Pass the Sackcloth, Please

By Cathy Luchetti

Photo by Miguel Carraça on Unsplash

Photo by Miguel Carraça on Unsplash

So Hezekiah prayed before God. He wore sackcloth and ashes, and prostrated himself and God was pleased. He tore down the high places, and God was pleased. He glorified God and praised Him, and God was pleased. The blessings Continue reading

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The Intermediate State

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 2.55.43 PMAs we reflect back on the Solano sermon series Heaven: The Land That Stretches Afar,  many of us have been challenged in our assumptions and received teaching on Heaven, and have given ourselves permission to enjoy imagining that land. Something that these sermons could only briefly touch on was the present heaven or Intermediate State – the place where Christians go when they die. So lets take a moment to think about heaven as it is right now.

Perfection is so hard to imagine, because in the present everything is shadowed by brokenness. Apart from the person of Jesus Christ and the outworking of his life on earth, nothing on this planet has been unstained with sin. This is why the present heaven is so hard to grasp. It feels unearthly, lofty, and removed from the life we know. How can we imagine eternal life if it is a kind of life we have never known?

Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven takes the ethereal, nondescript version that most of us think of as “heaven” and brings it down to earth, so to speak. The present, intermediate heaven, the spiritual realm where God’s full presence and faithful people currently dwell, is described as a finite, actual, physical place. This is a place, a land even, where those who know Jesus as their greatest treasure go to be with him and his other followers in a bodily reality when they die. Jesus himself calls this place “Paradise”, which, to Jews steeped in the Pentateuch would have echoed of Eden—a garden, ground to work, trees to eat from, relationships without sin or shame, and God himself walking in the shade­. Indeed, since the days of Adam and Eve no human being has experienced life in such a way. However, Jesus reassures us that he means to give us life, and give it abundantly (John 10:10), the fullness of which we only know in part, in starts and glimpses, as in a mirror dimly. “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Cor. 13:12)

Admittedly, Alcorn’s description of the intermediate state comes off feeling somewhat lackluster. The reason for this is that he is intent on emphasizing that it is not the final, ultimate reality for believers. On Earth, we are to wait fervently and expectantly for Jesus’s return and the final consummation of the kingdom of God. If we die before that’s come, we will wait with fullness of joy, expectant and utterly hopeful, free from the finitude and infirmities of fleshly existence, in full communion with the Father and the fellowship of the saints, both with those near and dear and with those from ages past. However, a new reality is breaking in and is not yet complete. The prayers of the saints, the timeless witness of martyred believers, and the sacrifice of every Christian in the proclamation of the good news has drawn us nearer to the Day (Rev. 6:11, Rev. 8:1-4, Matt. 24:14). The New Heavens and the New Earth is a future reality, as sure as Jesus’s punctured side, and a reality towards which we are speeding every day.

The day is nigh, but not yet come! What a grace it is that we get to be home with the Lord if we die before he returns. Paul affirms this, declaring “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Phil. 1:23), and again, “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8)

But until that day, let us all act and re-enact Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Once we die, life as we have known it will be over. We cannot die again, we cannot speak the gospel again, and we cannot make intercession for the hurting world around us. We will have passed from it.

What will you do while you still have breath, knowing that death for you, Christian, is only entering into the fullness of life?

“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past.

Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

CT Studd

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Fasting | A Prayerful Practice

Bennett Gibson helps us prepare to fast on Good Friday

spiritual-fastingHave you ever tried to fast? How hard was it to accomplish? I’ve fasted many times in my life (sometimes unsuccessfully), and I can say it’s not easy. To be honest, I can get a bithangry. But before I share more about my own experiences, let’s look at the actual spiritual practice of fasting.

What is fasting?

The dictionary defines fasting as, “to abstain from all or some kinds of food or drink, especially as a religious observance”. Through a Christian lens, whilst there are many forms of fasting in the Bible: individually and as a group, private and in public, consistent or occasional, etc., it is commonly associated with giving up food for a certain period of time for a specific purpose. Continue reading

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Learning Rhythms of Rest

This post is a follow-up from Women’s Retreat, where we talked about how to deal with the unrest in our souls.

Scripture teaches us that we are to have(C) Luke Cheeser periods of work and rest, from the beginning when God rests after creation (Genesis 2:1-3), throughout the Old Testament as the Israelites were commanded to practice Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11), and demonstrated by Jesus as he and his disciples retreated to rest (Mark 6:30-32).

How can we learn to incorporate rest into our overly-stuffed modern lives?

We’ll look at three questions: Continue reading

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Bible Reading Plans

By Andrew Hoffman

gfgm2hcq92s-aaron-burdenHere are some ideas for planning your Bible reading. Please post your thoughts and plans in the comment section below. As you consider which one is best for you at this time, remember the goal isn’t ultimately to finish the Bible or keep up with the reading plan. The goal is to allow the scripture to speak into your life, to shape your thinking, your desires, your values and your approach to challenges and opportunities. The goal is for you to know God more intimately through Jesus Christ and to live in partnership with him.

Reading plans help us because they remove the potentially debilitating question of what to read next. They can also motivate us by giving us a goal to achieve. However, since the ultimate goal is to know God it might be that in some seasons you’ll want to ditch the reading plan and just sit with scriptures that will most minister to the soul.

One more preliminary thought: some get bogged down in reading the Bible because they don’t have a clear understanding of its overall message, its different genres and how to read it for nourishment. If this is you, I highly recommend our Gospel Academy course entitled “Bible.” You also might find help on The Bible Project website listed below.

READING PLANS IDEAS:

M’Cheyne’s Bible Reading Calendar. This popular plan has you reading four chapters a day, two in “secret” and two for “family.” Read the Old Testament once in a year and the New Testament twice. Online calendar

D.A. Carson. A modified version of the M’Cheyne plan with brief commentary. Daily online version

One Year Bible. Various publishers offer a Bible reformatted according to days of the year with readings from various books of the Bible for each day. One Year Bibles remove the hassle of flipping back and forth between sections. Here’s one.

Bible Sections. The Bible is divided into Pentateuch, Historical Writings, Poetic Books, Prophets and New Testament. Each section is moderately similar in length. Read a chapter from each section every day (so five chapters a day). The variety is great but you’ll need to carefully  manage five bookmarks. (I have used this plan multiple times and love it)

Alphabetical. Read through the Bible taking the books in alphabetical order at whatever pace you choose. 3.25 chapters a day gets you through the Bible in one year. This plan is great because it is simple to follow, it provides variety as you bounce back and forth through the Bible and you get to immerse yourself in one book at a time. This is my current plan.

Bible Apps. The Bible Project, YouVersion, Bible Gateway, ESV CrossWay, Olive Tree are all popular apps that have reading plan options. The Bible Project has numerous resources online to help you get into reading the Bible.

More Plans. If that is not enough, check out this list for more ideas!

Are there any reading plans you have found helpful? Comment below.

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A Light from the Shadows

By Dakota Dietz

The Aurora Borealis, Iceland

The Aurora Borealis, Iceland

A few months ago my wife Meagan and I were flying overnight to Iceland on our honeymoon. We were on a mission to catch even a moment of the famed Aurora Borealis, but God surprised us and put on a show we’ll never forget right outside the plane windows. We watched through the tiny porthole as the dancing green and white waves cascaded down, with Orion standing by and stars shooting through. It wasn’t quite a vision of the throne room (Revelation 4), but I imagine we experienced something similar to those who have approached the throne of God, ending up with their nose on the ground in awe.

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The Unlikely Adventures of the Searchers & the Misfits

Jackie Knapp, Miguel Castuera, Laura Humphrey & the Solano Kids

Solano Church is blessed with some very talented children and young people. This Christmas we wanted to create something with them that would help them communicate the meaning of Christmas in a fresh, imaginative way… And so began The Unlikely Adventures of the Searchers and the Misfits.poster-the-unlikely-adventures-of-the-searchers-and-the-misfits

The Bay Area is full of creative, culturally clued in people, and this short film hopes to engage with this part of the world. But it is a gift from the Solano Kids to all of us: to the performance artists and the microbiologists, to the jaded and the downcast, to the seen-its, heard-its and done-its, to the joyful, the fearful and the humbugs, to the hurting and the lonely, to those who love Jesus and to those who don’t know him, don’t trust him, or just plain don’t like him.

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Standing in the Gap

Dakota Dietz

standing-in-the-gap2However the election has affected our communities and hearts, something we may all agree on is that it has brought into focus the vast cultural divide in our nation. This is not a political commentary, but a personal reflection and confession on how I have engaged with the different cultures that have clashed so bitterly in this season.

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5 Reminders for Election Day

By Brent Kompelien6261650491_0cd6c701bb_b

This election is probably making you anxious about the future, frustrated with the political process, or disillusioned with our nation’s leaders. How should we respond? I want to remind us of a few important truths that should set us apart as gospel-believing Christians. I pray that these reminders help us “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). Solano is a politically diverse congregation, but the following things unite us as brothers and sisters in Christ.

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Of Parsnips & Pouring Into

Laura Humphrey

The Humble Parsnip

The Humble Parsnip

My mother-in-law wasn’t wild about the idea when Peter, my now husband, and I started dating. She had fair reasons, one of which that I was not a believer. As her and her husband work in ministry, they had seen this story before, and often the outcome had been the believer in the relationship falling away from faith rather than the unbeliever stepping into it.

This woman did not fit my perfectly put-together, touchy-feely, overly-smiley Pastor’s Wife Pigeonhole. She’s a cuticle chewing, no-nonsense engineer whom no one would dare describe as touchy-feely, even by English standards.

Needless to say, when I met her as Peter’s Unsuitable Girlfriend I found myself intimidated.

Intimidated and sweaty.
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