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Sustaining Prayer for Revival

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Are your prayers too small? On Pentecost Sunday (June 4), Pastor Clay Smith gave a stirring and inspiring sermon about the kind of prayer that sustains our participation in God’s full mission. While God certainly cares about the smallest details of our lives, he also calls us to lift our heads and hearts higher than our own personal circumstances to fix our hopes and efforts on nothing less than himself and the coming of the fullness of God’s kingdom in our city and the rest of the whole world. Clay rightly reminded us that Jesus taught us to frame all of our prayers to the Lord in the context of this big request and hope: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

But how can we keep this up for the long haul? The inspiration and conviction resulting from a single sermon will fade amid the pressures of daily life that always threaten to squeeze our prayers into their mold. If we rely only on the concerns and desires of our own hearts to guide our prayer, we will soon find ourselves back in the rut of praying the same old things about the same old things.

Praying from the Bible is the primary solution to a prayer life that is too small. God not only tells us to pray, but he has also filled his word with prayers to guide us in praying with big, God-centered words and ideas that we would never think to pray ourselves. In the Psalms (a whole prayer book!) and other prayers from people such as Moses (Exod. 15), Hannah (1 Sam. 2), Zechariah and Mary (Luke 1), the early Christians (Acts 4), and our Lord Jesus himself (Matt. 6:9-13; John 17), we can learn kingdom-focused prayer that constantly stretches our minds and hearts to the full breadth and depth of God and his mission in the world. When we use Scripture as a means to speak to God, the Bible becomes not only a means of knowing about God but also a living means of knowing God and communion with God himself. Thus, the Bible becomes kindling for our prayers, for it gives us powerful, inspired words and images that the Holy Spirit uses to fan the flame of our longing for God himself and to illumine our imagination with a vision and hope for his goodness and glory to make all things new.

How can you learn to pray in this way? Central’s daily prayer guide (http://www.centralpres.com/prayer-guides) provides a simple tool to expand our prayers and align them with the worship of the church. The guide contains Psalms, songs, and other scripture readings and biblically-based prayers that relate to the theme of the Sunday sermon each week and amplify the effect of corporate worship on Sunday as it echoes throughout our daily meditation and prayer. (When you sign up, you will receive the prayer guide in an email on Sunday mornings with all the materials for the coming week as well as a short introductory email that furnishes a brief user’s manual with instructions and resources for using the guide most productively.) By praying from the Bible and the prayers of the church, we will never run out of things to say and our prayers will always be directed by the Holy Spirit toward the highest goal of communion with the Lord himself and the fulfillment of his transforming mission to the world. Come, Holy Spirit, and lead us to pray for the kingdom of God!

Posted by Mike Farley

Easter Outreach...Kid Style!

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We often hear stories of generosity and compassion around Christmas. Wonderful, encouraging tales of people reaching out and loving others through generous deeds and gifts. Though they surely happen, similar stories at Easter seem far less frequent. The focus of these holidays should certainly not be on the gifts that may be associated with them, but especially for a child, it can be hard to think about tearing into gift wrap at Christmas, or enjoying some chocolate or jelly beans at Easter.

Inspired by his concern to help others, James Karslake, a 10 year-old member of our Central church family, wanted to share the love of Jesus this Easter season. He came up with the idea that a great way to do this would be to make sure kids living in difficult circumstances would receive an Easter basket this year, just like he knew he would. James even had a very specific idea of what needed to be in these Easter baskets...some goodies, a chocolate bunny and a toy, plus some Good News, a Bible verse.

James' enthusiasm was catching, and soon our church body was mobilized! God was so evident in the way our church family came together. Central's missions committee contributed some financial resources, and additional funds were collected from the adult Sunday school communities, Wednesday night classes, some of our small groups, and many others. In only three weeks enough money was raised to purchase supplies...a lot of supplies!

KidCentral was on-board in a big way too. During EquipCentral on April 5, our elementary kids assembled 290 Easter baskets! The Fellowship Hall was turned into a production studio, with baskets, artificial grass, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and of course not a few chocolate bunnies. The final piece added to each basket was a printout of John 3:16: "God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son. God gave His Son so that whoever believed in Him may not be lost but will have eternal life."

These baskets were delivered to Sunshine Ministries later that week and distributed to the children and families for Easter. Thank you, James, for your love for others and this wonderful idea.

KidCentral hard at work!

KidCentral hard at work! 

James delivering the baskets to Sunshine Missions

 James delivering the baskets to Sunshine Mission!

 

Loving & Seeking the Lost

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You may notice two lovable-yet-mischievous guests in the backyard of the missions house. Those are our dogs, Tory and Reggie. If you are a dog lover, you know they become part of your family once they enter your home, and these particular two hold a special place in our hearts. Whether they are on their best behavior or getting into mischief, our love for them runs deep and is unconditional. Mostly.

Reggie is a Brittany Spaniel and our resident “Houdini,” seemingly able to find his way into or out of just about anywhere. Monday evening he somehow managed to push and climb his way out of the backyard and disappeared into the Davis Place neighborhood. Our family began a desperate search, but after several hours and no Reggie, we gave up for the night, but continued to pray the Lord would bring him back to his family. Was he ok? Will we ever see him again? Our hearts were broken, and it was a difficult night.

It occurs to me that this is a powerful picture of how our heavenly Father feels when we go astray. We are precious to him, dear members of his  family. When we run away it breaks his heart, but he will not stop his relentless pursuit to bring us back home. He is the faithful Shepherd.

This week I begin serving as your Senior Pastor, and we’re beginning a study of  Isaiah. Isaiah offers a snapshot of God’s never-ending pursuit of us as our Father and our Shepherd. Time and again, the people of Israel turned their backs against the Lord, but time and again, the Lord pursued them and called them to relationship. We may climb our way out of God’s proverbial yard, and think we have found the good life in our new found “freedom.” But in reality, we put ourselves in grave danger when we do so.

Isaiah also boldly reminds us that the Lord calls us back for a purpose. God wants to save and protect us, but he also calls us to be part of his mission to rescue a lost world. He invites us to sense the burden he feels for a world that is full of pain and in rebellion against him, as we once were. This is God’s mission, and I wonder what role that he has for Central to play in it in the years ahead? As we begin this new chapter of ministry together, I am overjoyed and full of anticipation as to what God has in store for us.

It is a great relief to share with you that a “good shepherd” found Reggie and brought him to a local shelter, safe and sound. He is home again, and we could not be happier. The Lord God Almighty rejoices over us, and we can only imagine his great joy when we return to him. May that joy be our strength as we join him in the mission that he has for us in the years ahead.

With humble gratitude for each of you,

Pastor Clay

Posted by Clay Smith

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