for the poor and needy. Do you see Jesus as the wise sage bestowing wisdom to his hearers? Do you see Jesus as ______ (you fill in the blank)?


                  How can he carry so many personifications? The onus is not to stereotype the Christ-child. Nor is the burden to step-up to ascent to his lofty heights. The challenge for us, especially in 2020, is to learn from him as a baby in a feeding trough. To stoop down humbly… keep going… a little lower… there. 


                  “Having the same mind of Christ Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.” (Phil 2:6-7)


                  The challenge for us is not climbing to lofty religious heights. Man has been doing that as long as we’ve been on this earth. The challenge is finding ourselves humble enough to share the mind and love of Christ as a baby in a manger. See you on Sunday -pb

                  1. Dec
                    6
                    Sunday, December 6th  •  5:30–7:00 pm (EST)