Becoming a Praying Church

We have a vision at Ridge Church to shift from being a church that prays to become a praying church.

At first glance, this may sound like wordplay, but when you stop and really think about it, it’s a big vision that will take time to see come to pass. You see, there are a lot of churches that pray. After all, it’s sort of important to do in church, right? The pastors and leaders of the church always lead us in prayer a few times during the church gathering. It’s what we do. But just because a church prays doesn’t mean they have cultivated a culture of prayer. This topic has been at the forefront of every prayer team meeting we have had this year. (Hey Ridge Church—did you know that we have a prayer team???)

We have been able to make some strides this year that have helped foster a prayer culture at Ridge Church. We started a prayer team and began having team members serve as prayer partners at the end of our services. We have had specific times of focused prayer, either through our 21 days of prayer leading up to Easter, blog posts about prayer, a Ridge U class, or inclusion of corporate prayer times at the quarterly Nights of Worship we have done. Our goal has been to raise the awareness of prayer in our church body, which in turn elevates the importance we place upon it. And these efforts are starting to produce fruit.

One of the biggest developments has been the occurrence of spontaneous prayer on Sunday mornings. I have seen groups gather on the patio outside of church and lay hands on an individual who is going through a tough time. We have held corporate prayer times in our services where we are sending off a church planter or starting a new ministry and many from the church body surround and lay hands upon these individuals. And more and more people are coming down front to pray at the altar because of how God is moving within them during the services. These are the early signs that something is shifting in us. But there’s a need for more!

Jim Cymbala, author and pastor, says this about prayer…..

“Prayer cannot truly be taught by principles and seminars and symposium. It has to be born out of a whole environment of felt need. If I say, “I ought to pray,” I will soon run out of motivation and quit; the flesh is too strong. I have to be driven to pray.”

A desire to pray and a lifestyle of prayer is more caught than taught. It’s infectious, actually, and a breakout of a prayer culture leads to a breakout of revival. And that’s why we desire to become a praying church!

There’s a shift underway at Ridge Church. Have you noticed? More people are showing up each week, hearing and responding to the gospel, and surrendering control of their lives to Jesus. That’s evident in the number of baptisms we’ve celebrated recently. I sincerely believe it is all directly related to an increase in prayer because amazing things happen when God’s people seek him first and trust him with everything.

If you have a prayer request you would like submitted to the prayer team, or if you are interested in joining it, please email prayer@ridgechurchonline.com.

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Personal Greatness

As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world…as in being able to remake ourselves. –Mohandas K. Gandhi

I spent many years and much effort trying to make the world a better place. I believed that if I could plan a great church service, sing a powerful song, say the right things, that the world would change one life at a time. I thought if I could do those things, I would leave my mark on this world. How foolish I was.

I have since realized that, as Gandhi so eloquently said, my legacy is not about what I do or who I touch but about who I am and how I live. If I don’t have character and integrity, compassion and kindness, humility and a servant heart, what is my life?

Today, I feel free. I feel free because I realize that God is in control and I am not. My influence on this world comes through the influence He grants me, not by my efforts or intelligence. The realization that all He wants from me is honesty with who and where I am in relation to Him brings immense joy. I have a little bit of an idea what it must have been like to live during the westward expansion in the 1800s. Free reign. There is still work to be done and bills to pay, children to raise and friends to love. But I have an overarching peace that God is doing it….especially as I stay out of the way.

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Life lives here…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

 

Pleasing God.

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My mind’s been swirling today with thoughts of what it means to please God. Almost immediately I start to think about what I can do that will cause Him to be more pleased with me. The flip side to that coin is then examined, which is what I should stop doing. But today, as I pondered this, another thought entered the equation: May what I say and what I dwell upon be pleasing to Him.

Proverbs 18:4 says that “the words of a man’s mouth are deep waters.” Think about that verse for a moment. It means that what you and I say, every word, gives a glimpse of what is in our hearts. Every opinion, careless word, carefully thought out idea, angry expression…all things that come out of our mouths reveal the depths of who we are. It’s the outflow of what is inside.

Which leads me to the inflow we allow to the inner parts of our souls. The things we think upon over and over is what we are feeding our hearts with. When I was going through my divorce, all I could focus on was how I had been wronged. That poured angst and confusion into my heart and produced bitterness and anger with a dash of hopelessness. It became so bad, I didn’t even realize it was present until someone pointed it out to me. Where I thought I was over everything and had begun moving on with my life, this person helped me see that I was indeed not over what had been done. That was the beginning of freedom. I made the commitment to change my thoughts, and to discontinue talking about the past. What a difference that made! Changing the inflow to my heart began to produce a new outflow from my mouth. It was incredibly freeing!

Romans 12:2 instructs us to not conform to the ways of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. It truly is the battleground we overlook the most, yet it is absolutely the most vital if we want to change all the down stream parts, and therefore please the Lord.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to the Lord.

Chopsticks

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A friend and I recently ate at a sushi restaurant. As the food came, I noticed the waitress only put a pair of chopsticks in front of me. No fork, spoon, or spork! I jokingly commented to my friend something about a fork being American, to which she replied with a grin on her face about how open-minded I was being.

It got me to wondering, though, how true that comment was. I have recently befriended an internationally diverse group playing volleyball. The countries represented are France, Germany, Iran, Russia, and Bosnia. Each one of them, with fantastic accents, speak English perfectly. I find myself enthralled by their ability and willingness to speak multiple languages.

Yes, they are living in the United States and should speak the native tongue. But my point is bigger. How open am I to trying new things, taking on new challenges, or putting myself in situations that are out of my comfort zone? Whether it’s using chopsticks or learning a new language, opportunities to grow abound. But I must step out beyond my well-built walls of self-preservation to find and experience them.

Back to the chopsticks…. I did ask for a fork after failed attempts to eat my salad. But not long after getting my security blanket (a.k.a. the fork), I gave the sticks another go. I finished my meal using them. Not an overwhelming accomplishment, but I can’t help feel like I grew a tad because of it.

Self-discovery

As a father of four, I have grown to cherish the way children learn and grow. My daughter has recently figured out how to snap and whistle. The pride on her face and in her eyes is priceless. “Daddy, watch this!” she’ll exclaim as she rubs her fingers together, resulting in the softest snap you’ve ever heard.

Self-discovery is just like that. To learn something new about yourself, how you’re wired, and what you can do is invigorating, isn’t it? Last year I took the Myers-Briggs test in order to determine my personality type. What a revelation! I felt like a baby that’s discovers his hand for the first time and just stares at it continuously, studying every bit of the new treasure. As I processed this new information, many “ah-ha” moments sprang up. I could see why I do the things I do and think the way I think. The realization also made me wonder how well I really know myself.

S.I. Hayakawa, academic and politician from the 1900s, said that “it is the individual who knows how little they know about themselves who stands the most reasonable chance of finding out something about themselves before they die.” Our pride can get in the way of self-discovery because we tend to think we know everything there is to know about ourselves. But the truth is we really know so little. And even the tidbits we do know we will forget as we get caught up in daily life. One aspect I understand about myself is that I will feel things very deeply internally and, therefore, can become controlled by how I perceive outside circumstances affect me. Because of that, I can easily assume the worst in any situation. If a friend does not call me back, I blame myself and say that I must have done something to offend him. I am quick to own up to wrongs, even those I may not be responsible for. And that is consistent with my wiring.

There are a few resources I have used to help me formulate my personality profile. The Myers-Briggs Index, as I already mentioned, is a fantastic test that will unravel the mystery of you using a four letter code. For example, I am an INFP, which means I am an Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving individual. That is how I process and interact with the world around me and inside me. The MBI lists 16 possible personality types. You can learn more about the Myers-Briggs Index here.

Strengths Finder is another beneficial tool. The philosophy with SF is that we spend too much time trying to improve upon our weaknesses and not enough time living out of our strengths. If someone isn’t detail-oriented, they should delegate to one that is. This allows both individuals to work out of the areas they are most effective. With SF, you can take a test and receive a report showing your top five strengths. Armed with this information, I would then encourage you to read about each strength and begin living out of them. You can learn more about Strength Finders here.

These are two valuable resources that have helped me immensely. There are others, such as DISC, but I haven’t stepped into that world yet. The bottom line is that, just like my daughter, we all can discover new things about ourselves and then merrily snap and whistle through life, therefore making a deeper impact on the world around us.

destination:the road to portland

I had the amazing opportunity to travel with my four year old daughter to Washington state (or steak as Ella likes to say it) to visit my parents.  What a wonderful part of the country.  From the semi-arid climate of the central part of the state to the lush forests of the western section, I have grown to truly love visiting there.

This particular visit took us down through the Columbia Gorge (pictured right).  This long stretch of river and road winds around some breathtaking scenery.  The gorged was formed over many years of volcanic eruptions, growing mountains, and glacier damned rivers producing high pressure water flow through the gorge area.  (At least that’s how I understand!)

After passing through the gorge, we encountered the Multnomah Falls just outside Portland, OR.  What a marvelous sight!  The ice cold waters flowed from high atop the mountain, dropping down into a pool which would then continue its flow over another cliff and find its way rushing into a mountain stream.  It was incredible to stand there and take it all in…and quite cold might I add!

I am constantly amazed at the wondrous things Almighty God created.  And it’s all there for His glory and our enjoyment.  Being out there and soaking in the surroundings made me think about the beauty around me in east Tennessee.  The Smokey Mountains are incredible and there is so much wonder to discover!

I’ll keep posting our different experiences of the Pacific NW.  What a wonderful place!