A New and Living Way

My heart is overcome with the love of the Father for you as I write today. As a leadership team at Zion’s River we believe God is setting the stage for our hearts to enter into new levels of believing, greater engagement with His presence, and a renewed sense of His life moving through every facet of our daily living. We are aware of the spiritual enemy whose goal is to rob individuals of their divine story through deception which comes via our own free will. Yet, GREATER still, we believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are at work on our behalf to create and give life, and this life is found under Their covering, and within the borders and boundaries set within the written word of God. We believe that as we choose to engage our faith, the substance thereof will bring a tangible manifestation of Heaven on earth and it is from this place of belief I write to you today.|

Many within the Church are looking for answers and for a word that speaks to the current issues of the Nation, they are looking for a way in which they can overcome and rise above. The answer we seek lies within the faith we possess. Through it all, Jesus sits on the throne beckoning for us to turn our hearts to Him once again, to be revived by His word, and to be led by a word greater than our own. Hear me Beloved, this is not condemnation, this is the Father Himself speaking out through His leaders.

Now is the time for the Church to rise up and step into His New and Living Way (Hebrews 10:20). This is the time in which He is calling our hearts to be revived by an authority greater than ourselves and to move from the place from which Jesus Himself has opened up for us through His death and resurrection. God is calling us to be Holy as He Himself is holy (1 Peter 1:16). He is declaring over us once again that “[We] are a chosen race; a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light,” (2 Peter 2:9). He is calling us to turn our eyes upon Jesus, to hear His voice, and to walk in His ways. He is calling us, the Church, to be the answer.

Lives Will Be Eternally Changed
Through our faith in God, and His heavenly provision, lives within the Nations will be eternally changed. Pastor Jim stated on Sunday that “faith is the only force that has the power to draw upon what heaven possesses”. Our corporate belief, engagement with His presence, and engagement with our everyday living will become the catalyst through which we will see our God move. As Pastor Jim stated “our faith gives God the legal access to enter our situation…it releases what we passionately envision, and IS the work of our Christianity”. Our “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” (Hebrews 11:1- KJV). The faith we possess is made possible not through our works (…religious duty and sacrifice), but rather through the new and living way of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 10:19-23 reads:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Take The Great Leap
Church, “without faith it is impossible for us to please him, for whoever draws near to God must believe that he exists, and that he rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6). I declare over Zion’s River and the Church that now is the time of faith, now is the time for us to confidently draw near to God, now is the time to engage our belief, to live from the place of His presence, and to allow our lives to speak of the New and Living Way. The One who has called us has fully equipped us, and “…it is not by might, nor by power, but by [his] Spirit…” (Zechariah 4:6) that Zion’s River will take the great leap.

With Great Love for His Church,

Melissa

Battle Of The Mind

“I just want to sit down and chill”, I thought, as I pondered the calamity and disappointment of the last couple weeks. 2016 is over and I couldn’t be happier. It wasn’t the worst year ever, but tough, really tough. Not just for me, but for dear friends and family. However, it seems last year was reaching out from the grave with one last defiant attempt to knock me off course.

Like many, I anticipate great things for 2017. I began the year armed with an architecture of resolute plans, a deeper love for those around me, a favorable financial standing, and a broader vision for the future than ever before. I felt a solidarity in my calling as a boss, mentor, parent, and husband and began to walk in a refreshed confidence as a pastor, leading the most amazing group of volunteers I have ever known. This year was set apart as I launched out of the gate and fell flat on my face.

God Is A Good Father
Enter Sunday. I had a conversation with myself much like ones I hear all the time from our parishioners, “Pastor was preaching right at me!” Know this, God is a good father. The deeper you go with Him, the more He challenges and corrects you. This word was for me and I am certain, for all the pastors and elders. I started the year off well, but my attention was quickly diverted. I stopped running and began to stagnate. Can you relate?

Paul said,

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?
This persuasion is not from him who calls you.
Galatians 5:7-8 (ESV)

There are three main reasons we become stagnant.
•    The enemy steals the word of God by distraction
•    We have no endurance
•    We allow the worries of the world to choke out the truth
I am convinced we make the devil’s job very easy. He brings distraction so we lose sight of the goal ahead. This “persuasion” becomes our focus and his job is done. We get tired, sit down and chill out. It’s much deserved anyway, so it’s easy to replace our have-to’s with our seemingly deserved respite. Over time we become accustomed to a sedentary life and when it’s required of us to move again, we lack the endurance necessary. Worry and fatigue increase and choke out the truth. God’s revelation in our life dwindles and we become frustrated and angry. We repeat the vicious cycle and the enemy steals yet another one of our days, and we are the sole accomplice.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10 (ESV)

Weapons Of Our Warfare
Praise God for our leadership who sits before our Lord to gleen His truth, and a gracious God who is patient with us, whose plans are so great, even I can’t mess them up! We wage battle against an enemy far more duplicitous than the devil alone, it’s a battle of our mind, a battle of belief. Will we believe the one who came so we might have life abundant?

For the weapons of our warfare are
not carnal but mighty in God
for
pulling down strongholds,
casting down arguments
and every high thing
that
exalts itself against the knowledge of God,
bringing
every thought into captivity to
the obedience of Christ,
2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (NKJV)

Get passionate about not letting the enemy steal any more of your days. Quit helping him. Take every thought captive and fight for your belief. You have everything you need to win the battle of the mind. I’m fighting alongside you.

In the joy of His presence,

Pastor Dean

Crouching Lion, Hidden Tiger

I have to confess, as a young girl, I used to love watching martial arts movies! I loved watching Bruce Lee defeat the enemy and defend honor. There was rarely a dull moment once you got past the scintillating dialogue. It seemed like there would never be an end to the battles, and danger was always waiting around the corner.

Much like spiritual warfare, the battle never ends. The enemy is relentless and is always crouching at the door in his main agenda of stealing, killing, and destroying. John 10:10a

I have personally felt the onslaught of the attack of the enemy lately, and it doesn’t show any signs of letting up any time soon. Where is the hope in this message? If we read John 10:10 all the way though it gives us that hope: But He came to give us life and life abundant! That promise keeps me going along with all the other promises in His word to us. Will I see that abundance here on earth? Possibly, but what I stake my claim in is that my hope is in a future glory. One that moths and rust cannot destroy. Victory isn’t necessarily found in how hard we fight, but in how firm we stand. I have to personally purpose to keep my mind on the Father and what He’s spoken over me.

Isaiah 26:3
He keeps him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.

I gain comfort the more I keep my eyes on Him. The waves seem to diminish and I can continue in the last clear direction He gave me. It is the place of His greatest pleasure. The place where faith takes over sight, Hebrews 11:6.

Pastor Bonnie Simmons

Don’t Get Sinner-Cooties

I used to think that to be Christlike meant to be alienated and put off by the sin of others. But it’s quite the opposite. Refusing to be alienated and put off by the sin of others is what allows me to be Christlike.

Recently, there was an article in a mainstream online magazine about the hip-hop artist Lecrae, who’s an outspoken believer. Lecrae loads his music with thoughtful reflections on all aspects of life, including – and especially- the good news of God’s love for us.

The article read:

“Christians have no idea how to deal with art,” Lecrae said more recently, during a September speech to Christian leaders. “They say, ‘Hey Lecrae you can’t do that. That’s bad. That’s secular. You can’t touch that. Hey Lecrae, your engineer is not a Christian. He can’t mix your stuff. He’s going to get sinner cooties on it.’ “This is real. I wish I was making this up,” he said.

Yeah, me too. I wish he were making that up. The writer of the article went on to explain this mind-set to a mainstream readership, and I think he nailed it.

“Evangelicals adopted an isolationist mindset for much of the 20th century. Non-Christians, the thinking went, carried sin like a virus, and the point of following Jesus was to remain as pure as possible. Christians established their own communities, educational institutions and music festivals, separate from the rest of the world.”

Again, I wish it weren’t true, and not just of evangelical culture in general, but of myself specifically. I used to think it was not only prudent but my duty to be offended by others’ sins. Somehow, I took the example of the King of Kings, who wanted to be with us so much that He lowered Himself to be born in a barn full of animals and manure, and I thought it meant I was supposed to raise myself above and away from the messy lives of others.

I guess I thought I was always on the defense, guarding myself against contamination, as though my heart weren’t already contaminated with my own self-regard.

The Good News
But the Kingdom of God is not on defense.

Matthew 16:18
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

We know now this is not a defensive statement at all. It’s about being on the offensive. What it actually sounds like is this:

Jesus is sending His followers out to love others and they can go anywhere, even through the gates of hell to do it.

I must throw in this caveat or people will use it to miss the whole point: yes, it’s true, if you are weak in a particular area, you are wise to set up boundaries in that area. Someone who is addicted to alcohol may wisely decide not to go to a bar. But let’s stop aspiring to be “weaker brothers,” or letting exceptional scenarios give us an “out” from venturing into people’s lives. Love people where they are and love them boldly. And, if you really want to go crazy, like them too.

I want to be the guy who says, “Yes, I see the mess you’ve made of things, just as I have. But God wants us, mess and all. No matter what.”

And the good news, too, isn’t that God is disinterested in what we do, that He doesn’t care how we behave, or what we do to ourselves or others. It’s good news because He does care about those things.

He is going to change us and if we want the status quo we don’t want Him. But that’s not a guilt trip. His desire to change us is just further evidence that we matter to Him and He loves us.

My goal with relationships is no longer to try to change people. It’s to introduce people to a God who is already reaching toward them, right where they are. I am not responsible for changing people’s lives, I am responsible for faithfully loving them. As a believer, this means pointing them to a God who dearly wants them, and for whom I happen to know they yearn.

Don’t condemn the culture; redeem it.

Pastor Rob Riggan

(Excerpts taken from the book, “Unoffendable” by Brant Hansen)

Love As Jesus Did

One more thought on Revolutionary Love…

“We love because he first loved us.” I John 4:19

If we are called to live and love as Jesus did, then this is part of His example we need to follow. I know, it’s risky. We are taught early on to be stingy with our love, because we don’t want to look foolish. We are cautioned to guard our hearts, because we can’t trust what is in others. We’ve been warned to not cast our pearls before swine as if love is a finite substance that might run out. But imagine how different the world would be if those who follow Jesus would imitate Him in this too. To love first.

  • Imagine the reaction if you choose to say, “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
  • Imagine the reaction if you simply took on an undesirable task, like calling the cable company, or picking up the Legos, or folding the mountain of laundry that has overwhelmed the couch? (Bonus points for putting it away!)
  • Imagine the reaction if you allowed the woman with three kids and the mountain of groceries to go ahead of you in line, because she is just one “Mommy, I want…” from losing her mind.
  • Imagine the reaction if you took the time to acknowledge your server as an actual human being, with thoughts, feelings, and really sore feet, and asked about her day?

What If?
A dear friend of mine taught me the phrase, “You give and you give and you keep on giving with no regard for your personal safety!” We usually use it as a joke, when I offer to eat the last cookie, or drink the last of the pot of coffee, or do something which purely benefits me. But what if we employed this tactic in our every encounter?   What if we gave and gave and kept on giving without regard to our personal benefit, or recognition?

The ability to do this without resentment requires one thing, that your knower knows you are already loved sufficiently, abundantly, overwhelmingly by Jesus. We fear loving first because we are afraid we will come up short and will be left behind, alone, and unnoticed. But, if you are awash in the power and presence of Jesus abiding in you, you will have more than enough to pour out into others.

Imagine the reaction…

Pastor Lorelei

THE RIDE

malakai-makalaiThe air is stuffy….but electric. Muted conversations….then you hear it before you feel it. The powerful roar quiets all conversation and for an instant, nothing happens… Brakes are released and you feel it. Your back is thrust into the seat. There is a pressure on your chest as the objects out the window begin to fly by. Without notice, you feel like you are laying on your back with your feet in the air as the plane rotates. You feel the whole plane leap into the air as you continue to accelerate. The shaking stops and your fingers begin to feel the pressure of the grip from the person next to you – the one who has never flown before. You look over and his eyes are huge, yet the smile conveys great joy!

This little one is going to Disneyland. This first “ride” is one he has never experienced before and although it may be a bit terrifying, not knowing what is next, he knows the destination is all worth it.

The Destination
These last 12 months have been a ride. I, for one, am glad 2016 is almost over. With it came many things I have not experienced before, and I tell you, I don’t want to repeat most of them. Right about now we have about 81 hours of this “take off” left. The thing is, this is the price of the destination – what the Lord has for us. Like Abraham, we have to pay (sacrifice) to get to the place the Lord wants to take us. Please understand it is not a cost God requires before we are blessed, it is the natural process of things – a consequence – of movement and growth. But, as in going to Disneyland, the cost is worth the destination.

Genesis 12:1 & 4
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country and your people. Leave your father’s family. Go to the land I will show you… 4 So Abram left, just as the Lord had told him. Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran.

Our Lord said go – He didn’t say where or give any details… Sound familiar?

Zion’s River is going to a place we have never been before. Will it be free of encumbrances, free of fears, free of obstacles? Not sure, but I know it is better than “The Happiest Place On Earth”!  Are you wanting to join us in this process? In this move of God? It is worth it. I see the possibilities and it really is worth it!

We are leveling out, the air is smooth, the sun is brilliant above the cloud. Your head leans back, your eyes close… next stop … 2017!

Jeff

Grace And Peace

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge
of God and of Jesus our Lord.
2 Peter 1:2

Dear friends,
It is an honor to write to you in the season of celebrating the birth of Jesus. We are so blessed to know the Love of God. To think that eternal life was given by our Father on the day Jesus was born. We are so blessed to join with the angels who began to sing that night and continue into eternity.

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,
and in Him you have been made complete…
Colossians 2:9-10

Apostle Paul was talking about you. Jesus has completed you. This is reason to celebrate!

Beyond Words
Whenever I finish an assignment or meet a deadline, I feel a sense of joy because I know I have done what has been assigned to me. The joy that you are designed to experience, simply because you know Jesus, is beyond what words can describe! Jesus said, when praying to the Father, “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them…” John 17:22
There is no end to the glory of God. The glory of the Heavenly has been given to us on this earth. Be blessed by the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ our King in this season and for all eternity.

Merry Christmas!

In Jesus,
Adriel

I’ll Be Home for Christmas

I pray this letter finds you all feeling blessed in the Lord. As hard as it is to believe that another year is coming to an end, I have to tell you, I just LOVE the Christmas Season! Yes, I know it can be hard to maneuver through the crowds during this time of year, but I love staring at my decorated Christmas tree, thinking about what I’m going to buy for my grandchildren and most of all, listening to Christmas songs! One song in particular tugs at my heartstrings; I often find tears in my eyes after listening to it. The song is “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”. There is one particular line in this song that touches me… “I’ll be home for Christmas, if ONLY in my dreams”. Every time I listen to this song my mind goes back to when I was young, staring up into the Christmas tree and dreaming of what presents I might find on Christmas Day. My memories are happy ones. My growing up years were wonderful and full of happiness and love.

Gone
But now I grieve over my father who has Dementia and needs to live in a care facility. Gone are the times of laughter and deep talks I used to share with him. Gone also, is my marriage and the desire to have given my children and grandchildren a legacy of a whole family. You see, while listening to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” it brings up a deep yearning of the way things USED to be. The tears I have during the song are ones of loss and deep sorrow.

But Hope
But this letter is not one of sorrow but of HOPE. Yes, HOPE! You see, Jesus willingly left Heaven to come down as a newborn baby to bring you and me HOPE. Hope for a FUTURE, not only here on earth, but a future in Heaven with Him! A HOPE not based on the sorrows of the past (or present), but based on our FUTURE! I am comforted by the thought that this world is not our home. Scripture says we are IN the world, but not OF the world. Yes, in this life, we all experience sorrows and disappointments and if we only lived for this world it would be quite devastating.
However, as followers of Jesus Christ, we live for a FUTURE HOPE and this enables us to keep shining the light of Christ in the here and now. I encourage you all to let go of the past and look to your future. It is as bright as a clear, shining star. My prayer is that you be filled with the JOY and HOPE of the real Christmas season, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!

Pastor Liz

We Three Kings of Orient Are…

Christmas time is upon us, a time of wonder, hope and joy. It holds a special place in our hearts as believers because of the promise it holds. Children will hear Luke’s epic telling of Jesus’ birth including the angels, shepherds, Mary, and Joseph. It’s the stuff Christmas shows are made of. Then there’s the one short story in Matthew about the wise men (Magi) from the east which is often included with Luke’s version, perhaps to add some cinematic or literary flare, and it helps fill nativity scenes to boot! I like the wise men in Matthew, maybe because they are shrouded in mystery, or perhaps the obscurity of their story presents more to learn than Luke’s?

Still amidst this Christmas season exists our current world climate shaped and moved by opinion. The media is a cesspool of emotional rhetoric and hate from all sides. Social media is the bully pulpit. Seldom are the wise lifted up, only the noisy. Patient wisdom is a bygone practice. This latest election only proves that no one has convinced anyone of anything, only turned up the volume on opinions from both sides. No one is willing to listen to anything.

Wisdom is…
Wisdom is knowledge properly applied. It comes with patience, birthed of a humble heart, learned of experience, sound counsel, and divine inspiration. Wisdom embraces the understanding that this life is NOT the end-all. We are not finished in our 78 years here. We are more than a little blue tape on the endless rope of eternity that Pastor spoke of this week. Wisdom is a rare commodity. What does the Bible say?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Proverbs 9:10 ESV

This verse sticks in the back of my mind like peanut butter in a dry mouth. It has blessed me on countless occasions, and stung me like a wasp on a hot summer day when foolishly, I spewed my opinion in an attempt to salve my emotion.

God has prompted me to pray again for wisdom. He has been encouraging me to pray out of the fear of the Lord (respect, adoration, and obedience) regardless of my desire and opinion, taking a future kingdom perspective before the throne. I am asking only for His will, wisdom in every moment, and the ability to know Him better, and to know when NOT to speak.

In that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask what I shall give you.”  And Solomon said to God, “You have shown great and steadfast love to David my father, and have made me king in his place.  O Lord God, let your word to David my father be now fulfilled, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?” God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, wisdom and knowledge are granted to you…” 2 Chronicles 1:7-12 ESV

Keep Looking Up
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, had a kingdom perspective. It was “in his heart.” He meant it, believed it, and went to God with it – not to the world. And God granted his request and then some. Reading on, you see God poured out the blessing far above and beyond what Solomon asked. He spoke from an eternal perspective, void of opinion, asking for what only God could provide – divine wisdom.

Walk with me, seek wisdom and ask God for an eternal perspective. Whether in person, email, text, or social media, ask God before you speak. I can promise you, your love will multiply, your worry will dwindle, and your speech will be effective, laced in life.

What have I learned about the Wise Men? They didn’t say much. They kept looking up and sought the King of Kings.

Brothers and sisters, shalom.

Pastor Dean