Thoughts From Toby

 

A Mother’s Love

by Helen Steiner Rice

 

A Mother’s love is something that no one can explain,

It is made of deep devotion and of sacrifice and pain,

It is endless and unselfish and enduring come what may

For nothing can destroy it or take that love away…

It is patient and forgiving when all others are forsaking,

And it never fails or falters even though the heart is breaking…

It believes beyond believing when the world around condemns,

And it glows with all the beauty of the rarest, brightest gems…

It is far beyond defining, it defies all explanation,

And it still remains a secret like the mysteries of creation…

A many splendored miracle man cannot understand

And another wondrous evidence of God’s tender guiding hand.

Thoughts From Toby

Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” - Jesus in John 12

Jesus has a way of putting things into perspective, doesn’t he? In the passage above, Jesus is preparing for what he is to face… his cross. He knows that it is fast approaching. He knows that he is getting ready to experience pain… physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. He knows that he is about to taste the fruit of humanity’s sin. He knows that he is about to, for the first time, experience separation from the Father. And what is his response? “Father, glorify your name!”

It is important to note that Jesus vocalizes his apprehension. His soul is deeply troubled. This is not something that he desires to experience. He even vocalizes the typical response to troubling circumstances: “Father, save me from this hour.” He turns right around and rejects that prayer, but it is important to note that he does vocalize it.

The greatest response to any circumstance in life is to yield ourselves to God. Letting go of control is not fun. Yet we see, in the example of Jesus, a life that is fully submissive to the Father’s will. Certainly there are situations in life when we cry out, “Father, save me from this hour!” This is a normal response to troubling situations. But in the end, may we recognize, as Jesus did, that the will of God takes precedence over our will. And may we have the courage to respond as Jesus did, “Father, glorify your name!”

Thoughts From Toby

With the month of May quickly approaching, we are entering a busy time of year for many. Students are buckling down, striving to finish strong. Teachers are longing for that glorious first day of Summer break. Several individuals and families are planning vacations. As we enter this busy season, let me encourage you to check out the “Upcoming Events” section of the bulletin for several opportunities to connect and serve. We have lots of exciting things happening that you won’t want to miss!

As busy-ness can easily creep in and overwhelm us, I’m reminded of a quote rumored to have been stated by the great Reformer, Martin Luther: “I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Now, three hours may seem a bit daunting, but I love the counter intuitive nature of the quote. How would our lives be different if we understood that we are too busy NOT to pray? As a general rule, that time spent connecting with God doesn’t happen unless we schedule it. Our daily calendars can easily be filled with many other things. So, if you don’t already, what would it look like if you scheduled daily time with God the way you schedule doctor’s appointments, lunch dates, conferences, meetings, etc.? In the busy-ness of life, may we all seek to center ourselves on God, trusting that everything else will work itself out as we seek him first.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life… Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life...? But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:25, 27, 33

Thoughts From Toby

Happy Easter! Today is a day in which Christians all over the world gather to celebrate an empty tomb. Of course, the resurrection of Jesus holds significance for every day of the year. But there’s something special about knowing that, all across the globe, Christians are meeting together with a united focus on this history-changing event. May we find ourselves swept up in the story that God is telling, one in which death has been defeated!

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here;

he has risen!

Luke 24:1-6

Thoughts From Toby

Hello Church! We have several opportunities for connection coming up that I would like to make you aware of. Exciting things are happening, and I hope you’ll join us as we seek to grow in our love for God and one another, and in service to our community!

Next Sunday, April 21st, is our Easter Egg Hunt and Easter Program for kids. We’ll dismiss classes at 10:00am for the Egg Hunt, and kids will also have a special Easter program during service. Join us, and invite a friend, as we celebrate our risen Savior!

We are collecting school supplies to put together for Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-10). If you would like to help, please bring school supplies (pencils, dry erase markers, & glue sticks are most needed, safety scissors would also be helpful) and drop them off in the lobby by Sunday, May 5th. If you’d like to donate money for Starbucks gift cards, you can give those donations to Toby. We will deliver those items to the teachers at Simas Elementary on May 6th.

We’re planning an all-church trip to the Fresno Grizzlies game on Friday, May 17th at 7:05pm, and an all-church trip to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo on Saturday, June 22nd. Mark your calendars now, and we’ll announce more information soon.

Thoughts From Toby

Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”
- Attributed to Francis of Assisi

Last Sunday evening, we began a study together exploring Evangelism. I referenced the above quote, which is commonly attributed to Francis of Assisi, a 13th-century monk. The quote is a powerful reminder that our actions are important. The way that we live our lives can have a serious impact on the people around us. The quote draws our attention to the power of example. We cannot be people who simply talk the talk, we must also walk the walk.

I’m often challenged by the actions of fellow Christians. I think this is a healthy thing. I see someone living out the gospel in their life, and it challenges me to be a better Christ follower. I witness the patience of a fellow brother or sister in dealing with a difficult person, and it encourages me to be more patient. I see the way that a fellow Christian responds in gentleness to outsiders, and it challenges my own hard heart. I see the joy displayed in the lives of those brothers and sisters who are dealing with difficult circumstances, and it reminds me to stop and give thanks. I see love displayed within the body of Christ, and it draws me to the love of God.Our actions are powerful. By them, we live out the gospel message. May we be people who seek to preach the gospel with every aspect of our lives!

Thoughts From Toby

With March Madness in full swing, many people are paying close attention to the NCAA Basketball tournaments. Whether you’re highly invested in tracking your bracket or have zero interest in the “madness,” it’s hard to deny that this tournament is frequently full of surprises. Some of the more memorable March Madness tournaments revolve around a team greatly exceeding their expectations, going further than anyone expected them to go. These teams are endearingly referred to as “Cinderella Teams,” and it seems that everybody loves it when a Cinderella wins it all. We, as a culture, LOVE a good underdog story.

I’m not sure how this year’s NCAA tournament will end, or whether we’ll experience a Cinderella story upset, but I believe there’s a reason we get so enthralled by these sorts of stories. They have a profound way of speaking deeply to our own experiences. Who of us hasn’t faced seemingly insurmountable odds at some point in our life? There is something truly remarkable about struggling and overcoming in the face of adversity. And as exciting as it can be to watch an underdog basketball team defeat a stronger opponent, I’m convinced that it’s much more inspiring to hear stories of God’s power at work in the lives of his people. What’s your story? How has God brought you through difficult times in life? May each of us look for opportunities to share our own “Cinderella” stories, all to the glory of God!

Thoughts From Toby

“Carving is easy. You just go down to the skin and stop.” – Michelangelo

Legend has it that Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of David was chiseled from a piece of stone that numerous other artists had rejected, as it was deemed unusable. Michelangelo saw the piece in the marketplace, and according to him, heard the stone tell him that David was inside. Michelangelo felt that his process of chiseling figures from stones was simply uncovering that which was already present. These masterpieces were within the stone, he was just releasing them.

As I contemplate what it means that the Bible calls us “God’s masterpiece” (Eph. 2:10 NLT), I can’t help but think about the way that masterpieces are works of art. And art involves shaping, molding, chiseling, forming, transforming, and doing all of that again and again. This can be an uncomfortable process for the work of art, but it is a necessary process in order to become the masterpiece that it was intended to be. Shaping, forming, transforming… these words imply growth, maturity, repentance, change, on the part of a Christian. It is not, at times, a fun process, but the result is that we become God’s work of art. We are released from those things that hold us back from being what God intends for us to be. We are transformed into the precious masterpiece of God!

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” - 2 Cor. 3:17-18

Thoughts From Toby

I’ve been really enjoying all of the rain that we’ve been experiencing over the pastseveral weeks. It has made for some beautiful clear skies afterward, and it’s awesome to look over and see all the snow in the mountains. There have been numerous times recently where I’ve been struck by the beauty of creation, which have sparked, for me, moments of spontaneous praise for the Creator. Maybe you’ve had similar moments.

As I’ve experienced these awe-inspiring occurrences, I’ve been reminded of the words of David in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Creation itself is a testament to the glory of God, pointing us to the majesty of a powerful Creator. In fact, if we open our eyes, we can see the hand of God at work all around us. How have you seen God at work in your own life recently?May we open our eyes to the beauty of God’s grace at work around us, and may that awareness drive us to praise, for our God truly is an awesome God!

Thoughts From Toby

No Other Name

The first Scripture that I ever memorized was Acts 4:12. It says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” I’ve always considered it to be one of my favorite verses, mainly because it holds special meaning to me as being my very first memory verse. But the message of the verse is a constant, powerful reminder of the importance of knowing Jesus. There is no other way to salvation; rescue is found in Jesus alone.

No other name gives hope the way Jesus’ name does. No other name offers the grace and forgiveness found in belonging to Jesus. No other name brings peace and comfort like the name of Jesus. No other name can rescue us from sin. No other name.

Take some time and contemplate what Jesus’ name means to you. Let his name remind you of his great love for you. Salvation is found in no other name.

Thoughts From Toby

Over the past couple months, our Sunday morning adult Bible Class has been exploring the Book of Acts. In that study, which is drawing to an end, we’ve been challenged to consider the radical, revolutionary nature of the message of the gospel. If Jesus has indeed been raised from the dead (which is the hinge of our faith), then “life as usual” has been interrupted by the power and purpose of God. Acts is the story of what happens when humans find themselves swept up in the grand narrative of God’s promise. As Peter declares on the day of Pentecost, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39).

My prayer is that we would allow the message of the gospel to penetrate our hearts in such a way that we find our place in this story that God is telling, both at an individual level and collectively. We, like those early followers of Jesus, have been given the task of bearing witness to God’s presence in the world, taking this message to the “ends of the earth,” which may very well be right around the corner.

Thoughts From Toby

Last weekend was our Church Family Retreat at YBC, and I know that those who took part in it were blessed by being there! It rained all weekend, and we narrowly missed snow, but it was a wonderful time of fellowship and growth. I know that I’m already looking forward to next year’s retreat!

One of the ideas that struck me from the video lessons was the concept of geometric growth. Rick Atchley pointed out how, with dominoes, the force created by setting them up and knocking them over allows for an individual domino to knock over a domino that is 1.5 times larger than itself. So if you begin with a domino the size of a tic-tac, and each subsequent domino increases in size 1.5 times greater than the domino before it, after 13 dominoes, the force created can topple a domino that is more than 3 feet tall and weighing about 100 pounds. If you were to keep this trend going, after just 29 dominoes, you could knock over a domino the size of the Empire State Building! Rick pointed out that that’s how spiritual growth works - it’s geometric, rather than linear. The encouragement I get from that object lesson is — even if you start small in your relationship with God, the disciplines you practice can lead to immense growth! The question I ask myself, and that I’d ask you to consider is this: What small step can I take today that can start a domino effect of spiritual growth in my life? May each of us look for opportunities to grow in our relationship with God!

Thoughts From Toby

Several years ago, I had the privilege of watching a Harding University graduate, who I had
classes with and was acquainted with personally, play in the Super Bowl. It was 2008, when
the Giants defeated the Patriots. I watched the game with a group of friends, and we began
with a little friendly competition. Everybody selected who they thought would win and
submitted their guess at the final score, and whoever was closest was to win a prize. This was
the season that the Patriots had finished undefeated in the regular season, and had blown
through their opponents on their way to the Super Bowl. Needless to say, the Patriots were
highly favored to win. However, because of my acquaintance with my former classmate, I
selected the Giants to win. When the Giants somehow defeated the Patriots, my friends and I
took a look at all of our choices, and I was the only one who picked the Giants! Now… I know
it’s a bit of a stretch, and the metaphor falls apart quickly, but isn’t it almost counterintuitive
to choose a life of faith in our world today? Isn’t it, in many respects, going against the grain
of society? Yet the promise is that there is an unimaginable prize for those who endure. May
we learn to press on, despite the forces that seek to defeat us, as we come to realize that God
is faithful, and no force in all creation is strong enough to defeat him.

Thoughts From Toby

A new year is always a time of great excitement, but also brings with it a period of immense frustration. I’m talking about that period of time it takes to get used to writing “19” when you write out the date. If you’re like me, it probably takes you a couple weeks of accidentally writing “18” and trying your best to turn that 8 into a 9 before you get the hang of it. Who can blame us? We just spent 11 ½ months writing “18” over and over again (the other ½ was spent changing “17” to “18”).

For me, this is a striking reminder of the power of habit. We are, as they say, creatures of habit, and when something becomes habitual, it is difficult to change. I think this is part of the power in our weekly worship gatherings. While it is possible for habitual practices to become rote and meaningless, especially if we mindlessly repeat them (like writing the date), they also have the potential to bring about immense spiritual growth. Placing ourselves in a posture of devotion to God week by week (and day by day) allows God to shape us in powerful ways. May all of us, in this new year, seek to grow in our habitual devotion to God, being mindful of

the transformation that can occur through such devotion.