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hdcONNECTIONS

NOVEMBER 2006 : ISSUE 40

THE CONTENTS 4 LOST

by Tom Mercer, Senior Pastor People who don’t know Christ are supposed to be the lost ones, not us! Yet, that’s where we so often find ourselves--stuck on an island of doubt and confusion, not knowing who to turn to, where to go or what to do.

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10 RUNNING WITH JONAH

by Mark Buchanan, Contributing Writer The story of Jonah confirms a dark suspicion we have about God. The suspicion is, God will always ask me to do the thing I least want to do, and go to the very last place I desire to go.

14 ADULT MINISTRIES

Find out more about our men and women’s ministries.

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17 SPOTLIGHT

Find out what’s new at HDC.. 21

21 PF’s CORNER

by Pastor Frank Mercer We are pleased to share PF’s insights from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, excerpts from PF’s devotional book, “Feasting on Philippians.”

PREPARING EVERY GENERATION TO CHANGE THEIR WORLDS FOR CHRIST!


by Tom Mercer, Senior Pastor

EVENTS

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ry this for a script. A group of people are trying to survive in a hostile environment. They’re not exactly sure how they got there. They don’t know why they were chosen for such a difficult challenge. Was it coincidence or fate? Are they simply paying for their own mistakes, pawns in an unrelated series of circumstances or the victims of a cruel master plan orchestrated by someone or something lurking somewhere behind the scenes? So, what do you think? Do you think that would ever catch on as a premise for a television show? How about 18,000,000 viewers per week! The funny thing is, you don’t have to wait until Wednesday night to find out what happens next because you and I live out that scenario everyday. Does this sound familiar? Why is life so difficult at times? Why do we find ourselves in the middle of such high drama? Did we blow it? Is God mad at us? Who can we really trust for help? Will we ever find a way out? Why do we feel so lost?

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OTHERS


MAP

HEART

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. People who don’t know Christ are supposed to be the lost ones, not us! Yet, that’s where we so often find ourselves--stuck on an island of doubt and confusion, not knowing who to turn to, where to go or what to do.

God leads us through a series of different channels. But you can’t just pick the most palatable one. They’re a sequence, not a smorgasboard.

When someone is lost, Henry Ward Beecher once advised, “The strength of a man consists in finding out the way God is going and going that way.”

Seeking Divine Direction Everyone wants divine direction. In fact, according to Newsweek Magazine, even twenty percent of those who consider themselves to be either atheists or agnostics pray every day. But divine direction is not just


something we want or need. It’s something that we are obligated to seek. Jesus said, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19). He’s as divine as they come and that’s about as direct as it gets. And, as any of you Greek scholars already realize, Jesus’ challenge to follow His lead is not a suggestion. It’s a command. Solomon advised us to acknowledge God’s will in “all our ways” not just the ones we feel are “important” (Proverbs 3:6). Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “When you face a really super huge big issue, only then follow me.” Every choice we make somehow alters our future because each one always frames the next one. That’s why God is interested in helping you with all the decisions you make, not just with the ones that you believe have substantial implications. You’d have to admit that the only times most of us earnestly seek the Lord are when we are facing one of those big life-changing decisions. But those aren’t necessarily the most important issues we face. For example, if a guy is facing a decision as to whether or not to marry Miss Right, he should ask for wisdom on that choice, to be sure. He ought to ask everyone he knows to pray that he would know what God wants him to do. But the bigger issue is not who to marry, but what kind of husband he is going to be for whoever the lucky girl is. Because if he’s not a good husband, then she’s not a lucky girl!

MAP

HEART

OTHERS

Or if your family is considering a “life-change” decision, let’s say a managerial promotion that requires your relocation to the Midwest, the natural thing to do would be to ask everyone in your small group to pray that God will reveal His will to you. On the other hand, if you end up being a jerk to the people you manage, it doesn’t really matter where your office is. But we get a lot more “Pray that I would get a new job” prayer requests than we get “Pray that I would be Christlike at my job” prayer requests. Maybe too many of us are looking for what John Ortberg calls “insider information” rather than the greatest opportunity to honor God. We want what’s behind Door Number Three, because we’re hoping to score the “Big Deal of the Day.” People don’t read their astrological charts to discover how to be less prejudiced, just more lucky. They don’t read the Wall Street Journal to learn how

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EVENTS


to be more generous, just more prosperous. Seeking God in the most important matters may have nothing to do with where you live, what house to buy or who to marry. It may have everything to do with how you can be a better spouse or parent, how you can be less angry and more honest, or how you can spend your time more wisely and your money more carefully. We need to train ourselves to seek the Lord in even those matters, the ones that we might deem as less significant. If we can do that, when the relocation decisions are required, we will be less likely to feel lost.

IF THERE ISN’T ANY TENSION BETWEEN WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS AND WHAT YOUR HEART’S TELLING YOU, THEN YOUR SPIRIT IS IN AGREEMENT WITH GOD’S SPIRIT AND THAT’S ALWAYS A GOOD THING.

Where do we get that kind of direction? God leads us through a series of different channels. But you can’t just pick the most palatable one. They’re a sequence, not a smorgasbord. The channels of divine direction need to be considered in the appropriate order. They do not form an advisory board, where each part provides equal wisdom or authority. So, before you read about them, here are the groundrules: number one trumps number two, two trumps three, and so on. So, when you’re lost, consider them in a descending order of import.

1- Map God directly guides us through the commands and principles that He so clearly laid out in the Scriptures. Certainly, some portions of God’s Word are not so clear. A few tend to be more cryptic and even impossible to diagnose. But, for the most part, biblical instruction is pretty obvious. When it is, follow it.

2- Heart When you are operating on all spiritual cylinders, you can be pretty discerning. (It’s one of the perks of having the Holy Spirit living inside of you.) We have all experienced that “sense” that something was the right thing to do. But we have also all experienced times when that “sense” backfired. That’s the problem. None of us are always that finely tuned to the Holy Spirit. Quite frankly, there are times that our hearts flat out cannot be trusted. Pain and anger can so cloud our perspective that what feels right is anything but! The writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us that the Word of God “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (4:12). So, to avoid a heartache, always conduct a heart check before you pursue a course that is heart felt.


Word has already denied you, find another counselor! Isaiah writes about the “wise” counselors of Pharaoh giving him “senseless advice” (19:11). So, whenever someone tells me, “Pastor, I know the Bible says that I shouldn’t, but my counselor told me I should,” I simply reply, “Oh, your problem is that you went to see one of Pharaoh’s counselors!” As a fail-safe mechanism, never ask just one counselor. Pick a group. Try five “go-to” individuals, people you respect as spiritual mentors. The group might include a pastor, a small group leader or just friends who are a few steps ahead of you on life’s journey. At any given point, any one of them might be having an off day. But when you ask all five of them the same question, you should get a preponderance of wisdom, enough to get you going the right direction.

4- Events If there isn’t any tension between what the Bible says and what your heart’s telling you, then your spirit is in agreement with God’s Spirit and that’s always a good thing. But, as my Dad used to tell his congregation, “The Spirit of God will never lead a child of God to violate the Word of God to fulfill the will of God.” (My Dad’s pretty wise.)

3- Others When the Bible is silent on a specific circumstance and your heart seems lost on the matter as well, it’s time to bring in the counselors. Keep in mind, though, just like you can’t trust your heart at times, neither can you always trust a counselor’s heart. Always check a counselor’s advice against the Scriptures. Is it possible that a counselor is always being filled with the Spirit of God, that he or she would always give the best possible advice? Well, no. He or she is just as vulnerable to selfishness, pride and pain as we are. So, if you go to a counselor and you are told to follow a path that God’s

In some cases, God supernaturally guides us through extraordinary events. In the Bible, there were times that He guided believers by His audible voice, through a dream or even a miracle--in some pretty impressive ways, to be sure. But, even throughout biblical history, that wasn’t the norm. By the way, God has spoken to me through lightning flashes before, but it’s always been the same message, “It’s a good thing you weren’t closer to that lightning flash!” The point is, never start with number four, or even number three, or even number two. Start at the beginning. El numero uno es muy simple. Open the Bible. If either of your options provides a choice that would be consistent with what you find there, in God’s blueprint for our lives, then follow your heart. If you still can’t figure out what to do, ask the others. If they’re all clueless, flip a coin. But don’t wait for the next crash to get ready. Learn the Bible, guard your heart, find a group and then, and only then, watch for lightning. By the way, did you see the episode of “Lost” where Jack and a few of the others found something kind of weird in the jungle, and just when you thought they were finally going to get some solid leads on what on earth is going on, something really weird happened and you ended up more frustrated and with less information than you had in the middle of last season? So did I.


Sunday services at 5 & 7 pm


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ow the word of the Lord came to Jonah ... saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah set out to flee from the presence of the Lord. And the people of Nineveh believed God. But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my

Do we really want to be closer to God?

by Mark Buchanan, Contributing Writer for Christianity Today

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own country? That is why I fled ... at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. —Jonah 1:1–3; 3:5, 4:12, NRSV Give us a sign. One day, some Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus for a miraculous sign. Impress us, Jesus. Convince us, Jesus. We’ve heard rumors of your sleight-of-hand with water and wine, your conjuring tricks with bread and fish, your banishing stunts with demons and pigs. The word’s out that you’re Messiah: but we demand credentials. Give us a sign. Jesus rebukes them: “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matt. 12:39, NIV). A curious sign, this. Why not the sign, say, of Elijah? Now there was a prophet calling down heaven’s fire, outrunning horses, staring down kings. Why not Isaiah? A towering, glowering man, I picture him, all sinewy muscle and wild-eyed zeal. Why not Daniel? Serene and shrewd in the face of folly and evil, holding tight the truth amid a world glutted with pagan traps and trappings. But Jesus said Jonah: the runt prophet, the rebel prophet, the sulking prophet. Of course, the sign of Jonah is two-fold: it’s an image of Jesus’ dying and rising (Matthew’s emphasis, 12:38-40); and it’s a warning to the Israelites that, though even wicked Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah, they are in danger of refusing one “greater than Jonah” (Luke’s emphasis, 11:29-32). But I wonder. For Jesus to compare himself with Jonah at first offends. Jonah was a rebellious, petty, sullen man, self-serving and self-protecting. His sense of what matters was terribly skewed. But maybe that’s exactly the point: the sign of Jonah is an image, not just of dying and rising, not just of hearing and heeding, but also of incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus coming to be with us, to share in our fallen humanity, to empty himself, to become sin for us. Jesus, just as he identified with us in the stable and on the cross, chose as his mascot the prophet most like you and me. Jonah is us. Those other prophets so free and bold, so daunting and undaunted, so flinty and unflinching they are

larger than life. The story of how God spoke to them, how they spoke to God, how they spoke for God: it’s as intimidating as it is inspiring. Who can equal them? Who can walk astride the earth like Isaiah? Who can command and demand and reprimand with Elijah’s authority? Who can endure the heavy hand of God like Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Hosea? Those prophets are men apart. And then there’s Jonah. See him: hands plowed deep into his pant pockets, shoulders folded down in a perpetual slouch, face cast in a hardened sneer. He complains about the weather. It’s too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry. He complains about the government. He complains about his neighbors. He complains about his church. The music’s loud. The preaching’s dull. The young people leave messes, they’re unruly and irreverent. The services go on and on. He doesn’t complain about his neighbor’s cat: instead, he poisoned it. Isaiah is who we want to be. Jonah is who we are. Jonah is lord of the half-hearted, tribal chieftain of those who want God only on their own terms. I don’t find him attractive: I find him all too familiar. God calls him to rise up, go. He rises up and goes all right: “But Jonah set out to flee from the presence of the Lord” (Jon. 1:3, 10, NRSV). He’s not simply evading the task: he’s fleeing God. And now we touch something in Jonah that is elemental, part of the roots of our humanness: we really don’t want God. For years, I’ve read devotional books and gone to workshops and conferences designed to deepen my life in God. I have an entire shelf of books just on prayer its purposes, its nature, its aims. I have gleaned a litany of techniques for praying with focus and passion. I have learned what to relinquish and what to embrace as I approach prayer and practice it. Reading these books has been an apprenticeship to masters. If I had spent similar time and effort learning, say, the craft of violin-making, I would by now be able to make curvaceous, dark-burnished, sweet-toned instruments that wept or laughed, effortlessly, just to touch them.


But I’m not praying much better. After I had read many of these books, I realized something. The books mostly assumed, and so did I, that I really wanted to get closer to God. The basic conviction behind those who write such books, and those who read them, is that every Christian’s primary stance toward God is Isaiah-like: “Here I am. Send me!” But that is not my primary stance. Nor is it probably yours. My primary stance and yours perhaps is Jonah-like: “But Jonah set out to flee from the presence of the Lord.” Why do Jonahs do that? Jonah had good historical reasons, good personal reasons, for not wanting to go to Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. Assyrians were cruel with bloodthirst, both capricious and calculated in doing evil. Their specialty was sacking and burning. They were a looming threat for the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and within 70 years of Jonah’s ministry would carry Israel into exile. They were not good people. Think of someone who has hurt you, betrayed you, who threatens to devour you. Think, if you can, of someone you hate, or have good reason to. That’s an Assyrian. Jonah was sent to their capital.

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The story of Jonah confirms a dark suspicion we have about God. The suspicion is, God will always ask me to do the thing I least want to do, go to the very last place I desire to go. If I say I won’t go to the prairies or India, God will send me there. If I tell him I hate Bosnians, or Tutsis, or French Canadians, that’s exactly to whom he’ll send me. Let’s state the suspicion in theological terms: God is a hard taskmaster, harvesting where he has not sown, gathering where he has not scattered seed. Maybe, in our bones, most of us fear God in the way we fear cyclones and Cyclopes, tigers and tyrants: not a wisdomgiving fear, but a skittish, nerve-sheering fright. God is out to get us. God wants to send us to the hellish Ninevites, and if we bolt, to loose the hell of storms and swallowing sea beasts upon us. Why, except that he’s a demanding boss? I heard Paul Yonggi Cho speak a few years back. Yonggi Cho is pastor of the largest church in the world. Several years ago, as his ministry was becoming international, he told God, “I will go anywhere to preach the gospel—except Japan.” He hated the Japanese with gut-deep loathing because of what Japanese troops had done to the Korean people, and to members of Yonggi Cho’s own family, during World War II. The Japanese were his Ninevites. But God called him to preach in Japan. Oh, you’re a hard one, harvesting where you have not sown. He went, but he went bitter. The first speaking engagement was to a conference of 1,000 Japanese pastors. He stood up to speak, and what came out of his mouth was this: “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.” And then he broke and wept. He was both brimful and desolate with hatred. At first one, then two, then all 1,000 pastors stood up. One by one they walked up to Yonggi Cho, knelt at his feet, and asked forgiveness for what they and their people had done to him and to his people. As this went on, God changed Yonggi Cho. The Lord put a single message in his heart and mouth: “I love you, I love you, I love you.” Here’s something: God does not look on the outward appearances. He looks at the heart. And sometimes, he calls us to a work we do not want to do in order to reveal our heart to reveal what we really believe, our deepest yearnings. How powerful, anyhow, is the blood of Christ, Reverend Cho? How far does the gospel of peace, the ministry of reconciliation, reach? Can it heal hatred between Koreans and Japanese? Can it make a


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Jew love a Ninevite? Can it make you be reconciled to well, you know who? Maybe that’s the problem. As it turns out, Jonah is not afraid God is too hard. His suspicion, actually, runs in exactly the opposite direction: God is too soft. “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (4:2, NIV). What use is it denouncing murderous Ninevites if they simply can repent and God will show them mercy? What kind of fool, run-amok God would do such a thing? He’s neither tame enough nor tough enough. The portrait of God that emerges from the story of Jonah is a God both too hard and too soft: too hard on us and too soft on our enemies. He’s stern toward his children and indulgent toward strangers. He scolds all the wrong people, pampers all the wrong people. He gives fatted calves to prodigals and not so much as a goat to his dutiful sons. You’ve been teaching Sunday school for 12 years without a break. The only time anyone noticed was when you were sick one Sunday and forgot to phone for a replacement. The Sunday-school supervisor, curt and cold, said she thought you were thoughtful enough to know better than that. The next Sunday, everyone’s astir: a real-estate broker, notorious for his swindling, just converted and baptized, shared a moving testimony. The church got a cake for him and embraced him like a son. It’s hard to follow a God who does those kind of things. It’s hard to obey a God like that. Obey. I used to think Jonah’s central lesson its moral, the nugget to mine for sermons or Sunday school was how important it is to obey God. After all, disobedience is costly for Jonah: a sea storm, a near-drowning, a fish belly. And, in the end, the same unbending command: Go! But I don’t think that’s the story’s main thrust. For one thing, God uses Jonah’s disobedience rather effectively. The reluctant prophet becomes the accidental evangelist. He boards ship with pagan sailors (Continued on page 16...)

The portrait of God that emerges from the story of Jonah is a God both too hard and too soft: too hard on us and too soft on our enemies.


THE TRUE STORY OF SHERI HILL Sheri attends SMILES My name is Sheri Hill. I have been married four years to my husband Brandan. We have three kids: Hailey, Hunter, and Hope. And this is my story... I started attending SMILES in 2002. I had accepted Christ earlier that year and had heard about SMILES through the announcements. It didn’t take long for me to noticed that by getting connected, I began to feel more connected to the church family and the Bible studies. I even noticed the support from my friendship circle began to influence my spiritual growth. At the time I was going through a complete change in my life as I had just made the decision to follow Christ. My lifestyle was onced filled with sex, drugs, drinking, and partying. My boyfriend Brandan and I had a daughter in September 2000. At that time, I was only 18 and Brandan was 20. We argued often. Brandan reached a turning point. He called his grandmother and asked her to find a church for him to attend and she responded by informing him about HDC. However, I did not want anything to do with it because of a bad experience I once had when I was younger in a different church. So he decided to go alone while I was at work. Brandan went to Seven. After the service, he came back and tried to talk to me about how much it meant to him. Pastor Jeremy spoke about being a “winner” rather than a “whiner”. Brandan realize he had to be a winner for his family, and wanted to change the direction we were heading. But I didn’t want to hear about it. He continued to go to church weekly. Then I began to notice changes in him. I would continue to argue and scream, but he wouldn’t fight back. I knew there was something to this. He asked again if I would like to go, and I decided to try it. I went and I loved it! Then Brandan surprised me by asking me to marry him. He first wanted to make sure I was going to follow Christ. Then we declared our decision publicly by being baptized before we got married. We decided to attend the membership and baptism classes. We talked to Pastor Dan about our situation and he lovingly helped us realize that the way we were living was not pleasing to God. As a result of the conversation, we quit living together, moved out of our apartment, and each of us moved back in with our own parents. We made a commitment to God that we would not be intimate with each other before we got married and in return, God blessed us abundantly. Now, our family attends Seven on Sunday nights at 5:00 pm and we both serve during the 7:00 pm time slot. Brandan serves on the security team and I serve in the nursery. It amazing to see how far we’ve come with Christ by our side. Last year I had the opportunity to co-lead a SMILES friendship circle with a friend of mine. And this year I am a servant leader of my own friendship circle. All this is not to say that I don’t still struggle with daily challenges, but I know God will help me work through it and He has everything under control.

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GROUPS SMILES (Statisfied Moms In Life’s Every Situation) Bible Study Thursday from 9:30-11:45am September through May SMILES’ purpose is to prepare moms of all generations to change their worlds for Christ. We use God’s word to train a mom to focus on the priorities in her life such as her relationship with God, her family life, and her ministry. Whether you are a new mom for the first time, have teenagers, or you care for your grandchildren, SMILES is creating a place for moms who are hungry for some encouragement, adult conversation, and insight into God’s Word—the Bible. Each year we grow together through worship, Bible studies, book studies, classes on marriage and family topics, speakers, time with friendship circles of 8 – 10 other moms, support, and prayer. SMILES draws inspiration from Titus 2:4-5 which states, “Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” Childcare is provided for children birth through preschool. Placement in the nursery or children’s program is by reservation only. Both programs fill extremely fast! To obtain program information or a registration packet please contact our registration director, Julia Burke at (760) 2452415 ext. 530 or email at smiles@highdesertchurch.com.


TODAY’S LADIES BELIEVING & SERVING Childcare available on Tuesdays only. Space is limited. TLBS: Monday at 6:15-8:45pm in the chapel TLBS: Tuesday at 9:15-11:45am in the gym

Monday from 7:00- 9:00pm Cost is $30. (New season begins February 5th) God stands ready to free you from your burdens, distress, and anxiety. He wants you free to enjoy a joyous, lifelong, and eternal relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. Will you allow Jesus Christ our Savior to be the owner and master of your life? Saying yes is a Godcalled step to “Surrender.” Surrender is a 13-week class for the individual who desires to yield to God so that He can change his or her life. Come and learn steps that will allow God to take away those obstacles that impede a rich and rewarding relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. Call the church office at (760) 245-2415 for more info.

OUTBACK FAMILIES

Throughout the week. Call Todd Arnett in the church office at 245-2415 for more info or email todd@highdesertchurch.com.

We welcome all ladies ages 18 and over. Don’t forget to email tlbs@ highdesertchurch.com, or call Patti in the church office at (760) 245-2415, ext. 261 for more info. TLBS is now in session. Fall is almost over and winter will soon be among us. For some that causes some sadness. The days are shorter, the leaves fall and--WHAM! Out come the sweaters and jackets. Some people absolutely love change. I, for one, hate change. Maybe that is why the transition from fall to winter makes me feel melancholy. Hmmm, I suspect that the change in season often challenges me to reflect on who I am. Yes, it is true, the change in season sometimes causes us to change our being. Change can make us feel like we’ve lost something. But, keep in mind, losing something isn’t always so bad. Like the change in season, God desires for His children to change. Although He loves us much, He doesn’t let us stay like we are. At TLBS, we find encourage our women to change. We encourage our women to be more like Christ. Oh, and you may have noticed a change in our look and name. Don’t be startled, at the core we are still good’ole TLBS. Now, instead of Training Ladies for Biblical Success, we are Today’s Ladies Believing and Serving. This season we will be studying 1st Peter and also learning how to count on God’s grace, peace, respond responsibly and respect and submit to our authorities. Now wait just a minute! Who wrote this book? Peter? The same impulsive Peter who refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet, then insist that Jesus wash his whole body? Is this the same Peter that in Jesus’ most trying hour, denied that he knew him 3 times? Peter was a flake and a failure. This must be where good change comes in. Jesus saw Peter’s heart, future and purpose. He even gave him a new name to fit that purpose. The Rock! Now, Peter didn’t always act like the Rock, but Jesus knew what was coming. From the time Jesus came into Peter’s life, He began the work of change. He took a plain fisherman and transformed him. With that in mind, change doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Our Lord wants the best for us and we can trust His plan! Remember that we are just pilgrims traveling through this world. We can trust in our Lord’s plan and persevere through all the changes in this place that often feels like a danger zone. Come, we’re saving a place for you this Winter! -Written by Sandy Runnels

SERVING AS ONE

(Bible study for singles 35 and older who have never been married or have lost a loved one through death or divorce) Meets every Friday at HDC at 6:30pm. No childcare available. Call Brenda for more details at (760) 241-3704.

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(Jonah...continued from page 13)

to Tarshish. Jonah’s not interested in these men. He’s avoiding not just God, but everyone. He goes down into the hold of the boat to sleep. But God sends a storm. The sailors decent men try everything to save the boat from going down. Then, when all that fails, they wake Jonah up and ask him to pray. That doesn’t work either. They cast lots to find out who’s causing the trouble, and wouldn’t you know? the lot falls on Jonah. “Who are you?” they ask. “What do you do? Where do you come from?” (Often pagans have to force us to identify ourselves.) Jonah answers, with what sounds like staggering smugness, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land” (1:9). They keep trying, with all strength, courage, ingenuity, to save the ship, themselves, Jonah, but nothing doing. So, at Jonah’s bidding, they toss him overboard. Earlier, these men prayed earnestly to their own gods (1:5). But in our last glimpse of them, we see their boat, their faces, blur and darken as the water surges up above Jonah’s sinking body. They fear and make sacrifices and vows to Jonah’s God, the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land. God uses Jonah’s disobedience, openly confessed (1:10), as an opportunity to reveal himself to pagan sailors. God is not interested in our obedience so much for his sake. He can just as well use our disobedience. Obedience is for our own good. But in the end, obedience by itself is not much good. Jonah, under compulsion, finally does the will of God: trudges off to Nineveh, preaches as he’s told. He is obedient. But he’s more miserable in his obedience than in his disobedience. In the ocean’s depths, in the fish’s belly, in his disobedience, Jonah feared death and prayed for deliverance (2:7). But under the wilted vine, with Nineveh saved, in his obedience, Jonah longs for death, and prays for God to deal it swiftly and unflinchingly (4:3). “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey.” Jonah didn’t write that song. Jonah doesn’t sing that song. Jonah hates that song. Is God solely, or mostly, interested in our obe-

dience? No. There is something deeper down than that. Obedience, actually, can harden us to God more than disobedience can. If you doubt it, compare the older son with the younger one in the parable of the prodigal; compare the Pharisees and religious rulers with the tax collectors and prostitutes in the stories about Jesus. Or just look at Jonah. Obedience by itself can make our heart withered and bitter and barren as a husk. What is God mostly interested in? Strangely, anti-climactically, it has to do with concerns: the objects, the depth, the rightness of, the right to, our concerns—and his. No sign will be given to you except the sign of Jonah. But is this sign not also God’s extravagant, unbroken concern for both the evil and the complacent, for Ninevites as well as Jonahs, for prostitutes as well as Pharisees, for my enemy as well as for me? I’m just old enough to remember that at one time, not long ago really, the central task for the faithful preacher of Jonah was to convince hard-bitten, science-bred parishioners that there are fish in the sea big enough to swallow a man whole, and to explicate just exactly how a man could survive intact three days inside such a fish. The main hermeneutic for the book was not theology, but ichthyology—the scientific study of fish. So now let me confess my secret heresy: the fish question is beside the point. The real puzzle of Jonah—its perpetual source of wonder and doubt—is this: why is God so deeply concerned about, not just Nineveh, but this man Jonah? This sulking, griping, stingy, self-absorbed little man—why him? Why would God pursue him to the ends of the earth, to the bottom of the sea, to the outskirts of Nineveh? I bought a rhododendron bush two summers ago. I paid $8.99—a cut rate, because it was well past planting season, and the plant’s leaves had a blight, a charred brittleness at their edges. But the earth around here is endlessly fertile, and I figured it would do fine. I was right. I planted the rhododendron at the front of my yard, and it flourished. The leaves turned a waxy dark green, and the next spring it flamed bright with pink-red flowers. A burning bush. I live in a cul-de-sac that’s perfect for playing road hockey: flat, wide, little traffic. Teenag-

ers from all over the place descend on the street on summer evenings and have noisy, tussling hockey games. One morning, after the neighborhood teens had been playing road hockey the evening before, I went out to water my rhododendron. I looked down and saw that a large branch from the bush had been broken off, leaving be hind ragged edges. I picked up the branch, and a wave of bitterness and anger came over me. Should I phone the city, I wondered, and have hockey banned on my street? Should I go out when those teenagers return this evening, and scold and threaten them? “Mark,” the Lord seemed to say to me, “do you have any right to be angry?” “I do.” But the Lord said, “That’s just a cut-rate bush that you neither made nor tended. You merely planted it, and it grew. But these boys are my creation, made in my image. Should I not be concerned about them?” Should God not be concerned about Nineveh, or New York, or Duncan, British Columbia? Should he not be concerned about teenagers playing road hockey, breaking bushes? Should he not be concerned about smug, sullen prophets? Should he not be concerned about middle-class, middle-aged pastors who stew over broken rhododendrons? Should he, plain and simple, just not be concerned? More and more, I see my whole view of God depends on how I answer that. No sign will be given to you except that of the prophet Jonah. Mark Buchanan is pastor of the New Life Community Baptist Church, Duncan, British Columbia. This article first appeared in the November 15 issue of Christianity Today. Used by permission, Christianity Today 2006.


ISRAEL & JORDAN STUDY TOUR Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to step back into the Biblical world. Pastor Kurt Thielen will be leading this tour that will explore the lands of Israel and Jordan in May of 2007. If you are interested in learning more about this experience, call (760) 2452415 ext. 240. SUPPORT GROUP FOR GRANDPARENTS A group for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. For more details please call Allen and Beth Dillon at (760) 240-3246.

HDC MEN’S CONFERENCE (AGAINST THE GRAIN) Men! Mark your calendars for November 17th-19th for another weekend at Pinecrest Christian Conference Center (near Lake Arrowhead). Lodge accommodations are still available for $120. Register at the Island today.

CHILDREN’S PROGRAMS Creation Station (infant through 2 years old), north side of auditorium during the weekend services. Noah’s Ark Park (3 years through kindergarten), south side of auditorium during the weekend services. Power Surge (1st-4th grade), in the gym during the weekend services. MERGE (5 & 6th grade) Now at all Harbor services in room T-3 & T-4. JR. HIGH Jr. High, Saturday at 4:30pm & 6:30pm in T-1 and T-2 & Sunday at 11:45am. HIGH SCHOOL FUEL, Saturday at 4:30pm & 6:30pm & Sunday at 11:45am in the chapel. ADULTS SEVEN COMMUNITY, Sunday at 5pm & 7pm in the auditorium. (1st-6th grade program now available in the gym during the 5pm service)

It’s a perfect time to purchase Christmas gifts. Come join us at the 9th annual craft faire this winter season.

Left: Guest Comedian- Michael Jr. Right: Guest Speaker- Myles Gentzkow

ADULTS HARBOR COMMUNITY, Saturday at 4:30 & 6:30pm, and Sunday at 8:15, 10 & 11:45am SENIORS FRIENDSHIP CLASS, Sunday school for retirement age at 8am in the chapel. For more info on these ministries call the church office at (760) 2452415 or visit highdesertchurch.com


Name: Cheryl Markowitz Occupation: Administrative Assistant

THE SEX TALK

Ministry Role: ABS Leader

Studies tell us that only 10 to 15 percent of junior high and high school students receive positive, healthy, value-centered sex education at home.

Favorite Ministry Role: I love it when someone asks a question and one of my student leaders or another girl in the group steps up and answers the question and helps the other girl understand what the Bible has to say about her question.

by Jim Burns, Ph.D.

Name: Oscar Felix Occupation: Student/ Security Guard Ministry Experience: Two years. Ministry Role: Jr. High Tribe Elder Favorite Ministry Memory: Interacting with the kids at Tribes is most rewarding. I love their honesty, openness, and ability to make me laugh.

When is comes to teenage sexuality, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is even though they are in the minority, thousands of teenagers are taking seriously the biblical mandate to refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage. The bad news is that far too few parents are stepping up as the primary influence in their children’s sex education. Studies tell us that only 10 to 15 percent of junior high and high school students receive positive, healthy, value-centered sex education at home. I recently spoke to 400 parents on the subject of teaching our children about sex. I asked the parents, “How many of you received positive, healthy sex education at home?” Eight people raised their hands! They hadn’t received sex education from their parents and they were passing that silence on to the next generation. Most young people base their decisions about sexual activity on three factors. The first is good old peer pressure. When a teenager lacks a strong moral and spiritual base, the pressure to conform to the world’s standards is just too strong. Few of us have strong moral fiber innately built into us. Someone has to take the time—sometimes lots of time—to instill a child with a sense of morality. The second factor is emotional neediness. Show me a young person with a low view of themselves and an extreme desire to be accepted by their peers and you have a young person who can be fooled into instant intimacy and easily seduced sexually.

We Want You! If you are interested in investing in the lives of students, please contact us at (760) 2452415 ext. 261/262

Studies on both the liberal and conservative side of sex education tell us that kids often make sexual decisions based on a lack of information. Today’s young people are bombarded with hundreds of sexual images a day. Yet Christian parents often spend too much time telling their kids that sex can lead to AIDS or pregnancy and far too little time helping their teens understand their sexuality from a healthy, biblical perspective. Our best defense against these three factors is God’s Word. Lay a spiritual foundation for sexual purity early and reinforce it often. Teach a biblical view of sexuality that helps your kids understand that God created our sexuality and sees it as very good (Genesis


2:18-25; Genesis 1:26-27). Help them understand that the reason God gives strong instruction on the sins of adultery and fornication is because he wants the best for his children and their future marriages (Exodus 20:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:3). Don’t be afraid to challenge your kids with the powerful words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, which teaches us that we are to refrain from sexual immorality because our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are to honor God with our bodies. Parents must talk about all of the issues of sexuality with their children, but they can’t miss providing the spiritual foundation that will ultimately produce the fruit of purity in their children’s lives. Printed by permission of HomeWord. For additional information on HomeWord, visit www. homeword.com or call 800-397-9725.

Jr. High (Spiritual Gifts)

During a time of life when students feel like they can’t get anything right, it can be good to know that God has gifted you.

FUEL/ High School (Radical Jesus)

RENOWN ‘06 THANK YOU!

Big thanks to everyone who was a part of this Fall’s Renown event. It was a complete success and we look forward to what will happen next Fall with Renown ‘07.

High School November 10th-12th- LA Service Project November 19th- Super Sunday November 29th- Reunion December 20th- Reunion December 27th- Christmas Break Junior High November 28th- Tribal Council December 12th- Christmas Project

Tribes meet Tuesday nights at HDC from 7pm-8:15pm.

ABS groups meet Wednesday nights in homes from 7pm9pm.

During Jesus’ ministry on earth he said some pretty amazing things. From “gouging eyes out,” to “I didn’t come to bring peace.” What did Jesus really mean?


Pastor Frank Mercer

Dr. Frank Mercer, known through the years as “Pastor Frank” or simply “PF,” continues to be a faithful ambassador of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His clear and practical messages from God’s Word have encouraged people in their walk with Christ for seven decades. PF and his wife, MaryAnn, who now live in Oelwein, Iowa, pray every day for HDC, our staff and our mission. Connections is pleased to share PF’s insights from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, excerpts from PF’s devotional book, “Feasting on Philippians.”

FEASTING ON PHILIPPIANS

PART 10 of a SERIES Focus passage: Philippians 1:2 Scripture reading: Ephesians 2:1-10

Grace and peace are two very basic and essential ingredients for living a Christ centered life. They are abundantly provided by God. The Bible tells us that “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (II Corinthians 9:8). God provides strength for His children all the way to heaven and each of us will need large amounts of His grace to guard our soul and share our witness during the realities of daily living. It is true, “we need a great big God!” And our God is bigger than our greatest need!

3)The Specific Grace of God

Paul could say, “By the grace of God I am what I am” – I Corinthians 15:10. We must realize that it is God’s intention to make His children the object of His favor. He desires to honor us, provide for us and make life beautiful for us! Believe it! Until you do, you will neither appreciate or appropriate the grace available to you. Here are some specifics God’s grace will do: - It has provided our salvation from guilt to glory through grace. - It has justified us freely in God’s sight (Romans 3:24). - It builds us up spiritually (Acts 20:32). - It allows us to have a proper estimate of self and others (Romans 12:3). - It allows our daily conduct to be acceptable in God’s eyes (II Corinthians 1:12).

1)The Saving Grace of God

The only grace available to an unsaved person is saving grace. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). Before you can experience God’s grace you must hear the “good news” of the gospel, for that alone is God’s power to salvation. The word grace comes from a Greek word that means “gifts” – something we have received which we did not earn and do not deserve. The Bible teaches us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We deserve to die! “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Man’s greatest need is to have the guilt and condemnation of sin removed and God’s grace does that. His grace is simply God doing for us that which we do not deserve and cannot do for ourselves–He saves us!

2)The Sustaining Grace of God

“May the God of all grace... perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.” Because of the grace of God, Jesus Christ is a soul-saver, a problem-solver, a burden-bearer and a life-mender. The reason I urge you to the original source–God! It cannot be purchased at any supermarket, it cannot be earned, nor will you gain it through academic pursuits. It is available freely to all who are spiritually alive in Christ. If we make choices independently of God (trying to run our life in our own strength) and make a mess of life: job, marriage, friends, school–however we have failed–God will wait until we see the need of His grace and call “help” ... then you become a candidate for His divine assistance and learn “He’s all I need!”

1. What does Ephesians 2:8-9 teach us about God’s grace? 2. What does I Peter 5:10 teach us about God’s grace? 3. State two ways in which God’s grace impacts your life today.


REASONS TO JOIN A GROUP THIS FALL Here are some great reasons to join a small group: • • • • •

Grow in your knowledge and application of Scripture Deepen your relationship with fellow believers Experience encouragement and support in life’s difficulties Learn how to pray for and reach out to your oikos Experience the joy of serving and helping others

If you are interested in joining a group, call the church office at 245-2415, ext. 240 and speak with Tim Wheeler, Pastor to Adults.

THE JOURNEY- SPIRITUAL FORMATION On Wednesday evenings, HDC is hosting a new growth event called Journey. Encompassing an array of discipleship events for kids and adults, this Journey will intentionally encourage a greater understanding of God. See our ad on page 20.

OVERCOMERS OUTREACH GRIEFSHARE

If you’ve lost a family member or close friend, you’ve found there are not many who understand the pain you feel. We understand what you are experiencing and want to offer you comfort and encouragement during this difficult time. Through videos, small groups, and your own personal reflection, God will lead you on your personal journey from mourning to joy. Call Kay at (760) 949-7226 or Stephanie at (760) 559-9600 for more info.

DIVORCECARE

Let us help you in the journey after divorce. Meets on Tuesdays in T-1 & 2 at 6:30pm. Call Marcia at (760) 596-0295 for more info.

LIVING COURAGEOUSLY (Resumes in January)

We provide support for those who are chronically ill. We meet the 2nd & 4th Tuesday of each month in the chapel at 6:30pm. Call the church office at (760) 2452415 for more info. Childcare is provided through 6th grade at no charge.

A Christ centered substance recovery group for men & women. Meets on Fridays at 7pm in T-2.

BEFORE YOU DIVORCE

Don’t let the emotional intensity of a marriage crisis drive your decision. Before deciding whether to divorce or stay together, get help. Contact David at (760) 245-2415 to find out more information about this group.

FORGIVEN & SET FREE

This is an eight week Bible study and support group for women who have had an abortion and are struggling to overcome feelings of shame, regret, anxiety, and depression. The group will meet off-campus and confidentiality will be maintained. Call Ginger Stolp at (760) 242-7343 or (760) 559-4887 for more info.

PURE L.I.F.E. FOR MEN

This group for men incorporates the use of restoration materials, spiritual disciplines, small group accountability, and prayer as a means to help men renew from a life of inappropriate sexual behavior. This program is committed to strict confidentiality. This group meets Tuesday evenings at 7pm off campus. Spouses meet in T-3 & T-4. Call Steve at (760) 265-4317 for more info.


BAPTISM / DECEMBER

Are you interested in being baptized at HDC? We have two baptism classes that you need to attend. The first class will give you info about the baptism and how to develop a personal testimony. The second is spent video taping your testimony. The first baptism class will be on Dec. 17th at 10am in the chapel and the second class will be on Dec. 24th at 10am in the chapel. The classes are in preparation for the Jan. 13th & 14th baptisms. Both classes are required. If you have any questions call the church office at 245-2415.

PRAYER CHAIN

If you are interested in being a part of the prayer chain, or if you have a prayer request, call Karen Sanchez at (760) 242-0273 or email it to prayer@highdesertchurch.com.

HOMESCHOOLERS

Home teachers meet the first Monday of every month at 6:30pm in room 109 (no children please). For more info on activity days and field trips, contact Karen Sanchez at (760) 242-0273.

WELCOME MINISTRY

Join others in the joy of welcoming people to our campus and services on the weekends. If you are interested in contributing a few hours a few times a month as a greeter or usher, please consider being a part of Harbor’s Welcome Ministry. For more info about being a greeter, please call Christine Potts at (760) 955-6158, or if you are interested in being an usher, please call Ann Lind at (760) 964-9441.

EMAIL FOR MEN

If you’re interested in receiving email from Band of Brothers (men’s ministry of HDC) and other great stuff (not junk mail), email Tim@highdesertchurch.com, and put subscribe and your name in the subject line.

HORN PLAYERS NEEDED

The Harbor Worship Arts team will be staging an orchestra for the upcoming Christmas season. This will be the first time such a performance has been done at HDC. In other words, we need you! Auditions are being held for all instruments, including woodwinds, strings, brass and percussion. Ages 12 and up are welcome, but material will be geared toward an intermediate skill level, so beginners are not recommended. If you’re interested, call Melanie at ext. 204, email mholbrook@highdesertchurc h.com or visit our website and click on Ministries.

The Harbor Worship Arts team is looking for trombone and trumpet players. Requirements: at least 17 years of age, available each Thursday night for rehearsal and one weekend a month. An audition is required to determine skill level. If you’re interested, call Melanie at (760) 245-2415 ext. 204 or email mholbrook@hig hdesertchurch.com.


NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION U.S. Postage PAID

San Dimas, CA Permit No. 410

HDConnections/ November 2006: Issue 40  

Issue 40. A publication of High Desert Church in Victorville, CA. Designed by Roberto Comparan.

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