A teaching on Acts 20:13-38 by Stephen Brucker.
A teaching on Acts 19 by Stephen Brucker.
For some time I have been meditating on John 8—the woman caught in adultery. I pray that you’d be encouraged, as we realize how amazing the grace of God in Christ is in our lives.
There was a common woman in an uncommon world;
waking up one morning in controversy that swirled;
she was set to taste the rubble of her impending doom;
Shameful thoughts covered her heart with utter gloom;
no inn would heed her room,
the undertaker dug her tomb;
and all she could wish was a return to her mother’s womb.
She stood and faced the angry mob,
tears would not form;
though she wanted so desperately to sob.
She was guilty, with nowhere to hide;
the comfort of a night, her identity hid in a man’s side;
in the embrace of a man her body with certainty died.
She knew what she had done, the secret was flung;
then hung and judgment in one accord sung.
Her justice meter went wild,
she was the only one on trial;
yet it was she they brought their laundry list to file.
So she closed her eyes, swallowed her last breath;
gazed toward hell, and awaited her death.
But then a shadow grazed her feet;
stones fell with rhythmic beat;
while she stood face to face to meet;
the end of her life, yet the beginning of another.
The kind Man stood, gazing at her soul;
her heart beat fast, yet judgment not His goal;
reshaping her hole, erasing the litany of her sinful toll.
Her mind began to thirst, the dam in her heart began to burst;
and she fell upon her face, humbled at His embrace.
He could have said anything and she would have followed;
but He would not let her wallow;
there in the sorrow of her impeachable gallows;
a new beginning she needed to swallow.
She’ll never forget His face, the infinite grace;
which challenged a hostile race;
and in a moment, He was gone without a trace.
He spoke five words;
and she, in that moment heard. “Go and sin no more”.
Forgiveness she wouldn’t ignore;
His words she shall ever ben lore.
Our mission at the Branch is to be in awe of the gospel, to embody the gospel and then to give our lives away because of the gospel. There are many ways we give our lives away as the Branch, and in this season, we are excited to partner with the city of Corvallis and invest in Cloverland Park thorugh Restore Corvallis.
This Saturday from 9-12 we will be serving Cloverland Park to restore it thorugh weeding, putting out barkdust and more.
One of the exciting things about this, is not just that we will be working at the park, but also, that we will be working alongside people in the community.
This past week, Andrew Glaspell and others have been passing out flyers and rallying people in the community to come help with this service project. Please be praying for them and for those who come to serve alongside our church. This is a great bridge to meet new people in the community over the shared value caring for all that God has made.
So if you are available, we’d love to see you at Cloverland Park in Corvallis this Saturday from 9-12, to live out our mission, love our city, and see Christ magnified.
The majority of the time we use the word “worship” we are using it correctly but also too simplistically. Typically, the word “worship” is confined to songs that proclaim praises and truths about God. And by no means are worship songs an inaccurate idea of worship, but worship is so much more than simply singing. Over the last 5 weeks we have been focusing on expanding our understanding of worship from a midday series we have called Worship 101. As our series is coming to a close (we have only one week left), I have been encouraged to see how my own view of worship as well as others has expanded.
Over the last 5 weeks we have studied how worship is more reflective of the life of a follower of Jesus than it is a “worship service.” We have engaged in discovering how we worship God through scripture, prayer, liturgy (how we order a service), song, and our gifting. Next week, we tackle the topic of worship through unity and church discipline. I have loved each week as it truly has challenged my mindset on worship. I have been struck with the question, Is my view of worship too simplistic and thus stunting my relationship with God? Have I put worship into a box far too small?
If you have followed Jesus for any significant length of time, you have probably been told something along the lines of “All of life is worship.” We read verses like Romans 12:1 that state, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Through these last 5 weeks, I have truly begun to see the truth and beauty of that statement. As I read scripture, I praise God as I engage with his narrative of love, sacrifice, redemption, and restoration. As I pray to the Lord, I worship him for who is he and what he has done, is doing, and will do. As I gather with the church, I worship the Lord through the preaching of the Word and proclamation of his character and deeds through song. As I use the gifts God has given me or see the gifts God has given others, I praise him for his body and how he has intricately and uniquely made every one of us to proclaim his image and character. As I receive discipline or discipline others, I worship God for his restorative nature and desire for unity. When we truly see the greatness and grandeur of God, worship is the response.
God is calling us to live a worship filled life. Worship is not an event but an action. A.W. Tozer says, “We must never rest until everything inside us worships God.” I urge you brothers and sisters, take that statement to heart. Are we resting? Or we are actively giving ourselves to worship the Lord in all that do?
Revelation 4:8 – “Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and it so come.’”
We live in a world that moves at break-neck speed. So, it can be a challenge to learn to stop, reflect, and a be filled with a heart of gratitude for all that God is doing and has done.
I’m so thrilled that on May 21st we get to do just that.
On Sunday, May 21st, we are going to stop and celebrate the powerful and gracious movement of God. We will be gathering and baptizing six people whose lives have been radically changed by the love of God for us in Jesus. Nights like this are so important for us as a church, because God invites us to celebrate and listen to the stories of how Jesus has rescued people and is continuing to rescue people in this world.
Following our time of witnessing these testimonies of God’s grace, we will be sharing a meal together and celebrating new life. And so I pray you will make it a priority to join us that Sunday and be infused with encouragement as we get to see in a very practical way that God is not silent and inactive, but is very much on the move in this world.
I love going overseas. There is something about the smells, the new sounds, and the new culture that make everything exciting. A few years ago, I was in Turkey and I remember how refreshing it was to try new food and get addicted to chai tea as we looked out at the Aegean sea and took in all the sights.
But more than that, going overseas does something to my soul. It makes me yearn to see the gospel advance. It creates in me a great sense of my own inadequacies and dependence on God. And it fuels my heart in desiring to see God worshipped among each and every people group in the world. I love going overseas. And each year, I love to debrief with those who go on short-term trips at the Branch and hear all that God did in and through their lives.
As such, on Friday, May 12 at 6 pm, the Branch will host its annual Stumpies. The overall purpose is to raise financial support for those going on short-term trips this summer, pray for them, while in the context of laughter and community. If you pay online its $5 or $7 at the door. There will be entertainment and dessert.
Please make it a point on coming. Not only to support 13 members who are going to East Asia and Haiti, but also to connect with one another with laughter and encouragement. There is free childcare and the event will be hosted at Grant Ave. Baptist Church. If you have any questions, please email email@example.com.
Do you know what your future holds?
God’s word gives us glimpses into our past, what is really happening in our present, and what God has in store for us in the future.
I was reminded of one of God’s promises for our future at the Bakar Batu festival our community group (and Vanny) put together up in the Portland area two weekends ago.
For those who aren’t up on Papuan cuisine, Bakar Batu is a traditional Papuan way of cooking for large groups. The participants dig a hole and start an adjacent fire to heat up rocks. You then put the hot rocks, some banana leaves (we used local ferns), whole pigs, and vegetables in the hole, cover it up, and let it cook. All working together we fed about 40 Papuan students, along with 25 Americans and a couple of Chinese students.
As we sung, danced, and ate some rockin’ pork (pun intended) verses like these came to mind:
Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Revelation 14:6-7)
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10)
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 5:14)
As we get a glimpse into what the future holds for us in scripture, we are constantly reminded that every nation will be together there celebrating the victory of Jesus. We are also reminded that God’s intention is to carry the good news of the victory of Jesus to every nation. There are people in every tribe and people and language whom God wants for himself; they will indeed be found with the Gospel, and they will indeed be saved.
They will be invited into God’s presence and included in this great celebration, a celebration for all who will make up God’s new kingdom here on the earth. We will be included in a great international celebration, a feast for all those who have accepted the rule, authority, and salvation of Christ and will spend the next billion years and beyond worshipping, celebrating, working, and living on this earth for our good King Jesus.
As I reflect on that moment, singing songs about Jesus (and many others I didn’t understand), dancing together, and eating together, I can’t help but praise God looking forward to and thinking of what John writes:
“And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 16:9)
We may not know a whole lot about the future, but we do know this, we are headed for a great international worship feast. With this on our hearts, how blessed we are to have such an international church! How blessed we are to have those from other cultures joining us in our worship and celebration of Jesus’ victory each Sunday!
This feast in Beaverton was a very special moment. For just a few hours, through many cultures together enjoying the day God had made, through Papuan worship songs and the smells of Bakar Batu, a handful of people in Beaverton, Oregon were teleported into a future moment that God has promised his people.
You, however, do not need to roast a pig to get this taste of the Kingdom. Every time you talk to someone from another country about Jesus, every time you work to the Glory of God with someone from another culture, every time you worship together with someone from another nation, you get a little taste of heaven, you get a small peek through a window into eternity. If you do not have an international friend in Corvallis, I highly suggest it. There are few better ways to taste the Kingdom of God than to celebrate Jesus across a culture.
Do you know what your future holds? You can know it in part. If you want to preview a component of your future, praise Jesus to someone from another nation.
The end of all history and the end of every nation is a person, and His name is Jesus. Let’s celebrate together in expectation of His great international kingdom.