Archive for November, 2011

The Joy in the Rain

November 29, 2011

Contributed by Heather Ward, wife of Toby Ward, Elder Overseer of Outreach at Image Church

Four years ago, I grabbed my 4 month old son and hopped in the back of the car, as my sister-in-law rushed my brother who was very sick and in immense pain to the hospital.  Ironically, the radio was playing the song, “Bring the Rain by Mercy Me – a song which is about trials being brought into your life to bring you closer to God.  For my family and I at this point in our lives, it was definitely “raining.”  My 38 year old brother had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and was soon going home to be with the Lord, and there was absolutely NOTHING I could do about it – except turn to Jesus.  Jesus was testing my faith.

In James 1:2-4 it says: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Trials can be defined as “a state of pain or anguish that tests patience, endurance or belief.”  Our natural reaction to pain or anguish is definitely not JOY!!! Our natural reaction is that of despair and to turn to self, which leads us nowhere but down a slippery slope of depression and hopelessness.  However, in James 1 we are told as Christians to make a conscious choice to face our trials, not just with our head up and looking to Jesus, but with JOY!  What kind of joy are we supposed to have in the midst of suffering? The joy that we don’t have to rely on self, but that God is sovereign and in control.  The joy of knowing this trial does not define us, but Christ does.  The joy that each and every trial we go through refines us and readies us for our Savior.  Finally, the joy that the victory has been won, and that we will be spending eternity with our Savior.  How can we not have joy considering those things?  We should be filled with joy no matter if we are in a trial or not. 

Even Jesus himself endured the cross for us with joy according to Hebrews 12:2 – “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the JOY that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus found Joy in knowing He was accomplishing God’s will by paying our debt to set us free.

We, too, should approach our trials the same way – by looking for the joy and the end result, instead of wading in a pool of self pity.  Our trials are minuscule in comparison with Christ enduring the cross.  Jesus has given us the perfect example on how to handle our trials, but His perfect example is not only that.  Rather, it is something far greater – the perfect complete substitution for our sin.

I miss my brother dearly, but knowing that God was and is in control gives me joy.  Also knowing that my brother is pain free and with our Savior in Heaven gives me joy.

I encourage you to have joy about whatever trials you may be or will be going through.  The process of going through these trials, as painful as they may be, can draw us closer to God and make us who God wants us to be if we let Him.  So count it all JOY!

Lessons from Wawa

November 22, 2011

Contributed by Toby Ward, Elder Overseer of Outreach at Image Church

Recently my family and I were getting ready for church when the power went out. There’s never really a good time for that to happen, but a Sunday morning is about the worst. Trying to get 3 kids under 6 ready to go somewhere is not an easy task on its own, much less with no power. We got ready a little later than normal, and I needed to stop for some coffee. On our way we saw a car in the ditch with a  downed power pole next to it. Power was out for at least 2 miles down the road. We pulled into the local Wawa, and of course it was closed due to no power. Those things always happen when you’re late don’t they? We thought, no big deal, there is another one just down the road.

Upon pulling into the parking lot it was ridiculously busy. Not a single place to park. Once I went inside, THAT’S when the chaos REALLY started. There was more people in one building than any fire marshall would ever allow. People were fighting over the pastries, the cooks could not make sandwiches fast enough, the coffee was empty, and all 4 registers had a line 10 people deep. Wawa typically operates in a very efficient manner, and on that day they had lost control. It was absolutely nuts. At the coffee station, I overheard one co-worker encouraging another that it would all be OK. The other Wawa was closed, so they had to pick-up the pace. The manager was walking around offering to help everyone, and most willing to wait got free coffee for the inconvenience. You would have thought a natural disaster had just struck route 610 in Stafford.

That one Wawa being closed for only a few hours ABSOLUTELY ripped a HOLE in the Stafford community. People were losing their minds. Keep in mind that within a 3 mile radius there was another Wawa (with power), three 7-11’s, three Valero’s, an Exxon, a BP, and countless other eateries and coffee chops. Why was everyone crammed into this one place? Because Wawa had something everyone wanted: Simplicity. Wawa makes it easy for people to get gas, get some food, get coffee, and get out quickly. They are also typically very nice and helpful, which always keeps you coming back.

Wawa’s website says the following:

Our Core Purpose…

To Simplify Our Customers’ Daily Lives

Our Core Values…

  • Value People
  • Delight Customers
  • Embrace Change
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Do Things Right
  • Passion for Winning

I can personally say that on this day, they did all these things. Wawa obviously prepared its employees well for days like that. Wawa has integrated itself into the Stafford community, and we are better off for it.

On the way to church, I was telling my wife about the scene in Wawa, and it hit me: THAT’s what church is supposed to be like!! The church is the bride of Christ, and the product we have is the Gospel!!!!! How do we get people to see the Gospel as something they need like coffee or a doughnut with sprinkles? How can we make the Gospel as essential as gas for your car? How do we train/equip our people to feed on God’s Word like they feed their car with 87 grade with 10% ethanol? 🙂

We get back to the basics. We understand why we exist as a church. Recently, as elders at Image Church, we simplified our mission statement. Check this out:

Purpose (Why) to magnify Jesus
 
Vision (Where)to be a community of people reflecting the image of Jesus
 
Mission (What)to lead people to love God (Worship), love others (Community), and make followers of Jesus (Service).

Worshipa follower of Jesus worships God with all of their life

Communitya follower of Jesus lives in community just as God lives in community

Servicea follower of Jesus is sent to serve people in order to see them transformed by the Gospel

It’s that simple, and at Image Church we strive to integrate ourself into the very fabric of our community that God has placed us. I LOVE Dumfries, and I hope you do too. Check out the mission statement above, and prayerfully consider how you could get on board. Worship, Community, and Service are the three steps to reaching God’s plan for our lives, our church, and the people of Dumfries.

Simplicity.

The God I am Willing to Know…

November 14, 2011

Contributed by Shannon Perkins, wife of Russ Perkins, Elder Overseer of Communities at Image Church

“This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”  (John 17.3 – NLT)

I submit that there are only two kinds of people in the world… those who need to know God and those who need to know Him better.  The good news is that God – the Creator who spoke the heavens into existence, the One who breathed life into being, the Sustainer who holds everything together — makes Himself known to man! The bad news is I don’t always take Him up on His offer.

In the sixth chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus describes Himself as the “Bread of Life”.   His audience was familiar with the provision of manna for their ancestors while they were in the desert, despite their misconception that it had come from Moses.  (Jesus rightly pointed out that, like the Bread of Life, the manna actually had come down to earth from God in heaven.)  As the Bread of Life, Jesus’ offering was eminently more valuable than the temporary sustenance provided in the past or the physical food this crowd came seeking that day.  Jesus offered … Truth Itself… nourishment for the empty soul that would enable the spiritually hungry to know God! Sadly for those who would ultimately choose to view Jesus as just the benevolent son of a carpenter, this truth would be too hard to swallow.   The crowd, unwilling to acknowledge their spiritual lack and their very real need for a Savior, would not come to know Jesus as anything but a momentary meal ticket.  They were only interested in the temporal…in filling their bellies.  To address the eternal need — to personally know God– would be too costly.  They simply were not willing to know God as The Bread of Life…so they walked away.  However, others in Scripture were willing.

In order for Abraham to know God as The One Who Provides, he had to give up his most prized possession, raising a knife to the son of promise whom he loved.  Could Ruth have known God as Kinsman-Redeemer apart from being brought to a place of utter destitution and complete dependency? (Ruth 1-4) For David to know God as a “very present help in time of trouble” (Ps 46.1), he actually had to need help in a time of trouble.  For Hagar (Gen. 16) to know “the God Who sees,” she had to come to grips with the fact that no one else did.  How could Jeremiah experience God as “Comforter in sorrow,” unless his own heart had fainted within him? (Jer. 8.18)  If Peter had not left everything…job, home, future how could he truly call Jesus “Lord” of all?  (Matthew 19.27)  How could John the Baptist recognize Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” apart from seeing himself as unworthy? (John 1) Lazarus had to experience death in order to know Jesus as “the Resurrection.”   (John 11.25) One woman had to bleed for twelve years in order to know Jesus as Healer. (Mark 5) Paul had to consider everything he trusted — his lineage, his academic accomplishments, even his religion – as garbage in order to know Christ alone as Righteous. (Philippians 3.8) These are only a few examples of the costs involved to personally know the only true God. 

So, how about me?  Am I willing know God in the way He wants to reveal Himself to me?  This is a question I’ve been pondering for quite some time.  Am I really willing to know God as Comforter?  Most likely, then, I will have to endure suffering.  Am I willing to know God as a Friend of sinners?  Then I not only have to admit I am one…I may also have to reach out to another.  If I am to know God as Refiner and Purifier, most certainly I will have to rid my life of internal and external impurities…displeasing attitudes, words and actions.  Knowing God as Lord will, by definition, require submission of every area of my life to His control.  Coming to know God in the new and fresh ways He desires to reveal Himself will cost me…that is certain.  But the value of knowing Him will far exceed that cost.  After all, as He was with Abraham back in the beginning, God Himself will also be my Very Great Reward. (Gen.15)

Because

November 7, 2011

Contributed by Russ Perkins, Elder Overseer of Communities at Image Church

So, let me ask you a straightforward question.  If you could have God’s help, would you want it?

Of course, this presupposes that you believe in God and that He is interested and involved in our lives. (He is!) To be even more precise, I mean the God of the Bible, namely — Jesus.  Jesus is the grand subject of the scriptures. All of the Old Testament points to His eminent appearance, and the whole of the New Testament declares His arrival.  Jesus is the centerpiece of all the scriptures. He is God come to earth in a bag of skin and bones.  

So then, back to the question at hand… Do you want God’s help? — or worded another way, do you want His hand on your life?  Lets go take a quick look at a man named Ezra. Ezra was an Old Testament priest responsible for helping a portion of his fellow Israelites return home from exile.  Something truly wonderful is revealed to us in the text that bears his name.

Ezra 7:9-10 (Holman Christian Standard Bible) – He (Ezra) began the journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month and arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month. The gracious hand of his God was on him, 10 because Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the LORD, obey [it], and teach [its] statutes and ordinances in Israel.

Ok — did you read that? What did you see? — Let me tell you what I see. God’s hand was on Ezra. Why? Because Ezra had determined in his heart to study and obey God’s word, but that’s not all. Ezra would also teach its statutes and ordinances (laws and rules) to his fellow Israelites. Ready for some good news? – The same opportunity and privilege is ours as well!

We each can determine in our own hearts to study and obey God’s Word and to teach or pass what we are seeing and learning along to others.  God is no different today. If this was true for Ezra, it’s true for us right now.  

To the skeptic — one might argue, and rightly so — one verse a theology does not make — this is true.  Plenty more of the scripture would support my contention. But this very clear concise snap-shot from the life of Ezra remains compelling — at least to me… Perhaps others also?

The Mint

November 1, 2011

Contributed by Beth Seidler, wife of Chad Seidler, Director of Ministry at Image Church.

Multi-tasking is part of my DNA.  I can’t sit still very well for very long.  It drives my husband crazy.  Even when we are just watching TV or trying to relax, I have a basket of laundry in front of me.  I kind of have to be that way – I’m OCD – I work full-time, and we have two small kids.  This year for my birthday and Mother’s Day, I got a really cool present to help me with my multi-tasking (and my dislike for mopping).  It’s called “The Mint” – a genius little machine that mops my floor for me while I’m doing something else.  It even keeps track of where it’s been AND can navigate around things like furniture and rugs, etc.  All it needs to be able to operate is to “see” the signal that bounces off the ceiling from this little box (a form of GPS) you put somewhere in the room.  Just soak the cloth in cleaning solution, put it on “The Mint,” turn on the little box, and viola – come back in 30 minutes to a clean floor.

As I was turning on the little box for my magical self-cleaning machine the other night, I thought about how our lives should work like this little device I so love.  Just like my “Mint” can see the signal put off by the little box, others should be able to “see” that we get our direction from God’s Word – Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105) – even when we are doing other things.

Our quiet time and Scripture memorization should be able to help us avoid the obstacles that generally hinder our work…just like how the “Mint” comes up against a roadblock, it backs up and goes another way, and then it remembers where the obstacles are so that it doesn’t travel that direction again.  Psalm 199:11-16 expounds on this…

11I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 12Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes! 13With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. 14In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. 15I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. 16I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

And when the day is done, wouldn’t it be great to look around us and know that everything we touched with God’s help was left a little better than it was before we were there?

Matthew 25:23 – 23His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”