Author: Tom Rich

Discipleship Pastor @ WRCC

Resurrection: Death has been defeated

Easter.

It’s a story of Light shattering the Darkness. A story of the God who so loved the world that He would offer the ultimate sacrifice of His Son. It’s a story about Jesus, who held such a resolve in his heart to rescue the world that was bound up in sin, shame, lies and darkness, that He would pour his life out for us completely.  It’s a story of Death being defeated. It’s now a story of a people shaped by resurrection, a story that binds us up in hope. It’s our story.

Its also a story that our hearts should never tire of. As is often life, Easter weekend is upon us and we can just blow by it without truly pausing and considering the magnitude of what has happened on our behalf. We need to remember all that was given and all that was won by our God. The Lord has rescued our souls but He also defeated Death once and for all. Let the Message version of 1 Corinthians 15 remind you of the power of Resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:21-28   There is a nice symmetry in this: Death initially came by a man, and resurrection from death came by a man.  Everybody dies in Adam; everybody comes alive in Christ.  But we have to wait our turn: Christ is first, then those with him at his Coming,  the grand consummation when, after crushing the opposition, he hands over his kingdom to God the Father.  He won’t let up until the last enemy is down—  and the very last enemy is death! As the psalmist said, “He laid them low, one and all; he walked all over them.” When Scripture says that “he walked all over them,” it’s obvious that he couldn’t at the same time be walked on.  When everything and everyone is finally under God’s rule, the Son will step down, taking his place with everyone else, showing that God’s rule is absolutely comprehensive—a perfect ending!

We need to remember that in the resurrection of Jesus, God defeated Death once and for all.  “According to Paul, death has entered the world as a personified power, has penetrated to all humanity like an epidemic, and has incited all to sin. Thus from the fall of Adam and as a result of the fall death has established a domain of sovereignty, in which in its turn sin came to power among humankind, who deserved the judgment of death through their conduct and had to die.” (EDNT)

Death was never part of the original design in Gen 1, yet through sin, death has inflicted humanity since the time of Adam. Understanding death as a “personified power” transforms our understanding of it from being a common human experience to an infliction that must be cleansed if any hope is to be realized. NT Wright explains, “as the present age is inflicted by death, who is an intruder, a violator of the creator’s good world. The creator’s answer to death cannot be to reach some kind of agreement or compromise. Death, must be, and in the Messiah has been and will be, defeated.”

So this is way more than a story of some dude who seemed kind and was faithful, and if we think about it he might be a good role model for us. NO! This is the story of the Son of God who obliterated His enemies and as a result rescued his people. This story sparked a revolution of love and its a story that we draw strength from when our world gets turned upside down. In the resurrection we remember that God rescued us and will rescue us again.

This story never grows old or gets stale. It should paint a picture in your hearts of Jesus that is so compelling that it draws you daily to follow him. But our hearts can grow cold, can grow stale and so we need to remember this story and remember how BIG it is.

Death has been defeated | He has truly rescued us.

So my prayer for you is the same one Paul had for the church of Ephesus 1:19-23   I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power  that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.  Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.  God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

Tom Rich
Discipleship Pastor

Without Vision the People Perish

Milestones have always been a big deal to me.

What a stud, look at the hair!

What a stud, look at that hair!

From early on, it was ingrained in me to think ahead and dream about what could be possible. I always wanted to know what might be next, and what did I need to do now to prepare for then.  I still do. In those early years the dream consisted of playing left tackle for the Houston Oilers, then in high school I figured out my mind was sharper than my athletic prowess so I started dreaming back and forth from being a psychologist to a coach.

In college, my life was transformed as I finally understood the beauty of the gospel and my call to being a pastor soon followed after that. Through it all, I knew there was something more and in order to obtain it, I needed to dream and have a vision for what that “something more” could be.

This girl is something else

This girl is something else

In my young adult years I dreamed about where I wanted to be in life when I was 30. I remember distinctly praying that I would be at the foothills of whatever great work God would call me to. I was frustrated that this dream wasn’t coming to life as I was only halfway through seminary when I hit the 3o milestone. 35 was the next milestone and I longed to be a father and serve in an amazing church. I am grateful to say that I have gotten to check those boxes off big time. And now I dream about what 40 will be like for my family and I am praying that I will be able to live into that dream.

I don’t think I am unique in this, at least I hope I am not. We have dreams – both big and small – that we hope/long to see manifested in our lives.The scriptures speak to the need for people to have a vision consistently set before them that beckons them forward. Proverbs 29:18 in the KJV tells us “Where there is no vision, the people perish”. Other translations help articulate this truth further:

  • NIV – “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint”
  • NLT – “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild.”
  • The Message – “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves”

All four of those word pictures seem to illustrate that we need to have a vision of something that is bigger than ourselves. We get lost when we aren’t looking at the horizon, hoping for something more. As believers, we need to keep a picture of Jesus and His good Kingdom work ever before us. Asking Him, how might He use me? What blessing could I be to another person? I know when I have a clear direction of what is possible, I am more invigorated to do the work to see that dream actualized.

As a church we are still dreaming.

Dreaming about what could happen if we all locked arms together to Connect Every Life to Jesus. This weekend we are going to be talking about the dream God has given us as a church. And my hope is that you dream with us! My prayer is that you will come into this weekends services with attentive hearts, seeking to see just how God might be calling you to participate in the dream He has given our church.

So let’s dream big and give our God our very best!

Tom Rich
Discipleship Pastor

FLAT Out Evangelism (F1rst Series)

Through our F1rst Series we have looked at the importance of daily/corporate worship and generosity. This week, we are focusing our attention on the importance of sharing our faith — or Evangelism as it’s known in Christianese 🙂 To help us unpack this important concept I have asked Derek Lynas, our Outreach Pastor, to lay out some practicals for sharing our faith. His approach is something we should all be incorporating in our daily lives of following Jesus – Tom Rich

Thoughts on Evangelism 101: You can’t save anyone. There- all the pressure is off! You can also throw out all the hidden agendas, people projects, and awkward conversations too! It’s our great God who does the saving! However, He has given us (you and me) both the privilege and responsibility of helping people discover a life changing relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. And that’s Good News! 🙂

So how do we do it? Where can we find an example? I don’t think we have to look any farther than the life and interactions of Jesus himself. He was the master of meeting people wherever they were at in life with a steady dose of truth and love. He noticed people like Zacchaeus who was literally up in a tree as hundreds of people pressed in around him as he walked through town. His heart broke for the rich young ruler as he rejected Jesus invitation toward a new life, but He loved him even still. He met the woman at the well right in the middle of her sinful life and told her the flat out truth that would set her free. Jesus could be found in places others wouldn’t have even thought about going and hanging out with people that others wouldn’t think of spending time with. He was a friend of sinners. And He still meets people right where they’re at in their lives with the power of His death, burial, & resurrection.

Ok, so Jesus was all that while on this earth, but what about someone other than the Son of God? How about Phillip, one of His followers? In Acts 8:25-36 there’s an amazing sequence of events that I believe can serve as a guide for us to walk with the people God puts in our path toward a life with Jesus. I call this approach FLATout evangelism because it’s not a “bait & switch” trick, it’s not a formula, and it’s not a step–by-step process. It’s more of a lifestyle that we have the opportunity to live. So here it is…

(F)OLLOW Jesus faithfully in your own life

If we’re not following Jesus faithfully in our own lives, we have no chance of helping someone else find Him in their life. Following Jesus everyday will also prepare us for the people He puts in our path, to notice them in the midst of all the busyness, and to sense the leading of the Holy Spirit in any moment.

(L)ISTEN to people’s hearts

Listening is possibly one of the most important things we can do when walking with someone toward Jesus. If we aren’t really listening, how can we ever expect to know where someone is in his or her life? We need to be actively listening to what’s going on in the lives of people God loves. It’s not thinking about what to say next and certainly not being judgmental merely because they’re not speaking our same language.

(A)SK relevant questions toward the relationship

If we’re listening well and following the leading of the Holy Spirit, we’ll know what questions to ask and our relationship will have a chance to go deeper. Asking relevant questions also shows the other person that you were actually listening to what they had to say.

(T)ELL people about life with Jesus

Simply showing Jesus to others isn’t enough if they’re going to begin a relationship with Him. We have to be able to tell them how to begin. Even the Ethiopian asked Philip “How can I know unless someone explains it to me?” (Acts 8:31)

Derek Lynas
Outreach Pastor

Worship – Simple Obedience (F1rst Series)

This weekend we kick off a new sermon series titled F1rst: Putting God first in my life.  In this series, Pastor Tim and Pastor Phil will share with us their hearts on why Jesus should reign supreme in our priorities and values. Over the course of the next 5 weeks we will have a fruitful discussion regarding worship, giving, sharing our faith, commitment and the vision God has given us as a church.

I sure hope as we engage 2016 we come to a space where we release our failures and missteps in 2015 and embrace a deeper connection to our God. This weekend Tim is going to share his thoughts on worship being one of the central priorities in our lives. For me this raises a real simple question:

Are We Expectant when we come into Worship?

The first 15min of each of our worship services are pretty amazing. Pews/chairs are relatively empty; but without fail, slowly but surely there is a trickle of humanity that steadily comes in and by the 3rd or 4th worship song the place is usually filled. Its quite the transformation!

Now I am certainly appreciative of anyone who makes space for God in their life, and I know that puts a smile on God’s face as well. But it does raise the question in my own heart: are we missing the point of worship all together?

Are we there to just check the box that we actually attended church this week? Are we there to simply soothe our conscience? Or are we there to express our thankfulness and gratitude to the King who gave so much?

I know this sounds like a first rate guilt trip from a pastor telling you to get your butt to church on time – but the truth is I often have to check my own heart on these issues as well.  When I feel rushed to get into worship or have a million other things on mind, I have to stop and remind myself of why I am even here in the first place. Not surprisingly, the scriptures help us find a proper perspective regarding our attitude towards worship,  consider Psalm 122:1-3

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” 2 Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. 3 Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together. 4 To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD. 

Eugene Peterson says of this verse, “This command, to give thanks, runs right down the center of all Christian worship. A decree. A word telling us what we ought to do, and that what we ought to do is praise…. But very often we don’t feel like it and so we say, ‘It would be dishonest for me to go worship and praise God when I don’t feel like it. I would be a hypocrite.’ The psalm says, I don’t care if you feel like it or not: as was decreed, ‘give thanks to the name of the Lord.’” Long Obedience in the Same Direction p.53-54.

That word from Mr. Peterson is a nice slap in the face to wake me up to the purpose of worship and develops an expectancy in my heart for it. Quite simply, as much as we are drawn into worship by our gracious God, we have much to learn about the obedience of simply choosing to do it. Simple obedience. On my best days I come to worship in anticipation to meet the One who not only created me but also rescued me from the darkness of my own heart and the brokenness of this world. I need worship to remind me of all that I might have forgotten throughout the week. But it is just as important to worship when I am not “feeling it.” I need choose to fix my eyes on Jesus; and when I do, He usually takes care of the rest.

So this weekend as you prepare to worship God with us, ask yourself the question why am I here? And if you don’t like your answer – go anyways. Simple obedience goes a long ways.

Tom Rich
Discipleship Pastor

Simplicity

Simplicity: seems like a foreign concept today, huh?

Our lives are filled with this busyness; we rush from one “priority” to the next, continually active and yet never feeling like we are actually getting someplace with our life. We check items off our lists, but there is still a nagging feeling that our lives are meant to be lived differently, that there is a greater purpose in store for us.

We lack the superhuman strength to keep up with this pace and our humanity tells us that there is a cost to this chaotic activity, yet we are unable to find a way to clear our schedules of all that must be done. And so technology has become our new god, enabling us to accomplish our multitude of tasks. Its gospel is one filled with the hope of streamlining our chaotic lives by electronically packaging all of our priorities and plans into an iPhone. Accompanying our busy lives is our insatiable hunger for the material things which we do not have and cannot afford.

Human existence is currently in a frantic state.

Richard Foster describes this pace of life when he states, “We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. Elsewhere Foster describes our present culture as a “modern mania.”This language may seem initially strong, but I would suggest that it is exactly the type of language necessary to wake our souls from their slumber. Words like psychotic and mania suggest that our creative nature has been altered in a way that is a perversion to our natural identity. We have become hurried creatures, a generation reliant upon Starbucks and energy drinks to compensate for our fatigue, rushing to achieve our next goal and earn our next pay raise, and all the while squandering the image of God for the image of worldly success. And while our preachers call us to pray more, give more or serve more, the message we need are in desperate need of is a call to simplicity.

But the call of Jesus on each of our lives seems to be a call to simplification. The spiritual discipline of simplicity cannot be easily defined; a definition of simple living is, ironically, far from simple. Simplicity has many facets, including generosity, humility, courage and contentment. The discipline of simplicity does not mean a call to absolute poverty, living on a subsistence level of existence. It does, however, call for a reorientation of how we view wealth and possessions. As Foster notes, “Simplicity is the only thing that sufficiently reorients our lives so that possessions can be genuinely enjoyed without destroying us.”The discipline of simplicity is a discipline of freedom, which allows us to engage the world through the lens of God’s kingdom and make holy decisions as a result of this understanding. We choose to no longer entangle ourselves with the cares of the world and instead focus our hearts on the things that deeply matter to God.

The scriptures are clear that there is a need for the discipline of simplicity in the church, but the question remains: how should one go about integrating it into our lives? This journey must begin with the message of Jesus, who taught us to “Seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all of these things will be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). Instead of letting our lust and passions drive our decision-making processes, we submit our desires to the will of God as we seek to react to the pressures of each day as we believe he would act. It is not easy and it certainly countercultural – but wouldn’t it be worth it?

So to close, where do you see Jesus the most in your life today? Where are those simple spaces in your life where you hear his voice most clearly? What would life be like if we chose to cut off on the noise that gets in the way of experience His Presence more and more? What could be gained if we chose to reframe our perspectives on living from one that is masked in chaos to one that is more entrenched in the rhythm of God’s life. We all have one life to live and give account for, let us embrace it in such a way that says that expresses Jesus way of life out to the world.

Tom Rich

Godly Family, Godly Conduct

Let’s start at the beginning.

In the beginning God created mankind in His image and likeness expecting man to take care of and maintain His creation and creatures in a way that would honor the Creator. He made us to be “godly”, imprinted with his divine image and likeness. “Then God looked over all he had made and saw that it was very good!”(Genesis 1:31).

Well, we all know what happened – our first parents wanted to be God rather than be godly and the rest is the history of how this dysfunction created the broken world we currently reside in. All throughout human history, we have seen how often man has sought power, money, prestige, sex, drugs, etc. as their idol/god and yet always left wanting and in personal ruin. The family unit has suffered from these perverted priorities. When God is not at the center of the family, that is a recipe for disaster. When we do not have a focal point of submission, our focus is on self and the things that give us pleasure, rather than the pure work of sacrifice and service to our family. We don’t have to look very far to see how this has played out around us with all the problems that are in families, many of us carry around wounds that we have received from broken families as well.

But there is always hope! God is calling us back to family values just as He has always done as laid out in Scripture.

So, how do we actually work at reshaping our family to reflect the image of God once again? I find the three core compoentes that are laid out in our Alpha program at WRCC (PLUG!! 🙂 )speaks to how to approach this – the three core components are: Belong, Believe, Behave. We all Belong to God’s family as his creation and children, we are all called to Believe the wisdom that God offers through His Word in the Bible (acceptance of Jesus as our personal Savior), and as a result of this belonging and believing, we Behave in a manner that reflects our faith as Christians. So, it is our calling as parents, grandparents, etc. set the trajectory for our homelife to be a safe place, where Christ is the center, and one where we encourage each other to actively follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

Proverbs, once again, provides some insight into the side effects of acting or not acting “godly”. The term “wicked” is used to describe the negative behavior that brings death and destruction.(12:7, 14:11). The “godly: are depicted as having “wisdom” (21:16-19) “standing firm” (12:7), “flourishing” (14:11), “secure” (14:26), receiving “favor from the Lord” (18:22), “walking with integrity” (20:7).

So the book of Proverbs does a great job of laying out what “godliness” looks like in the various roles that are in a family. Proverbs also provides specific guidelines of conduct for all members of the family. For example, the man (husband/parent) – needs to avoid sexual transgressions (2:16-19, 6:32-35). The woman (wife/parent) – needs to not be quarrelsome, but understanding (19:13-18). The child – “a foolish child is a calamity to a father”. The proverb that really needs attention today re: children: “Discipline your children while there is hope, otherwise you will ruin their lives.” (19:18). In other words, those that dismiss the “spare the rod, spoil the child” belief in favor of just discussion, may want to re-think how their approach can administer appropriate, but loving disciplinary consequences for bad behavior.

So, it takes all members of the family working together in love to sustain a godly family. The divine mystery of the Holy Trinity gives us insight as a model of a godly family. Three persons – with each focused on specific roles – share together in one loving Godhead – God the Father (the Parent – our Creator), God the Son (the Child – our Liberator), God the Holy Spirit (the Love connection – our Navigator). They work as a cohesive unit as God as they live and interact in loving obedience to each other. We can make it work as godly families when we live in obedience to our given roles from the Creator – who gives us life, the Liberator – who frees us from sin and death, and the Navigator – who’s spirit guides us on the way in our journey.

May God and his word continually shape and form the character of our families at WRCC.

Pat McQuillan

Chapter 30: Paul’s Final Days

In order for us to get a better idea of the gravity of the final days of Paul, we must remember the final days of Saul, first. Saul, the persecutor of Jesus’ followers was a most unlikely beacon of the light and Good News of the Gospel. Yet, as God tells us time and time again through the Bible, that it is when we least expect something, we should very much expect it. For without these twists and turns of the storyline throughout the Bible we may get lulled into the goodness and grace of our Lord and somehow forget about the life altering power He possesses. When Jesus met Saul on the road to Damascus, millions of lives would be altered through the coming years.

The conversion Saul experienced, becoming Paul, and one of the strongest proponents of Jesus through the rest of his life, should offer us a not-so-subtle reminder that regardless of where we are in our life right now, we can change, through Christ Jesus; into the person we are called to be.

In my opinion, as much as the last days of Paul’s life are about Paul, they are even more about Jesus, and the eternal impact He has on our lives when we let Him. If you have taken the step to accept Jesus into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior, you have already received the greatest gift, ever given. By accepting Jesus, you have received a life that will be lived eternally, in Heaven. The story, as proven by Paul’s conversion, cannot end there. Just as it is important to first receive the gift, from Jesus, it is equally as important that we learn to give the gift as well. As Jesus says in Acts 20:35,”It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

What that means, to me, is that as awesome and wonderful as it is to accept Jesus into my life and know that I am saved, if I can help others find their own road to Damascus, and let Jesus intersect with them, then I will be blessed, more. What we begin to see, here, is that the Great Commission is more than just a good idea; it is an essential way for us to live, as Christians. I love how Paul spends his remaining years preaching the Good News to anyone who will listen. He wants to give, as often as he can give, because he knows the power of Jesus. In fact, more than anyone else, Paul may have known the true power of Jesus and the grace and forgiveness our Savior exemplifies. As Paul faced his final days knowing that his death was imminent, his desire to share the Good News, about the Messiah, never slowed.

As much as I respect the courageous and impactful work of Paul during his ministry, I also find that his work makes me question my own “output” as a Christian who is tasked with living out the Great Commission. My prayer for each of us is that we have our Damsacus moment, soon, and take the same approach Paul did in sharing the Good News with reckless abandon. With all that is going on in the world, our Good News is something everyone could use.

Eric Wasson

 

Chapter 29: Paul’s Mission

When Saul of Tarsus, who later became known as Paul, saw the resurrected Jesus on the Damascus Road, he converted to Christianity. He made three long missionary journeys throughout the Roman Empire, planting churches, preaching the gospel, and giving strength and encouragement to early Christians. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, Paul is credited as the author of 13 of them. While he was proud of his Jewish heritage, Paul saw that the gospel was for the Gentiles as well. Paul was martyred for his faith in Christ by the Romans, about 64 or 65 A.D. He epitomizes the well-led Christian life; but we see that he did not fall upon it by accident or coincidence. Once this happened, he lived his life to fulfill his purpose…his mission.

Paul realized that he was called to spread the good news of faith & salvation and God’s heart for the world. He did not go haphazardly wandering into cities, through the wilderness and generally looking for just anyone who would listen. He was intentional and determined about where he planned to go. He would first go to the synagogues; which made good sense being that it was generally in the heart of the city.

We know this often spelled trouble for Paul and Barnabas. After an invitation to speak in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, they are invited to say more at a second Sabbath meeting. This time, “…almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.” Awesome! Why? Because Paul, ever-living out his mission, ignited the call to mission in others; as we know, word-of-mouth is sometimes a great way of reaching others when the mission field seems impossible. On the other hand, if they had no interest or refused to hear what he had come to say, he would move on to the Gentiles. He was very clear in his teachings about Jesus’ message without putting his own personal spin on what was true to make it more palatable or to make it easier to convert non-believers.

Paul, as with most of God’s messengers, was met with outright scorn, persecution and unimaginable physical abuse. He and Barnabas were even thrown into prison. While Paul resisted those against him, he also resisted being idolized. He kept everything in perspective. Intentional. It is hard to not feel sympathy for the trials of Paul; however, God used those trials to further validate the cause.

One of Paul’s most famous statements is: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV), reminding us that our power to live the Christian life comes from God, not ourselves. Paul also recounted a “thorn in his flesh” that kept him from becoming conceited over the priceless privilege God had entrusted to him. In saying, “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Corinthians 12:2, NIV), Paul was sharing one of the greatest secrets of staying faithful: absolute dependence on God.

Much of the Protestant Reformation was based on Paul’s teaching that people are saved by grace, not works: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-“ (Ephesians 2:8, NIV) This truth frees us to stop striving to be good enough and to instead rejoice in our salvation, gained by the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

We, too, are called to that brand of Christianity – whether we are new Christians or life-long. We are called to think and plan and then act in ways that serve God.

  • What might be different in our lives if we were deliberate about our faith and spreading the Word?
  • What conversations might take place if we were unafraid of what persecutions we may face?
  • How could you better serve with the gifts and talents give to you by God?

Let’s all allow Paul to be a model to us for what it means to live missionally, attuned to God’s will over our lives!

Cheryl Grant

Chapter 24: No Ordinary Man

As a new writer for this blog, I feel Tom Rich was amazingly polite in giving me this chapter to begin my WRCC blogging career. I suppose, based on this chapter’s content, there was some discussion in the Rich household that probably ended up something like this: “Well, this Wasson guy could probably use all the help we can give him…I got it! CHAPTER 24!

Chapter 24 gives us a one-chapter synopsis, a highlight reel of the amazingness of our Savior. Such things included in the chapter are events with such a high impact level that they are some of the most famous aspects of the Scriptures. Parables, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ many miracles, and several key interactions with the disciples, are included in this chapter.

As I was preparing my thoughts for this posting, I found myself thinking back to a three-year span of my life, where I had as much impact on the world for the rest of history, as Jesus had done in this three-year period. And…well… I am still waiting for those three years that can even come close to comparing. In fact, I bet that if you were to do the same sort of self-reflection about your own life and try to imagine the best three years of your life, having a worldwide, ongoing impact, such as these three years in Jesus’ life, that there would be none of us who could honestly say we even come remotely close.

There is no doubt that Jesus is worthy of every ounce of praise we give him. In fact, reading Chapter 24 made me fall deeper in love with our Savior. You know why? Because, as he went through this part of his life, his main focus was on teaching about his Heavenly Father, not just on doing miracles. He performed miracles because he loved people, not so that he could have a highlight reel. He did nothing in his entire life for show. Every single ounce of his being was to glorify God through his life and actions. The Scriptures even give us an insight into the primary focus by the way this chapter begins. Taken from Mark 4:1, “Again Jesus began to teach by the lake.” It is the use of the word, again, that hit me like an Andrew Luck TD strike in the chest, because I was quickly reminded that Jesus’ teachings were not his hobby — they were his life.

Jesus, clearly, was successful at satisfying his goals for coming to Earth. I think — actually, I know — that it isn’t just because he is the Son of God. Granted, I am sure that didn’t hurt his chances at success, but still. Jesus had three attributes in his life that, if we were to each emulate, we could also be a little less ordinary ourselves.

  1. Jesus was all loving. He had, as mentioned at the end of the chapter, a “rock-solid” sense of who he was. This self-confidence in all he did allowed him to do everything with an overarching love that dictated his actions. I speak for myself here, but I know that there are times when I struggle to find peace in a situation and if I approached it with love, I know I would have a much better chance of a successful outcome. I bet, today if not sooner, that we will all have a situation arise where we can act with love, or without. Try love.
  1. Jesus lived each day with an unrelenting passion to achieve his goals. What is keeping you from having the life you want to have? If you are like me, you are not pursuing your passion with everything you have. We all have something that drives us, but we also have something that is keeping us from “getting after it.” Chase your passion with reckless abandon, and if you do not know how to get started, or what that means to you, pray passionately. God will answer.
  1. Focus on the forever. Jesus worked endlessly to prepare all of us for the eternity that awaits us in heaven. He endured more, pursuing his work, than we will ever endure, and he was able to do that because his focus was not on the now, His focus was on the forever. I know there is a lot going on in the news these days, and I know we each have so much going on personally, but I also know that the more we focus on the now, instead of the forever, we become a little less salty, our city on the hill becomes a little less bright, and we will all become a little less like Jesus.

Though there are so many more ways that Jesus proved to everyone he was “No Ordinary Man,” there is comfort to be taken from the fact that with a daily focus, prayer, and immersing ourselves in the Lord’s word, we too, can become a little less ordinary.

In His name,

Eric J. Wasson

#714 Prayer | Week 10 | Thanksgiving

We are now in the middle of the final week of our #7:14 prayer initiative. This week, our prayer focus is on thanksgiving. Even in a world that can be as dark and painful as ours, there is still a whole lot to be thankful for. It may be a roof over your head, a meal at the table, or a meaningful friendship. God’s grace is woven into the very fabric of our lives. Consider our text this week regarding thanksgiving, Psalm 100:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come into his presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he that made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him, bless his name.

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

This psalm is originally written as a Psalm of Praise in response for all that the Lord has done on behalf of Israel. He had rescued them from the bondage of slavery, established them in the Promised Land and blessed them through the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem. From darkness and despair to security and hope: God has made all things new for his people. You hear this specifically in verse 3 when the psalmist exclaims, “Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” All that is good and true in their lives, and in ours, comes from the graciousness of our God. That is why it is important that we put on the forefront of our minds the ways that he has provided for us, instead of simply dwelling on the hard things in our life.

Prayer of Examen

One of the practices you go through in our A Way of Life discipleship process is a prayer technique called the Prayer of Examen. The Prayer of Examen is a great way to look for God’s presence in your life. More than 400 years ago, St. Ignatius developed this technique for his own congregation. The Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and to discern his direction for us. This prayer opens our eyes to the ways God is at work in our lives. Knowledge of his working gives us a tangible sense of his peace, which produces thanksgiving within our hearts.

1. Become aware of God’s presence. Look back on the events of the day in the company of the Holy Spirit. The day may seem confusing to you—a blur, a jumble, a muddle. Ask God to bring clarity and understanding.

2. Review the day with gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights. Focus on the day’s gifts. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? What did you give them? Pay attention to small things—the food you ate, the sights you saw, and other seemingly small pleasures. God is in the details.

3. Pay attention to your emotions. One of St. Ignatius’s great insights was that we detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? What is God saying through these feelings?

God will most likely show you some ways that you fell short. Make note of these sins and faults. But look deeply for other implications. Does a feeling of frustration perhaps mean that God wants you consider a new direction in some area of your work? Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you should reach out to her in some way.

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may involve a feeling—positive or negative. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace. Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant. Look at it. Pray about it. Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude.

5. Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s coming up. Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer. Seek God’s guidance. Ask him for help and understanding. Pray for hope. (Adapted from http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ )

An important aspect to prayer is learning to talk to Jesus like a friend. He wants to hear your heart, but he also wants to speak to you about yours. So end this Prayer of Examen with a conversation with Jesus. Ask forgiveness for your sins. Ask for his protection and help. Ask for his wisdom about the questions you have and the problems you face. Do all this in the spirit of gratitude. Your life is a gift, and it is adorned with gifts from God. When we come to that realization, our hearts can truly be thankful.

Tom Rich
Discipleship Pastor

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God has called his people to pray! Our families, communities, and world are in need of healing and God makes a conditional promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that we want to live out. God is calling us as his people to humble ourselves, pray, seek his face and turn from our wicked ways. Please join us by:

  • Praying daily at 7:14 a.m. & 7:14 p.m.
  • Fasting one time per week