How Should We Pray?

If you’ve ever asked that question, you’re not alone. An Amazon search of the word “prayer” yielded 49,931 results in the category of Books, Religion and Spirituality, alone. The question of prayer is often asked.

Even Jesus’ disciples asked about prayer. In Luke 11:1 they asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” They wanted to know, just as we do, how to pray and what to pray.

We’ve asked for prayer many times, so I wanted to share some ways you can pray specifically for us. As our church planting team was preparing to meet recently I thought about what we should pray. Three verses of Scripture came to my mind and have become the guide for our prayers this week.

James 1:5: Wisdom in planning

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (ESV)

It is no secret that we are first time church planters. I find myself asking for wisdom every day as we face new challenges. So, we ask God, who promises to give generously without reproach. He doesn’t withhold wisdom because we’re messed up. And since I’m pretty messed up that is a huge comfort.

Luke 10:2: Workers for the harvest

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (ESV)

Luke recorded Jesus’ words to his disciples on the eve of sending out 72 workers to prepare people for Jesus’ arrival. Going into the harvest and praying for workers for the harvest are two sides of the same coin. How can we pray for workers without the obedience to go? So, we go and we ask God for workers who will partner with us to reap a harvest of souls in the Yakima valley.

John 6:44: Welcoming the Gospel

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (ESV)

Jesus taught us about the essential work of God in the hearts of all who believe in him. In our own effort we cannot save anyone. It requires a supernatural work of God by his Spirit so that a person welcomes the message of the Gospel. So, we ask God to open the hearts of our friends and neighbors who have yet to receive salvation in Jesus.

Wisdom in planning. Workers for the harvest. Welcoming the Gospel. You can pray with us for these three things. We need your prayers as we desire to transform lives, families, and communities with the Good News of Jesus.

(We are always in need of partners. To find out more click “Partners,” or “Give.” And don’t forget to click “Contact” to tell us how you will partner with us and to share prayer requests.)

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Front Row Seats

[This is part 3 of the article “The Joys, Fears, and Faith of Church Planting” which Cheryl wrote a couple of months ago.

You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.]

With all the uncertainty, all the fear, all the doubts, why would we do this? Or at least, isn’t there someone more qualified? The answer to that last question is “yes” for sure! But the answer to the first question takes a little more time to answer.

As I mentioned before, God has extended an invitation to us to join him in the work he is doing in Yakima. Who are we to reject an invitation from the King? The only appropriate response to the summons of the King is to show up where and when you are told with humility and gratitude. Failure to do so is risking far more than the risk incurred through obedience.

We have been offered front row seats to see God’s glory through lives and whole communities being transformed. Perhaps our lives will also be among those who are transformed! We have been offered the chance to see miracles happen, over and over again. How do I know? Because we will have to experience miracles in order for this whole thing to work out! If God doesn’t do some miracles, there’s no way we will get there and be sustained there.

Finally, we are going because we’re not willing to give up those front row seats. If we don’t go, God will still bring transformation to individual lives and to communities in Yakima. He will still do one miracle after another. He will still get all the glory and it will be amazing! But he will do it through someone else. It will be someone else who is just as scared, just as weak and has just as many excuses not to go as I do but will be slightly more obedient. And while I don’t “feel” ready for what we’re doing and I have no idea what is about to happen, I’m definitely not ready to give my seat to someone else. I hope that qualifies as holy selfishness!

I take great comfort in knowing that ultimately, it’s God’s reputation on the line. Faithfulness, trust and obedience on my part, through God’s grace, have a part to play, but it is God who builds his church. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “’And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’” (emphasis added). He makes it grow. He is responsible for it. We get to participate in joyful anticipation of what he is going to do. I think it’s going to be quite a ride. And like all the best roller coasters, there will be amazing highs, stomach churning lows, twists and turns galore. But through all the highs and lows, I am trusting God to get us through. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

“For whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:7-9, ESV).

[Be sure to click “Follow THE RIVER CHURCH” (in the upper right column) to receive email updates from the blog. Don’t forget to visit https://theriverchurch.co/2013/12/31/we-want-to-hear-from-you/ to complete a contact form. We really do want to hear from you!]

Signs and Wondering

[This is part 2 of the article “The Joys, Fears, and Faith of Church Planting” which Cheryl wrote a couple of months ago.

You can read part 1 here and part 3 here.]

The prospect of church planting has brought me face to face with what’s really inside of me. In what am I actually putting my faith and trust? Where is my hope? In the Lord or something else? I had been asking God over and over again to give us a sign and show us we are on the right track. Then the Lord brought to mind the passage in Matthew 12:38-39 that says,

“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him saying, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’ But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.’”

The scribes and Pharisees were seeking proof that Jesus was who he said he was by miraculous signs and wonders and Jesus called them an “evil and adulterous generation” because of it. There’s nothing wrong with asking for guidance and direction and a good, old-fashioned neon sign, but I desired those things more than I desired the One who is able to give them — so that I could find comfort and hope in them and not Jesus; so that I would know we are on the right track and everything would be okay. But Jesus’ call is the same today as it was to those scribes and Pharisees in the Bible. It’s a call to faith. Faith in Christ alone.

As God gently but firmly strips away the things I have been putting my faith and hope in apart from him, he’s been replacing those things with more and more faith. More of Himself. I’ve been getting closer to God and experiencing him in ways I never have before and don’t believe I could any other way. He has taught me to keep my eyes on Jesus like never before so when the vultures of doubt start circling I can hear him speaking truth and faith to me.

“Fear not for I am with you, even to the end of the age.”

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink. . .is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”

And, one of my favorites,

“The Lord is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

If there was ever a girl who needed to be quieted with the love of God, it’s this girl!

Getting ready to plant a church has taught me the meaning of putting on the full armor of God. The enemy loves to exploit my fears, doubts and weaknesses. (And he especially likes to do it in the middle of the night.) Where do you think those vultures come from? He sees the armor rattling and is just waiting for me to put it down so he can pounce. For me, putting on the full armor of God has meant going to bed at night with my Bible right beside me and key verses that God has brought to my attention written on index cards so I am ready in the middle of the night, if needs be, to take up the shield of faith and start wielding the sword of the Spirit.

to be continued in part 3, “Front Row Seats”

[Be sure to click “Follow THE RIVER CHURCH” (in the upper right column) to receive email updates from the blog. Don’t forget to visit https://theriverchurch.co/2013/12/31/we-want-to-hear-from-you/ to complete a contact form. We really do want to hear from you!]

Don’t Miss the Preparation

The book of Acts is the incredible story of how Jesus’ church grew from a handful of followers to a worldwide movement in around 30 years. Each time I read the story I’m blown away by the miracles performed, the boldness of the disciples, and the transformation that took place in numerous lives, families, and communities.

Sometimes in our haste to get to the real good stuff—the excitement, the action, the mission—we miss the preparation. Remember that the disciples spent a lot of time with Jesus. Three years, in fact. They watched him. They listened to him. They learned from him.

The first part of preparation for the mission is spending time with Jesus. If we are not spending time with Jesus on a regular (even daily!) basis, we will not be prepared for the mission he has for us. That’s why my growth plan for 2014 includes consistency in God’s Word, the Bible. (You can track with me here.)

Reading, studying and knowing God’s Word is a vital part of our preparation for mission. But it isn’t the only thing. Alone, it can leave us self-assured, maybe a little prideful, and, worst of all, impotent. At the very least we can become a little too eager to act while remaining unprepared for the real action.

Again, remember that the disciples were eager to start the work of restoring the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). They had the training. They had a risen Messiah! Now they were ready to start the mission. Or were they?

In Jesus final days with his followers he told them to wait for the promise of the Father (1:4). He told them that they would receive power from the Holy Spirit, and then they would be his witnesses (1:8). Then look at what the disciples did next.

All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer (1:14).

The disciples prayed. They waited. Then God spoke to them. Then God empowered them with the Holy Spirit. Then God gave them boldness to witness. Then God gave them opportunity to proclaim the message.

The second part of preparation is all about prayer: waiting on God for empowerment and for direction. That’s what The River Church needs to be about. Now is a crucial time in the life of The River Church. Now is the time to establish a pattern of waiting, praying, receiving and proclaiming.

One way we’re doing this is by prayer-walking through the neighborhoods of Moxee. Over the next several weeks we want to develop a rhythm of systematically praying through every street of the city. Small groups of several individuals or families will pray for the salvation and blessing of every home and business. And we will ask for the Holy Spirit to empower us to be a bold witness of the good news of Jesus.

If you’d like to join a prayer group let us know. Click “Contact” and tell us when you’re available. And be sure to let us know how we can pray for you. We want to hear from you!

To give to the work of planting churches in the Yakima valley click “Give.”

The Uncertainty and Insanity

[This is part 1 of the article “The Joys, Fears, and Faith of Church Planting” which Cheryl wrote a couple of months ago. While our situation has changed somewhat (our funding and health insurance are still uncertain, but we do have a forwarding address!), the struggle of faith in the midst of an uncertain future still remains.]

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about our church planting experience so far is uncertainty. Dove-tailed with that is that I don’t get to plan it out myself. I thought I would. I thought, way back in the “a few months ago” that God would lay the whole plan out on a platter and then I would get to make whatever decisions seemed best and wisest from there. The main dish would be our income and where, exactly, that would be coming from. The side dishes would be a house to live in, health insurance for our family of six, and dessert would be faith. I was expecting to be able to sample the goods, make my decision, and not have to look crazy. But alas, the tidy platter with the tidy plan has yet to show up. Or, it has, but it doesn’t have the prepared dishes I was expecting.

Instead, the main dish is Jesus, the side dishes are Jesus—and dessert? That’s still faith (surprisingly sweet and zero calories no matter how much you have so you might as well take as much as you can get). Our funding is anything but secured. Health insurance, a sensitive issue for everyone right now, is not in place and we’ve yet to find a forwarding address. But the time to turn back has come and gone.

It’s weird, but for some reason God wanted me to make a decision before all those other concerns were taken care of. He wanted me to make a decision whether or not to move forward based on Him and Him alone. In his mercy, each decision that has had to be made has come a little at a time, one at a time. But the last six months have basically boiled down to a daily decision to continue to walk forward in faith and obedience, despite the uncertainty, or to turn back in fear. After all, we could just stay where we are. Michael could take the promotion he is being offered in the army, and we could carry on. There is a big part of me that would be all too happy to do just that. It would be so. . .easy? Ordinary? Comfortable? Not crazy looking??? YES! All things I am a huge fan of! But to turn back would also mean something else that we have to take very seriously, disobedience. And disobedience would mean missing God’s call on our life and not experiencing the excitement, fruitfulness and adventure of following God wherever he leads, no matter what.

Some days I’m just shaking in my boots. Uncertainty fills the horizon and the “what ifs” circle overhead like vultures circling over a carcass. “What if the financial support never materializes?” “What if we have a lapse in health coverage for our family?” “What if we move to Yakima and everything falls apart?” “What if we have a big launch and no one comes?” “What if we end up looking like the biggest fools to ever walk the earth?”

This call to obedience to Christ has been radical for us but it is one we cannot ignore. We must remember that we are merely responding to God’s invitation to join him in the work he is doing in the Yakima Valley. I don’t know why he chose us to partner with him in this work. We are extremely ordinary Christ followers. We are prone to all the foibles and shortcomings of every other Christian on earth. We haven’t nailed godly parenting. We don’t pray for hours a day and sometimes, and I’ll speak for myself here, I watch tv instead of reading my Bible!

I cannot fathom why God has extended this invitation to us. Since I know it is not on our merit, it must be something about God. Something about His grace, His glory and His mission. He delights to show himself strong and mighty and that is best done through his weakest vessels. Finally! I feel qualified!

to be continued in part 2, “Signs and Wondering” and part 3, “Front Row Seats”

[Be sure to click “Follow THE RIVER CHURCH” (in the upper right column) to receive email updates from the blog. Don’t forget to visit https://theriverchurch.co/2013/12/31/we-want-to-hear-from-you/ to complete a contact form. We really do want to hear from you!]