Sunday, August 2, 2020

Recovering Glory Everyday

Sunday, August 2, 2020

This past Sunday's sermon was about recovering glory. While rebuilding our relationship with God is less a formula and more of an art, as it is with any relationship, there are some things that help us to keep our minds on God's glory as we ask God to revitalize our hearts. Here are some things that have been helpful to me, and they may be helpful to you, as we pray for God to rekindle our passion for Him.

1. See beauty
A few months ago, I felt God telling me I needed to notice more beauty, good, and positive things...and that was before the coronavirus hit. So I started a) looking at more art (I'm not an expert but there are some things that I really like), b) spending more time in nature, and c) enjoying more positive YouTube videos of the good moments in life (this can lead to hours of wasting time, so watch yourself!). Only God is inherently glorious and worthy of praise, so everything else that we see that is beautiful is meant to cause us to give thanks to God (see Romans 1, Psalm 19, Philippians 4). Enjoy the beauty, soak it in, and give thanks to God for it.

2. Read the Bible
The most beautiful thing you can ever see, read about, or think about is...God! If you are struggling to wrap your mind around that statement, just let it sink in. While general revelation (nature, mankind, etc.) can hint at God's existence and nature, the special revelation of God's Word teaches us who God is. The Bible is how we encounter the most beautiful, wonderful, good things we will ever know. The Bible is where we encounter the Gospel of Jesus Christ - the invitation for us to receive God's free provision of grace to cover our sins and reconcile us to Him. From here, all the promises of God are ours to trust. Let's read our Bibles everyday to encounter the most important and glorious truths of our lives.

3. Praise Him
Responding to something glorious is natural and extends the experience. In relation to God, that means giving Him praise. Sing a song, whether you play an instrument, just use your voice, or sing along with an audio or video recording. Belt it out! Don't praise Him according to your identity, but praise Him according to His identity! Let your praise be God-centered! Give Him everything that is due Him!

4. Repent of sin
How is repentance tied to the glory of God? My friend in college wrote a note asking me to pray that she would be in her lowest (most humble) place so she could see God in His highest place. Repenting of sin is natural when we are in the presence of a glorious God. (It's like how I would feel if I stepped on the basketball court with Lebron James or Stephon Curry - I'm not worthy!) Repentance is simply being humbly honest before God in His holiness and glory. When we humble ourselves, we can then appreciate God's glory more.

5. Tell others
When you encounter something great - a new restaurant, a stirring movie, a great sale - you tell people! It multiplies the experience. When we tell others about God, sharing what we're learning and experiencing, it helps others also taste the glory and goodness of God! Telling others about Jesus also reminds us that our lives are all about Him and His glory, not about us and our comfort. Make His name greater! His name is glorious!

Okay, these are a few quick tips to help us to walk with Jesus and enjoy His glorious presence everyday. God bless you and help you to turn your heart to Him! He is a great God!

- PD

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Comfort During Crisis

How are you feeling? What thoughts are running through your head this week and each day? Most of us have a mixture of emotions and thoughts that we are trying to process. The staggering amount of data can overwhelm us and the variety of topics is challenging: microbiology, public health and public policy, micro- and macroeconomics, sociology, psychology, and cultural anthropology. And then...we have to actually live our lives! Teleworking or dealings with kids shifted to online learning formats, grocery shopping, exercise, and maintaining relationships - how we do do it all?

The guiding principles for how we navigate our thoughts, our choices, and our emotions are found in our worldview. The core beliefs about life, identity, society, and God form the bedrock upon which our lives come crashing down and they form the forecast for what we believe will come when today ends and a new day comes. So take a deep breath and take a moment to think on the level of your worldview. Some people talk about meditating and mindfulness, trying to think about how all the pieces fit together and pay attention to things you're missing. Business leaders talk about taking a balcony, birds-eye, or 30,000-foot view. It's also called meta-cognition, thinking about our thinking (thought process, that is, and judging the validity of our thoughts). You could also call it asking God to show you the Big Picture, His view on things, and taking every thought captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

So what do you believe?

As Christians, we believe God created life, and He did so with purpose. We were the end of His creative process, the only ones created in His image, and originally created very good. Mankind turned away from God and threw our relationship into disharmony through that rebellion, thus suffering the consequences of an estranged relationship with our Creator and Sustainer. But God, in His mercy, sustained us even through the consequences. He sustains us still, through things like disease, warfare, and even death. Into this desperate darkness, God Himself came, in the form of a man, and lived among us. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14 ESV). He spoke words of comfort many, He cried with a few, He spoke words of healing to some, and He spoke words of hope to all, and He gave His life to reconcile us by taking the ultimate consequence of our broken relationship with God. The cross says God knows us and loves us. And then Jesus reassured His followers that He would be with us until His work is finished.
     And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

We believe that God is with us. And we believe that God is working out His plan (Romans 8:28). And we believe that God will finish it (Philippians 1:6). And we believe that God's plan is good, perfect, and pleasing (Romans 12:2). So we believe that we can follow Him through difficulty (Psalm 23), and that He will help us even when we are overwhelmed in our hearts and minds (Proverbs 3:5-6).

We believe that God is still good to us (Deuteronomy 8, Luke 11:13). Let us let our knowledge of God help us to deal with our crisis of today.

God, our Heavenly Father, we thank You for showing us who You are and who we are. As we wrestle with our current crisis, help us to bring our worries and fears to You, that you can help us with open eyes, open ears, open minds, and open hearts be strengthened by the truth of Your presence and love for us, that we with open hearts and open hands can help those around us as well to find comfort and peace in You. Thank You for sending Jesus, and for being with us in Your Spirit still. In Jesus' name, Amen.

If you haven't yet heard the sermon from this past Sunday, here's the link to our virtual Sunday Worship Service video:

Sunday, February 9, 2020

EACF 40 Days of Prayer - February 9, 2020

EACF 40 Days of Prayer 2020
Day 40: Pray for Steadfastness

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. - 2 Thessalonians 1:3–4 ESV

Will you keep praying for one another? Will your love for God and love for others last? What about when trials come, when there are arguments and divisions and hurt feelings? What about when there is confrontation of sin and accountability?

If we are following Jesus and experiencing His goodness, then we will know that God's love for us overcomes afflictions and grows through difficulty. We can be steadfast because God is faithful to us. His purposes for us are not frustrated or negated. Trials will come, but God knows that. He works all things for good for His purposes (Romans 8:28). Do not give up praying for one another! Do not give up loving one another! The ability to remain steadfast is us experiencing God's strengthening and sustaining presence through His Spirit. Above all things, abide in Christ's love for you, and you will stand.

As we wrap up these 40 days, I am thankful for the good reports I've heard of how people have responded to the love that's been shared. This is historic; it happened and no one can deny it or change it. Believe in God' working through our relationships with one another, through our prayers for one another. Pray for two more people today, for them to have steadfast faith even in whatever trials they are facing. Send notes to those for whom you pray and encourage them with God's real, good love for them and for all of us. This is day 40 of praying for good, but it is not the end! Keep praying for good, and God will show up!

Saturday, February 8, 2020

EACF 40 Days of Prayer - February 8, 2020

EACF 40 Days of Prayer 2020
Day 39: Pray for Increasing Love

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. - 2 Thessalonians 1:3–4 ESV

What holds us back from loving others? Fear? Hurt? Judgment? Selfishness? Which do you identify with strongest?

Jesus said the most important commandment was loving God, and then He quickly added that loving others is just like it. Paul celebrates that the Thessalonian Christians have faith that is growing abundantly and love of everyone of you for one another in increasing measure. They are growing in love. They are growing in their capacity to love. They are growing in their expressions of love.

What a church! What allows us to grow in these ways? When we receive God's love, we have love to give. As God works in us to humble our hearts, convict us of sin, and to move us off of our sinful, judgmental perches, we are given over to love from Him, love for Him, and love for others. God wants us to be marked by love. God does not want us to hold back. This is His goodness working through or relationships. So here is the question: do you love the people in your church? Are you growing to love all of them more and more?

Pray for two others to grow in loving one another! Pray for reconciliation where there have been broken relationships - this is not to be in the family of God! Pray for healing and grace, for mended marriages and friendships. Send notes to those for whom you pray and ask them how you can pray for them beyond this as well. This is day 39 of praying for good!

Recovering Glory Everyday

Sunday, August 2, 2020 This past Sunday's sermon was about  recovering glory . While rebuilding our relationship with God is less a form...