Thursday, March 31, 2011

Assurance of His Love

32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise." ~ Mark 10:32-34

Having already twice predicted his death (Cf. 8:31; 9:31), Jesus in his final prediction reassures his disciples (and ourselves) that he was fully aware of his fate that lie ahead. First, in Mark Chapter 8, Jesus claims that "he must be killed and after three days rise again." Again in chapter 9 Jesus says, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise." Yet in this last prediction, Jesus not only offers a more vivid account of his imminent death, but also a profound insight into the vast assurance of his love for us.

Mark is my favorite Gospel. This in part because it's the shortest gospel, but mainly due to the portrayal of Christ as a man of action. Mark's constant use of words like "immediately" convey a sense of urgency as well as purpose in all that Jesus sets out to accomplish. This most certainly is the case in this passage, as Jesus is walking ahead, leading the pack with a resolute determination to complete his mission. Fully aware of the brutal reality that had been foretold (Isa. 53:1-12), yet still having decisively set his face "like a flint" (Isa. 50:7) in his journey towards Jerusalem. What is Jesus so determined to accomplish? Mark 10:45 lays this out clearly. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

The description of the disciples and crowd following Jesus as both "amazed" and "afraid" reveals the magnitude of this situation. Having already described the cruel death that awaited him, no wonder his followers are in shock that he was unwavering with his resolve. Especially given his own awareness of the violent and graphic nature of his condemnation. In this last prediction, Jesus is the most detailed about his death. Specifically mentioning that he would be mocked (Luke 23:11), spat upon (Mark 14:65), and flogged (Mark 15:15). The term "flog" or "scourged" means to beat severely with a whip, and was the reputable beating given to those condemned to death in the Roman judicial system.

What could possibly drive someone to this end? How could anyone definitively and willingly enter into this indescribable suffering? On the cross, Christ endured a torment and cosmic rejection beyond our comprehension. As the only worthy substitute, he bore the exclusion from God that the human race deserved. And he could have stopped it! He could have ended the torture, the rejection, the suffering, the abandonment, at any moment. All he had to do was give up on us, and walk away. Yet nailed to the cross dying, bleeding, agonizing, and staring down at those betraying him, in the greatest act of love in all history, he stayed.

Having known what lay ahead, Jesus still remained steadfast to suffer in love, never letting go of us. Even hell itself could not separate his love from us. No matter what hardship comes our way, we know it can't be that God doesn't love us. The reassurance is at the cross. I have come to believe this incredible story is true. God loves me and I can never be separated from that love. Do you believe it?
"Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important." - C.S. Lewis


1. Jesus offers himself as the sacrifice. Why is sacrifice at the heart of real love?
2. Why didn't Jesus just let go of us?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Read Luke 10:17-31

The Rich Young Man
17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”


Money. I find that I spend a lot of time every day thinking about money. I’d like to think it’s because I’m in the Financial Services Industry, helping people accumulate some sort of “wealth” in their 401k plans to get them through their retirement years. But self admittedly, I spend a lot of time weekly thinking about our own financial situation…mid 30’s, mortgage, car payment, college savings for 3 kids, retirement savings, my PG&E bill that still is through the roof no matter how much I turn down the heat and obsess about turning off the lights. Let’s not forget the laundry list of things that I want to do to my house that require, well, more money. The list goes on and on. So, what would it feel like to have wealth? This is a question that I asked other “thirty-somethings”, Christians and Non-Christians alike…and the answers were fascinating.
What would wealth offer in their opinion? Freedom. Relief. Choice. Power. Happiness. Confidence. Stability. Security. Possibility. To be honest, I can’t say that I would feel much different if I won the lottery tomorrow.
Every time I have read this part of Mark, I have thought to myself, “Of course I would sacrifice everything if God requested it of me”, or “I would never consider money as a God”. But this time, something hit me. It’s not just wealth that God seems to be warning us about here, but the pursuit of wealth. Isn’t that what affects the majority of us day to day? It’s a slippery slope…because if, in fact, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives” (Annie Dillard), then what will our lives reveal about us if we spend time most days obsessing about our bank account balances? For how many of us does the pursuit of wealth rival our pursuit of God?
The danger comes in the scenario that we see in Mark… that earthly wealth would become as important, (or more important), than our salvation. We see it with the man who approached Jesus. He was unable to give up his wealth for his salvation. Period. The irony is that the security he received from his wealth, pales in comparison to the power, happiness, confidence, stability, security and possibility that we receive in having a relationship with Jesus Christ. The truth is, we can’t do it without God. Any of it. Whether we have wealth, or are just trying to make ends meet, the bottom line is that if we put our faith in ourselves (or our money), we cannot be saved. With God though, all things are possible. (Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.)
So my commitment is this… Every time I find myself thinking about my personal “wealth”, I’m just going to pray. Pray for guidance. Pray for discernment. Pray that God will help me put it all in His hands. After all, our true wealth lies in the One that sacrificed everything for us, so that we can spend eternity in His embrace.

1. Do you find that money consumes your thought process? Do you find it difficult to give your
money concerns to God? What financial pressures might you bring to prayer today?
2. Do you have a healthy perspective on your money? Do you use it to accomplish your call in
this life, or does it control you? Do you have wise people in your life who can help you think
through these questions?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bring the Children to Him

13And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. ~ Mark 10:13-16

Maybe it is because I love kids so much, but this idea of faith like a child is significant to me. Kids have a lot of wisdom in their faith, loving God without question and knowing he is there no matter what. Recently one of the preschoolers said this to me “ I’ll tell you what God’s love feels like. It feels like God is hugging you with his fur coat on.” Another time I had a sick child in my office with a fever, “Ms. Jacque, can you pray that God makes my head feel better?” Children are constantly reminding me what it is like to have that simple and trusting faith like a child.

When I think of children, I think of these things: teachable hearts, innocence, dependence and worry-free. A child believes in anything, trusts easily, and anticipates with excitement – and that’s the very faith Jesus wants from us! Jesus is telling us that we must live with such dependence and receptiveness – not in childishness, but in childlike faith, fully dependent on the love and mercy of God.

In this passage, parents are bringing their children to Jesus. The disciples, who are caught up in their agenda rather than the Lord’s, don’t think that Jesus has time for these little kids. When Jesus sees this he is indignant, furious! He points out to his disciples that in the Kingdom he is building, the citizens are more like these children than like them. The citizens of Jesus’ kingdom receive his gift of salvation through faith and their ultimate desire is not their own agenda. Their desire is to love on and be in relationship with Jesus.

Children teach us many things: how to love others regardless of skin color, personality, and abilities; how to be real and sincere in our emotions-not being afraid to laugh or to cry when we need to; how status and significance means nothing compared to kindness and tenderness; how to enjoy life and not worry so much. But perhaps the most important thing our children teach us is how to receive. They teach us how to receive the kingdom of God. Jesus tells us that the way of entering into his kingdom is by receiving, and children are able to believe and receive Christ without a mind stuffed with self-righteousness, nor intellectual, and emotional baggage.

“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Luke 18:17). Childlike faith is required for us to enter God’s kingdom. We are called to obey God, but he desires us to humble our heart, be vulnerable, and have a simple but profound level of faith. Notice, we do not enter the kingdom of God by working hard to be good enough for God’s approval. We enter it by receiving – humbly and simply.

1. In the first paragraph I mentioned two ways I experience child-like faith. How do you see child-like faith in children?
2. In what ways can the concept of “child-like faith” move you to grow closer to Christ? How might it be a hindrance?
3. The idea of being able to receive something as wonderful as the Kingdom of God because of Jesus work can be humbling for us as a adults. Spend time in prayer/ reflection in what it means to be one who has been received freely by God.

Jacque is the director of Little Bridges Childcare Center and has been a part of Canyon Creek Church since 2005. She is mom to four boys ages 26, 25, 11 and 10 and lives in San Ramon with her husband, Dana. She is passionate about teaching, children and cooking anything that uses up the herbs she grows in her garden.

Monday, March 28, 2011



Temptation: the act of influencing by exciting hope or desire.
If we all carried around the consequential wreckage from giving in to past temptation, the biggest pile would have a flag with my name on it, in bold print. In the past, I intellectualized my theology into easily manipulated puzzle pieces. But by bending God’s commandments to suit my desires, life’s consequences began to pile up.

To know Christ and to love Him beyond all else in life.
Is temptation an opportunity to grow in intimacy with Christ or an occasion for weakness to overcome? I faced this question twenty years ago while I was going through one of the fiercest trials I had ever encountered as a young adult. In retrospect, it was not the object of temptation I struggled with, but the weakness of my relationship with Christ. I doubted God and who He said He promised to be in my life. I failed to believe God could fulfill the desires I had in my heart, instead I thought giving into my desire would fulfill me. My hope and desire was for something other than God.

There are many forms of temptation.
Temptation can come in the form of attainment but in essence it is an attack of our hearts. Life circumstances can tempt us to disbelieve the characteristics of God. Sorrow can mislead us to doubt the eternal goodness of God. Anger can mislead us to doubt the endless mercies of God. Pain can undo our reliance on God’s tender faithfulness. When the integrity of our faith is shaken, the opportunity for temptation rises, as the trial continues it can produce a vicious cycle…until we stop and allow God to break the cycle.
If I examine what is tempting me, the object of temptation will reveal what aspect of God we are doubting. Inappropriate intimacy with someone reveals my doubt of God’s appreciation for the beauty He put in me. Unreasonable materialism reveals our doubt of His provision and life sacrificing love.
God is who He says He is. The Great I Am provides a way of escape by displaying an abundance of who He is in the middle of our struggles. I have discovered that the way of escape from temptation is finding our identity in God. But it is up to us to receive that gift. “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54: 10. He is the source of unfailing love, promise keeper of His covenant of peace, and the Compassionate One. Let us pursue Him in the face of our temptation so that we may endure in peace, and ultimately praise, worship and be fulfilled by God.

1. Praise and worship God. Examine the temptation and pray for God to reveal what aspect of His character is in doubt. Then praise and worship Him for that very character that He provides for you to endure this temptation.
2. Think through relationships that can offer accountability and prayer.
3. Memorize applicable scripture or at least carry the written verse. “But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” Deut. 30:14

Michelle Kiriakos is the mother of a third grader and is the Bible teacher at Little Bridges Child Care Center. She has been attending CCPC for three years and values the Women’s Ministry.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sweet Fun

I found this tonight going through some old files. It is my first attempt in youth ministry at putting a strategic plan together. Enjoy.

CCPC Sr. High Ministry

Purpose: The purpose of our Youth Ministry program is to:

 bring unchurched people to hear the message of the Lord
 present to them an opportunity for meeting the Lord
 provide opportunities to grow in their relationship with the Lord
 encourage the student to take hold of their faith and serve the Lord


The goals of the group are encompassed in two words which
gives meaning to why we do what we do:


 Serving
 Witnessing
 Evangelizing
 Esprit de corps
 Teaching


 LOVE Hard
 WORK Hard
 PLAY Hard

Biblical Basis for our Ministry

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'
Mark 12:30

The second is this: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
Mark 12:31

Love Hard - Students accepting the love of Christ

We have been granted the greatest gift of all time!

-- “ For God so Loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

God has given us the opportunity to have a relationship with him because he loved us so much. The only way we can have this relationship, though, is to acknowledge first that we sin,

-- “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Rom. 3:23) and secondly that Christ is the only way to rid sins from our life!

-- “... the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:8-10)

If you desire an eternal relationship with Jesus Christ then he says...

-- “You may ask Me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”(John 14:4)

So you can pray for Christ to enter into your life as Lord, and Savior, ask for him to forgive you of your sins and give you the gift of eternal life.

-- “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God Does not have life.” (1John 5:11-12)

Work Hard - Students desiring to grow in the Lord

 When we understand that Christ has changed our hearts and we want to live our lives for him, then the Holy Spirit will guide us to grow in our relationship with the Lord.
 While understanding that our top priority is to grow spiritually closer the lord, we understand that this means to continually find ways to stop doing the things which separate us from the Lord(sin), while expanding the time we do things which bring us closer to the Lord. We also understand that this is a life long process which should always be our top priority.
 As we continue to grow in the Lord our faith should develop into a greater understanding of our gifts and how the Lord desires to use those spiritual gifts for ministry purposes.
 Our youth program is and will continue to be a place where students can grow spiritually to understand their personal spiritual gifts and ministries.
 The youth program will also be a place where students can experiment with their own ministries while being lead by professional and volunteer ministry leaders.

Not really sure what happened to the play part. I probably got bored and decided to just start playing. :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I am an Atheist

Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. But both Him, and the Son (who came forth from Him and taught us these things, and the host of the other good angels who follow and are made like to Him), and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth, and declaring without grudging to every one who wishes to learn, as we have been taught. ~ Justin Martyr

I love this early quote from Justin Martyr. I love the simple description of our faith. I feel like this is a pure heart statement because it is not wrapped up in centuries of theological thought. It is a simple out pouring from a man who has had a real encounter with Christ and this is what he knows. Lord keep me from being bogged down by terms, issues, and debates. I pray that I would concentrate on just knowing you.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thinking Eternally, Living Presently

"God is in heaven and thou are on earth." The relation between such a God and such a man and the relation between such a man and such a God, is for me the theme of the Bible and the essence of philosophy. Philosophers name the KRISIS of human perception - the Prime Cause: the Bible beholds at the same crossroads - the figure of Jesus Christ. ~ from Romans Commentary by Barth

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

On Love and Judgement

When we judge other people we confront them in a spirit of detachment, observing and reflecting as it were from the outside, But love has neither time nor opportunity for this. If we love, we can never observe the other person with detachment for he is always and at every moment a living claim to our love and service. ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer