Happy New Year, Fam!

Well, it is 2021! I haven’t seen you all sense last year. It’s not yet time for me to recap all that God has done in 2020. I’ll do that after our annual family meeting on January 14. For now, I simply want to write you a letter of encouragement before tomorrow, the first Sunday of 2021.

Over the previous two years, you have all come to be very dear to my heart. I would do anything for you, and I would do anything for our community. Within the last few months, people have started asking why we are here. What is the purpose and vision of The Church at Sunsites. This is a great place to be; many local congregation never get around to asking such existential questions. Christians content themselves with meeting together. If we ask why or what difference does it make, the answer is always silence. It’s time to start thinking about vision. It’s time to start thinking about who we are as The Church at Sunsites and why it matters for our community. That is a converastion we will have on January 14 at our annual family meeting. I will have to look at the protocols again in the bylaws, but I believe that those who cannot make it in person will be able to join via video conference.

I want to ask something of you in 2021. 2020 was a year marked with frustrations that many of us have not seen in our lifetimes. If Biden is revealed as president elect by the electoral college vote count on January 6th, there will be many questions and hardships to follow, as there will be if he is not. Every new season on earth comes with more questions and hardships, and the church is here for good in every season. Whatever vision we develop together, I know that The Church at Sunsites as a whole–not merely the elders or deacons–has an important role to play as we love and serve our community. We will continue to make decisions as to whether or not we will gather, what we will sacrifice for our Lord, and how we will prioritize our lives. I am convinced that the gathering of believers should be a top priority for believers because the gathering is the means by which we are all perfected according to God’s design–the means by which the whole world is renewed. We need one another. If you are unable to gather, we are live streaming the main gathering on Facebook.

Tomorrow, we begin 1 Corinthians. Paul answers the questions we all have. Who, what, where, why, and how is the church? What is the point? Why gather? I hope to see you all there together, and I hope we are all preparing for the annual family meeting on January 14–perhaps the post important family meeting we will have while I serve you as pastor.

As we think about who we are, the purpose and mission and vision of The Church at Sunsites, consider these truths in 2021:

  • Jesus instructed us to go to others like He came to us,
  • Every Christian is a priest in Christ’s kingdom,
  • Church membership is the third office of the church and not merely a status, and
  • Every local church is to be a gospel mission to its community.

Thank you for being my family. Let’s shake this valley and the world in 2021. See you in the gathering.

–Andrew

January 2021 Announcements

Happy New Year, church family! I want to thank you for another great year at TCATS. 2020 presented some interesting challenges and hardships, but we got to experience God’s continuing sanctification. This year, God taught me about patient endurance, unconditional love and forgiveness, and humbled me again–as is His way. In 2020, I worked on brevity and on explaining lofty ideas in plain language. In 2021, I will learn how to better interact with ideas other than my own. I’ve always been a sort-of harsh debater, enough to mostly distance myself from participating in debates. These days I find myself wanting to be more charitable and understanding. Please pray for me as I discipline my body and mind more faithfully this year. I would love to hear about your New Year’s resolutions. –Andrew

Special Announcements

If you missed our advent series, watch it here!

We will begin 1 Corinthians on January 3. Remember to pick up your 1 Corinthians journal and send us any questions you have as you read through 1 Corinthians so we can plan on answering those as we walk through the epistle together.

Annual Business Meeting (uh, I mean family meeting)- Thursday, January 14 at 6:30pm
The purpose of this meeting shall be to:

  1. Select officers for the upcoming year,
  2. Approve the operating budget for the upcoming year,
  3. Reaffirmation of two elders (Andrew and Albert) and one deacon (Steve),
  4. Cast vision for 2021, and
  5. Other business if needed.

I (Andrew) will be writing three pieces before our annual meeting. One considering the importance of elder reaffirmation, another considering the importance of developing and casting vision as a church family, and one concerning the deacons’ and elders’ role related to the church budget according to Scripture. Be on the look out for these three important considerations as we prepare ourselves to discern the will of God for TCATS in 2021.

Please see the church calendar for other scheduled events this month.

Resources

Interested in earning a teaching certificate starting this spring? We are starting seminary classes through Gateway Seminary; Please contact us for details and don’t forget to enroll soon.

Download and read Pastor Andrew’s latest school paper by clicking here.

Current Opportunities:

We want you to serve according to your calling. Come, be a part of The Church at Sunsites. We commit to train you and see you fulfill the ministry God has called you to according to His will.

Please donate online by clicking here.

If you do not give online, please remember to mail in your first-fruits or place your offering in the offering box when you are at the church building. We do not take up an offering during any worship gathering.

Remember to Subscribe to this blog and Contact us with any questions!

DECEMBER COVID-19 UPDATE

How do we best serve the glory of God, the good of our congregation, and the good of the community? How does God lead us in His word? Those are the questions we ask when we consider our response to everything. We consider physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Our highest priority is God’s glory and the sanctification of the saints. We are blessed to live in a state in which the economy is not being closed down again and in which churches are not being held to standards other than small businesses or other community organizations. Simply want to provide a few notes:

  • Vaccines are now being distributed for healthcare workers and will be distributed for certain groups in phases in the weeks and months to come.
  • Please continue to practice safe sanitation by washing your hands often and utilizing the hand-sanitizer we provide near the entrances of the church building.
  • Don’t be afraid to wear a mask at gathering times. We do not require masks, but we want you to feel comfortable wearing yours if you desire. Masks are available if you do not have one.
  • Try not to neglect the gathering if you don’t feel you have to. If you are in quarantine or self-isolating, remember to join us via Facebook live beginning again this Sunday.
  • Remember to call your elders/deacons if you need anything. We are here to serve our church and community through every circumstance.
  • Each person is responsible for staying informed and keeping the state and county recommendations according to his or her own discernment.
  • If you are sick or have tested positive for COVID-19, please remain home for the appropriate amount of time.

Remain prayerful, devoted to one another, and committed to Christ and His bride. Amen.

Download and Read Pastor Andrew’s Latest Academic Paper

Hey church family. On Sunday, I had the privilege of sharing the main idea of my latest paper as I continue to pursue my PhD. I want to thank you for your support. In this paper, I present an interpretation of Genesis 3:14-15 and apply it to a biblical theology of reprobation. Please continue to pray for me as I continue my education, mainly that I will continue to become a better servant to the local church and community by increasing my expertise. I love you all, and I can’t stress enough how much I need you and am indebted to you in all things.
-Andrew

Click below to download or view my paper: “Children of the Serpent Mother.”

From Google Drive: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vOezy6BW96KjCehvAmzGAdfv0HAN1jhQ/view?usp=sharing

From Acedemia.edu: https://mbts.academia.edu/AndrewCannon

Heal the Land: Getting Back to Church

I was talking to a fellow the other day right here in the valley. He claimed that he did not need the church; his church was nature. He defined his spirituality based on the good things he did for others. Sometime after our conversation, the same man complained about always doing things for others but never having anyone doing anything for him or wanting him around just because they loved him. “I’m only focussing on me,” he said, “I’m done breaking my back for other people who don’t care.”

Have you ever thought about why we invest our time and money into the local church? For many people, church is merely a meeting they attend. They have gotten into the habit of paying their tithes, sitting in the church meeting, singing a song, having fellowship with others, and then going home.

I remember being asked once, “If your local church was suddenly gone, would people notice? Is your community a better place because of your Gospel work?” The question is daunting. It haunted me for a long time. We say that we meet to glorify Christ. Great! We meet to make better disciples of one another. Awesome!! But, what impact do we really have?

As the result of a happy accident (I know, there are no accidents), I found myself in John 20:19-29:

19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “bPeace be with you.”

20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

23 “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called aDidymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

25 So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus *came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

27 Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

In context, Jesus is talking to all of His disciples, not only the Apostles. Look at verse 21. Jesus sends all of His disciples just as the Father sent Him. Jesus even went as far as to give us responsibility to announce the forgiveness of sins to people. Earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus claimed to have come to save the whole world, not condemn it (John 3:17; speaking about common, effectual grace). His ministry was marked by (1) a proclamation of the Gospel, (2) teaching the whole counsel of Scripture, and (3) forgiveness of sins and healing. Then He instructs us to go to the world just as He came to us.

This year, I have been heavily convicted to fight more fiercely for my church family and community. I have rediscovered a heart for ministry that I haven’t known for a long time. This Christmas, I remember the condescension of Jesus Christ. He came to a broken, hurting world. He did not come to condemn it but to save it. I look around at my community and see:

  • Broken families,
  • Heartache,
  • Self-righteousness,
  • Addiction,
  • Abuse,
  • Insincerity,
  • Complaining,
  • Division,
  • Anxiety,
  • Bickering,
  • Non-forgiveness,
  • and so on…

Then, I realize Jesus wants to heal all that. His vision is to effectively heal the land through the local church. The world has failed to heal the land for so long. I recognize more and more that the world needs to church. In large part, the church has done so well secluding itself that it has lost its relevance in the world according to Christ’s vision. Some even seem like they are striving to do exactly the opposite thing that Jesus is. The Gospel is a very real and healing force. Imagine for a moment, that you started seeing:

  • Reconciliation between estranged spouses,
  • Comfort coming to the broken-hearted,
  • People humbling themselves and becoming servants,
  • People claiming real victory over their addictions,
  • An end to abuse,
  • People being sincerely interested in others,
  • People going around complimenting others rather than complaining about everything,
  • Enemies becoming friends,
  • Glad-heartedness and celebration,
  • Outdoing one another in love,
  • True forgiveness,
  • and so on…

When a church body is being the church, the Gospel message accomplishes real results. The prophets even prophesied that from the moment of Christ’s incarnation there would be no end to the increase of His government–which would bring peace and justice to the world (Isaiah 9:6-7). In large part, the church has lost its heavenly vision. Such results are worth investing our time and money. They are worth our dedication. Such great things really result from the preaching and application of the Gospel in local church ministry. My father-in-law once said, “The church is here for the community, not the community for the church.” He wasn’t wrong.

I dedicate my time not only to preach the Gospel but to apply the Gospel in ministry. I want to fight for your families. I want to fight for peace in the valley. I want to fight for unity and reconciliation. I want to fight for spouses to be reunited in Christ. I want to fight for you unconditionally. But, I am no savior…

I remember watching a TV show recently in which a man was made more powerful by having people like himself in close proximity. He mistakenly thought they needed him. In reality, he needed them. In the same way, I desperately need my local church family. I can’t do anything with out you. We cannot fight for our community in a real way without being devoted to the fellowship of believers. You never thought it could be said, “Go to church, save the world,” but that is precisely how it works. That is the way Jesus has chosen to do things. The gentleman I mentioned at the outset tried to be good but was ultimately unable. He had no support system and no vision apart from his own glory. As we approach the end of the year, I want to invite you to think about the local church and your involvement therein. Consider The Church at Sunsites. If you do not have a relationship with Christ, please contact us. If you have not been to church in awhile, please plan your visit today. If you need to recommit your life to Christ and His vision for the church, please do so. We will see you soon.

Start your Gospel journey. In this new podcast, Ken and I apply the Gospel to real life with an emphasis on the healing vision Christ presented us with. Subscribe on your favorite podcasting app. Let’s impact this world together.

Generations, Humility, Pride Blacktop Pulpit: Life Reformed

Join Andrew and Ken as they talk about Sunday’s sermon from 1 Corinthians 3:1-9. How do the generations relate to one another? What is humble knowledge? What’s pride have to do with it? Donate at thechurchatsunsites.com
  1. Generations, Humility, Pride
  2. Knowing God
  3. Sufficiency of Scripture
  4. God's Providence and Wicked Nations
  5. Irresistible Grace

Don’t forget about our Christmas Eve worship gathering. We will have several songs and I will speak more about the vision Christ is accomplishing through His incarnation.

Please consider making a special Christmas donation.

On January 3rd, we will begin walking through 1 Corinthians, a book in which God restored His vision for the local church at Corinth.

Why Are Revelation and End-Times So Puzzling?

There is a reason Voddie Baucham began his series on Revelation by calling it the book most congregants want their pastors to walk through but the book most pastors don’t want to walk through. It’s confusing. It’s even more confusing because everyone begins with different eschatological convictions, convictions many people are known for fighting about. Too often, agreement about the specifics of end-times theology is the dividing line for those who profess to be Christian even though many of those specifics are argued from inference rather than from the explicit claims of the text. Never does Scripture reveal perspicuously anything about a future 7-year tribulation, the timing of a rapture of the saints, or the timing of Christ’s millennial reign. All we can be certain of from the text is that there are tribulations, the saints will be caught up with Christ at the blast of a trumpet, and Christ does reign and establish His own millennial government. These truths cannot be denied, but the specifics about them are often disagreed upon by good theologians, zealous Christians, and sound pastors. In all the disagreements, only denying the second-coming of Christ is a legitimate matter of heresy or division. That being said, I do not break fellowship with any Christian based on his or her specific definition of the millennial kingdom, rapture, or tribulation. I do break fellowship if someone denies the second coming of Christ and the final establishment of His kingdom on the earth.

The Confusing Book we call Revelation

One cannot deny that the book of Revelation is highly symbolic. Jesus is not literally a lamb or lion or vine. Blood does not make clothes white. A city the size of the United States will not, according to John, literally come down out of heaven—the New Jerusalem represents the people of God (cf. Revelation 21:2, 12-13) and was currently coming down out of heaven in the First Century AD (cf. Revelation 3: 12; 21:10). 

Why is Revelation so cryptic? I interpret Scripture literally; A literal interpretation of Scripture is also known as a grammatical-historical approach to interpretation. I do not take an allegorical, mystical, or progressive approach to biblical interpretation. Literal interpretation demands consideration of the historical and grammatical context of each book and forces us to consider the literal intentions of the biblical authors. John had just been exiled to Patmos under either Domition or Nero. There was formal state persecution against Christians and the government would likely not allow an epistle to be mailed from Patmos. So, John wrote a story in the apocalyptic genre—a popular genre among Jews in the First Century AD. John’s book has a literal meaning, but only those who understood the apocalyptic language of the Old Testament prophets would be able to discern the literal meaning. John disguised his indictment against the Roman regime using the language of the Old Testament prophets in such a way that the Roman mail service would not recognize the work as anti-imperial cult. Such a realization helps us to understand why Revelation is so difficult to understand.

Why Such Disagreement?

There is such disagreement with regard to end-times and the book of Revelation because people begin in different eschatological positions (though not always disparate). We all read Scripture in light of our theological positions. We also interpret world events in light of our theological convictions. We cannot avoid such a tendency. What we believe about God and His work informs what we believe about everything else. What we believe about God is the most important set of beliefs we form. May we all be humble and sincere as we think about the Scriptures. A quick read through any systematic theology (I recommend Wayne Grudem’s) reveals a great diversity in end-times thought. No easy conclusion can be reached by anyone who sincerely approaches the subject because every position is argued from inference, even the position I currently and humbly hold to. In Understanding Prophecy by Alan Bandy and Benjamin Merkle, we can easily see how two reformed men who approach Scripture literally (grammatically and historically) can arrive at two different conclusions and still represent Scripture well. In their book, Bandy takes a historic-premillennial position and Merkle takes an amillennial position. Both men agree that the Bible should be interpreted literally. Even historic premillennials general hesitate when it comes to affirming definitely a future 7-year great tribulation or pretribulation rapture (which is a position taken by dispensational or futurist premillennials; a very new position to take in theological history; Refer to Grudem’s Systematic Theology). There is a reason we should never major on specific end-times details and simply preach and teach the Bible literally. The arguments we make from inference pale in comparison to God’s revealed word. That is why, when I teach, we simply walk through Scripture and consider the evidence. I do not tell people what end-times view to hold. I am not angry at those who disagree with the position I currently and humbly hold to. We are to be about the revelation of God, not telling others to agree with our own conclusions or the conclusions of our favorite theologians. Ultimately, I desire my congregation think through the issues for themselves. If you are one of those who are willing to break fellowship based on anything argued from inference, then you are one of the divisive wolves in the church; Understand, you have idolatrized a theological position and have failed to love your brothers and sisters in Christ. You have sprayed mud all over the wedding gown of Christ’s beloved bride. In his Revelation, John even says that local churches who do such a thing will have their lampstands removed from them (cf. Revelation 2:1-7).

See the three views (amil, postmil, and premil) discussed as they should be with unity and in honor of a literal interpretation of Scripture.

My Encouragement for You

John begins the book of Revelation by encouraging his readers in the First Century AD and us, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3). Consideration of the eschaton is to bring joy and blessing, awe-inspiration at the wonder of the work Christ is doing in and through His church. The book of Revelation is meant to unite, bless, and empower the body of Christ for world-mission. The time of Christ’s work and kingdom was near in the First Century. It is near today. May we heed the words of the Revelation. Judgment awaits those who are not in Christ. Blessing is showered over those who are in Christ. The further we get from Christ as churches and nations, the more we will experience tribulation in this world. The more closely we follow Christ as churches and nations, the more we will experience the blessings of God even in the midst of this turbulent world.

Amen and amen.

Catch up on our current Revelation series (Sundays during lunch)

December Announcements

Merry Christmas, church family! I want to thank you for another great month at TCATS. We started our first ever advent series and discovered the hope that the prophets had before the incarnation. Praise the Lord that there is no end to the increase of His government from the moment He was born in human flesh (Isaiah 9:6-7). I look forward to seeing what other promises and hope Scripture has for us this Advent season. –Andrew

Upcoming Special Events

Holiday Lunch– December 6 after the main gathering to celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas. We will also have our “Christmas Greed” party.

Advent Series– November 29-December 20 during the main gathering (11am on Sundays). Please remember to let us know if you would like to light an advent candle, say an advent prayer, sing, or read a poem during our advent series–especially during our Christmas Celebration on December 27.

Christmas Eve Worship Service–December 24 @ 6:30pm.

We will begin 1 Corinthians on January 3. Remember to send us any questions you have as you read through 1 Corinthians so we can plan on answering those as we walk through the amazing epistle.

Resources

Interested in earning a teaching certificate starting this spring? We are starting seminary classes through Gateway Seminary; Please contact us for details and don’t forget to enroll soon.

If you are interested in taking a spiritual gifts class, please click here and answer a few questions.

You will also notice a new chat box at the bottom of this website. Please feel free to utilize it. It is kind-of like the lobby of our website.

Current Opportunities:

We want you to serve according to your calling. Come, be a part of The Church at Sunsites. We commit to train you and see you fulfill the ministry God has called you to according to His will.

Please donate online by clicking here.

If you do not give online, please remember to mail in your first-fruits or place your offering in the offering box when you are at the church building. We do not take up an offering during any worship gathering.

Remember to Subscribe to this blog and Contact us with any questions!

COVID-19 Update

Hey family. I know I am on vacation, but I really wanted to send you a message of encouragement since we are moving into the winter season, the season commonly known as flu season and the season in which any virus seems to spread more easily. Doubtless there are reasons to be concerned about health and safety, but I want to be an encouragement to you rather than increase anxiety or worry about the rona–especially since there are many Christians around the world who are forsaking Christ and His bride because of a virus that He controls… Earlier this year, when we did stop meeting at the request of our governor, I was deeply convicted about the state of the church in general and about following Christ more closely. This year, the Christian kingdom has shown how little her faith in the one who has all providence actually is. I hope we are strengthened in the faith as a result of what God is working together, not weakened by our own concerns. We know that the people of God do not have to worry about any future possibility (Matthew 6:25-34). We know that we are not to neglect the gathering together of ourselves; The church gathering is to provide encouragement and stimulation at all times (Hebrews 10:24-25), making it essential during such a pandemic. We know that the elders of the church are here to bring both physical and spiritual healing and that God promises forgiveness and some degree of healing to those who confess their sins and over whom the elders pray (James 5:13-18). Since the rona is becoming a more prominent concern and people who do not know Christ are spreading so much fear, I simply want to remind you about the biblical promise–a very real promise God has made to His church.

In Capernaum early in His public bodily ministry on this earth, two different kinds of people approached Jesus (Matthew 8:18-22). The first, a scribe, wanted to follow Him and promised to do so. Jesus told the scribe that there were no guarantees: There would be no place for him to even sleep because the Son of Man (Jesus) did not have a place to lay his own head. On this earth, there is no security promised to those who follow Jesus because Jesus calls us to live boldly and faithfully in a dangerous, fallen, world. The second, one of Jesus’s disciples, wanted to take care of some unfinished family business. Jesus revealed that following Him means counting every worldly pursuit as loss. When we give our lives to Jesus, we give up the cares and concerns of the world. Jesus desires our faithfulness no matter what worldly concerns we are tempted to have. Worldly concerns literally rule our lives and keep us from following Christ if we are not actually submitted to Him.

After that, Jesus’s disciples followed Him onto a boat and a violent storm overtook them (Matthew 8:23-27). What was Jesus doing? Sleeping. After they woke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are going to die!” Jesus said, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” The disciples had little faith. Jesus called them out into the storm but not without some kind of safety net. Jesus was that safety net. No matter what storm we perceive, may we never forget the example Jesus set or His promise. Jesus rebuked the storm to show His authority, to show His disciples had no reason to fear, worry, or have anxiety. If our Lord is sovereign, He has all authority over storms, pandemics, presidential elections, and everything else. The saints are called to live and honor Christ through the dangers of the world. We are encouraged because Christ does not leave us alone without His providential hand. From the Christian worldview, the fearful response of the world is childish. But, the Christian has no need to be so fearful. We have no need to have such little faith. Christ’s promises are real and effective today. If they are not, we have no business being Christians.

We have been learning these truths on Wednesday evenings. To catch up on the Wednesday evening Bible study, watch the videos below:

Like we learned on Sunday mornings from the life of Saul, reacting from a place of worry, fear about the future, only leads us to sin and rebellion against God. The Christian has no reason to worry or to fear the future. Part of the messianic hope is not only that God is making sinners into saints and bringing them into His kingdom but, also, that Jesus Christ is renewing His world and making it a better place. If we believe Jesus Christ, that means we can be optimistic about our futures and the future of the whole world. We don’t have to be pessimistic like worldly people. We have been learning about this hope as we have been walking through the book of Revelation. To see the latest mention of this hope, listen to the video below:

See evidence that Christ is conquering the world and making things better by clicking here.

While the world councils people to run scared from the pandemic, our hope is in the God who saves, and He has promised to save the whole world. Our response to pandemics, elections, plagues, violence, and so on prove our faith. We either trust that God is actually doing what He promised to do or we do not. I must admit that I am so disappointed in people who claim to be Christians this year. The visible church has so little faith. Luckily for us, God is the faithful one. Even when we make an idol out of the storm like the disciples did, God is working it together for the Good of His church, His bride, His people. We remember God’s promise to Solomon:

If I shut the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on my people, and my people, who bear my name, humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).

While this promise was made to national Israel under King Solomon, it is applicable today. God has not changed. He is still the one who causes drought, plagues, and pestilence (e.g. COVID-19). He has not lost His sovereign rule. If He is the one who works even these together, then our response in distancing ourselves from Him and from His church makes little sense. Instead, we recognize God’s promise. He has worked this together not to separate His people but to bring His people together (to the Temple under Solomon and to the local church gathering today) in repentance. If we come together in repentance, God promises to heal our land. That sounds a lot like James 5:13-18. Why does the response of so many people who claim to be Christian look exactly the opposite of what Scripture instructs? I am concerned that people who claim to be Christians are following their fear rather than Christ.

What if the rona gets us? What if we die? Brothers and sisters, we have already died with Christ. He will leave us on earth until He has no more work for us. He does not leave us by ourselves. He promises healing in a very real way. We can rest during the storm and continue following Jesus. That is why Christians through history have run toward pandemics, pandemics much worse than the puny rona, to bring hope and healing to the whole world. They actually believed Christ was conquering. I, for one, will follow Christ into the storm. I will run into the mission field God has given us rather than running away. The world we live in needs the hope of the Gospel. It needs the healing of Christ. I have noticed the need more this year than in any prior year. I hope you will run with me. I remember the words of the apostle, Paul:

My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all courage, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and I don’t know which one I should choose. I am torn between the two. I long to depart and be with Christ–which is far better–but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Since I am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that, because of my coming to you again, your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound. Just one thing: As citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, in one accord, contending together for the faith of the gospel, not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your salvation–and this is from God. For it has been granted to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, since you are engaged in the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I have (Philippians 1:20-30).

Take courage, brothers and sisters. We long to be with Christ, but we live on this earth willingly for the good of others and not for our own sakes. If God leaves us alive, we dedicate ourselves to be fruitful in His world for His glory. If He does not, we get to be with Him. We do not have to be frightened. God is in control. Our community and our world needs us to be courageous because even our worldly leaders are running in fear. The whole world needs to church to stand courageously now. As followers of Christ, we can charge ahead. This world is not our home; We don’t have to worry about losing it. I think it’s time for Christians to learn once again how to take up their crosses and follow Christ as He conquers the whole world. Let’s be the force of healing and unity rather than fear and division. It’s time to grow in our understanding of faith. It’s time to be encouraged. It’s time to encourage the whole world like we are here to do with Christ as He conquers the world for His glory alone.

I hope you are encouraged and invigorated today. These basic biblical truths liberate us from having to worry or fear, and they turn our attention to Christ and His amazing work. I love you all dearly and pray for you daily. I cannot wait to be home so I can continue to encourage you and work for your good and God’s glory in all things. If you catch the rona, it is not in vain because God does not work anything together without purpose. Do not fear. Call on the elders of the church to pray over you, anoint you with oil, and hear your confession. Your sins will be forgiven, and God will heal you according to His will. I have come to really believe that. We will take the necessary precautions when we come to visit.

Reminders

  1. Wear a mask if you feel it necessary.
  2. If you are showing viral symptoms, please stay home until you are well.
  3. Take advantage of our hand-sanitizer and masks provided free of charge during the essential gathering.
  4. If you feel a need to physical distance, please remember that you can sit in the fellowship Hall and enjoy the worship gathering.
  5. We will soon be live-streaming again for those who are sick. Remember, online viewing cannot replace your sincere participation with the local church body.
  6. As you interact with one another and with the world, take the position of encouragement in the faith and not fear according to the current ways of the world.
  7. God has provided this season for His glory and the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
  8. Don’t forsake your purpose in this world. The rona is a wake-up call and reminder for the church and a testimony to the whole world through the church’s response.

Your loving servant,
Andrew

Soli Deo Gloria

Separating the Synoptics

Separating the Synoptics: Considering the Danger of Synoptic Reading

During our Wednesday evening Bible study, we are walking through Matthew’s Gospel. The question was asked, “If the other Synoptic Gospels (Mark and Luke) didn’t put some things in the same order Matthew did or include the same details, do we really need to consider the literary context?”

The question was thought provoking. For instance, the literary context in Matthew’s Gospel draws readers to conclude that those who receive adopted children of God also receive Christ and the Father (Matthew 18:5). The literary context in Mark’s and Luke’s Gospels draws readers to conclude that those who receive children, those under the age of accountability, receive Christ and the Father (Mark 9:37; Luke 9:48). In all of these stories, the main point is the same; The greatest in the kingdom of heaven are the humblest servants. Still, different literary details cause expositors to render the explanation of these texts differently depending on which passage they are teaching from. They each have the same main point, but the literary context in Matthew’s Gospel causes us to see something different in Matthew’s Gospel than we see in the others. The question arises; Is literary context really that important? Shouldn’t the explanations all be the same?

It is healthy to see the relationship between the synoptic Gospel accounts. It is not healthy, however, to see the synoptic Gospel accounts as the same. There are still differences in perspective, intended audience, and details presented. Mark was a primitive, second-hand account. Matthew was a first-hand account written particularly to Jews who were legalistic concerning the Law. Matthew most likely had Mark’s Gospel as a source, but he intentionally changed details and clarified certain things for a Jewish audience. Luke was a more scholarly and historical account with many sources ranging from the testimony of eye-witnesses to both Mark’s and Matthew’s Gospel accounts. Luke also reordered some things for his own purposes. The synoptic Gospels present accounts of the same history, but to different audiences for different purposes. Their differences are just as important as their similarities.

Consider the literary context of Matthew 18:5 juxtaposed with Mark 9:37 and Luke 9:48. Matthew was writing particularly to Jews whose religion was very legalistic. Mark and Luke were not. As a result, Matthew made many of the changes he did to Mark’s account because he did not want his story about the Messiah to be misinterpreted by his legalistic audience. At every turn of the page, then, Matthew presents Jesus’s works and teaching as anti-legalistic by including certain details and framing those details in the literary context he does—a literary context that differs from Mark’s. Matthew was not up to the same things that Mark and Luke were. In the literary context of Matthew 18:5, Matthew paints a picture of adoption as children of God and exemption from the civil and ceremonial laws in the Torah. Mark and Luke do not. All three Gospels are correct in their rendering of Jesus’s teaching, but they are different. Their stories recount the same history, but they are not the same stories. They are synoptic, not the same. While there is much value in comparing the three, we mustn’t neglect observing each Gospel in its own right. If we do neglect such exposition, we never see what Matthew, Mark, or Luke intended by divine inspiration but only what we piece together. In the same way 2 Samuel, the kings, and the chronicles and Paul’s letters must be understood in their own rights if we are to ever get at authorial intent and dig into the text of Scripture well.

We should be cautious with chronological Bibles, sermon series about the seven sayings of Jesus from the cross, or any merely synoptic reading of the Bible because those things can prevent us from anchoring ourselves in one text and asking the question most necessary to interpret it well—what is the divinely inspired author up to? There can be some benefit, I’m sure, to combining accounts and seeing the stories side-by-side, but we are ultimately responsible to know what God has given and not a hybrid of our own making. Context is still the key to understanding the Scriptures correctly.

November Announcements

We have finished walking through 1 Samuel!!! Thank you for your devotion to God’s word, not desiring cultural, reactive, or preaching that comes merely from a person’s mind according to how he feels. I look forward to our holiday season and to starting 1 Corinthians during the main gathering on January 3! –Andrew

Upcoming Special Events

No Koinonia (Potluck) on November 1st. We will have our lunch series and continue through the book of Revelation during this time.

Thanksgivin’ Dinner- November 22 after the main gathering. The church will provide the meat. Sign up to bring a side on the church bulletin board. No Revelation study on this day.

Advent Series– November 29-December 20 during the main gathering (11am on Sundays). Please remember to let us know if you would like to light an advent candle, say an advent prayer, sing, or read a poem during our advent series–especially during our Christmas Celebration on December 27.

Christmas Eve Worship Service–December 24 @ 6:30pm.

We will begin 1 Corinthians on January 3.

Resources

Download the entire series through 1 Samuel.
Download the latest section of our series through Revelation.
Download the latest section of our series through Matthew.

Current Opportunities:

We want you to serve according to your calling. Come, be a part of The Church at Sunsites. We commit to train you and see you fulfill the ministry God has called you to according to His will.

Please donate online by clicking here.

If you do not give online, please remember to mail in your first-fruits or place your offering in the offering box when you are at the church building. We do not take up an offering during any worship gathering.

Remember to Subscribe to this blog and Contact us with any questions!