You, Me, and Peter

Peter, a Disciple of Jesus, has quite a story. He was a fisherman, known as Simon, and in Matthew 4:18-22 we read that Jesus called him to be a “fisher of men.” For the next 3+ years, Peter walked with Jesus and saw, as well as experienced, some great things. He was there when Jesus performed many miracles. He was with the other disciples in a boat, and they saw Jesus walking on water. At first, they thought it was a ghost, but Peter called out to Jesus and said that if it was Him, to tell him to walk out to meet Him. Jesus called him out of the boat, so Peter got out, and for a brief time walked on top of the water! Imagine living that life!

Peter was also the one that Jesus said would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed (Matt 26:34-35). Peter declared it would never happen, but in fact, it did happen (John 18:15 -18 and 25-27), and immediately the rooster crowed. Peter was there when Jesus was crucified, died and was carried away to the tomb.

How do you think Peter felt seeing his friend, the One he knew as the Messiah, the One who had performed great miracles, the One he spent day after day traveling with and learning from, go through what He went through and ultimately die? How do you think he felt knowing that when the pressure was on, he denied even knowing Jesus? I know how I would have felt. Absolutely terrible! I would have felt condemnation, stress, embarrassment, and more. How could I have turned my back on my friend? How could I ever deny knowing the One who impacted my life the way Jesus did? Why did I do that? Personally, I know there are days I feel bad over decisions I made 30 years ago, and I still fight to “put them behind me.”

Of course, we know that Jesus resurrected and spent another 40 days on the earth before ascending into heaven. During those 40 days, He appeared to over 500 people and confirmed to them that He had indeed risen, as He said He would. One of the encounters Jesus had with Peter is found in John 21:15-17. We read here that three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, and three times Peter confirmed his love for Jesus. The love and grace of Jesus restored Peter by asking him the same question three times (once for each time Peter denied Jesus), and in verse 19 Jesus tells Peter to “Follow Me.” Jesus showed Peter that His original call, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men,” was not aborted because Peter made a mistake. He was saying to Peter that the call of God is not placed on us because we are perfect but because we are chosen! In verses 20-22, Jesus is telling Peter that the call on his life was not connected to what John was called to do. Peter’s task was to simply follow Jesus and work on being the best that he could be, within that call. And Peter went on to accomplish great things for the Kingdom of God!

Too often, we allow our mistakes from the past (mistakes from yesterday, last year, or 30 years ago) to stop us from moving forward in what God has asked us to do. We feel like our mistakes disqualify us, and we allow that feeling of condemnation to derail the thing God wants to do in us and through us. We get excited about what God wants us to do, and then we make a mistake, feel terrible, and “leave the call.” Even Peter went back to being a fisherman (John 21:1-14) after he saw the resurrected Jesus. I can only imagine that Peter was still dealing with the condemnation.

Look, we all make mistakes, but the great thing about God is that He never sees a mistake and says “WOW…I didn’t see that coming!” Nope, God knew we would blow it before He called us, and He still called us. That means He has a plan! Don’t let your past take you off track. Experience the Love, Grace, and Mercy that Peter experienced from Jesus, and go change the world!

Pastors Kevin and Christy Messner, along with their two youngest children, moved to Mesa, Arizona on October 1, 2009. Within two weeks they began attending Living Word Bible Church, which quickly became “home.” Both accepted Christ in early 1993 and spent 16+ years in the same church in Minnesota. Hearing the true message of Grace at Living Word has been a life-changing experience for them and has caused tremendous growth in their personal and spiritual lives. They were ordained as Pastors at Living Word on March 18, 2018. Pastor Kevin is involved as a leader in the Team Teach program, is a facilitator in the Next Steps program, and teaches in Band of Brothers (Men’s Bible Study) and LIVE @ 5 on Sunday evenings. Pastor Christy teaches in the Children’s ministry, serves as a leader in Extraordinary Sisters (Women’s Bible Study), and assists with guest speakers. While we are all called to win the lost, Pastors Kevin and Christy feel a burden to “save the saved,” which they see as helping Christians grow in their walk with God and helping Living Word accomplish the vision of “Growing A Family That Experiences Every Promise of God.”

Discovering Your Authentic Identity

God knew you before you knew yourself. This means He knows you better than you know yourself. God also predestined you. He foreknew you and He planned you to be conformed. You might ask, “Conformed to what?” To be conformed into the likeness and image of His Son, Jesus. As a believer, you are conformed into Jesus’ likeness. Romans 12:2 (NET) says it like this: “Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” What I God trying to accomplish? God has conformed you to Christ because that’s who you were created to be when you were born again. The greatest you has been transformed.

Here’s the problem. Most Christians are trying to change themselves to become more Christ-like. They have taken the sinful Nature and started making adjustments to try and make it look prettier. Make-up, do the hair, maybe a whole new wardrobe. But the sinful nature is being corrupted by deceitful desires, (Ephesians 4:22 NIV) whatever will you do? I know, try harder. Stop having low self-esteem, stop that addiction, and quit thinking about that nasty stuff. There, all better? Oops, fell off the wagon, try harder next time. Christians are trying to fix the old when actually the old is just better off left in the grave where he belongs. The old you is not you. The old you was never you. The Bible says the old you was crucified in Christ. We are to put off the old self…and according to Ephesians 4:24 (NIV) put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. The new you is complete in Christ. Complete. Wait, what? Yeah, the reason you struggle is because you have probably followed the wrong road in your attempt to grow. You’ve worked so hard, alas, only to find out it didn’t really work. Are you ready for a clearer path to your identity? I have a surprise for you. The person who makes mistakes and feels quite like a failure, rejected and condemned, yeah, that’s not actually you. You’re operating out of the old self again. It’s a habit. I know. Do I have your attention now? Be patient, the answers are coming.

People are all trying to find themselves. Then we think, “Wait, in this book am I going to lose who I truly am as I recognize my conformed identity?” You’re not going to lose yourself; you’re going to find yourself. In this book, we are going to teach you how to find yourself in Christ, as opposed to finding yourself by backpacking across Europe. Everyone is off trying to find out who they are. “I just want to discover who I am.” We all do. But how do you accomplish that? How you approach your goal matters. You will either find yourself successful in reaching the goal or waste a great deal of time heading in the wrong direction.

In this book, we are on an adventure discovering who you are, but we are going to do it differently than everyone else. We are going to discover who we are through Christ. Sometimes we are concerned with being transformed or conformed, because it doesn’t sound like we will be authentic. Truth be told, God’s goal is to get you back to exactly who you were created to be when you were spiritually born, not the abused and tragedy-scarred person that looks at you in the mirror. There is no need to worry that you will have to let go of who you are. You’re not letting go of who you are. On the contrary, you’re discovering who you really are. In this, the scars and brokenness are attached to the old you. Who you thought you were is not actually who you are…

…The problem is we have bought into the idea that when we get born again we have to start fixing ourselves. Truth be told, you’re perfect. Hebrews 10:14 (NIV) For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The quest isn’t to restore the old you like you were some old beaten car. Instead, we have to realize we are already new, a new car. The quest then is to truly discover all of the new car, and at the same time, stop driving the old car. This is the transformation process. The new you doesn’t need to be restored, instead, it needs to be revealed. Revealing it happens through the process of growing in the word of God, seeing Christ’s glory. Why? It is because we are to be conformed to the image of Christ. And Christ is in us, the hope of glory. There is much to say later about all of this, but I want to be certain you are introduced from the beginning that you are already new. So our becoming happens through the revelation of Christ…

…The reality is, no matter your age, you are becoming something. Every age that you are, you are becoming. When you wake up tomorrow, you are becoming. You are becoming either better or worse. You are becoming. Make no mistake. And, God has information and wisdom to help you become who He designed you to be.

Now, the world will offer you information on how to become something that you’re not. That’s the wrong information. God says, “Don’t be conformed to the pattern of the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The becoming happens in the language that the mind processes. The mind communicates in a language. It communicates in knowledge. God teaches that to transform the mind we need new knowledge. You may ask, “The knowledge of what?” The mind needs the knowledge of the likeness and image of His Son, Jesus. What if we currently have the wrong knowledge of the image of Christ? We would then have the wrong image of ourselves. Everyone has a different image and a different knowledge of who Christ is. This wrong image is created by the different things we hear, input from different sources, and the world’s perception of Christ. Add all these up and it has created an image of who Christ is to you. That image may need some tweaking. Or it may be altogether wrong…

Jesus wants us to seek him…

…“If you want to know me, you better dig. Don’t just assume cuz you heard me talk for a few seconds that you know me.” What was He saying? He was saying, “Dig!” Search for knowledge of who Jesus is. Do you want to find out who Jesus is? It’s not exposed on the surface, it’s not plain in its appearance and the Bible is a great big book. I’m here to tell you the Bible is a great big book of Jesus and if you want to find who He really is, you need to dig. You can’t just listen to what the world says about Jesus, you gotta get in that book and dig. If we want to find Jesus, we gotta dig. Let’s go digging…

Excerpt from Pastor Jason’s new book
Discovering Your Authentic Identity
Purchase here.

Women Teaching in the Church

One of the most asked questions in church is, “Why do you let women speak in church?” I know this to be true, I have a church. Still, if it is asked so often, then the answer should be given, and believers should all be armed with the answer. I want to arm you with the sword and shield you need to answer what is so often posed.

It’s interesting that the question is being asked so often. When it’s asked, it’s because someone is trying diligently to be obedient to God’s idea of church, and not have our morality weakened by changing cultural and social norms. But the question poses a deeper question about God’s positioning and value for the women who He created.

In many cultures and throughout history, the beloved women that God so wonderfully created have been devalued. They have been pushed down, held back and oppressed. American women have only been allowed to vote since 1920. And women in other parts of the world are still waiting for that privilege, as well as the right to drive a car, become a lawyer, or even sit at the same table with their husbands in public. Over the years, women around the world have been forbidden to read or learn, for fear they might get ideas and start thinking for themselves.

Is the oppression of women God’s intention? Is it a theme in the Bible? Some non-believers think the Bible and God are oppressive to women. Is that true? Are liberated women in violation of God’s plan? Are men better than women? Are they smarter? From my own personal experience, I would have to say that’s a resounding, “NO!” I’ve been married long enough to know that my wife is a formidable thinker. She can remember things far better than me and can find a needle in a haystack (by “needle” I mean my keys or my wallet). I can’t argue with her for very long, because her memory arsenal reduces me to a four-year-old child. I’m like, “Well, yeah, you…you…um, okay wait, give me a second…” And she’s still going, saying things like, “You always get home late from work! Even years ago! Remember that time when my parents were over for dinner and you came home late from working at the jiffy Lube?” My inside voice screams, “Wait! I don’t even remember working at Jiffy Lube; let alone being late on a particular day!”

When women began to enter the American work force during WWII, companies were impressed. Here was an untapped labor source that was often sharper and more organized than their off-at-war predecessors. I’m not saying women are better than men, or vice versa; I’m simply pointing out the reality that we each have our own strengths and weaknesses that create a balance of equality. This shouldn’t surprise us. The Bible is not some male-dominating, sexist book; it notes from the beginning that we, both male and female, are created in God’s likeness and image.

Genesis 1:27 (NIV) 27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

So, on to the topic of this book, the question at hand, and a question I hear frequently: “Why are women permitted to teach in the church? The Bible forbids it.” It is a common question, especially among new believers, because there are places in the Bible where Paul tells us that women should be silent in the church. In this book I will show you God’s view of woman, His creation, and her ability to lead and certainly to speak in the church. We will discuss the idea that Paul’s teaching on the subject is specifically relevant to the era in which he lived and a particular situation that he was addressing, so that we can rightly divide God’s Word and be in His will. We will also take some time to view impressive women in leadership, their roles in the church and the idea of us all being one in Christ…

There are many instances of women being placed, by God, in positions of leadership over men. I really only need one though, Ready?

Judges 4:4-6 (NIV)
4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramahand Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoamfrom Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor…
A prophetess would have been in the tabernacle ministering, as well, as Moses did. Moses was the prophet and judge while Aaron was the High Priest. Here she is – Deborah. She was the “Moses” of her time, she was in charge, and God put her there. It’s a good thing she was in charge, too, because under her reign, Israel was freed from oppression.
She was over the General of the Army, Barak, the son of Abinoam. He was taking orders from her, as was God’s design.
Man may fear having a woman in leadership, but God does not. During Paul’s time, he felt it best to address these issues, but they were not God’s views.

Not only do we see God’s intentions in His actions, but also in the way He has spiritually empowered women, just as He has men. Women are armed with the same born-again spirit as men. They received the same Holy Spirit on the inside of them, when they receive Jesus. God makes this all clear to us, in many ways, so that we won’t make the mistake of suppressing the ministry God has given them. Praise God that, in today’s Church, the leadership has studied enough to see these truths and have made them evident. In Acts, God points out how it is also the women who are endowed with power:

Acts 2:17-21 (NIV)
17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

God clearly has daughters prophesying. He makes mention of “sons and daughters” and “men and women.” It makes good sense that Satan has attempted to twist God’s Word a bit in an attempt to get 50 percent of the Church to be silent. This is not God’s plan. He gives women the same access to the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead…

It was Paul who noted that, in Christ, everyone is equal:

Galatians 3:27-28 (NIV)
27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In Christ, there is no difference between male or female…

Excerpt from Pastor Jason Anderson’s book
Women Teaching in the Church: Why do you let women speak in church?
Purchase here.

Yep, I Have Teens

“They don’t want to go, and I’m tired of asking.” Changing the root inside of them as only Jesus can.

Satan’s biggest attack in your Christianity will be your belief about church. He is going to try everything to keep you out, since it is his gates that cannot stand against the church. Satan tries everything to keep people out of church. His arguments are heard among believers – from the new believer to the seasoned veteran. You will hear things like: It’s not relevant. Not practical. Too far. I’ve been wounded. They are hypocrites. Fake. I can’t find a good church. They just want your money. It’s full of sinners. I’m not good enough to be around those people. God would strike me down if I went to church. It’s boring. The parking is too hard. It’s too hot. It’s raining, better stay home. It’s too nice a day; I think I’ll go to the lake. I have to work Sundays. It’s boring. It’s too loud. I don’t like the music. They don’t really teach anything…

…But the most frequent attack will be on what you believe about God’s House. Why? Because satan knows that if he can keep a Christian on the sidelines, out of the body of Christ, stuck in the bleachers, or even throwing stones, then he can keep that Christian from flourishing, from reaching their God-given potential. One day a week is God’s system. Just one. He wants us in His house one day a week, and the other six we are out reaching others, being a light…

…And so you can expect satan to attack everything imaginable about God’s house. Your only real defense is to love the House. Love will never fail. It will put the grace and forgiveness in your heart to walk through the drama and crisis, and keep your roots nice and deep, drawing in the blessed and prospering water…

…This chapter exists to show you the importance of making sure your teen is in church one day every week. First thing you will often find is that your teenager doesn’t want to go to church. I want you to realize they will know exactly what to say to you so that you won’t make them go anymore. They will tell you, “It’s just a lot of games. We don’t even have a teaching most of the time.” That isn’t true. But it is what they will say. Truth be told, if there were no teaching and it was all fun and games, you probably wouldn’t get a lot of complaining from your teen. You can bet there are leaders who deeply care about teaching and training the young people. Okay, so your teen has a convincing argument about why they won’t go. First, if your teen said they were not going to be going to school anymore, what would your response be? You would make them go to school. It isn’t even a discussion. Of course you have to go to school. Why? Well, because not going will be future-altering. The same is true of God’s house. Not participating is going to be a future-altering action. If you would make them go hear about evolution for one hour a day (public school), then make them go hear about Jesus for one hour a week.

Second, go to the teen group with them and see for yourself. Volunteering in the group may be amazing, or it may be a put off for them, but you could sit in the back for a meeting and see if it really is as pointless as they had described to you. I had told my Dad they were teaching really weird stuff at church, about angel worship and demon worship, and my Dad got all upset. I had told him exactly what he would want to hear so that I wouldn’t have to go. But the very next meeting he sat in the back, and I didn’t know. So when I went to tell him again how messed up the teaching was, he caught me.

Third, I encourage you to keep your teen with you for at least one service so they can hear from the pastor. They are totally ready. They are learning complicated equations, physics, atomic mass; they can certainly sit and hear the parable of the sower and the seed with you…

…One of the many strengths of being in God’s house is they are hearing the right message once a week. Here is an opportunity to have someone else saying exactly what you are saying. It’s watering the seed for love, forgiveness, attitude, hope, faith, prayer, and the like…

…If your teen knows that you make God’s House number one in your house, they will have a much easier time being impacted by God’s house. Whatever is important to you will be important to them…

Excerpt from Pastors Jason & Kelli Anderson’s book
Yep, I Have Teens
Purchase here.

Men’s and Women’s Bible Studies at Living Word Mesa

If you have ever felt alone or like you needed encouragement or friends, or even just a mid-week boost, Living Word’s weekly Bible studies may be just what you are looking for. Fellowship with like-minded believers is vital to the successful Christian life. It says in Acts 2:42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The early church understood the importance of this. The weekly Bible studies are a place to hear great teaching, have fellowship, eat together and receive prayer. Lasting friendships have been formed in these groups. If you need encouragement, there will be people there to pray and stand with you. Or God may use you to give encouragement to someone else. If you know someone who needs fellowship, we encourage you to invite them. It is the heart of Living Word that everyone fulfills their purpose. The mid-week Bible studies are a great way to get re-charged and help keep you on course.

Extraordinary Sisters Women’s Bible Studies
Wednesdays at 10am and Thursdays at 7pm in the Foyer: Bible Study, food and fellowship for women of all ages. Childcare provided.

Band of Brothers Men’s Bible Studies
Wednesdays at 6:30am in the Coffee House: Bible Study, coffee and fellowship for men of all ages.

Thursdays at 6:30pm in the Fellowship Hall: Bible Study, food and fellowship for men of all ages. Childcare provided on Thursday nights.