Sunday, January 8, 2012

Looking Upward

Coming off an incredible Christmas season, I was reminded that living a Christian life isn't about doing "holy" and "sacred" things. I have always prescribed to the notion that real Christianity is a relationship, not religion or rituals. Going to church wasn't about trying to be sanctified by walking through the doors. It was about building relationships with others.


For those who do not know me, I go to Bayside Church in Granite Bay, California. Our Senior Pastor, Ray Johnston always says "we're the church for people who don't like church". Perhaps that's the philosophy of the ministry and how we reach out to the community. But many of my friends (myself included) LOVE our church! 


Our Teaching Pastor, Curt Harlow says "we don't take ourselves very seriously, but we take God very seriously". What that means is, we like to have fun. We laugh, enjoy life and be authentic, real people. That's how we should live and be testimonies of God's grace and love.


Okay, to my point. This past Christmas, for our Christmas Eve services, we had the acclaimed runner-ups to the last season of America's Got Talent, the Silhouettes come and perform for our services. It turns out they are not a Christian group, but from a dance school in Denver, Colorado. They did a performance specially choreographed for our Christmas Eve services. It was a huge draw from all over the community and beyond. Each service was packed! And we had overflow rooms, yes, not just one overflow room, but TWO overflow rooms! We quickly added two more services (from 15 to 17), live streamed the services online, and even one of the local television stations, the Fox affiliate, Fox 40 broadcasted our service midnight Christmas morning and again at 9:00 AM Christmas day.




Just those at the campus, total attendance was a record 42,000 plus people for the services. Those who accepted Christ for the first time was a record 2,600 plus people! I heard the Fox broadcasts beat other Christmas services, like the typical St. Mark's cathedral mass. People were impacted for Christ and that was incredible to see God work through our church!


That's about building relationships with people in and around the community. That's showing God's love is real and a personal Christmas gift given to anyone who openly receives it. That's a horizontal relationship: relating to people at the person to person level.


But there's much more to this life besides just relating to each other. Sure, we need to show love towards everyone! But the key to having that awesome impact is the vertical relationship we have with the Holy Heavenly Father God! Without being plugged into the ultimate source of love and compassion that comes from the Father Himself, we could not and probably would not care to do such a thing!


God's love doesn't come only at Christmas. God doesn't only live at church. God's resources don't come out of some holy spigot and you have to do this and that in order to receive His blessings. No, all you need to do is come. Come and accept Jesus Christ as God's one and only Son, and Jesus will walk beside you. You will be given the Holy Spirit to dwell within you and guide you. And the Heavenly Father will love you as He sees His Son reflected in your life. That's the symbiotic vertical relationship I'm talking about.


Have you ever taken that step of faith and accept Jesus as your personal Savior? I've said before it takes more faith to be an atheist. Think about it. Would you rather believe life is random and subject to your circumstances based on some scientific evolution? Or would you put your trust and believe in a Higher Power that loves you, cares for you, and knows you personally?


Dear God, forgive me of all my sins. I doubt Your existence and Your power. But Your Word says that You love me. Please show me Your Holy unconditional love. Please help me to live my life according to Your Will. I come before You and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. In Jesus' name, Amen.


If you just prayed that prayer, welcome into the family of God! Find a Bible believing and Bible preaching church that lives out what they preach. You cannot live a Christian life on your own. You will need support and love from other like-minded believers. The Bible is God's Holy Word to us. Check it out! There's sex in the Bible. Really! And all kinds of things: the first murder, lying, cheating, adultery. And yet God still uses these people! Really! 


It's all about looking upward towards God. Don't look away. That's when things go downhill. Quite literally, in fact. If we keep our eyes and our thoughts on Jesus, then He will keep us by His side!


Oh, and the Silhouettes... they, along with some of their parents, all accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior because our church loved on them. And they're coming back to Bayside next Christmas Eve. That's building relationships horizontally. Amazing how love goes in all directions!


Blessings,
Garret

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