Devotional Thoughts

Here is where our pastors and leaders share their hearts, and words of encouragement.  You can subscribe to these posts and receive them in your inbox when a new post is published.

 

What is the Gospel?

Gospel's Three Main Functions



3-D Life Groups

3-D Life Groups

 

Our vision for every Life Group is to have three dimensions. To explain those better we will do so by breaking down the mission verse for Whistling Pines (why we exist):

 

“God gives lonely people a family. He sets prisoners free, and they go out singing.” Psalm 68:6 (NIRV)

 

  • God-
    • Time set aside with God.
    • People have three fundamental needs. The first is transcendence (the need to connect with the Creator)
    • Bible study, prayer, contemplating and discussing the things of God
    • He sets us free
  • Family-
    • Time spent with the body of Christ
    • The second of people’s fundamental needs is community (the need to connect with others through deeply satisfying relationships)
    • Entering into one another’s lives.
    • Intentional discipleship
    • The problem with our idea of community most of the time is that it tends to be exclusive of people outside the community
  • Go out-
    • Time spent with those who don’t know Jesus yet
    • The third of people’s fundamental needs is significance (the need to have a purpose in life and do something meaningful)
    • Intentionally reaching out
    • The group as a whole may focus on one particular area, or each of its members be involved with their own circles of influence
    • It’s not about adding one more thing to our busy schedules

A Life Group is a family that lives out the mission of God together.



Meet the Holy Spirit

Beautiful day to you church!

I want to follow-up on this past Sunday morning and also encourage you for this new week. In my sermon, “Meet the Holy Spirit” I went through many characteristics of a person that the Holy Spirit possesses. He is not just some active force or abstract or metaphysical idea. He is not just a symbol of the presence and power of God, He IS the presence and power of God! I concluded the message with challenging all of us to consider/meditate on/pray about this question: “DO I WELCOME THE PRESENCE OF GOD?“. If you were not here and would like to hear the sermon, you may do so here– Conversations with John: Meet the Holy Spirit. We then had a precious time in worship as a response to the message. I feel such a need for our Body to not just learn about the Holy Spirit but even more so, experience the Holy Spirit! Again, I ask that each of us consider the question: Do I welcome the presence of God in my life?

I also wanted to share this email with the church that I received from Joanne (Jacquart) Pyle this morning:

Your teaching on the Holy Spirit was very good! It was a reminder to me again to “listen” to that voice of the Holy Spirit. In fact, for each new year I usually set goals, but this year I clearly heard only one to focus on. (This was hard for me because I’m a goal setter and list maker) I have hanging on the wall above my computer: “The Holy Spirit is speaking… Are you listening?” He has directed me in so many ways in the past and I’ve seen His miracles, but sometimes I get too busy and don’t “hear” those nudges of the Spirit.

On New Years Eve you asked me where I had an article printed… It was one of my personal experiences when I listened to that nudge of the Spirit. Thought you might like to read it – it’s an application of what you were teaching. :)

Here is a PDF of her wonderful short article, Live – Nudge of the Spirit 12-30-12 that was published in Live Magazine. It is a powerful story.

Be led by the Holy Spirit!
Love you guys,
Pastor Shawn



Is Tithing still for the New Testament Church?

Two weeks ago I gave a short teaching/exhortation before the collection of our offerings concerning the question, “Is Tithing a New Testament Principle?” This was a 13 minute exhortation examining two New Testament Scripture passages relating to tithing. Is giving 10% of our increase still a viable expression of giving to the Lord for the furtherance of His kingdom and church? Or, was this just part of the law in the old covenant (Old Testament) that our dispensation of grace in Christ has removed? 
 
If you were not in attendance to hear this, or would like to listen to this again, you may do so here:
Is Tithing a New Testament Principle?
Also, to study further or just to follow along, here are some notes of interest:
  • Tithing began before the law was introduced. The Law simply regulated the tithe. In Genesis 28, Jacob (before being named Israel) set-up an altar to the LORD and said he would worship and give a tenth (or tithe) there. And even predating that, Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, 400 years before the time of Moses and the Law (Genesis 14:18-20).
  • This is what the New Testament says concerning this tithe:
    Hebrews 7:1-10 (NASB) 1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace.3 Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually. 4 Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. 5 And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham.…8 In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. 9 And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
  • The tithe is not clearly reinforced in the New Testament the way it is in the OT, though giving absolutely is.
  • However, it is not clearly abolished either.
  • Matthew 23:23 (NLT) “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”
  • The Apostle Paul also carries over the concept of tithing as described in the law into the church:
    1 Corinthians 9:13-14 (NASB) 13 Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? 14 So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.
  • The clearest NT pattern of giving:
    • 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (NIV) 6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
    • Jesus was impressed with the widow’s giving, because she gave all. (Luke 21:1-4). Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and then follow Him! (Mark 10:17-27)
    • Jesus said…“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

… something to prayerfully consider…



The Whole Truth…and nothing but the truth

Dear church:

I feel compelled to invite you to church this Sunday. That might sound somewhat strange as some of you reading this come almost every Sunday anyway; some do, some do not. Regardless, I believe God has a special word for us this Sunday and I don’t want you to miss what the Lord is saying to our church!
We have been teaching through John 14:6: “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This week we are going to look at TRUTH. In ancient Greek culture, truth (Gk: aletheia) was synonymous for “reality” as the opposite of illusion. When Jesus said He was the truth, it was not just a random adjective that he chose. “Truth” meant “the manifested,” “the essence of matter.” We are called on to be real too; to manifest or embody Jesus in every aspect of our lives. To be the real deal. We will also look at GRACE and how a half-truth about grace is a whole lie.
Please plan on coming this Sunday morning at 10 AM!
Love you guys,
Pastor Shawn


Identity of a Doulos

Jesus shows the ultimate example of servant leadership by washing His disciples’ feet in John 13. John sets the stage by saying in verse 1; “He now showed them the full extent of His love.” Serving others is truly an ultimate expression of the Father’s love. Why would the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, dress down like a slave, stoop and wash dirty feet?! John shows us it was because He knew His identity and possessed the Father’s love.

 

Jesus was able to ‘demote’ Himself willingly because: 1. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power. (He knew that God was in control of His life and ministry.) 2. Jesus knew He came from God. (He knew that God was the source of His mission in life.) 3. Jesus knew He was returning to God (Jesus had an eternal perspective rather than a temporal one.) (vs. 3)

 

Being a servant was Christ’s identity. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant (Gk: doulos), being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:5-7) A doulos (or bond-servant) is a slave who when set free says, “I love my master and do not want to leave you” voluntarily giving up his or her freedom and giving their allegiance to their master. A doulos is devoted to their master to the disregard of their own interests.

 

Identity precedes and affects behavior. Jesus set an example for us that we should do likewise and even promises that we will be blessed if we do. We can serve others, and in doing so serve Christ, when our identity is that of a doulos of Jesus!

 

The Full Extent of His Love



Let Your Seed Die

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24) Jesus begins to warn His disciples of His impending death; that His hour has come to be glorified. He then equates His life (and by extension, ours as well) to seeds that must die for them to produce many seeds. A seed is the prolific (productive) principle of future life. The germ of life in the grain of wheat can only pass into others by departing from the original grain and leaving it dead. Jesus’ death brought about the Helper, the Holy Spirit (the germ of life, if you will, in Jesus) coming to our world and coming into us. Ultimate multiplication! Are we dying in order to multiply? (Multiplying takes sacrifice!)

Seeds do not carry with them instant satisfaction. Don’t we wish they did?! A plant does not grow overnight, well except for Jack’s beanstalk. Seeds represent giving and maybe not receiving anything in return at first. 1 Corinthians 15:36-38 (NLT) says, “When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a dry little seed of wheat or whatever it is you are planting. Then God gives it a new body — just the kind he wants it to have. A different kind of plant grows from each kind of seed.” Our seed must die. This means letting your idea of what form something should have die and allowing God to give it the form or body that He desires and intends.
This past Sunday morning, I provided a way for you to respond to what God was saying to you personally. The response was in the form of a seed in your hand and a pot of soil on the stage in the front of the auditorium. Everyone was asked to take a moment, pray and consider what their seed represented in their life that they needed to let die; give to God; and allow Him to give a new body (new life) to. Next, as an act of obedience, to come forward planting that representative seed. When we truly trust God with everything in our lives, we will also trust Him to give our hopes, dreams, even our greatest need resurrection life!

What does your seed represent? Have you let it die? Do you trust God with your seed?

–Pastor Shawn



Embrace your strengths

I have begun a new Bible Study entitled “Embracing Your Strengths” and wanted to share a bit of the foreword written by Patsy Clairmont with you.  Clairmont is speaking about her friend who finally embraced her talent by living through her gifts.
“Somehow gifts and strength work that way.  It’s as if one blesses the other.  There’s just something about finding out where we fit into the rhythms of the universe that is deeply satisfying and that infuses us with confidence in the way God has created us.  Gifts and strength add to our life purpose.”
Have you ever had one of those moments or seasons when everything just falls into place, not that it is easy or smooth, but at the end you can say, “this is what I was created for.”  I have had a few of those.  Many include moments with my husband and my children – like when my son asked how he could get Jesus into his heart at age 4 and then showed me his best ninja moves or when my daughter wants to discuss deep truths from the Bible just after we discuss how cute her gecko is or when I sit nestled in next to my husband talking about our day or just quiet.  Others include moments like the first day I taught a ballet class or certain Sundays  when I can see comprehension in the eyes of the children we teach. In those moments and seasons I know what God intended for me to be. It is not always easy and sometimes I go kicking and screaming but I know in my spirit God’s intention.
It is true.  When we find what God has gifted us with, what our talents are we find strength.  When we live through those giftings, we find a life full, not always easy, but full and satisfying.  Our life purpose is lining up with God’s purpose.  C.S. Lewis once wrote, “The question is not what we intend ourselves to be but what He intended us to be when He made us.”
Sit for a few quiet moments today and ask God to reveal what He intended.
Then embrace it!
Koren Obispo
KidMaster
A note from Pastor Robert:  If you would like to learn more about your god given strengths, ask pastor Shawn or robert about “living your strengths” books and coaching


Prayer from Scripture

One of the best ways we can pray as individuals or as a group is to pray using Holy Scripture. In this way, we know for a fact that we are praying His will. If we are praying His will, we are assured that He hears and that we will have what we ask for! (1John 5:14-15)

 

Here is a prayer for our church, rewording 1 Chronicles 4:10: And the Church at Whistling Pines called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh that you would bless us indeed, and enlarge our territory (so that we are able to more effectively advance your Kingdom), and that your hand (your power) would be with us, and that you would keep us from evil, that we may not cause pain (we would in no way be a stumbling block to anyone genuinely looking for Jesus).” So God granted them what they requested.

 

Amen (let it be so).

Pastor Shawn



Life Groups & I-Groups Explained

On Sunday, August 26, Shawn McCracken, our lead team pastor, announced a major shift in how we view Life Groups.  By introducing the new, “I-Groups”, we are freeing our Life Groups to become more invitational, relationship based, with no pressure to be overtly “spiritual” or “religious”.  This will enable Life Group leaders and members to invite their friends, neighbors, families, and co-workers to enter into relationships.