Discipleship Preparation

           

THOUGHTS FROM PASTOR RICK:  

 Every week my schedule and focus revolves around counseling, teaching groups and preaching in services. These things drive my week every week. They are unique in comparison to all else I do (i.e. admin). The uniqueness of counseling, teaching and preaching is that they are all sourced and based on my receiving instructions from the Lord. Even the weekly writing of my thoughts for this bulletin depends on my receiving instruction or direction from the Lord. Some weeks there is something burning in my heart which drives the direction of my pastoral work including what I write in this bulletin. Sometimes I sit down to prepare a presentation or this bulletin and I am blank. Let me give you some steps I follow to prepare what I present.

 I need scripture to be in my head on an ongoing basis. I listen to and read scripture. Hebrews 4:12 says “the word of God is living and active”. I am concerned with having a deposit of scripture to pull from memory when I am contemplating a subject. Scripture jumps into my thoughts and helps direct what I do or present.

 The second step that helps direct me is the intimacy of my personal relationship with the Lord. That intimacy must be current in the moment and ongoing in the building. Prayer impacts that intimacy more than anything else I do. I must be available to the Lord. I make myself available through prayerful relational interaction with the Lord. This availability starts when I first wake up, smile and pray “Good morning Lord, I love you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

 The third step is to seek the Holy Spirit’s empowerment and help. His presence and anointing in me is the final key to what I present or do. He is ready to move through us when we do not quench Him with our flesh. John 14:15-16 He heals, instructs and empowers His disciples.

 Scripture + prayer (availability) = Holy Spirit empowerment though us. When I preach or just sit down to write some thoughts in the bulletin, I use scripture in prayer. I make time to be available to listen. I pray until I hear scripture and the Spirit’s voice to know what to present. I encourage you to put these steps into your days. 

 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.  John 14:25-26 (ESV) 

The Best Gift: By Rick Banda

It’s been a ‘Black Friday’ weekend. Shop and shop then brag about how much money we saved. Toys, electronics, clothes and stuff all on sale. Retailers spend millions in advertisements to make their products glitter, shine and entice us to buy them. It seems no matter where you look you see something you want and may even need.

 

I read that the projection for dollar sales totals for Black Friday weekend 2018 will come in at over $60 billion. That is just for the weekend! That will be a 33% increase from 2017.

 

During worship time this past Friday, I was moved by the Holy Spirit regarding this phenomenon called Black Friday weekend. I had two sermon options in my Bible to pick from to preach that evening. As we worshiped these words came screaming into my thoughts. 1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Colossians 3:1-4 (ESV)

 

“Seek the things that are above” (vs. 1). “Set your minds on things that are above” (vs. 2). I am captured by the contrast! Paul is telling us to seek Jesus and to set our minds on His rule and His kingdom. This is consistent with Jesus’ own words in Matthew 6:33. Am I telling us not to buy stuff during this economic holiday? No I am not. I simply want us to guard our hearts, they belong exclusively to the Lord. The Lord warned us in Matthew 6:24 ‘you cannot serve two masters’. Verse 3 of Colossians 3 reminds us that our ‘life is hidden with Christ’.     

 

Seek the best gifts ‘that keep on giving’ though eternity. Verse 4 of Colossians says that ‘you also will appear with him in glory.’ The best gift is Jesus perfecting us, bringing us into intimate love with Him and then sharing His kingdom’s glory with us.

Faithfulness to the faithful

I thought I'd share a story that reminded me of what God's doing in our church.

In Jim Cymbala's latest book, "Storm," he includes a chapter in which a woman named Avril shares her testimony. In summary, when her 3 month old baby girl died (SIDS) she called out to a God who she had a sense of but had never known. She promised God she'd take her two other kids to church if God would just take her baby to heaven. God told her, "she's already here," so she took her kids to church. From there she began following and serving the Lord, but ended up in homelessness, husband left, couch surfing, and then eventually women's shelter. As she continued seeking the Lord she eventually got an apartment and was hired on at the Brooklyn Tabernacle. She still had no money and relied on things people donated to her. As she got stuff beyond what she needed she began passing on to other people through "blessing fellowships." She'd invite people over to dinner then allow them to "shop" through items she neatly laid out as if in a boutique. She continued serving God in this way, feeling called to people who were in a place she had experienced, and God began growing and growing her ministry.

Here are a couple excerpts she wrote I found really powerful and reminded me of what God's done for us:

"Everything continued to grow. I found unused storage space at the church and claimed it as a place to temporarily hold the things I was accumulating. The church also allowed me to use its vans when making especially large deliveries. One day a sister from church called and said, 'I have a freezer I'm getting rid of. It's in really great condition. Can I donate that?' 'Let me get back to you,' I said. No one had ever asked us for a freezer, and we really didn't have a place to store it. I needed time to think about it. Just two days later, a young mom with a bunch of kids called and wanted to know if I had a freezer! 'It would really help us keep our food costs down if we could buy it in bulk and freeze it,' she said. So no one had ever asked for a freezer, but as soon as one was offered, it was matched with a need. This kind of thing happened frequently. God was faithful." (p. 53)

"It was if God multiplied everything and I couldn't get rid of the stuff fast enough. The more I gave away, the more people gave me. I couldn't outgive God." (p. 53)

She continued to describe her complete inadequacy to fulfill the ministry herself. Every need she had, she presented to the Lord. And every time He took care of it.

I hope this is encouraging to you as it was me. We are not alone in these darkening times. God's faithful continue to serve Him and declare His name across the earth. He knows his faithful servants, provides for them, and brings them into intimate and miraculous life with Him. Doesn't matter, man, woman, young, old, Black, White, poor, wealthy. We all have an opportunity to have this if we fully surrender all we are and have to Him. What an amazing trade off. Thank you merciful Father.

Be blessed today,

racheal