Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Do you really want more?

This week our church is asking everyone to fast and pray, and then join together on Saturday for the Rock Bridge Day of Prayer. The event will be at each campus from 7 AM to 7 PM and are self-guided experiences with some corporate prayer and worship as well as prayer stations.  Come for as little as a few minutes or as long as you want.

Why do we do this?

You see, It's not enough to want something.  We actually have to seek it.

And those are two very, very different things!

We all want things and desire things.  But will we take a real step of action toward them?  Will we clear out time on the calendar to do something about them?  Will we take even a reckless or haphazard step in the direction of the desire or dream that at least gets some momentum going?  Are we willing to possibly waste some effort in the direction of the dream?

I think we don't most often because of the fear it won't make a difference, and that it's wasted effort.  So we don't want to take the risk.

But when it comes to wanting more of God and more of His Spirit, His power, His grace, and His presence in our lives, God assures us He will give it to us if we only ask! 

Jesus says it this way in Luke 11:11-13:
"What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

God assures us that seeking Him will never be wasted time! 

It will never fall to the ground as a dud and be effort we regret. I can guarantee you that time on social media very well may be a complete waste (it may not, but just saying!). Time watching videos or TV may be a complete waste. There are lots of things we do with our lives and our time that have a very low probability of fruitfulness!

But seeking God is NEVER unfruitful!

Listen to how Jesus says it in Matthew 7:7-8:
"Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."

As we join together this week to fast and pray (and there are lots of options on fasting), would you join with us starting tomorrow,Thursday, March 22nd through Saturday March 24th, in seeking God for MORE of Him?

What are we specifically praying for:
  • More of His Holy Spirit in our lives.
  • More love and power and freedom to live victorious lives that attract the lost.
  • More of His power and grace in our families, schools, workplaces, communities and world.
  • More of HIM!

Again, it's not enough to want Him, we have to SEEK HIM!  Will you join with us in seeking Him?

I can't wait to see how He responds to the seeking of His children!!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Business of Asking - (Alfred Turley)

I actually posted this a year ago on my own Facebook page.  It reminded me so much of the message we heard this weekend at Rock Bridge on prayer, I thought it was a great refresher for me, and surprisingly right in line with what Matt said!  Keep on ASKING and let's see what God does!
Most people who know me can attest that I am pretty passionate about prayer. I do it a lot, and I’ve always said it’s because I’ve been fearful in the past, and that drives me desperately to God, and (surprise!) He faithfully comes through time after time. So I do it more because it’s a habit, and He in fact ROCKS and loves me, and ANSWERS. 
But prayer can feel intimidating and like busywork and so many people just wonder why in the world do we have to pray? I mean, God, WHY? 
Recently I was reading in the Psalms and had just started into Psalm 2, when God laughs over the rebellion of the nations and over those who think they can push Him aside. He then announces His own Son will be King (whom we know is revealed to be Jesus) and declares in vs 7-8: 
I will declare the Lord’s decree: He said to Me, “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father. 8 Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your inheritance and the ends of the earth Your possession.
Here is what struck me: God tells His own son…. ASK. Hmmm…. He doesn’t just decree in this passage that He will make the nations His inheritance, He says ASK. And over and over throughout the Bible we see that God always first raises up those who will ASK, and then He acts. 
Why does God work in this way? 
Well here are a few things that today I have been reflecting one, but these are in no way an exhaustive list. 
God wants us to want it. God wired us to live with passion, with full hearts and with joy and energy. He wants us to work to align our desires with His. This is a process that comes about through getting to know Him and worshipping Him and seeing how amazing He is. But once we know Him, we begin to want the things He wants, and that’s when He loves to answer our prayers, because He wants the same things! 
God wants to “do life with us.” God wants us to live in the awareness of His reality and presence all the time. He enjoys the fellowship and the relationship and wants us to enjoy Him as well. Prayer is a terrific way (again, continually asking and conversation) to stay aware of God and filled with the Holy Spirit. In John 15 Jesus says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” This is a stark reminder that apart from Him and a connection to Him, we can do nothing of spiritual value. PERIOD. 
God loves to surprise and delight His children. (Put another way, blow our minds!) I love 1 Corinthians 2:9 "But as it is written: What eye did not see and ear did not hear, and what never entered the human mind— God prepared this for those who love Him.” God loves us dramatically! His love for His children is radical and beyond understanding! He wants us to ask, to seek and knock, and then dramatically come through so that we stand in awe of Him and His love, and our trust becomes strong and vibrant. 
God has chosen to work through us. This is a tremendous mystery in my mind, but He loves us and wants to give us the privilege of making an impact in our world with Him. We can’t do it alone, and He has chosen to not do it without us. Asking is our way to unleash the power and resources of Heaven into our lives and our world. We get the chance to partner with Him, and that is a tremendous honor and privilege. 
Well those are just a few things that I thought of today that I wanted to share! 
Have you spent some time ASKING God today? He loves you, wants to work through you and with you and give you the delight of knowing His presence and His love. Spend some time asking and talking to Him today!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Why 400?

By Matt Evans

In Part 5 of our message series, Thrivin', I shared with you our heart for Rock Bridge to be a thrivin’ church. We desire to be a community of people who passionately pursue those who don’t know Jesus and see them connect to life in Christ. It’s that heart that led us to plant a new church over 15 years ago AND to carry the mission into 5 communities in NW Georgia and the TN Valley. And as I shared in the message, that same passion has led us to set just one church-wide goal for 2018:
To increase our evangelistic culture by seeing 400 people baptized.
In this blog, I want to share the foundations and dynamics of this goal...
God’s Aim for Humankind
First, we understand this goal to be connected to the ambitions God has shared with us in Scripture. God aims for disciples to be made of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), to receive praise from every ethnic group and language on earth (Revelation 7:9-10), and for His Church to be His vessel for preaching the message of salvation (Romans 10:13-17; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21) and for doing good deeds (Titus 2:14). At Rock Bridge, we have summarized these aims into our mission statement: To glorify God by connecting people from all walks of life to life in Christ.
Therefore, setting a goal of 400 baptisms is a way of saying we are not playing games with our mission statement or God’s aims for humankind. We are serious about seeing life change, helping people walk in obedience to Christ, and sharing the gospel with more people. Additionally, we are being specific and definite in our prayers for God’s power and grace.
The Impact of Goals
Notice how many times in the book of Acts that Luke records a specific number and notes the numerical growth of the church (Acts 1:15, 2:47, 4:4, 5:14, 6:1, 6:7, 9:31, 11:21, 11:24, 14:1, 16:5, 17:4, and 17:12). Why was Luke so intentional about the numbers? Because every number represents a person who matters to God!
When we set a numerical goal, the specificity of the goal can make us uncomfortable, but it also makes it personal. We need to take personal our biblical responsibility to live sent and be Kingdom-seekers. In Romans 9:1-5, we see the personal burden Paul felt for Jews who lived apart from Christ. In Romans 15:20-28, Paul has the personal and specific ambition to preach Christ in Spain. So with a God-sized goal of 400 baptisms, every Rock Bridger can personally ask, “Who will I specifically pray for? Seek to share Christ with? Bring to a church service with me?” 
This goal is larger than Rock Bridge and is not merely about our particular church getting bigger. It is ultimately about asking the bigger questions in Hixson, Ringgold, Chatsworth, Dalton, Calhoun and even to the ends of the earth: are people hearing the gospel? Are they escaping the wrath of God? Are they being born again? Are they getting full of the Holy Spirit? Are they following Jesus? Are they experiencing life in Christ?
Why Baptisms?
These questions also help us understand why baptism is so crucial. Baptism is one of the few public and unique acts Christ commanded that represents salvation, is part of discipleship and obedience, involves joining the fellowship of a church, and testifies to others that Christ is a person’s new Lord and leader. Therefore, we believe that 400 people being baptized over the next year will require a move of the Holy Spirit and the corresponding responsiveness of His people striving to keep in step with Him (see Acts 4:29-31). 
So we understand that 400 baptisms will necessarily stretch us in our example, in our witness, in our prayers, and in our intentionality. But it will also remind us, that we are personally and collectively called to participate in the glorious and eternally significant plan of God Who “wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:4, CSB).
Let’s Live Sent
Finally, I never want us to stop dreaming big. We serve a God Who does more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). I want it to be said of our church that we prayed and labored and risked in ways that show we believe God’s audacious promises to open doors for the gospel (Colossians 4:2-4) and to cause His word to run and be honored (2 Thess. 3:1). And He dares His people to ask Him to “make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:8, CSB). 
Let’s ask Him, and let’s live sent!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

We Pursue the Stranger- By Eileen Knowles

I've been thinking quite a bit about a message we heard at church a few weeks ago. Matt talked about intentions vs behavior.  If we truly want to change something in our life then "belief is not enough, good intentions are not enough and inspiration is not enough".  Lasting change is only achievable when there is a shift in our desires and our habits.

I loved this quote from the message:

"Habits are like prophesies; they predict the path our life will take."

I love the simple yet profound reminders of how change takes place in our life...

I don't know how to pray...Well how do you learn to pray?  By doing more of it.

I don't know how to read the Bible...Well how do you learn to read the Bible?  By opening it up and reading it.  

I want to get in better shape...Well how do you do that?  By making choices that put us on the path that will lead us to that desired outcome.  

Last week, I began thinking of ways we might apply this lesson to improve our host teams at church and realized that creating Sunday morning environments that are more hospitable works the exact same way.

How do we become more hospitable?  By doing more of it, by making choices that put us on the path that will lead us to that desired outcome. 

I then read a few different passages on hospitality and this one in particular stood out to me.

"Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality." Romans 12:13, HCSB

It was the phrase pursue hospitality that caught my attention.

Some translations use the word practice instead.  I personally prefer "pursue."  There just seems to be a more immediate urgency and importance packed into that word. "Practice" doesn't hit my heart with the same level of intensity.  The word pursue makes me think of chasing or running after something or someone.  It makes me think of how the Lord relentlessly and lovingly pursues me. I think of courtships and how we go out of our way to be with the one our heart is falling in love with.  I think of the way scripture commands us to "seek the Lord with all our hearts."

As I studied this verse a little bit more, I was reminded of something I think I may have once heard before but had forgotten.  The Greek word for hospitality doesn't translate the way we may think it does. I know that my first thought of what hospitality means is having my neighbors over for dinner OR  I think about my own neighbor who loves to cook and, sometimes, out of the blue, will bring food over for us to try. (Yes, we scored BIG in the good neighbor department!)  And, yet, that's not the translation of the word hospitality in scripture.

Here's what I discovered: "The Greek term that is often translated into the English term “hospitality” is the word φιλόξενος. The word is a combination of two concepts, that break down as follows: φιλό (pronounced Philao) is one of several words for “love” in Greek. Being a more precise language than English, classical Greek has a few different ways to express the word “love”. In this case, the word that is used means “brotherly love” or “to love like a brother”, and is how we get the name Philadelphia- the City of Brotherly Love.

The word ξενος (Xenos) which makes up the second half of the word we render “hospitality” actually means “stranger” or “immigrant”, and is where we get the word xenophobia which is the fear of strangers/immigrants." - Benjamin Corey

So the most accurate translation is that we "pursue the love of strangers or immigrants."

This reminder has truly fired me up as we look at taking our hospitality up a notch on a Sunday morning.

Where do we begin?  We pursue the stranger, the outsiders, and the immigrants in our midst.

One of our core values at church is that "we break the huddle"  and this idea, of loving the stranger, reaffirms this value in my heart.  We look for the one family or the one person we have never met before or, maybe, we have seen them walk through the doors of Rock Bridge a hundred times, but have never taken any intentional steps to get to know them beyond a friendly smile or handshake.

How do we increase our hospitality?  We scan the venues, the sidewalks and lobby spaces... and we relentlessly pursue and love the strangers in our midsts.

Can you imagine the shift in our environments on a Sunday morning if every single person who considers Rock Bridge home intentionally pursued this habit and it became the driving desire on everyone's heart?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

He Could Have Turned and Walked Away... by Eileen Knowles

My mind keeps going back to John 9 and the story of the man born blind who Jesus healed and the Pharisees interrogated.  I've written about portions of this story on several occasions. It's such a beautiful example of how the Lord will personally enter our stories, touch our lives in some miraculous way, and then our lives and our perspectives are never the same again...One thing, one moment, or one season...opened our eyes and changed everything.

This week I've been lingering on these particular verses within the story.

"After saying this, he (Jesus) spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing." (John 9:6-7)

What I've been reminded of lately is how the road to healing and recovery will require faith and obedience and sacrifice on our part.  Jesus could easily have healed this man on the spot but, instead, he asked the man to follow His instructions.

Last year, I did a little research on this passage and found out that people of that day had a high view of saliva’s healing properties so this man would not have found the actions of Jesus too odd.  In fact, I wonder if anyone else had ever tried using saliva on him before?  I wonder if there was any reluctancy or apprehension in this man's mind as he made his way to the Pool of Siloam.  How many times in his life had someone attempted to cure him before he encountered Jesus? Yes, obeying these instructions obviously involved a level of faith on this man's part, but I have to wonder what he was thinking about as he made that journey to the pool.

My point?  When Jesus stirs in our hearts and tells us to take the "next step"  then we have a choice to make.  What voice will we listen to?  The voice of doubt? The voice of fear? The voice of condemnation? The voice of hopelessness? Because those voices are often battling for our attention too.

Listening to the voice of truth will require us to take a walk of faith.

Listening to the voice of truth will require us to leave our comfort zones.

Listening to voice of truth will require us to sacrifice something....our pride, our doubt, our possessions, our time, our selfishness, our insecurities...

This story could easily have ended differently. This man could have resolved in his heart not to listen and obey the voice of Truth.  He could have turned and walked away...but something compelled him to get up and go.  And, oh, what incredible beauty was waiting for him when he did!

"He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” John 9:25

One step of obedience changed everything in this man's story.

Question:  What step of faith is Jesus asking you to take today?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Lightbulb of Hope- Patrick's Story by Eileen Knowles

The other day on Facebook a story I had shared a few years back about a 15 year old deaf boy in Uganda showed up in my feed. I watched it again and cried.  Patrick was born deaf and had never been able to carry on a conversation with anyone. Every day, his dad would motion to him to go outside to work in the garden and that was the extent of his "conversations". 

Patrick's days consisted of working in the garden and then retreating back to his hut to spend his days alone with just his thoughts. That all changed when another man in the village who was deaf came back home and started a sign language class after receiving intensive training in the capital.  The transformation Patrick goes through in just a few short hours is amazing to watch.  After he enters class the first day, and begins learning alongside other deaf students, his face and demeanor goes from hopeless to happy in a matter of minutes.  It's absolutely beautiful!

The part of the story that makes me emotional is the moment when the "lightbulb" appears to go off in Patrick's mind.  You can almost see's that moment when he realizes that he is not alone any more, he sees a glimmer of possibility breaking into his small world that his life and situation may no longer be hopeless and isolating.

This morning, I watched a follow up video to Patrick's story. The interviewer goes back to the class after Patrick and the students have had 10 weeks worth of training together.  Please take a minute to watch.


Yesterday, at our volunteer rally at church, I shared how this story is such a great example of the healing power of life connected in community. When folks find a place to learn and grow "lightbulbs" of hope begin to shine bright in a person's life. We begin to realize that we don't have to remain alone in our own thoughts.  We realize there's a group of people who are willing to journey with grow and learn alongside us. We come to understand that our situations are not as unique or as hopeless as we once might have thought.

I loved in the video when the narrator said that Patrick and his classmates could now begin "making plans" for the future.  That's one of the benefits of hope, it will often prompt us to begin looking ahead in a whole new light and with a renewed and fresh perspective.

Patrick's story is a great reminder of how hope and community come together and transform even the most challenging of situations.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Don’t be a Hard-Hearted Christian – a New Year’s Challenge

As we kick off 2018 maybe you are like me and you are soul-searching and praying, and asking God to help this year be better than last.  Overall I’ve had one of my best years ever growing closer to God and walking with joy, but recently it’s been much harder, and I’ve been begging God to help me see what was in the way.

I was introduced to an insight from Mark 8, with a story of Jesus and His disciples in the boat travelling:

But the disciples had forgotten to bring any food.  They had only one loaf of bread with them in the boat. As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”  At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. 
Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread?  Don’t you know or understand even yet?  Are your hearts too hard to take it in?  ‘You have eyes—can’t you see?  You have ears—can’t you hear?’  Don’t you remember anything at all? When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?”  “Twelve,” they said.  “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”  “Seven,” they said.  “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them.

It could be easy to miss this, but Jesus is coming at them with a very familiar charge that they recognized from a well-known passage from Isaiah the prophet, chapter 6:

Go! Say to these people: Keep listening, but do not understand; keep looking, but do not perceive. Make the minds of these people dull; deafen their ears and blind their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their minds, turn back, and be healed.

This was a big rebuke…  But do we realize what just happened here?  The disciples, in the boat following Jesus had allowed themselves a moment of hard heartedness and spiritual deafness and blindness.  And Jesus called it exactly that.

Hard-heartedness threatens all of us!
We can be active, passionate followers of Jesus and still give way to hard-heartedness. 

But what exactly is it?

Hard-heartedness is when I refuse to let God’s faithfulness in my life grow my faith and trust in Him, and take me to a new level of trust and expectancy.  The disciples had just seen Jesus feed thousands with miraculous provision.  And He did it twice!  They’ve seen miracles over and over, and so now they think He’s rebuking them and that He’s concerned about their supplies?  They are missing an important point because they won’t let God’s faithfulness in the past grow and shape their vision for today.

Every day I can look back and see God’s faithfulness.  And in this recent season of some stressors and difficulties I can look back and completely say: Father, You got me through it once again.  I should never have doubted you!

Let me ask you….

·      When God comes through in your place of worry and stress, do you feel guilty that you didn’t trust Him more?  That happens to me.

·      When you pray about things, do you leave your prayer time with peace and assurance, or do you feel like you are still carrying the stress and concern? 

As we start the new year, let me challenge you: 
Let’s fight the good fight of FAITH, and BELIEVE GOD!
Let His past faithfulness grow our vision and our trust so that what’s in front of us shrinks under the assurance of our Father’s love and constant presence!

Faith releases us to live a life of peace and joy, that glorifies God and attracts the lost.  That’s what He deserves from us this new year!

Happy New Year!