April Memory Verse:
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." - 2 Peter 3:18
A NOTE FROM THE PASTOR:
For a few weeks now we’ve been working our way through a series on the “means of grace” – that is, the means that God has given us by which we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus. While there are many different ways that God has provided for our spiritual growth, there are three primary ones: His Word, prayer, and fellowship within the body of Christ. This past week we spent some time looking at a portion of Psalm 119 in order to see priority and centrality of the Word of God in each our lives personally.
The biggest takeaway last Sunday was that we are called to meditate on the Word (that is, immerse ourselves in it by reading, studying, contemplating, and praying it), obey the Word, and delight in the Word. As I prepared and as I preached this message I had one particular category of people in view: those who have grown weary in their efforts to make the Word central in their lives. To some extent, this is (or was, at one point or another) most of us. Indeed, committing ourselves to regular, quality time in the Word is a struggle, and many have given up on any diligent pursuit of the discipline of daily meditation on God’s Word. To you – the weary – I offer a few encouragements.
First, you are not alone. We have all been there, and many still are. Because our efforts toward spiritual growth are motivated and covered in grace, we are free to confess – not conceal - our failures to our brothers and sisters. When you confess your failures in this area you will most likely be met with, “Me too!” You are not alone in your failure to make the Word central in your life, and so neither are you alone in your pursuit of it.
Second, soak yourself in God’s grace. Nothing is more detrimental to the habit of regular time spent in God’s Word than a sense of duty. If we’re striving to read and meditate on God’s Word because “we have to” or “we should”, then we’ll inevitably fall short. God has saved us by His grace, He is keeping us by His grace, and He is growing us by His grace. Because of His grace, and in His grace, we desire to avail ourselves more of His grace by immersing ourselves in the Scriptures.
Third, start small. The Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint, knowing that we will most certainly cross the finish line on the day of Christ Jesus. So if you’ve grown weary in the discipline of reading God’s Word, it’s likely best not to commit yourself to a lofty goal. Start out reading a Psalm each day, or choose one of the shorter New Testament books (Philippians and 1 John are great choices) and work your way through it slowly, then go back and read it again. The quality of your time spent in the Word is far more important than the quantity read, and the greater the quality the more your delight for God’s Word will be fueled.
Fourth, start differently. If you are recommitting yourself to daily time in the Word for the umpteenth time, maybe it’s time to try something different. There are all kinds of different ways to meditate on the Bible. One often forgotten way is choosing to listen to the Bible. Biblegateway.com, and probably many other places on the internet, have various audio versions of the Scriptures. Select a book, click play, and sit back and listen to the Word. You may also consider downloading Bible audio and playing it in the car or on your commute. The point is, try a new routine and consider new ways to immerse yourself in the Word.
Finally, involve yourself in community. This is God’s design for us anyway, as we’ve said, that we would be opening the Word together. We benefit most when we open the Word with others and on our own. We should all learn to ask this question of one another: what has God been teaching you in the Word lately? You say, “Wait, how can I ask that question if I haven’t really been spending time in God’s Word myself?” Exactly! We need the accountability that comes from striving together.
In thinking through the application of these truths I couldn’t help but be reminded of my youngest son, Josiah, who is in the very early stages of walking. It’s really an exciting time in the Rice household, watching him take a few steps at a time here and there. As the process goes, however, he falls down…a lot. Objectively speaking, Josiah is not very good at walking – his track record is fairly poor, and he spends more time on his hands and knees than he does on his feet. Given this track record and his proclivity to falling, what should Josiah do? Perhaps just give up and be content with crawling for the rest of his life? Crawling isn’t so bad, after all, and it sure beats the defeat of falling, right? Absolutely not! Josiah should keep trying, keep getting up, and keep taking small steps! He won’t walk perfectly right now, but he will walk eventually! So it is with us, in all of our meager efforts to avail ourselves of God’s grace in His Word.
Now, take the illustration and consider the perspective of the parents. What do good parents do when their children are learning to walk? “Come on, you lazy kid – get up! Stop falling! Would you just walk already?” Are the parents standing with their arms folded, tapping their foot, and shaking their head, wondering what’s so wrong with this child who just won’t walk? Of course not! Good parents – at the first sight of the smallest step – stand ready to encourage the child, standing a few feet away with arms wide open saying, “Come on! You can do it! Walk to daddy!” Then, sensing the love and affection of his parent, answers our call with a big grin on his face, takes a few steps, and walks! And on the other end? A happy reunion with his loving parents who are there waiting to embrace him and rejoice with him. So it is with our Heavenly Father. Because of His grace, He’s not standing far off just waiting for us to get our act together. He has showered us with His love and grace and affection, and now stands ready to welcome us in those loving arms with any and every step we take in the path of godliness and growth.
Dear friends, especially you who are weary, the ultimate end of any of our meager efforts to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, is God himself! May we depend not on our determination, nor on a sense of duty, but on the delight that the Father has in us, and we in Him.
Lord, open our eyes that we might behold wondrous things in your Word, that we might be better connected to your endless supply of life-giving, life-sustaining, life-transforming grace.
THIS WEEK AT FAITH:
This Week's Sermon Text: Acts 4:23-32
MOTHER'S DAY BRUNCH: May 7
|Team A-J||Team K-Z||Total||% of our Goal|
3rd SUNDAY MISSION OFFERING: May 22
Our 3rd Sunday Mission Offering for the month of May will go to support the work of Family Builders Ministries. This locally based ministry seeks to partner with New England churches to build Christ-centered, healthy marriages and families. With us on May 22 to share about the ministry and to preach the Word of God will be Jere Vincent, the Executive Director of Family Builders. Please prayerfully consider how you might consider supporting this important work in New England.
COMMUNITY GROUP GATHERING:
This is open to anyone interested in pursuing biblical fellowship together. This group will continue to gather at least twice each month for planned gatherings, on the first Friday of the month and the third Sunday of the month.
PRACTICAL WAYS YOU CAN SERVE:
Over the past few weeks in our Weekly Update notes we've been highlighting a total of 15 practical ways you can serve - 10 ways in our church and 5 ways to serve in our community. If you missed any of those notes, you can read up on them here. Our goal in providing these suggestions is to connect willing hearts to current needs. If you have any questions about ways you can use your gifts to build up the body of Christ, please do not hesitate to contact us!
FINANCIAL UPDATE FROM THE FINANCE COMMITTEE:
The following is a financial update from the Finance Committee that highlights our collections to date and compares them to the amount needed in order to fulfill our 2016 budget. As you can see below, our collections are well below our budgeted need, which would lead to a significant shortfall at the end of the year.
|Budgeted Collections as of April 10||Actual Collections as of April 10||Shortfall|