An Alone Person in Our Gatherings Is An Emergency

“If someone collapsed in your church building, everyone would mobilize. But every week, people walk into our gatherings for the first time and get effectively ignored. They may not know Jesus, or they may have spent years wandering from him. Their spiritual health is on the line, and a simple conversation could be the IV fluid God uses to prepare them for life-saving surgery. Eternal lives are at stake.

What if it’s a regular church member who is alone? An isolated believer is an emergency too.”

To read more click the link below.

Article by Rebecca McLaughlin

Bible Study…Loving God…But I Don’t Have Time!

Loving God more, by knowing Him personally and hearing from Him directly through the scriptures….but  __________, ____________, and _________ are happening in your life right now and you simply don’t have time.

Regardless of the season of life you are in, showing and experiencing love for another takes time, sacrifice, and intentionality.  For a family member or friend, it is easier to be intentional and sacrifice other things in order to spend time with them, which results in growing closer to them and understanding them more deeply.   Yet, when it comes to loving God, can we honestly say that we apply intentionality and pursuit in the same or greater measure?

Friends and family are present.  They are speaking.  I am listening.  They are responding and I am hearing … and also, so it is with God.  He has spoken and still speaks.  He is responding and nearer still than any friend or family member when we are sitting with Him, but it is hard to hear His voice over the noise of the other things that are pressing in and urgencies that are calling out.

Schedules and life have a way of precluding focused time with God in the scriptures, hearing and listening to Him, even when it is our great intent.  If you’ve ever had an established time and routine of deepening relationship  with the Lord through Bible study, you have likely realized how difficult it is to maintain because life is fluid and things change.   When you’re single, Bible study is complex in a specific way, but then marriage routines may come and constructs change.  Perhaps you used to orbit around the care and needs of your home as a wife and mother, and then were called to ministry and life outside of home in the workplace and things changed; your family grows and you have children…things change; someone in your family gets terribly sick; your infant begins to walk and what used to be still has become chaos.  Routines and demands change regularly, that is reality, but our time in the scriptures, hearing from the Lord must remain… really the only constant through any and all change is our need to love God through spending designated time WITH Him in His word… in each season.  How many of us can think back and can say ‘Oh, I used to do a Bible study when …”.  Regardless of the reason or season, Bible study is by its very nature and intent, the path through which we draw near in loving and personal relationship with the Lord, God.  But how?  Eighteen years ago, with infants and toddlers in my care, that was my question.

I began meeting with two other moms in my same season of life, in my home to study God’s Word weekly at my kitchen table.  The babies came, even if they hadn’t cleared the window of being fever-free for 24 hrs., moms came with and without breast milk stained shirts.  Makeup and showers were not required, and as sleep-deprived as we were, we sat down, learned to tune out the sounds of needy children, and focused on the truths of God’s word for at least an hour.  As young moms we learned to hear from God through the scriptures in spite of the other noises vying for our attention.  ‘Tuning your heart toward the Lord’ took on a whole new depth of meaning, as we had to tune out the sounds of children and their implements in order to do so.  There were pack-n-plays set up around the room, nerf guns active in our air space, and the rhythmic hum of a baby sucking on a bottle with other intermittent noises which continued through the time together…BUT GOD…. Since He Himself intended us to draw near and get our very breath from His word, He showed up every time, and actively changed and transformed us through the power of His Spirit, and the time that we spent in His Word together.

When God said that He would “lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them” (Isaiah 42:16), I realize looking back, that he used the books of Judges and the words from the minor and major prophets in the scriptures to do just that!!  I would have never ventured into Judges, Joshua, or Ezra during that season of training up young children, but I will testify now to the equipping and transforming power of those non-traditional Bible study days.  Who would have thought?!!  It was during these years of being in God’s word and watching it come to life in my days as I attempted to figure out my role as a young wife and mother, that my love for  God began to grow from acquaintance to dependence and from duty to desire.

Eighteen years later, I am still meeting at the same kitchen table with other moms (young and old), and the guidelines for gathering have not changed.  Women who have come and gone through the years will say to me ‘Oh, how I miss those days of study at your kitchen table’.  After talking further, I realize every time, that it’s not me that they miss at all, but the Lord God himself, and the fellowship that God designed by way of support and encouragement when His people do not stop gathering together, as intended (Acts 2).  There is no qualification about season of life in that Biblical directive from the Lord through Paul.  It doesn’t say, when  your children are grown and out of the house and your laundry is done and dishes cleared, meet together in study of the scriptures and fellowship (Acts 2).

He tells us, ‘Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  Yet the reality is that we commit to and respond to many other things in our homes and culture, to the point that we are so weary and burdened that by the time we go to Him and sit quietly with His word before us, we fall asleep or worse yet, don’t go to Him at all, because we don’t have time.  The truth is, we have not made time.  We have chosen poorly.  Let us endeavor in 2020 to choose differently in the area of loving God through time spent in His word, regardless of the season of life you’re walking in at the moment.  Consider your circumstances and make it simple.

What You Need:

  • Desire to love and draw near to God personally.
  • A table, couch or space in your home or at a friend’s home to gather.
  • A Bible and some form of Bible study guide (see suggestions below).
  • An hour of sustained time each week, in addition to time spent on logistics, to get together with a friend or small group, and some time daily (20 minutes or more) for personal study.

You DO NOT need:

  • A clean home to host or dishes cleared from the sink.
  • Classroom level of quiet.
  • Three to four hours in one day weekly in order to get ready, get somewhere and get home.
  • Experience ever studying the scriptures or being in God’s Word in a group.

Set aside the expectation of a classroom style atmosphere that is quiet and keenly focused on the pursuit of learning and hearing.  Over time, the noises of children in the background will truly be background to the truths and transformation going on at the table.  Don’t let the impossibilities of a structured and tightly executed ‘Bible Study’ keep you from engaging in the scriptures in meaningful and transforming ways with one another.

“16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19

“This was not only Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians; it’s God’s desire for us today. He wants us to have more strength, enlarged capacities, to know Christ’s love and enjoy more of his fullness. Because more of God’s fullness means greater love for him. And greater love for him means more delight in him. And the greater our delight in him, the easier his yoke and the less burdensome his commandments become Matthew 11:30, 1 John 5:3), for God has enlarged our heart (Psalm 119:32)

Jon Bloom… Staff Writer, Desiring God.org

So, ask the question and answer in honesty:  are you routinely committed to being in study of God’s Word weekly with others, or is that something that you ‘used to do’?  Is that something you’ve never done, for a host of reasons?  Let this year be marked by a change in routine and commitments, which result in you loving God more, with greater delight and with a lighter burden, no matter what season of life you’re in or what circumstances you face.  He and only He is greater.

RESOURCES:

Written by Blaire Savage

The Compassion of Christ

In yesterday’s sermon (1/5/20) we looked at the compassion of Jesus.  As the elders lead us to follow His example this year, this simple weekly prayer guide can be a good prompt.  Just read the day’s passage and pray that you would be compassionate like Jesus and that our church would be, too!

Meditations on the Compassion of Christ

  • Sunday – Luke 7.11-15
  • Monday – Matthew 14.13-21
  • Tuesday – Matthew 15:32-39
  • Wednesday – Matthew 20:29-34
  • Thursday – Mark 9.14-29
  • Friday – Luke 10.25-37
  • Saturday – Luke 15:11-32

A Good Prayer for Christmas Day!

 
Advent Prayer
by Angela of Foligno, 1248-1309

O Lord Jesus Christ, make me worthy to understand the profound mystery of your holy incarnation, which you have worked for our sake and for our salvation. Truly there is nothing so great and wonderful as this, that you, my God, who are the creator of all things, should become a creature, so that we should become like God. You have humbled yourself and made yourself small that we might be made mighty. You have taken the form of a servant, so that you might confer upon us a royal and divine beauty.
 
You, who are beyond our understanding, have made yourself understandable to us in Jesus Christ. You, who are the uncreated God, have made yourself a creature for us. You, who are the untouchable One, have made yourself touchable to us. You, who are most high, make us capable of understanding your amazing love and the wonderful things you have done for us. Make us able to understand the mystery of your incarnation, the mystery of your life, example and doctrine, the mystery of your cross and Passion, the mystery of your resurrection and ascension.
 
Blessed are you, O Lord, for coming to earth as a man. You were born that you might die, and in dying that you might procure our salvation. O marvelous and indescribable love! In you is all sweetness and joy! To contemplate your love is to exalt the soul above the world and to enable it to abide alone in joy and rest and tranquility.
 
Lord, give us grace to understand your supreme love in creating and redeeming us, in choosing the human race from all eternity to attain to a vision of yourself. Give us grace to understand your goodness in creating us with the gift of reason, by which we may perceive your glory and our own sin and wretchedness, and by which we are able to resist our sensual nature which inclines us to sin. You have created us, Lord, in your own likeness and clothed us with the light of reason. O Supreme Being help us to understand your love, for you yourself are love! All the angels and saints love you and contemplate you and gaze upon you and worship you for ever. Amen.

A Good Meditation for Christmas Eve!

Let the just rejoice,
For their justifier is born.
Let the sick and infirm rejoice,
For their savior is born.
Let the captives rejoice,
For their Redeemer is born.
Let slaves rejoice,
For their Master is born.
Let free men rejoice,
For their Liberator is born.
Let All Christians rejoice,
For Jesus Christ is born.
St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-440)

Advent Through The Eyes of a First-time Dad!

My wife and I recently welcomed our first child into the world, and it has proven to be a unique time of the year for the baby to come. She was born a week prior to the beginning of Advent. Over the past couple of weeks, we have had many opportunities to be confronted with the absolute helplessness of a newborn. There is essentially nothing she can do for herself yet. We must feed her, change her, clothe her and carry her. It is astounding how utterly dependent newborns are which caused me to think, “Jesus embraced this for us?”

The season of Advent is intended to help us remember and reflect on how Jesus came into the world over two millennia ago in order to redeem His people. This reflecting on His first coming is also meant to cause us to think towards His second coming when He will make all things new. But unless we slow down a little more, we might miss the incredible truth that Jesus came as a baby!

Imagine if you, as a grown adult, were given the choice of remaining as you were or becoming a baby. By becoming a baby, you would eventually have the opportunity to help a lot of people and make a significant impact. But think of all the things you would have to give up. You wouldn’t be able to talk, walk, drive, feed or clothe yourself, think, work, and a whole host of other things. Would you do it? The measure of condescension would be great indeed.

But our minds simply cannot comprehend the measure of condescension that Jesus spanned by becoming a helpless baby that first Christmas. It truly is immeasurable, for He is the infinitely glorious, powerful, and wise God of the universe. He left His heavenly throne to be born into our broken world in a dingy, dirty animal shelter. He forsook all the glory and majesty of heaven to embrace us in our messed up world. He became helpless to save the helpless. He became weak to save the weak. He became human to save humanity. The astounding miracle of Christmas is that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

If ever you question God’s love for you, look in your mind’s eye and in the Scriptures to see that helpless baby lying there for you. He willingly gave up His place of honor and glory to come to rescue you. The love of God for you was put on display by the baby Jesus lying helplessly in the manger. And if that weren’t enough, that little baby would eventually grow up and choose to embrace another act of condescension and humiliation – death on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins. We truly have a redeemer who loves us beyond our ability to think or imagine. Take a few moments this Advent to thank and praise Jesus specifically for embracing infancy in this broken world as an act of His great love for you.

To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Ryan Wood