Pastor Rob’s Perspective in 2021
Our God given experiences teach us wisdom. When we open our eyes to where we have been, we can see more clearly where we are going.
What a very challenging year it has been. And yet I am grateful for the experiences of every member of our congregation and for our church as a whole in 2020. Yes, it had its fill of trials and tribulations. There were so many, that we are tempted to just forget them all. We may be tempted to wash it completely out of our memory. But we should not be so surprised by the life trials and tribulations. The word of God tells us in John 16:33 that we would have trouble in this world. The great news is the promise that He has overcome the world. And so have you and I as we are seated with him in heavenly places according to Ephesians 2:6.
It is when our eyes are opened to where we have been that we gain the wisdom to clearly see where we are going. Let me remind you that God has us in Thriving mode. God has been gracious to us in 2020. It was His strength that sustained us. So, by faith, we have taken tired, helpless, revolving door experiences and turned them into an inspired, victorious, and empowered lifestyle that has, and will continue to help us overcome the trials and tribulations of the world.
Think about this. We began sheltering in place last March. We conducted our last in person worship service on March 18th. We have not gathered together as one body worshipping together since that time. Many if not most of us had not previously missed a single week of gathering with the saints even if we were out of town. However, the pandemic has forced us to miss several months in a row so far. But glory to God, we have not missed his Word at any time during these last nine and a half months. He did not stop speaking to us as He did the Israelites for 400 years. God inspired us every Wednesday and Sunday. And this month, he has been inspiring us even more through the connection of our Sunday Café with the Sunday worship. In addition, we have seen a steady increase in giving by not only our current members but also those of you who have joined us via Facebook live and the stored messages on our website. You have sacrificed hugs for hand waves, face-to-face fellowship for drive-by celebrations, and eye contact with embraces for Zoom and conference calls. Through it all, we remain unified. Praise God. We are Thriving.
Then after being shut in for a couple of months, we saw a glimpse of light in May only to be darkened by a series of shootings and responses that tired our emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Some of us stood or parked in long tiring food lines. Others tirelessly fought through health symptoms of this relentless virus. While still others mourned the death of loved ones seemingly one after another with no end in sight. It was tiring. The virus would spike in one part of the nation then another. Slow down even in our state of Illinois only to rise again. This revolving door is merciless. The political environment in our country has tenaciously pressed all of us toward greater measures of being tired and physically helpless. Yet, in all of these things we are not without hope. Our God tells us to “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).
Our health is being renewed day by day. We can see the real possibilities of restoring social justice. We are helping each other collect and distribute food while identifying additional food sources. We have the assurances of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 that we do not mourn without hope. Our sanity is being kept by twice weekly doses of the inspired word. We have not given up on hope. We are standing victoriously. Praise God. We are thriving.
It is when our eyes are opened to where we have been that we gain the wisdom to clearly see where we are going. We thoroughly understand where we have been. Here is a glimpse of where we are going in 2021. We will endeavor to press toward the mark of our high calling in Christ Jesus. The Austin Community is waiting for you and me to burst out of these walls to encourage them toward new birth and growth in Jesus Christ. In other words, we are going to continue to THRIVE and help them to THRIVE too. In doing so, God will take us to greater heights in His word in 2021. He will start us on that quest in the book of Ephesians. You should not be surprised by that given the author, Paul, and his purpose for writing the letter. It was to impart sound doctrine then encouragement to walk in the way of that doctrine. Paul ministered to the church in Ephesus for nearly two and a half years. Ephesus was a major city in the Roman Empire housing one of the seven largest wonders in the world at the time, The Temple of Artemis, a fertility goddess. Paul had his hands full of darkness just as we see in the community that we serve. But, like Paul, we have no fear. God further encourages us with these words. Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power (Ephesians 6:10).
Let’s consider Paul’s beginning. He was chosen by God to minister to the Gentiles after he was blinded on the Damascus road (Acts 9:15). Throughout this book, you will learn that not only were you likewise chosen but also that God has a plan for redemption that involves the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We will learn the blessings associated with being redeemed and God’s ultimate and eternal plan to have redemption spread by you the church. We will learn how to THRIVE (walk in light of) his plan and help others to THRIVE in that same way. Ephesians shows us how to apply redemption in our church life, personal life, and in relationship with others. All of us whether we know it or acknowledge it or not, have encountered spiritual battles for which we need protection and prayer. Ephesians gives us comfort that God has already prepared a way to stand in the face of such opposition. God’s peace, love, and grace will sustain you and me. That is the final word in Ephesians. Praise God. We will continue to THRIVE.
What a wonderful gift God has prepared in this season for us. I and the leadership of Rock Church have been charged to equip you, the saints, so that you grow in unity and in the knowledge of the Son of God. It is God’s desire that you, a supporting ligament in His body will grow and build yourself up in love. It is then that we shall see the gospel gain its greatest foothold in the Austin community.
Paul penned these words while he was exiled in prison. Yet, he did not allow the chains to stop him from fulfilling God’s plan for him. Our chain of COVID 19 has been all of the miserable experiences previously mentioned. On the other hand, our chains may have been something completely different from those of Paul’s days. Regardless and without hesitation, like Paul, we are to find our strength in Christ. Let him use who you are, what you have, and where you are to fulfill your destiny in Him. Remember that he chose you, prepared a work for you, then gave you his grace to fulfill it. Trust God. He is the trustworthy One.
Vision Statement: We exist to influence people, households and neighborhoods on Chicago’s Westside to THRIVE under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Mission Statement: To come alongside with anyone who feels Tired or Helpless, or stuck in the Revolving door, so that they live an Inspired, Victorious, and Empowered life according to the teaching of Jesus Christ. John 8:31
As we walk through the book of Ephesians in the start of 2021, fully trusting and obeying Christ, we shall experience awesomeness. Our only response will be to praise and worship Him.
Praise God. Amen!!!