Sunday, March 19, 2017

Pre-service ruminations: Elder Brian Butler has asked us to consider what our legacy on earth will be. Pastor Dennis has spoken recently about God calling everyone to serve in some way and being “happily ever now.” So, what is a “successful” Christian? Does the world have a very different definition of success? I like the expression “balance or fall off the beam.” I have to be in correct alignment with God. I have to earn money, spend quality time with loved ones and enjoy some hobbies. I believe all of life can be balanced when we trust in God and strive to be more Christ-like.

            Today’s message was delivered by the inimitable Pastor Dennis! He started by saying how people are answering the call in this community – committing to growing the body of Christ. He referenced how the disciples came to Jesus and asked how to pray. Jesus then taught The Lord’s Prayer. Pastor Dennis queried, “When we pray to God, what’s the expectation?” We really are asking for His will to be done.

Pastor Dennis then explained how Heaven flowed through Jesus to shine onto others. Jesus should be the model that we all follow in this life. Remember, the kingdom of God is within you! You were “fearfully and wonderfully made!” Realize you are a child of God. Therefore, I believe we first build our self-esteem in the knowledge that God uniquely made each of us, and then we channel God through prayer to radiate His light and love upon others.

Pastor challenged us to ask ourselves where we are in the season of life. Where are you in relation to Christ? He then mentioned the Spiritual Gifts. Question: is it ok to pray for a spiritual gift? Or are you just blessed with one or more?

Pastor Dennis told us how he awoke with 2 words on his mind: ONLY JESUS. He then turned the word “only” into an acrostic. O = One True God, N = Now (day of salvation/repent), L = Life Eternal, and Y = You (where you are in relation to Jesus – as Savior and as Lord). Scripture from Deut. 6:4, 1 Kings 8:60, Isaiah 46:9, 45:22, Psalm 139. Mark 12: 29-34-1. God is Lord (there’s only 1 true God) and 2. Love thy neighbor (See: John 12:3, 1 Timothy 2:5, 2 Corinthians 6:2). Conviction is a blessing from God! Pastor then referenced Jeremiah 5: 25: “Your wrongdoings have kept these blessings away; your sins have deprived you of good.” Will you surrender your life to the Lord today?

For me, Jesus is certainly my Lord and Savior. Whenever I start to stray away into the temptations of this world, I am gently corrected – if I stray further the extent of the correction becomes more intense. It’s clear to me that when I model Jesus, I will almost certainly make the right decisions in life. If I take back my own will and attempt to force what I want “my way,” or try and do things that contravene biblical good, it almost invariably ends quite poorly. So, why ever veer off course from God!? My sins deprive me of blessings as stated in Jeremiah! So, if I want more blessings (and the burdens that inexorably accompany them), I must be righteous in action and trust in the way of the Lord. I can testify that every time I have done this, I have been blessed – even when it seems bizarre or completely distinct from what the world would recommend. Praise Jesus, Lord and Savior!
-Gene Bergenn, LIFEhouse Church Member
Sunday, March 12, 2017
 Pre-service thoughts: As I strive each today to be more Christ-like, I find myself asking why I can still get agitated by the collective effect of little annoyances in life that seem to build up? When I feel the fury start to rise, I want to see it as an opportunity to be more Christ-like and remember to be “slow to anger” (James). I must strive for equanimity, compassion, unconditional love, forgiveness and to be gentle with people/situations (“happy are the meek”). Lord, I pray today: Be a reflection of your faith. Be a good tree and produce good fruit. Don’t get worn down by the world and those who may persecute you-rather, “rejoice and be glad!” – from Jesus’ Sermon on The Mount.

Today’s sermon by Pastor Dennis was “HAPPILY EVER NOW.” Pastor Dennis felt the Holy Spirit put this message of happiness NOW on his heart. We can radiate joy, hope, faith and love! Is this not a characteristic of those who are saved by Jesus!? Shouldn’t it be? If we believe we are saved, what then can really keep us in despair and suffering for very long? Pastor Dennis states that some may need a little tweaking about “perspective” in order to live happily ever NOW. I’m reminded of reading the books, “A New Earth” and “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. These works are more mystical but contain a similar message of awareness of being in the PRESENT MOMENT and that keen awareness of the present moment allows instant comfort, peace of mind and the choice to be happy. Abraham Lincoln stated it as simply as, “I guess a man is about as happy as he makes his mind up to be.”

Pastor Dennis then lays out some realities. One is that we live in a “fallen world.” Man has fallen and we are all sinners. The second reality is that everyone needs a Savior -you were “dead before you came to Christ” (see Ephesians/John). Before accepting Christ, we are “walking sinfully in the world.” The third reality is that Satan actively works in the spirit of disobedience: to kill, steal and destroy. We must countervail Satan’s power with God’s light.

Pastor Dennis further explains that even when we were dead in our “trespasses,” God has made us alive again in Christ-by Grace. By grace we have been raised up! Not of ourselves – it’s the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. We need Christ! We can’t do truly good works on our own (see Ephesians 2:1-10/Jeremiah 29). Pastor Dennis reminds us that we have a God-given, divine purpose. “Abide in Jesus and He will abide in you!” Pastor Dennis gives us another reality check: “there’s no such thing as a problem free life!” Jesus said, “I have told you these things so you may have perfect peace. In this world you will have tribulation and suffering.” We should remain courageous and undaunted, filled with joy because despite the hardships we will face, JESUS OVERCAME THE WORLD (John 16:33).

Pastor Dennis concludes by telling us that we shouldn’t pray for certain blessings, if we are not prepared to accept the burdens that accompany them. When we are blessed with something wonderful, there will be increased challenges that come along with receiving the blessing. He references the life of Joseph who was repeatedly blessed and yet had to face daunting hardships throughout his life. However, he continued to rise up in the world because he kept his faith and met each hardship with his God-given abilities and correct fundamental alignment with the Lord, even when condemned to slavery in Egypt.

In sum, seek God with all your heart. Try and see God’s hand in all things. Be steadfast in your faith; know you will have challenges and burdens but that you can have perfect peace and blessings by delighting in the Lord and remembering Christ has overcome the world. Follow God’s ways, and you can live happily ever NOW.
-Gene Bergenn, LIFEhouse Church Member
Sunday, March 5, 2017

Pre-service notes: Cogitation…I need to work on the following: Be more Christ-like each day, seek God’s will, ask myself if I’m in correct alignment with God, ask for forgiveness/seek forgiveness, increase my understanding of the Bible, reflect more and implement advice from Pastor Dennis’ messages/discussions, use some of my skills (teaching, writing, singing, helping any brothers/sisters with addictions or loss of purpose) to guide people and invite them to turn themselves to Jesus, the only true ‘Higher Power.’ My prayer before service:  Lord, please help me always keep a grateful heart, help me give my life completely to Jesus, surrender my fleshly/earthly desires and any immoral actions to you Lord for correction, replace enmity with your peace that surpasses human understanding, help me be more equanimous, help me not meander in isolation through this life but reach out to others and bring them to Jesus with alacrity. Lord, I pray that you change any dysfunctional part of my ego to a spiritually mature quality. Amen.

            Elder Brian Butler delivered the message today, and it was about “LEGACY.” Mr. Butler spoke about the reality that our time will come to an end. What will be left behind? He avers that what we leave is woven into the lives of others. He discusses the Nobel Prize (Peace, Economics, Science, Medicine) and its inception. Interestingly, Alfred Nobel invented dynamite, a killing mechanism, but didn’t want to be remembered for doing this – so he established the Nobel Prize for achievements to enhance the progress of humanity. Nobel knew what he wanted his legacy to be:  benevolence rather than the arguably malevolent dynamite.

            Mr. Butler posed the question, “Read your obituary ‘now’ – and decide:  what do you want to leave behind?” We have a past, present and future – we will leave a legacy. We learn from the past. We live in the present. We LEAVE something for the future – how will YOU be remembered after you die? A legacy isn’t about what you earned in this life, but what you learned. Mr. Butler states that Legacy is not what you achieved “materially,” but your integrity/character. He substantiates his claim referencing the Legacy of Jesus. Jesus’ Legacy was, in part, HUMILITY and CARE. So, again, the question is, what will your legacy be? It’s not too late to change! (Couldn’t help myself from thinking of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’)

            Mr. Butler also buttresses the claim that it’s not too late to change who you want to be and what your legacy will be by reminding us of The Apostle Paul, who transformed from a Christian persecutor into one who would spread the gospel and whose enduring epistles comprise large portions of the New Testament. Mr. Butler cites 2 
Timothy 6-7 (MSG) and Philippians 2:3-11. In sum, you can make a change by following Christ and leave a meaningful Legacy to others. What do you want your Legacy to be – and why?
-Gene Bergenn, LIFEhouse Member
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Pre-worship musings: Lord, please let me reach equanimity in this life…I struggle mightily with this. Help me become more Christ-like and be a better person so that I am able to be of service to others. Help me with some resentments I am having – help me release the anger I feel toward the people who physically and emotionally hurt me in profound ways, Lord. Lord, help me fully understand the mistakes and sins of my life, and please forgive me for my sins. Help me to completely forgive others (I imagine Jesus crying out, even as he bled and was dying on the Cross, to ‘forgive them Father-for they know not what they do’)…this image of Jesus’ perfect love and compassion often brings me to tears…Thank you Jesus. Thank you just doesn’t seem close to enough…so I ask to give further thanks by offering the rest of my life to do God’s will. Lord, show me what you would have me do. Thank you for LIFEhouse. Thank you for Pastor Dennis. Thank you for the church Elders and the extraordinarily talented worship team.

            Pastor Dennis speaks today about “THE RIGHT STUFF (part 2).” God writes new chapters into the book of our lives. We have a biblical way of operating LIFEhouse. We are a team. We’re a family, in the Lord. Pastor states, “There is no greater decision people can make than to accept Jesus,” (Pastor references the injunctions Jesus gives for denying him – I imagine these would include those in places such as Luke 9 – ‘Whoever is ashamed of me/my words, I will be ashamed of them in the glory of the Father’ and John 14 – “No one comes to the Father except through me).

            Pastor says the Lord dropped on his heart, “The favor of God and the blessing of God follow those that OBEY God.” I think of increased obedience and knowledge of God’s will for me and I think of working out my salvation with ‘fear and trembling’ (fascinating phrasing since so much is written about how God’s love casts out all fear – this topic would make for robust deliberation)… A question I jot down is:  What happens when we don’t obey God? Even if we veer slightly away from “right alignment” with God, what happens to us? What have we observed, in our lives, when we are not in alignment with God’s way and God’s will for us?

I know that for me I was a train wreck before I was saved – and even now if I take back any of my own will and/or own desires that contravene God’s will as I know it, it is never pleasant…the further I drift away from God in action or in my mind, the more intensely things go wrong. I keep Pastor Dennis’ “RIGHT ALIGNMENT = PERFECT BALANCE” essay in my journal at all times. It’s a wonderfully written, succinct reminder of staying close to the Lord so you don’t lose your way in this world.

            Pastor discusses “A GOD THING” – and gives several personal anecdotes of experiencing daily “God Things.” He underscores the importance of listening and meditating on the word of God. God’s blessings are happening everywhere, and LIFEhouse must strive to meet the needs of the community. YOU, pastor Dennis emphasizes, can lead someone to Christ (plant the seed, water or harvest – and these are all equal). Let’s encourage and pray for one another. What a beautiful earthly world we could create, if we constantly lifted each other – instead of knocking each other down with harsh criticism and belittling remarks. Pastor references 2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17 (Spiritual Maturity). He talks of O.F.L.(Others Focused Living). Be useful and productive for God. Your behavior should reflect and confirm your relationship with God. Shouldn’t we all strive to improve on this daily?!

            Pastor Dennis then asked the congregation the following intellectually penetrating (at least to me!) question: “WHO – or what – CONTROLS YOU?” I have spent a long time thinking about this question…We have “free will,” we seek God’s will, we have our biological nature, and we all have been shaped by our nurture – and we can actively think about all of these influential forces. So, who or what controls me? Is there one answer to this question? Great discussion topic! Pastor references 2 TIMOTHY 3:1-5, what if ‘The fruit doesn’t match up with the tree that it’s supposed to be coming from’… So, open yourself to the Holy Spirit. Avoid toxic non-believers (we still love them and hope that they turn from evil and, instead, seek God).
-Gene Bergenn, LIFEhouse Member
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Pre-service meditations and ruminations: Be your “better self.” Let go of what you can’t control. Forgive all who have harmed you. Phrase things in terms of “I did the best I knew how at the time-now I forgive and ask for forgiveness-and put it all in God’s hands.” Trust with absolute conviction in God.

            Pastor Dennis spoke today of “THE RIGHT STUFF.” All scripture is God-breathed, God is alive, is a person and when we, the church family, worship, we should all experience SOMETHING of God! God might move us in different directions because of our individual “heart’s cry.” God responds to the needs of His children! “We agree that Jesus is Lord,” stated Pastor Dennis. Question: Since Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Taoists, Shintoists, Agnostics/Atheists, etc. do not accept this pronouncement (JESUS is Lord) – as Christians, how do we judiciously respond to this tension in our cosmopolitan society?

            Pastor Dennis emphasized the gift of you “being cleansed.” He emphasizes the qualities of faith, moral excellence, virtue, self-control, Godliness and Christian brotherhood. Pastor Dennis speaks of being humble, open and teachable. “You are an ETERNAL being in Christ.” Perfect love casts out all fear. Remember, take care of others first, then you will be blessed. This is spiritual maturity. Perhaps in secular psychological terms they might call this development of one’s character “self-actualization.”

Moreover, share the hope inside you and you could save a life! What’s your “moral compass”? Tell the truth if you expect others to do the same. God transforms the heart, which leads to great integrity! I leave thinking, “when I make a moral decision, ask myself-am I in right alignment with God?” I also remember a rather droll bumper sticker, “IF God is your co-pilot, SWITCH SEATS!”
-Gene Bergenn, LIFEhouse Member
Sunday, February 12, 2017
“As usual at LIFEHOUSE, I arrive early, enjoy some quiet time to meditate, pray and enjoy the peace of the sanctuary. I have decided that I will begin jotting down some of my thoughts and reactions to the Sunday messages. With Pastor Dennis’ encouragement, I humbly offer a summary of these thoughts/reactions for our church family’s website. I hope people will think about the Sunday message throughout the week and perhaps share any thoughts, questions or feedback.  

Before the worship, I am contemplating/praying the following: practice increased FORGIVENESS, COMPASSION and UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. To me, this is my goal in my walk with Christ. I will always fall short, but I must strive to improve daily through prayer and constant conscious contact with God…

Pastor Dennis delivered the message today. We must not become too dependent on things, but always keep what’s most important about life in the forefront of our minds and hearts. These important things would include family, friends, and loved ones. People on their deathbeds want to see family/friends/loved ones. It’s probably a bit painful to contemplate deathbed mortality, but would any of us want to be lying on our deathbed surrounded solely by the material possessions we obtained in this life? Would they bring peace, comfort and love in our final moments? If not, what should we place primary emphasis on in this life?

Pastor Dennis reminds us to always love the love of God, who pours out love on everyone in every nation. Pastor Dennis goes on to underscore being thankful for what we have. Thus, how do we strike a Godly balance between the necessary elements of acquisitiveness with the intangible, yet more important, elements of life(love, friendships, humanity, family, etc.)? How should we define our earthly “drive” or what some in society might call “ambition”- in this life? What balance would you like to strike between how much you earn and how much you learn? How much would you like to extend yourself to others or give back to your community once your needs are met?

We must strive to stay loving and Christ-like toward people, loving our neighbors as our self and even extending our love to our “enemies”. We can use our small community at LIFEHOUSE to create a common purpose so the “whole team” can achieve goals. Each member of our church family must do his or her job for the Glory of God. The Bible states that every member has a responsibility to be called to a purpose. We are the body of Christ! I remember the scene from Dead Poets Society where the charismatic Mr. Keating(Robin Williams), teaching an English class, states: “THE GREAT PLAY OF LIFE GOES ON-AND EACH MAY CONTRIBUTE A VERSE!”-then he pauses and asks his students, “WHAT will YOUR VERSE BE…?”. What “verse” will you add to the “great play of life”?
-Gene Bergenn, LIFEhouse Member
Monday, October 26, 2015
“Carrie Baxter spoke Sunday on having a steadfast heart – one of my favorite things she taught us was that:
‘God never promises that this life is going to be easy, but He promises that He will sustain us no matter what life brings.’
It is reassuring that I’m not expected to have a steadfast heart on my own strength or willpower and that God Himself is my sustenance. Because of Him, I will never be alone even when I feel lonely, and when I’m feeling weak God wants to be my strength.
“My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!” Psalm 57:7
‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.’ Psalm 51:10-11
She also talked about the idea that being discouraged is literally a lack of having courage; it tells us we’ll never make it so why bother to even try. When the Enemy tries to trap us with lies that discourage us, we can speak God’s truth into our own lives by reading and speaking scripture out loud, as well as being open to other people pointing out things that the Enemy might be deceiving us with that we wouldn’t even notice on our own.”
-Chelsea Rodriguez, LIFEhouse Member/Director of Marketing & Media
Monday, October 19, 2015
“Pastor Dennis’ sermon Sunday was called: “Follow Me.”  The key element is to take a step in faith and to decide if you want to follow Jesus. He clearly stated –  are you following Jesus, or are you living your life?  What does your heart desire?  Do you want to follow Him?  
Pastor Dennis challenged us:  sometimes you see something that you want badly, and it takes your focus off of what your heart really desires – to focus on Jesus!! 
If you seek God with all of your heart, mind and soul you will be found by Him.  He searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought.  
Have I decided to Follow Him?  Yes, indeed, my heart’s desire is to be rooted in Christ and become more like him!  Fix your eyes on Jesus!
At the end of the service, he encouraged us make a decision to follow Jesus.   We sang the song,  ‘I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.’  I was in awe to see people commit to follow Him as well as myself.  Praise the Lord!  Pastor Dennis delivered another powerful sermon.” 
-Cindy Wills, LIFEhouse member and involved in ministry as a Celebrate Recovery (CR) Leader
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
“Pastor Dennis’ sermon Sunday was entitled “Established Since 1989.” The main point of his sermon was that we need to be rooted in Christ and established in our faith. I found this to be true in my own walk with Christ. Having Christ as a foundation has shown me that I can’t be shaken. Pastor Dennis then went through Ephesians, giving us encouraging words, showing us that what matters is what God says about us and not what others say.
The enemy comes and condemns us in our mind, but if we are rooted and established in our faith in Christ, the enemy can’t do anything because peace has been given to us through the blood shed on the cross, and we as Christians have Christ in us, and greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.
He finished his sermon by encouraging us to stay established in our faith. I was personally encouraged by Pastor Dennis sermon Sunday and believe that it is a great message.”
-Josiah Yano, LIFEhouse member and Elevation youth group leader