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People. It’s Just a Season. by Education Pastor Susan Al-Saadi

November 2017

It never fails. Every year. The first cold snap, or the first snowflakes of the season. I brace myself, not for the blast of cold wind, but for all the weather-related comments and complaints. The fact that it gets cold in the fall always seems to take some by surprise. I think: ‘Guys. You live in Wisconsin. Did you really not think this would happen?’ Winter always comes. Sometimes it is severe and sometimes it is mild, but it always comes.

There are other seasons that always come. The seasons of life are relentless. A season with a household of young children, a season of career growth and the time and energy that requires. A season of love, and a season of coming of age. When your daughter discovers boys, or when your children struggle. When your son goes off to college, when your parents age. We would do well if we did not let these and other life seasons take us by surprise. We need to be prepared. There is a saying, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only poorly dressed people.” If it’s raining and I have my raincoat and rain boots on, I am not troubled by the rain. But when the rain takes me by surprise, I arrive at my destination bedraggled and with soggy shoes. We need to read the weather report, and then dress ourselves accordingly. I have been poorly dressed at the beginning of some of my life seasons because I wasn’t expecting them, I wasn’t ready for them, or I was ignoring the signs that they were coming. Seasons don’t ask you if you’re ready; they just come.

A positive mindset goes a long way. We can prepare ourselves, and we need to clothe ourselves for our current season. In winter, we put on heavier layers, we start a fire in the fireplace, we cradle hot drinks in our hands to keep them warm. So too, in our life seasons, we can prepare ourselves. We can read parenting books, we can seek knowledge from friends who have successfully navigated a particular area of life, we can pray and ask God to give us wisdom. We can also remember to be gentle with ourselves and take the time that we need to prepare our hearts for what is happening and what may come.

But remember this: winter doesn’t only usher in cold and snow. It also ushers in Thanksgiving and a season of gratitude, and it ushers in Christmas, and with it a season of giving and loving and family and food and Christmas cookies!! Think of those lovely things as you wrap your coat around yourself more tightly.

Another thing about seasons we need to remember is that they don’t last forever. They are just that: a season. Sometimes knowing this one truth gives us strength to endure. And also, you have to go through one season to enter the next. When you go through a painful season, and then you enter a season of relative peace, you will have fuller appreciation of that peace. So yes, winter always comes, but that means so does spring, and then summer. And for that we can be thankful.


Feeding on God’s Faithfulness by Pastor Dustin Hoffman

October 2017

There’s an ancient proverb that says ‘A faithful friend is the medicine of life’. This is speaking of the blessing of having someone who will stand by your side through all of life’s trials. Someone who will be there faithfully, whenever you need them. Someone who won’t leave you through the ups and downs of life.

A faithful friend is the medicine we need to cure us and keep us healthy...especially through the “downs”.

In Psalm 37, David shared his secret ‘medicine’ for enduring the seasons of life.

Psalm 37:3 - Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

David had experienced a lot of challenges over the course of his life, and he knew the importance of relying upon a faithful friend. Much like our world today, David’s world was filled with gloom and doom. He looked upon the landscape surrounding him, and saw evil. He experienced those who were wicked conspiring against those who stood for what was good and what was right.

Much like the news of today, and the conversation pieces of our world, David had plenty of reasons to become discouraged. He could have made excuses or come up with reasons for giving up or losing hope.

Instead, he relied upon the truths of a faithful friend...his Creator.

Psalm 37:1 - Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.

Psalm 37:3 - Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

Through the ups and downs of life, David relied on the faithfulness of God to sustain him. We too can do the same. Don’t allow the world around you to drive you into a famine. Feed on the faithfulness of God. It’s the best medicine there is.


Be Yourself by Education Pastor Susan Al-Saadi

September 2017

“Be yourself.” That is one of those platitudes that we’re never sure is actually meant by the speaker of those words. Have you ever worked in a place where they do NOT want you to be yourself? Your boss criticizes you for not taking initiative and then, when you do, reprimands you for forgetting your place. Have you ever been invited to an event whose hosts told you “come as you are”, but when you arrived, you feel like that must have been code for “dress exactly like us or you will stand out - and not in a good way”? Have you ever been in a relationship where someone didn’t accept you as you were, and was always judging you or trying to change you? Every time that happens, a part of you can close up. If that happens too much, you can get so closed in, or so guarded, that after a while you forget who you really are.

The poet e.e. cummings said, “to be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing its best to make you like everyone else is to fight the greatest battle there is and to fight it every day”. To be yourself, who you were born to be, who God created you to be, is an act of bravery and often rare in a culture that proclaims it values individuality at the same time it shames anyone who strays too far from the herd.

From the time my first child was born, I always prayed: “God show me who these boys are. Use me to help them be who they were meant to be.” We were intentional with our parenting, but as far as their interests and career paths, we tried to explore and support what was important to them. I remember one year, when they were all in grade school, their aunt gave them each a gift card to Barnes and Noble for Christmas. So I took them shopping so they could spend their gift cards and here’s what happened: Sean spent his on Godiva chocolates, Luke bought a sketchbook and pencils, Nate was the only one who got a book, and it was 50 Ways to Improve your IQ, and Isaac got a metal cash box with a key that locked up his treasures (come on, he was four and if you have ever been the youngest, you would know how important something like that is). What they chose reflected who they were: Sean likes the finer things in life, Luke is an artist, Nathan is a seeker of knowledge, and Isaac, well, he’s the treasure. But how boring would that trip have been if I had told them they all had to get a book! I would have missed that window into who they were. Listen, if my son is meant to be an scientist, why would I try to make him a teacher, or a fireman? That would be taking God’s plan away from him and replacing it with my plan. I want them to be who they were meant to be.

I believe all those platitudes: Live your Best Life, Be the Best that You Can Be, Be Who You Are, Have a Purpose-Driven Life, Dream Big, Live Your Passion, etc. It’s all possible! And that is why I love living for God, and why I love my church. I can be myself. The real me. No mask, no games, just me. It’s liberating to have the freedom to be yourself. I am free to dream and love and repent and leave my regrets at the altar and start fresh with new mercies. But the thing is, you know how free you feel when you can be yourself, and you are accepted and valued for all the things you are? Get this: we are created in God’s image. And He wants a place where He can be Himself. If you let Him, God can be everything He was meant to be in your life. Can you let Him be Himself with you? Because this is where it all comes together. You can never be all that you were meant to be unless you allow God to be everything He is meant to be in your life. And if you have been hurt a little by life, don’t worry; He is gentle. He can restore you if you allow Him to. He will remind you of all the wonderful things you are. God created you: who better than Him to restore what is lost? Let Him be a Comforter, an Encouragement, a Lifter Up of your Head, a Restorer of Your Soul, a Savior, a Friend and Confidante. Don’t make God close off any part of who He is to you. If we let God be all He wants to be to us and in us, we can be all we are meant to be in Him. Then we can truly live our best life, and encourage others to do the same. That’s what the body of Christ is all about.


Momentum by Student Pastor Seth Boyte

August 2017

Momentum: it’s the word a sports announcer uses when discussing a team headed into the all-star break. It’s the word of declaration headlines use to talk about a team that has the longest winning streak. Although momentum is commonly used in the sports world, it’s also a word often used in science. Momentum is a physics term, which refers to the quantity of motion an object has. Momentum is also referred to as “mass in motion”. The amount of momentum that an object has is dependent upon two variables: how much stuff is moving and how fast the stuff is moving. Momentum depends upon the variables of mass and velocity.

Now that we’ve gotten our science lesson out of the way, let’s talk about your momentum. As you grow in Christ, your spiritual “mass” will continue to grow. This is noted by your commitment, sacrifice and desire to know more of Jesus. Unfortunately, sometimes Christians lose momentum because they lack desire to grow, so they do not gain any momentum. In the same sense, the momentum of a church is not determined by either size or spiritual speed, but the combination of the two.

Several factors play into spiritual momentum, such as great church services, a powerful move of the Spirit, a life-giving conference you attend, starting a new Bible study, etc. As we are called to serve others and continue in relationship with the body of Christ, we can help others build momentum, thus, building the momentum of the church.

Struggling with how to keep spiritual momentum going in your home? Here are some tips I recommend to parents as well as young adults and teenagers.

1. Stay engaged spiritually.

1 Timothy 4:8-10 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.

Now, this is not necessarily calling your son or daughter to repentance and trying to shatter the heavens at 7:30am right before they go to school. Pray before school? Definitely. What I’m talking about when I refer to staying engaged spiritually is taking the spiritual temperature of your home. What’s impacting your home? Are there three hours of Netflix but only 30 seconds of prayer before a meal? Is there excitement to hang out at friends’ houses but it’s like pulling teeth to come to church? Are you aware of prayer needs in your home? Questions like this will help you to stay engaged spiritually and stay active in the Word and in prayer. Take time to have a short devotion with your family at least once a week.

2. Stay active in church events.

Hebrews 4:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Family time is crucial. Vacation time is imperative for the health of your family. However, your children will pick up on trends. If you constantly decide you’re missing every church service and church event to have “family time”, you likely will lose your children to the world. What you’re communicating to them is church isn’t really important. On the flip side, if you take time for vacation and family time, and also stress the importance of being in the house of God when the doors are open, they will learn from a young age what you value.

3. Talk about what God is doing in your lives personally.

Psalm 71:15-18 My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.

Do you have a struggle at work? Dealing with a difficult co-worker? Talk about it with your kids and let them know how you are working through it. David said, “my mouth will tell of your righteous acts”. Are we talking about God’s goodness in the home, or just the frustrating co-workers? Frustrating moments on the job may crush your spirit, but it may be the very thing that is a teaching moment for your son or daughter to see how to deal with real life in a biblical, God honoring way.

Momentum Killers:

1. Disengagement in the journey –

Parents, when your student returns from a conference, youth service or another event, often times they’ll be on a “spiritual high” and may be more inclined to tell you about they’ve experienced. Perhaps they’re more vulnerable and tell you about a struggle. Maybe they’re excited to share what God has done in their life. A momentum killer for them in this moment when we don’t engage in this journey with them. Ask questions. Support them. Let them know you’re praying for them. Be a listener, not just a talker.

2. Being "past" focused –

Students will be excited about what adventure is ahead of them. They might even have 'big dreams' that you're not sure if they're attainable or realistic yet. Just remember - these events are life changing. While you know the student that left all too well, the student that comes home will in some ways be different. Don't let their previous failures and faults hinder you from dreaming about their future with them. The student before might have never dreamed inviting a friend to church or going on a missions trip. This is the time to be future-focused with them. This is not the time to say “Well, I remember last time you did that it didn’t go over well.” What goals can they set to make it a reality?

The environment you create at home can absolutely make or kill spiritual momentum for your student.

3. Expecting perfection -

Expect growth, not perfection. When students do come home, they will be refreshed in the Spirit; they will be changed. But they will not be perfect. Teenagers will still be teenagers, and they will still have attitudes, try to bend the rules, and make dumb choices. But if handled correctly, those moments can be growing opportunities. The expectation of perfection is not attainable, and if a student knows they can't reach it but that you expect it, their momentum will die.

Whether it’s a brother or sister in Christ or your own family members - be cautious of the momentum killers and be a supporter. Be an encourager. Lift them up. Even a simple “That’s great, how can I continue to pray for you?” could mean the world to them. It’s time to work together as a family to keep spiritual momentum in the home and our lives.


Decisions, Decisions by Pastor Dustin Hoffman

July 2017

“Checkmate!” my 6-year-old son proudly announced to his 30-year-old dad (me). How embarrassing is it to lose a game of chess to someone who is 24 years younger than you?!

Last year I taught my son how to play chess, and he loved it. He caught on quickly and began to practice during the day while I was at work. My wife even bought him some chess puzzles that he could play by himself to get better at the game. It wasn’t long until he completed almost all of them!

Now… I can still beat him at chess. Seriously, I can! But, when we play timed games, I sometimes make bad decisions. Okay, I make a lot of bad decisions. That timer ticking down seems to bring an added pressure that overwhelms my level of knowledge of the game and I make bad decisions.

Sometimes in life we do the same. Everyday life consists of multiple calculated moves that can make us or break us. These moves can give us a win or put us in checkmate.

How can we get better at making decisions in life? Where can we gain more knowledge, understanding, and wisdom?

Proverbs 2:6 - For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

God is the beholder of all knowledge. His desire is to share it with us, and help us to be successful. If you want to get better at chess, learn from a grandmaster. If you want to get better at life, learn from the Master of life. “How can that be done?”

#1- Study God’s Word

2 Timothy 3:15-16 - ...the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation...all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable...for instruction in righteousness

#2- Talk to God

James 1:5 - If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally...and it will be given to him.

Like a ticking timer, we’re surrounded by pressure, voices, personalities, situations, and circumstances that can encourage us to make bad decisions. What we need to do is ‘up’ our knowledge and understanding of the game, so we can make the right moves. Ask God to help you stay out of checkmate. Learn from the Master.


More Than a New Year’s Resolution by Student Pastor Seth Boyte

February 2017

It is, indeed, a new year. That is worth celebrating! We’re already through the first month. This is the time many of our New Year’s resolutions derail. Studies show that approximately 45% of Americans that make New Year’s resolutions falter within the first 5 months. Instead of a simple “resolution”, we as believers can take this opportunity to renew our commitments to Christ in new ways. Trying to change everything just because it’s a new year sets us up for failure. However, there are spiritual questions we can ask ourselves to get into the right frame of mind to not only start well, but keep going strong all year long. Matthew 6:33 encourages us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and HIS righteousness, and ALL of these things will be added unto you”. For this new year, I’d like to propose three questions to ask yourself – not just right now, but throughout the year. These three questions revolve around three basic principles: knowing God, growing in God, and showing the love of God. These questions will bring you to a place of restoration in your relationship with Christ, propel you deeper in your commitment with Him and explore opportunities to reach your world. This year, starting today, ask yourself the following questions:

1) How do I begin to really know God?

Check out the parable in Luke 11:15-32. Did you catch that the father was patiently waiting and watching for his son to return back home? Knowing God begins with restoration to God. If you’ve walked away from Him, or even if you have been closer to Him at any point in your life than right now, you need restoration with Christ. No matter the places we’ve gone, the things we’ve done, the things we’ve said or the thoughts we have allowed to stay in our minds, we all are in desperate need of our Savior. Today is the day – ask for forgiveness and run towards Him. What is it going to take to really know God this year?

2) How do I begin to actually grow in my relationship with God this year?

What is God calling you to do that you can’t do by yourself this year? If you can do everything on your own, you aren’t reaching your full potential in Christ. To actually grow in God, an extra measure of faith is needed. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that true faith is much bigger than anything we can do or see on our own. Faith also takes effort to shift the focus away from us and onto God and others. This may look different for each person, but a sincere self-evaluation of your relationship with Christ will lead to areas in which you want to grow. Do you have spiritual leaders that challenge you to follow God’s Word more closely? If you aren’t currently connected to a church body, you’re missing out on an enormous opportunity to grow with others around you.

3) How do truly show a godly love to others this year?

To begin with, we must first realize that we will develop the strong, God-centered, faith-based relationships in God-centered, faith-based places! True community happens when you surround yourself with God-following people. The love of Jesus can be experienced and shared. The church is not just four walls, but a community of people. The more you are around the love of God, the more you will want to show the love of God to others. Praying for God to open opportunities throughout the day to show His love will bring opportunities. God will answer your prayer by allowing you to get involved with the lives of people. As God has helped and encouraged us, we can help and encourage others. Jesus lived this and exemplified love in the strongest sense. So, how can YOU show a godly love to others? This is a question that will drive you to seek Him daily.

Know God, grow in God and show the love of God. With that resolution in mind, we will all have a great year.


The Stable, The Manger, The Lamb by Pastor Aaron Soto

December 2016

One man had the incredible task of introducing Jesus Christ to the world. His name was John. He was the opening act to the main event. The moment of truth came unexpectedly. John was preaching his own crusade when Jesus came walking in the back door. John didn’t hesitate. He cleared his throat. His introduction was short and succinct; with a voice of authority he said, “Behold, the Lamb who taketh away the sins of the world!”

This one statement explains why Jesus was laid in a manger and not a cradle, and why he was surrounded by livestock, not nobles. Jesus was born in the same place where animals of sacrifice would be born because he was a sacrificial lamb. The Savior born in a stable was Heaven’s way of proclaiming that Jesus was more than a man. He was a creature; created for and destined to be a substitutionary sacrifice not for one man, but all of mankind.

Jesus, who was born in in Bethlehem, was not only the King of Kings, He was the Lamb of Lambs. He was born to die for our sins. In His soul was the power of creation and in His blood was the power for salvation.

With His voice of deity, Jesus calmed a storm, cast out devils and raised the dead. With that voice He could have turned his cross into a satin pillow and reduced his captors to dust. Yet he refused the privileges of His own power. Jesus knew He was the only one among the billions who would ever live on planet Earth who was qualified to be our sinless, perfect lamb. He was determined to be the Lamb of Lambs, the sacrificial lamb for the world.

This Christmas, remember that the manger and the stable were Heaven’s way of telling us we need a lamb to save us. Remember the Lamb, remember your Savior and remember to worship Him.


Valerie by Education Pastor Susan Al-Saadi

November 2016

When Sam and I were first married, we lived in an upper apartment on Chicago Street. It was an old house with cheap rent, in a neighborhood that has not fared well over the years. We lived next door to a a single mom with four children. They were on public assistance, and their grandma lived with them off and on. We all became friends and we brought the kids to Sunday School with us every week.

Valerie, one of the girls, was in my class at the time, and I remember her bike got stolen one summer. Every week in Sunday School we prayed that her bike would be returned to her. Every week. Now, don’t get me wrong: I believe God can do anything, but as time went on, it seemed pretty unlikely this prayer would be answered. The family didn’t have money to replace the bike either.

One Sunday, it must have been several months later, we were bringing the kids home from church and we pulled up in front of our house. Next door, Rose (the mom) and Grandma were sitting on their porch steps, and on the sidewalk in front of the house was a brand new bike with a bow on it. There was no question who it was for! Valerie saw the bike, jumped out of our car and ran up the sidewalk. She made a beeline for...her grandma. She flew right past the bike and almost knocked her grandma over with sheer delight. “Thank you, Grandma, thank you, thank you, thank you!”

That was the best illustration I have ever seen, before or since, of thankfulness. What a moment! I’ll never forget it. And it taught me a greater lesson: God is the giver of all good gifts. I need to remember the Giver and not just focus on the gift. I have so many good things in my life, and God has made it possible for me to give freely. Can you imagine the delight the grandma felt on being appreciated and loved so much? I want to be the giver of good gifts, not to receive thanks, but to give joy to another.

I also want to remember to say thank you, like the one leper out of ten who Jesus healed. Ten were healed; one went right back to Jesus to express his gratitude. Maybe the others went back to Jesus later. Maybe their mother had to remind them to go back and say thank you. But nobody had to remind Valerie to thank her grandma for the bike; it was the natural and spontaneous reaction of her heart. I want to be so exercised in gratitude that going to Jesus first in praise and thankfulness is my heart’s default mode. Not just one Thursday in November. Every day.


Finding Power in Your Pain

October 2016

We all deal with pain. As a child, the worst pain I’d ever had was an earache. As an adult, the worst pain I have experienced to date has been an excruciating episode of back pain. Everyone has a story about pain: the migraine, the pinched nerve, the accident. Women have exclusive rights to relate their experiences of childbirth.

There are other painful things in life. We carry pain in our hearts from hurtful words, there is the pain of others feasting on our failures, and the pain of betrayal or addiction.

For the believer, there is a Bible verse, a promise that has been used so often it has lost its full meaning. I’ll save the verse for later, but here is its essence: For the believer, pain is never pointless. All things, whether good or bad, are productive and never pointless.

When pain touches us as believers, be assured that God is at work to add something new and necessary to you. God possesses the creative genius to take the worst thing in your life and reroute the journey to a positive and productive outcome.

Do you agree that God can reroute our pain and make it productive? Maybe you need to glance into the rearview mirror of your life. You might discover that the easy days didn’t maximize your life or grow your faith. No, it was the stormy and painful seasons of life that grew your faith and taught you how to truly anchor your soul.

Pain is not an intrusion in your life, pain is an imperative to growing your life.

You might say, “But I don’t want to feel pain!” Neither do I. No one wishes for it. But we must remember that to never feel pain means that we are numb. People who are in advanced stages of sugar diabetes lose limbs because they couldn’t feel infections or wounds in their feet. Painlessness is a nightmare, and it can be disfiguring.

A Christian can be filled with gratitude in the easier seasons of life,

but the net gain from a painful season is holiness. Pain refines a believer and draws us closer to God. God is more interested in our holiness than our happiness, so He allows pain to touch our lives.

Whatever the source of your pain, God can use it for good. With God, we won’t just go through pain, we have the privilege to grow through our pain.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28


Four Lies About Evangelism by Student Pastor Seth Boyte

August 2016

When you hear the word "evangelism", how do you respond? Fear? Discomfort? Unprepared? Discouraged? Encouraged? Inspired? Depending on how you respond, you may have bought into a lie about evangelism. Looking at the Scriptures, we find absolute truth about what it means to evangelize and spread the gospel. In this post, we’re going to look at four specific lies that you may have heard about evangelism. #MythBusters

1. You need to have "the gift" of evangelism.

Have you ever heard someone say "Evangelism isn't my gift"? It's possible that is a shallow effort to alleviate some frustrations or guilt about the lack of personal effort to reach someone with the gospel. Yes, there ARE evangelists. In fact, evangelists are part of the biblical five-fold ministry that we value and respect in the church (Ephesians 4:11). However, whether or not this is our vocational ministry is irrelevant to the responsibility each of us have to tell others about Jesus. Evangelism has everything to do with calling and our willingness to answer that call, and less to do with specialized giftings. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Take note that Jesus commands His disciples to make more disciples. (Think that was JUST for the twelve disciples? Not at all. Regardless of the different gifts of each of the twelve, they were ALL called to make other disciples and reach their world. Don’t believe the lie that you have to be gifted in "evangelism" to make a difference in your world.

2. You need to "feel like" telling people about God.

Let's be honest. Sometimes we just want to go inside and get our gas. Sometimes we just need to cash a check. Sometimes we just have to pick up the kids from the store. Then, that moment happens. The open door. Someone asks about church or about God. Sometimes, in that moment, we're just not feeling it. Maybe we’re in a hurry. Maybe it's due to a potential conflict or fear what they may think of us. Here's some truth: Nothing will get us out of our comfort zone like evangelism. Calling people to a life of commitment to Jesus can look different in every conversation, but it may not feel natural or flow easily every time. It can make us uncomfortable.

Here's what we need to remember: It's not our feelings that spark evangelism, but our response to God's command. Hell is real, and sometimes we want to forget that. Reaching our world is a life or death situation. It’s that important. People need Jesus. We MUST keep in our mind that even in those uncomfortable times, it's not our feelings that bring people to Jesus. It's Jesus. Don't let your feelings dictate your commitment to evangelism. Think about how good God is and what He can do in their lives. Are you willing to be a little uncomfortable if it means saving someone’s life?

3. You need to have all the answers.

If you've never been stumped by an unbeliever's question, you probably aren't talking to enough people. Or you're smarter than all of us. But, for the rest of us, we've had that awkward moment of “Man...I really don't know the answer to this really specific question”. Can you imagine if evangelism required perfect answers all the time? Fun fact: It doesn't. But sometimes we let this lie we cause fear, and let it determine our commitment to evangelism. You don’t have to know everything, but you MUST know the gospel. The good news of Jesus’ love and sacrifice. That’s a lot easier than knowing all of the truths in the entire Bible. Know your story. Look at the story of your life. Flip to the chapter where God's grace BUSTED in. Memorize that chapter. That is a quality evangelism tool right there. You can speak of God's love. You can speak of His grace. His perfection. Why we're separate from the world. When faced with a difficult question, it's okay to tell them you'll need to get back to them. There was a guy in the Bible that was healed by Jesus. He didn't understand how or why, but here's what he said: "One thing I DO know...that though I was blind, now I see" (John 9:25).

4. Nobody will receive the message of the gospel.

When it comes to evangelism, there are often ebbs and flows. You get a string of good conversations in a row, or a mess of conversations where people simply don’t seem interested. In the sales world, as in any industry, there can be slumps where you go through times that aren't as busy. With sharing the gospel, not every conversation will go perfectly. But don't let this be a reason to stop. Maybe you never really dove in head first to evangelism because you simply think nobody will ever hear you out. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:6 that the Spirit gives life. One of the main reasons Paul had such a strong conviction and boldness of the message of Jesus is because he understood that the power of God was living in him. He knew that the Spirit could work in those conversations and God could cause the work to be done in people's hearts. The gospel is SO powerful. The gospel message can literally save a person (Romans 1:16-17).

This month at ATC, six people have been baptized in Jesus’ name - all in some way related to Project 7 clubs. For more information about what P7 clubs are, visit p7clubs.com. However, not ONE of the people who got baptized came to Jesus overnight. God started a work in each of them a long time ago. Evangelism isn't a simple "plant one day, water the next, and see a harvest on Day 3" method. It takes time and effort. Your evangelism efforts may take YEARS to see fruit. God cares about every seed planted. God is capable of bringing growth to every one of them. Don’t forget, He did it for you.

Speak truth to your own heart. Remind yourself of the truth of the Word of God. This is important in the area of evangelism. We need to call out every lie of the enemy and believe the truth of God’s Word and His plan. Evangelism isn’t a sacred word; it’s just telling people about Jesus and giving them a chance. We have a chance to reach friends and strangers with God’s Word and His love. You don’t need a special gifting, you don’t have to be in a certain mood, you don’t have to have all the answers, and there really are people out there, wondering if God’s love is too good to be true. We get the chance to tell them YES! If we are willing, then we are ready.


Pardon the Interruption by Education Pastor Susan Al-Saadi

June 2016

Last summer, I was running down Huron Road and a car slowed down and rolled down its window. I stopped, took my headphones out, and went over to the car. There was a carload of people and they needed directions to the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center. I told them how to get there, made them repeat the directions back to me, wished them well, put my headphones back in and I was on my merry way. A few days later, I was on a bike ride down a country road and a car slowed down, rolled down its window and the driver asked directions to a church. I knew where it was, told them how to get there, they thanked me, and I was back on the road. A few days later when I was running, it happened again. Three times in about a week. I smiled and said, “Okay, Lord; got it.” I could get annoyed that all these people were interrupting me and keeping me from reaching my goal, but...why wouldn’t I gladly stop what I was doing to give guidance and directions to someone who was lost?

Our world does not look fondly on interruptions. We need to have a goal and a purpose, make a commitment; we need to focus, and avoid distractions to reach our goal. So many books have been written and systems are in place to help you reach your goals, get organized, be efficient…that it’s an industry of its own. Now, I am all about reaching your goals, just ask my kids: “You can do anything, be the best you can be, learn as much as you can, you can do hard things, I believe in you, you can do this.”

But: Jesus. He had a purpose second to none, He was focused on a pretty high level goal...saving the world... and yet...He allowed Himself to be interrupted. There are some absolutely beautiful words in the Bible. “Jesus heard. Jesus stopped. Jesus turned.” He never said, “I’m kinda busy here, I’m about to raise someone from the dead, I need to focus.” I know it sounds ridiculous when we say it about Him, but that’s exactly what we do. He never did. Read the Gospels. He heard. He stopped. He turned. How many times in the Bible was Jesus on His way somewhere and was interrupted by someone who needed something? More often than not, the miracles that He performed happened when He was interrupted and inconvenienced. Children were blessed because of an interruption. The blind could see again, the lame walked, the woman stopped bleeding, the dead were brought back to life. What we call distractions and interruptions, He turned into miracles.

We say we want to be like Jesus. If we really want to be like Jesus, we need to allow for, and even welcome, interruptions and inconvenience. That comes more naturally for some than others. Living in the moment can be learned, however. Life has a way of teaching you to be flexible. Children have a way of getting you used to being interrupted. And Jesus is our example of how it’s done. Maybe you can’t give up every Tuesday night to teach a Bible study right now. But we can all spare fifteen minutes a day to give directions to someone who is lost and needs direction. You can teach a frustrated child how to tie his shoes. You can offer an encouraging word. You can give a cup of water in His name.

Sometimes we are so focused on working in God’s church, praying for revival, and signs and wonders, that we miss this moment right here. Right now. Get up from your desk, put away your phone, drop your agenda, and look around. Let’s really follow Jesus. We need to hear. We need to stop. We need to turn. We need to help. It could be that a miracle is about to happen. We can welcome that interruption.


Serpents and Doves by Student Pastor Seth Boyte

May 2016

Sometimes, God speaks to us through His Word, sometimes through the inspiration of the preached Word by our either our pastor or another minister, and sometimes through the still small voice and prodding of the Holy Ghost. Sometimes it’s just too easy to read on carelessly or tune out God’s voice when we hear or read His Word, if we’re not really paying attention. But other times, the undeniable “still small voice” of the Holy Ghost will gently, but firmly, offer encouragement through a required change.

Jesus was speaking about being world-changers and offered a charge that has left me speechless and in tears many times. In Matthew 10:16, He says: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”.

The author of Hebrews instructs us to study to show ourselves approved. Approved so that we can show how much we know? No. Approved to speak God’s Word with love and truth. To correct when needed – but with great patience (2 Timothy 4:2). There’s the clarification again. Wise as serpents. Innocent as doves. I want to speak with such patience and love that it obliterates every perception of arrogance and malice. We’re called to speak with love to our brothers and sisters, but also to PRAY for those who have intentionally hurt us, that they would be blessed.

Speak love in the moments that bring tension. In the moments that there is an argument. In the moment when I don’t agree. In the moment when they don’t agree. Wise as serpents. Harmless as doves. Wise people receive instruction, fear the Lord, remember the instruction of their parents and sit among godly counsel. In contrast, the foolish aren’t accountable, avoid wisdom, hate instruction, seek out sin and love greed (Proverbs 1). Throughout the entire book of Proverbs, the writer encourages a quiet wisdom that doesn’t boast in knowledge. Paul said, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul could have boasted in his incredible wisdom, but chose to hide behind the Cross of Calvary, so that Jesus would receive glory. Am I doing the same? Am I wise and harmless?

What I feel that God is slowly working in me is this: be quiet.

Proverbs 17:27-28 says, “He that hath knowledge spareth his words; and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”

I don’t have to weigh in on every debate. I don’t need to share my opinion in every disagreement. I don’t need to voice my thoughts whenever a Christian fails. I don’t need to prove to anyone that my righteousness is anything (other than filthy rags, if we’re being honest and biblical). Wise as serpents. Harmless as doves. I can’t fulfill this calling by proving how right I am. I can’t spew venom because I know that I’m right and in that same moment be as be harmless as a dove. However, I can have the wisdom of a serpent and be as harmless as a dove, simultaneously. I will stand up for truth. I will support righteousness. I will rebuke the voice of the enemy. I will run the race with my brothers and sisters in Christ. But I believe God is softly working on all of us to walk with a quiet wisdom. Not an arrogant silence, but a wise choice to walk as a child of light. Choosing to focus on God’s wisdom, not man’s.

Wise as serpents. Harmless as doves.


Love the Creator, Love His Creation - Repost from 9/2013 by Pastor Aaron Soto

October 2015

As we enter into the 40 Days for Life with the Fox Valley Community, let’s remind ourselves that when we know the Life Giver, we must protect all life. This blog was originally posted in September of 2013.

“Roses are Red

Violets are Blue

You are my favorite Dad

And I really love you!”

These words were written with a pencil on the back of a nondescript piece of paper. This simple expression of love would never receive accolades from literary critics or grace a Hallmark card, but it’s very precious to me just the same.

The value of this poem is derived from the creator: my daughter. Because of my relationship with the poem’s creator, and because of the love that was woven into each word, I would never think of throwing it away.

Last week my wife and I had the privilege to visit Aspen King in the hospital. She was one of the tiniest patients we’ve ever visited; just three and a half pounds, and 16 inches long. Yes, there were some complications with little Aspen, but she was becoming stronger and working her way through her challenges.

Only after one of the more intense hand-washings in our lives were we permitted to approach Aspen. She was sleeping peacefully under the bright lights of an incubator. Aspen’s tiny chest heaved at an amazing rate, reflecting that her little lungs were in good working order. Just one look provided me with undeniable evidence; Aspen was not a simple, humble creation; she was one of the most beautiful and original creations on planet Earth. We took our time studying the awesome craftsmanship of God.

Aspen’s mother spoke to us about her baby’s challenges, how she and her husband had not yet had the privilege to hold their daughter in their arms. And then out of nowhere, she said. “You know, it’s hard to believe that babies are aborted at this stage.”

I looked back down at little Aspen; she was stirring now. I began to think about how Aspen was receiving state-of-the-art medical treatment in a hospital, while just a few miles away, babies, just like Aspen, were being terminated at the hands of physicians who had sworn to protect and preserve life.

Familiar thoughts began to stir in my mind, “Why is Aspen considered a baby by our world’s standards simply because she’s outside of the womb developing in an incubator? If Aspen were still developing in the womb and not the incubator, world standards would dictate that she was a mass of tissue that could be discarded just as easily as delivered.”

Is it possible that a person who would never throw away a poem written by a friend would throw away a masterpiece created by God? Some things should never be thrown away.

God was and is the greatest of all creators. He was the first to create. He created when there were no materials to use. He created on a scale that defies understanding. He created both the vast universe and subatomic particles.

And when He was done creating those things, he decided to create one more thing: HIS masterpiece. Imagine an all powerful, eternal, all-knowing God stooping over the earth and transforming a pile of dust into a sculpted figure with hands and fingers, and a handsome face. He chose to make the figure in His likeness and image.

Can you imagine God breathing the breath of life into the nostrils of man? Can you imagine the chest of His masterpiece beginning to heave just like Aspen’s tiny chest? Both Adam’s and little Aspen’s bodies were heaving with the breath of God! The angels in heaven were watching as the Creator fell in love with His own creation. And God’s love for human life hasn’t changed from Adam to Aspen. Human life was and is God’s masterpiece.

Genesis 1:27 affirms, So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

When I consider how I wouldn’t throw a poem away because of my relationship with the creator of that poem, it occurs to me that a core problem with our abortion-minded culture is an absence of relationship with the Creator.

If people ever had a truly meaningful relationship with the Great Creator, Jesus Christ, they would treat His creation differently. If they understood that each and every child in the womb has been graven upon the palms of his hands, (Isaiah 49:16) they would treasure that life for the miracle it is. If they understood that God knew us and loved us before we were ever formed in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5), they use their energy to protect and preserve that Creation.

A lack of relationship with the Creator causes parents to throw things away that should never, ever be thrown away. But if a parent loves the Creator, they will love His creation. When we know the Life-Giver, we can only be pro-life.


Down But Not Out by Pastor Aaron Soto

August 2015

It happened again! The tree is still alive and sprouting leaves! Let me share with you why this is such a big deal to me: A few years ago, a tornado ripped through our area. Trees were knocked down everywhere. Although a few structures were destroyed and many damaged, thankfully no one was killed, The once stately, tree-lined main road through Hortonville, Wisconsin was hit the hardest.

We planted a sister campus in Hortonville, so I make the drive into that area a couple of times every week. Along the highway, there is a tree that was knocked down by the tornado. Amazingly, although the tree is lying on its side with most of its roots spidering into the sky, it's thriving. Each spring the leaves come, and each fall the leaves turn color and fall to the ground. Each winter the tree looks like it's done for.

Every time I make the drive to Hortonville, that tree makes me smile. I can almost hear that tree saying, "I my be knocked down, but not out.” I'm no botanist, but this tree obviously still has a few roots in the ground. Just a few deep roots are sustaining the whole tree. Amazing!

I'm reminded of the importance of having roots to keep our faith alive. These roots are beneath the surface; not seen by the public eye. The private disciplines of prayer and feeding upon God's Word allow us to grip deeper into the foundation of God and access deep sources of strength. Deep roots sustain us when we are knocked down by the sheer gales of life. Having no roots at this perilous time could be fatal to our faith.

It's imperative that we go deeper in our faith. We must be deeper Christians than mere Sunday worshippers and mid-week Bible study note-takers. Even church ministry involvement is a shallow substitute for private personal Christian discipline.

Paul asked the question in Romans chapter eight, "What can separate me from the love of God?" The answer to that question is this; just about anything can separate me from the love of God if I don't have deep roots. However, nothing can separate me if I do.

Storms are revealing. The tornado that ripped through our area exposed the roots of the tree I admire so much. It's only a matter of time until a personal storm of adversity or disappointment will expose what kind of root system you and I have. It's sad to see a mild, contrary wind knock a believer completely off of their foundation; a small offense; a routine trial. On the other hand, it's inspiring to see a saint weather vicious, hurricane-force winds and keep their faith and love for God intact.

Go deeper in God. There are secret sources of strength that you can access when tragedy comes. You will be able to say what Paul said, "I'm cast down but not destroyed.” I may be knocked down, but not out.


A Lesson From Peggy's Cove by Pastor Aaron Soto

June 2015

Heather and I were recently blessed to travel to Nova Scotia. What a beautiful province of Canada! Chocolate-colored rocks marbled with bronze hues line the roadways. Breathtaking lake views and seascapes are as common here as stoplights are in New York City.

While in Halifax, after viewing the gravesides of those who perished in the Titanic, our host drove us to the famed Peggy's Cove.

Peggy's Cove is a tiny town tucked back into a small inlet just off the rugged shores of the Atlantic Ocean. It is comprised mostly of lobster fishing families. The docks are lined with fishing boats and rows of neatly stacked lobster traps. Quaint, paned windowed homes dot the rocky terrain; all constructed in the simple Cape Cod style we see in the Northeast Atlantic towns of the United States.

It was in this most serene place that a man recently died tragically and unexpectedly. We came upon this sad story while sitting in a small seafood restaurant overlooking the lighthouse and shoreline of Peggy's Cove.

The waitress shared with us the tragedy of a young man and his fiancée who were wandering along the shoreline just two weeks prior. They had been warned to stay away from the dark rocks along the shore. The wet rocks, darkened by the waves, signaled the zone upon which water could crash with enough force to sweep a person away. Additionally, the couple had also been warned of rogue waves that could crash suddenly and unexpectedly as a result of the windy conditions.

The warnings went unheeded. The man and woman were scrambling upon the dark rocks, laughing and exploring their beautiful surroundings when a rogue wave hit the shore. The man, who was standing nearer to the shore, was engulfed in the ice-cold torrent and snatched off the rocks into the salty depths. The stunned man struggled briefly on the foamy surface, but the powerful undertow dragged him deep down into the churning waters. His body has not been found.

Looking back, we see the wisdom of the warning. "Stay away from the dark rocks!" We can also look back and see the cost and consequence of ignoring the voice of experience.

There is a danger line in life. It's a place where some play and live to tell the story, while others are swept away. We cross the line when we enter into an unholy relationship, a playful season of partying, experimenting with drinking and drugs, hanging out and making out with a crowd of carnal characters.

I'm reminded of seasons in my life when the voice of wisdom warned me to stay away from the danger line. Sometimes the voice was one of my parents or an elder. Sometimes the warning was delivered in a sermon from the voice of a preacher. There were even times when the warning was the voice of God in my heart.

The voice of wisdom calls you away from the shoreline. The voice of wisdom reminds you of the helpless addict, the shattered ministry, the unfulfilled call, the devastated spouse and wounded children.

When we stand in compromising places, we are susceptible to the rogue waves sent by the enemy to finish us off, and sweep us into the depths. The weekends of substance abuse become part of the daily routine. Unholy relationships become unhappy marriages. An occasional gaze at the forbidden becomes a tidal wave of unfulfilling, shame-ridden addiction. One moment we are having fun in the danger zone and the next moment we are fighting for our lives.

I walked away from my dining experience at Peggy's Cove with more than a pleasant lobster dinner. I left with a reminder to listen to the voices that have warned me of danger zones and rogue waves that can, in a moment, claim my life.


The Gate by Pastor Aaron Soto

May 2015

“Now Peter and John were going up into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. And a certain man that was lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the door of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple.” (Acts 3:1-2 ASV)

My dad is going blind. He has a rare disease for which there is no cure. My grandmother lost her sight due to this disease, as did my aunt. My father renewed his driver's license a few months ago; there won't be a next time. The sight problem is slowly taking more territories in his everyday life.

Several years ago, after having read this passage of Scripture about the lame man at the gate, I reflected on something I'd never noticed before. I'd always focused on the healing of the lame man by the power of the name of Jesus; how he rejoiced by leaping in the temple. What I overlooked was the faithfulness of those who put him in position for his miraculous moment.

The Bible doesn’t identify these people; it simply says that he was "...carried...whom they laid daily at the door of the temple" We don't know who they were; most likely family or friends. It would be safe to call them "loved ones". Loved ones carried the lame man to the gate every day. And if they carried him to the gate every day, then they also took him home every day. There were no vacations, no sick days, no handicap accessible van, not even a wheelchair. It was heavy lifting, every day, twice a day.

It could be argued that these faithful friends were as much a part of the miracle as Peter and John. They didn't speak the word of faith, but they got the lame man on location and in position for the life-changing moment.

I have watched many times as my dad responded to preachers asking for people to come forward for healing prayers at various services and camp meetings. I personally have anointed him with oil, laid hands upon him and prayed with expectation. To date, there has been no change.

But like the faithful friends from the book of Acts, I am going to be faithful about carrying my dad to the gate of healing. I say, "God, I'm bringing Dad to the gate today. Is today the day? I know what you can do, I believe in the power of Your great name and by the authority of Jesus’ name, I claim healing for his eyes."

The faithful loved ones of the lame man inspire me. They have given me a context for being faithful. Their example protects me from becoming weary in well doing. My prayers continue to be filled with faith and expectation. I can't heal my dad, but I can faithfully carry him to the gate every day.


Enriched in Everything by Pastor Aaron Soto

March 2015

While reading in our daily devotion time, my wife and I came upon Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 9:11. It’s not actually a verse, it's just a phrase in the verse: "...being enriched in everything."

In this chapter, Paul is reminding the church of Corinth about their commitment to raise an offering for the church in Macedonia. While Paul challenges the Corinthians to give, he makes this statement about how God enriches us in everything when we have the proper view of stewardship.

"Enriched in everything..." That phrase jumped off the pages. Paul's words immediately resonated with me. I immediately recognized that God has indeed enriched my life in everything, in every way.

Sadly, some believe that there is a mystical formula for material wealth involved in our giving to God. "If I give this much money, I'll get this much money from the deal."

The truth is that when God blesses us, or, as Paul said, enriches us, he does it in many ways. Think about the many blessings in a believer's life:

-the blessing of relationship with God

-the blessing of salvation

-the blessing of worship

-the blessing of our church family and church leaders

-the blessing of hope in a world of hopelessness

-the blessing of wisdom from God's Holy Word

-the blessing of a Christian family

-And yes, there is also the blessing of God supplying our material and financial needs.

If you are a believer, you know you neither earned nor deserve your blessing. Let your mantra be, "I'm blessed and I can't help it! God is blessing me in everything!"

Maybe you are running a little lean financially, maybe your house is leaning a little, but you are, in fact, blessed in so many other ways.

God has indeed enriched my life in every way. I may not have things that people envy, but I have an enviable life because God has enriched me in everything.


Comfort and Suffering by Pastor Aaron Soto

February 2015

And our hope for you is steadfast; knowing that, as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so also are ye of the comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:7 ASV)

Suffering. It can be the result of an insensitive word that cut you to the heart. It could be the profound loss of a loved one or a friendship. It may be isolation and disappointment in your family. It can be sickness or pain in your body. It could be financial distress.

Paul said that while believers are partakers of suffering, they can also be partakers of something else: comfort. Suffering and comfort; they can and do coexist.

Comfort is not healing, nor is it answers. Comfort is God riding in the same boat as you during the storm. Comfort is knowing that if He's in the boat, you’re going to make it to the other side.

Paul says that his hope was strong for the people of Corinth because he knew that when suffering happens, comfort is happening, too. A few sentences earlier in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul described our Lord as, "...the God of all comfort." (2 Corinthians 1:3) The God of all comfort? How can this be? It’s because he's already been down every road you will ever travel. He knows what is happening and He knows how you feel.

Whatever the suffering, God is our comfort. Is that comfort immediately apparent? Sometimes it is, but not always. But God’s Word says it's there. He's there, even if we can't immediately sense it.

Here is a key: If God's Word tells us comfort is available in suffering, then seek for it. Seek the comfort of God. Jesus' commanded us to "seek first the Kingdom..." This doesn't just apply to seeking God when decisions need to be made; it also applies when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances. In truth, what you seek first when you are suffering says a lot about what you believe most about your Savior. Seek God first; He is the Comforter. Let Him comfort you and give you His peace.


An Insight From Wisconsin Farmers by Pastor Aaron Soto

January 2015

We’ve just had one of those epic January weeks here in Wisconsin; high daily temperatures of zero degrees, with wind-chill lows of thirty-five degrees below zero. I heard that even ski slopes were closed in some areas due to the frigid temperatures.

Whenever I drive to our daughter-work in Hortonville, I drive through farm country. To the casual observer, Wisconsin farms seem to be in hibernation in January. The fields consist only of snow-capped clods of frozen soil. The silos and outbuilding stand silent, almost sullen, in the biting wind.

Surprisingly, farmers will quickly tell you that January is one of the most important months of the year. The used and abused machinery needs to be repaired. Tractors need new parts and annual maintenance. Field yield reports must be pored over and adjustments need to be made. Maybe a different brand of seed or a different GPS pattern for planting rows should be considered. Oh, yes, and we must remember the accounting, annual taxes, employee income statements, and new governmental policies to be researched. In short, the previous year must be put to rest in the accounting books, and new strategies must be implemented in the new year to optimize possibilities.

January can also be a key and strategic time for believers. It’s a time to reflect, make adjustments, and plan for a greater harvest in the new year. January is a time to think about what needs maintenance or is simply broken down in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Much like the farmer, what we do now will greatly impact our successes later in the year. Rethink your prayer life. Rethink your family time. Rethink your priorities. Plan for a harvest. The stakes are too high for us hibernate in January: our family, our community, our world, and our eternity all need our attention. Think, plan, and act at the beginning of this year to reap a satisfying harvest by year’s end.


Don't Miss It! by Pastor Aaron Soto

December 2014

It isn’t necessary to give great commentary about the commercialization of the Christmas season. For years, the true reason for Christmas has been steadily slipping away from the world’s focus. The word itself, Christmas, has become harder to find in greeting cards and business advertisements. In addition, the flood of tasks and events associated with this time of year have simply carried many away from the timeless message of Jesus’ birth.

This reminds me of a story. At 10:35 a.m. on December 17, 1903, after many failed attempts, the Wright brothers were finally successful in getting their "flying machine" off the ground at Kitty Hawk. Thrilled, they telegraphed this message to their sister Katherine: "We have actually flown 120 feet. Will be home for Christmas."

Katherine hurried to the editor of the local newspaper and showed him the message. He glanced at it and said, "How nice; the boys will be home for Christmas."

The newspaper editor had totally missed the big news: Man had flown and the age of flight was born! Many people are missing the big news of Christmas. It’s not just that Jesus came, but it’s why He came! Mankind needed more than a hero, much more than a politician - nothing less than a Savior would do; a deliverer from the grip of sin. So God answered through prophets and told us He would come. And then, on that momentous day over 2000 years ago, the eternal, invincible Spirit of God stepped into a vulnerable robe of flesh. He did it for the privilege of becoming your Savior!

Yes, this time of year can be expensive, stressful, and even painful. In all of the frivolity and turmoil that may be associated with the holidays, let us not miss the big news: Unto you is born a Savior. Did you hear that? You have a Savior: Jesus Christ the Lord! That is big news!


Capture the Flow by Pastor Aaron Soto

October 2014

Note: If you didn’t read my previous blog post, please read that first.

In my last blog I wrote about my visit to Qumran, an ancient outpost of civilization in the Judean wilderness. I described the harsh oven-like climate and rugged terrain.

It was fascinating to hear our Israeli guide talk about the Essenes, the ultra-religious and resourceful people who carved a home out of the rocks at the foot of the massive ridges. The Essenes were isolationists who preferred solitude and sacredness to the evils of the world. Looking around I couldn’t help but think: How? How could people live in such a place? (The second question would be Why?)

To add to the perplexity of the how question, these ancient people practiced daily purification washing by immersing themselves in water; it was a baptism of sorts. Massive “baptisteries” were carved into rock. Each one, theoretically, would have been full of water and used daily. Did I mention that it usually rains but once a year in this arid region? Also, there are no rivers, lakes or wells nearby.

Where did the water come from to not only sustain life, but to facilitate daily baptisms? The answer: The Essenes climbed high into the ridges that jutted around their community and carved tiny channels at the top of the ridges, then carved increasingly larger channels toward the bottom of the ridges and finally, massive cisterns at the foot of the ridges. The Essenes thrived because they were masterful at capturing the rare moments when rain flowed down the ridges. They knew how to capture the flow.

Truthfully, we all go through ‘dry times’ in life, times of trials and hardship. The Essenes teach us a powerful lesson: if we will be good stewards when there is ‘flow’ in our lives, we can thrive, even in dry times.

If God is inspiring your mind with a powerful insight, capture the flow: write it down, make some decisions. If you find yourself in a praise moment where there is a deep flow of worship, step into the flow; let it carry you to a new place. If God entrusts you with a financial blessing, return the tithe, let Him know you can be trusted with resources, be a good steward of the flow. Open your heart when you hear the Word of God preached; those anointed words can sustain you in a time through a hostile wilderness experience in life.

We can thrive anywhere in life if we capture the flow.


Qumran "You Can Thrive In The Wilderness" by Pastor Aaron Soto

August 2014

Note: I recently took a trip to Israel. I plan to share some of my experiences with you in the next several blog posts.

One of the incredible experiences I had on my trip to Israel was at Qumran, an ancient outpost of civilization in the Judean wilderness. When I say wilderness I mean wilderness. Qumran is well below sea level, not far from the Dead Sea, and situated among pale-blond dusty rocks at the foot of towering ridges. (The Dead Sea Scrolls were found just a few hundred yards from this place.) To give you a sense of Qumran, you need to know that this place lies in rocky ruins in the middle of nowhere, desolate beyond imagination.

I’ll never forget arriving in Qumran with our tour group and stepping off that air-conditioned bus. The blast of heat was shocking; it was so hot and arid that I felt like a brownie baking in an oven.

Leaving the comfort of the bus we trudged obediently behind our guide into the hostile climate. Shade pavilions were mercifully scattered throughout the ruins for the un-acclimated tourist from the West. Our group was instructed about the Essenes, the resourceful and religious folks who lived there. The evidence of life was all around us: homes, food storages and water cisterns hewn out of rock. It was incredible to see how the Essenes thrived in this seemingly uninhabitable region.

I’ll talk about how the Essenes managed to have enough water to survive in another blog post, but for now I want to reflect on the fact that they thrived in one of the harshest areas on planet earth. Qumran proves that it’s possible to thrive in the wilderness.

For some, a wilderness is not a geographical place but an emotional place, a financial place, a spiritual place. Our wilderness may be dry and look like it’s not going to change anytime soon. The Essenes from antiquity teach us that we can do better than survive; we can thrive in the wilderness.

The apostle Paul said, “I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” (Philippians 4:11-13, MSG)

Did you catch that? I underlined it to make it easy for you. Wherever, wherever I am I can make it through. Maybe people can’t understand or relate to the hostile climate you are living in right now. Paul says wherever you are, you can make it through, and you can thrive.


Supreme Light by Pastor Aaron Soto

March 2014

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) True revelation of God’s light can elevate one’s Christian walk beyond the critical stage of survival into an overcoming experience.

Have you heard the term “equal opposite”? An equal opposite could be defined as an opposite equal equivalent of a person, place, thing, or idea. The equal opposite of the word “weak” would be “strong.” The equal opposite of the word “light” would be “dark.”

It is revolutionary to consider the fact there no equal opposite for God’s light. Satan would like the church to believe that there is a struggle between God’s light and demonic darkness. The adversary knows our revelation of God’s light determines the level of power we have over darkness. No doubt the devil would rather struggle with us than be dominated by us. The true struggle of the church, however, is not so much with the darkness, as it is to understand the power of light that we possess. “For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

“In the beginning . . . the earth was without form and void . . . And darkness was upon the face of the deep.” (Genesis 1:1-2) Darkness prevails only in the absence of creative power and light. “And God said let there be light . . . and God saw the light that it was good.” (Genesis 1:3-4) Light was conceived in power by the creative voice of God. Herein lies the contrast of light and darkness: Darkness has limited dominion at best and only has any dominion in the absence of power and light. Light is power and has unlimited dominion whenever it is activated. Solomon, blessed with divine wisdom, said, “light excelleth darkness . . . ” (Ecclesiastes 2:13) Even the natural world teaches that light is greater than darkness. The two-inch flame of a candle is small in comparison to the volume of darkness of an unlit closet. Nevertheless, its tiny flicker chases much of the darkness away.

Satan, in his arrogance believed, he had snuffed out the manifest light of God on the earth at Calvary. You can imagine Satan’s surprise when Jesus, the light of the world, showed up at his own house. What power and authority Satan assumed he held was broken because of divine illumination. Eviction notice is given to Satan when the church turns on God’s radiant light through worship and consecration. Why stumble in darkness when the light switch is within reach?

Is our revelation of God’s light so unenlightened that we’ve esteemed spiritual darkness an equal opposite? The light of God is unequaled: but it needs to be activated in our lives. The psalmist David declared, “Let God arise, let his enemy be scattered.”(Psalm 68:1) The key word of this passage is “let”. Give God permission, through your faith and your revelation of His supreme light, to scatter the enemy of darkness! Any confrontation with divine light is a mismatch. We can be assured that when the brilliant light of God dawns upon our congregations, darkness must take its flight.

“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)


Unwrapping the Gift by Pastor Aaron Soto

December 2013

Christmas Season is upon us! I truly enjoy this time of year. The decorations, music, and the remembrance of Christ’s humble birth are a delight to me.

As a young boy, I treated treasured gifts and unwanted gifts differently. Upon opening a coveted gift, I would take it out of the box and examine it with glee. The “soft presents” were opened, but I let my Mom take them out of the wrapping paper. I was polite, I thanked the proper person, I smiled, but I just didn’t have enough interest to take it out of the wrapping paper. Did you do the same thing as a child?

I wonder how Jesus must feel when we treat his gifts of love and salvation with indifference. Over the Christmas season we can be guilty of focusing our passion on earthly gifts while we give God a token, “Thank you for the cross, it was very nice of you!” The true test of your appreciation for God’s greatest gifts is to take them out of the wrapping paper. Try them on!

Today, Christmas speaks to me more of giving then receiving. I truly enjoy the wonder and excitement on my children’s faces as they open their gifts. What joy it must bring our Savior to see souls taking the gift of salvation out of the “wrapping paper”. The joy on their faces and the excitement in their lives must make Jesus’ incredible investments seem all the more worthwhile. During this Christmas season, don’t forget Christ’s gifts – and take them out of the wrapping paper!


Life is Short by Pastor Aaron Soto

October 2013

My wife and I recently had the privilege to minister in Great Britain. Since this was our second visit there, we took the opportunity to dig deeper into the rich history of that ancient country. We toured Windsor Castle, Hampton Court, Buckingham Palace, and even visited Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill. As you can imagine, we were in awe of the architecture, frescos and furnishings.

Without a doubt, however, what impacted us most from our tours was the reminder of how brief our time on earth is. Several of the castles had chapels on their expansive grounds where many of the kings’ and queens’ remains are interred in massive marble tombs. A royal chapel can hold hundreds of years of successive kings and queens.

Each tomb holds the relics of a human life that was once a household name in the world, a life that was either respected or feared. These were people who commanded armies and had power to change the world. Standing before the memorials, I tried to imagine the flurry of activity that surrounded these kings, and the privilege and finery they enjoyed; yet their graves are still and silent. Many of these leaders undertook projects that were never completed in their lifetimes. Every life was, in the context of time, short.

This is the reason why we must not live for this world only: it’s too short; it’s too temporary. Jesus, through His death, burial and resurrection, has provided us a doorway to a better world, an eternal world. The tombs of earthly kings remind us that life is short, that earthly power and prestige are but a vapor. No earthly title can comfort me if I am not ready for the next life. No castle, no finery, or ornate monuments that laud my accomplishments can console me if I miss heaven. We must use the short time we have to prepare for the better life that God has prepared for us.


Love the Creator, Love His Creation by Pastor Aaron Soto

September 2013

“Roses are Red

Violets are Blue

You are my favorite Dad

And I really love you!”

These words were written with a pencil on the back of a nondescript piece of paper. This simple expression of love would never receive accolades from literary critics or grace a Hallmark card, but it’s very precious to me just the same.

The value of this poem is derived from the creator: my daughter. Because of my relationship with the poem’s creator, and because of the love that was woven into each word, I would never think of throwing it away.

Last week my wife and I had the privilege to visit Aspen King in the hospital. She was one of the tiniest patients we’ve ever visited; just three and a half pounds, and 16 inches long. Yes, there were some complications with little Aspen, but she was becoming stronger and working her way through her challenges.

Only after one of the more intense hand-washings in our lives were we permitted to approach Aspen. She was sleeping peacefully under the bright lights of an incubator. Aspen’s tiny chest heaved at an amazing rate, reflecting that her little lungs were in good working order. Just one look provided me with undeniable evidence; Aspen was not a simple, humble creation; she was one of the most beautiful and original creations on planet Earth. We took our time studying the awesome craftsmanship of God.

Aspen’s mother spoke to us about her baby’s challenges, how she and her husband had not yet had the privilege to hold their daughter in their arms. And then out of nowhere, she said. “You know, it’s hard to believe that babies are aborted at this stage.”

I looked back down at little Aspen; she was stirring now. I began to think about how Aspen was receiving state-of-the-art medical treatment in a hospital, while just a few miles away, babies, just like Aspen, were being terminated at the hands of physicians who had sworn to protect and preserve life.

Familiar thoughts began to stir in my mind, “Why is Aspen considered a baby by our world’s standards simply because she’s outside of the womb developing in an incubator? If Aspen were still developing in the womb and not the incubator, world standards would dictate that she was a mass of tissue that could be discarded just as easily as delivered.”

Is it possible that a person who would never throw away a poem written by a friend would throw away a masterpiece created by God? Some things should never be thrown away.

God was and is the greatest of all creators. He was the first to create. He created when there were no materials to use. He created on a scale that defies understanding. He created both the vast universe and subatomic particles.

And when He was done creating those things, he decided to create one more thing: HIS masterpiece. Imagine an all powerful, eternal, all-knowing God stooping over the earth and transforming a pile of dust into a sculpted figure with hands and fingers, and a handsome face. He chose to make the figure in His likeness and image.

Can you imagine God breathing the breath of life into the nostrils of man? Can you imagine the chest of His masterpiece beginning to heave just like Aspen’s tiny chest? Both Adam’s and little Aspen’s bodies were heaving with the breath of God! The angels in heaven were watching as the Creator fell in love with His own creation. And God’s love for human life hasn’t changed from Adam to Aspen. Human life was and is God’s masterpiece.

Genesis 1:27 affirms, So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

When I consider how I wouldn’t throw a poem away because of my relationship with the creator of that poem, it occurs to me that a core problem with our abortion-minded culture is an absence of relationship with the Creator.

If people ever had a truly meaningful relationship with the Great Creator, Jesus Christ, they would treat His creation differently. If they understood that each and every child in the womb has been graven upon the palms of his hands, (Isaiah 49:16) they would treasure that life for the miracle it is. If they understood that God knew us and loved us before we were ever formed in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5), they use their energy to protect and preserve that Creation.

A lack of relationship with the Creator causes parents to throw things away that should never, ever be thrown away. But if a parent loves the Creator, they will love His creation. When we know the Life-Giver, we can only be pro-life.


Why Today Matters by Pastor Aaron Soto

July 2013

Of all the rivers in the world, the Amazon River has the largest volume of water. This mighty river forms a network of water channels that permeate nearly half the continent of South America. At its mouth, the Amazon is ninety miles wide. In fact, the fresh water discharge of the river is so great that it noticeably dilutes the salinity of the Atlantic’s waters a hundred miles offshore.

Interestingly, this great river begins as millions of seemingly insignificant raindrops fall into hundreds of tiny streams high in the Peruvian Andes Mountains. Collectively, the tiny threads of water rush down the slopes into streams. Streams merge to form larger and larger tributaries. Finally, secondary rivers flow into the Amazon.

Every tiny raindrop that falls in the Andes contributes to the greatness of the mighty Amazon River.

The prophet Zechariah asked, Who hath despised the day of small things? (Zechariah 4:10) Remember that your life is built one decision at a time. The seemingly insignificant choices of everyday life culminate into major outcomes.

John Maxwell wrote a book entitled Today Matters. Yes, indeed, today does matter. Today matters because we make choices today and every day. Our choices are the raindrops that forge the flow of our lives and determine our identity and destiny. Give your best to today because today matters.


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