You've Got a Friend in Me

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You've Got a Friend in Me

 

Thank you to everyone who supported the Youth Group car wash for Soulfest!

Thank you to everyone who supported the Youth Group car wash for Soulfest!

“You’ve got a friend in me.”  Does anyone know what movie that is theme song to?  If you guessed Toy Story, you are correct!  (Most of you are singing it to yourselves right now!)  Beginning this Sunday we will launch a new Rock Church series entitled “You’ve Got a Friend in Me~The Gospel in Toy Story.”  I know some of you are going to think I’ve finally lost it, but if you look beneath the surface of what seems to be a series of children’s movies, you will discover some very powerful Biblical themes.  

     So over the next several weeks we will be using clips from Toy Story I, II and III to lead into some important spiritual conversations.  Of course, we could address those topics without the movie clips, but here are 5 reasons why these clips will be great starting points.

  1. Movies are the parables of our day. Just as Jesus told simple stories to provide illustrations that everyone could connect to, movies do that for us today.

  2. Visual illustrations make the message more impactful.

  3. Family friendly movies help connect the message to people of all ages (including bringing spiritual truths to children).

  4. Movie clips remind us of Biblical truths in the future. Once a message has been connected to a movie clip, any time you see that movie in the future, you are reminded of that message.

  5. It helps with invitation. When we use things that have cultural relevance, it helps us connect the message of the Gospel to our unchurched friends and neighbors.

A perfect day for the women BBQ 2019!

A perfect day for the women BBQ 2019!

      This new series is going to allow us to address significant issues that most of us wrestle with in a way that is engaging and memorable.  I hope you will not only be with us for the whole series, but I would encourage you to use it as an opportunity for invitation.  And if you are up for a challenge, I would encourage you to watch the first Toy Story movie this week and see if you can guess which clip we are going to use first.  If you think you know, feel free to comment below!

      Have a blessed week.

Pastor Steve

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Whatever you do

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Whatever you do

    Have you ever noticed how we sometimes separate our faith life from our “regular” life.  This morning in my devotional time I was reading in Paul’s letter to the Colossians.  In chapter 3 Paul writes “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Those first three words caught my attention this morning.  “Whatever you do.”

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     I feel like we sometimes think of our faith as something we practice at certain times.  Sunday morning we attend worship.  Then perhaps at another time during the week we participate in a life group or serve in some area of ministry.  But being a Christian is not something we do, it is who we are.  We are Christ followers.  As Christ followers, whatever we do, our faith is a part of it. 

     I want to encourage us to have a “whatever we do” attitude.  If we are married, we see that relationship through the lens of our faith.  At work, Paul says later in the chapter “work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.”  In our conversations, let our words reflect the love of Christ within us.

     Sometimes we live our lives in a way that seems to be compartmentalized.  But Paul is reminding us that our faith is meant to be integrated into every aspect of our lives.  Every behavior we exhibit, every decision we make, every word we speak is shaped by who we are.  We are Christ followers.  That is not to imply that we will always get it right.  It won’t always be perfect.  But we strive to live in such a way that our faith in Christ is reflected in all we do. 

     And so today, and in the days to come, I want to encourage us to see our faith, not as one aspect of our lives, but the very foundation upon which it is build.  Let our faith be that which shapes all other areas of life.  Whatever we do, let us do it all in the name of Christ, giving thanks to God.

     I hope you can all be with us this Sunday as we finish up our “Supernatural” series.  You won’t want to miss this final message.  We’ve saved the best for last!

     Have a blessed week.

 

Pastor Steve

BTW, don’t forget the youth group car wash today at our Sandown location from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. It is a fund raiser for Soulfest!

Also, Men’s BBQ rain or shine this Friday at 5:30 pm and the Women’s BBQ is on Saturday beginning at 5:00 pm.

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Freedom

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Freedom

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, Independence Day. This is the day we celebrate our freedom as a nation. I consider myself blessed to live in a nation with the extraordinary level of freedom that we enjoy in the United States. Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to worship openly. I think freedom is one of the most treasured gifts that any human being can experience.

Don’t forget Pancakes in the Pine in Amesbury tomorrow morning. No better way to start off the 4th!

Don’t forget Pancakes in the Pine in Amesbury tomorrow morning. No better way to start off the 4th!

Apostle Paul says in Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free.” There is freedom in Christ that is even greater than anything this world can offer. It is a different kind of freedom than we enjoy as citizens of a great nation. It is an inner freedom. A freedom from the bondage of sin. A freedom from fear. A freedom to become all that God intends us to be.

This week we will celebrate the freedom we enjoy as Americans. As we do that, let it be a reminder to us that as Christ followers we are recipients of an even greater freedom.  The inner freedom that comes by His spirit within us. In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul wrote “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  Over 200 years ago brave men and women gave up their lives to win our freedom. and in the centuries since then, many more have sacrificed to preserve that freedom. In similar fashion, over 2,000 years ago, Jesus sacrificed his life at the cross to win our ultimate freedom.

This independence Day let us be grateful for the freedoms we experience in this nation and for those who fought for them. But even more than that, let us be reminded that there is freedom in Christ.  For those who Lord have set free are free indeed.

Have a blessed and joyful Independence Day! We look forward to seeing you this Sunday as we continue our Supernatural Series!

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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A New Thing

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A New Thing

     In my experience, change can be hard and change can be exciting.  Transitions can bring challenges and new opportunities.  If you saw my email from a few days ago, you know that Pastor Jon and Pastor Rachel are in the midst of a transition.  They shared with our North Shore campus that God is calling them to a new expression of ministry. If you know them, you probably know that God has given them a heart for people living on the margins; the hurting, the poor, the addicted. 

      As such, they are stepping out to launch a new ministry, seeking to reach the broken and the struggling.  They will begin in downtown Haverhill and grow from there.  This will not necessarily be a “Rock Church” ministry.  But it is certainly our hope that there will be opportunities to work together with this new ministry.

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     On Sunday July 7th at noon we will have an opportunity to celebrate their ministry and express our appreciation for all that they have done as a part of our Rock Church leadership.  We will share a meal together and then have an opportunity for people to share their words of thanksgiving for their ministry.  It will be held at our North Shore campus on Main Street in Amesbury.  But it is open to everyone, from all locations.  We will provide the main course and dessert.  If you would like to bring a side dish or salad, that would be welcomed.

      This Summer will also be a time of transition for the North Shore campus in terms of its physical location.  We are in the process of selling the building in the downtown.  And although we have some details yet to work out, it looks like we will have an amazing opportunity to move into the VisionMax Cinema just over the line into Salisbury.  This facility is only 2.5 miles from our current location.  But it has ample parking, is handicap accessible and is right off both routes 95 and 495.  I couldn’t imagine a better location for a regional campus.

       As God said through the prophet Isaiah “Behold, I am doing a new thing!”  God is doing a new thing in the lives of Pastor Jon and Pastor Rachel.  And God is doing a new thing in the life of Rock Church.  And I am convinced that God will be glorified in all of it.

God bless,    

Pastor Steve

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The Body of Christ

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The Body of Christ

Sunday we took a deep dive into spiritual gifts as we continued our new supernatural series. As part of that conversation, we looked at I Corinthians 12 where Paul compares the church to a body.  As Paul reminds us, every part of the body matters. Every part is important. Every part is necessary for the work of Christ to be complete.

Here are a few thank you notes from the Boys and Girls Club following our For Our Community work at Camp Tasker.

Here are a few thank you notes from the Boys and Girls Club following our For Our Community work at Camp Tasker.

I've been thinking a lot about that lately. God has called us to such a great and important work. And he has given each one of us gifts to be a part of that work. Based on Sunday's message (which if you missed you can watch at www.rockchurch.news. I want to ask you two questions. The first is this: have you discovered your gifts? One of our core convictions at Rock Church is that everyone is gifted to serve.

And when we say gifted to serve, we can really look at that from two perspectives. We have talents and abilities that could be a gift to the work of the church and the kingdom of God. But there are also those spiritual gifts, supernaturally given by God's Holy Spirit, specifically for the work of Christ. We all have both, and both are needed. What talents has God given you and how might those be used for the work of sharing Jesus and serving others? And what spiritual gifts has God supernaturally poured into you?  Those were specifically given to you for the work of his kingdom.

So, have you discovered your gifts? And my second question is “are you putting them to good use?” Your gifts matter to the kingdom of God. They matter to the work of Christ and his church. You have something beautiful, important and impactful to offer, and the body of Christ will not be complete without you.

Not sure where to begin? Here are a few thoughts:

Well, that's just a sampling, but you get the idea. You are an integral part of the body of Christ. Without you the body will not be complete. But with all of us together, we can accomplish great things in the work of Christ.

God bless,     

Pastor Steve

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: FOR THOSE WHO ATTEND AT THE NORTH SHORE CAMPUS, WE WILL HAVE A SPECIAL ALL CHURCH INFORMATIONAL MEETING THIS SUNDAY AT NOON. I WOULD INVITE YOU ALL TO JOIN US.

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That Pentecost Power

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That Pentecost Power

This past Sunday we celebrated Pentecost. What an amazing day in the life of our church. We had over a dozen people baptized by immersion in worship and we're welcome 30 new members! In the message we focused on the coming of the Holy Spirit and what that means in our lives. In scripture we are told that the Holy Spirit brings comfort, strength, guidance, teaching, conviction and more. But perhaps most importantly, the Holy Spirit brings power.

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Shortly after the day of Pentecost, in chapter 4 of the Book of Acts, we read “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.” When it comes to sharing the hope of Jesus with others I think we are sometimes hesitant. We fear we might not have the right words. We fear our sharing may not be received well. We fear rejection. But what Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, is reminding us is that we need not be afraid. After all we have that Pentecost power within us. We have the power of the Holy Spirit.

When it comes to sharing our faith, I have to remind myself all the time that we do not do this in our own strength. Like Peter, Paul and the other early disciples, we do this work in the power of the Holy Spirit. This was the point of Pentecost. The disciples were instructed to wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit before they began their work of proclaming the gospel. On our own, our testimony may seem to have modest impact. But with the power of God’s Spirit behind the proclamation, there is a supernatural power.

We read in the book of Acts that in the early church the Lord added to their numbers daily. Every day more and more people responded to the invitation to become followers of Christ. This didn't happen because Peter was such a skilled preacher. He was a common fisherman. This happened because the Holy Spirit put power behind his words.

You and I don't have to be John Wesley, Billy Graham or Andy Stanley to share the gospel. Even if we don't think we are very eloquent, even if we think we don't have the right words, let us not be afraid, or even hesitate, to share Jesus with those who do not yet know him. We simply have to share the hope of Christ in our own words, in our own way, and allow the Holy Spirit to bring power to those words.

I want to encourage us to share Jesus with someone this week. Invite them to church. Help them to come to know the life changing hope and joy that is found in Christ. There is no greater gift you could offer another person.

I look forward to us all being together this Sunday as we continue our series supernatural. I believe this is one of the most exciting and engaging series we've ever done. You won't want to miss this.

God Bless,


Pastor Steve

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Speaking the language

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Speaking the language

This morning during my prayer time I was rereading the story of Pentecost from Acts 2. What an amazing account of the coming of the Holy Spirit, bringing the power of God into the early church. Though I've read the story hundreds of times, something struck me this morning.  This revelation came during the part of the story where Peter is preaching and everyone in the crowd hears the message in their own language.

We will be celebrating baptism this Sunday at all campuses. If you would like to be baptized, but have not yet contacted us, please email  steve@rock-church.org .

We will be celebrating baptism this Sunday at all campuses. If you would like to be baptized, but have not yet contacted us, please email steve@rock-church.org.

This was a miracle, the very thing we talked about this past Sunday as we launched our new Supernatural series. It was a sign and a testimony, demonstrating to all the power of God working through the disciples. But it dawned on me that there was also a very practical component of this miracle. It allowed every person to hear the gospel in their native language.  How important is that! Imagine the difference it made for those people being able to hear the good news of Jesus proclaimed in a way that spoke directly to them.

It reminds me that even today, when we share the gospel, we need to speak people's language. And what I often need to remind myself of is that just because I'm speaking English to someone else who speaks English, doesn't mean I am speaking their language.  Speaking their language means not using "churchy words" that only long time Christians understand. Speaking their language means understanding contemporary culture well enough that we can use illustrations that are relevant and relatable. And speaking their language means being vulnerable enough to enter their world and communicate in a way that connects to their personal experience.  The apostle Paul wrote "I have become all things to all people that I might win some for Christ."  If we are going to reach people with the hope of Jesus, we need to enter their world and speak their language.

This Sunday is Pentecost. The day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Christian Church. We will celebrate baptism and welcome new members. And we will continue to dig into the supernatural aspect of our faith as we explore the power of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is an incredibly important day in the life of the church. I look forward to us all being together to celebrate it!

P.S. I would invite you to wear something red this Sunday. Red is the color of Pentecost because it reminds us of the spirits coming down as tongues of flame over the disciples.

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Do you believe in Miracles?

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Do you believe in Miracles?

There is a component of our Christian faith that is very much about the physical world around us.  As Christians, we are all about feeding the hungry, helping those in need, blessing others.  After all, it was James, the brother of Jesus who said:

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

Our new series “Supernatural” begins this Sunday, June 2 at all Rock locations.

Our new series “Supernatural” begins this Sunday, June 2 at all Rock locations.

But there is also an aspect of our faith which is very much about the spiritual realm.  The unseen.  The supernatural.  This Sunday we are beginning a new teaching series that I am certain is going to be both powerful and fascinating.  The title of the series is simply “Supernatural.”

I think every human being senses at some level that there is more to our world than that which can be seen.  While not everyone can put words to it, I think we all understand that there is a spiritual realm.  That there are spiritual forces at work in our world.  And I believe most people, even those who do not yet know Christ, want to understand it better.  As such, I think this would be a great series to invite an unchurched friend to attend. 

Through the series we will dig into the work of the Holy Spirit.  We will look at spiritual gifts, including some of the more “charismatic” gifts.  We will explore the battle that goes on at the spiritual level, angels and demons and the spiritual forces of the enemy. 

But we are going to start the series with a topic that we don’t often talk about, but I am discovering many of you have experience at one level or another: MIRACLES!  As a part of this opening message, we will be sharing some stories with you that you will not want to miss.  It is going to be powerful.

I look forward to having every one of you in worship with us this Sunday as we begin this new series, SUPERNATURAL!  You will not want to miss it.  (seriously, if you have other plans, cancel them.)

God bless,    

Pastor Steve

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Favorite Days

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Favorite Days

Are there certain days of the year that you particularly look forward to?  Christmas?  Your birthday?  Thanksgiving?  Can I share with you one of my favorite days of the year that you might find a little bit surprising?  I love Pentecost!  After Easter, it is my favorite Sunday of the year.

If you are not familiar with Pentecost, it is a special day in the life of the church when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Christian Church.  At Rock Church we mark this special day with a joyful, Spirit-led time of worship.  As a part of this service, every year that I have been your pastor (that’s getting to be a LONG time!) we include in this service the welcoming of new members.  At times we have also included baptisms. 

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This year, as a part of our Pentecost services we are going to offer both.  There will be the opportunity for immersion baptism at all of our locations.  We will also be welcoming new members at all locations.  There are very few spiritual experiences in this life that compare to immersion baptism.  And there are few steps we take in life that are more meaningful spiritually than to stand before our church family and publicly profess our faith in Christ through the membership vows.

There is some preparation that goes along with both baptism and membership. For baptism, there is a brief orientation that we do ahead of time to be sure those being baptized understand the meaning and significance of this important step.  For membership, there is a class that we ask everyone to attend. 

Pentecost falls on Sunday, June 9th.  If you would like to be baptized on Pentecost, please reply to Lynette and she will connect you with one of our pastors for the orientation.   If you would like to receive membership, you can also email Lynette.  We will be offering the membership class at two, or perhaps three, locations depending on the number of people who wish to receive membership.  The class will be on Sunday June 2 in the afternoon and will run about 2 hours.

To go along with the Pentecost celebration I will give you a sneak preview of our new, very exciting, upcoming series.  Beginning June 2 we will begin a new series entitled “Supernatural” where we will be digging deep into the things of the spiritual realm.  This is going to be an amazing series, you will not want to miss a single week. 

We will also have a special message coming up this Sunday for Memorial Day that I know you are going to want to hear.  If you happen to be traveling this weekend, but sure to tune in on the livestream.

God bless,    

Pastor Steve

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Every Day

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Every Day

My guess is that there are things you do every day. Some of these are physical things. Brush your teeth, shower, make the bed, EAT! And there may be some things you do everyday that are meant to express emotion; hug or kiss your spouse, tell someone you love them, speak a kind word. There are some things we seem to naturally do every day.

 In the same way, I think there was certain spiritual things we are meant to do every day. Virtually every day I spend a few moments reading the Bible. It doesn't take a tremendous amount of time, but it keeps me consistently in the Word of God. And even though I've read through the Bible a number of times over the years, every day it seems like God reveals something new to me. I see something in a passage that I hadn't noticed before. Or it speaks to me in a new way in light of what I am going through or experiencing at that time.

 The other thing I try to do every day is take some time in prayer. To be honest, some days it's just a few minutes. Other days I may spend a little more time. But the important thing to me is that it is every day. Daily prayer keeps me connected to God. It helps me stay grounded. It encourages me, and helps me to rely more fully on God every day.

 I'm convinced that one of the keys to growing deeper in Christ is our daily practices. I would not go six days without a shower and then take a really long shower on the seventh day. I wouldn’t binge eat one day and then go without food for six. There are some things in life that were meant to be consistent, daily. I believe that is particularly important in our spiritual lives.

 Of course there are spiritual practices we do at other intervals. We gather as the family of God to worship once a week. I believe a consistent weekly rhythm of worship is also essential for our spiritual growth. But if the only way we're being fed spiritually is once a week in worship, we will not be as spiritually strong and healthy as we would want to be, as we need to be, to live out this life of faith God has invited us into.

 At the beginning of the year we gave out bookmarks to remind and encourage us to pray every day. I hope you are still keeping yours in a visible place. I hope you are working through the five areas. And I hope you are doing it every day. I am fully convinced that daily time with God is the bedrock of a strong and growing faith.

God bless,     Pastor Steve

BTW, don’t forget that this Saturday is our For Our Community Day of Serving.  It’s not to late to sign up at this link.  ALSO, THIS YEAR WE ARE DOING A FOOD COLLECTION AT EVERY PROJECT.  So we are encouraging every participant to bring a non-perishable food item to the work site with them Saturday morning.

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Top Ten

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Top Ten

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It’s crunch time!  We are just a week and a half away from our biggest outreach event of the year!  Our For Our Community Day of Service is coming up on Saturday May 18th.   So here is my top 10 list why you will want to be a part of this great event!

10)  There are over 30 projects spread over more than a dozen community.  By participating, you get to be a part of something REALLY BIG that is making a big difference in our communities.

9)  Free T-shirts.  We have a brand new, super cool, T-shirt designed for this year.  Every person who preregisters get one of these beauties!

8)  Make new friends.  This is a great opportunity to not only do great work, but do it together with some great people.  You might even make a new friend.

7)  You get to choose.  If you go to this link, you can see all of the projects listed out and you get to choose which project you want to be a part of.

6) Ministry wide and open to the community.  Because this will involve all of our Rock Church campuses, we have the opportunity to connect to folks who we don’t get to see every week.  And because it is open to the community, we can also invite our neighbors (who we don’t get to see enough).

5) Free lunch.  After the work, everyone is invited back to our Plaistow location for a giant BBQ.  There will be inflatable for the kids.  It will be a great time to celebrate the excellent work that was accomplished.

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4)  Projects for all skill levels and ages.  We have intentionally chosen the projects in order to be sure there is work for people at all ages and all skill levels.  It is a family friendly events, so kids are welcome.  What a great way to teach our kids the value of hard work and helping others.

3) It is only half a day.  The work will take place from 8:00 to lunchtime.  Because there are so many of us working together, you get to make a big impact in a short time.

2) Shine the light of Christ.  By serving others, we get to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and help the world to know that there is a God that loves them and Christ followers who want to bless them!

1)  FUN!   Every person who participate last year agreed, it was a blast!

   So, if you haven’t signed up yet, please go to this link and sign up today.  I did hear from a couple of folks who do not have access to the web or had difficulty the form.  If you were not able to sign up online, just email me at steve@rock-church.org and I, or someone from event team, will follow up with you to help you get signed up.

God bless,    

Pastor Steve

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We are all hospitality

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We are all hospitality

I had a revelation the other day.  It dawned on me that in the church, particularly on Sunday mornings, we are all on the hospitality team. We have people each week who are assigned to specific hospitality roles; greeters, ushers, lobby host, baristas, etc.  But it struck me that the work of helping guests to feel loved, welcomed and appreciated falls on all of us.  We are all hospitality.

I was reading a book recently about the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain.  They are renowned for their excellence in hospitality.  One of the expectations of every person who works for the hotel is that as they approach a guest, perhaps in a hallway or the lobby, they are expected to look up, make eye contact, smile and greet the guest.  And when they say everyone, they mean everyone, from the hotel manager to the housekeeper to the maintenance worker. 

Everyone in the hotel is expected to help make guests feel warmly welcomed and cared for.  What’s more, if they come upon a guest who needs assistance in any way, regardless of their role on the staff, they are expected to stop and help them, or contact someone who can.

Mark your calendar: Thurs. May 23. Franklin Graham w/musical guest Dave Crowder.

Mark your calendar: Thurs. May 23. Franklin Graham w/musical guest Dave Crowder.

Now allow me to contrast that with an experience I had this week.  Nicole and I went out to a restaurant for lunch.  When we walked in, the person behind the hostess counter did not look up.  She appeared to be deeply engrossed in some important paperwork (or perhaps her social media status).  We are regulars, so we just walked by and took our seats. On the way out, same deal.  Head down, focused on paperwork.  No eye contact.  No greeting.

Because we go here fairly regularly for lunch, it didn’t particularly phase me. But I got thinking, if this was my first time there, how might the lack of welcome impact my experience?  On the flip side, if I was fortunate enough to be a guest in a Ritz-Carlton, how might that intentional hospitality practiced by every member of the staff positively impact my experience?  How eager would I be to return?

Now the Ritz-Carlton is a pretty fancy hotel.  But it’s not actually the marble floors and the chandeliers that make the experience extraordinary.  It’s the way every person helps make each guest feel welcomed and cared about.  I believe we can do that in the church.  Here at Rock Church I believe every one of us is a part of the hospitality team.  When we have guests, each of us can be an important part of helping them feel loved and welcomed.

When you come to church this Sunday, remind yourself that you are a part of the hospitality team.  By your smile and your warm welcome, you can help someone feel loved and cared for.  It may just make the difference in whether they connect; not only to the church, but to Jesus.

God bless,

Pastor Steve

If you haven’t signed up yet, got to www.ForOurCommunity.org

If you haven’t signed up yet, got to www.ForOurCommunity.org

A couple of other notes: For Our Community Day of Serving is just over two weeks away and we need you!  If you haven’t done so already, please go out and sign up to be a part of one of our 34 project teams.  It is going to be an awesome day.  You will not want to miss it.  Go to www.forourcommunity.org to sign up.

MEN: Don’t miss First Monday coming up on May 6th. Our guest speaker will be our own Todd “T” Bannister. He has an amazing testimony that you will not want to miss!

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The New Evangelism

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The New Evangelism

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I’m convinced that serving is the new evangelism.  When it comes to connecting to the “not yet churched” and help them to come to know Jesus, serving is rapidly emerging as one of our most effective tools.  This is not to say that we should never witness door to door, preach on the street corner or hand out tracts.  But the effectiveness of those approaches is no longer what it once was.

As Christ followers, our message does not change.  In Jesus there is the forgiveness of sin and the hope of abundant and eternal life. But our methodology, how we share that message, changes from season to season and from generation to generation.  So here are 5 reasons why I am convinced that serving is an increasingly effective tool for evangelism:

1.       It allows unchurched people to see the love of Christ in a tangible way.

2.       It adds credibility to our proclamation.  People are more likely to hear our words if we back them up with loving action.

3.       It builds relationships.  As we serve people in need, it helps us get to know them, and vice versa.  Relationship builds trust and trust opens the door to sharing.

4.       It allows us to work side by side with unchurched people. Many people who may be hesitant to attend church are open to helping on a community service project.  As churched and unchurched neighbors work side by side, it becomes a first step of connection to Christ and the church.

5.       It give people a different view of Christians.  Sadly, in the media and in culture, Christians are often portrayed as self-righteous, judgmental and hypocritical.  But when we serve, the world gets to see Christians as a people of love who desire to bless others.

This is why I’m so excited about the For Our Community Day of Serving.  On Saturday, May 18th, we will have the opportunity to serve in our community in ways that help others to see the church for who it really is.  And it will be a chance to build relationships and share the love of Christ.  This has the potential to be an incredibly effective opportunity to not only do good as we bless others, but to share the hope of Jesus in the process. But for that to be as fully effective as it can be, we need two things.

  • We need you to join us!  You can sign up at www.forourcommunity.org

  • We need you to invite a few friends to join us.  This project is open to everyone, and this is a perfect opportunity to help someone take a first step of connection that could lead to a life changing relationship with Jesus.

On another note, we have a very special GROW (our monthly gathering for women and young women) this coming Monday, April 29 at our Rock Plaistow location.  Check out the video below. 

Also, we are beginning a new series this Sunday that I think is going to be both practical and inspirational.  If you have ever been stressed over money, or have friends or family members who are, you will not want to miss this special series “Keys to Financial Peace.”

God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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The Comeback!

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The Comeback!

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The most celebrated thing in sports is the “Comeback.”  It’s one thing to win a game, a match or a competition.  It is something else entirely to come from behind to win. There is something incredibly powerful and moving about winning in the end when all seems lost. 

This is the power and importance of Holy Week.  Holy Week follows all that Jesus faced during his final week of life on earth. There is the hopefulness of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  It’s a little like the roar of the crowd when the team charges onto the field at the start of the game. 

But before long, Jesus is sharing the last supper with his disciples.  He foretells his betrayal and his sacrifice.  There is the washing of the disciple’s feet and the time in heart-wrenching prayer in garden.  Soon Judas would arrive with soldiers.  Jesus betrayed with a kiss.  The arrest.  The trial. Peter’s denial. The way of suffering as Jesus carried his cross to the hill where he would be put to death. 

Ultimately, all of the pain and struggle of this week would give way to the joy of the resurrection.  But what makes the victory of the empty tomb so powerful is the struggle that precedes it.  It is the comeback of resurrection that makes Easter morning a time of such profound joy.

Just when it seemed to the disciples that all hope was lost, they hear the good news proclaimed that Jesus is alive!  So for us, if we want to experience the full joy of Easter, we must also experience the struggle of Holy Week. 

I certainly hope every one of us will be in worship at one of our Easter celebrations.  But I would also encourage you to attend one or more of our Holy Week services.  See the full schedule at JoyfulEaster.org.

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Then on Saturday at 5:00 pm we will have the first of 6 Easter celebrations.  We offer the Saturday service as an opportunity for those who may be traveling on Easter, those who are serving on Easter (hospitality, child care, choir, praise team, etc) or for those for whom Saturday at 5:00 simply works better.  Then we will have our full slate of Sunday morning services on our usual schedule.

It looks like it might rain this weekend, so we would love to have some extra “Umbrella Greeters” in the parking lots for Saturday and Sunday.  If you would be willing to help with that, please contact Cathi in Sandown, Lisa or Dawn at North Shore, or Sunnie in Plaistow.

And most of all, don’t forget to INVITE!  Everyone needs Jesus and we have an amazing Easter Celebration planned where everyone will have the opportunity to hear the good news in a powerful way.

God bless,

Pastor Steve

On another note, some of you may know that we have outgrown our space in Amesbury. We recently put the church building on the market. The sale will allow us to relocate to a space with room for continued growth. A few days ago we received an excellent offer on the building. It is not a done deal yet, but if all goes well, we will be transitioning in the early fall. Please keep this in your prayers.

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Expectations

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Expectations

For Our Community Day of Service.  Saturday May 18    Sign up now at www.forourcommunity.org

For Our Community Day of Service. Saturday May 18 Sign up now at www.forourcommunity.org

Have you ever had your expectations broken?  Maybe you went out on a date. You really seemed to hit it off.  You expected there would be a second date.  But it never happened.  Or you went on a job interview.  It seemed to go really well. You expected a call back.  But the phone never rang.

This Sunday is Palm Sunday.  When Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem, people gathered from all around to welcome him.  They shouted and cheered.  They laid down their coats and palm branches along his path, the first century equivalent of a red carpet treatment. 

Why so extravagant welcome?  Because they had expectation of Jesus.  He would be their warrior king.  He would free them from Roman occupation.  Imagine their disappointment when he raised no army.

To the contrary, he gave up his own life as a sacrifice for others.  Sometimes it can be disappointing when our expectations are not met.  But do you know what I’ve discovered?  I’ve found that when Jesus is involved, he often exceeds our expectations in ways we never imagined.

The Jews wanted someone to save Jerusalem from occupation.  Jesus came to save all the world from sin.  They wanted to live their remaining years with their own ruler.  Jesus wanted them to live eternally with God. 

When we are disappointed by something, when our expectations are not met, sometimes it can be hard to see in the moment how God might be in that.  But as it says in Romans 8:28 “In all things God works for the good of those who love him.” 

When that date doesn’t work out, it’s hard to see that God is preparing the way for someone who is perfect for us.  When we don’t land that job, it’s hard to see in the moment that God is keeping us available for the better job that he really wants for us. 

In those moments when our expectations are not met, we must trust that God has something even greater in mind for us.  This is the essence of faith, believing even when we cannot see, and trusting God even when we don’t fully understand.

Sandown Egg Hunt is this Sat. April 13. Plaistow Egg Hunt Sat. April 20. North Shore on Easter Sunday April 21

Sandown Egg Hunt is this Sat. April 13. Plaistow Egg Hunt Sat. April 20. North Shore on Easter Sunday April 21

I hope each and every one of you will be with us this week as we celebrate Palm Sunday and wrap up our Imperfect series on the life of Peter.

 God bless,

Pastor Steve

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The Power of Invitation

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The Power of Invitation

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In Proverbs 18:21 it says “The tongue has the power of life and death.”  With our words we can tear someone down and with our words we can give life.  Nowhere is that more true than in the matter of personal invitation.  There is power in invitation to offer life.

Recently we have begun making small business size invitation cards available to everyone.  The purpose of the cards is two-fold.  First, it is meant to be a reminder to all of us of the importance of personal invitation.  There are lots of ways that we seek to share the good news of Jesus.  But there is none more effective than personal invitation.

So when you receive one of those cards, I would encourage you to put it in your pocket or purse.  Or perhaps place it on your desk.  Put it in a place that you will see it regularly or feel it in your pocket when you reach for some change.  Let it be a reminder to you of the power of invitation.  One invitation to join us at the Rock could be the turning point in someone’s life.  It could be the first step in a new journey of faith

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The card is also meant to be a resource.  Keep one handy at all times.  You never know when God will open a door for invitation.  After you have invited that person to join you this Sunday (or Thursday night Dinner Church or Celebrate Recovery) hand them the card so the will have a reminder of the name of the church, our locations and a website where they can find more information. 

The tongue has the power of life.  When we speak a word of invitation, we are offering life, new life, abundant life in Christ.  Who will you invite this week?

 God bless,

Pastor Steve

Speaking of invitation, we have Easter Egg hunts coming up soon! These are a great opportunity to invite friends and neighbors with children. We are still in need of candy. If you would like to help with this, please bring a bag or two this Sunday.

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Urgency

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Urgency

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Do you ever think about the power of words.  About a month ago, I shared in my blog that God was beginning to place certain words in my heart and mind.  One such word that we talked about was synergy.  This past Sunday I shared another word that keeps coming back to me.  That word is URGENCY. 

Perhaps you are beginning to feel as I do that there is an urgency to the work that Jesus has called us to.  There is an urgent need to bring hope to a hurting world.  There is an urgency to bring love and compassion to the broken.  And there is an urgency to share what we call “The Gospel,” the good news that God so loved the world that he sent his son to be our savior.

I know that some of this urgency comes from my end.  In my mind I’m still 20.  But the calendar and the mirror say otherwise. And with each passing season I feel a greater and greater need to become bold in my faith and fearless in my proclamation.  Life is short.  I want to use every bit of it to do the work of Jesus and to share the hope of the resurrection.

Do you ever feel that way?   Personally, my desire is that this urgency that God is welling up within me will lead to other words.  Words like courage, boldness, risk and perseverance.

We have a wonderful gift in Christ. We have the greatest news ever shared and the greatest hope our world has ever known.  My prayer is that we will all sense an urgency to share the love of Jesus every day, and in every way, we possibly can.

Have a great week.  Join us this Sunday as we continue our series “Imperfect” learning powerful lessons from the life of the apostle Peter.

 God bless,

Pastor Steve

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Can't help but share. . .

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Can't help but share. . .

I’ve been reading in the book of Acts this week during my morning prayer time. In chapter 4 there is a great story about Peter and John being dragged before the Jewish rulers.  Peter had just healed a man,  and the 3000 who accepted Christ at Pentecost had already grown to 5000 converts.

Christian community puts the joy in life. Have you found a LifeGroup?

Christian community puts the joy in life. Have you found a LifeGroup?

The high priest, rulers and elders were beside themselves.  This whole Jesus movement was getting out of control.  They were not sure what to do, but they knew they must do something.  So after a night in jail, Peter and John were dragged before the Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling council).  Following an interrogation, they were commanded never to speak or teach in the name of Jesus again. 

I love their reply, found in Acts 4:19-20.  “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him?  As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 

Have you ever had something you just couldn’t help but talk about?  Perhaps it was a new restaurant you visited or a movie you were blown away by?    I still remember Superbowl LI when the Patriots came back from a 25 point deficit to win in overtime.  People couldn’t help but talk about it for days, even weeks. 

For the disciples, that was Jesus.  After hearing him teach, watching him heal, witnessing his resurrection, they couldn’t help but share the good news about him.  What they had experienced in Jesus had so transformed their lives that they just couldn’t keep themselves from telling others about him. 

That’s how I want to live.  I desire a life so transformed by the gospel, so impacted by Jesus, that I can’t help but share him.  For the disciples, there were many forces that sought to silence them.  And even in our culture today, there are those who would seek to suppress the proclamation of the gospel.

But may it be said of us that we have been so powerfully transformed by the love and forgiveness of Christ that we can’t help but tell everyone!

Have a blessed week.  I look forward to having us all together this weekend as we continue to explore the life of Peter.  You won’t want to miss it. 

 God bless,

Pastor Steve

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Called

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Called

   This week at Rock Church we began a new series on the Life of Peter.  Peter was the first disciple called by Jesus.  For Peter, everything began with this calling.  As we dig into that story, we see that Peter was called not only to follow Jesus, but to serve him.  In the years that followed, Peter would use his unique gifts, talents and abilities to serve God in ways that would change the world.

Mark Your Calendar.  For Our Community Day will be May 18th!

Mark Your Calendar. For Our Community Day will be May 18th!

     You and I are the ones called by Christ to be world changers in this generation!  God has poured wonderful, unique gifts and talents into each of us that are meant to be used for the work of Christ.  One of our core convictions at Rock Church is that everyone is gifted to serve.  When we serve Christ, we have the opportunity to be a part of something that is not only changing the world here and now, but is shaping people's eternity. 

     My heart's desire is that every one of us would find our special place in the work of Christ and his church.  I believe we all want to know that we have invested our lives in something truly significant.  There is such a sense of joy, satisfaction and purpose that comes from being a part of the work of God's kingdom, that I would want every person to have that experience.

     However, I have discovered that there are certain "myths" that sometimes keep us from having that experience.

Myth #1:  I want to serve, but I don't have time.   I know we are all super busy.  But God gives us enough time to do the things he calls and equips us to do.  In fact, there are many ways to serve that only require an hour or two a month, but are still a very important component of our church's ministry.  If we make the decision to serve, God will help us make the time.

Myth #2:  I have no special skills.  That is a lie from the enemy.  Everyone of us has God given gifts and talents that are needed in his work.  In fact, there are things that you would be good at that you haven't even discovered yet.  But as you respond to God's calling, those gifts will begin to emerge within you.

Myth #3:  I'm not needed.  Sometimes we look at the work of the church and it seems like everything is covered. It is easy to assume from initial appearance that the ministry is fully staff.  This is also not true.  At this very moment we could use additional help in hospitality, coffee prep, children's ministry, youth ministry, administrative work and care ministry. We need people to sing, play instruments, operate the sound board, run the worship computer and assist with livestream.  We need photographers, gardeners, cooks and carpenters.  Can you set up tables, move chairs, make phone calls, send greeting cards, vacuum or clean.  We need you!  There are more ways to serve in the church than you could ever imagine, and there is always room for more on the team. 

      Like Peter, you and I are called.  We are called to follow Jesus and we are called to serve him.  I know that everyone of you has something beautiful and precious to share in the work of Christ.  There is no greater joy or satisfaction than to be a part of the world changing work of God's kingdom.  If you have not found a place to jump in, please talk with your campus pastor or another ministry leader and we can help you get started.

    Have a great week.  I look forward to us all being together this Sunday as we continue our series on the life of Peter "Imperfect."

   God Bless,

Pastor Steve

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Imperfect

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Imperfect

Have you ever looked at your own life and wondered "Why would God ever use the likes of me?"  Personally, I want to be used of God. I want to be a part of building his kingdom and fulfilling his mission. I pray I can be a significant part of the work of Christ. But then I look inward and think about the many ways I've messed up. I look at my own brokenness, my hang ups and my failings.

I think about the times I could have been courageous but instead was fearful, times I should have trusted God but doubted, moments I missed great opportunities to serve him. I suspect many of us have had those moments.  Our shortcomings and our imperfections cause us to doubt if God would really have a place for us in his kingdom work.

But the good news is that God is in the habit of using ordinary people, with all of our struggles, shortcomings and sin, to do great things. God seems to delight in using cracked vessels to bring living water into the world. And nowhere is that more evident than in the life of the apostle Peter.

Peter, the very first disciple that Jesus called, was an ordinary fisherman. He was no one special in the eyes of the world. He made mistakes. He was brash and outspoken, and yet at times fearful. At some of the most critical moments of his life he failed, even denied, Jesus.  In a word, he was imperfect. Yet Jesus called him to follow, and used him to build the very foundation of his church.

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Today is the beginning of Lent. Lent is that season of preparation leading up to the celebration of Easter. This Sunday we will begin a new series entitled "Imperfect."  In this series we will dig into the life Peter. Beginning with his call, we will follow Peter's journey of faith and his life with Christ.

I know you are going find Peter’s story both encouraging and inspiring as it is a powerful reminder of how God uses the ordinary and the imperfect to accomplish great things. We can see in the ways that Jesus uses Peter that, in spite of our frailties, every one of us has the potential to be world changers. I hope you will do all that you can to be with us in worship in these coming weeks for this important and impactful series.

Also, don't forget to change your clocks this Saturday night. It is "spring forward" so turn your clocks ahead. I know that puts worship an hour earlier, but we will have coffee ready when you arrive!

Have a great week.

God bless,

Pastor Steve

On another note, if you are not currently in a life group, we are launching a new 6-week study on the Lord's prayer. This brand new group begins this Sunday at our Plaistow campus at 4:45 pm.  This new group will combine engaging video based teaching with the opportunity for honest questions and dialogue. Walk-ins are welcome, but if you would like to pre-register, please drop a quick email to Sherry Lucia.

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