Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rose of Sharon: Here today, Gone tomorrow...but it matters to God.

As summer draws to a close, I can’t help but be excited on many levels. Oxford Preparatory Academy is piling in with moving boxes ready for 300+ students descending on the campus next month. The staff’s in a buzz ready to welcome them – some of which are getting their own kids ready for the first day of school, so I can't decide who's most excited about this “new venture"... parents, kids or me, simply for what God has done to provide greater education to more families on this campus. Get ready for all that this season is about to bring...

What else does the summer wind-down mean? We’re getting back into Relationships Sept 7th. Just as you settle back into your regular post-summer routines at home, we get back to biz here looking at what Ephesians has for us next that we can carry into our homes, workplaces and neighborhoods.

But before we get into “what’s next” I want to take a second with “what was” because of the incredible summer of ministry and growth God blessed us with. We always say “church was never meant to be boring,” and the past few months at New Venture were anything but!

We've added new ministries that are strong and growing going into the fall. Venture Riders came back from their debut ride with pictures that confirm two things: 1). I won’t be joining them on the highways any time soon. 2). Hhow important and fulfilling it is to find and build healthy RELATIONSHIPS with shared interests, even if your interests runs at 75MPH on two wheels. Helping Hands’ Bread of Life and Sock It To Me ministries have been unstoppable these past few months with monthly outings locally, and sending Outreachers across the border to the Rosarito Mexico Orphanage to dig wells, make repairs, play games with the kids and #LoveLikeJesus.

Combine the excitement of all the above, and you have this summer’s All Church Beach Baptism where dozens took a dive for Jesus in perfect weather despite forecast of rain. Not a drop fell, but Christ’s love poured all day. There was incredible joy in the waves; a testimony in action for all those watching from boogie boards and jet skis; friendships formed over a smoking BBQ, volleyball, tugofwar... It was an incredible day, and it was family.

"The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved."
-- Jeremiah 8:20

Though summer may feel like it’s coming to an end, these things and more lay a foundation for an "All In, All the Time" Autumn: How are you doing with your journaling? With ITEL commitments? With 24/7 living through “Asah Shamah” (“by doing God’s Word, we grow in understanding” Exodus 24:7)? If you’re experiencing a whole new season of our Lord, that’s great. That’s the plan and it’s also His promise when we seek after more of Him. But even if, to quote Charles Barkley, you’re doing “turrible," it is NEVER too late to kick into 24/7, and it’s always the right time to take an extra step toward living the life He planned for you. Stop by the 24/7 page on the New Venture website for a refresher course on what ITEL is all about, plus, you can find your year-long Bible reading plan there. Whenever you’re reading this, TODAY would be a great day to start fresh.

A great example of this, is the tree you see in the photo above: It only has a few flowers left because it only blooms in summer...and each one lasts only ONE DAY. This Rose of Sharon is planted behind the church where I see it every weekend coming to service, reminding me that "God's going to do a new thing today." In the Bible, Christ is (vaguely) referred to as the “Rose of Sharon,” which you'll find in many hymns and song lyrics. The original Biblical reference was for a different flower, more of a crocus or "lowly field flower," and "Sharon" is the Mediterranean coastal plain between Joppa and Caesarea. But on this shrub, the one-day-only buds of summer have been so illustrative to me of the always new and perfect works that God is doing EVERY DAY in the hearts and lives of the people in our community -- perfect in its purpose for that day, but immediately ready for the next day’s plan…and the next, and the next…

While this tree is done at the end of summer, God is just getting warmed up in what He has for you and His church. He never rests. His love “never ceases” and His mercies “never come to an end.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) Like the Rose of Sharon, they’re “new every morning,” which means it’s in our court to “decide today who you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15)

Together, let's make this an All-In Autumn.
Until the whole world knows,
Pastor Shawn