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I’m Afraid – Joel Ericson

Posted by on Jun 15, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

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There’s plenty for us to fear in these unusual and volatile times and just as we are   encouraged to count our blessings, the evil one can do a pretty effective job of making us count our fears. Sometimes it’s hard to escape those fears and Satan rejoices when we fall into that dark pit. We forget to pray; and we forget Gods promises. The devil continues with his conniving tactics to try to make us believe his lies and, sometimes, the images we form in our minds are so believable that we tend to reflect on the negatives instead of what we know God has prepared for us. We might ask:  Does God really hear my prayers? “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” 1 John:14-15

Are our prayers worthy of God’s attention?  “However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day.” John 6:37-39

We present ourselves as wretched and unworthy. “You are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, everything he has belongs to you” (Galatians 4:7). Would you deny your child anything?  Be very careful about the words you speak. Words possess spiritual power. Death and life are in the power of our words. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” Psalm 19:14  And when we say to ourselves, ”I’m afraid”  “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

I read a book recently called “A Year of Living Prayerfully”, by a man named Jared Brock who spent a year on a quest to improve the effectiveness of his prayer life. In his quest he examined and experienced all manner of prayer styles, locales, and practices and while some of his experiences can be described as “tongue in cheek” his journey, filled with deep insights and surprise encounters can help you can learn how to experience God and re-ignite your prayer life.

We need to face the fear or the uncertainty with bold faith and the confidence that our God hears and acts as a result of our prayers. It may be hard. When we are aware of other’s needs, we must intercede for them (more about this next time). When we are in need we need to seek intercessory help. God truly is all powerful.

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Mix It Up – Matt Ragain

Posted by on Jun 1, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 12.23.33 PMThe start to a new season can bring all types of sentimental and hopeful feelings.  The sentiment comes from remembering the joy and new experiences of seasons past.  The hope comes from the excitement of what is yet to come.  The beginning of summer brings both sentiment and hope to me every year.  I remember summer’s past traveling the world or driving thousands of miles cross country to call a new state home.  I mark many of my summers by my reading.  One such glorious summer, I took a class on the theology of C. S. Lewis.  I read his entire corpus in a period of 2 months—glorious indeed.

The very nature of summer is extraordinary.  In other words, there’s very little that is ordinary about it.  Our schedules are perhaps the most unusual.  They can be filled with family adventures, meals with friends alfresco and the magic that comes from a hot night with even hotter fireworks.

Romans 12:2 says, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Summer does not just hold the promise of new adventure and experiences, but it also is a great opportunity to mix things up spiritually.  This is a good opportunity to participate in a small group, go through a Christian book with a friend, learn how to play worship music on the guitar or challenge ourselves with purposeful prayer.  One of the great things about summer is that it shifts us out of our norm.  Let’s move with the shift and think outside the box as we approach our salvation and our father.  Let’s try those things that we have always wanted to try and when we don’t “preform” the way we think we should, let’s remember it’s not about preforming, it’s about getting in God’s presence.

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Be Thou My Vision – Cassi Piper

Posted by on May 23, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 10.47.35 AMSunday morning at 11:15am God took home my hero. There was no fanfare, no parade, no hysteria or thunderbolts. Rather his passing was clothed in dignity, the air laced with peace. The sun shone brightly, the birds sang their morning greeting, and then he was gone. It was a humble event befitting a truly humble man. That man was my grandfather.

Some heroes proudly strut the public square, flashing their good deeds for all to acknowledge. Some seemingly come out of nowhere, their hidden courage racing to the forefront in times of distress and urgent need. Others spend their lives in service, protecting their fellow man. My grandfather’s heroism was not based on what he did, but rather what he saw. Whereas my grandmother had faith with feet, my grandfather had faith with eyes.

His was an x-ray vision into the soul. Past the exterior facades some spend their whole lives constructing, my grandfather spoke to who people were. Really were. Whether you were a single mom serving him coffee at his favorite local eatery, a neglected child living in the projects, or a weary nursing home aid, my grandfather saw you as a beloved child of God and loved you as such. His superpower was that he reminded you of the hope you already have or could have in Christ Jesus. He saw Christ in you, even if you had never stepped foot in a church or thumbed through the pages of a Bible.

My grandfather brought his vision wherever he went, and it impacted me greatly. Even at a young age I desired to love as he did. I discovered early on that his love for people stemmed from his love for God’s Word. As he studied he focused not on how to live, but rather how to love. He figured if he focused on loving, the living would take care of itself.

By worldly standards my grandfather did not live much. Their home was humble and he struggled working various sales jobs throughout his career. It was only recently that I realized why a man as talented as my grandfather would not ever achieve financial success as most would define it. My grandfather chose sales not for the opportunity to accumulate wealth, but so that he could love on people. A service call was an opportunity to love. And God honored his choice. My grandparents always had enough and what they did have they used to bless countless others.

Even in his final days of dementia my grandfather continued to use his carefully selected words to lift up and encourage. During my last visit with him he did not know who I was, yet he sat with me bestowing praises on my children and encouraging me as a mom. He asked me if I was raising my children to know the Lord. With tears in my eyes I told him yes, that was the prayer of my heart. He patted my knee and told me he was proud of me, that there is no greater cause to devote my pursuit. He did not know that his legacy lay before him, four of his eight great grandchildren playing at his feet, three of whom had already committed their lives to Christ. But he knew they mattered. That I mattered. And we were seen.

My greatest joy today is that my grandfather who spent his life seeing people, is now seeing the face of his Heavenly Father. He is seeing my grandmother and the multitude of saints who would not be present had he not answered God’s call to love. One day I too will see him again. Until that day it is my fervent hope and prayer that God will give my faith my grandfather’s eyes. May my vision be broadened to the many opportunities to truly see. May his legacy continue to my children and many generations beyond. May we all trade our love of life for a far more rewarding life of love.

The beloved hymn says it best, “Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; naught be all else to me, save that thou art – thou my best thought, by day or by night; waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.” Without a doubt, God was my grandfather’s vision. May He be ours as well.

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Blessings – Pastor Mark Coughlin

Posted by on May 12, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

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I love the blessings of the Bible that come through benedictions.  When someone speaks words of blessing over my life it does something good to my spirit.  Paul made it a habit to speak those words in his letters.

I came across this one recently in 2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17:  “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.”

That blessing is like the flower gardens we see this time of year – at the peak of
beauty and rich with color, variety and fragrance.  Why not take a few minutes
before you click off this email or this post just to read those words again.  Absorb
them into your spirit.  Let the words sit there for a while.  Notice which words or
phrases bless your spirit.

Today I’m drawn to the phrase “by grace.”  It reminds me that all I have
(consolation, hope, comfort) is a gift from our God and Savior.  He is a gracious God.
It’s good to know that I don’t have to work harder today to earn his blessing.  He
wants me to rest in his grace and trust that he will guide my good words and works
today.  I trust you will also be blessed by the beauty of this benediction garden.

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ShamePrayer – Matt Ragain

Posted by on May 4, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 1.19.18 PMWhen Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray, he says, “Make sure you are filled with shame and guilt when you pray because that’s how you should feel in my presence.”  Just kidding.

 

But for some reason, we love to attach shame to our prayers.  I know, I do.  Perhaps, we feel like shame is a sign of humility.  Maybe, we feel like our prayers are terrible and worthy of shame.  Maybe, we really do feel shame when we approach our Holy Father.

Imagine if you have a child that felt terrible shame every time she spoke to you?  That would be really strange right?  Your daughter would probably, rather than feeling shame, start avoiding you.  The beauty of children is that they are unafraid to just be themselves in the presence of protective and loving parents.

So why do we attach shame to our conversations with God?  I would suggest that we don’t really believe we are sons and daughters.  Children run to their fathers because they want to be with them, not because they feel shame about themselves.   Fathers embrace their children because they are his children, not because they are carrying the appropriate amount of shame.

How do we avoid shame in our prayers?  The answer is not in forcing ourselves to have less shame, but rather to believe that God really does love us.  God actually wants the best for us.  God is actually for us.  He wants to bless us, not curse us.  We are the ones who struggle with how we look as we approach our Daddy.  So even when our minds wander when we’re supposed to be praying, let’s think of it as a graceful reminder that God is always there waiting for us to come back to him.

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Living Water – Cassi Piper

Posted by on Apr 26, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 10.32.09 AMOn Sunday I experienced the beauty of God’s church, and I am overwhelmed. It began with a simple ceremony that has been passed down through the generations – the dedicating of our fourth child. As I stood with my husband and children alongside our beloved pastor I witnessed the church – our church, God’s church – standing in unison with us, committing to come alongside us in this journey called parenting. Ten years ago when we first entered the doors of this little church on Broadway Avenue these people who stood before us were strangers. But they welcomed us, prayed for us, challenged us, cried with us, laughed with us, helped us in times of need, showed Christ to us, and now, they are family. On Sunday they made that commitment public and for those new to our congregation it might have seemed like a new promise made. My family knows however that it was rather a powerful confirmation of all they had done for us already.

Shortly after the service God showed me again the beautiful impact of His power flowing through His people as I sat with my extended family over lunch. As I took a moment to survey the scene – no less than twenty-two people sharing their life experiences – I realized that every single adult and most of the children in that space had surrendered their lives to the Lord. They were teachers and counselors, realtors and shipping experts, nurses and customer service extraordinaires and children who had yet to know how they would impact the world. All of them, according to their own gifting, were committed to blessing a broken world with the love and power of Jesus. My church had become family and by the grace of God, my family had become the church.

And this, as our associate pastor pointedly expressed in his message on Sunday, is what differentiates God’s church from those following another religion. Our calling is not for ourselves, but for the benefit of others. Jesus in us must not stay in us. The Bible says we are clay pots, not for storage, but to be poured out. Those of us who follow Jesus call this pouring out “blessing” others. The world calls it something else – radical, incomprehensible and even foolish at times. But to those who first experience it, it truly is living water.

When Jesus met the woman at the well, he spoke of this living water, “Jesus answered… ‘whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4:13) Jesus references this again in the seventh chapter of John, “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’” (John 7:37-38) I have read these passages before but today I notice something new. The first passage speaks of receiving the living water of grace that wells up within us giving us eternal life. The second passage then speaks of this living water flowing outside ourselves from within.

God’s grace, His love, His selflessness, His righteousness, is to flow out of us! His living water is not meant solely for those who have surrendered to His grace. It is meant for an entire world who has yet to know Him. Not only does God bless those in His church, but He calls us to take that blessing and give it generously to those outside our church walls. My prayer is that we will heed this calling. That we will demonstrate it to our children, that we will practice it in our church and that we will embolden each other to dare to serve a broken world that so desperately needs it even though it doesn’t know it yet. Like a mountain stream bursting through after a long winter, may Christ’s living water flow from us -beautiful, powerful and life giving!

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