Prayer

#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

#714 PRAYER | WEEK 9 |NEIGHBORS (LOCAL)

We are now in the middle of week 9 of our #7:14 prayer initiative. This week, our prayer focus is on praying for our Neighbors. 

Neighbors.

You remember those people, they live next door to you, maybe leave their trash cans out too long, their kids ride their bikes through your grass, play their music too loud, ____________ (whatever your pet peeve is). We can probably list off a number of things about our neighbors that irks our lives, but I wonder if we know their story? I wonder if we know the things that they care about? I wonder if we even know their names?…..

We get so caught up in our schedules, our families, our jobs, our lives that we can rarely take time for others. Our neighbors are more like strangers to us! I am guilty of this, I pull in my garage, shut the door and say goodbye to the rest of the world. Somehow it has become a hassle when someone even knocks on my door. Surely, this is not how God has called us to live. So we all need to ask ourselves (me included!), what are we going to do to break this cycle that is solely focused on ourselves, and begin to think about how we can be a blessing to our neighbors?

God has placed our neighbors in our lives, and it is not an accident – it is for a purpose.  Reflect on our focusing text this week which comes from Matthew 5:14-16:

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

But in order for “our light to shine” we must first get to know them, and also let them get to know us. Developing relationships always involves some sort of risk, isn’t necessarily easy and can at times even be messy. But the only way our neighbors are going to move beyond being strangers is to take a risk, bless their lives, hear their stories and share yours.

Sharing your story is an essential aspect of loving our neighbors. Sharing our faith can feel awkward at times, and most of us get freaked out by the idea of evangelism. So we need to completely reframe our concept of evangelism if we are going to do it well. Our call isn’t to share with them that they “are sinners in the hands of an angry God.” That might have worked in Jonathan Edwards day, but our culture is different. No, our call is to share with them how Jesus has transformed our lives while also communicating His extravagant love for theirs. Here are a couple of things that have helped me learn to share my faith with another person.

1) Becoming Comfortable in Your Own Skin
Strangely enough, caring for our neighbors starts with our hearts first. We need to learn to be comfortable in our own skin. What I mean is that we need to have our identity in Christ rooted in our hearts. We need to develop a “God confidence” in who we are in Christ. We need to allow our faith to develop in such a way that spiritual conversations do not cause us to hyperventilate but naturally flow out of who we are: a follower of Jesus. We need to know in our bones that he has transformed our lives with his goodness. When we experience Jesus in this light, it becomes very natural to speak good things about him. (Shameless plug: Our Alpha Course will help you develop this. Next session kicks off Monday, October 27th 6:30pm in the WRCC Discovery Room.) 

“God Confidence” is not “God Arrogance.” We get a lot further with people when we lead with our weakness instead of presenting a false picture of ourselves as someone who has it all together. And frankly, they already know that you don’t have it all together. As D.T. Niles wisely said,“Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.” So it’s from our need that we share our stories of how God rescued us and transformed our lives.

2) Your Neighbor is Part of God’s Good Creation; God Has a Hope and a Future for Them
We need to capture a fresh vision for the inherent worth of each person who walks the earth. They (we) are his children, created in his image, for his purpose and for his glory. Genesis 2:7: “Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” Here is a simple rule of thumb: If God touched it, it is good. In this text, we see that God’s breath and life imparts dignity and bestows worth. A good definition for dignity is our inherent value and worth as human beings; everyone is born with it.

Another way of thinking about this is that each person you come across, if you look closely, has the fingerprints of God on him or her. He has shaped and formed you and me and everyone we meet. So instead of disgracing the work that God has done, we extend grace and love that person, because they are worthy to receive love. So, do we primarily see others as sinners or as God’s children who simply need to be awakened to a life committed to Jesus’s message and mission?

3) You Have Been Sent Into the World
Simply put, God has called us to be his change agents in this world. He has done this work in your life, yes, to bless you, but just as important, so that you would be a blessing to others. So we need to move beyond thinking about this life of faith as simply waiting around “to get to heaven” and reimagine the ways God is wanting to use us to see his Kingdom come through your life. Your neighbors matter to God, therefore they must matter to you. 

So pray this week for your neighbors, ask for God to give you opportunities to connect, care and bless their lives. I have no doubt that He will answer each and everyone of those prayers.

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
  • Quieting your heart 10 minutes before service to pray
  • Joining us for corporate prayer at the church, Saturday 7:14 p.m. & Sunday 7:14 a.m.

#714 Prayer | Week 8 |Nations (Global)

We are now in the middle of week 8 of our #7:14 prayer initiative. This week, our prayer focus is on praying for the Nations. As we get to know our God via the scriptures, we get to see that His love extends beyond just you and me, His love extends to every person in our world. God’s great Story is one where He is calling the nations of the world back to Himself; to redeem them from the dominion of the Enemy and rescue them into the Kingdom of His Light. It is the very reason why Jesus came into the world, to call all men to himself (John 6:44).

Our God has given us a mission to care about the things that He cares about, to love the things that He loves. That can look like worship, faith, repentance and obedience within our own lives but also extends to how we care about our neighbors and the rest of His good creation (nations of the world). It can be hard to know how to participate in God’s mission for the world, so I hope you will engage the many opportunities to learn more about God’s heart for the nations during Missions Weekend(s) at WRCC. Click here for a list of opportunities. 

One of the primary ways we can participate in God’s mission is through prayer. Below is a prayer guide to help you engage your heart with God’s heart for the world. God has a great plan for us to participate in, but as the great missionary Hudson Taylor said, “We must go forward on our knees.” Each day this week, use this guide to help form your prayers for the nations.

Guidelines for Prayer

The following is an outline prepared to help you pray biblically according to the Great Commission.  Each petition is based on Scripture. This will enable you to pray with confidence, knowing that each petition is a perfect reflection of God’s will as it is revealed in His written Word.

Pray that the Gospel might be proclaimed to all the nations:

  • That the earth might be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).
  • That all peoples still sitting in darkness might see the great light of Jesus Christ and His Gospel (Matthew 4:16).
  • That the Gospel of the kingdom might be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations (Matthew 24:14).

Pray for the Kingdom:

  • That the Name of God might be great among the nations from the rising to the setting of the sun (Malachi 1:11).
  • That the Name of God might be hallowed, reverenced, and praised by every nation, people group, and individual (Matthew 6:9).
  • That God’s rule might advance into the entire world and that every nation, people group, and individual might joyfully submit to His will (Matthew 6:10).

Pray for a larger missionary force:

  • That the church might catch a vision of the lost multitudes and be moved with compassion by the Spirit of God to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 9:37-38).
  • That God might send out more and more laborers into the harvest field (Matthew 9:37-38).
  • That the churches and believers that stay might dedicate themselves to sending out missionaries in a manner that is worthy of God (III John 1:5-7).

Pray for missionaries:

  • That God might open up doors for the Gospel to be preached in all places and to all peoples (Colossians 4:3).
  • That God might grant boldness to the missionaries so that they will have the courage to proclaim the Gospel in every opportunity (Colossians 4:3).
  • That God might grant wisdom to the missionaries so that they will clearly proclaim the true, biblical Gospel without mixture of error or false doctrine (Colossians 4:4).
  • That God might grant grace to the missionaries so that they will be wise in the way that they speak and act toward outsiders (Colossians 4:5): (i) To live in a manner that adorns the Gospel and makes it attractive (Titus 2:10); (ii) To behave in such a way that Word of God not be maligned (Titus 2:5); (iii) To hold fast the Word of life as blameless and innocent children of God without reproach in a crooked and perverse generation (Philippians 2:15-16); (iv) To shine like stars in the universe (Philippians 2:15), and like a city set on a hill (Matthew 5:14).
  • That God might grant grace so that the missionary will not forsake cultivating his relationship with God and conformity to Christ through his daily devotions in the Word of God and prayer (Psalm 1:1-3; Luke 18:1).
  • That God might open the eyes of the missionary to know what is the hope of His calling, what is the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward all who believe (Ephesians 1:18-19).
  • That God might grant grace so that the missionary will be constantly abiding in the Vine (John 15:4-5), laboring according to the power of God that mightily works within him (Colossians 1:29), and bearing fruit that will remain (John 15:7-8, 16).
  • That God might grant grace so that the missionary manages his own household well, with love, biblical instruction, encouragement, order, and discipline. Pray that salvation might be the mark of his entire family (I Timothy 3:4-5; Ephesians 5:22-6:4).
  • That God might protect the missionary, his family, and his labor from the temptations of the evil one, doubt, and discouragement (Ephesians 6:12; I Peter 5:8-9).

Pray for the conversion of the nations:

  • That God might call out a people from all nations for His own Name’s sake and glory (Ezekiel 36:22-24). This is the chief end of missions – that God might be glorified in those whom He has saved.
  • That God might purify His people from all their impurities and from all their idolatries (Ezekiel 36:25).
  • That God might remove the heart of stone from His people and give them a heart that is responsive to Him and His Word (Ezekiel 36:26).
  • That God might put His Spirit within His people and cause them to walk in His statutes and be careful to observe His commands (Ezekiel 36:27).
  • That one day a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue might stand before the throne in worship of God and the Lamb (Revelation 7:9-10).

 

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
  • Quieting your heart 10 minutes before service to pray
  • Joining us for corporate prayer at the church, Saturday 7:14 p.m. & Sunday 7:14 a.m.

#714 Prayer | WEEK 7 | Understanding

Help me understand the meaning of your commandments,
    and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds.
Psalm 119:27 NLT

We are now in the middle of week 7 of our #7:14 prayer initiative. This week, our prayer focus is on understanding.

A common prayer for many of us is “Why?!” Why did you let this happen God? Why didn’t you answer this prayer I have been asking over and over again? Why?! There are moments in our walk with Jesus that feel impossible to ever understand and can drive you to despair. These moments touch a whole range of our human emotions; ranging from confusion to sorrow. It is in these moments we need to quit asking the “Why?” question and instead our prayers change to asking for help: Lord, help us understand your ways.

One of the primary way God blesses us through prayer is by giving us the grace of understanding. Many times while we wrestle in prayer, we all of the sudden receive divine insight on a particular situation. We are able to have a new perspective because God has imparted to us wisdom and understanding about that situation. This understanding may result in you coming to know why God did or didn’t do what you asked, but more often than not it will result in you experiencing a deeper trust in God. We learn that He is indeed sovereign over every situation of our lives. Understanding allows us to walk with a renewed confidence that His purposes will soon be fulfilled. It might not change a thing about the current struggle that you are in, but will enable you to be hopeful, patient and give you the endurance you need to sustain you.

Understanding in the Midst of Pain

There are many times in my own life that I have had to ask the Lord for the blessing of understanding. As many of you know, my wife and I have battled with infertility for 7 plus years. That journey was and is a very challenging and perplexing one for my wife and I. This is something that we have pleaded with God for time and time again. The Enemy used this time of unknowing to make us question everything: Were we being faithful enough? Had we prayed enough? Was there some sin in our lives holding us back from this blessing? And on, and on…. 

It was in these moments of confusion that we had to press into prayer and re-remember that His heart towards us is good, that we are His children which He loves. While this issue of infertility is hard – He is right there by our side. So over and over again we would gain deeper understanding of both His nature and character. He spoke to us that He is always with us, and that we are never alone. This type of understanding produces trust and hope in even the most dire of circumstances. That understanding sustained us through it all to keep going, and we are so thankful it did: My wife is due to give birth to our little girl in February! However, this does not mean that we were ever guaranteed a child, rather what was promised is that He would be with us through it all. And that is more than enough!

Final Note: Posture of Humility

It is important when we seek understanding from God that we continually humble ourselves before Him. If you sit in the judgment seat and point fingers at God, I promise you, you won’t get very far.  As James 4:6 reminds us, “He gives grace to the humble but resists the proud.” So a good rule of thumb is to be quick to listen and slow to speak, especially when it comes to God. As we humble ourselves before God, He will slowly begin to “connect the dots” for why your present circumstances are unfolding like they are. He wants to speak to you, we must take the time to humble ourselves, be silent and learn to listen.

So remember that when times of confusion come, and they will, our best hope is to seek His face and be reminded that He is with us every step of the way. He will grant us understanding when we need it the most. Take this week to really focus on listening to God, so that you may understand His plan for your life.

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
  • Quieting your heart 10 minutes before service to pray
  • Joining us for corporate prayer at the church, Saturday 7:14 p.m. & Sunday 7:14 a.m.

#714 Prayer | WEEK 6 | Obedience

We are now in the middle of week 6 of our #7:14 prayer initiative. This week, our prayer focus is on obedience. Obedience is a concept that most of our world wholeheartedly rejects. Somehow we have gotten to the place where the idea of someone telling you what to do has moved from being “good advice worth listening to,” to a grave injustice. How did we get here?

To thine own self be true (Shakespeare) has served as a motto that has been both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing when it allows us to get to a place of authenticity, when we tap into who we really are in Christ. It is a beautiful thing when we are awakened to see that God made us in a particular way and has called us to a particular mission.

On the other hand, it is a curse when we use this as a self-centered perspective to be our only compass to navigate the world. Instead of simply choosing to be obedient and love others, we rely on our feelings and emotions to dictate the terms for how we engage others. We get lost in a whirlwind of our own ego, and we rarely grow because our only teacher is ourselves. We get lost in this self-centered vortex where all of our conversations are laced with lines like: I think that… My feeling about the subject is…The impression I had was ….

We all need to take a refresher course on what it means to be obedient to God’s leadership over our lives. Obedience is a matter of character, pure and simple. We are obedient when our character has been forged by God’s gracious hand to see that his ways are better than our ways. We need to remember WHO it is we are putting our trust in: What is the nature of God’s character? Has he proven himself to be trustworthy? Is he good? When those simple questions are affirmed in our hearts, it increases our ability to be obedient to his will and his way.

A Story of Calling

One of the most essential things we learn on our discipleship journey is cultivating an ability to say “Yes” to God’s will for our lives. I remember when I received the call into my first ministry. I had just graduated from Texas A&M and I was considering my options for the future: seminary, youth ministry, things like that. Over this last summer at Texas A&M, I got connected with a college ministry that was doing some pretty amazing things. Relationships formed quickly there and I was asked to join their staff to be a college pastor. “Staff” usually means salary + benefits in most church contexts, but here it was a call to raise financial support from outside donors.

When I was asked to come on staff, I remember distinctly my heart singing “Yes,” while all the time my flesh was crying out even louder, “NOOOOOOOO.” My mind was flooded with a whole host of excuses for why this didn’t make any sense. Outside of having to raise support, I was sitting with a pretty substantial amount of credit card debt and this beautiful girl named Rebecca came into my life – I would surely run her off if she knew I was going to take a risk like this.

So I prayed, and prayed and prayed some more. One Sunday I sat in my room for 6 hours listening to Jason Upton (awesome worship leader) and wept before the Lord. Through this time, God kept telling me that this was the plan he had for me if I would submit and be obedient. He reminded me how he had led me to this point in my journey and reaffirmed that he would be with me every step of the way forward. I came to a place where I said, “Yes” to him and submitted to his will.

In the end, I served four years in that ministry and it was the best thing that could have happened to me. The process of being obedient and raising support was a refining furnace that solidified my calling and character. For four years, I lived on the kingly sum of roughly $11,000 a yearBALLER STATUS. Yet, I wouldn’t change this experience for the world, as it caused the fruit of the Spirit to flourish in my character. I learned to be patient, resilient and ever hopeful through this process. I got to see the world via missions trips and married the love of my life, Rebecca and even got out of debt!

I am reminded of our text that we are focusing on for obedience this week, it comes from Psalm 25: 4-5, 8-10. I personally appreciate how the NRSV renders this as it states,

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long…. Good and upright is the Lordtherefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.”

God is the subject of the author’s prayer here. He doesn’t say “Bless my decisions, God” but rather teach me your truth, teach me your way. We need a fresh reminder that God’s heart and character are good. We need to be reminded or learn that his will is the best thing for our lives. Through the posture of submission, we can finally learn the blessings of obedience.

May God grant you the courage to say “Yes” to him in your life as well.

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
  • Quieting your heart 10 minutes before service to pray
  • Joining us for corporate prayer at the church, Saturday 7:14 p.m. & Sunday 7:14 a.m.

#714 Prayer | Faith | Week 5

We are now in the middle of week 5 of our 7:14 prayer initiative. This week, our prayer focus is on faith.

The concept of faith can feel a bit tricky at times because it can mean a lot of things at one time. Faith is a confluence of belief, trust, love and loyalty all mixed up to result in us accepting/ believing certain things as true about God and what he has done in the world. The Greek term for faith comes from the word pistis, Theologian R.T. France has a helpful definition of pistis when he states, “The language of faith is essential to human relationships in general, but gains its special biblical connotations from the interaction of God with humanity, his reliability and our response of trust in him” (from the “Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels”).

So essentially faith boils down to one idea: TRUST

Chapter 11 of the Book of Hebrews has long been a helpful means for defining what it means to have faith. It gives us not only a strong definition of the word but also is filled with examples of men and women who have proven themselves to be faithful to God. The beginning of Hebrews 11:1 states, Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen … And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” From this definition the author retells the stories of the forefathers of our faith: Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses and others, citing their unyielding belief that God would accomplish all that he had promised them.

Think about these men’s lives for a moment: All of them were put in bewildering circumstances. They were pressed at every point and yet they retained a deeper trust that kept them undeterred in the face of opposition. The testimony of their lives forces me to ask the question: Do I really trust Jesus to sustain me in the darkest moments of my life? Do I really believe he will do what he says he will do? Is he really good and trustworthy even when my circumstances suggest otherwise?

In my reading this week I came across a quote from Thomas Merton that really kicked me in the teeth (in a good way 🙂 ). This quote really forced me to ask how much faith do I actually possess in key moments of in my life. He comments:

Cowardice keeps us double minded – hesitating between the world and God. In this hesitation, there is no true faith – faith remains an opinion. We are never certain, because we never quite give in to the authority of an invisible God.

This hesitation is the death of hope. We never let go of those visible supports which, we well know, must one day surely fail us. And this hesitation makes true prayer impossible – it never quite dares to ask for anything, it surreptitiously seeks by human prudence to construct a make-shift answer.

What is the use of praying if, at the very moment of prayer, we have so little confidence in God that we are busy planning our own kind of answer to prayer?

As a planner and processor this nailed me. How often have I hedged my bets to play it safe, rather to believe God for something greater? How often have I shut down the vision God has given me at the first sign of resistance or complaint from our congregation/staff/elders, instead of pressing in through prayer to ask God to make that dream come to life? How little have I believed the possibility that the hard relational issues in my family could be overcome?

But it is in these moments of doubt that we must look back over the course of our lives and cling to the times where we have seen God move, the times that he has made a way for us that once seemed impossible. We must hold onto these moments as we embrace the future with hearts full of faith and trust that he will do it again! 

Let’s not miss the opportunity to press into the Lord’s heart through prayer. My encouragement to each of us is to fan the flames of faith within our hearts – believe again that God fully intends to do amazing things through WRCC. Pray with expectant hearts – believing that God will perform a miraculous work within your homes, your places of work and in your relationships.

So I encourage you to read through Hebrews 11 this week and learn from these saints of old. They serve as examples of how our own faith in Jesus should be expressed in our lives. Not shifting like the sand with the sea, but steadfast and resolved – committed to following Jesus no matter what the costs. So as we continue our journey with #714 Prayer, ask God to increase your faith so that you can see him for all that he is: good and trustworthy!

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
  • Quieting your heart 10 minutes before service to pray
  • Joining us for corporate prayer at the church, Saturday 7:14 p.m. & Sunday 7:14 a.m.

#714 PRAYER | WEEK 4 | Repentance

We are now in the middle of week 4 of our 7:14 prayer initiative. This week, our prayer focus is on repentance.

I try to keep a “first things first” understanding in regards to what it means to be saved. It absolutely starts on the front end knowing that salvation can only happen by the grace of God alone. But salvation isn’t just a one-time prayer we prayit is maintaining a posture of repentance and faith, which begins in a moment but is maintained for the rest of your life. Repentance means we are following the ways of God over the broken ways of this world. Faith means that we are consistently trusting in him both to rescue our souls and be our source of strength as we navigate this world.

The concept of repentance stands at the very heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Understanding who Jesus is causes a radical shift for his followers, resulting in a complete transfer of allegiance from our inherently selfish ways into a posture of submission to Jesus’ message and mission. The verb repentance stems from the Greek word metanoeo, meaning to change one’s mind and purpose. One scholarly dictionary defines repentance as “a radical acknowledgment of God, as well as a radical confession of a sinful fallenness that is so total that recourse to the former means of salvation appears hopeless.” Repentance is the response one has to God through the convicting work of the Spirit. Therefore, we repent (or turn away from) a former way of living and now embrace the holy ways of God.

John Wesley, an 18th Century Stud / Pastor for Jesus

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church and a hero of mine, understood the act of repentance as containing three principles:

  1. Conviction or self-knowledge
  2. Poverty of spirit
  3. Rejection of self-righteousness and self-justification.

It is my belief that repentance comes before faith because our heart needs to be prepared to understand the necessity of salvation and just how far we have erred through our sinful behavior. This is the first step in awakening the heart to the love of God and comes in response to the prevenient grace of the Spirit.

Having a heart transformed by repentance redefines our understanding of what it means to have faith.

Faith is then understood to go far beyond a mental assent to a list of facts that describe the character and work of Jesus Christ. Wesley describes faith as “not only an assent to the whole gospel of Christ, but also a full reliance on the blood of Christ; a trust in the merits of his life, death, and resurrection; a recumbency upon him as our atonement and our life, as given for us, and living in us.” Scripturally, Philippians 2:12 is a good example of the mixture of repentance converging with faith, in which Paul exhorts us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

We repent because we are struck with both the reality and gravity that all our human ways to do life have failed. We are lost on our own and need to turn from these old ways towards the pure, gracious ways of Jesus. The Holy Spirit calls to us to live differently, so in our submission to Jesus as Lord, we are consequently choosing to emulate and represent his way of life to the world.

The work of repentance is evident in our lives through our fruitfulness within God’s Kingdom. As Jesus told us in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” This lifestyle of repentance and fruit-bearing that Jesus calls us to will involve an entire shift in our focus. Things which we previously held tightly lose their importance in favor of the ways of the Kingdom of God. We must ask ourselves: Are we willing to switch our loyalties completely? Do we truly trust Jesus, and believe that his Kingdom is better than any kingdom of this world? 

Let us take this week and ask the Lord to produce a deep work of repentance for the ways we have failed to keep Jesus and his Kingdom at the center of our lives. May God mercifully expose the ways we have fallen short, and give us the strength and courage to live differently.

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

#714 Prayer |Week 3 | Confession

We are now in the middle of week 3 of our 7:14 prayer initiative; this week our prayer focus is on confession. To help you focus your mind upon the concept of confession, we are going to learn from three other voices of wisdom on this topic. They have experienced the power of this discipline and their words are a light to us as we experience the grace found through confession.

Richard Foster from “Celebration of Discipline”

“The Bible views salvation as both an event and a process. To converted people Paul says, ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling’ (Phil. 2:12) … The Discipline of confession helps the believer to grow into ‘mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13).

“Confession is a difficult Discipline for us because we all too often view the believing community as a fellowship of saints before we see it as a fellowship of sinners. We feel that everyone else has advanced so far into holiness that we are isolated and alone in our sin. We cannot bear to reveal our failures and shortcomings to others. We imagine that we are the only ones who have not stepped on to the high road to heaven. Therefore, we hide ourselves from one another and live in veiled lies and hypocrisy.

“It is the will to be delivered from sin that we seek from God as we prepare to make confession. We must desire to be conquered and ruled by God, or if we do not desire it, to desire to desire it. Such a desire is a gracious gift from God. The seeking of this gift is one of the preliminaries for confessing to a brother or sister.”

Charles Finney’s Self Examination Process

“If you mean to break up the fallow ground of your hearts, you must begin by looking at your hearts: examine and note the state of your minds, and see where you are. . . . Do not be in a hurry. Examine thoroughly the state of your hearts . . . whether you are under the dominion of the prince of darkness, or of the Lord Jesus Christ. . . .”

“Self-examination consists in looking at your lives, in considering your actions, in calling up the past, and learning its true character. Look back over your past history. Take up your individual sins one by one, and look at them. I do not mean that you should just cast a glance at your past life, and see that it has been full of sins, and then go to God and make a sort of general confession, and ask for pardon. That is not the way. You must take them up one by one. . . .”

A Short Method Of Prayer — Jeanne Marie Bouvières

“Self-examination should always precede confession. Those who arrive at this degree should expose themselves to God, who will not fail to enlighten them, and to make known to them the nature of their faults. This examination must be conducted in peace and tranquillity, expecting more from God than from our own research the knowledge of our sins.

“When we examine ourselves with an effort, we easily make mistakes. We ‘call evil good, and good evil;’ and self-esteem easily deceives us. But when we remain exposed to the searching gaze of God, that Divine Sun brings to light even the smallest atoms. We must then, for self-examination, abandon ourselves utterly to God.

“When we are in this degree of prayer, God is not slow to reveal to us all the faults we commit. We have no sooner sinned than we feel a burning reproach.

“It is God Himself who conducts an examination which nothing escapes, and we have only to turn towards God, and suffer the pain and the correction which He gives. As this examination by God is continual, we can no longer examine ourselves; and if we are faithful to our abandonment to God, we shall soon be better examined by the divine light than we could be by all our own efforts. Experience will make this known. One thing which often causes astonishment to the soul is, that when it is conscious of a sin, and comes to confess it to God, instead of feeling regret and contrition, such as it formerly felt, a sweet and gentle love takes possession of it.

“Not having experienced this before, it supposes that it ought to draw itself out of this condition to make a definite act of contrition. But it does not see that, by doing this, it would lose true contrition, which is this intuitive love, infinitely greater than anything it could create for itself. It is a higher action, which includes the others, with greater perfection, though these are not possessed distinctly.

“We should not seek to do anything for ourselves when God acts more excellently in us and for us. It is hating sin as God hates it to hate it in this way. This love, which is the operation of God in the soul, is the purest of all love. All we have to do then is to remain as we are.

“Another remarkable thing is, that we often forget our faults, and find it difficult to remember them; but this must not trouble us, for two reasons: The first, that this very forgetfulness is a proof that the sin has been atoned for, and it is better to forget all that concerns ourselves, that we may remember God alone. The second reason is, that God does not fail, whenever confession is needful, to show to the soul its greatest faults, for then it is He Himself who examines it.”

Tom Rich
Discipleship Pastor

—————————————————————————————————————————

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

#714 | Week 2 | Brokenness

We are now in the middle of week 2 of our 7:14 prayer initiative; this week our prayer focus is on brokenness. Yikes! The concept of brokenness is something that many of us try to stay as far away from as possible. We have an uneasy relationship with truth, and therefore would rather pretty up the surface of our lives up so that we can at least appear that we are doing OK to others. We spend a lot of energy trying to project a false image of ourselves. We love to wear masks, ones that make us look better than we think we are, masks that make it look like we have it all together. Often the biggest liars are found in the lobbies of churches. We pass by one another wearing a fake smile, desperately trying to project an image of competence. You have seen the scene:

How are you doing?!

Great! You?

Couldn’t be better!

Wonderful, see you later!

All the while we’re dying inside, too scared to let anyone know it. On the one hand you are relieved that your mask is still intact but on the other hand, your soul is dying because it is desperate to actually be known.

We project these false selves both out of our pride and our shame. Pride because we would hate someone to think poorly about our lives; shame, because we are the ones who know the depths of our depravity. One of the books you read in The Journey is titled The Cure; it speaks to the lies that keep us from freedom. One quote that stands out from The Cure:

No one matures in bitterness. No one gets free in isolation. No one heals rehashing the testimonies of bad religion. No one gets to love or be loved well in self-protection. Self-protection is one of the great oxymorons. We’re the only person in the world we don’t have the potential to protect. And once we hide from trusting God and others, we become more enflamed, more self-justified, more calloused in repeating our blame.

We fear that if we are truly known, we could never be truly loved. So it seems that the only options we have are to either hide or build up so many walls in our heart that we will never truly be known. In reality there is another option that stands right before us, and it is one of the mysteries of the Kingdom. We find that when we humble ourselves and ask God to break us, we are released from the pride and shame that keeps us hidden.

I have family friends in Texas who live in the fancy part of town. Driving past their house you honestly wouldn’t think twice about them: Huge house, manicured lawn, fancy cars in the driveway. They seem to have it all together. But inside their home, the scene is far different. Stepping through their doorway, you see very clearly that they are hoarders. Piles and piles of unnecessary items line the hallways, and the rooms are filled with stacks upon more stacks of junk. It’s like a Hobby Lobby threw up all over itself. My first reaction was disgust and contempt, but that quickly shifted to compassion when I saw the restlessness to their souls that keeps them from feeling satisfied and always looking for more.

Many of us are not much different from this house. We are great at making ourselves look good on the outside, but on the inside, the junk is piling up and threatening to spill out. We need to be split open and allow the darkness of our souls be exposed to God’s glorious light. That’s not easy and it is often filled with fear. But we learn that when we are broken by God, he is the one to take the broken pieces of our lives and put them back together the way they were meant to be. It is in our brokenness that we can actually find restoration. 

Our brokenness should not be a source of shame. It is out of our brokenness that we are actually made whole. When Jesus talked about the broken, he called them blessed.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Matthew 5:3-6

Simply put, those who are broken by God are blessed. Not because he is out to hurt you for your sinfulness, rather because he wants to restore you from the ways your heart has been malformed. Its out of our brokenness that we can experience the truth of 1 Corinthians 13: 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. When we are thoroughly broken, God’s healing helps us to respond to the other brokenness of the world not with contempt, but compassion. It is in our brokenness that we are able to see him clearly and therefore reflect his image into our lives. Our lives are transformed and renewed, we therefore embrace the world with Christ’s compassion instead of wearing that old worn out mask. Henri Nouwen expresses how our newfound compassion brings healing to others when he says:

“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.” 

Brokenness breeds compassion, and Lord knows this world could use some more of that. So as you seek the face of God this week through 7:14 Prayer, ask him to break you, break you of your pride, shame, lust, greed, anger, contempt, ________  you name it! It’s not easy, it’s often scary, but it is the very thing our hearts need the most.

Broken beside you,

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

#714 Prayer| Week 1 | Worship

Worship is at the center of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Our #714 prayer initiative is a call to refocus our hearts and minds on the Lord so that we can experience his presence in deeper ways.

As we have seen in our reading of The Story, there is a real sense of wonder and beauty to the way the Lord goes about his business. From speaking Creation into being, to rescuing his people from oppression in Egypt via a stuttering old man (Moses), to making a shepherd boy into a king (David), to his greatest act of redeeming all the world not through overt power but through sacrifice (Jesus). God is determined to rescue his people from the brokenness of this world, but he often does it in a way we wouldn’t naturally suspect. Often God acts in such a way that seems puzzling and confusing to us at the time, but in hindsight our hearts and minds are struck by the brilliance and genius of his actions.

It is when our hearts come to a deeper understanding of God’s wisdom and purpose that worship begins to pour out of our souls.  Worship is simply the response of our hearts, both individually and collectively, to the character of God. We worship him for what he has done within our lives, and this is demonstrated through what we say and how we live. So then, as we respond to God in worship, we see that our lives begin to reflect his will. John Piper gives us a helpful definition of worship:

Worship is what we were created for. This is the final end of all existence-the worship of God. God created the universe so that it would display the worth of His glory. And He created us so that we would see this glory and reflect it by knowing and loving it-with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. The church needs to build a common vision of what worship is and what she is gathering to do on Sunday morning and scattering to do on Monday morning.

Worship centers our hearts and minds on God’s mission. It breaks through the monotony of our day and calls us into God’s vision for humanity.Worship is the vehicle to awaken us to this God-centered perspective, so that we partner with God to see his Kingdom come, on EARTH as it already is In HEAVEN. 

One other thing needs to be said when it comes to worship. We need to remember that we are called to worship. Not simply invited. Called. God calls his people to worship him so that they would be refreshed to participate in God’s mission in the world and to be reminded of who God is and who he has made us to be in the midst of a dark and broken world. Often we will have to choose to worship God when we don’t feel like it, but when we do our perspective changes for the better. Eugene Peterson expounds on this idea saying:

We live in what one writer has called the “age of sensation.” We think that if we don’t feel something there can be no authenticity in doing it. But the wisdom of God says something different: that we can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting. Worship is an act that develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God that is expressed in an act of worship. When we obey the command to praise God in worship, our deep, essential need to be in relationship with God is nurtured.

So as we corporately learn about worship during #714Prayer, we have an opportunity to be intentional and pray twice a day that worship would not only flourish in our own hearts but that it would catch fire throughout Hamilton County!

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