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Foundations Under Attack…

Tragically, we have seen that there are times when no matter what man does, the foundations are not strong enough. After the storms are gone nothing is left, and in some cases, the foundations are also gone.

Jesus reminds us that such assaults can also happen to people’s lives, but the major difference is that each person has a choice of surviving or experiencing devastation.

“Anyone who listens to My teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT)

What strikes me in these words of Christ is that the problem is not in the hearing of His words and instruction, but in the doing. The difference between survival and devastation is choosing to follow Christ’s teaching. The difference is choosing! We are prone to place blame or excuse ourselves for what others have done or not done, but Jesus places the ownership on us alone.

You do not have to look very far to see that the “foundations of life” are under a relentless assault by the “storms of life.” The question is not “…whether a storm will hit my life…,” but “…when will a storm hit my life.” Nevertheless, my question to you is, “When are you going to make the choice?” Jesus left this issue completely at your feet. Choose well!!!

Pastor Angel

The Gospel: A Central Element

Introduction:

“First Alliance Church exists to demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ through the visible and tangible ways we live our lives in the communities of New York City.”

In other words, as a Church (a body of believers committed to one another and to a common cause), we are called to live our lives in the world God has placed us in, but in such a way (visible and tangible) that the individuals around us can experience the life of Christ (His love and compassion).

Last week we looked at Strategy, Structure and Steps (notes are available on www.firstchurchnyc.org or you can call us to obtain a hard copy).  The key to live the “Jesus way” is to fully embrace and live a “Gospel-centered” life.  But what is a “Gospel-centered” life?

“Gospel-Centered” Living

Some have call it a “Gospel-fluent” life,  a “Gospel-saturated” life, or as Steve McVey (Author of “52 Lies I heard In Church Every Sunday and Why the Truth Is So Much Better”), says…

“Our role as believers is to allow “Christ in us” to move into every sphere of our lives, bringing His influence to homes, families, businesses, governments — even churches. Christ expressing Himself through you wherever you are is the real Grace Walk.”

THE GOSPEL

What it is.

How it has affected you.

How it should continue to affect your life.

The Importance of the “Gospel”

  • What is the “Gospel”? (Franklin Graham – President of Samaritan’s Purse)
    • The Gospel is the “good news” of salvation – Mark 1:14-15 (NLT)

14 “Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where He preached God’s Good News. 15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” He announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”

How can you experience the Kingdom of God (God’s good news)?

  • ADMIT that you are a sinner in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23), and understand that you have been separated from God by sin from birth (Psalm 51:5 / Isaiah 59:2);
  • REPENT of (turn away from) your sin (Matthew 9:13 / Acts 3:19);
  • BELIEVE that Christ died on the cross for your sin, and rose again from the dead (Romans 10:9)
  • RECEIVE Christ by faith into your heart for the forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life (Ephesians 2:8-9 / Romans 6:23)
  • How has the “Gospel” affected you?
    • You have been born-again –

3 “Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”  4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”  5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” John 3:3-6 (NLT)

  • You are a new creation –

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” II Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

  • How should the “Gospel” continue to affect your life?

Birth _______________t_______________ Death

The line represent your whole life and the “cross” represents the moment when God established an intimate relationship with you (could have been early in life or later).  The question to ponder is, what did you do in life, before the cross, to deserve salvation?  And, what do you need to do in life, after the cross, to deserve salvation?  The answer is the same, nothing!  It is a gift of God, unmerited, through faith by grace!

  • How should the Gospel continue to affect your life?  The answer is in the key/secret/mystery is “…Christ in you, the hope of glory…” (Colossians 1:27b)

If the “Gospel” has not changed, and its foundational premise has not change, why should we seek to live our lives otherwise (as if we have to earn what we already have and guaranteed)?  This is what a “Gospel-centered” life is all about!

Living a “Gospel-centered” Life (consider the following Bible verses)

9 “…We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.” Colossians 1:9b-10 (NLT)

“…He (God) made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.  21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were His enemies, separated from Him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now He has reconciled you to Himself through the death of Christ in His physical body. As a result, He has brought you into His own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before Him without a single fault.  23 But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News…” Colossians 1:20b-23a (NLT)

Conclusion: Colossians 4:5-6 (Amplified)

5 “Behave yourselves wisely, living prudently and with discretion, in your relations with those of the outside world (the non-Christians), making the very most of the time and seizing (buying up) the opportunity.  6 Let your speech at all times be gracious (pleasant and winsome), seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may never be at a loss to know how you ought to answer anyone who puts a question to you.”

Other verses to consider: Philippians 1:27 and 4:4-7 / I Thessalonians 2:12, 4:1-2, 11 and 5:5-8

A Gospel-Centered Life…

Read below for detailed notes on Pastor Angel’s comments from the COMPASS Session on January 16th:

Mission/Vision of First Alliance Church –

First Alliance Church (Manhattan, NY) exists to demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ through the visible and tangible ways we live our lives in the communities of New York City.

In other words, as a Church (a body of believers committed to one another and to a common cause), we are called to live our lives in the world God has placed us in, but in such a way (visible and tangible) that the individuals around us can experience the life of Christ (His love and compassion).

Strategy / Structure / Steps to accomplish our mission

Strategy to be an active “follower of Christ” (a.k.a – disciple/born-again believer/Christian); to be “Gospel-centered” (a life of repentance and faith);

In other words, living in the freedom of grace (unmerited love, favor, acceptance and forgiveness);

16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. 17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” Romans 1:16-17 (NLT)

Study the following verses: Ephesians 2:8-10 / Philippians 2:11-12 / Galatians 2:20

Structure commitment to “being” the Church versus “attending” Church; we already have…

  • Pastor in place;
  • Other believers are in place and connected to each other;
  • Mission field, or place for ministry, is all around us;

The “heart” of this type of structure is in the approach, or paradigm, in how you “do” church; from inward-focus to outward-focus; from investing in what we need to investing in what those outside the Church need; from attractional (come and see what we have to offer) to incarnational (let’s go out and enter their world so they can see our “light”);

Study the following verses: Matthew 5:13-16 / John 17:13-21 / Philippians 2:12-15

Steps – there are multiple ways of how to implement the strategy and structure mentioned above, but there is only one model to be followed – the “Jesus way”

  1. Embrace the “Jesus way” of ministry
    1. Mark 1:15 – Jesus went out proclaiming the Good news of God’s Kingdom;
      1. i.     The “Kingdom of God” is here and now;
      2. ii.     You must repent (turn away) of your own way (sin);
        1. iii.     You must believe (faith/trust in) the Gospel (Good News of salvation);
  2. Mark 1:16-19 – Jesus called others to follow Him and learn how to win other men and women to God’s kingdom;
  3. Beginnings or foundations of the “Jesus way” (never forget how it all began)
    1. The baptism of Jesus (Luke 3:21-22 / Matthew 3:16-17) – “…And a voice from heaven said, “You are My dearly loved Son, and You bring Me great joy…”
    2. Jesus’ life at the age of 12 (Luke 2:52) – “…Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people…”
    3. Never forget who the real Teacher is (Matthew 11:28-29)

Study the following verses: I Samuel 2:18-21, 26 and 3:1-10, 19 / Luke 3:15-18, 7:24-30 – think about the life of these servants of God even before they engaged in ministry/ what kind of life did they live?

Conclusion:

As we prepare to embark the next steps for First Alliance Church in 2011, what would it take for you to fully embrace where God is leading First Alliance Church?  What is holding you back from embracing where God is leading First Alliance Church?


Shoes aren’t the only things that fit in shoeboxes…

Operation Christmas Child is a part of Samaritans Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization. The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. By simply using gift-filled shoeboxes, Operation Christmas Child lets hurting children worldwide know that they are loved and shares with them that the greatest gift they can ever receive is Jesus Christ.

Want to be a part of this exciting gift-giving opportunity?

Here are 2 easy opportunities:

1. Check out the Operation Christmas Child (OCC) website for more information and details here.

2. Attend and participate in a shoebox packing and wrapping party!

When: November 17th

Time: 6-9pm

Where: Salt Space

1158  Broadway, Floor  5, New  York,  NY

Entrance  is on  27th  Street

Ways  you  can  help:

1. Bring items to fill the shoeboxes and actual shoeboxes

2. Just bring items to the party…We will supply the boxes!

Sample items for boxes: Small toys (little cars, hair accessories, bracelets, bouncy balls, yo-­yo), school supplies (pencils, erasers, crayons, sharpeners, notepads, Toiletries (i.e. toothbrushes, soap, etc), Candies (i.e.  no chocolates).

3. Make a donation by sending checks/cash to OCC Volunteers:

Brian & Laura Koh, 45 Wall Street, New York, NY 10005

Make checks payable to Samaritan’s Purse.

COME AND BRING YOUR FRIENDS!!

Dinner and refreshments will be served.

Please RSVP to OCC Area Coordinator, Jennifer Cassidy

jenniferlcassidy@gmail.com  or  518.209.1808.

Miner #34 from Copiapo-San Jose, Chile

Thirty-three miners were trapped 700 meters underground when the shaft they were working in collapsed on August 5. They were completely isolated for 17 days until they were located.  For two more agonizing days the miners feared certain death, until they were supplied with food, water and oxygen from the surface.  By the time they were finally rescued the miners were enjoying television, telephone lines and video conferencing.

October 13, seventy days after their tragic entrapment, all of the miners were safely rescued in a 22-hour operation that was broadcast live across the world.  Images of the joy of the miners, their family members, the strangers present, and viewers across the world, are forever etched in the memories of all.

However, the image etched in my mind is not of the miners being rescued, but of what I heard the miners say and repeat over and over again, “…God was with us there all the time…” One miner, Mario Sepulveda, described it this way, “I think I had extraordinary luck. I was with God and with the devil. And I reached out for God.”

The ninth miner rescued, Mario Gomez, 63, is the oldest miner and the spiritual leader of the miners, dropped to his knees after he emerged, bowed his head in prayer and clutched the Chilean flag. Raven Clabough in an article entitled “God and Faith Sustained the Chilean Miners,” published on October 15, 2010 in the New American, writes the following, “When 33 men remain trapped in a Chilean mine for more than two months, but appear to be unharmed and healthy upon their rescue, one has to ask if such a feat confirms the existence of God. For the rescued miners, it certainly does.”

Comment after comment, from the miners, their family members and the political leaders present, unashamedly stated the obvious, miner #34 was GOD! Psalm 66 says…

“Come and see what God has done, how awesome His works in man’s behalf!

He rules forever by His power, His eyes watch the nations…

Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of Hhis praise be heard; He has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For You, O God, tested us; You refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs… we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth…the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:1-2, 8

There are days when I feel trapped, as if I was in a mine 700 meters underground, in complete darkness, suffocating, and all alone.  On days like that I must remember that Miner #34 is there. In difficult times are you experiencing Miner #34 as I have, as always available, present, and ready to sustain me with strength and determination?

~ Pastor Angel

“It is a Matter of Life and Death for Them”

This title grabbed my attention as I read the Sunday Patriot-News of September 5, 2010, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  The article was written by Alexei Barrionuevo of the New York Times, and the focus of the article was on the plight of the thirty-three miners trapped underground since August 5th in the San Jose copper and gold mine in Copiapo, Chile.

The Incident: On August 5th, a cave-in trapped thirty-three miners 2,300 feet below the surface.  The miners were presumed lost until seventeen days later when a drill operator felt strange vibrations on the 150 lb. drill-hammer that was being used to get to the disaster site.  To his surprise, a note attached to the drill said the following; “We are fine in the refuge, the 33.”

What took place during those seventeen days is still to be revealed.  What is amazing is that the plight of the thirty-three miners (it will take at least three to four months to get to the refuge where the miners are) has become the unifying and rallying cry for a nation.  The miners struggle, hope and determination to survive have inspired Chile and the world, who expectantly watch and wait.

Lessons: As I read this brief article, I was overwhelmed by the actions these desperate miners took, actions that should resemble the heart and soul of the community of believers of the First Alliance Church:

  • Mario Gomez (62), the oldest of the thirty-three miners trapped has become the spiritual guide for his men.  He has organized a small subterranean chapel, and is serving as the unofficial guide to the psychologists working on the surface.  He had the idea to organize the miners into eleven groups of three to create a buddy system.  The youngest among the miners is Gomez’s own nineteen year-old assistant.
  • Luis Urzua (54), organized the miners work assignments, mapped the path for their rescue, and insisted the miners wait until everyone received food through the narrow bore hole before eating.  Urzua’s passion has always been topography, sketching roads and landscapes, but now he is using his passion to sketch a pathway out.
  • Urzua has become the most influential leader among the thirty-three miners, but assumed his role with great humility.  When health officials asked him to narrate a forty-minute video of the miner’s life underground, he turned the task over to Mario Sepulveda (39) who praised Urzua for bringing calm to his compatriots.
  • Yonny Barrios (50), drawing from a six-month nursing course taken fifteen years ago, is administering medicine and wellness tests.  He checks the temperature and blood pressure of the miners, and has vaccinated them for flu, tetanus and pneumonia.
  • The miners are playing a critical role in their own rescue through their own organization and leadership  (they have to clear 3,000 to 4,000 tons of rocks).

First Alliance Church in Manhattan, New York: Many have thought of First Alliance Church (FAC) as “lost, with no survivors,” yet to the surprise of many, “…We are fine in the REFUGE of the church community.” However, if FAC is to rise as an integral part of the fabric and community of Manhattan, each individual must utilize their skills, gifts and opportunities the LORD has given to them.  Just as the miners, we must choose to rise to the occasion (these are critical days for the church community), and organize ourselves to become all that God has called us to be,

“A community of believers committed to engage people by manifesting the love and compassion of Christ, through the visible and tangible ways we live our lives in the communities of New York City.”

Facility/Meeting Place: Most of the questions and concerns expressed to me during this past month (during the transition to move out of our facility) have been related to a Sunday location to meet in.  Although this is a very legitimate concern, it should not be the main concern.  Allow me to explain –

  • On February 1999, First Alliance Church held its last service at the facility on 355 east 68th Street;
  • The church community became mobile (without a permanent facility) for 3½ years.  The priority during those years was locating a permanent home for the church.  It was assumed that once a location was found, the church would be stable, prosper and grow.  FAC found a facility in 2002 and moved in 2003, but the reality was that the stability, prosperity and growth of the church had nothing to do with a permanent location, but rather, it had everything to do with the people who gathered at the location.
  • After eight years of enjoying a first class meeting place, the ministry of the church was primarily a Sunday morning venue, with outward focused events shouldered by a few concerned members of the church community.

As we continue to look for a place to gather, we need to ask ourselves, “Do we desire to be the people God has called us to be in NYC, or remain a group of individuals meeting only on Sunday mornings, with no tangible ministry to the community we are a part of?”

The trapped miners became aware of the reality that their thoughts and actions were “a matter of life and death.”  How we think and act during these critical days in the life and ministry of FAC is also “a matter of life and death.”

  • What is your prayer for this church community?
  • Have you asked:
    • What would you have me do, LORD?
    • How can I contribute to the ministry and welfare of First Alliance Church?

I Corinthians 12:27, “You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything.” (MSG)

I greatly welcome your comments, thoughts and ideas.  Please contact me at angelortiz@firstchurchnyc.org

~Pastor Angel