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Thought Prayers

February 15, 2020
By The Wheeled Worshiper

I think as Christians we all can safely say that prayer is an important and vital part of our lives. This is not only shown in the amount of time we pray throughout the day, such as mealtimes, before bed, or when we start the day. But it's also shown in the amount of times that the Bible mentions prayer, and has the majority of the characters found in the book, offering prayer and praises to God on a regular basis. This is an attitude and idea that I think many of us have accepted and applied to our daily lives and it is one that I think should continue to grow as we do in our faith.

We all know that prayers can be done anywhere not just at the church building, at school, or at home around the table. Prayers can be done in the car on the ride to work, in the doctor's office, and on the job site. These prayers while possibly short still carry the same meaning and power, and we still have the understanding that God will hear any prayer that is uttered.

I have learned also that as you continue to grow older you have a myriad of thoughts that run through your brain each day. These can be thoughts such as "I hope my relatives made it back home on the bad roads," or "I hope that my editor has the right words to describe what I am trying to write in his articles." No matter the person, almost all of us have these thoughts during the day. I think that the most challenging and unique thing about these thoughts is the idea that you can turn them into prayers.

Now some might say, "These are just thoughts. This isn't a full-fledged prayer. What can God do with it?" I trust that Many of us can attest to what God has done with these thoughts. First of all, he allows us, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to turn them into prayers towards him. They may start out as thoughts, but with the Holy Spirit nudging us along, they become perhaps some of the most heartfelt prayers that we have ever uttered. This is not to say that these prayers rank higher on God's list of priorities. All prayers are equal in the eyes of God. However, perhaps these prayers carry more of the passion, devotion, and complete confidence in our heavenly father to help us and guide us. Isn't that what we want from our prayers, that complete confidence that God is listening and will guide us in his ways and in his time? We may not want that at the moment, but I would dare to believe that in the end, that is truly what we want, for God's will to be done.

I understand that this idea of though prayers may take a little getting used to for some. On the other hand, perhaps some of my audience is already participating in these types of prayers, and never really was able to name what they were doing. I encourage those of you that are already doing these types of prayers to continue to do so and I hope that you're richly blessed in your continuation of this practice. For those of us who are a bit slower in starting this practice, I hope that the Holy Spirit can guide us all as we continue to offer prayers, whatever the reason and for whatever situation, to a heavenly father who hears all our prayers. I pray that the prayers that we raise may be a "sweet, sweet sound in his ear."

The Wheeled Worshiper

Israel Reflections

February 01, 2020
By Pastor Matt

It is so good to be back with everyone at First CRC Rock Valley after being on pilgrimage in Israel. We had an amazing trip in so many ways. Everyone in our group traveled well together. The weather was far better than forecasted, and our faith individually and as a group, deepened in countless ways.

Many people have asked what was your favorite part, or your number one highlight about this trip? This is such a difficult question to answer as each day had its own joyful moment. But I will highlight a few items:

First, the whole area around the Sea of Galilee was very refreshing. To be able to walk in the adopted hometown of Jesus, Capernaum, to eat the St. Peter fish and to visit the lakeshore, and then to ride the waters of the worship boat were all joyful moments.

You could look all around you as the passages were being read for each spot and nearly see the Lord walking on the shore, calling his disciples, breaking bread for the thousands, or calming the waters. Even though 2000 plus years have passed, so much of the area around the Sea of Galilee remains pristine, quiet, and calm, that allows for learning and teaching to come easily.

The second place that I would reflect on is the city of Jerusalem. Though bustling with commotion and crammed for space, everywhere you look there is another place of worship. From the Wailing Wall, the Temple Mount, the Garden Tomb, or the Mount of Olives, and countless churches in between, the opportunities to pray, sing, and read are many.

Of these, our time walking down from the heights of the Mount of Olives to enter into the Garden of Gethsemane was very moving. As we heard the words of Jesus' prayer from John 17 for himself, for his disciples, and for us, we too were invited to pray. We also read about Judas' betrayal and the disciples fleeing in the face of danger. We were challenged with the ways that we are tempted to do the same, though we are called to remain near the Savior.

As we closed our time of ready, reflecting, and singing, it was mentioned to all that a dove had landed just before we began, flew away. It's timing and symbol was noted by all.

These, and so many accounts of our trip, will continue to be shared for many days and years to come. Thank you for your prayers for us as we were away. And thank you for your joy as we have all returned safely!

Blessings, 

Pastor Matt

Happy New Year! Can you believe it is 2020?

January 01, 2020
By Pastor Matt

Twenty years ago, the whole world was on the edge of its seats wondering if technology was going to implode, for what was known as Y2K. As computers had to have the year begin with a 2 instead of a 1. Everyone was in meltdown mode for that event. Which in retrospect seems silly now, we might even shake our heads at the anxiety of those moments now because hindsight is always 20/20.

But as we enter the year of our Lord 2020, we are called not only to have hindsight, that is perfect in its sight, we will be called over and over in this year to have the sight our lives focused on the perfect will and vision of the Heavenly Father found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Having our clear, 20/20 vision on the Lord will be our theme for the coming year and each of our AM services will aid in sharpening our clarity on the Lord. To this end we will begin the year with the reminder that we have been given a new identity from 2 Cor. 5, which calls us to be ambassadors for the gospel. With this foundation, we will move through the Covenants that God Triune has given to his people.

Following this with the teaching of Christ from the Gospels for Lent and then on to the work of Christ's church for a lengthy series in Acts. We will speak of how much good this visioning has done for us from the gospel of Matthew in October.

November, we will hear Paul from Romans calling our eyes to remain fixed on the Lord and the Gospel of John will round out our year in Advent in this theme as well. It is my prayer as we look forward to the coming year that our vision in Christ would grow. That our lives would reflect Jesus clearly that all who look at us would see Jesus completely. Join us, by putting on the spectacles of scripture to increase your joy and your vision in the coming year, 2020.

Blessings,

Pastor Matt

The Christmas Program

December 15, 2019
By The Wheeled Worshiper

Beside the many parties and other events that surround this Christmas one of the staples of the year is the Christmas program. There are Christmas programs at schools, day cares, churches, and community centers. Members are young, old, and any age in between. The story of Christmas is told in plays, memorized Scripture, and creatively written songs that still seem to tell the truth and story of the birth of Christ.

I'm sure those of your readers who are parents, grandparents, or active community members have attended your fair share of programs over this past month. Each of these events is a unique and special moment in the life of children, and adults, memories that can range from the kid who pulled faces during the song, to the kid who fainted near the end. And of course, we all can recall how well the participants shared the message that particular year.

It's hard to imagine how many Christmas programs one has attended in his or her lifetime or even participated in for that matter. For many of us, I daresay it is getting close to 100 or more events that we have participated in. It may lead one to ask the question of why. Why do we need to have a Christmas program every year? I'm sure that the younger members may ask that same question as each year they must learn a new group of songs, a new verse, and make sure to save the best outfit for that night.

I've come to the conclusion about the fact that we continue to have and participate in multiple Christmas programs each year. I think that although the audience is filled with grandparents, parents, and friends at almost every show, God does provide the opportunity for someone who may not know the Christmas story that well to hear it in its entirety. I can't prove that this is true, but I dare to believe that not everyone that attends Christmas programs understands Christmas and what it means. Perhaps they were looking for an opportunity to go out. They may have been dragged along by a friend or family member. Or maybe they felt the responsibility to be a good community member and attend the event. For whatever the reason, they are here now and we have the opportunity to share with them the message for Christ coming to earth.

So, sing "Joy to the World" at least one more time. Recite that verse of the Christmas story once again. You never know who may be tuning in to hear it perhaps for the first time and understanding for the first time as well. Here's to that one person in the audience who may be new to the story of Christmas and the overall story of Jesus coming to save. I pray that this opportunity won't be missed and they can begin their journey with and in Christ. Here's to the Christmas program, one of the most unique and interesting ways to tell the story of Christ's birth to a new audience.

The Wheeler Worshiper

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