The Mission Briefing – December 2023
Gift giving is such a blessing! What is on all your loved ones’ wish lists this year? If they do not provide some spot-on ideas, you really must know someone well to give them the perfect gift. According to my reckoning, for a good gift to be perfect it’s important to satisfy both a desire and a need. I don’t even try with one gift anymore that’s super difficult. Instead, with my kids, I ask for ideas or think about what they want and what they need, then give them both. God, on the other hand, is a much better Gift-giver than any of us. He knows the desires of every heart and knows our needs far better than we do ourselves. Advent season ending in Christmas is the time to reflect on our Father as the perfect Gift-giver.
When we think of Christmas, we think of Jesus, the Father’s perfect gift for us. Jesus meets both criteria for a perfect gift. I’m sure no one reading this will debate that Jesus is the best response to our greatest needs. He is the Savior, the One who rescues us from eternal alienation from God. He forgives us, cleanses us, shepherds us, frees us, walks with us, empowers us, comforts us, and protects us. When it comes to needs, He is the universal provision. I don’t know how Maslow came up with his theory for the Hierarchy of Needs, but Jesus meets them all in the most effective ways. Jesus is truly a great gift, which alone should inspire our worship.
Jesus is not just a great gift, however. He is THE perfect gift. He also satisfies our greatest desires. He brings happiness or what we label at Christmas as great joy. Jesus’ time on earth is bookended with joy. When the angels appeared to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem they said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). Then, after Jesus ascended into heaven, Luke writes, “Then [the disciples] worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God” (Luke 24:52-53). Jesus came to meet our deepest desires!
I think, as Christians, we are convinced that Jesus meets our every need, but we do not always connect Jesus with our greatest happiness. It’s like we expect the perfect gift to come as two gifts, one we need and one we want. If we do this with Jesus, we will always be looking for something more to add to Him. Jesus plus power, Jesus plus money, Jesus plus another desire of our hearts. If we live this way, we will NOT find happiness, at least for long. I encourage you to stop looking for the perfect gift in two gifts. God is the perfect Gift-giver and Jesus is the perfect Gift.
Everything you need is in Jesus and everything you want is there too. This may be a big shift in thinking and feeling but it is the most important one you will ever make for finding happiness that cannot spoil or fade.
The Mission Briefing – November 2023
I was reading a Francis Chan book this week called Letters to the Church. In it, he was talking about the way we structure the church and listing all the things we do that are so important to what it means to be the church. He makes an interesting argument I would like to share. When it comes to being the church, he thinks Less is More. As the church, we don’t need large auditoriums or big budgets or a specialized few doing all the work. He claims it is better to be small and worship together with a Bible, a cup, and some bread. His point was for readers to evaluate how they worship and do ministry but I couldn’t help but feel the Spirit applying these lessons to how we do the holiday seasons as well. We are entering the time of plenty and abundance. It’s truly is a wonderful time! The food, the activities, the gatherings will be starting really soon for all of us, and that can be such a good thing…until it isn’t. Sometimes we are most spiritually depleted after the holidays. If you want to enter the holidays and finish the holidays spiritually full, I just have two suggestions to give you in this time of celebration and abundance. Keep it Simple and Make Room. By doing these two things, I hope and pray the Spirit leads you into drawing near to the Jesus as we remember all He has done, is doing, and will do for us.
Keep it Simple
This might be the hardest suggestion for you. It seems antithetical to this time of year but as much as you can keep it simple. Think and remind yourself: Less is More. If you have less and try to do less, you will enjoy what you have and what you do more. Less activity will allow you to be present instead of trying to enjoy one thing while prepping or anticipating the next thing. Don’t be afraid to say “No” to invitations, demands, and purchases. Obviously, do not pull out of everything the holidays have to offer but be selective and intentional about everything. Prioritize! Taking some of the clutter out of our lives is liberating. If we are overscheduled and overcommitted it can feel suffocating and stressful. That’s not what the holidays are about. You can declutter your holiday season by planning and prioritizing your holiday observances, firming up the most important parts in family traditions, and doing some reflection regarding how to make the most of your celebrations of the Lord. Take a few minutes soon to ask yourself a few important questions about each element of your celebrations.
1. Is God in this? Will it draw me and/or my family closer to the Lord? Will it keep Him the center?
2. Does it bring or express joy? Find a celebration that fills your heart with thanksgiving and worship.
3. Is this the best use of time and money? Prioritize and drop off the lesser activities or purchases.
There may be holiday obligations you have to complete. Try to limit these but when you do them, don’t treat them as obligations. Put your heart into them. Look for God, bring joy to others, and be generous. The problem might not be the obligation but the attitude you bring to it. If it is good and necessary, don’t just go through the motions, but make it fruitful.
Second, make room for God. If you are too busy to pray, read your Bible, and reflect on the goodness of God, you are too busy! As the holidays add more to our lives, it is more necessary to declutter. Thanksgiving is about being thankful for all that God has given. We do not what to be too busy making pies or traveling to neglect the time we need to feel thankful. We need time to decompress and think about the blessings Christ has brought into our lives. We want to take a few things out so we can increase our prayer time. It’s so important to create some margin. During this time make a list of all the things you are thankful for, read over it regularly, spend time with Jesus nurturing a heart of thanksgiving. When Thanksgiving is over, make room for Jesus this Advent season too. Pick up a special discipline (Simplicity, maybe) that helps you focus on Jesus even more. I’m going to read Making Room in Advent: 25 Devotions for a Season of Wonder by Bette Dickinson. As we get busy, it’s natural to shorten our time with Jesus. Remember you only have 24 hours in a day, something is going to give. Don’t let it be Jesus and the spiritual blessings that await you in Him. Give Him plenty of room this season. It may be the most important thing you do.
The Mission Briefing – October 2023
October is already here. This is such an enjoyable month for weather. I hope that you all get the chance to breath in the cool air and take in some Fall activities. I’m wrapping up this series on building godly habits with this letier to you. My purpose was to illustrate how to apply principles from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. I have used Bible reading as the example but you could use these for habit you want to add to your life. We’ve covered the 1st Law: Make It Obvious, the 2nd Law: Make It Atiractive, and the 3rd Law: Make It Easy. This month we cover the 4th Law: Make it Satisfying.
Make it Satisfying
One way to make a habit satisfying, especially if is initially very difficult, is to reward yourself atier you complete your habit. Of course your reward needs to be something you enjoy. Rewards help if the habit you are geting into is not immediately satisfying in a pleasurable way. When it comes to Bible reading, I find a great amount of satisfaction and refilling through the habit itself. This makes it much easier to adopt Bible reading than running a mile or eating a low-calorie dinner. If you don’t find that kind of satisfaction reading your Bible, don’t worry about it. There is nothing “wrong” with you, it’s probably all so new to you. I’m sure it will become very enjoyable in time. If you read and feel flat, confused, or discouraged a lot of the time, you may need to reward yourself with something more enjoyable. Eat something comforting atierward, give yourself the freedom to do something you enjoy like a bike ride or an episode of your favorite sitcom. Rewarding a good habit when it is hard to keep is very helpful.
Make “Doing Nothing” Enjoyable
This principle has more to do with eliminating a bad habit. I’m sure we would all agree that doing nothing is not the best we can do in most situations, but doing nothing is betier than doing the wrong thing. Holding our ground is preferrable to backsliding. If we cannot move forward at least we don’t have to fall back. This is a litile more difficult to applying to Bible reading but let me suggest this. There will be days you miss a reading. It’s going to happen. Some people will try to catch up by reading twice as much the next day. This can feel overwhelming when there are several days to catch up on, almost like sinking into a pit we cannot get ourselves out of. I’m exaggera ting a litile but geting behind does not feel good. How can we make that enjoyable? Don’t worry about making anything up. Don’t feel guilty for missing. Use whatever time you have to enjoy God Himself. Reflect on what you remember reading in the past. Talk to God more than you normally would. If you can’t read, just pray. Then, when you get home, pick up the habit of reading again. Sometimes less can result in more.
Never Miss Twice
When you miss a practice or in our case with the One Year Bible, a reading, because you got busy or forgot make sure that you get back on track immediately. This is so important. When it comes to Bible reading, we all want to read the whole Bible in the course of the year. The One Year Bible schedule we follow here gives us zero days off. There are some programs you can use that gives you the weekends off or at least one day to catch up. Remember you are in this for the long run not just one year. If you miss, it’s not the end of the world, don’t give up on the entire year. Make it up if you want but make sure you never miss twice. You still get so much from the scriptures if you only end up reading 300 days in the year. Keep going and don’t let failing to be perfect keep you from being close to the Lord and conformed to the will of God.
Use a Habit Tracker
Keep the streak going as long as possible. Using a habit tracker might be a very helpful tool for helping you do that. Jerry Seinfeld is a famous comedian with a popular sitcom in the 90’s. Before, during, and atier the show he starred in, he performed regularly in live stand-up shows. He set a goal for himself early on to write one joke every day. It didn’t have to be funny, but he had to write one down every day. This formed in him the habit of creating and writing new jokes constantly. It gave him an eye for looking for the funny things about everyday life. Jerry Seinfeld had a simple tracking method. If he wrote a joke, he would put a big “X” on his calendar. His secondary goal to support this was to never break the chain. The more days we compile the more aggressively we guard our streak. It is very satisfying to see a calendar full of X’s. It is very motivating to extend our streaks longer than ever before. Try this as a way to make Bible reading more consistent.
Godly habits develop our Christian character. You may have Bible reading mastered. If so, where else could you use these habit laws in your Christian life? It is always good for us to assess where we are and where we are headed in our discipleship process. You have strengths, find ways to habitually put them to use, leveraging them for the glory of the Lord. You have weaknesses, find a way to building these up so they do not hold you back. It is important to work on these things but self-improvement not the heart of any godly habit. For us, God’s grace in our lives, our love for Jesus, and our commitment to each other motivates the changes. Make sure your Christian life is focused on Jesus and not just checking boxes. He wants your heart, your heart has to be in it. When your heart is ready, godliness will come. As godly habits form around a heart sold out to Jesus, they snowball into an unstoppable force for good in our world.
Glory to the King,
Our mission to advance the Kingdom of Jesus is a human extension of God’s power and purposes. The power to change the world is the Lord’s and it comes to us through His Word. That Word is the person of Jesus but also the message of the gospel. We communicate Christ’s death, resurrection, and glorification as good news to the world. That is a power beyond us but one we are stewards of. We have this treasure from the Lord in jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7). There is nothing fancy about clay but it has an important purpose. This series on forming good spiritual habits is important because our maturity comes through God’s presence and power but also through forming obedient and God honoring habits. The clay needs some molding. To help us think and apply good habit-forming practices, I have been referencing the four laws of habits from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. The first law was 1) Make It Obvious, the second law was 2) Make It At-tractive and now the third law is 3) Make It Easy. I’m applying these laws to Bible reading as a concrete illustration of how these work but the laws can be implemented for all kinds of spiritual habits includ-ing Bible verse memorization, practicing hospitality, continuing your BELLS practice, letting go of re-sentments, and countless other practices. Use these to help you add the most bene-ficial habit for your life.
Make it Easy
Reduce the friction.
Friction slows things down and where it exists in our lives, it makes things more dif-ficult. We do not want a good habit to be difficult because that makes it too easy to quit. To adopt a new habit like daily Bible reading we want to reduce all the friction by decreasing the number of steps it takes to get to the habit. What has worked best for me over the years is to make Bible reading the very first thing I do in the morning. Perhaps you want to start the coffee maker first but try to reduce the num-ber of responsibilities you have before Bible reading so you do not get distracted or sidetracked.
Prime the environment.
Make it easy by preparing your environment so the practice is intuitive and natural. Keep your Bible in its regular place. You don’t want to have to go looking for it when time is short. If you take notes in a journal, make sure it is also in its place. Think about the lighting. Anticipate dis-tractions. Keep your phone in a different room. Get up early enough so you have time before your kids wake up. Make sure the pets have what they need so you can get right into your reading habit and listening to the Lord.
Master the decisive moment.
This refers to that moment of decision we all have when practicing a habit. There is al-ways a fork in the road with other options tempting us away from reading our Bibles. Will I sit down and read or will I scroll through social media or go water the plants or do the dishes? These could be very important and valuable things but we have to learn to say, “No” to the urgency of other things to spend time with listening to the Lord. You are go-ing to fail at first but with practice you will begin to master this decision-making mo-ment and others like it consistently.
Use the Two-Minute Rule.
When beginning a new habit, it helps to scale it down so that it is easier to complete. This rule refers to scaling your habit down to two minutes. For example, if our habit takes three hours every day, you will find it very hard to practice without a large amount of leisure time. If you are new to reading your Bible, you may not want to read the whole Bible the first year. Start by just reading the New Testament portion of the One Year Bible or if you really want to keep your under two minutes just read the Psalm. That is actually a very wise place to start. Keep it short and simple. Less can be more. As you build this habit, it will be quite easy to stretch your time out longer and add the New Testament, the Proverbs and eventually the Old Testament. When I first started to work out again, after years of sedentary life as a student, I thought I had no time for it. So, I started with a fitness app that took me through a 5-minute
workout. It was plenty of work in the condition I was in. I did it every day for about a month when I began to have the desire for more. I would add extra pieces to the workout like running or weights. Fast forward three years and I was working out about two hours five days a week. How did that happen? Start small and as you build the habit, let the habit build you.
Automate the habits.
We want to make our habits automatic. Sometimes investing in technologies or other aids can help lock in our future behaviors. In the case of the One Year Bible readings, you might want to use your phone or computer to read when you don’t have your paper copy on hand. You can use oneyearbibleonline.com to read online. From there you can even select your favorite translation. For those of you who can listen while moving, the audio version of the readings is also available on the website. It’s great for walks, runs, and your daily commute. Try to leverage whatever you can to make your habit consistent.
The August 2023 Mission Brief
Regarding our Mission together, we are continuing to look at developing healthy spiritual habits, such as Bible reading, scripture memorization, praying, sharing the gospel, and practicing the other godly virtues of Jesus. James Clear in his book Atomic Habits provides us four laws for establishing healthy habits which will help us become who God intends to make us by the power and wisdom of His Spirit. We looked at the first law of building a new habit last month called “Make it Obvious.” This month we will see that we also need to make the habits we need in our lives attractive. How do we do that? Let’s consider that now.
Make it Attractive
There are many things that we highly anticipate doing. These, for whatever reason, are already attractive to us. It might be that morning cup of coffee, the quiet walk, or time to unplug in front of the television. If there is a new habit you want to work into your life, then connect it to something that you look forward to doing. This is similar to Habit Stacking, which we covered last month in the July 2023 Mission Briefing. With habit stacking, we connected a habit we need to a habit we already have. With Temptation Bunding, we practice a habit we need and reward ourselves with a “habit” we want. So, if we wanted to be more consistent with reading our Bibles, we would put off the shower or cup of coffee until we have spent the 15-20 minutes we need to read through the daily portions of scripture. When we have completed the reading time, we could tackle that more anticipated habit as a reward. It won’t be long until the Bible reading becomes the habit you want more than even a morning cup of coffee or a shower. What rewarding habit can you bundle together with your Bible reading?
Join a Group
Family, friends, and social groups help us form habits. The culture we plug into has a strong influence on us. If you really wanted to make reading your Bible a spiritual habit, then it would be a good idea to join a group that shares your value of scripture. You want to intentionally be a part of a culture that makes daily Bible reading the norm. This is where the church is so important and doing this together comes into play. Find a few others to read the One Year Bible with you. Having this peer group in your life will make a big difference. In addition, there will be a lot of other good habits to pick up from such a group of Christians as well. Where can you plug in where people make daily Bible reading the norm?
Associate Habits with Positive Feelings
A habit is powerful when it works predictively, and most do. In other words, we do what we do because we think it will make us happy. We eat ice cream and donuts not because they are the most nutritious food items but because they taste amazing. We binge watch television for the same reason. We believe these habits will make us happy but also might be the ones that end up making us sick. We need to associate happy feelings away from bad habits and onto the good ones. One of the best ways to break a bad habit is to connect it with the negatives that natural follow it. Watching four hours of cartoons will not make me a spiritual giant for good in the world. Reading my Bible will. Doing 15-20 minutes of Bible reading every day for years is going to transform me and perhaps even the world around me. Good habits will lead to long term spiritual health. Do you see and feel the good things reading will do for you immediately and down the road?
Reprogram Your Brain
This is on relates to how you think about habits. Don’t think “I have to read my Bible this morning.” Rephrase it to “I get to read my Bible this morning.” We have access to the revealed will and word of God at an unprecedented level in history. We believe that God still speaks to us here with utmost authority. Romans 15:4 from our readings on August 1st, said, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” The Bible is part of God’s plan for giving you hope. We need to shift our thinking, maybe a lot, about reading the scriptures. Remember this when you are tempted to do something else before opening your Bible. How does your thinking need to shift to make this a priority?
The Mission Briefing July 2023
While cruising around in the car the past month, I’ve listened to Atomic Habits by James Clear. In his book, he teaches four laws that help create good habits. Habits are vitally important in the Christian life. Scripture reveals that some of what we are the Lord has finished. For example, Jesus makes us completely holy in the sense that we are set apart for Him and His purposes. Yet there is a path of progression we are on as well. For clarity, I call the completed aspect “holiness” and the progressive aspect “godliness,” though in scripture these terms can be used basically interchangeably. The work of the Holy Spirit by faith in Jesus makes us completely holy. Godliness is walking in faith and being changed more and more into the image of Christ. The Holy Spirit is intimately involved but our godliness is not automatic. We participate in this transformation through active obedience and spiritual disciplines. This is where godly habits need to be implemented for greater spiritual growth and ministry fruit. Over the summer months, in this newsletter, I will apply Clear’s laws to One Year Bible reading. Use it for that if you still need to implement that into your life or have fallen out of the habit but also use these laws for all kinds of spiritual activities from prayer to memorizing scripture to practicing hospitality with friends. The four laws we will be talking about for habits are: 1) Make it Obvious, 2) Make it Attractive, 3) Make it Easy, and 4) Make it Satisfying. I encourage you to read or listen to Atomic Habits in its entirety if you find this helpful.
Make it Obvious
Write out a plan.
Creating a new habit must be intentional. James Clear teaches to use an implementation intention that goes like this: “I will (new behavior) at (time) in (location). So, if you want to read the Bible every day you will start by setting a time and a place. “I will read my daily Bible at 6:00 am at the kitchen table.” The best place to start is to schedule the habit. You may need to get more sophisticated than this but don’t begin that way. For example, eventually you will read Monday through Friday at 6:00 am but on weekends you may go on an early bike ride or sleep in. Your habit on weekends might be to read during lunch. Set the time and location generally where it will work best.
Think about how you can connect the new habit to a current habit. This is called habit stacking. “After (current habit), I will (new habit).” You might say, “After I brew a cup of coffee, I will read my Bible.” “After I eat my lunch, I will read my Bible.” By connecting the new habit to an established one, it will feel automatic and more natural right away.
Design Your Environment
Making a habit obvious means thinking about your environment. Is there anything you can do to make cues for reading the Bible? Make sure you have coffee in the pantry. Keep your One Year Bible on the table or somewhere close. Keep it visible especially early on in this process so it reminds you of your new habit and makes it convenient to practice. This is why I prefer to have a printed version of the One Year Bible. It is visible and convenient. If you do read on your phone setting an alarm can be a way of making it visible.
Apply these practices to any spiritual habit you want to add in your life. Next week we will look at how to make a spiritual habit more attractive.
Blessings in Christ,
The June 2023 Mission Brief
This month I want to review where we have been the past couple of years and where we are going as a church as far as our discipleship programming. The first initiative in 2021 was to adopt The One Year Bible reading tool as a congregation. The purpose of this was manifold. First, it was to develop Biblical literacy. It is surprising how muchof the Bible we are unfamiliar with because we have never personally read from many parts of the Bible. Second, the One Year Bible teaches us how to get spiritually fed on our own. We cannot just rely on sermons to give us everything we need for the varied experiences we all are going through. Third, the readings were meant to mature our faith as we see God’s truth being worked out in our current life situations. Many of you adopted this practice in your personal quiet times. I hope you are continuing to do your reading and even starting to invite others to join you in your daily readings. This takes us to the fourth purpose, which was to give us a tool to connect with others over the scriptures.
Recently at the beginning of 2023, I introduced the Four G’s as a summary of the core values of the Community Church. All that we do in ministry will connect to one or more of these Four G’s. As Christians, by the grace of God in our lives we do four behaviors. First, we glorify God. We have lifestyles of worship, highly valuing authentic encounters with our Father, through Christ and by the Holy Spirit. This happens alone in our quiet times but also in all that we do at work, in our free time, with our words, and in our relationships. Our lives are about magnifying Jesus. Second, as Christians by the grace of God, we gather together. We do life and ministry in groups believing we are stronger together in every way. We gather in a crowd of seventy or more for worship. This size of gathering inspires and encourages. We know God is moving and we are not alone. We also gather in twelves. This is the size of a support group we can do life with. Here we bear burdens, pray for each other, and walk together through the ups and downs of life. Then, we also gather in twos and threes. This is the most intimate sized gathering. These are the people who know everything about us and love us anyway. They hold us accountable and unfailingly strive with us and for us. Gathering is a little slow at catching on. I think this is one of places our practice has some important growing to do. I encourage you to make it a priority to find your 3s and 12s but also to commit to consistency in Sunday morning participation. There is an intangible but substantial difference when you are here in corporate worship. It is also something you can easily do to make a big difference in your spiritual life and the lives of others. The third G is by grace we grow in Christlikeness. We are lifelong learners allowing God to shape us and use us for His purposes. We are disciples of Jesus. This means we are committed to learning Jesus. With this comes transformation in our thinking, doing, being, and interacting. Finally, the fourth G involves going. We aspire to change lives through relational evangelism and missional love. Going may not be very far. The going is just part of living, more important to emphasize is what we do in our going. Jesus commissioned us to make disciples of the world. Relational evangelism means living the gospel out everywhere. We preach it to ourselves and all those around us with words and actions.
These 4 G’s can be focused on individually but much of what we do as a church will combine
These 4 G’s can be focused on individually but much of what we do as a church will combine these. These are the really rich, priority behaviors to include in our lives. For example, our One Year Bible reading discipline fits all 4 G’s. We glorify God by personally listening and connecting with Him. We gather together to read and study the scriptures in our 3s, 12s, and 70s. As we read, we are growing by trusting and we go by applying and sharing the lessons we are learning about God and ourselves. The higher value habits will fit in multiple G’s. The practice of prayer is another high value Christian behavior. Consider how prayer touches on all 4 G’s. We just finished the B.E.L.L.S. series. This was an extension of our 4 th G, Going. As we go through life, we practice 5 habits of highly missional people. We bless people inside and outside the congregation. We eat with people inside and outside the congregation. We Listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We Learn Jesus by reading in our Bibles. We also journal regularly about how we are Sent to share the reconciling work of Jesus, the beauty of God and His creation, the value of human dignity, and God’s ability to make us whole. Practicing the B.E.L.L.S., understanding the 4 G’s, and continuing to read through the Bible are all manageable practices that will pay huge, eternal dividends in this life and the next. Persevere in them and you will see God at work in you and this community.
Where are we going from here, you ask? I will continue to connect sermons and future programs to the 4 G’s. Coming down the pipe expect sermons on Violence in the Bible (Grow), the Comforting and Challenging Words of Jesus (Glorify and Grow), Prayer (all 4 G’s), and likely the “One Another” Commands of the scriptures (Gather and Grow). Small groups will continue to be encouraged with the hope that every member and participant can find their “12”. The Sunday morning connectionclass just started a Bible study through the Epistle to the Romans. If you missed this first class the homework was to read through the book of Romans and identify three major themes in the book. Sometime in the future I would like to teach through personal Bible Study methods (Grow) and relational apologetics (Go). As we look forward, I hope you will do so with excitement about what God us doing and will do, but also holding onto what you have recently learned by putting it all into practice.
The May 2023 Mission Brief
It’s been a few months since you received a Briefing from me regarding our mission in Moab and beyond. Allow me to review and then look ahead. Over the past couple of months we have had guest speakers on a variety of topics. We also completed the summary of our core values learning that they can be grouped together into the 4 G’s. By the grace of God, we are adopted into a family that Glorifies God, Gathers Together, Grows in numerous ways, and Goes out into the world. I encourage you to use these values to reflect on both your personal faith journey and the corporate one we are on together. You may even choose to get more specific about these categories. Ask how is my glorifying of God going? Is God still the most important person in my life? How do I show His worthiness on a regular basis? Am I making the lives of others better in His Name? Ask how is my Gathering going? Do I have a consistent 70, 12, and 3? Who is speaking into my life? Who am I speaking Jesus into? Who do I practice all the “one another” imperative with? Are my relationships improving and going deeper? Ask how am I Growing? Am I a seeing progress in my faith, in my understanding, and in my consistency? Is there plaguing sin that I am distancing myself from? Is there a ministry skill I see improving? Lastly, ask how am I Going? Who is God bringing into my life? Where can I have meaningful conversations with others about the Lord? Who in my family or circle of friends needs spiritual encouragement? These are just some of the types of questions we can ask to use the 4 G’s as an important discipleship guide.
This last G, Going, led right into the next series we are currently studying together called B.E.L.L.S. Just as Jesus promised, the last will be first and the first will be last, so we started with the S standing for Sent. In order to live a winsome and engaging evangelistic lifestyles, we need to understand that we are the ones Jesus sends out. We have the message of reconciliation which is vital to share but we also highlight God’s beauty, we uphold human dignity by helping those in need, and strive to walk with people back into the wholeness that Jesus offers. In order to do that well, we Learn Jesus, Listen to the Spirit, Bless people, and Eat with them every week. For the rest of the month, we will look at how to do those things naturally well. To help facilitate our growing, going, and glorifying, we are also gathering in small groups. These groups are open and can be joined at any time until they reach their capacities. I’m confident everything in your spiritual life will improve in these learning communities. You will especially become more familiar with the B.E.L.L.S. materials. Consider finding a group that works into your schedule or even consider shifting your schedule to get into one of these valuable groups.
Finally, I want close with how blessed I was to hear from the Casas Por Christo team who constructed a home for the family in Guatemala. It is so encouraging to hear how God worked in your lives and through your labors. We do not all need to go very far to experience similar works of the Lord. As you go through this beautiful month of May, I pray that God will be working in your lives and through your many labors. Have a fantastic month!
With you in Christ, Pastor Kyle
It is so important to be engaging with the scriptures all the time. January is when we restart or start to read through the Bible together. The One Year Bible makes this journey simple and enjoyable. You can pick up one of these devotional Bibles in the sanctuary or church office. This year we are offering the New Living Translation and the English Standard Version, if you need some variety. If you already have one, pick one up for a friend or pass along your old one, encourage those around you to join you on this adventure. You will be glad that you did!
The February 2023 Mission Briefing
3, 12, 70 Get these numbers etched into your mind. They are going to be guides for our Christian gatherings. The second “G” of our core values stands for “Gathering.” It’s important to understand that gathering is not just on Sunday morning. That is crucial, but we also need to gather in smaller, more intimate groups. Come with me on a journey through the scriptures to consider these numbers and their importance to our spiritual lives in Christ.
The most prevalent of these numbers in scripture is the three. Some of the references we find are more significant than others. Here are only a few of the mentions of three. Abraham traveled three days to offer Isaac. Moses was hidden for three months. Balaam beat his donkey three times. Israel had three annual festivals all adult men were required to participate in. Isaiah prophesied naked for three years. Jonah was in the belly of a fish for three days. Jesus was in the tomb, by Jewish reckoning, for three days. Jesus died at three in the afternoon after three hours of darkness. Paul was blind for three days. Peter saw three visions to allow gentiles to become Christians. These are interesting “threes” but for our purposes, we want to focus on threes as they teach us about our gathering together. So, let’s look at scriptures where three people are involved. Noah had three sons that repopulated the earth after the flood. Abraham had three visitors to reaffirm the coming of Isaac. Moses chose three representatives from each tribe to survey the promised land. David had three mighty warriors. Job and Daniel both had three friends. So…?
A group of two or three in agreement have significant power. In the Mosaic Law, the Jews could carry out capital punishment on the testimony of two or three witnesses. The New Testament maintains this principle. Paul writes to the church in Corinth, “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (2 Corinthians 13:1) Also, “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses” (1 Timothy 5:19). These verses teach that truth could be established in a binding fashion when two or three people agree. Jesus summed this up nicely. “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Now, isn’t Jesus always with a believer? If we understand the “with” to be Jesus’ omnipresence through the Holy Spirit, then “Yes.” Jesus is with us even when we are alone. This is not what Jesus was referring to here. What He is saying is if we gather with another disciple for Jesus then Jesus will also be there for them. So go ahead, ask for what you need. This is a significant truth about the spiritual life many of us overlook or take for granted. It takes two or three coming together to make a “binding” petition. The Christian life is personal but not private. Your prayer life, your service, your studies, your witnessing is all better with one another. Jesus sent out his apostles all two by two for a reason. Solitude has its purposes but don’t neglect the spiritual benefits for everyone when you gather with one or two others. This could be a buddy, a spouse, a child, another couple in the church. Get one or two people you can pray with, share with, and do ministry with. “This is the way.”
The second most prevalent number in the scriptures is twelve. Ishmael was the father of twelve rulers. Jacob also had twelve sons,
who four hundred years later became the enormous twelve tribes of Israel. Because of the twelve tribes, we see the number throughout the rest of the scriptures. Some believe it was because of the twelve tribes that Jesus chose twelve apostles. This idea has a lot to it because Jesus was establishing a new covenant people to receive all the promises made to Abraham and Israel. Jesus did not just leave them be a symbolic representation of the new covenant people, however. He takes these twelve, choosing them out of the larger group, and then pulls them aside, instructs them, spends time with Him, before sending them out with power and authority. Sociologists will tell you that groups of eight to twelve are ideal learning communities and working groups. Think about it, most sports have fewer than twelve people on the field for each team at a time. Basketball has five, volleyball has six, baseball has nine, football has eleven, and hockey has eleven. Jesus chose twelve because that is the maximum number for effective life-on-life discipleship gatherings. Any bigger and individuals become labels and categories and there is a loss of connection and influence. What does this mean for our gatherings? We don’t just need a gathering of three, we also need to gather in a group of eight to twelve. We need to be a part of something that requires more than one and more than three. We need small groups that work together to solve problems, grow in a certain area, or get something done. Do you have a twelve? You need a twelve in your life, a small group, extended family gathering for Christ, some group you do life with. You need it. Then, there is the seventy. This is a good-sized crowd. Jacob had seventy members of his family flee to Egypt during the famine. When Israel came out there were seventy elders representing the twelve tribes. Israel was taken into captivity for seventy years. Daniel had a vision from God regarding seventy “sevens.”
Between the old and new testaments, seventy Jewish scholars translated the Jewish scriptures into the Septuagint, the Bible the early Christians used. These are interesting but the example we are most interested in is how Jesus used the seventy. Luke chapter ten tells us the story of when Jesus sends sev- enty-two apostles out two by two ahead of Him to heal the sick, proclaim the coming of the King, encourage repentance, and to cast evil spirits out of people. The number seventy is a large group that shares a common calling. It is a representative group of a greater crowd. The seventy stands for the church. We are the seventy, all chosen by Christ and called out to proclaim His Kingdom with power. During the week, we serve in smaller partnerships but then we come together “with joy and [say], “Lord, even the de- mons submit to us in your Name” (Luke 10:17). We need a time and a place to rejoice together as a larger group. We need a time and place to celebrate Jesus and learn. We cannot connect with everyone in this environment closely but that’s not really the point of Sunday morning worship. It’s to celebrate Christ’s power and victories. You need your seventy.
Let me sum up: We need to gather in twos or threes for intimacy and service. We need to gather in twelves for learning and larger work projects. We gather in seventies or more to rejoice in Jesus and celebrate this new life in Him. Do you have your 3, 12, and 70? It’s God’s design for how we glorify Him, how we gather together, how we grow in Christlikeness, and how go into the world. Wait no longer get your 3, 12, and 70.
With you in Christ, Pastor Kyle
The January 2023 Mission Briefing
When I first arrived back in Moab two years ago, I wanted to get to know the church I grew up in. On the surface, it seemed like a lot had changed in the twenty years I was gone. There were many new names and faces, the front of the sanctuary was redesigned, a praise team led the music, pastor Keith (dad) was not leading from the front anymore, we had a ton of great food served after worship but no Sunday School classes, services were now broadcast live to almost anywhere on the planet, and because of the circumstances those attending wore masks and practiced social distancing.
Despite these changes, however, the congregation I grew up in remained remarkably the same. You love Jesus, passionately worshipping God together, study the Bible, are fervent in prayer, and you still had a heart for the lost and hurting around you. How can a group comprised of some many different people have so much consistency to the one I grew up with? Pastor Keith’s leadership had much to do with it of course, but the integrity of this church goes deeper still. There are core values in every church or organization that do not change, even after two decades and despite all the changes around them. Core values are what give us our identity as a group and make our ministry distinctive from the world and even other congregations, although they may sound very similar. I would like to remind everyone what these values are through this first preaching series in 2023. I will call them the 4 G’s of the Community Church. Committing these to memory will help you practice our values with more intentionally and be able to communicate them to the community in a winsome way to those currently outside of our family.
Who we are does not start with effort or earning but God’s grace. Paul writes, “But by the grace of God I am what I am…” He continues, “…and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). Like Paul, we all have things in our past that we think might disqualify us from meaningful and fruitful ministry today. Paul persecuted Christians, taking property, livelihoods, and even lives from God’s people. Yet, he is an apostle in God’s church because of God’s powerful grace. Grace refers to God meeting us where we are and doing a new work in us that is all gift. This grace in us is not without effect either. The grace we have in Jesus produces fruitful work in us. We do the good things God has “teed up” for us because of and by His grace. We can sum up this work in four topics all beginning with “G.” They are 1) Glorify, 2) Gather, 3) Grow, 4) Go. These are important lifestyle characteristics related to living in Christ as the Community Church in Moab.
This means that we have lifestyles of worship. We highly value authentic encounters with God. Often times, these encounters come through corporate worship on Sunday morning but they also come in personal prayer time, Bible reading, relationships with other believers, and doing ministry, just to name a few. Our relationship with the Father, through the Son, and by the Holy Spirit is central to who we are and the things we do.
This means we have lifestyles of togetherness. We highly value community believing we are stronger together in every way. We demonstrate this through living as a family. We love each other, invest in one another, “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). We belong to each other. We are committed to living out the “one anothers” of scripture. We see this practiced on Sunday mornings, early morning prayer meetings, potlucks, small groups, and a number of other outreach ministries. We can be spiritual without gathering together, but we cannot be the Church. Gathering is vital for us and others.
This means we have lifestyles of learning. God’s grace is producing renewed minds and hearts. We are being made new continually (Romans 12:2, Colossian 3:10, Titus 3:5). God is shaping us over time to use us for His good purposes in this world. Grace is the beginning, but all of our lives are lived in it. This means grace is preparing us for new endeavors and empowering us to meet new challenges with new gifts. We also demonstrate more of Jesus in our lives with increasing godliness, which demonstrate our total holiness. We grow in relationship with God and one another, reading our Bibles, praying, serving, innovating ministries, developing new skills, interacting with the community, and engaging with one another. God is actively making us grow.
This means we have missional lifestyles. We serve those inside the church and aspire to go outside our four walls. We develop close relationship in the church but go together out to change lives through relational evangelism and missional love. We want to see God in the lives of our friends and neighbors. Therefore, we go across the street, volunteer all over the community, give to missions and build homes in Mexico. God gives us grace to share it with others.
The Four “G’s” accurately demonstrate what Christ Jesus has given us by His grace to be and do. These values will shape everything we do in this coming year and for generations, that is if the Lord’s return continues to be delayed. Yet, even then, I see these values enduring far beyond that. Let’s keep practicing them!
By the grace of God,
The December 2022 Mission Briefing
As I sit down to reflect on the month of December and our calling to serve Christ in this community, we are already in the second week of Advent. But what does that mean? Advent may be a new and strange term for many of you. You only really hear the word “Advent” used in the context of Christmas, and then it is only common in congregations that follow some sort of worship calendar. Allow me to use this space to unpack some of the excitement inherent in this word’s description for the season we have the joy to be in presently.
Advent comes from a Latin root meaning “to come toward.” We might translate it most literally as “approach.” It is defined as the arrival of a notable person or event. That is exactly what we are celebrating at Christmas! As we light candles and worship together, we are remembering God’s breaking into creation as the long-awaited King. This season is both the recognition of a notable person as well as a notable event. The baby and later the man Jesus is the incarnation of God to walk with humanity and for humanity in our desperation. Jesus is God, the Son, the Creator of all things, the Author of Life, Eternal Life itself, becoming a part of the creation, sharing in the very things that make us human, emptying Himself not of divinity but divine prerogatives. At His arrival, angels sing, shepherds quake, and all of them worship at a manger! This is the most notable arrival in human history and therefore also a notable event for sure.
Since the Fall of humanity, all creation has been groaning while it waits for this moment. The inaugural event that begins the rescue. The Savior of the world has arrived! The kingdom of God is among human beings in the presence of this unique baby. Soon, the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and the lost will be found. Righteousness will be established. A righteousness that is first and last through faith in this man, Jesus. This is the historical moment when God arrived to take back what is His with justice and with grace.
Understanding Advent is central to the Christian faith as well as truly rejoicing at Christmas. This whole month, we are invited to participate in all that advent means. God is still breaking into creation. He has come and scooped us up out of the sinful lives we were stuck in, so we could be a part of His adventure. Our word adventure comes from the same Latin word for “approach.” Christ’s advent into our lives is the arrival for us of participation in a daring and exciting experience. We are the new creation. Because of Jesus, the old is gone and the new has come. Christmas is full of joy when we grasp this incredibly, awesome adventure we are now on under the kingship of Christ. We live these new lives awaiting another advent. The second coming of Jesus to complete what He has started in us and to fulfill the rest of the scriptures about His reign over the entire world. As we wait, don’t do it passively from the sidelines. Christians are the quintessential adventurers because we are those who find our identity in the God who advents.
Adventuring with You in Christ,
The November 2022 Mission Briefing
As we move into the holiday season, our ministry is ramping up for the occasions ahead. Our collection for Operation Christmas Child will come to an end on November 13th. Please bring any donations you would like to give to the church building by then. We will pack boxes to be sent off by the 21st. We could use more of everything. You also have that much time to fill your own gift box and leave it here also. Remember the postage. You are probably aware that we have launched a new community outreach initiative. Every 2nd Tuesday, we will host an “Is it Possible?” event. These evenings have food, an engaging film or event, and refreshments afterward allowing for connections and conversations. Mark your calendars for every 2nd Tuesday, it will be a blessing and an important opportunity to engage with the others regarding interesting facts about God and our world. This month’s film will be another documentary piece based on Lee Strobel’s book, “The Case for the Creator.” It includes scientific evidence for the existence of God.
This time of year I also ask our teams to begin thinking about their annual reports to the church. If there is any unfinished plans you would like to carry out before the year ends, now is the time. If not, begin drafting your board and committee reports so next month we can start putting together our year end in review. Also, to anyone who has pictures of church community activities, send them to email@example.com.
Finally, this month is that time, we especially, reflect on all we have to be thankful for. As I begin to think about this, I am very grateful for all the pastor appreciation gifts, cards, meals, and time that you all gave to me this month. A month is a long time to be the focus of appreciation. Let me in a small way turn the tables and write some very general statements of my appreciation for all of you. You have been so loving and supportive of me over the past year. I
won’t go into details, but I have weathered the most difficult time in my life over the past ten months. All of you, whether you knew it or not, were essential to me getting through this. I don’t know what people do in the worst circumstances of life without a loving church family that will be there, like you were, with ministries of presence, prayer, empathy, and counsel. I love you so much! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am thankful for the times church members have brought me and my family food, ran kids to activities, and offered themselves repeatedly again and again for such tasks. You have saved the day and by doing so propped me for more. I have never lacked. Your commitment to this ministry has given my life stability in a stormy time. I can’t thank you and the LORD enough.
You are dearly loved,
The October 2022 Mission Briefing
Fall is here. With the passage of time, more than just the leaves
change. As I prepare this Mission Briefing for October, Crystal is preparing to move to her new home in Virginia. With heavy hearts, we tell her “Until
Next Time,” (as Crystal puts it.) and say “Welcome” to a new face in the office. We prayed for Crystal’s replacement to come for months now and God has provided us with a new office manager in Shirley Mannel. We praise God for her willingness to take on the responsibilities of this position. If you are not already friends with Shirley, I’m confident you will be. She works with competence, a joyful smile, Shirley Mannel was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico. She has been married to her husband Bill for 41 years. He is a gentle giant who actively works at the Canyonlands Gateway RV Park (previously the Archview RV Park). He is hardworking and very efficient at what he does. Shirley and
Bill have three children, five grandchildren, and five great grandchildren, whom they all dearly love. Shirley is a natural entrepreneur. She owns her own business called “My Favorite Aprons.” You can find more information about this under that name on Facebook. She recently stopped selling Shirley was raised Roman Catholic, claiming to totally love God since she was six years old. Years later, after a divorce, she realized there was much more to God than she had previously known or could have imagined. This discovery brought her to an Assembly of God church. One Sunday morning in 1982, the pastor offered an altar call and she flew down to the front before Bill and Shirly moved to Moab from Grand Junction five years ago when Bill took a job at the Moab KOA. They have a son named Chris that also lives here in Moab. They desire to stay here because of the beautiful red rocks, their son, and now their wonderful church community. They became members of the Community Church last year because they fell in love with the wonderful people and the pastor. If you would like to say,
“Hi” or if you have any business to do with the church office, the office hours are Monday through Friday 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Shirley will take Monday’s off to share that day with Bill. We welcome you to come get better acquainted.
Change is always happening, we get to roll with those changes as they come. In fact, we welcome them as ways God leads us into new fruitfulness. Remember during this season of change, that what matters most is unchangeable. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the Rock. He is the refuge. He is our Safety.
Blessings in Christ,
As I began to work on this months Quill, I decided to look up last year newsletter. In doing so, read “Keith’s Quill”, from November 2019…. It is profoundly for us at this time! Please prayerfully read it. Even though it was to prepare us for his retirement, it still pertains to us currently… and our future! Thank You Pastor Keith!
I will be working diligently in these last months to make this time very profitable for you. May I encourage you to get even more engaged in this church’s life? We are going to need every person being a part of this new thing that God will be doing. God has gifted each of you with a gift that you can use to make the ministry here a strong and healthy one. We do need you. I know that it is a temptation to withdraw at times like these and just wait to see what is going to happen. I hope none of you do that. Now is the time to build new excitement about the future of this church. The best gift you can give me as I leave the leadership of Community Church is a commitment to make this church very successful in the future.
Let me say a word to those of you under fifty. The future of this church ultimately rests in your hands. Much of the leadership now is well over sixty. They are still active and very much the heart of our leadership now. But they will not be able to carry the load for much longer. They need younger people with families and with families that are growing up to come and take your place at the head of the table. I have been here long enough to have watched that happen in the past. It has to happen again. Moab Community Church is a church that needs to help lead this community in the causes God holds dear. We are an important part of what God is doing and what He is able to do for this community. I just pray that many of you will catch the vision of who the church can be, what an influence it has had, and can have in the future.
So let’s work together without fear, but with great hope for what the Lord is going to do in the next decade in the life of our church. I am so excited about where you as a body of Christ will go from here. I am committed to you for the next ten months to getting us ready for the next big thing. Now is the time for each of you to pray about your part and come together to see God do great things. Have an amazing, Thanksgiving!
In love and great hope, Pastor Keith.
The Quill Monthly Column – October 2020
Change is in the air! Seems most of the time changes in our lives can be challenging, uncomfortable and even unwelcome.
So how do we deal with it? How do we respond to the changing circumstances that we are facing? Daniel, Chapter 2 vs.21 says this,
“He changes times and seasons: He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.”
The first statement made here, is in the word “He”. He, or God, is in control. (Breathing a sigh of relief here) Doesn’t it do our hearts good to know “He” is in charge? “He” is the one who provides the change. “He” is the one who sets those in power.
It’s not an easy thing to endure changes in our lives, especially when it concerns saying goodbye to Pastor Keith, who has been the shepherd of this flock for the past 34 years. Pastor Keith has been a faithful, trustworthy teacher of God’s word and a great example of God’s love to this community and our fellowship. We will miss him here at Community Church.
The season is changing.
As we wish Pastor Keith and Dianne a great retirement, and although they will be missed, we should be encouraged and even excited to enter this new season. We will welcome a new Shepherd. It is good to know that God gives Wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. We can be asking the Lord for wisdom and knowledge for ourselves, for our leaders, and for those in the Pastoral Search Committee.
We can trust the Lord. Jesus is our strength and the glue that holds us together as family. Seems as we face these changes, however uncomfortable at times, they are causing us to seek Him more, and that’s always a good thing!
1 Chronicles 16:10-12 Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.
Rejoice! Even in these uncertain times. The Lord hears us, loves us and answers our prayers. I’m grateful for our fellowship, and grateful for those who are willing to give of their time and resources, regardless of the curve balls life seems to throw. In this new season, let’s work to draw closer than ever! Let’s call and encourage one another with our new calling ministry (Thanks Linda!) Let’s pray with each other, or just listen. Maybe send a card to someone… You will know, as the Lord leads and as we seek Him for His Wisdom, Knowledge and Discernment.
Crystal (Administrative Assistant, Community Church of Moab)
Keith’s Quill – September 2020
A very wise pastor and a very good man visited me during my first month of my first full time pastorate. He shared with me a verse from I Timothy. Actually he wrote it long hand in a handbook that he also gave me. His name was Marshall Shirer. In the New English translation the verse reminds us of this. “The aim of our charge (ministry) is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
This has been my mission statement over all these years of ministry. For me, to help people on to love has been my purpose and prayer. I know that means love that comes as a result of one’s faith in Jesus and the virtues that then surface in a faithful believer’s life. As I end my professional ministry it really is my prayer that God has enabled me to help believers to be loving servants of our Lord Jesus. I know that I have seen that in your lives as we have lived our lives together in the context of Christ’s Church. May love will continue to dominate everything we do.
Since this is the last quill that I will be writing it is important to me that I spend some time here thanking you that have served our church. What an amazingly wonderful people you are. There are far too many to thank each person individually. I wish I could. It is a very long list. You have gone far beyond normal to help and support Dianne and I through these years of ministry. And sense this article may very well go beyond Moab to a number who have supported and encouraged me over the years this thank you is for you too. I don’t feel like I have deserved the blessing that have come my way because of you. But know that as long as the Lord gives me the ability to remember anything I will be remembering you. If you could do one more thing for me, would you continue to serve our Lord with all your hearts and all your minds.
The next pastor of this church will be a very fortunate person. The reason that is, is because of you. Continue to seek the face of our Lord in all things. Be happy. We have gone through some deep water together over the years, but the Lord has brought us through every time, and He will continue to be faithful. Dianne and I want you all to know that we love each of you and that each one of you have been a blessing to our lives in some way. We plan for the time being to be around Moab until the Lord gives us a new plan. I will not be your pastor, but I will always be your friend. Give to your new pastoral family all the love and support that you have given to us.
The church will continue to be a light to the Moab community and a blessing to God. “The future is as bright as the promises of God.”
Keith’s Quill – August 2020
Have you ever considered the importance of making good decisions? Decisions actually determine the direction of our lives and often our success or failure. It is very important when making a decision that it takes into consideration a great number of factors. The one element that I would like to lift up in this article is the will of God. Of course, knowing the will of God is often the dilemma. The problem lies not in that God would hide this from us but that we are not in a position to allow God to disclose it to us. Paul knew that this would be a major issue in every Christian’s success as a follower of Jesus. He, through the Spirit of God, gives us what is necessary to know God’s will and to make the best decisions from that information. Hear the Word of the Lord from Romans chapter 12 verses 1 and 2.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (NIV)
Do you see the steps we all need to take to know or prove the will of God for our lives? The first is to present ourselves to God as living sacrifices. Knowing God’s will takes commitment from us. In fact it takes total commitment from us. Paul believes and teaches here that this sacrifice of ourselves to God is actually the normal thing to do for those who belong to Christ. Many of us never get beyond step one. We do wish a relationship with God but on our own terms, not His. This will keep us in the dark about His will. The next step, if we are able to get this far, is avoiding the world’s evil influence in our lives. This is all about our thinking and our minds. Once we begin to think like the world the will of God is probably lost to us. Yet most of us are heavily influenced by what is around us. We do allow the world, as some translations put it, to” squeeze us into its mold”. So we have this need to resist thinking like the world. The next step is helpful with this second step. We are to be in the continual process of having our minds renewed so that we can be transformed from what the world would have us believe to what God has revealed to us in His Son and in His Word. If we are not walking with Jesus every day and listening attentively to what God says in the Bible we will fail at this last step. Our human natures will lead us in the wrong direction every time. It is why Jesus big request to all of us is to follow Him. It is in this following that we will find His way and be able to discern the will of God for our own lives. Jesus said he that loses his life shall actually find it. We can make great decisions that will put us in a great place to be who God desires us to be. We can’t do it without following the plan. We need to stop asking what should I do? And start following the one who actually knows what we are to do. I really think this will make a great difference in how we live our lives and how fruitful we will be for the Kingdom of God.
Keith’s Quill – July 2020
We are getting ready this week to celebrate our Independence as a nation. It seems like only a while back that I was graduating from seminary in 1976. It was the bi-centennial year. I still have a bag of bi-centennial money that I collected during that year and a few years beyond. That two hundredth year anniversary has now come to be two hundred and forty-four. Those years have seen our country live through a lot. We have made tremendous progress in some areas. Who would have thought you could talk to someone around the world from just about anywhere else. The internet is still a puzzle to most of us, but we use it every day and would be lost without it. Very few if any knew. How could we have imagined that sitting in Moab, Utah we could order most anything for sale and have it delivered to our door in two days. Most of us are not good at photography, yet most all of us can now take a great picture using a phone. That picture can be sent anywhere to another phone or computer instantly. Who knew that we would be able to chat with our family and watch our grandchildren take their first steps live and in beautiful color right from our couch hundreds of miles away? Who would have thought when I graduated from seminary that all the books I could possible ever want to read or study would be available on my computer screen or on my phone? And just think that you can have any word spelled for you and about any bit of information you might desire just by asking a little digital assistant we call Alexa. Or for that matter, Googling it. I have satellite receiver in my car and in my house. And they are not very large dishes anymore but very capable of amazing things. Yet with all these advancements we are still struggling to have a civil discussion on anything the slight bit controversial. Technology keeps growing but people keep growing apart. Now we have a problem with a virus that we can’t seem to solve that is tearing us further apart. I might be so bold to write here that forty-four years ago I finished 20 years of school believing that I had the answer to everything. I just knew that Jesus could solve any problem and fix any situation if we would allow Him to do so. I still think so. My pessimism comes from watching so many for so long not turning His direction even when they know they should. Our confidence in our science and technology has taken over our minds and our hearts. When they fail we are so lost! There is hope. We are constantly reminded in Scripture to turn back to the Lord. If we do so He will hear us and heal our hearts. I wonder if our culture might be racing toward a break, but even so we don’t need to be. God can save us one person at a time. We must be born again. The same message that I began with forth-four years ago is still the solution. Without personal faith in Jesus there is really no hope for us. Let’s continue to be the light even if the world hides it’s face from it. Never give up and never give in.
God is transcendent and He will prevail.
Keith’s Quill – June 2020
Greetings everyone! We are now beginning the thirteenth week of the shutdown due to the coved-19 Coronavirus. We have now met on three weeks with a limited program and a few attendees. I thought I would take my space in the Newsletter to assess how we are doing as a church through this time. The general atmosphere among our people is good.We all wish to be back at church in a normal service schedule. The praise team is practicing and providing worship in their normal pattern. I am still working on Sunday messages and we are getting those to you either in video or audio formats.
At this time we are not having any youth activities. We do provide each week a Sunday School lesson from Group Publishing. As of May 31st packets are available for children to use during the worship service. The Boards met for the first time on May 27th. The main topic of discussion was the pastoral search. Arrangements are being made and a search committee will be formed in the next few weeks. Your prayers are asked for this important committee as they begin their work. The virus will make it more difficult for the committee as they seek a new pastor.
We did cancel Vacation Bible School this year. It is the first year in many, many years that we have not had a vibrant Bible School. I read the other day that Cheyenne Frontier Days is cancelled this year. They have not had to do that for 124 years. These days are definitely challenging for many people. We surprisingly have not had many requests for aid during this crisis. It could be that when the workman’s compensation ends that we will. It is hoped by then that people in our community will be back to their normal jobs and incomes.
Our financial situation in the church is still very good. Thank you to all of you who have kept up with your giving to the church during this time. Mark Curnutte continues to keep our church property in wonderful shape during this time. He works very hard at it and puts in many hours each week. Be sure and thank him when you see him. I am sure that this crisis has been difficult for our missionaries. It not only has kept them from their work but has additionally caused a drop in their support. They also need our prayers. With the loosening of the government restrictions we anticipate opening back up our church office to normal operations.
If you would like to drop by and chat feel free to do so. This is going to be a crazy and perhaps a difficult summer. We do need to stay together as a family even though we might see less of each other for this season. I would suggest that we make it a priority to keep in touch with those people we know in our church. It is okay at this time to get together in small groups for study and prayer or just as an encouragement. A phone call or text is another great way to stay connected. I trust we will be willing to do so. God is good.God is good, all the time!
Keith’s Quill – May 2020
These have been weird and strange days! Especially for the church. We have been worshipping in new ways now for seven weeks. There have been some blessings that have come out of this for us as a church. We are learning to do online worship. This we hope to continue in the future even when we are able to come together again. This ministry has reached people that we have never been able to minister to before. I even have family members that have never seen me preach that are tuning in. The messages are available on our Facebook page at Moab Community Church on Sunday’s at 8:00 a.m. They are also placed on our webpage, moabcommunitychurch.com, where they remain for you to access.
Of course, all of us wish for the regular services to begin again. We are preparing for this to happen. As long as the virus is a threat we will need to make a number of modifications to how we meet. Social distancing needs to stay in affect so sitting together with friends takes on a new challenge. We will not pass out bulletins or really pass anything that requires anyone to touch it. This changes how we receive offerings and take communion. For a while I am sure that we will be required to wear masks. I’m talking about the ones that cover the nose and mouth now! It will be difficult to be together and not have our usual hugs and handshakes but refraining from them will be a necessity. Also I feel like I must caution those in the older age brackets to think about their participation. With the wave of tourists that begin to come back to Moab this weekend we will be at higher risk then has been true for the first two months of this crisis.
The last thing I want to happen is for our older congregants to get sick with this virus. Since I am actually in the age group at jeopardy I will try to be careful of my interactions as well. Initially we will opt out of Children’s church and fellowship time. We will have something for the kids during the worship service. Everyone will be invited to bring their own coffee. Extra cleaning and sanitizing will be done, and the use of restrooms might be limited. (Maybe we should rethink bringing coffee.) Our plan at the moment is to see how the new normal with tourists back in town affects the amount of positive cases. If there is nominal affect we might be able to begin with services by mid-May. This will be in some regard dictated by the state and local authorities.
We have been put into a position by this situation to either grow or diminish in our faith. My prayer is that we all grow and develop during this time. God is still good and good all the time. May Jesus bring us all comfort, peace and great hope as we wait upon Him. Love to each of you. -PK
Keith’s Quill – March 2020
As I am writing this quill, it is the Tuesday before what we call Ash Wednesday. Some people celebrate today as “Fat Tuesday”. It is called that I suppose because of the practice of eating very high calorie desserts on this day. Of course, it is Mardi Gras also with all the celebrating that goes along with it. All of this festivity and eating of sweets is to prepare folks for the sacrifices called for during the Lenten season. Lent is a time of repentance and dedication that is to prepare the hearts of Christians for Easter and the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. A number of Christian groups have ashes put on their foreheads as a symbol of repentance and as a reminder that life is short and there is a need to prepare for eternity. Ash Wednesday to Easter is a reminder of the forty days that Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert while dealing with the great temptations. There are obviously more than forty days between Easter and Ash Wednesday. The churches that participate in these liturgical rituals generally will not count the Sundays that occur during the Lenten season thus the forty days. Even though as a church we do not observe the Lenten season we do like to remind each other that these days approaching the Resurrection Day can be very special to us and occasions for us to seek a more intentional relationship with the Lord through repentance and faith.
Some of us have actually had times in our lives when during this season we gave something we really liked up as a sacrifice to the Lord. I gave up chocolate one year. I don’t know that this induced anything in me but perhaps pride. Here is a list of things we might give up in preparation of our resurrection celebration that might actually encourage us and bless others. We might give up gossip, lying, unforgiveness, hate, greed, malice, envy, and cursing. You may add to the list of those evil actions that tear people down and do nothing to add to anyone’s spiritual growth. It is necessary when we are giving things up to add something to our lives. So a short list of those actions might be helpful here. How about adding to our lives love, faith, hope, joy, prayer, fellowshipping with others, walking with Jesus daily, and sharing our faith.
One of the reasons that people walk around with ashes on their foreheads when it would be quite acceptable to immediately wash them off is to have people ask them what is going on with their messy faces. It is an opportunity to witness to the love of Christ and His wonderful gift of redemption by His death and Resurrection. I think that when we sacrifice something for the Lord during Lent there is a tendency to look at ourselves with pride in what we have done. The purpose of Lent, if we are indeed to celebrate it at all, should be to give glory to the Lord. The Apostle Peter in his second letter writes this to the church concerning adding things to their lives. “To your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8) Have a wonderful month. Make it profitable for you and for the kingdom. -PK
Keith’s Quill – February 2020
Love is in the air! Do you sense it? Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to express our love to the people in our lives. I know that it is one of those commercialized days that make chocolate makers and card distributors, and florists very happy. But still, even those folks give us a way to express our affection. Love is the way we show ourselves loyal to Jesus too. Christians are to be identified in the world by showing love to people.
This includes everyone. It is not about showing love to the people we like but even the people who we don’t. Jesus taught us to love our enemies. I think we have probably forgotten how to do this. Most of us are more skilled at taking advantage of our enemies then we are at loving them.
Our polarized world puts us into different camps. Loving the opposition party or the people we differ with theologically is an easy fail. When we think of what it means to love those who we don’t actually like we need to consider what our faith teaches us. Turning the other check or going the extra mile are concepts that Jesus taught us. He instructed us in this behavior in the context of those who abuse us, or seek to take advantage of us. It is during these testing times that our love for people and their broken condition stands out to them and to the world around us. We are also to have compassion upon those who are struggling. When we see anyone hurting it really should be very difficult for a believer to look away.
Although we have read and heard the message of 1 Corinthians 13 many, many times it is still important that we buy into the real essence of love. It has very little to do with feelings, and very much to do with our actions toward others.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-8
If you could pick one of those virtues to practice that Paul tells us de- scribes love, what would you pick? I think I would like to be identified with kindness. It just seems to me that if we are kind then we probably
will demonstrate most of those other virtues also. May you give and receive love in these days. And may it extend far beyond this month. Be kind.
Keith’s Quill – November 2019
It seems like we have gone from summer to winter. I know that all of you living in Moab and most every other place in the country have the same feeling. There is just something about change that makes us uncomfortable. Most of us are not even happy with changing the time forward and back every year. However, change is constantly happening around us. The better we adapt to it the better off we will be. Most of you know that our church will be headed for a change next fall. I will be retiring so there will need to be a change of pastor and all the things that change with such an event. This can be and we hope will be, a good change for the church. It is impossible for us to estimate the blessings of being in Moab for all these years. We certainly hope that you reading this have felt the same way. Moving on to new leadership and new, fresh ideas and energy will be exciting for the church. I hope that you will all join me in praying for these next ten months and for the work that will be done to prepare for this transition in our church. Prayer is the key to seeing a wonderful thing happen, as you find a new person to come and share your lives and encourage your faith. I will be working diligently in these last months to make this time very profitable for you. May I encourage you to get even more engaged in this church’s life? We are going to need every person being a part of this new thing that God will be doing. God has gifted each of you with a gift that you can use to make the ministry here a strong and healthy one. We do need you. I know that it is a temptation to withdraw at times like these and just wait to see what is going to happen. I hope none of you do that. Now is the time to build new excitement about the future of this church. The best gift you can give me as I leave the leadership of Community Church is a commitment to make this church very successful in the future. Let me say a word to those of you under fifty. The future of this church ultimately rests in your hands. Much of the leadership now is well over sixty. They are still active and very much the heart of our leadership now. But they will not be able to carry the load for much longer. They need younger people with families and with families that are growing up to come and take your place at the head of the table. I have been here long enough to have watched that happen in the past. It has to happen again. Moab Community Church is a church that needs to help lead this community in the causes God holds dear. We are an important part of what God is doing and what He is able to do for this community. I just pray that many of you will catch the vision of who the church can be, what an influence it has had, and can have in the future.
So let’s work together without fear, but with great hope for what the Lord is going to do in the next decade in the life of our church. I am so excited about where you as a body of Christ will go from here. I am committed to you for the next ten months to getting us ready for the next big thing. Now is the time for each of you to pray about your part and come together to see God do great things. Have an amazing, Thanksgiving! In love and great hope, Pastor Keith.
Keith’s Quill – September 2019
September has always been one of my favorite months. This is especially true since coming to Moab. The weather turns really nice here for a rather long time now. Going outside anytime of the day is comfortable and doing whatever you wish to do is generally possible.
So now that we have choices concerning what we will do with our time? I know that some of you are looking forward to a hunt or two. Some of us are signed up for Fantasy football so that wonderful season is underway. High school sports will take up some of our time and for some of you most of your time. So we have all these choices and all this time.
God has given us these gifts. We won’t always have them. For everyone time runs out. For most of us the choices we are making now will be made for us. I have been so privileged to have walked with so many of our church family through this transition. I know that most of those who have passed through it generally wish they had some of those days back. It wasn’t that the choices of how they used their time was bad or immoral in any way. It generally comes down to having chosen selfishly and spent their time doing their own thing.
That in itself is sometimes important to do. But a life spent entirely on oneself is a life wasted. We are not called to please ourselves and indulge ourselves at every turn. We are to be sacrificial with both our time and the choices we make in this world. Those who make these kinds of choices generally end up with little regret.
So, in this amazing season that we are into this year. It will be easy to choose to be self-absorbed. Being able to do what we want is a gift that is better given away and exchanged for doing what God has called us to do. If we have one common psychological problem as a nation it is Narcissism.
The term originated from Greek mythology, where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. Do we wish to see our own image or the image of God within us reflected to our world? Absolutely, do enjoy your fall! I plan to! It is great to have this season. My point is that we can be productive for the Kingdom of God while we enjoy His world. It is wrong for us who know Him to enjoy His world without being productive for His Kingdom.