Category: Blog

Prayer

Vince Scarbrough Minister to Preschool & Children Families
Vince Scarbrough
Minister to Families & Connections

I have several books on my shelf that “need” to be read. I bought them with the purpose of reading them, I just have not gotten around to it. I want to read them, but they have not naturally risen to the top of my to do list yet. So, last week, I snatched one off the shelf and dove in. A few pages into it, the author wrote:

Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change – the reordering of our loves. Prayer is how God gives us so many of the unimaginable things he has for us. Indeed, prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire. It is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God. Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life.”

So much for light reading and reflection – “prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life.” It is “the main way we experience deep change.” Does my prayer life reflect such? On multiple occasions, Paul helps us understand the importance of prayer as he reveals his heart and his prayer for other believers. In Ephesians 1:15-19, Paul writes:

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

One of our greatest blessings is to be able to pray to the God of all creation. To pour out our hearts and to allow him to work in our hearts and change us. On top of that, we have the beautiful example that Paul gave us of praying for others. As you pray, would you pray the following for our children and students:

– That they will know Christ as Savior early in life and treasure their inheritance as children of God; that they will not accept Satan’s deceitful lies but will walk in the light as heirs of the Kingdom of God.

– That they will have a hatred for sin and all things wicked, and a love for godliness and righteousness.

– That they will rightly receive discipline and instruction; that they will be quick to repent; that they will be caught when they are guilty.

– That they will be protected from the evil one in each area of their lives: spiritual, emotional, and physical. Pray that they stand firm in persecution, and firmly against those who persecute.

– That they will have a responsible and loving attitude in their relationships with others.  Pray that they will walk in humility and look to the needs of others.

– That they will respect God’s lordship over them, and those He has placed in authority over them.

– That they will choose godly influences; that they will desire the right kind of friends and be protected from the wrong ones; that they will be “hedged in” so they cannot find their way to wrong people or places, and that the wrong people cannot find their way to them; that they will be kept from the wrong mate and saved for the right one.

 

Posted in Blog |

Mark 4

Cameron Debity Pastor

Cameron Debity
Pastor

Upon first reading Mark 4:35-41, one might be tempted to think that this is a legendary tale. It is the fantastic story of Jesus silencing a deadly storm by simply speaking to it. A hurricane force storm obeys Jesus just as a small child obeys a parent when he is told to be quiet and to stay quiet. Remarkably though, the narrative contains features that do not square with the typical features of a legendary account. Rather, this story has features that make it easy to conclude that this is an eyewitness account.

The key is all the little details contained in the story that don’t necessarily help move the story along. Mark notes that the event happened in the evening. They took Jesus with them in a boat, just as he was. This means that Jesus went from the teaching boat, straight to the traveling boat, without going back on shore. We learn there were lots of others boats around him. And during the journey Jesus went to sleep on a cushion in the back of a boat.

What is the significance of all the small details? They are meaningful because these are the memories of somebody. Our minds tend to recount particular small details amidst the major circumstances we experience in life. So, when we encounter such details in a narrative we must conclude that this was eyewitness reporting. In the case of The Book of Mark, the various details we encounter are probably the memories of Peter. If you’ll recall, Peter served as a primary source of Mark as he authored his gospel.

It is also important to consider that the biblical gospels were written way too early to be legends. They were written within the lifetime of eyewitnesses and those eyewitnesses could have been consulted regarding the veracity of the account. While modern, realistic fiction does contain minute details like the ones we find in the gospel of Mark, we must keep in mind that Mark originally wrote to a 1st century audience and not a 21st century audience.

The most important takeaway is that this event really happened. The power of Jesus isn’t simply devotional. His power doesn’t simply surface internally, in our hearts. Jesus really calmed a hurricane like storm by simply speaking to it. Let that soak in for a moment.

So, if this really happened, if Jesus had this kind of power, then we must take all that he said very seriously. Many people like to pick and choose the teachings of Jesus that they want to follow. They embrace his easier saying and reject the more challenging ones. They create a makeshift Jesus according to their own preferences. But if Jesus really calmed a storm as Mark says he did, then we have to deal with him on his terms. You don’t get to control the one who has control over creation.

 

Posted in Blog |

Jonah

image

Chase Grubb
Minister of Students

Though the book of Jonah bears the name of a character in the book, most of what is learned is about God.  First, we see that God has a desire to see all people groups live righteously.  God sends a teacher from Israel to a pagan nation to call them to repentance.  Throughout the Old Testament God acts in similar ways.  Each time he does so he is attempting to show Israel and the foreign nation involved his greatness.  Jonah going to Nineveh is another attempt by God to show himself to both Jews and gentiles.  He shows himself to the Ninevehites by first sending a message of judgment and repentance, and finally by keeping his word and forgiving them following their repentance.  God’s heart has never stopped at the boarders of Israel, and God’s way will universally save.  God also showed himself to Israel by sending a Jewish teacher to the gentile city of Nineveh.  The Jews would not have understood, but they also wouldn’t have been able to deny the power and heart of God when they heard and saw the transformation of the
citizens of Nineveh

Bringing up the second point, God is a merciful God.  It would have been hard for any Jew to accept that God wanted to save any gentile.  But, it would have been impossible for a Jew to accept that God wanted to save Nineveh.  The city was not only gentile, but it was the capital of Israel’s largest enemy at the time, Assyria.  There was hatred between the two people groups.  This is evident when reading Jonah.  Knowing God would save the people if they repented, Jonah’s hate was so deep that he refused to go.  Then in the final chapter we see that Jonah is angry the Ninevehites repented.  As a reader, God did not hesitate to stay the city’s judgment as soon as their repentance took place.  Regardless of our sin, God is immediate to forgive when we come to him per his Word.
JonahGod’s mercy is also shown to Jonah.  As one progresses through the book it is easy to see that everyone and everything in the book is obedient to God accept the man of God, Jonah.  The men on the boat Jonah attempts to flee on, the storm, fish, plant, worm, and the Ninevehites all obey God’s commands;  yet, even in Jonah’s blatant and repeated disobedience, God gives him another chance.  God had the fish spit Jonah out on the land and again in the final chapter we see God seeking to teach him what is right.  It would be hard to think of a greater sin for a man of God to commit.  First directly disobeying God, but worse than that, disobeying in hopes that no one in Nineveh would be spared.  Upon hearing this story or reading this book, Israel would have been amazed at the patience and mercy shown Jonah as well.

Finally, God is the main character and focus of the book of Jonah.  Often time in Sunday School young believers are taught to associate Jonah with a big fish.  To give some reference here, Jonah is mentioned by name 18 times while The Lord is recorded 41 times.  The author is seeking to teach the audience about the character and nature of God.  They are to see that God is incredibly merciful.  Readers would have acknowledged God’s patience, his power over nature, and how present he is in the lives of individuals.

 

Posted in Blog |

Got A Plan?

Vince Scarbrough Minister to Preschool & Children Families
Vince Scarbrough
Minister to Families & Connections

I don’t consider myself to be a planner. It’s not that I am some type of free spirit who meanders through life. I have a calendar, and I make plans, and I carry through with those plans. What I mean is, I am not one of those people who gets up on Monday and starts thinking about what I am going to do the following Saturday, and then goes ahead and puts an agenda in place. It isn’t that I am trying to keep my options open or anything – I just don’t want to put that much mental energy into thinking about Saturday if I don’t have to. When there isn’t anything of a priority on the schedule, I am happy to wake up on Saturday morning and think, “what should I do today?”

Now having read that first paragraph, most of you will fall into one of two groups. The first group sort of sees me as a hero – OK, maybe not a hero – but definitely someone you identify with. Then there is the other group – the group that gets thoroughly frustrated with someone like me. It drives you bonkers when on Monday you ask, “So what do you want to do on Saturday?” and people like me respond, “Saturday? Can’t I just get through Monday first. Let’s just wait and see.” It is amazing how often God puts one from each of those groups together in marriage.

a look ahead

So, planner and non-planner, let me ask you two questions: What is your plan for personal spiritual growth? What is your plan for your family’s spiritual growth? Very often, those are not questions that we ask ourselves. When it comes to our spiritual growth and the discipleship of our children, we often act as if we just expect those things to happen. After all, we come to church, we listen to the preacher, we listen to the Sunday School lesson, we pray before we eat. But is that really enough? Can we grow substantially in our walk with the Lord in just a few minutes a week? When I look into the lives of people with a vibrant faith and passion for the things of the Lord, I never find anyone who is content with sitting in church for a few hours and then waiting for the same time next week to roll around. They pursue God throughout the week – they read Scripture daily, they pray all throughout the day, they meditate on the Word of God, they memorize Scripture, they humbly serve the Lord with every aspect of their life, and they very often pray and fast on a regular basis. They are intentional about their pursuit of the Lord.

One thing that can help most of us is developing a personal spiritual disciplines plan and/or a family discipleship plan. It isn’t something that is overly cumbersome, and you don’t have to write some type of curriculum for your family to go through. It simply requires taking a small amount of time and putting a plan of action into place. In less time than it will take you to plan this summer’s vacation, you can put a family discipleship plan in place that will fit with the natural rhythms of your family’s life. For now, document how you are pursuing the Lord throughout the week. In a couple of weeks, let’s discuss a template for a plan.

 

Posted in Blog |

One With The One And Only

Jeff Smith Minister of Education & Administration

Jeff Smith
Minister of Education & Administration

This is from Jeff’s new blog, Goodwill God. Read more at GoodwillGod.com.

On the day that it was released, I took my son and his friend to a see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I was as excited as they were. I’ve been a Star Wars fan ever since the first movie, and so I thoroughly enjoyed all the connections that Rogue One had with the original story. I also enjoyed the movie on its own merits, although I do feel that Rogue One has a different flavor than all the other movies in the Star Wars franchise.

I won’t give away any real spoilers, just in case, but I do want to talk about this one intriguing character in the movie called Chirrut Imwe (played by Donnie Yen). Imwe has developed an awareness of the mystical Force that supposedly holds everything together in the Star Wars universe. Of course, as any fan knows, the Jedi Knights and the Sith Lords are the main groups who know, develop, and train themselves in the use of the Force: the Jedi, in order to do good; and the Sith, in order to do evil.

Star Wars

However, Imwe, who is neither a Jedi nor a Sith, has somehow nurtured his awareness of the Force and figured out how to use the Force to his advantage. At certain times in the movie, he chants rapidly (in a most un-Jedi like fashion), muttering, “I am one with the Force, the Force is with me, I am one with the Force, the Force is with me.” And Imwe ends up doing some fantastic things that have no explanation except that he indeed has a connection to the Force.

I think we admire characters with unwavering devotion to a higher ideal, goal, or purpose. And Imwe’s chant to the fictional Force made me think about how all of us have an impulse to be connected to something or someone larger than ourselves. But what struck me most about Imwe is that in the end, Imwe’s union with the Force is completely impersonal. He can be one with the Force, and use it to help his friends (and help the greater cause), but Imwe can’t have a conversation with the Force or have any real relationship with it. Imwe’s relational fulfillment must always come from outside the Force.

Jesus offers something very different to his followers — a union with God’s One and Only Son. This union is powerful but is also deeply relational, fulfilling one’s life completely without having to rely on anything or anyone else. This union wouldn’t have been possible without Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins. But Jesus’ death and resurrection  made it possible for those who believe in Jesus to be actually joined with the Spirit of God. They will never be alone, and will always be known by God and loved by God.

“If you love me, you will keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you do know him, because he remains with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you. The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him.” –Jesus (John 14:15-21 CSB)

This union with God is admittedly mysterious, and I don’t think anyone (even believers in Jesus) can claim to know exactly how it works or how God accomplishes it. But we can see evidences that this union is real, especially when we see a Christian go through suffering with an undeniable grace and trust in God. When their life appears to be falling apart, they stand fast to the hope they have in Jesus. Such occurrences are an evidence that they are indeed one with Jesus, and that he is giving them strength and peace in their time of trial.

Posted in Blog |