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Persistence in Prayer: Our Best Hope

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 01/11/2021 - 11:00

Living under a sense of injustice is one of the most corroding experiences to the human spirit. It can trigger unrelieved anger, cynicism, a desire for revenge. Or it can bring on depression, lapses into passivity, or an ongoing preoccupation with a burning grievance.  

Jesus knew that his followers would face injustices of many kinds, and that during some periods of their history injustice would be more intense than at other times. That is why his followers needed teaching about how to respond. 

According to Jesus, in Luke 18, the first response to injustice in life should be prevailing prayer. He said to his followers that “they should always pray and not give up” (v. 1).

Then, to underline the point, he told them a story about a woman seeking justice.  

The judge in the story was both godless and cold toward human need. We can guess he was available only to people who could pay up. 

But the woman who needed his help was a widow, completely on her own. The only one who could help her was this judge, who lived across town, but she could not pay. What to do?

The widow trekked across town, knocked at the judge’s door, and waited. The judge’s clerk opened the door, saw at a glance the marks of her poverty, and slammed the door. She had no chance to present her plea.

But the next morning, though weary, she made the same trek. This time the judge’s assistant directed a mouthful of abuse at her and slammed the door again. For several days she got the same response. But she kept on. 

Then came a surprise. One morning the judge’s assistant greeted her with a legal paper in hand. It assured her of the protection she needed. Her persistence had won for her the security she had pleaded for. 

Why did the judge yield to her repeated entreaties? It was not that his heart had warmed. Jesus explained that the judge had yielded because he began to fear that if he didn’t meet her need she might even attack him. The constancy and intensity of her asking had won her case!   

Why then dwell on injustices that cripple our spirits? If a heartless judge can be moved to do the right thing by persistent appeals, why not believe that unceasing prayers to a loving Heavenly Father, offered earnestly and repeatedly, will bring justice in this world or the next (Luke 18:6-7)?

Jesus then attached this question (v. 8): “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” That is, will there be believers who are practicing intense prayer to overcome the injustices that plague them? 

This was Jesus’ searching question to his disciples two thousand years ago, and it is still addressed to his followers today. We must answer it individually.

Photo credit: Ninac26 (via flickr.com)

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Re-post: A Jolly Plane Ride into the New Year

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 01/04/2021 - 11:00

In uncertain times, you would not expect to be treated to comedy while buckled into an airline seat soon to hurtle through the skies at an elevation of five miles above the earth.

But that is what happened a few years ago when Kathleen and I flew from Toronto to Tampa, Florida, on a morning flight. The departure was delayed by an hour because of a minor mechanical problem.

During that time, the passengers, mostly seniors, sat waiting quietly in the boarding area. Then the wheelchair brigade was first taken aboard and seated. When the rest of us were settled in our seats, the pilot appeared at the bulkhead of the cabin, smiling, with mic in hand, and the merriment began.

He announced that the flight was ready to depart but feigned confusion about its destination. He asked a man seated near the bulkhead, “Where’s this flight going?” This brought a ripple of laughter from the passengers. He then put us at ease by explaining the delay and giving various flight details.

Then came the flight attendants’ routine to inform us about seat belts, seat backs, tray tables, life jackets, and overhead bins. One of the three attendants had taken her place at the bulkhead to demonstrate the procedures while a second one out of sight added instructions over the public address.

Her first announcement welcomed us aboard Flight 2088, which she said nonchalantly, was headed for Yellowknife (the capital of the Northwest Territories, 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle).

“If you are not satisfied with the services of this airline,” she went on cordially, “there are six exits on this plane.” Straight-faced, the attendant doing the demonstration pointed out their locations. The laughter was genuine but not loud.

The attendant on the mic instructed us that should there be any need to use the oxygen masks while in flight they would drop down automatically. We were to put them on over our mouth and nose, pull the elastic band over our heads, tighten the straps, and wear them for two weeks.

At that point the attendant in the aisle held up a big yellow life jacket and slipped it over her head, tying the strings. Should we be required to use these jackets, the voiceover said, we could keep them as mementos, courtesy of the airline.

“If anyone is caught smoking in the restrooms in flight,” she went on, “they will be asked to leave the plane immediately.”

Then came her last bit of instruction. “If you find that the services of this airline do not meet your expectations, we suggest you lower your expectations.”

Kathleen and I had had the same flight attendant a week earlier for our flight from Tampa to Toronto, and she had treated us to the same light-hearted, comedic spirit. On that flight she told us the following story.

Three airline pilots were walking along a beach when they spotted a bottle in the water. They picked it up, uncorked it, and out came a genie who said, “You each may have any wish you ask for.”

The first pilot said he would like to be smarter than his two buddies on the plane, and his eyes were suddenly bright with superior intelligence.

The second said he would like to be more intelligent than all the other pilots serving that airline, and he too was filled with wisdom that appeared to change his countenance.

The third said he would like to be smarter than all the pilots in North America — and he was instantly changed into a flight attendant.

I read recently that children laugh about eight times more than adults on any one day. Here’s your chance to even the score, remembering, with the writer of the Proverbs, that “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Prov. 17:22 KJV).

Photo credit: waferboard (via flickr.com)

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Parent Cue Cards – January 3rd

Mark Hughes (Church of the Rock) - Sat, 01/02/2021 - 23:13

Hi Parents,

You can use the below activities to engage in fun and conversation with your kids over the week.

Preschool
Elementary
Salvation Guide
Kidz Rock Spotify

Check out our ongoing resources for each age group:

The post Parent Cue Cards – January 3rd appeared first on Church of The Rock.

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Collide – January 3rd

Mark Hughes (Church of the Rock) - Sat, 01/02/2021 - 23:00

Collide Discussion Questions
Check out our COLLIDE Spotify Playlist!

Decision

Check out our ongoing resources for each age group:

And don’t forget to follow Kidz Rock on Facebook and Instagram!

   

The post Collide – January 3rd appeared first on Church of The Rock.

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Preschool – January 3rd

Mark Hughes (Church of the Rock) - Sat, 01/02/2021 - 23:00

ACTIVITY PAGES TO DOWNLOAD
SPOTIFY PLAYLIST

Worship Video

Check out our ongoing resources for each age group: And don’t forget to follow Kidz Rock on Facebook and Instagram!

   

The post Preschool – January 3rd appeared first on Church of The Rock.

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Elementary – January 3rd

Mark Hughes (Church of the Rock) - Sat, 01/02/2021 - 23:00

ACTIVITIES FOR THIS LESSON

Worship Video

 

Check out our ongoing resources for each age group: And don’t forget to follow Kidz Rock on Facebook and Instagram!

   

The post Elementary – January 3rd appeared first on Church of The Rock.

Categories: Churchie Feeds

The (Not So) Final Countdown

Mark Hughes (Church of the Rock) - Wed, 12/30/2020 - 01:57

We want to celebrate together!

We may not be partying until midnight for New Year’s Eve, but from 7:30-9:00 PM you’re sure to have a good time connecting with us on Zoom.

The (Not So) Final Countdown
Thurs, Dec. 31
7:30 PM
Zoom link:
zoom.us/j/98181805353?pwd=T1A2OTVzNVpzLys3Nml3YWVNVllnUT09

• Scavenger Hunt
(in the comfort of your home)
• 2020 reminiscing
• Jackbox Games

Let’s make 2021 a year we can look forward to by connecting with others.

A new line up of events coming to you soon.

And don’t forget to follow Engage Young Adults on Facebook and Instagram!

   

The post The (Not So) Final Countdown appeared first on Church of The Rock.

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Will It Be Secularism or Faith in 2021?

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 12/28/2020 - 11:00

For thirteen years I was pastor of a congregation that met across the street from a Christian college. I had many contacts with the students and heard their varied life experiences. It was during the years when faith-denying influences were attempting to supplant Judeo-Christian foundations with a faith-denying secularism.

Some conversations were about happy things — like wedding plans. Others had to do with working through highly personal problems. Yet others were about distressing circumstances and the need to find the best path forward. I carry the memories of many of those conversations to this day.  

One campus event, however, seemed to stun the whole student body. A member of the basketball team took a bad fall during a game. Unconscious, he was rushed to the local hospital and then transferred to a university hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. He died from a massive brain hemorrhage.

A pall fell over the college when his death was announced. Death wasn’t supposed to be a part of these young lives. Some were silent. Some asked, “Where is God in this?” Students came two or three at a time to a prayer room at the church. 

Why such an unyielding pall? Possibly because young people are geared for life, not death. Youth is for action, growth, new experiences, and long-term dreams. Death is generally not considered a reality to be reckoned with.

That shocking event took place more than fifty years ago. In our present era a shock of vaster proportions than the college death has struck us close at hand. It affects the whole of North American culture. Covid-19 has brought the word “death” back into daily conversation.

What can secularism say to this word? It may try to reassure by explaining that the percentage of deaths, as the virus works its way through communities everywhere, is relatively small even among the elderly. Also, we hear that science is coming to the rescue with effective vaccines. We are profoundly grateful for good news. But in spite of these blessings, secularism has nothing to counter death generally. 

A few days ago I discussed this matter with a well-informed friend. Why the increase in suicides, depression, a general undercurrent of uneasiness? I wondered. It’s a complex question. Among the answers is a deep-below-the-surface fear of death.

My friend’s opinion was that secularism has been settling on our culture for decades and is inimical to Judeo-Christian foundations. As a consequence, there is no place for death in life’s sequence of events, although death is destined for all.

This in turn brings forth the inescapable question for those without faith: After death, what then? Oblivion? Endless sleep? Some sort of vague reckoning? Secularism has no satisfactory answer. Therefore, for those in our own culture without faith the question about death is often met with denial or silence.  

I write as a Christian. I believe that hope for this life and the life to come is the twin blessing promised to those who have a living faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said to the grieving Martha when she wept over her brother Lazarus’s death: 

I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. (John 11:25-26)

Christianity does not dismiss or diminish death. Its reality remains for all. But a living faith in the Lord Jesus, who indeed conquered death, removes the sting of death and gives the promise of joy at the end of our earthly journey.

Photo credit: Gedalya AKA David Gott (via flickr.com)

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Collide – December 27th

Mark Hughes (Church of the Rock) - Sat, 12/26/2020 - 23:00

Collide Discussion Questions
Check out our COLLIDE Spotify Playlist!

Decision

Check out our ongoing resources for each age group:

And don’t forget to follow Kidz Rock on Facebook and Instagram!

   

The post Collide – December 27th appeared first on Church of The Rock.

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Preschool – December 27th

Mark Hughes (Church of the Rock) - Sat, 12/26/2020 - 23:00

ACTIVITY PAGES TO DOWNLOAD
SPOTIFY PLAYLIST

Worship Video

Check out our ongoing resources for each age group: And don’t forget to follow Kidz Rock on Facebook and Instagram!

   

The post Preschool – December 27th appeared first on Church of The Rock.

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Elementary – December 27th

Mark Hughes (Church of the Rock) - Sat, 12/26/2020 - 23:00

ACTIVITIES FOR THIS LESSON

Worship Video

 

Check out our ongoing resources for each age group: And don’t forget to follow Kidz Rock on Facebook and Instagram!

   

The post Elementary – December 27th appeared first on Church of The Rock.

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Parent Cue Cards – December 27th

Mark Hughes (Church of the Rock) - Sat, 12/26/2020 - 23:00

Hi Parents,

You can use the below activities to engage in fun and conversation with your kids over the week.

Preschool
Elementary
Salvation Guide
Kidz Rock Spotify

Check out our ongoing resources for each age group:

The post Parent Cue Cards – December 27th appeared first on Church of The Rock.

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Re-post: Questions for Mary, Jesus’ Mother

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 12/21/2020 - 11:00

Saint Luke tells with amazing brevity the story of the Angel Gabriel’s announcement to the Virgin Mary: You are to be the mother of the Messiah. Mary’s initial response, her subsequent visit with cousin Elizabeth, and her beautiful song of worship are all recorded in few words (Luke 1:26-56). 

And so there is a lot we do not know. Were responses in the rest of her family and community as serene and poetic as Mary’s? And what about her parents? After all, how could such an announcement from a young, unmarried woman fail to land with jarring impact? 

How did Mary’s mother find out about her daughter’s pregnancy? What was her first response? Imagine if a teenage girl today should say to her mother, “An angel appeared to me yesterday and told me I’m going to have a baby without any man’s involvement.” And how did her father take the news?

Then there’s Joseph, the man she was pledged to marry. Matthew tells us simply that Mary “was found to be with child…” (1:18) Had her parents told Joseph, or did she tell him herself?  

In Matthew 1:13-25 we see that, however he got the news, at first he was understandably upset. His immediate impulse was to break the engagement (actually to divorce her according to Jewish customs at the time). But he would do so as quietly as possible so as not to subject her to public disgrace.

An angel had to appear to Joseph in a dream to change his mind. He then took Mary into his home, though they were not intimate, Matthew tells us, until after the baby was born.  

And what was Mary’s state of mind during all of this?

Then I’m curious about Mary’s trip to be with her aged cousin, Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56). It is likely that Elizabeth and Zechariah, her husband, lived in Hebron, a town some distance south of Jerusalem, and 80 miles or more from Nazareth.

How does this carefully chaperoned young woman (according to the customs of the times) get from her home to that distant place? One assumes she walked. But was it with her father? Or a caravan of travelers? Where would she have stayed overnight during this three- or four-day trip?

Then, after staying three months with Elizabeth, she returned to Nazareth. How did the community respond to her now-obvious pregnancy? And how would Mary have dealt with probable shunning and scorn?  

I believe Luke, the careful historian, would have known the answers to these questions. He says his research had been thorough (1:3). Years later he may have visited with Mary in Ephesus where the Apostle John is said to have taken her to live out her days. 

If he had such firsthand information, why did he not tell us? It must be because he isn’t writing a novelette to portray human conflict and struggle. He’s reporting on the coming of God into our world in human form. And on the Virgin Mary’s willingness to be the servant of the Almighty in bringing into the world the Messiah. Above all, he’s writing the story of redemption. Joy is the dominant note.

Only later, a man named Simeon, a devout worshiper of God, prophesies to Mary that later in her life her suffering will be great as a part of this mission, telling her “a sword will pierce your own soul, too” (Luke 2:35).

So, what does all of this say about Mary? There’s no indication in the gospel accounts that Mary was to be worshiped or treated as other than one of us. But she is to be deeply admired as a devout young Jewish girl who has kept herself pure and is selected (with her assent) by the Almighty to be the bearer of the Messiah. 

We have many unanswered questions. But, during Advent, Mary should be held up as a model of openness to God’s will. Her response to Gabriel’s announcement rings down the centuries: “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept anything he wants. May everything you have said come true” (Luke 1:38 NLT).

Photo credit: Randy Son of Robert (via flickr.com)

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Preschool – December 20th

Mark Hughes (Church of the Rock) - Sat, 12/19/2020 - 23:00

ACTIVITY PAGES TO DOWNLOAD
SPOTIFY PLAYLIST

Worship Video

Check out our ongoing resources for each age group: And don’t forget to follow Kidz Rock on Facebook and Instagram!

   

The post Preschool – December 20th appeared first on Church of The Rock.

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Collide – December 20th

Mark Hughes (Church of the Rock) - Sat, 12/19/2020 - 23:00

Collide Discussion Questions
Check out our COLLIDE Spotify Playlist!

Decision

Check out our ongoing resources for each age group:

And don’t forget to follow Kidz Rock on Facebook and Instagram!

   

The post Collide – December 20th appeared first on Church of The Rock.

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Elementary – December 20th

Mark Hughes (Church of the Rock) - Sat, 12/19/2020 - 23:00

ACTIVITIES FOR THIS LESSON

Worship Video

 

Check out our ongoing resources for each age group: And don’t forget to follow Kidz Rock on Facebook and Instagram!

   

The post Elementary – December 20th appeared first on Church of The Rock.

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Parent Cue Cards – December 20th

Mark Hughes (Church of the Rock) - Sat, 12/19/2020 - 23:00

Hi Parents,

You can use the below activities to engage in fun and conversation with your kids over the week.

Preschool
Elementary
Salvation Guide
Kidz Rock Spotify

Check out our ongoing resources for each age group:

The post Parent Cue Cards – December 20th appeared first on Church of The Rock.

Categories: Churchie Feeds

High School Ministry – Dec 14th

Mark Hughes (Church of the Rock) - Mon, 12/14/2020 - 16:18

Dear Parents & Students,
We will have multiple meetings as we hunker down in 2nd lockdown.
We will be hosting times to hang out with our students so please take a look at our schedule. Please download Discord to stay up to date!

Here’s what you need to know!
First, please download Discord for your device! You can do this by downloading the application here.
Second, add yourself to our High School Ministry Discord Server by clicking THIS LINK.

We will keep you informed on what’s coming up AND spontaneous hangouts!

This week’s events!

Among Us

Monday (Dec 14th) & Tuesday (Dec 15th) @ 2:00pm-2:45pm
JOIN on Discord HERE

&


 Krismas Kahoot!
Friday – Dec 18th – 7:30pm-8:30pm
We are giving out TWO McDonalds meal this Friday! HO HO HO! Giving out all the gifts! Last week we played Whisper Challenge! We change it last minute. So this event is now correct!
Join us on Zoom by clicking here.

The post High School Ministry – Dec 14th appeared first on Church of The Rock.

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Threshold Jr – Dec 14th!

Mark Hughes (Church of the Rock) - Mon, 12/14/2020 - 16:14


***ANNOUNCEMENT***
Dear students and parents! We have introduced a new way (in addition to Zoom) for our students to connect during the lockdown! And it’s been a lot of fun! We will have spontaneous and scheduled meetings prompted over Discord.

Here’s what you need to know:
First, create a Discord user by downloading the application here.
Second, sign on to our Threshold Jr Discord server by clicking here.
You’ll be up to speed throughout the week!

This week!

Kristmas Kahoot!
December 16th – Wednesday 7-8:30 pm
Everyone can join this fun Christmas trivia games for a free McDonalds meal!  We’re giving away two meals this night! This will also be our last service until January! But we will still be meeting over Discord and playing Among Us!
To join our Zoom service CLICK HERE.

&


Tuesday – Dec 15th – 3:30pm-4:15pm
Join us on Discord! Click here!

Next week!

December 23rd – December 30th
We won’t have regular Wednesday night services BUT we will still meet for Among Us on Dec 22nd & 29th at 3:30pm!

The post Threshold Jr – Dec 14th! appeared first on Church of The Rock.

Categories: Churchie Feeds

Why Was the Priest Punished?

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 12/14/2020 - 11:00

When I first read about the penalty of silence the angel Gabriel imposed on the aged priest, Zechariah, the punishment seemed too severe. Had he not merely asked the angel for clarification? 

Let’s review the story, as found in Luke 1. Zechariah was on duty at the temple in Jerusalem. He had been assigned by lot to offer up incense in the Holy Place next to the Holy of Holies. A great number of worshipers were in prayer outside. This was a sacred moment.

Suddenly the angel Gabriel appeared to the right of the altar of incense. He addressed Zechariah, who was gripped with fear. 

The angel told him that his prayer had been heard and he and his wife, Elizabeth, were going to have a son, who was to be named John. Across the years the couple must have offered up many seemingly unanswered prayers for a child. Perhaps by the time of this announcement, they had given up on this prayer since Elizabeth was past childbearing years. 

Gabriel then unfolded the promise: You will be filled with joy. Many will rejoice with you. This will be a special child. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth and will bring spiritual renewal to Israel. It will be as though the prophet Elijah has come back to bring spiritual healing to a nation in distress. The angel’s speech is full of promise.

The aged Zechariah then asked a simple question: How can I be sure of all this? My wife is aged; I’m an old man. He is understandably perplexed in the face of facts.

The angel responded rather sternly: I am Gabriel, he said, and I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent with this good news. But because of your cool response you will be unable to speak until all I promise has come to pass. 

There’s no question about the priest’s character nor of that of his wife. Both are descendants of Aaron, Moses’ brother, who was the father of the priestly line for Israel. 

In addition to this excellent pedigree, here are the couple’s credentials: Both are righteous as God sees them. They take seriously the laws he has given his Chosen People. From all appearances they are solid and upright Israelites. 

Even so, they have a great heartache. Across a long marriage they have remained childless. Elizabeth has not been able to conceive, and they are now both advanced in years. Gabriel’s message should have awakened joy.

My initial lack of understanding about the angel’s severe sentence would have been relieved if I had read the account more carefully. What reason does Gabriel give Zechariah for the penalty he has imposed? “You did not believe my words,” the angel pronounces. Unbelief!

Despite all of the priest’s ritual observances and faithfulness to his priestly duties, Zechariah reveals an unbelieving heart. He’s not wicked. There’s no trace of bitterness. But a living faith has been diminished deep within, perhaps beaten down by unfilled expectations. Gabriel’s words have come too late, Zechariah must be thinking. He is infected with a hidden distrust of God. 

The Bible has an unusual amount to say about this condition. The psalmist, for example, thinks back to memories of God’s people and their wilderness journey, and says: How often they rebelled against God in the wilderness (Psalm 78:40). They had mistrusted God’s messages repeatedly.

Jesus, our Lord, faced unbelief in his followers frequently. They often completely missed or resisted the truth even though it was given to them by the Incarnate Son of God. On one occasion Jesus said to a gathering: “But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe” (John 6:36). 

And a generation or so later the Christians addressed in the Hebrew letter are warned of this condition: “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has an unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). Unbelief has been a peril from Jesus’ time right to the present.

But it is a correctable condition. Many months after Gabriel rebuked Zechariah, the baby arrived. On the day of his circumcision and naming, neighbors and friends have gathered, assuming that the child will be named after his father — Zechariah. That was a deeply ingrained cultural custom. 

Elizabeth says, “No, he is to be called, John” (Luke 1:60). They turn to Zechariah, sure that he will favor his own name. Instead, he writes on a tablet, “His name shall be John” (1:63).  

That was the name ordered by the angel at the altar of incense many months earlier: Instantly Zechariah’s speech returns, and he is filled with praises recorded in Luke 1:67 and following. Unbelief has been reversed and a living faith restored.

It can be so for any today when faith grows cold, too. As with Zechariah, unbelief can be recognized and replaced with God’s fresh gift of a vital faith.

Image info: The Angel Appearing to Zacharias by William Blake, 1799–1800 (Public Domain)

Categories: Churchie Feeds

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