In Luke 4:18 Jesus shared these words regarding the time at Hand for Him. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,”
What a powerful picture and explanation of what Jesus is about and makes possible. How many people have wondered what is the purpose of following Jesus? This very verse gives us a great insight into what Jesus purpose and that which He offers to all. Let’s pull it apart.
Jesus was anointed, selected, set apart and empowered to:
1. Bring good news to the poor. Is there any question that our world needs good news right
now? Or that there are too many without enough while others have more than they could ever use up in 10 lifetimes? Does our world need hope that things do not have to stay the same, or keep deteriorating, if you believe that they are. A Promise that there is a better way characterized by caring for one another instead of apathy, respect vs. constant ripping on one another, building up rather than tearing down, reconciliation of human to human, nation to nation, tribe to tribe as opposed to increasing hatred and hostility – often the source of which is long forgotten, but that is what warring factions are just supposed to do and be. Jesus’ values lift up that there is an alternative!
2. Release of captives/letting the captives go free. Those who are enslaved by sin, habit,
addiction, oppression, abuse, marginalization, discounted value of their human lives. How many are captive to something that keeps them from being who they were made to be? Through forgiveness and because all matter to God, broken spirits can be freed from the bondage that might currently enslave them to believe “that is just the way it is, some things will never change.” Jesus’ values and love lift up that there are alternatives!
3. Recovery of sight to the blind. Literally, Jesus can and often still heals ailments and/or
physical disease. But there are many things that have left many blind to the possibilities, or the value and dignity of others. You matter to God. They (whoever the they are in your understanding) matter to God! No matter what you might have been told or have come to believe, we all matter to God – the Creator of all people, the universe and all that is good and worthwhile! Many cannot see it, or refuse to allow themselves to see it. But Jesus values, love and new possibilities lift up that there are alternatives!
And as followers of this anointed Jesus, it is our calling to live this and make it known as well. All of these can be your Truth IF YOU ALLOW FAITH TO LEAD YOU to the possibilities that the Gospel brings. The possibilities that are made available through Jesus’ love, teaching, example, sacrifice, death and Resurrection that we as believers all over the world celebrate during this holiest of times known as Holy Week! Allow yourself to experience the brush with the Holy that is Holy Week and Easter, and pursue the mystery, matchless healing, newness of life, and possibilities that it offers to all.
Our God is big. Bigger than anything that might try to hold us back. May we experience that God this Easter!
Please join me in having a joyful Easter at any or all of these awesome events that our Rock Church family is hosting or helping with. Please click www.JoyfulEaster.org for all the details.
MAUNDY THURSDAY SERVICES
Celebrating The Last Supper
March 29th 6pm Refreshments 7pm Program
Rock Church Newburyport 190 State St.
Rock Church Newburyport's 1st Special Easter Service! Revisit Jesus' last supper and the grace and challenge He shared with those closest to Him - and consider how He extends that same grace and challenge to us today. Jesus showed His willingness to make His love a reality, that we could experience what it is like to matter to God. Come join us, all are welcome.
GOOD FRIDAY TENEBRAE SERVICE
Reflective Worship & Message leading up to
Jesus's death upon the Cross "It is done."
March 30th 7pm
Rock Church Amesbury 146 Main St.
With Ash Wednesday occurring on St. VaLENTine’s day yesterday (February 14, 2018) I was reflecting on the Lenten season. What is Lent? Have you ever wondered? Or perhaps you knew and have not thought about it for a while. And not only what is Lent, but what is the point and/or utility of it? Does it still pertain to us in 2018?
Lent is a period, a season, of the forty days prior to Easter, not including Sundays. Traditionally it is a time to be a little more intentional about considering the life, example, teachings, sacrifice, and death of Jesus. It was also the time of preparation in the first few centuries of the church for people who desired to join the church and be baptized to learn about (catechism) what it means to follow Jesus before they made the commitment. Observing Lent then and still today primes believers to have a fuller experience of Easter and the hope, joy and newness of possibilities Resurrection offers.
So, what about the whole “giving something up for Lent” thing? The giving something up (like chocolate, television, coffee, or something else we enjoy), or conversely taking on an additional thing (like sending a note a day of encouragement, doing a random act of kindness, creating a time for prayer or Bible reading) is to remind us daily when we miss what we gave up, or need to do what we have taken on, of the sacrifice and love of Jesus. When we feel the pangs of yearning for that which we gave up, or the urge to blow off what we have taken on, we are reminded that what Jesus did was not easy either. And we might just appreciate it a bit more.
Is there utility in Lent for us today? I think so. It positions us to experience the events of Holy Week (Palm / Passion Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter) in a way more impactful on our spirits. I have a love hate relationship with the Lenten discipline of giving something up. I love how it reminds me more regularly of Jesus and His love, but I hate doing without. There it is in a nutshell! The utility of Lenten disciplines.
I invite you to consider giving something up or taking something on (or both) for the season of Lent. Do not make it too difficult or it will be doomed from the start. But do not make it something you should do anyway or too easy (like me giving up licorice or Herring [I hate both]) or it will not have the sacrificial meaning. And if you forget or fall away, do not condemn yourself, but get back on course for the remainder.
I would love to hear about your journey here, Facebook or email.
I travel in several circles of people in my life, some safely within bounds of church or like-minded people of faith. But I spend just as much time with people who hold varying, even differing opinions than me, most not yet embracing things of faith or Christianity. And it is within these relationships I am often asked in some form what about the Christian faith is so appealing to me, or why I care about trying to bring my faith to others. “So why are you a pastor anyway?” “Why are you starting a new church, aren’t there plenty of churches already?” “What made you decide to become a Christian?”
I get it that faith sharing, or the official term for explaining faith, apologetics, can be daunting, but if we put it into the context of being asked our experience, it can simplify things. So why do I feel it is worthwhile to share about Jesus?
In a nutshell it is because I have seen and experienced that God can and still does transform persons, situations, attitudes, and lives! It is all about change. By definition change means transforming something from one thing to another. Hopefully it is from something less desirable to something better.
I have personally seen in myself or others:
- marriages saved from years of infidelity and abusive behavior – to a loving, restored relationship.
- Years of bad decisions / habits / lifestyles / addictions healed for wholeness and joy.
- People paralyzed by hopelessness and hurt – to become healthy and positive additions to society.
- Simply selfish / thoughtless people become caring and compassionate to reach out to those around with goodness and positivity.
- Guilt that prevents any happiness forgiven to free persons for pursuing true and abundant life.
- Folks convinced by lifetimes of telling themselves or hearing from others that they are useless, worthless and of no value – to be embraced and filled by a sense that they actually matter to God! And that releases them from the trappings of the lies to lives of peace and possibilities of hope and fulfillment.
It really is not that complicated, but for some reason many often struggle to share their story, as if our stories are somehow less worthy of sharing than the stories of hunting, family trips, sports events, or others’ pet political views. It really is okay to share who you are and your experience, even your faith, as long as you have earned the right to be heard by being genuinely interested in and present in others’ lives before you start coming off as preachy. Just share what you have seen and experienced. What is different now that you know the hope of the Gospel than it was before you believed? And leave the convincing to the Holy Spirit of God, who is much more capable of transforming than any of us.
Have you evidence enough in your life or the lives of others you love to fully appreciate what being loved by God and knowing Jesus can do in a person, a situation, or a life? If so, that is valid, so feel free, no even better, feel empowered to share when someone invites you. And even if they do not, be blessed because we know the plentiful source of eternal hope and that is available to all.
Be blessed today,
PS check out these great opportunities to bless and be in community!
AMESBURY CHRISTMAS PARADE – Saturday is the annual Amesbury Christmas Parade! This parade not only goes right by our building, but it also generally features some of our “Good Christian Men” rejoicing and singing on a float. We’ll also be doing a table and giving out coffee, hot cocoa, etc. This is always a good time and a great opportunity to show that Rock Church Amesbury is FOR OUR COMMUNITY. As the parade begins at 3:30pm, I believe we will plan to gather about an hour beforehand. Any men interested in joining the fun on the float can contact the irrepressible Mr. Tom Hodge at 978-388-9098 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For anyone interested in helping us hand out goodies at the table, please contact P.Jonny at email@example.com.
CHRISTMAS CAROL SING-ALONG - Join us December 3rd at 6PM for our annual Christmas Carol Sing-Along at our Sandown Campus. Our Minister of Technology Ricky Russell transforms the sanctuary in to a winter wonderland as we belt out songs of praise and Christmas cheer. Lead by Sandown Campus Pastor Beth Soucise we have a great evening including caroling, games, prizes, desserts and more! Feel free to bring a dessert and wear your best Christmas clothing and accessories to add to the festivities and decor.
FOR OUR COMMUNITY GROUP - The Pastors are looking forward to sharing some time together dreaming about what this group can do, but we also know realistically that we won’t be able to do so until after the busy Christmas season. So we’d like to propose an initial meeting for our group after morning service(noonish) on Sunday, January 14th. There we will take time to have lunch together and talk about the purpose and plan with our group.
Right now though, we'd really want to hear your ideas about what this group can do to bless our community and how we should organize to get that done. So shoot Pastor Rachel an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with any thoughts, hopes and dreams you have for this group, and at the same time let me know whether you anticipate being able to attend the January 14th meeting so we have enough food.
I was asked by Star, a precious former youth from a church I have served years ago, what was one of my favorite and inspiring Bible stories. Many came to mind, but one I particularly remember, celebrate, and base much of my understanding of Jesus upon came to the forefront. It is Luke 5:12-15. In this story, a very busy Jesus is getting a ministry started that would change the world. He had many important tasks to accomplish; gathering staff (the calling of the disciples) pitching His product (preaching and teaching the Good News) and promoting a new worldview (vision casting). That might be how our corporate or entrepreneurial culture might see it, but Jesus was simply trying to bring Good News and Hope as an alternative to hopelessness and despair, oppression and division. There was a better way and a brighter future. But it would take much work.
In the midst of such imperative tasks and the hard job of trying to create momentum, Jesus was confronted with a human in need. And true to who Jesus was and is, He stopped and put the task at hand aside, to engage and include this man, this leprous, discarded, society thrown away soul, to count him as worthy of attention.
And to take it just a step further, Jesus not only lent an ear to the man, He listened and met the man’s deepest need. A distraction? Yes, but far more. An opportunity to invest in a life, and change the world. The man had a disease that made it necessary according to law to announce loudly when nearing any people that he was “unclean”. So, after that who wants to be first in line to be his bestie? He was forced not only to take the animosity from others, but by law he was forced to be complicit, whether he liked it or not, in his own degradation. He was cast away from “normal, healthy” people to live a life on the margins of society.
And consider that he was not only undesirable but he was in a literal sense untouchable. No human contact with anyone not stricken with his disease. “If you are willing, Lord, You can make me clean.” The man cried out. I hear desperation in that cry. And then Jesus did something so powerful, so profound, yet often missed in a quick reading. Jesus reached out His hand and TOUCHED the man and said “I am willing.” And by the TOUCH of Jesus the man was made well.
Words are important, particularly Jesus’ words. But put the words with actions and they become supercharged. Jesus’ words inspire and teach. They provide much needed clarity on right and wrong, good and bad, what is of true value. But it is also Jesus’ touch, that comes through experiencing God’s grace, not just hearing about it, that is so needed and powerful. Any way we experience God’s grace is a wondrous gift that awakens in us growth, and increases in us compassion, and provokes in us a call to action to justice.
Jesus loves me (and by default and nature ALL persons) this I know, for the Bible tells me so! Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but Jesus is Strong!
So, what is my favorite Bible Story? Hard to pin it down, but this one has to rank way up there with all the others that show the nature and love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Why anyone would not embrace, welcome and receive this love so freely offered, I do not know. My hunch is they need to see it … perhaps in you and me.
PS I want to take a minute to share some great opportunities coming up:
Spaghetti Dinner Mission Fund Raiser. Mark your calendar for Saturday Nov. 18th for a delicious Spaghetti dinner to support our Texas mission trip. If you would like to volunteer to help, please contact Sue Reynolds 603-548 5578 or email@example.com.
Community Thanksgiving Dinner On Thanksgiving day Nov 23rd from 11:30 AM - 1PM we will be doing a brand new outreach, providing a full Thanksgiving dinner for anyone who would like to join us. Who might attend a free Thanksgiving dinner? Those who have no family near by. Those who can’t afford to prepare or do not have the means to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner. The elderly. Or people who just want to share this time with friends and neighbors. We need help and donations to prepare the meal. We are also providing transportation where needed, so we will need drivers.
Sign up to cook a turkey, bring a pie, help to serve, drive etc…(Click here to volunteer). We need 25-30 people
Encourage those who might be alone or those who might be struggling to make a meal to come enjoy a Thanksgiving meal at Rock Church Plaistow. They can sign up online (www.rock-church.org/thanksgiving-dinner) or call 603 378-9388.
Shoeboxes Due this Sunday! Operation Christmas Child boxes are due November 12th at any campus. Click here to view the newsletter for details.
[ I preface the following with this: I often process in song. Anyone who has had a relaxed conversation with me knows I cannot go long without being reminded of and possibly blurting out a snippet of a song (often at an inappropriate volume for the setting) and perhaps to the embarrassment of my company.]
Life happens. Distractions are ubiquitous. Busyness (one of our culture’s most debilitating dangers) rules the day even over faithfulness or effectiveness and we can find ourselves at a substantial distance into a desert we had not even noticed we entered. God’s love and goodness do not waver, but we can and probably do when we let our guard down.
I am reminded of Revelation 2:2a, 3-4 “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance… You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! “ Then this song that came to mind. It is a bit cheesy 80s song from Michael W. Smith entitled “I Miss the Way” but it portrays a legitimate and all too common experience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMAr6M54A1s&list=RDoMAr6M54A1s
Take a listen. It is the story of a friend who was once focused intently and growing in her or his relationship with God. But something changed.
There are times I realize that I have drifted. Drifted from that which I know is best and most full, that heals my wounded spirit and makes me whole, yet I still allow myself when not careful to drift away. And that which fills me has never moved an inch away. In fact, often that source of spirit filling follows me so that I can return that much easier. I do not recall a time when I have abandoned or totally turned away from my faith since receiving Christ in my heart, but I have experienced too many seasons of wilderness where I have been non-focused and/or not as intentional on my relationship with Jesus.
I share this hopefully as an encouragement for all of us to examine ourselves now and often. Where are we in our intention and focus on our relationship with God? Are we availing ourselves to the healing, comforting, challenging touch of Jesus as we should, or perhaps once did? Are we investing as much energy and resources as we could or should be in appreciating God’s gift of grace by following hard after Jesus’ example?
Jesus does not drift away. God’s forgiveness, mercy, care for us does not waver. Jesus was willing to go through what He did for you once and for all, and that life-giving promise is ever present. YOU MATTER TO GOD!!! And we are all invited to respond with our joyful service and appreciation by tending to that first love of Christ.
During the weekend services at Rock Church Ministries we will be exploring going deeper. As I saw the topic of our new sermon series, I was moved to reconsider my current state of faith. And I look forward to being renewed, reinvigorated, and refreshed. Guess what? Another song to enjoy and consider if you will. Don Moen’s “Deeper In Love” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwEKRZ0I7Gg
“God loves you and there is nothing you can do about that, but because God loves you, there are many things you can to respond to it. May our lives be a response to God’s love.”
Events and services you don't want to miss!
Thursday Evenings: Come check out a safe place and time to explore faith questions and inspiration while sharing a good meal (provided at no charge) with good people in a relaxed atmosphere of sharing and worshiping. Rock Church Newburyport is a different kind of church than many think of. You do not need to feel awkward because you do not know when to sit or stand or what to say. Just come and be yourself and hopefully be encouraged in your relationships with others and God. Hope to see you there. Open to any and all! www.rock-church.org/newburyport
Sunday Morning October 29th 2017: Join us as we go Deeper at Rock Church Amesbury and explore the Power of Prayer and the Holy Spirit. This week, besides being lead into worship by our Praise Team, we will be blessed by our Rock Church Worship Choir leading a couple of praise songs. Pray for a Spirit led and full weekend! www.rock-church.org/amesbury
Do you have a pair of old, probably not so great looking, but too comfy to throw away sneakers? I do. Actually, I have a few pairs. One for mowing lawn, one by the basement door to run outside for something, and one stinking up the closet. I hope Lisa does not read this or I will be down to one spare pair. But you know the kind. Pre-laced, just loose enough to slip on but tight enough not to fly off.
Now every once in a while, they get a little too loose, stretched out, or lacking in adequate support to keep them from coming off in the heat of an unplanned chase to the mailbox or run down of the garbage collector who came a couple minutes earlier than usual. A little adjustment can usually do the trick and extend their usefulness a few months, right back to near perfect. Okay, eventually they will need to get replaced and tossed, which is always a sad day indeed.
Oddly enough, dwelling on this made me consider my faith journey. As we progress along life as a disciple of Jesus, we can become quite comfortable, and that can be a good thing and even a benefit of being a long-time follower. We get used to our faith and better at conforming to the values of Christ as our experience grows. We can become relaxed a bit more, but still supported and faithful. But then come times when, if we are being honest, perhaps we become a little too comfortable, maybe a bit complacent in our behaviors and attitudes. Our language might degrade a bit, our sensitivity to the needs of others may decrease, or our memory to always consider the least and the lost may lapse. That is when we might need to consider “tightening up the laces” to adjust to what we are supposed to be.
John Wesley, an influential church leader and follower of Jesus, challenged people to pursue scriptural holiness. To look at one’s own (not others’) life practices and consider whether they were in line with the values lifted up and exemplified in the Bible, in order to adjust our motives and actions accordingly. When faith is new, like the sneakers, it is naturally more “tight” to Jesus’ teachings and our newfound passion and appreciation is renewed with every new thing we learn. That in turn fuels our attitudes and behaviors to be as Christlike as possible. But as time goes on, even though we might get better at some things in the Christians life, the comfort may lead us to get a bit “sloppy”. Like the gym shoe.
So just in case you might be like me, I invite you occasionally, maybe now as you read this, to reconsider your faith journey and your response to God’s grace in your life. Do your spiritual laces need tightening to still be a natural and good fit? Are you as intentional at following closely to Jesus’ teachings and values as you should be? Adjust to draw closer to who and what you desire to be in your relationship with God, and your goal of pleasing the one who loves us enough to give us life and who died to give us life again.
As you grow in your faith, enjoy the comfort of getting good at some of the things of following Jesus. But may we never get so comfy in our faith as to forget to serve and love our Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer. An old sneaker can be a beautiful thing, but takes updating and adjusting at least every now and then.
We have a few opportunities coming up this week in Amesbury to update and adjust your body and soul:
Motion & Devotion this Saturday 9/16 at 9 am at the Rock Church in Amesbury! Men and women are welcome to join us for coffee, strength and flexibility training, and worship... we call it the Jesus brew! Bring your yoga mat, water bottle, and invite a friend!
Best place to be on Tuesday Night: Celebrate Recovery @ Rock Church Amesbury! Join us Tuesday nights @ 5:30 dinner 6:30 gathering as we begin a new year of CR and restart the lessons that help us in our walk to be healed from our hurts, habits and hangups. New this year in our renovated NextGen space we have "The Landing" a program designed specifically for our youth (grades 6-12)