First, could we take a look back at the two-week Devoted series, about the church? What were the thoughts behind that?
Statistics are showing that 30 percent of people who were regularly gathering in person and engaging in church before COVID are not doing that anymore, even as we are hopefully nearing the tail end of the pandemic. Our heart and desire is ultimately to remind people that as the church, we are called to worship together. We are called to serve together. We want to invite people to be a part of that and remind them of what the church is and why we exist — namely to be a group of believers coming together and glorifying God, lifting high the name of Jesus Christ.
But then also, we wanted to look at that “serve” aspect — glorifying God as we go, tell and show the love of God here in Rockford and around the world. That might mean serving in ministries that you haven’t before. Maybe it’s starting to serve again in a ministry that you were involved in, but haven’t picked back up yet. So our desire is to call the church to that next level of service.
This Sunday you’re beginning a six-week series called Peaks and Valleys. Where are we headed with that topic?
After the past year and a half, more and more stories are coming out where we are seeing the Lord move in people’s lives, amid those valley lows and mountaintop highs. We want to spend some time looking at the lives of Esther, Paul, Moses, Daniel, Joseph, Peter, and seeing the Peaks and valleys in their lives and what the Lord taught them about himself during those times. God was reminding them that he was with them in those valleys.
So we will look at Esther with God’s power; Paul with God’s contentment; Moses with doubt and trust as he was leading the Israelites out of Egypt. We’ll look at Daniel and gratitude. God’s sovereignty as it comes to Joseph and “what you intended for harm, God used for good.” And finally we’ll look at Peter in the mission of Jesus.
As I hear stories coming out of our congregation—from the Broken Wholeness series and the Miracles of Jesus series—this is one that I sense we need to touch on. We always need that reminder. Like it says in Psalm 23, the Psalm a lot of people know by heart, we have a Shepherd who is with us in the valley and also on the mountaintop.
The tendency might be to only look at peaks and valleys as they affect us individually, but if we do that we might miss some huge ministry opportunities, right?
Yes. We experience God in new ways when we live through these experiences. To borrow a phrase, misery can turn into ministry. It’s not just one of those cliche phrases. It’s true.
As you look at the life of someone like Paul , one of his central messages through the epistles is persecution. Look at 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Look at Philippians. Paul is able to speak to others about those things and be content in those things because he went through them himself.
Then I guess the flip side is, we talk about ministry as looking outward, but it brings a lot of meaning to one’s own life, too. When you realize God is using your story to help someone else?
It brings you back to a point of praise and adoration. But then it also continues to fuel our faith to move forward and share this with others. It’s not something we’re going to keep to ourselves. We can’t, because our God is too great. That’s where I am so reminded of that passage in 1 Peter—always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have. This is that personal testimony. We all have the testimony of the Gospel, the good news. But what Peter is saying is, Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have in the good news of Jesus Christ.
That’s encouraging, because now it means a lot more than just memorizing a four-point plan of salvation.
The gospel is the gospel, period. And that’s how we come into relationship with our heavenly father through Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. But what is unique is how the Lord goes about doing that. We see in Scripture that the Lord uses different opportunities, different people, different experiences to call others through Jesus Christ back unto himself. And so if I have the opportunity to share with someone else about what the Lord has done in my life personally, and the Lord uses that to bring others into relationship with him through Jesus, then as difficult as it is, it’s well worth it.
This week’s sermon is from The Book of Esther—not the most familiar Old Testament book for many. Would you want us to do any preparation beforehand?
We will be preaching through most of the Book of Esther, quickly. So if people can read it, and familiarize themselves with the characters throughout the book, I think it would be beneficial to get the total arc of the storyline taking place as we talk about God’s power.
Anything else unusual in the coming weeks?
One thing we will be doing as a church for the six weeks of this series is dedicating one day a week to prayer and fasting. I’m excited for the renewal, and hopefully revival, that will come from that. Whether that’s personal revival or citywide revival, I’m excited for what the Lord wants to do.
Download a Guide to Fasting