Why is the world so messed up, and why does God allow that to be so? When troubles, tragedy, or trauma strikes us, we naturally ask, “Why?” We direct our “Why?” to God. After all, he has the power to stop all things. And while God is never the cause of evil, he does want our faith to take deeper roots. We suffer when we lose anything important to us (control, security, safety, meaning, comfort, material things, or happiness). But here’s what God invites us to do in our suffering – move from asking “Why?” to asking “Who?” The “Who?” question directs us to the one who deeply understands our suffering and joins us in our suffering. In the end, we are left with just Jesus, and he is everything. May we each learn the secret that Jesus minus everything else equals everything.
We celebrate Pantano’s 60-year anniversary as we look back and forward while never forgetting our vision, mission, and purpose. God has called Pantano to be a church that is a catalytic force to bring God’s kingdom and influence anywhere he leads us. Our mission is to love people to Jesus. We launch passionate people to make a God difference, wherever God sends them. Pantano always has and always will be focused on expanding God’s kingdom and influence. This is who we’ve been. This is who we are. This is who we’ll continue to be!
Doubt, skepticism, and deconstruction are often criticized not only as a weakness, but as an outright sin. However, every person of faith has experienced and has had to face their skeptical thoughts and doubts. As Frederick Buechner once said: “Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.” Avoiding our doubts almost guarantees our faith will be weakened. But when we face our doubts directly and do the hard work of investigating them, the Holy Spirit can help our faith grow deeper roots producing a more authentic and fruitful faith.
Jesus did not create a new religion! In fact, he came to replace religion with something very different. He came to offer us a path to having a relationship with God. Religion is tiring, exhausting, and frustrating. It creates fear, guilt and shame. It leaves us empty and the feeling that we are a constant failure. Religion is a set of rules to force us to live a certain way. It uses guilt to keep us in line and reminds us of our failure to live up to the rules. What Jesus offers is different from religion. Jesus discarded religion because he solved our sin problem for us. It isn’t what we need to do to be approved by God, but God has approved of us through Jesus. In this message, we’ll learn what faith looks like as we follow Jesus and how that is transformed into a true faith.
Saturday, the day Jesus was in the tomb, reminds us to wait on the Lord. Trust him, for Sunday is coming! On Sunday, the tomb was empty, and Jesus was risen from the dead. But until our Sundays come, we wait and trust. To wait is to trust. It’s refusing to think I have to take everything into my own hands, and it trusts that God and his ways are better than my ways. Trust is allowing God to do what only God can do. Trust means we rest in him, not in ourselves. Trusting, waiting, resting – they are all connected and part of the same thing – Faith! But waiting is not passive. It isn’t just sitting down and letting time pass by. It’s active. In the waiting, in the Sabbath, we are preparing our hearts to respond to God. How will you practice waiting, resting, and trusting God and make it a part of your regular rhythms?
Jesus suffered greatly for us. The torture and his pain are almost incomprehensible. He willingly and knowingly took on the punishment for our sin. The result was that we could have an intimate, personal relationship with God. But it goes further. His sacrifice gives us access to a God (Jesus) who suffers too. He has a profound empathy for our pain, suffering, loss, and brokenness that allows us to draw even nearer to him.
There are basically two things we trust – the things of man or God. What or who we trust will control our lives. Trust is everything! And what we trust will lead to two results – blessing or curse. That’s the language the Bible uses. Our trust will lead us to that which is truly good or blessed or that which will hurt us or be cursed; two ways to live with two results. Both are built on who we trust. Where do you put your trust? Be honest, because it matters and results in either blessing or curse.
Jesus calls us to have a pure heart. Pure is such a demanding word. Pure means, well, nothing impure. It’s like being perfect! Or holy?! So, right from the start, most of us will feel like this play or Beatitude is out of reach. Who thinks they can get close to being pure, holy, perfect or without fault? Is that what Jesus meant? What did Jesus mean when he invites us to have a pure heart? The Bible uses language like unadulterated to describe pure; meaning there is nothing mixed in. Jesus is talking about a pure sincere commitment to Jesus and his way. It’s about being a person where our focus and devotion are fully on God and we don’t let any other commitment get mixed in. It’s about being authentic in our faith. It’s about removing falseness and hypocrisy. A pure heart is pure because it has no competing influences – only God. A pure heart is a heart purely devoted to God.
Jesus saw the crowds. He saw people like sheep whose lives were being ripped up and left for dead both literally and spiritually (Matthew 9:36). These folks had no shepherd to protect and help them. As those who have received mercy after mercy, we are to give mercy after mercy. Who do you see in need of mercy? How will you give mercy? Jesus says that mercy is a key play in his playbook. Blessed are the merciful!
As we face God as he is (not the God of our own making or liking), we see how utterly helpless and hopeless we are (poor in spirit) and discover the depth of our sin and failure. This causes us deep sorrow, sadness, and grief as we mourn for our sins and brokenness. This godly sorrow causes us to confess (readily admit our sin) and repent. In repentance, we dramatically and intentionally change our mind, heart, behaviors, attitudes, and lifestyle that leaves the old way and embraces the way of Jesus.
We are all “spiritual zeros.” That means we are spiritually bankrupt, leaving us in a spiritual crisis. We are unable to save ourselves from our sins. We are unable to overcome our sin on our own. At this stage of our spiritual journey, we find that we are helpless and hopeless on our own. We are totally dependent on God. And that brings us to a place of utter humility and total dependence on God. Our journey toward becoming like Jesus starts when we realize we are empty and need to be filled with God. It begins when we know we need help. But if we are already full (of ourselves), then there’s no room for God to transform us into the person he wants us to be.
In this series, we’ve shared that the one word for our church this year is “rooted” and encouraged everyone to identify their own one word that might help them be rooted as well. The idea of being rooted ties directly into the concept of having deep foundations. Rooted means pressing deeper into Jesus. Deeper means that we don’t just hear what God is saying to us through the scripture, but we need to put his words into practice. Putting God’s words into practice will root us deeper in Him.
If there was ever a time for our church and our lives to be rooted in something that is fixed, secure, and true, it is now. In this season of upheaval and transition, it is imperative that the roots of our lives, both personally and corporately, go deeper. This year we believe that God is calling Pantano to be wholeheartedly rooted in Jesus. We believe that deeper roots will be like an anchor that will stabilize our church and personal lives in a world full of storms. Today we’ll introduce you to our church One Word and the scripture on which it is based. ‘Rooted’ means pressing deeper into Jesus, and we’ll begin the process of discovering our own One Word that will help us be rooted in him.
Jesus is the light of all mankind. Just like physical light, he is essential for a true spiritual life. Just like physical light, he helps guide our way. Just like physical light, he brings color and uniqueness to life. He shines into our dark world and exposes all that’s wrong, harmful, and destructive. And darkness cannot overcome light. And for that reason, he is the light that allows us to celebrate life to its fullest. Jesus is a light that guides us to thrive in this world that continues to be full of darkness, struggle, pain, and sorrow. That’s what Christmas is all about. God became a human being and lived among us. God came as close as he could. Jesus brings God into our world and our very lives. That’s spiritual light!
Gabriel the angel announced good news that would bring joy to all people. Jesus is that good news. And he alone is our source of joy. Joy will never be found or sustained when seeking it through experiences, people, accomplishments or possessions. Joy is found as we stay focused and centered on Jesus and the things of God. No one or no situation can rob us of that kind of joy. Joy is birthed in us as we allow the Spirit to fill us.
Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. Patience is learning to trust God through the slow slog of life and all its challenges. The result of patience is that we’ll experience slow growth. The Spirit slowly transforms us. The fruit of the Spirit does not grow quickly. The root comes before the fruit. Patience allows the root of character to grow, so the fruit of the Spirit forms in us and is expressed outwardly. They grow and mature over a long time of faithful obedience to Jesus. That long obedience requires patience. ‘Fast and furious’ might be a great adventure movie series, but it isn’t how the Spirit transforms us. Slow growth is lasting growth that can withstand the hurricanes of life. You want fruit that matures and lasts.
God is kind and gentle. For that, we are all grateful! His kindness is expressed in action. He came to us in Jesus to bring his love close to us. He is Lord over us, but he is a kind and gentle Lord. As we allow the Spirit to have greater influence in us, we’ll treat others with a powerful, gentle kindness that not only helps, encourages, and comforts but it also will lead people to the very God who created that within us.
How do we actually grow to become more and more like Jesus? Is it mostly on us to make it happen? Are there rules we can follow? No, there’s a much better way. It’s the way of the Spirit. It’s the Spirit who transforms our character into the character of Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit gives us a picture of the character of Jesus. As we stay connected to the Spirit and let him have his way in us, we’ll be transformed.
Have you ever experienced division because of your faith? Maybe you experienced separation or rejection because you decided to follow Jesus and your family or friends rejected, ridiculed, or made fun of you. There are times when following Jesus creates division, so don’t be caught off guard. Our love for Jesus must be first and full before all other “loves.” Because Jesus demands our full devotion and nothing less, know that relational division and conflict may follow.
The kingdom of God means that Jesus, the king, is fully in charge of our lives. When we enter the kingdom, the King transforms our lives so that we truly fit and are part of the kingdom. Our character changes to be more like Jesus. Our purpose changes. Before, we only lived to promote ourselves. Now we live for something bigger – to help bring God’s influence into our relationships. I live for something bigger, for the kingdom is bigger than me.
There is plenty that divides our country and the church these days. Polarization over politics, COVID measures, race, and more have become the norm. I believe Jesus wants us to ask questions like these in this current environment: 1) Which kingdom, party, or stance has the overriding influence in my life? 2) Am I evaluating my positions through the filter of faith rather than creating a version of faith that supports my positions? Jesus didn’t call everyone to agree on everything, but he did command his followers to put the kingdom first and be united by unconditional love.
Our culture worships individual rights. Our rights, protected by the Bill of Rights and other laws, are critical to our freedom. But as part of the kingdom of God, we voluntarily give up our rights and freedoms at times and surrender them to serve others and put others first. That’s love. The key characteristic of the kingdom is love, for God is love, and it is his nature and character that must infuse all who are a part of his kingdom. Living in the kingdom is not about our rights; it’s about seeing every opportunity as an opportunity to love.
There’s something bigger. It’s bigger than the Bible, salvation, the church, or just about anything you associate with spirituality. It’s what Jesus spoke about the most. It’s what he ushered into our world. It is what we are to live for. It’s the kingdom of God. In this message, we’ll be doing a deep dive into the kingdom of God. We are looking into how we daily live a kingdom first life.
All of us, whether we know it or not on the surface, long to be connected to an even bigger story. That’s because our lives are all actually part of a much, much larger story. And there’s one story that brings joy, completeness, and satisfaction to all of our stories… that’s God’s story. God’s story helps us make sense of all other stories. God’s story is also called the Gospel story. The word “Gospel” simply means good news – it’s the good news about Jesus and what he did to reunite us with God. As we tell this good news story, we invite others to enter into God’s story.
Everything and everyone is part of a story. When we read the Bible, we are reading true stories that were recorded because they have meaning and can help us understand God and life. Your very life is a collection of stories. God is writing a story in and through you. You are God’s story. And God wants you to tell your story. Your story can often open a door to share God’s bigger story. In this message, you’ll get some practical help in how to tell your story.
Every one of us has and will face the difficult and powerful emotions of grief, depression, sorrow, and despair. These disliked feelings come from hurt, pain, and loss. We’ve all been hurt by those we loved and trusted. We’ve all experienced pain – emotional pain that’s inside that touches our thoughts and feelings. We’ve all lost people we love or things we cherished. How do we pull through the depths of pain and loss? In Psalm 42, we find encouragement and ways to face our feelings and fight for hope.
We put expectations on ourselves and others. We also put expectations on God. At one time or another, we think God should act or respond in a certain way. When we suffer, hurt, are abused, betrayed, or face a crisis, we are tempted to make a quiet contract or bargain with God and expect God “should” come through for us. When God doesn’t operate by our “shoulds,” we get angry, blame him, or even walk away from him because he did not do what he should! Our challenge is to trust who God is and what he can do rather than what we think he should do.
We have job descriptions for those who matter to us and those that are merely acquaintances. Often they are never made public as these expectations of others reside inside us. Out of those expectations or “shoulds,” we often try to manipulate others or make them feel guilty. We get frustrated, angry, or react in less Christlike ways when others “should” be doing what we want but aren’t. Our “shoulds” of others often go unmet, which tempts us to judge them or be suspicious that they are lazy, underperforming, uncommitted, unqualified, or even ungodly. How do we move out of this trap of having shoulds for others? We stop putting our shoulds on others when IN humility we place more value on others rather than on our agenda.
Internally, we are often hard on ourselves. What happens is that we allow a sort of court or trial to take place in our minds. This courtroom has a prosecuting attorney, judge, and jury that we allow to convene. And we are charged as guilty numerous times a day for the things we “should” or “should not” have done. Sometimes the shoulds come from others, or a religion, or our culture. How do we identify the wise “shoulds” and get free from the shoulds that are not shoulds from God?
There are two kinds of deaths we all face. One is always present, and one will eventually catch up to all of us. To ignore either will be one of the most costly mistakes we’ll ever make. To ignore either will cost us life itself – now and forever. The first death is when we are physically alive but dead or dying inside. We’ve sinned, and we’ve let things die in us like hope, passion, dreams, and faith itself. Jesus is inviting us to really live and come alive to God. The Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead can help us discover what it means to really live both now and for eternity. When we trust Jesus and follow him, we have forgiveness of sins and cross over from death to life. When our bodies quit, we will be resurrected to life that never ends. The moment we believe and commit ourselves to follow Jesus, we begin the journey of really living.
The perfect Jesus died for imperfect people. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that “God put the wrong on him [Christ] who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” What would drive God to offer us a deal that cost him so much? It’s a crazy deal. On the surface, it seems like a bad deal for God. Actually, it’s a great exchange. Yes, God paid a high price, but he got what he dearly wanted. The price he paid is an expression of how much he loves us, how much he values us, how crazy he is about us. Can you fathom the price God paid? Can you fathom how important you are to God? God is so crazy over you that he did a crazy deal. You are worth the price of his only Son. God has a crazy love deal that we would be crazy not to take.
God wants to use you in your family, workplace, or wherever to help others know and experience Jesus. It’s time to stop making excuses that you are not able. God doesn’t need your ability; he only requires your willingness and availability. As has been said, Jesus doesn’t call the equipped; he equips the called. Have you made yourself available? As his disciples, we follow Jesus. Jesus’ mission becomes our mission and purpose. His mission was to “seek and save the lost.” Our purpose on earth is to follow Jesus and to seek and save the lost. The way of Jesus is all about finding the one. In this message, we’ll help you get started on identifying and engaging your one so you can love your one.
The way Jesus lived was simple (not necessarily easy). However, today, we live a full, complex life of worry with busy schedules and a need to acquire and own stuff. That complex life of consumption consumes our time, energy, money, and peace. The alternative Jesus offers is a simple life about having one clear focus that guides all our decisions and values. The simple life is a single focus life with a focus on God first.
We don’t just read the Bible to gain information. We read to know and experience God through reading his Word. As we read, the Holy Spirit shapes and changes us and makes the written Word to become the living Word in us. The Bible transforms how we live and who we become. But how do you read the Bible in a way that you actually hear the words God wanted you to hear? How do you stay on track? We’ll have four speakers who will help us see that there isn’t one way to read the Bible, but multiple ways God can speak to us.
When God shows up, everyone nearby is touched and affected. When God is present, his influence can’t be ignored. God is the author of a God vision. God is the one who works in us and changes us. He is the one who works through us. He is the one who is at work in those around us. Good things happen because of God. Ask God to give you a clear vision for the purpose and mission he has for you to make a difference. Pray and develop plans to begin living out the purpose and mission God has for us. Be ‘all in’ with God to experience all that God wants to accomplish through you.
We need to discover God’s vision for our lives and the way that we do that is by seeing what breaks God’s heart; praying through that so that we can move forward with our one word for the year that fits into the vision for our lives. That word or vision doesn’t have to be grandiose, it can be very simple like grandkids, work, etc.
Christmas is one of the biggest celebrations we have at Pantano, and we couldn’t wait to have it this year, with both our in-person and online experiences. The Church is a people, not a place—it’s every one of us—and as the Church, we’re looking forward to the hope that we’ll experience through God’s love.
In our relationships, our world, and in our hearts, we long for peace. No matter how difficult our circumstances, we can have peace right now. But peace is not the absence of conflict or trouble, rather it’s based on a real, active, and trusting relationship with God through Jesus. Jesus creates an open relationship with God that results in a powerful deep inner peace. So when peace eludes us, we refocus on the one who gives peace – the Prince of Peace.
We won’t, and we can’t grow on our own. We all have spiritual blind spots, and we need others to help us see them. God brings others into our lives and uses others to grow our faith. The Bible encourages us to choose wisely who we invite into our lives and who we allow to influence us. We need to be proactive in allowing others to help us become more like Jesus.
Our world operates on the principle of fairness and justice. Many people practically live by the belief of karma, even if they are not Hindu or Buddhist. It’s the law of “you get what you deserve.” However, Jesus turns that all upside down. He offers grace. He gives us what we don’t deserve and could never earn. And the grace he gives allows us to be unapologetic grace givers.
Jesus tells a story about a shepherd leaving the flock of ninety-nine sheep to go find the one. He tells the story in the context of his own example. He welcomed and connected with those who were considered lost and needing to repent. Everyone has value and matters to God. So we go looking for the one who needs Jesus. There’s nothing that matters more.
For many of us, bitterness can be traced to a relationship that didn’t go as we hoped or we experienced some deep hurt from. Often, we will hold onto things that the other person isn’t even dealing with, allowing them to take up real estate in our hearts. We must learn how to confront what we can address, then forgive. Forgiveness is the path to freedom from the bitterness and the power the hurt has over us.
We all have opinions about different things and there are certain things that we probably have very strong opinions about. Strong opinions can often result in strong judgments towards others. Strong judgments towards others usually don’t facilitate unity. Let’s walk through Romans chapter 14 and learn how we can navigate our judgments, make peace, and find unity.
What would Jesus undo? He would undo greed. It’s a silent spiritual killer that we fail to recognize in our lives. The dissatisfaction of never having enough fuels this destructive sin in our lives. Jesus warns us to watch out for this killer and that we need to be on guard against the many forms of greed. The antidote for greed is generosity which frees us from greed.
What would Jesus undo? In his ministry, he viciously called out and attacked all forms of hypocrisy. He has zero-tolerance for it. Hypocrisy is when we hide behind a mask of being religious and Christian while our life is played out in a way that contradicts the way of Jesus. We act like we are bringing honor to God while what we do, in fact, does not glorify God. Only as we give Jesus full control of our heart can we close the gap between who we show ourselves to be and who we really are.
What would Jesus undo? He would have us replace apathy with a diligent trust. But spiritual indifference doesn’t seem like a biggie when it comes to sin. Who does it hurt? Apathy isn’t fun, but it’s not a big deal, right? But in fact, spiritual indifference makes God sick! It is one of the biggest issues in our spiritual life today. It’s one of the things Jesus wants to undo. At its core, apathy allows us to live self-sufficient lives without having to trust God. Yet, trust or faith is key to what it takes to please God. Jesus urges us to be diligent and turn from our indifference.
The fear of the unknown, tomorrow, the things we can’t see or control is one of the most paralyzing fears. It keeps us stuck, from moving forward because of all the “what if’s.” If left unchecked, it will lead us to look back with a list of should’ve, could’ve, would’ve, and missing what God has for us today. Worry robs us of living life to the fullest. Jesus speaks directly to our worry. He reminds us that God will be in our tomorrow, whatever tomorrow brings. And that’s all we need to know! That’s faith that helps us overcome our worry.
All of us are afraid of something and those things create the boundaries of our freedom. They keep us from living, taking chances, moving into new directions, keep us from experiencing life and often keep us from obeying God. We gain power over our fears when we name them and face them. We give power to the fears we don’t identify and expose. In this message, we’ll see three ways to face our fears from Joshua as he faced the huge challenge of moving into the promised land.
God is love. When God is in us, his nature changes us to be like his own. According to the Bible, the test of whether he’s in us and we know him and allow him to influence us is in how we love others. It all begins with God’s love for us. God is love, so we are to be his love in our world. So the question we are left to answer is this – What does love require of me?
Discipline is not a word we enjoy. We naturally want to indulge in sweets instead of having discipline around food. We don’t like the idea of discipline as a child or even as a parent. When we are disciplined, we often think of it as punishment, but godly discipline is different. Discipline always has a goal; it is always moving us towards something better. God’s discipline is designed to help us become more like Jesus. So, God’s discipline is the most loving thing he can do for us and in us.
Some relationships are hard. There are people in our lives that have hurt, abused, harmed, or taken advantage of us. Yet Jesus is clear that we are to love those who are difficult or even seem impossible to love. Loving the difficult often requires that we forgive them for the wrong done to us. Forgiveness is the key that unlocks love.
If you want to be a true friend or the best husband or wife or co-worker, then be a person who will challenge them to help them use their life to make a difference for others. You see, encouragement is your best gift to someone as you help them get better at loving and doing good for others. Encouragement means helping people get unstuck so they can love and do good.
What in the world is going on? What’s happening? Is it the end of the world or a sign that the end is near? Is this punishment from God? Is this the work of the devil? Or is it just bad luck? We want to know the cause of the bad things to happen to us. But God is far more interested in how we respond to the difficulties and disruptions. We can respond in fear, worry, anger or anxiety. Or we can look to God for the response that is best for us, others and that honors him. God doesn’t stop all the bad in the world, but he shows up powerfully in the midst of chaos and change. The Bible speaks clearly to how we are to respond to the world we find ourselves in today.
When all the odds are stacked against us, we question if God is for us. When we’re abandoned, betrayed or abused, we question God’s love. When we face a crisis like we are in now, we wonder where God is. When we fail God, ourselves and others over and over, we have a hard time believing that God even likes us. But the great chapter of Romans 8 reminds us in the most powerful way that since God is for us we can withstand the people and situations that stand against us. His love is so deep, that nothing can separate us from the love of God. In God’s love, we can have victory over all things, even death itself.