Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Angus' New Lane?

Angus T. Jones has been playing Jake Harper on the hit CBS sitcom Two-and-a-Half Men since he was 8 years old. During that time, he has literally grown up on stage. And while too many other actors to count with similar backgrounds have self-destructed due to fame and fortune, Jones has not. One reason he hasn't is because throughout this time, his parents sent him to Christian schools where he learned more and more about Jesus in every class. As he grew, this good foundation helped him avoid the pitfalls of sexual promiscuity (he admits he is still a virgin) and alcohol (though he admits to struggling with other drugs while dealing with his parents divorce).

But another reason he is doing so well, especially recently, is because he started attending the Valley Crossroads Adventist Church in Pacoima, CA - the "Friendliest Church in the San Fernando Valley." In it, Jones was welcomed. And felt the presence of God speaking to him through the Bible (one of his fave memory verses at the moment is Romans 11:33-35) and through the pastor and through the people. Months later, but prior to his high school graduation in June 2012, he was baptized and officially joined the Adventist Church. Where he now spends his time on Saturdays worshiping God while returning on Monday and Thursday evenings learning how to give Bible studies and share his suddenly meaningful relationship with Jesus.

On October 8, 2012, his 19th birthday, he visited the Adventist Media Center in Simi Valley, CA and videotaped his testimony. Where in it he gives all the glory to God and like the sprinter Michael Johnson, promises to "stay in my lane" as he fulfills his final contract year on Two-and-a-Half Men. Click here to watch the entire 30 minute interview here. Click here to listen to a 15 minute audio segment also recorded in the Adventist Media Center (the pic above is not a video). Click here to read a Christianity Today online interview. Click here to read a piece on Jones' mentor. Click here to read a disclaimer re:Jones' mentor. And click here to read an insightful commentary on how ironic it is that the media prefer Charlie Sheen's antics to Angus' faith.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Valentines for Toledo?

Please save the date FEB 16 @ 7pm for the FREE Valentines for Toledo benefit concert. This year, the intermission LOVE offering will benefit Haven of Hope Toledo, Inc - a nonprofit organization determined to makeover the homes and often the lives of the neediest "least of these" in NW Ohio.

Scott Michael Bennett will be our musical guest. He is an Adventist Christian young man with a great story and even better voice. He sounds sort of like Josh Groban but unlike Groban, gives all the glory to God!!!

Your friends, family, and neighbors will fall in love with his music. Take a listen below.

Die Singing?

The history books make little mention of this priest and scholar who lived 100 years before Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Yet, John Hus was convinced and taught openly that the Bible should be presented in the language of the people, that salvation comes by faith in Jesus, and the Word of God is the final authority. He died singing on July 6, 1415. Bring your family and friends to Connections Prayer Service on JAN 12 @ 5pm but plan to stay for Film Fest @ 7pm as we watch then discuss this brave man's life. Free hot drinks and snacks available.  You do NOT have to be a member of Toledo First Church to participate.

Star of Film Fest?

DYK that Satan / Lucifer, Jesus, and John Wycliffe are called The Morning Star? The first reference to the morning star as an individual is in Isaiah 14:12: “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” (NIV). The KJV and NKJV both translate “morning star” as “Lucifer, son of the morning.” It is clear from the rest of the passage that Isaiah is referring to Satan’s fall from heaven. Jesus Himself confirms this explanation in Luke 10:18. So in this case, the morning star refers to Satan.

But in Revelation 22:16, Jesus unmistakably identifies Himself as the Morning Star. As does 2 Peter 1:19 and Revelation 2:28. Why was Jesus also identified this way? I believe it's because Jesus is the fulfillment of Numbers 24:17 where it was prophesied that "a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel." Jesus was that star! 2 Peter 1:9 adds, "We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts."

Because of his loyalty to the Word summarized by sola Scriptura and his insistence on justification by grace alone, John Wycliffe prefigured a couple hundred years earlier than Luther the great Protestant Christians Reformation principles. And in doing so, this "morning star of the Protestant Reformation" pointed people to the Bible which as Peter revealed, also points people to THE Morning Star, the TRUE light of the world, Jesus (John 1:9). Bring a friend to Connections Prayer Service on DEC 8 @ 5pm and stay for Film Fest @ 7pm to learn more about this brave follower of Jesus. Free hot drinks and snacks and discussion afterward available.  You do NOT have to be a member of Toledo First Church to participate.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Give Thanks?

A GREAT Thanksgiving prayer (by Cindi McMenamin). Enjoy!!!

Thank you, God, for this food we are about to eat. And thank You for Your many blessings on us this past year...the ones we've seen, as well as the ones we haven't seen.

Thank you, God for the times You have said "no." They have helped us depend on You so much more.

Thank you, God, for unanswered prayer. It reminds us that You know wha

t's best for us, even when our opinion differs.

Thank You for the things you have withheld. You have protected us from what we may never realize.

Thank You, God, for the doors You have closed. They have prevented us from going where You would rather not have us go.

Thank you, Lord, for the physical pain You've allowed in our lives. It has helped us more closely relate to Your sufferings on our behalf.

Thank you, Lord, for the alone times in our lives. Those times have forced us to lean in closer to You.

Thank you, God, for the uncertainties we've experienced. They have deepened our trust in You.

Thank You, Lord, for the times You came through for us when we didn't even know we needed a rescue.

Thank You, Lord, for the losses we have experienced. They have been a reminder that You are our greatest gain.

Thank You, God, for the tears we have shed. They have kept our hearts soft and moldable.

Thank You, God, for the times we haven't been able to control our circumstances. They have reminded us that You are sovereign and on the throne.

Thank You, God, for Your ability to take what we consider 'tragedy' and turn it into a treasure.

Thank You, God, for those You have allowed to pass from us. Their absence from this earth reminds us to keep our eyes fixed on heaven.

Thank You, God, that we have an inheritance in the heavenly places...something that this world can never steal from us and we could never selfishly squander.

Thank You, God, for the greatest gift You could ever give us: forgiveness through Your perfect Son's death on the cross on our behalf.

Thank you, God, for the righteousness You credited toward us, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. It's a righteousness we could never attain to on our own.

And thank You not only for our eternal salvation, but for the salvation You afford us every day of our lives as You save us from ourselves, our foolishness, our own limited insights, and our frailties in light of Your power and strength.

Thank You, God, for all that You have allowed and not allowed in our lives this past year. For we commit our lives anew to You this day and ask that You would continue to remind us, throughout this next year, that You are God, You are on the throne, and You are eternally good.

Thank You, finally, that we can pray in the name of Jesus, who made our access to You—and a personal relationship with You—possible. Amen.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Adrenaline Rush?

The 1954 British Empire games, held in Vancouver, British Columbia, provide remarkable illustration of Hebrews 12:1-2. The mile race that was held there is considered to be one of the greatest races—perhaps the greatest race—of all time. It pitted the two fastest men in the world over one mile—Roger Bannister and John Landy.

Following his usual approach, Landy started fast. Unlike most runners, Landy's method was to move to the head of the pack early and by the sheer power of his physique outlast the other runners, who would reserve strength for a final thrust at the tape. The race was clearly between Bannister and Landy. Soon the other runners were dropping back, leaving Landy out front, with Bannister well behind him. At the end of each quarter mile, the times were announced, and with each declaration, the stands rocked. Landy and Bannister were setting a blazing pace, one that would surely set a new world record. But who would get to the tape first?

So the runners came to the final lap, the final quarter mile. Landy was in front, ahead of Bannister, as he had been throughout the race. Ahead of him stretched the tape, looming closer and closer. Somewhere behind him was Bannister. And then a deafening roar arose in the stands. Landy knew what it meant: Bannister was making his last desperate effort to catch Landy! The tape at the finishing line was getting closer and closer and the roar from the crowd louder and louder. Landy knew that Bannister in his last great effort was catching up. But where was he? Just before the tape, Landy turned his head to he could see just where Bannister was. And Bannister, seizing the psychological moment, threw himself past Landy on the other side and just beat him to the tape! A statue in Vancouver memorializes the moment. It shows one runner touching the tape while the other, just a tad behind him, turns his head (source: William Johnson, The Abundant Life Bible Amplifer: Hebrews).

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT) says, "Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame." Verse 3 in The Message says, "When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!"

Response of the Century?

News outlets called it Frankenstorm and The Storm of the Century (though it has some stiff competition). And indeed, the damage from Hurricane Sandy has been catastrophic to New York, New Jersey and even parts of West Virginia. Hundreds of miles away residents along the shores of Lake Erie were experiencing shoreline flooding.

In response, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America pulled $500k from their reserves and with additional monies collected NOV 10 from a special offering from local conferences and churches across America, the contribution to Adventist Community Services (ACS) will exceed $1 million. During December in Toledo First Church, we'll be collecting an additional offering each week for further ACS Sandy Relief.

And while that's not insignificant, it's about the same as the amounts much larger companies like Apple, Coach, Disney, FedEx, Gap, JPMorgan Chase, and others contributed to the Red Cross which has helped them raise over $131 million so far in Sandy relief. But, it's significantly less than the monies other nonprofit organizations raising money for relief efforts have received. The Salvation Army has received more than $5 million in donations made online, by phone and by mail. Feeding America has brought in $1.2 million in financial contributions and 150 truckloads of food, which it said will go to food banks in impacted areas. Donations for Sandy are still well behind the funds raised during international disasters like the earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan last year and the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. During the entire recovery periods for those events, the Red Cross raised a total of about $302 million for Japan, and $475 million for Haiti.

So far, the "storm of the century" has not motivated the "response of the century" either by the church or by secular companies. Which got me thinking: Is there an amount those affected would recognize from a church / business / NGO as indicative of "a response of the century"? And if so, how much would it be? Would such an amount help people remember the givers a year later when they get an invitation to some public evangelistic meetings taking place in NYC in 2013? Guess we'll see.

Social Media?

DYK that over 50% of the world's population is under 30 years old? And that social media has become the #1 activity online even though most of it isn't even allowed in China - currently the most populated country in the world? DYK that only 69% of parents are "friends" with their children online? And that 93% of businesses use social media for marketing because 90% of people trust peer recommendations while only 14% of people trust Madison Avenue? DYK that only 39% of churches use social media and of those churches who do, only 30% use Twitter? (these last two stats come from Buzzplant Pulse, How Churches and Their Members Use Social Media, Franklin, TN: Buzzplant, July 2010, p.6 not the video below). How can you help?