Instructions for this Sunday (3/29/2020)

Church Family,

We will meet this Sunday again through Facebook Live at 10 am.  If you don’t have a Facebook, no worries, just click here and you can watch the Livestream.  After the video, we strongly encourage family worship.  Spend some time together as a family reading scripture (helpful questions to ask here), praying together about what you learned from God’s word and each other, and then singing together these songs:

I identify with Paul’s words to the church in Rome.  He says, “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you [in our case seeing you face to face].  For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthing you–that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine” (Rom 1:9-11).

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Bryan

“How To”

Church Family,

We have made it through another week of Covid-19 and still have many questions ahead of the long term effects this will have on us individually and our life together.  In the meantime, we can continue to be the church through various outlets.  I am encouraged about how many of you are staying connected through those outlets and taking the time to pick up the phone and call one another.  Keep it up!  You cannot imagine how significant it can be for one another.  Below, I put together an instructional video on where to find all our updates, on ways to connect, and how to give online.  Check out the video and let me know if you have any questions.

 

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Bryan

UPDATE: Things to consider this week

Brothers and Sisters,

Sunday was strange indeed for us all.  It was not our usual rhythm that we all long for but was fruitful nonetheless (see Facebook for the Livestream or click here for the video or just the audio).  In the face of all this uncertainty, we, the church, can still be what God has made us; a group of diverse believers who depend on each other to thrive and survive spiritually.  Don’t underestimate your role in our life together, especially now.  Call, text, email, or video chat one another and share burdens, joys, fears, then read God’s Word together and PRAY!  We are better together!

Let me make you aware of a few things that will help keep you connected this week:

  • As always, keep checking Facebook and our news blog, but if you did not know, we have a podcast on iTunes and Spotify.  As of right now, just our sermons go to those podcasts, but with our new reality, we are exploring other ways to make use of a regular podcast (who knows everything is day to day).
  • For your listening pleasure and a way to remind you of the great truths about God, click this link and listen to a suggested playlist to help keep your thoughts on the Lord.
  • We will resume Disciple-Makers this Wednesday at 6:30 pm through Zoom (https://zoom.us/j/907781272).  Many of you already participate in this class, but if you do not, now is a great time to join.  All are welcome.  If you don’t know what it is, let me explain.  Disciple-makers is designed to help equip and encourage a follower of Christ to fulfill their responsibility of making disciples.  It is a course that covers a variety of foundational beliefs, extremely practical ways to read scripture with believers and non-believers, and the ins and outs of how we change.  In essence, it is designed to help us read our bibles well, which is essential for followers of Jesus.  So join us as we continue to talk about practical ways to read our bibles.
  • On Friday at 7 pm, we are having a prayer gathering through Zoom (https://zoom.us/j/701628681).  God has given us a wealth of help in his Word and Prayer.  So make time to join us on Friday to pray.

Let me end with this encouragement.  The essential thing you can do each day is to read God’s Word.  If you have struggled with a consistent pattern of reading God’s Word, now is a great time to begin to develop that rhythm.  Don’t beat yourself up over inconsistency.  A failed attempt is much better than no attempt at all.  We will continue to provide resources to aid you in reading scripture like this PDF that has a few simple questions to guide your reading.  Reading God’s Word will make a tremendous difference in how we respond to uncertainty.  Like I said on Sunday, uncertainty does not often reveal answers, but it most certainly reveals clarity.  Clarity on what is most important, clarity on where our trust lies, clarity on where we should pour our energy.  God is faithful, and we are reminded of that in His Word and prayer.  Let this scripture from Lamentations 3:22-24 wash over you today:

 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” 

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Bryan

Instructs for Sunday (3/22/2020)

Church Family,

This Sunday will be a first for not only us but churches across the United States and World at large.  Suspending our gathering time, though it is best now, is always difficult for the Local Church.  With that said, you/we can still enjoy God’s Word in our homes and with our families.  Below, I want to give you some instructions on what we encourage for this Sunday.

  • At 10 am Sunday, go to our Facebook page or click here to watch a Livestream from me on a short unpacking of 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 and some instructions.

 

  • After watching the Livestream, do a Family Worship.  Don’t let this intimidate you and don’t limit this concept to families with smaller children–this should be done with husband and wife as well.  It’s simple, do these three things (I strongly encourage watching this video for a great explanation)

 

  • If you have smaller kiddos, download these PDFs from the scheduled lesson for this Sunday.  Use them during the afternoon on Sunday or later this week.

I am grateful for you all and trust the Lord will and is doing great things in you individually, us as Light in the Desert Church, and our community.  Please, don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Bryan

Get together (online)

Church Family,

Tomorrow at 6 pm, we are going to try and get together by using Zoom (it can be used on your computer, smartphone, or tablet).  Since we can’t gather physically, this is our next best option, so we thought, why not do a test run!  If you don’t already have Zoom, you will need to download it from the app store.  An easy way to do that is by simply clicking this link (https://zoom.us/j/543814068and follow the promptings.  Once downloaded, come back to this post and click on the link again and it will open the app and ask if you would like to join.  Click “join the meeting,” and you should be off and running.  I would encourage you to go ahead and download Zoom before the meeting.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call and I will walk you through it all.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Bryan

What to do during this time of separation from one another?

Church Family,

I hope the consistent communication is not overwhelming to you but instead helping you stay connected.  I wanted briefly to give a few suggestions on what to do during this time.

  • Check Facebook and the news blog regularly.  Facebook is our primary way to post videos and live stream on Sunday. If you don’t currently have a Facebook, please let me know if I can help you set up one so you don’t miss meaningful connections. Our news blog is our primary way to get information out in text form and automatically email those who subscribe. We will use it as well to put out documents that will be helpful for you and your family to worship together in the coming weeks.
  • Use email to communicate ways we can be praying for you, or if you have a need.
  • Another piece of technology we will utilize is Zoom. It is a video meeting app that allows us all to see each other. If you can familiarize yourself with it in the meantime, do so, and we will give further instructions in the coming days.
  • Your cell phone is crucial for staying connected to one another.  Use it and use it often to call, text, or if you have the option video call.
  • The oldest piece of technology at your disposal is a pen, paper, and the printed Word of God!  The most prominent thing Christians do and do regularly is read God’s word.  During uncertain times we must draw our strength and comfort from scripture.  Get in it and write down your thoughts and prayers.  You might find this to be the best thing about COVID-19; that you slow down and think deeply about God and His grace.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Bryan

UPDATE-All gatherings through March cancelled

Church Family,

I hope you all are doing well and are healthy.  It is with a prayerful heart and eagerness to serve us all well that I want to make you aware that we will not gather for the rest of March.  That means Disciple-Makers on Wednesday night, Sunday Studies and Worship Gathering on Sunday will be canceled.  As the days move forward, I anticipate more substantial recommendations that will cause further interruptions to our life together. We willingly take these recommendations not out of fear but out of what has been called our “double love,” love for God and love for our neighbors. Love of God reminds us that no virus can change our unshakeable faith in the person and work of Christ. Love of neighbor reminds us to do whatever we can to help slow down the spread of the virus, especially to the most vulnerable.  With that said, joy is not gone, and hope is not destroyed. We are not a people defined by fear, but by joy.

There are many details I am working out to leverage technology to help keep us connected, though we will be scattered.  Please stay up to date through Facebook or the news blog on our website.  I will be posting detailed instructions there.  I am grateful for you all and thank the Lord daily for the privilege of serving as your Pastor.  I leave you with this thought from Martin Luther during the plague that hit Wittenberg in 1527.

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely.  See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God. ”

(Luther’s Works Volume 43 pg 132 the letter “Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague” written to Rev. Dr. John Hess)

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Bryan

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Church Family,

As the week has progressed, the concern about the effects and prevention of the coronavirus have grown rapidly.  As I sit here in our hotel room on vacation, my email and social media feeds continue to fill up with a variety of responses, from no concern to hysteria.  We, as Christian, need not fear and be driven by anxiety because death does not scare us (Phil 1:21), but we must be thoughtful and, more importantly, prayerful about our responses (Phil 4:4-7).  It is no surprise that measures are being put into place quickly, considering the wealth of information we now have since the virus was first reported.  “Social distancing” has been the term to describe the best effort to slow down the spread of the virus.  This term is odd for the church as we feel convicted and compelled to do all we can to be in each others’ lives, spiritually and physically.  Though true, we have to be cautious while never letting go of our unshakeable faith in God.

This is not the first time the Church has faced a pandemic.  In 1918 when the Spanish Flu took many lives in DC, local churches heeded the call of the experts and governmental authorities and complied with the ban of public gatherings (read here).  We are not currently at that point in our community, but we should expect interruptions in our daily lives.  For instance, my daughter’s softball league and my son’s soccer league are suspended, which means two unhappy children, but they understand.  These interruptions, though inconvenient, should not steal our joy because our hope will never be destroyed.  The leadership team and I will continue to monitor the situation alongside the many brothers and sisters in our community.  Below are a couple of things I want to encourage us all to do and consider as the coming weeks unfold the longterm effects of the coronavirus:

  1. Take all necessary precautions–I encourage you to read the CDC’s suggestions and follow them regularly (read here).  Light in the Desert Church has and will continue to provide soap and hand sanitizer, and will be there earlier Sunday to sanitize surfaces that are heavily touched.  Individually, the washing of hands has the most significant impact on preventing and slowing down the transmission of diseases among those who live in close communities (just read Leviticus!).  Simply washing your hands often, avoiding touching your face, avoiding close contact with other people, and staying home if you are sick, are the best precautions you can take.  Also, the CDC warns that “Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.”  Understanding that and considering the demographic of our congregation, those of us who are younger will do all we can to look after and care for our older brothers and sisters by not unnecessarily putting them at risk.  So we will limit our greeting time and ask that we give nods and hellos for greetings.  We will continue to gather on Sundays, but understand that everything is day by day as we get more information.
  2. Think critically about faith, sin, and salvation–Christian people should be a thinking people.  With ever success or tragedy, it is wise for us to consider what those things tell us about ourselves, sin, God, salvation, and heed God’s wisdom found in scripture.  Thankfully and by God’s grace, many articles have already been circulating that do just that (see below).  What is most apparent in times like this?  Life is fragile, so it matters what you put your trust in (Ps 90:12, 103:15-16, 1 Peter 1:24-25). The Psalmist states that “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Ps 20:7).  Unfortunately, we tend to put more trust in health, stability, comfort, sanitizer, procedures, and a host of other things, so when that is interrupted or taken away, we come to grips with what has a grip on us.  Church family, take this opportunity to think about where you draw your greatest strength.
  3. Pray, Pray, Pray–Though this is listed last, it is not the least important.  Paul told the church in Philippians not to be anxious but to pray (Phil 4:6)!  That is our highest duty to each other and our community.  Pray for:
    • Our church family
    • Those already affected
    • The salvation of our city
    • Opportunities to serve and share the hope of Jesus Christ
    • The leaders of our city and state

Brothers and sisters, our community, our city, our state, our country, and our world need us to cry out to God for all to see that Jesus is God’s greatest answer to our greatest pandemic; sin.  Yes, we need to ask God for help to alleviate suffering, we need to ask for the virus to slow down, we need to ask for wisdom in how to respond, but we must ask for Jesus to be seen, to be noticed in our unshakable faith, and ultimately to be trusted.

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Bryan

 

Articles:

Spiritual Growth

Church Family,

The number one question we often get is, “How do I get connected?”  This is an essential question for any member, anywhere, at any church.  This is because one of the greatest pursuits for us as Christians is maturity in Christ.  Growth is essential for us all.  Though we know that, it is not easily attained.  Come to find out it takes some work on our part to put ourselves under God’s Word for Him to change us and grow us.  So, “How do I get connected?” is very important for Spiritual maturity and for the church to fulfill its mission; which is to make disciples. To fulfill this mission, we need to be strategic and straightforward in our approach.  That is why we have simplified our discipleship process by thinking through four crucial areas in the life of the church; large gatherings, small gatherings, 1-1, and individual.  This simple discipleship process, and how you connect, captures all the various relationships one should pursue in the church.  We believe that if any given week an individual were to be a part of our Sunday Gathering, a smaller group, and at different times 1-1 bible reading, then our chances of fulfilling the mission of the church are much more likely, and your growth is guaranteed.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Bryan

New Year

Church Family,

I do hope the holidays were enjoyable, refreshing, and a time of deep reflection upon Christ.  I heard from many of you that our season of Advent was a fruitful time of considering all that God the Father has done through God the Son.  I trust you are still finding God’s grace as sweet as you did then.

With the New Year upon us and our emphasis on prayer, I am excited about what 2020 will hold for us here at Light in the Desert Church.  We all long to see the Lord move in tremendous ways in our life together and in gospel impact in the community.  Though exciting, it will at times be clouded with discouragement.  This is natural as we all desire to be used by God for His glory, so when things are not where we want them to be, it can bring our souls down.  So, below is an article I think will help give each of us a good focus when those times come; when the church is not turned around as quickly as we like.  Read, reflect, and pick one of the eight things to do this week.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Bryan

8 Ways to Turn Your Church Around

Was your church meeting disappointing this week? Do you find that there seems to be little life in the church? Are there troubles stirring? Are there way too many parking lot conversations? What can you do as a member to make things better?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Have you considered what prayer might do? Divide up the church names and pray for some of the members each day. Pray diligently, begging God for the needs that you can detect. Don’t underestimate prayer. God can do what you will never be able to accomplish on your own.

2. Be hospitable. Ask people each Sunday to come to your home for a meal. Let these couple of families bring some of the food to make it possible. Don’t try to be fancy, but just provide an outlet for people to show love to each other. Encourage other people to do the same. Bring families and singles together who don’t normally spend time with each other.

3. Arrive early to greet everyone there. Don’t sit down until each person has been greeted warmly. Try to have some meaningful discussion with some. I’m always amazed at what just a few people can do by taking responsibility in this way.

4. Meet with the pastor(s) and find out how you can help the church become what God wants it to be. Be eager to help. Offer your time.

5. If someone comes to you to point out the weaknesses of others, don’t listen. Rather, lovingly encourage that person to go to the offending party to get things talked out. Unresolved friction is alike an arctic blast to a church.

6. Don’t quit until you’re dead. Never say, “I’ll let the young people do it.” God may shift you to another responsibility, but don’t let it be because you are slowing down. Continue to play an active part. If some of the parts of your body still work, use them to serve God and His church.

7. Don’t wait until some leader assigns you a ministry; rather, create your ministry and get to work. Don’t expect everyone to take up your cause, but do something that will help the church or reach out to others that doesn’t compete with other regular ministries. Go to the nursing home, disciple younger people, start a prayer group, start a Bible reading group, begin a Bible study at work or at the local hangout. You get the idea.

8. Finally, replace gossip with the giving of thanks. Be a person who always has something wonderful to thank God for. Speak well of your church.

I have observed the effects one or two people can have on their church. It always stuns me, but it is true that just a few can make such a difference.

Jim Elliff is President of Christian Communicators Worldwide (ccwtoday.org) and a pastor of Christ Fellowship of Kansas City (christfellowshipkc.org).