Sundays are the Best Days!

Lately, I’ve been reading much on Sundays. I guess I’ve paid attention more and more, with each passing year, because of the way Sundays have been secularized and marginalized over the course of the last few decades. Now, we are at a place where Sundays are used for just about everything other than Worship, other than gathering with God’s people, other than being a sacred day of physical and spiritual refreshment.

There are people who might reason or think: “We’ll, you are a pastor, and Sunday is your work day.” Or, “Isn’t that a bent way to look at it? You surely don’t know how busy I am, or how tired I am, or how many tasks I must get done on Sunday before the week starts.” Ok, I hear you – if those are your sentiments. It doesn’t mean I agree with them though. And that’s not being unsympathetic to your “life” situations, rather, it’s taking God’s view and vision more seriously, and to heart.

As Hal Seed writes in his book, I Love Sundays, “God wants Sundays to be the best day of your week and the Sunday worship service to be the best hour of your day.” I believe many (if not most) take and view their Sundays with the wrong perspective. You see, it gets tied in with the weekend and is normally a “non-work” day for those who work M-F. So with work, commutes, kids, sports, school events, grocery shopping, meal prep, doctor’s appointments, house cleaning, yard mowing, general maintenance, home projects, and other things: Sundays get lost in the mix. In fact, Sundays become a day of “catch-up” and “football” and “shopping” and really, in all transparency, “laziness.” How do I know that? – Because I once did those same things and took that same standard.

Sundays, though, begin the week! It is the first day of the week when we can pause and make our first priority of the week worshiping God as His people. It’s a day when we should say: Lord, my will may be to stay home, to stay in bed, to do as little as possible, and to eat. But in it all, may Your will be done. Help me make this day, Your day, the sabbath day – a day spent with You. 

Then, you just need to pray it will start a pattern as you remain focused on God. You can believe me: the enemy will throw every excuse, every reason at you as to why you deserve the day…as to why you should stay home…as to why you don’t need to worship. A lot of times – it begins long before Sunday morning ever rolls around. But occasionally, it will become paramount just a few hours before: things get chaotic, people have to actually wake up, kids don’t want to go, and when a spouse isn’t exactly supportive.

Pushing through can be (and often will be) very delicate. But do it. Do it in love and with great expectation. Pray deeply. Pray long. Pray passionately. God will meet you there. But I believe as you step out on faith and as you trust Him, He will honor that. Nothing worthy of God and His Kingdom is easy – but it is worth it. Again, may His will be done!

And this is the way your approach should be in coming to worship. Come in both anticipation and expectation. Not because you “have” to, but because you “get” to. You are invited to be a part of something MUCH bigger than yourself. Much greater than anything we, collectively as people, could ever produce. You are invited in to God’s House, to His people, and most importantly: Into His very presence. That, in and of itself, should be and must be taken seriously.

I like how Hal Seed (mentioned earlier) captures this. He digs into the whole perspective of Sunday. You see, many have the wrong motives. But he reminds us: “The key to a great Sunday isn’t the preacher – the service – or the people. The key to a great Sunday, is you.” What are you missing out on? What are you selling yourself short on? How could Sundays be better than they are now?

Come and be a part of what God has set apart, and ordained, for your Sunday.

In prayer, with hope, in He Who is worthy…

Porter

Mission Forward

I am grateful for people who step-up, who find ways to lead and serve in the Kingdom, who invest in others and in the mission of the church, and who truly love Jesus passionately. When it is witnessed, it glorifies God. It builds up. It catches fire.

During our worship time this past Sunday, on January 7, we were all blessed to view a 2017 highlight video that featured a litany of events, ministries, outreaches, and remembrances of the entire year. I would like to give a special “shout-out” to Leslie Overby for that 9 minute blessing. I know it took many hours of organization, picture hunting, and fact checking to put that together as 1 piece. [So thank you, Leslie, very much! What a joy it was to see and share that in the company of God and His church.]

Sometimes we miss the depth and magnitude as we move week to week, month to month, in the life and ministries of the church. We can, if we’re not careful, miss what is happening in the present as we look to the future or to even the next event. But viewing that video recaptured a lot of detail for me, and helped me see a much bigger picture. It’s a picture of what God is painting, and He gets all the praise for it.

I believe 2017 proved to be a monumental, game-changer year in the history and future of Bridgeway Church of the Nazarene and in the mission that we are engaged in, right here. I believe we will look back to what God did in our midst as He charts His course into 2018 and beyond. Adults and Children were baptized… more than 40 either made professions of faith for the 1st time or recommitted to the Lord…Partnerships were rekindled with our sister churches on the Crystal Coast…Dozens of people and families were helped…An incredible display of outreach occurred: in Crisis Care Kits, in Thanksgiving Blessing Bags, in Christmas “adoptions,” in the 4th of July Parade, in outreach to East Carteret High School…and in special emphasis sent outwardly to others in this very community.

Sure – there were some challenges along the way. Anything done for God in authenticity will be met with challenge. But rather than allowing them to create doubt, fear, or worry – we learned, we drew closer, and we sought the Lord more intimately. Time and time again, He showed Himself faithful.

Now, as we have officially crossed the threshold and have entered 2018, I find myself elated and energized at what God is already doing among us. Some big things are coming up here at Bridgeway in these first few weeks of 2018, and I really want to encourage/invite you to dive in, get plugged in, and connect with us so that you don’t miss out. No matter where you are in your life journey – if you are seeking a church home, desire to go deeper, or even if you’ve fallen back from where you once were – there is a place for you right here.

We feel confident that you can Believe, Belong, and Become with us. We know that with Jesus Christ as our focus, we are better together. There is room for you here and there is always a place at the table for you and your family.

We begin a new series on Sunday, January 14, 2018, titled, “The Will of God.” I believe this is a great opportunity to connect/reconnect and that God is orchestrating it all to come together right now. So please prayerfully consider joining us this Sunday @ 10 am. We would be honored to have you and yours join us @ Bridgeway Church.

As it has been said, “With the Holy Spirit leading, what lies ahead is surely greater than anything that lies behind.” Blessings and thanks for reading.

Porter

 

Belonging

We say around here, “you belong here” and we believe it. Not only is it true to our core, and not only do we state it emphatically, but over and over again, we live this out and we do our very best (with God’s grace) to demonstrate it.

Back in February, God gave us a theme which became a major focal point for us for several weeks. The “Be” Series that you see and hear about from time to time, was built on that very premise, that we are to believe, belong, and become. Note here: each of those concepts begin with “be.” In fact, our Christian journey is about being like Christ, being His hands and feet, being imitators of God, and being our best for His glory. That is what this journey is all about!

Since those 4 or 5 weeks back in early/early Spring, God has shown Himself faithful. So many opportunities for us to “be” together | to be better together. New ministries and outreach formats have been birthed, and many have stated that they are growing in their walk with the Lord. God’s Message has resonated and fruit is being produced through it.

Now, we turn in September to what is and has become a very key month for us here at Bridgeway as we lead into National Back to Church Sunday. It is not designed or intended to be some marketing campaign or branding slogan. Rather, it has become part of who we are and our chief objective in it is to be faithful to God’s will. And it is God’s will that we would expand His Name to others and further the territory for His Kingdom. That is why we participate and why we are a part. We have unsaved family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors who we would love to see brought into the family of God.

These next few weeks, as we lead into Sunday, September 17 and the actual National Back to Church Sunday Celebration, I encourage you (yes, you) to prayerfully seek God’s heart and desire for who it is that you (yes, you again) would invite and follow up with. Don’t pass this by. Don’t dismiss or discount it. Be faithful. Be mature. Pray | Seek | Act

If we each just do this, in obedience, I believe He will bring forth a harvest. It’s His will that none would perish, so we know He will be in on it. That is His heart. So let’s do it. There is no ministry in obscurity and there is no community in isolation. Bridgeway Church offers people of all backgrounds, experiences, and walks of life real opportunities to believe, belong, and become.

Join us throughout September, starting this Sunday. Make it a priority and don’t miss what God is going to do in our midst. I am convinced it is going to be a miraculous, God-ordered season for our local church body. Praying with you.

Porter

Our “We” Story

In the past few months, I have dove into a personal project that God put on my heart around the first of this year. It wasn’t such a burden than I felt compelled to jump in immediately, but rather, one that the Lord clearly gave me much discretion on. So back toward the end of June, it came front and center.

Through emails, blogs, articles, social media, brochures, and even introductory ministry tools that  come in quite frequently, I’ve been studying how much of “church” material whether promotional or communicative, is predicated on the account, record, or story of one person or one individual. Additionally, I dug into how many instances “I” “me” “mine” and “myself” appeared. In essence, all the personal, singular pronouns. Through engaging in this for the better part of 9 weeks, so much became obvious and seemed to reiterate what the Lord was saying all along (since the first of the year).

There is no “I” in church, yet, God builds His church on individuals and people and creates a common, unified experience while utilizing different paths to get us to Himself. At the same time, we very much live in a day when people showcase themselves through a variety of means. The culture has this pull, this force, this presence where a constant stream of data, and pictures, and captions, and emoji’s, and videos, and individualized marketing runs rampant. But the question remains: Aren’t we, the Church of Jesus Christ, commanded to be about “we” and what the Lord has done and is doing through “us?”  

The power of His church is found in how God ascends and in how we ought to descend. The Word claims this testimony from John, a disciple and later an apostle for the Kingdom who was an eye-witness to Jesus’ life and ministry: “He must become more and I must become less” (John 3, v.30). That wasn’t just an implication for that day and time, it was a word of truth that we must adopt and continue to pursue today (as challenging as it may be). We must decrease.

Our statement is: “We are better together!” – and that means that we are better as a community and as a team. Let our message be: Help us not to somehow communicate that we are the standard, but that we will get out of the way so that Jesus Christ, the Lord of all, shines ever the more brightly through us. He is our model and He alone is our standard.

Teamwork makes the dream work! Always does.

Blessings…
Porter

When You’re Not Here

For as far back as I remember, to say that I’ve been a “sports enthusiast” is a gross understatement. As a young boy, as a teenager, as a younger adult – I have been immersed in athletics and sports at all levels, and across most leagues and the many conferences. But beyond what I’ve been, I know people (several) who don’t and won’t miss a game! Whether it’s in person, live on TV, or part of an expensive satellite package – they simply will never need the DVR. They can’t wait and they won’t wait to watch it later. Years ago, if/when we could “get tickets” to something – it would be exciting. No doubt about that. But what I came to see and realize is that when I couldn’t make it, or rearrange the schedule, or reschedule an appointment, or get the next day off work – was that my not being there didn’t impact the crowd and it certainly never changed the outcome of the game. In other words, my inability or unavailability to attenddidn’t alter the atmosphere because my attendance wasn’t missed.

That is a reality, a very direct reality that is absolutely true.

But you know what? After I first believed and became a Christian…it didn’t take long for me to see things entirely differently about the church. Perhaps it was one of the few things that just seemed to come quickly, and clearly, in my journey. So I want to take a moment or two just to elaborate in the hope that it will help someone, in some way, and to some extent.

So let’s get right to the truth: When we miss Worship, when will genuinely don’t make it a priority for God, for ourselves, and the church body – the church suffers. I have heard people try to dispel and dismantle church/corporate worship attendance over the years, many of whom are professing “Christians.” Some have gone so far as to try to use God’s Word, The Bible, to do this very thing. It’s kind of like the seminary student who misses church in order to stay home and study on Sunday morning. Crazy, huh? But the truth is: It holds no weight and it has no substance. ReadHebrews 10. God’s Word is emphatic about being a part of His body, The Church, for the furtherance of His Kingdom. And to this, one must be present.

When you, or I, or anyone who is a part of the church is not there…

  • The body of the church is incomplete;
  • Our voice, and heart, and passion is not heard or felt when it is lifted up, corporately, to God;
  •  We cannot actively serve God or others (who may need our gifts and talents);
  • We do not receive God’s Word and challenge, which often can be, and is, custom tailored to speak to us more directly;
  • We miss out on corporate prayer, encouraging others and building them up; anointing, and testimony;
  • We forfeit the blessing of fellowship with others;
  • We send a message to kids and youth (future generations) that missing church for a litany of “stuff” is acceptable and “just fine!” Statistics among Millennials show this to be all too accurate.
  • We miss out on what God does throughout the worship encounter; and we miss very special aspects like communion, 1st time decisions, renewed commitments, child dedications, honoring and celebrating victories, etc.
  • For more serious patterns of absence – signs of apathy and indifference can really set in, and be hard to break;
  • It is harder for others as they bear more of the weight of ministry, which goes against our beliefs, sound doctrines, and the very teachings of Christ to be unified as one body.

While not an all-inclusive list, we have most certainly gone deeper. And no, it’s not to say that illness and vacation and work are not real legitimate things. Of course they are! But still, even to this day, illness/vacation/required work are a small % of the reason people (mostly Christians) miss worship. The much more frequent reasons have to do with “a day to sleep in” “going to the beach” “the kids didn’t want to” or “we just overslept” – to name a few.

Trust me: The Church misses you…your local church misses you…the various ministries in and around the church misses you…when you aren’t present. When missing and skipping church becomes a regular/systematic practice, here is really what occurs: We stymie our own spiritual growthwe can fall back and sputter outand we really weaken the ministries and vision of the entire church body.

God has given and provided us a place where we can truly belong. We are His ambassadors and representatives, who were bought at a great price. There is no question: It beats and far exceeds any sports or concert or entertainment venue, where it doesn’t make a difference if we’re there or not! Your attendance matters at church and it must always matter. So come and be a part of what God is doing and will do, in our midst, and have presence. You are both needed and wanted in this great mission.

Porter

Better Together!?

If you’ve been around and involved over the past year or so, you have probably heard and seen the statement “Better Together” dozens of times (at least). It just so happens that it appears on all of our printed material, on our weekly Worship Guide, on our website and social media pages, and with our logo in many instances. There are even pictures and mirrors in and around the church that have this “on” them.

But it’s more than just some catchy phrase or motto. It communicates more than just a 2-word statement that is easy to remember and share. Better Together for us has become, and is, a way of life, faith, and unity. That is truly what it means and there are not enough words for me to use, insert, or capitalize on here that would do it justice.

I am reminded of the testimony we find in the OT Book of Nehemiah. Here, within this segment of Scripture, we find one of the greatest accomplishments conducted and executed by the people of God: the rebuilding of the wall. The work, certainly envisioned by Nehemiah and empowered by God Himself, is a task that others couldn’t do. The Word states it in a very “matter of fact” way:

“Then I said to them: ‘You see the trouble we are in? Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.’ I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me, and what the king had said to me. They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding.'” (2, vv.17-18).

What is interesting is what follows…person after person, family after family, men and women, children and parents ~ all begin the process of making sure the wall is rebuilt. If you go on and read into chapter 4, you will see this testimony: “…for the people worked with all of their heart” (v.6). The people worked day and night under a consistent threat of attack…working with one hand and yielding a weapon in the other. Can you picture that? All of these people, all of these names ~ working together in harmony for a common purpose and goal. And what was the result? The final testimony?

“So the wall was completed…in 52 days. When all of our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.” (6, vv.15-16).

Nothing can marginalize the incredible nature of accomplishing this task! Nehemiah, who was nothing more than a cupbearer for the king, returned to his homeland, became moved by what he saw, and led God’s people to fulfill what had been deemed “impossible” for many, many decades. So then, what was the recipe? What occurred that allowed this to happen? Inquiring minds and hearts want to know!

Here it is: (1) God was involved and actively sought out; and (2) They were Better Together!

The same principle lies behind what enables The Church, today, to do accomplish great things and function as the bodily presence of Jesus to a lost and dying world. It is not a great facility or a dynamic pastor, minister, or program. It’s not location or demographics. And it surely is not money. As in Nehemiah’s day, the success of God’s work depended upon leaders calling and equipping God’s people to serve as each part does what it’s called to do. People, of all ages and abilities, doing God’s work and not caring who gets the credit just as long as God is honored and the Mission of Christ continues forward.

Jesus promised that if we would allow him to be the Head of His Church and look to him for power, direction, and guidance, we would do even greater things than He Himself did (see John 14, v.12). Our part is to trust Him and believe in Him with great faith. But for this to happen, each part must do the work that God has set apart for them to do (both individually and corporately). Better Together! Then, more than a wall is built or constructed; Jesus becomes real to the world, and His Name and Banner is lifted up!

Linkage

If you’ve been active in the church, involved in ministry (at any level) for any length of time, and have a deep passion for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ – then you know without a doubt that the battle against Christianity has seen an intensive escalation. There is no cause for alarm and by no means am I being “negative” or “pessimistic” about it. God is leading and guiding and directing His Church in new ways and with new methods, utilizing His timeless message and truth. It is in times of persecution and attack that the Kingdom expands, furthers, and multiplies that much more. Just look at archives of Church History. It demonstrates this pattern over and over again. Perhaps its because in these most troubled times, we pray, we fast, we worship, and we serve with even greater faith and expectation not of what we can do, but what God can do through us. So despite what we see and what may be most visible to our eyes, our Hope is in Jesus Christ and in Him alone.

A beautiful living portrait to behold surrounds the link/linkage of the church to the lives of the people who are the church. It is linkage (i.e.connection) that keeps people, regardless of age, demographics, life position, etc. centered and focused on the Mission and on the heart and mind of Christ. But to be linked and connected, we have to be, and remain, teachable. That is, we have to understand and grasp the fact that we are disciples (i.e., students) on the same journey, partnering together for Team Jesus. He is the Teacher and He alone is our Guide. Together, we are His disciples who learn, grow, apply, and become better, not bitter. I remember an old analogy by my Pastor years ago, who made a statement this way: We have the choice as a Christian to be a ripe apple or an old prune. Make no mistake: we must be the ripe apple. Do whatever it takes to be a ripe apple.

In this world and in the culture we live and dwell in, with information that comes in near instantaneous fashion 24/7, linkage is essential to the Body of Christ. In other words, it is impossible to be connected to Christ and be removed (or distant) from His body, The Church. It is His Church and He Himself is building it, even in the present. As such, it is impossible and simply downright ridiculous to say to God, “I accept Your Son, Jesus, as Lord of my life, but I don’t feel as if I need or desire His Church.” The link to Jesus as Lord positions us to be a part of His Church.

The Church is not perfect. God knows we humans are involved and active within its work. Yet, He still designed the Church to be His mouthpiece, His hands and feet, and His heartbeat to a world that would rather just reject it and ignore it. With the help and direction of the Holy Spirit, we go, we make, we baptize, and we teach under His authority and will. This is His desire for us: to be linked to one another and vigorously focused on seeing others come to a saving faith. Not an artificial, hollow, empty belief – but to a faith that is linked (connected) to God, to His supernatural power, and to the Church. The link is not negotiable or open to a counter offer. We are to be linked to a local body, family, community of believers that works out what God has worked in (that’s actually an Oswald Chambers’ quote). There are to be no lone-rangers or vigilantes, but rather, a team.

Friends, we are linked to one another in the bond of love. Not a love defined by the world or the systems of the world, but a love that is exemplified in the Son of God, Who loved us and gave Himself up for us (Romans 8, vv.31-32). Let’s take the linkage seriously and with the passion that He so deserves. We are linked and connected, and we must ensure that it builds up the body in both spirit and in truth for the work of God’s Kingdom. After all, He is most worthy of our very best! Better Together! 

Porter

(Read: 1 Thessalonians 5, vv.12-22)