Pastoral Blog | Meditating on God's Word

  • r12 prayer for the week

    God, help me love sincerely, without pretending.
    Help me hate the bad and hold on tight to the good.
    Help me be a good friend who loves deeply, who delights in honoring others.
    Keep my energy strong and focused on what Jesus is doing.
    Help me be cheerfully expectant, not quitting when the going gets tough.
    Help me pray hard, give generously and be creative in hospitality. Amen.

    Romans 12:9-13 paraphrased

  • Prospering with Shanghai

    Pastor’s Blog
    r12 True spirituality according to Jesus
    Abundant Grace International Fellowship

    Thursday, October 31, 2013
    Meditation based on Pastor Nate’s October 27 message, “Finding God’s best for your life” (Romans 12:2; Daniel 1)

    God wants to bring out the best in us. He wants to develop well-formed maturity in us.

    That means sometimes saying no to the culture around us, like when Daniel was asked to eat food that wasn’t kosher. But there was much Daniel and his friends could learn and affirm in Babylon. They mastered the language and literature of the Babylonians (v 4), and “God gave these four young men knowledge and skill in both books and life” (v 17 msg).

    “When the king interviewed them, he found them far superior to all the other young men” (v 19 msg).

    Jesus followers are life-long learners. We learn from God’s word. And we learn from science and culture. It is this mastery of both divine wisdom and human learning that equips us for the king’s service.

    We say no to the culture and around us when it tries to drag us away from God’s purpose. But we’re alert to see signs of God’s image in the people and cultures where we live and work. And we affirm beauty and truth wherever we see them.

    We’re always ready to join Christ in transforming culture, both our own and the culture of the country where we’re living as expats. We seek the good of this city, Shanghai.

    Point to ponder: Finding God’s best for our life means learning from Jesus and also mastering the arts and sciences of the place we call home.

    Question to consider: What am I learning at the interface of God’s word and the wisdom of Chinese culture?

    Verse to remember: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7 niv)

    Action to deliver: Celebrate an aspect of beauty and truth in Chinese culture by affirming this reflection of the divine Word to a friend, colleague or classmate.

    Prayer: God, I appreciate the comfort and beauty of my own culture. I also celebrate the beauty and traditions of other cultures, like that of China. Thank you for helping me learn and discern, and also when to refuse food from the royal kitchen. I seek the good of this city, grateful to prosper with Shanghai. Amen.

    © 2013 Nathan D. Showalter

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  • Expressing God through service

    Pastor’s Blog
    Gather, Connect, Serve
    Abundant Grace International Fellowship

    Wednesday, Sept 4, 2013
    Meditation based on Pastor Esme’s Aug 31/Sept 1 message, “Serve: Expressing God through service” (Acts 1:8; 2:42-47)

    We do what Jesus is doing as we gather: celebrating God together.
    We do what Jesus is doing as we connect: experiencing God in small groups.
    We do what Jesus is doing as we serve: expressing God through service.

    Jesus came to serve (Phil 2), to bring healing, freedom and hope to those in need (Luke 4).

    In the first church Philip was chosen as one of seven persons (deacons) to serve at table. Before long he was leaving his mark as an evangelist.

    Philip served in Jerusalem. After opposition developed at home he moved on to Samaria. And then the Spirit took him to the desert where he introduced an Ethiopian official to Jesus and baptizing him on the spot. Just as Jesus said: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

    We do what Jesus is doing when we serve here at Abundant Grace, in Shanghai, and far beyond.

    Serving in our local church.Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” (Galatians 6:10) Serving begins at home—in kids’ church or with the youth, serving with Women of Joy or as a Stephen Minister, on the hospitality team or with worship & creative. But it doesn’t stop there.

    Serving in a local outreach project. There are opportunities for us to reach out with the love of Jesus here in Shanghai. Compassion impels us to look into the face of hurt until we hurt with them. Connecting their wounded hands to the wounded hands of Jesus.

    Serving on an outreach trip. Every year there are opportunities for us to serve outside Shanghai or China, in a small way becoming part of what Jesus is doing in another province, in another country.

    God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. As we follow Jesus we become part of his program to change people and nations.

    Point to ponder: “I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light.” (John Keith Falconer)

    Question to consider: How am I expressing God through service?

    Verse to remember: Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” (Mark 9:35)

    Action to deliver: Surprise someone with a random act of kindness, by serving someone who doesn't expect it.

    Prayer: God, I enjoy being served. I want to learn more about serving others, especially those who have the least. Help me seize an opportunity today to express your love through service. Amen.

    © 2013 Nathan D. Showalter

  • Experiencing God in small groups

    Pastor’s Blog
    Gather, Connect, Serve
    Abundant Grace International Fellowship

    Thursday, August 29, 2013
    Meditation based on Pastor Brad’s August 24/25 message, “Connect: Experiencing God in small groups” (Acts 2:42-47)

    We do what Jesus is doing as we gather: celebrating God together.
    We do what Jesus is doing as we connect: experiencing God in small groups.

    The first disciples in Jerusalem “followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God” (Acts 2:46-47 msg).

    To do what Jesus is doing it is essential for us to connect in small groups:

    1. We feel part of God’s family. “They were like family to each other” (v 44-46). We see the phrase “one another” more than 50 times in the New Testament. We pray for one another, encourage one another, accept one another, love one another. We can only do this in a small group.

    2. We deepen our understanding of God’s word and Jesus’ teaching. “They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles” (v 42). In small groups we ask questions, debate, and gain new insights into the Bible. Together we learn to live the Bible.

    3. We experience the power of group prayer. “They shared in prayer” (v 42). We learn to pray aloud, to pray deeply, and see God at work as we pray for one another.

    4. We handle stress better as we carry one another’s burdens. “They pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met” (v 45 msg). Life in Shanghai is easier and more joyful when we’re doing it as part of a small group.

    5. We naturally welcome new believers into the family (evangelism). “Every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved” (v 47). People who hesitate to come to church often are comfortable learning to know God and his people in a small group.

    Point to ponder: The life of God in us becomes visible in small groups.

    Question to consider: How am I experiencing God in a small group?

    Verse to remember: They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42 msg)

    Action to deliver: Send an SMS or email to your small group today, expressing your appreciation for what they mean to you.

    Prayer: God, I am experiencing you in my small group. Thank you for showing me your love, your purpose, your encouragement through these special people. Amen.

    © 2013 Nathan D. Showalter

  • Marinating in God's word

    Pastor’s Blog
    Gather, Connect, Serve
    Abundant Grace International Fellowship

    Friday, August 23, 2013
    Meditation based on Pastor Nate’s August 18/19 message, “Gather: Celebrating God together” (Psalm 100; Acts 2:42-47; Hebrews 10:19-25)

    When we gather to celebrate God together, we marinate in God’s word. We “chew on Scripture day and night” (Psalm 1:2 msg). The first church in Jerusalem gathered every day in the temple to hear the teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:42-47).

    My wife, Chris, is a great cook. Like other great cooks she loves to marinate meats before cooking them. The flavors of the marinade penetrate the meat, enhancing flavor and making the meat tender. When we marinate in God’s word our minds take on divine flavors, and our hearts become tender and open to do what Jesus is doing.

    This is not emptying our mind, but rather filling our mind with God-thoughts. “I stayed awake all night, prayerfully pondering your promise” (Psa. 119:148 msg).

    Marinating in God’s word helps us to not only hear but also obey the voice of God. Soaking in God’s word helps us build our lives on the words of Jesus, like the wise person who builds on a rock-solid foundation (Matt 7:24-27).

    We gather for God to reshape our lives in prayer. “To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us” (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline). Prayer is both talking and listening to God (Psalm 42-43). The quieter we become the more likely we are to hear God’s voice.

    Prayer is struggling with sin and brokenness (Psalms 32, 51; Rom 8:26-27). Sometimes it’s our own brokenness. Sometimes we are struggling with issues in our family, our workplace, our career.

    As we pray we imagine the future God intends for us. “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us” (Eph 3:20 msg).

    Point to ponder: As we gather to celebrate God his life changes us from the inside out.

    Question to consider: How is God’s life changing my thoughts, attitudes and actions?

    Verse to remember: “God’s power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine.”(Eph 3:20)

    Action to deliver: Spent at least five minutes today marinating in God’s word.

    Prayer: God, strengthen me by your Spirit so I will be more deeply rooted in your love. Help me to see the full dimensions of the life you have planned for me, so that I can live with purpose, joy and freedom. Amen.

    © 2013 Nathan D. Showalter

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