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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Our Mission

For 2000 years, we have had the exact same mission. It's high time we got real about our own mission field right next door, on our own street, and within our neighborhoods.



December 27, 2015 from River Run Church on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Advent Reading: Love

Advent reading from the fourth Advent week at River Run Church. This week is the last Sunday before Christmas, the wreath is all lit, awaiting the most important piece. We have all been on a journey over the last four weeks and have been preparing for Jesus. This week He is here.

FIRST READER:
Advent is a word that means “coming” or “visit”. In the Christian season of Advent, we prepare for the “Coming” of Christ at Christmas while longing for His Return. This morning, we continue to light the advent candles as we move towards Christmas and the birth of Christ.

The lights of Hope, Peace, and Joy flicker over this Advent wreath. They flicker over our lives. As we move closer and closer to Christmas with each passing day we realize that throughout history these lights have penetrated the gloom of this world. Yet, darkness is still present. As we meditate on Jesus however, we become conscious that there is a horizon of light approaching us… The love of “God With Us”.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Advent Reading: JOY

Advent reading from "Gaudete Sunday" (Gow-Day-Tay) at River Run Church. This week is the turning point in Advent for Christians, in the glow of the lights of Hope and Peace, this is the week we celebrate the Joy of Christ's coming...






FIRST READER:

“Joy to the World the Lord is come. Let Earth receive her king!”
It is a familiar tune around the Christmas season, but this advent hymn is as much about Jesus’ second coming as it is his first. On this third Sunday of Advent, we light the Joy candle. It is a different color because it symbolizes our mood switching away from waiting and longing and instead into a state of preparing. We know Jesus is coming, and He is coming very soon. As we think about what it meant to the people when Christ came the first time, it helps us prepare for His return. He will not come as an infant again, but as a reigning King.
“Joy to the World, the Savior Reigns. Let men their songs employ!”

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Do you Hear What I Hear?

Do you hear what I hear?

Christmas music playing on every radio station.

"Its the most wonderful time of the year!"

Sermons every week on the coming birth of Jesus.

"The birth of Jesus is the answer God gives to a world locked in fear and darkness!"

The crazy thing is that, though we are submerged in music declaring that Peace has come, Love is here. That even the song for which I have titled this post declares these lyrics, "Pray for peace, people everywhere!"...

...I am instead surrounded with just the opposite.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Advent Reading: PEACE

Continuing our series on Advet readings, this is what we used today at River Run Church for the PEACE candle lighting.


First Reader:

Peace. It is hard to even contemplate what the word means anymore. We no longer live in a world where we experience the meaning of peace. But did we ever live in such a world?

The people of the Old Testament had recognized the promise of God in sending a savior. They were rooted in that hope. But Peace is what they needed.

Second Reader:

Psalm 85:6-13 says-

Won’t you revive us again,
    so your people can rejoice in you?
Show us your unfailing love, O Lord,
    and grant us your salvation.
I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying,
    for he speaks peace to his faithful people.
    But let them not return to their foolish ways.
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
    so our land will be filled with his glory.
Unfailing love and truth have met together.
    Righteousness and peace have kissed!
Truth springs up from the earth,
    and righteousness smiles down from heaven.
Yes, the Lord pours down his blessings.
    Our land will yield its bountiful harvest.
Righteousness goes as a herald before him,
    preparing the way for his steps.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Advent Reading: HOPE

This is the Advent reading we used at River Run Church this past week as we began the season with the traditional lighting of the HOPE candle on the wreath.

WEEK 1- HOPE
                   
READING:

Many of us grew up with the story of Advent beginning in a stable. But, the story begins in a Garden.                   
When God created the world, all things were just as they should be. Creation functioned in perfect order and moved in seamless harmony. Humanity walked in unbroken relationship with God, fully known and unafraid. But in an instant, all that changed as Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s good instruction. They took of the fruit, ate, and sin entered the world. Fellowship broken. Peace shattered. Creation thrown into chaos. Darkness, depravity, fear, shame and selfishness flooded the human heart, separating man from God. The situation was dire.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Longing for Meaning

“Do you WANT to be delivered? That is the one great question Advent puts to us. Does even a vestige of longing burn in us? If not, what do we want from Advent, what do we want from Christmas?” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Advent: the season which begins the New Year in the church liturgical calendar. It beckons us, no, requires us to pause and look. Look at what it is that we really want.

As a child, what we really desire is presents under the tree. Maybe like young Ralphie, all we wanted was that Red Ryder BB gun.

But then in a blink we look down at our aged hands and realize the passing shadow that is life has left us wrinkled, calloused, and dry. Too weary to look up, a tree full of ornaments and memories but empty of purpose. We look through picture albums and old journals in our attempt to experience *something* this Christmas season.

Maybe you are there this Christmas season, because you realize this is the first Christmas without Mom.
The first Christmas without children under your roof.
The first Christmas alone.
The first Christmas in a new place, away from family, away from friends.

Maybe, this is the first Christmas at church that you don't feel at home on Sunday mornings anymore.
Change has removed the traditions you held most dear.

All we want this Christmas is purpose. We want to experience...something meaningful.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Advent 2015

For a lot of people, Christmas is not always the “most wonderful time of the year.” Between visiting family, buying presents, sending out Christmas cards and everything else, what is supposed to be a special time can turn into a hectic and stressful few weeks.
But the tradition of Advent calls Christians to slow down and think more about what the season truly means.

So what is Advent?

Advent is a strange word to us. It sounds incomplete, like someone was trying to say “adventure” or “Adventist” but didn’t finish the word out. What’s up with the strange word and the strange candle lighting thing anyway?

Advent, which is the Latin word for “Coming”, is perhaps one of the oldest Christian traditions. Some suggest it was founded even by the Apostles, that once a year Christians would set aside a time and remember the first coming of Christ, the darkness that surrounded the world so tightly until light came. We do this so we might better prepare our minds and hearts for his second coming… a promise that Christmas gives us. There are three meanings of 'coming' that Christians describe in Advent. The first, and most thought of, happened about 2000 years ago when Jesus came into the world as a baby to live as a man and die for us. The second can happen now as Jesus comes into our lives to live and reign through His Spirit. And the third will happen in the future when Jesus comes back to the world as King and Judge.

Why Advent?

The spirit of Advent is the spirit of humanity fully alive.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Palatable God?

This started as a facebook post for some of my friends and followers and then I quickly decided it was better suited to be placed here.

I am asked a lot by people, "How do you know that you know the REAL Jesus?"

What they are usually really asking is how I could possibly believe that my understanding of Jesus is correct, and why I think so many have gotten Him wrong.

In many ways my well is poisoned when I try to answer that question, they have already basically made the assumption that I am an arrogant pseudo-scholar who thinks I understand Jesus perfectly and if anyone disagrees with me they are inherently wrong.

I hope to never come across as that guy.

But at the same time I do believe that the Jesus I have come to know, love, and worship is the same Jesus that walked this earth 2000 years ago. You cannot separate the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith. They are the same person.

My response is usually that I side with the people who knew Jesus best while he was on earth, that is, the Gospel writers and the Apostles.

I believe that the tradition handed down from them through the pages of the Bible has been kept in tact and is as reliable, if not more reliable than any other ancient documents we have about any historical event or person, ever. (A fact that I would encourage everyone to do deeper study on.)

Why? Because I have no reason not to. The Greek manuscripts we have proved that the words were left unchanged. Jewish studies have proven to us that Scribes and priests made their top priority in their lives to accurately translate and record the Scriptures handed down since the days of Moses.

Many tell me that the Jesus in the Bible, or rather the 'God' of the Bible (as if they are somehow separate) is too primitive, too outdated, too ridiculous to actually believe in. If I ask who they believe in, I usually already know the answer. It is an image of a god who looks a lot like them, or who they want to be.

George Tyrrell once used an analogy to answer why that is the most ridiculous claim one can make,

When one looks into the deep well of history in search of Jesus, there is always the real hazard of seeing one's own reflection gazing back, and mistaking that for Jesus.

A god who is palatable to our own ideas and boxed in on what our idea of morality, love, and even sovereignty is, is no god, but a fantasy. A desire to know Jesus outside of the Scriptures is just as bizarre as wanting to know Jesus outside of community with His people.

Another scholar puts it this way, "God created us in His image, and then we returned the favor."

How arrogant of us to think that the Creator is out of touch with us today?Or that we would make better gods than YHWH ever could?

I'm sorry people think the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is out of touch with the 21st Century, I really am, because all that tells me is that there are millions and millions and millions of people who are out of touch with reality themselves.

The mission is still binding, brothers and sisters, and I stand on my firm belief that the Gospel and the Gospel alone is what can and will save this world. The old, old story that has been the Power of God unto salvation for 2000 years is still just as alive and powerful today... and still just as needed today.



-----

 
Nathan Bryant


is a pastor at River Run Church in East Orlando, FL. As a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri he majored in Biblical Leadership, New Testament Studies, and Missiology.  In 2014 he attended the Leadership Institute in Phoenix, AZ where he continued his education from other pastors and educators at one of the fastest growing churches in the United States. He loves the outdoors, whether it is camping in the mountains or jumping through the waves at the beach, nothing is better than enjoying God’s creation. Nathan longs for unity and commitment to Jesus to be a defining element in the global church of his generation.

Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our boundaries.

Follow him on Twitter:

Nathan's Website


 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Learning How to Worship: Psalm 144

I chose Psalm 144 to close the first go around in this series of posts because of how well I think the
Psalm encompasses and concludes the entire Psalter. It is a psalm of David, and whether intentional by him or not, I do believe its placement was very intentional by the compiler of the book.

Why?

Because within this Psalm I see reflections, allusions, even word for word quotes from some of the other poems we have studied. In many ways this is the acting last psalm of Book Five.

The next six psalms that actually end the collection are one, a stand alone psalm that also sums up the totality of the book fairly well, and then five doxologies to remind us of the praise of God and the centrality of Torah in Israel's life.

Psalm 144 acts as the final 'Hoorah!' in my opinion of the themes in the Psalter. It also bookends the entire psalter with Psalm 2 as another Royal Psalm. David is where we began, David is where we end, but the chiastic structure that this creates within the whole collection points us to the one who is far greater than David: God Himself.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Learning How to Worship: Psalms of Ascents

This week I am taking a different approach. I could have picked just one of these Psalms to highlight, but the fact is these specific psalms that I wanted to highlight were meant to be kept together.

Psalms 120-134 is a collection of Psalms that were used by Jewish pilgrims as they made their trek up to Jerusalem for festivals. These are psalms that were sung in preparation for worship at the Temple. They were designed to prepare the hearts and minds of the worshipers to be close to the presence of God. Jesus would have most likely sung these songs when he was twelve years old and walking to the temple in the caravan from Galilee (see Luke 2:41-52) He would have sung these with his disciples every time they came to Jerusalem. These psalms were memorized by the people. Something that was held so tightly by the Jewish people as they worshiped YaHWeH that Christians today still see the fruit of Scripture in is something we should definitely spend some time studying and perhaps memorizing and using in our own worship services.

So today I want to share five different pieces of wisdom I gleaned from these 15 Psalms:

The first Psalm of Ascents, Psalm 120 is a prayer to the LORD to deliver the people from those who speak ill against them as well as praying the LORD will save them from falling into the similar trap. The basic premise and piece of wisdom this psalm teaches us is one that the New Testament echoes, specifically James. Deceitful lips and lying tongues will not go unpunished. The LORD desires us to be at peace with all peoples, He desires for us to control or tame the tongue, that we will not say things that breed disunity and break apart harmony. This was probably a way for the people as they went up to Jerusalem to think about their speech, about how they have been living with their mouths. The image of Isaiah comes to mind when I think about that idea. These people were literally going up to where the presence of God was dwelling. When Isaiah saw the LORD in Is. 6, he cried out “Woe is me, a man of unclean lips.” It is a good practice among Christians today to be cognizant of our speech and how we address people, for it is the same mouth we will use to praise and worship our God.

I see a second teaching of life wisdom from the Psalms of Ascents, first in Psalm 121, but echoed throughout the Ascents (124, 125, 127, 129) is that God is our guard. He alone is all we need for protection and honestly, the only one who truly can protect His people from all harm. If God is for us, who can be against us? The wisdom here is remembering that. It is hard sometimes to remember that it is God who builds the house, it is God who watches over the city. It is God who ordains all things and allows all things. It is God, not me, who is strong and gifted in certain areas. It is God who has given us the ability, the opportunity, and the will to live. It is He who never sleeps on the job or ever has an “off-day”. God is sovereign over all and truly good to His people. Psalm 127 especially brings this home for me, a Psalm of Solomon, there is hint of the attitude of Ecclesiastes in it. Basically if God is not involved, it is all meaningless. Remember God, and don’t take pride in your own strength. Remember God, and don’t try to do things on your own. Remember God and worship Him for all that we do have, and not what we wish we had. The LORD is our portion, our inheritance, our only true need.

A third teaching of wisdom I gleaned from the Psalms of Ascents is one I saw in just about every single one of them. There is a necessity for true community in order to worship God the way He desires to be worshiped. Not only for that reason, but there is a sincere gladness by the Psalmists when they speak of doing things together. Psalm 133 is the cherry on top. Worship established community that was beneficial, encouraging, and joyous for the worshipers. We were made for community. The Christian life is not one that can be trail-blazed alone.

Theology is incomplete without community.

Fourth, the Psalms of Ascents teach us that preparing our hearts before God is just as important as the worship we give him in a corporate setting. I pull this concept more from the background and practice of these psalms more than the actual words of Scripture, but I think it definitely holds weight for us. If we are living lives of worship, every day of the week, it makes Sunday's corporate setting that much sweeter. What are you doing to cultivate an appreciation, reverence, and respect for God? What are you doing in your life to create space for God to impact you? Where are you serving so as to make your church's Sunday morning experience worshipful for everyone who attends?

Lastly, I see authentic devotion and faith of the people in these Psalms. It is hard to read these, even harder to sing these Psalms or speak of them without feeling the weight of the words.

Do we truly believe that God is our help?
Do we truly believe that God is our keeper, for now and forevermore?
Do we truly believe that God is sovereign, and that without Him nothing would be?
Do we truly believe that God will use our suffering for His purposes?

These words force us to practice certain disciplines, or else we find ourselves lying to ourselves when we say the words.

Do we wait for the LORD, and put our hope in His Word? (Ps. 130)
Do we practice the calming and quieting of our soul? (Ps. 131)
Do we resonate the desire to dwell together in unity? (Ps. 133)
Are we as devoted to God as the servants who worshiped in the Temple at night? (Ps. 134)

This isn't a call to be legalistic or do more things, just to go through the motions... it is a heart check. I can't read these 15 Psalms without asking myself if my faith is authentic and really desire more from my relationship with Jesus. On the other hand these Psalms are also a great reminder that I don't have to approach a Temple to be in the presence of God our Savior.

We are where His presence rests. That is a humbling, and yet glorious truth.



-----

 
Nathan Bryant


is a pastor at River Run Church in East Orlando, FL. As a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri he majored in Biblical Leadership, New Testament Studies, and Missiology.  In 2014 he attended the Leadership Institute in Phoenix, AZ where he continued his education from other pastors and educators at one of the fastest growing churches in the United States. He loves the outdoors, whether it is camping in the mountains or jumping through the waves at the beach, nothing is better than enjoying God’s creation. Nathan longs for unity and commitment to Jesus to be a defining element in the global church of his generation.

Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our boundaries.

Follow him on Twitter:

Nathan's Website


 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Formation Friday: Tears of the Saints

In lieu of a Formation Friday post, I wanted to share this.

Perhaps the most important Formation Friday post I could share. It is an updated video of "Tears of the Saints".

We have shared the older one before so I thought it fitting to share this one with updated stats and an HD makeover. It is always a humbling reminder of our call here on earth. We are so privileged. If you are reading this post today, YOU are a part of the most privileged, educated, and well off demographic in the world.

So watch the video below, but here is the takeaway:

PRAY. Perhaps the most formative discipline a Christian can practice, and one that is always talked about but seldom practiced. We need to pray for God to raise up more workers (maybe you are one of them) and GO! We need to pray for those who have been sent, that they would remain steadfast, fixed on Christ and the mission He gave them, and that their hearts would be overwhelmed with love for the people they are reaching. And let us pray for the unreached people groups themselves. There are still 7,000 who have never been touched with the truly GOOD NEWS of the Jesus. 7,000 people groups living without any kind of hope whatsoever.

I hope that I can be a piece of this great mission we have upon us. Will you?


"The job is not done in the world that Christ gave us to do..."

"Father, we will lead them home."

"Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, and the alternative is hell; and millions and and millions and millions are on their way there; and we have the only means of escape in our heads and in our hearts, Jesus Christ."

"This is an emergency!"

"So, count the cost brothers and sisters. This is not an invitation to an easy life. For 2000 years, thousands and thousands of missionaries, the unnamed-no biographies written about them, just unnamed people of whom the world is not worthy, have counted the cost and put their lives at risk and reached the lost with the only message of salvation."


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Learning How to Worship: Psalm 103

Psalm 103 is the epitome of a Praise Psalm.

And that right there was the most obvious statement I probably ever made.

Well, of course, it is! The Psalm begins and ends with PRAISE THE LORD, or as some English translations say, "Bless the Lord".

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

It is filled with makarism. The same style of speaking and writing that Jesus used to begin the Sermon on the Mount. We are to bless the LORD because of who He is and what He has done.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
    he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children's children,
to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all.


I love this psalm because of the story it tells. It is filled with redemption, grace, and love. It is a psalm that I believe every Christian can sing joyfully and without any kind of hesitation or need to explain away specific phrases.

We are called to praise the LORD in every circumstance because of what He has done in our world. He has forgiven us of all our sins, and redeemed our lives from the pit.
He works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

There are appeals to Moses, phrases from Isaiah, from Genesis pulling from the Creation account, from Abraham, and Jacob. There is a reference to the throne which conjures up the image of a King. Knowing that this is written from David, it reminds the reader that though David was the great King, there is still an even greater king.

Furthermore, this psalm is a Jesus song. It tells the story of how God has redeemed his people through Jesus. The Old Testament was but a shadow of the grace and redemption available to all through Jesus. The only way to respond to such a story, such a song, is to worship.

Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his word,
    obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
    his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the Lord, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!




-----

 
Nathan Bryant


is a pastor at River Run Church in East Orlando, FL. As a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri he majored in Biblical Leadership, New Testament Studies, and Missiology.  In 2014 he attended the Leadership Institute in Phoenix, AZ where he continued his education from other pastors and educators at one of the fastest growing churches in the United States. He loves the outdoors, whether it is camping in the mountains or jumping through the waves at the beach, nothing is better than enjoying God’s creation. Nathan longs for unity and commitment to Jesus to be a defining element in the global church of his generation.

Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our boundaries.

Follow him on Twitter:

Nathan's Website


 

The Secret to More Passion in Your Life



The Gospel of Mark begins like a horse sprinting out of the gate at the Kentucky Derby! Unlike the other Gospel writers, who take their time setting up the story, maybe being poetic and beautiful, Mark hits the ground running. He is not playing around!


I get exhausted just reading chapter 1! Within the span of 45 verses, Mark records 11 different instances of the ministry of Jesus! And this includes preaching throughout ALL of Galilee!

But there's an interesting little verse tucked in the middle of all Jesus' craziness. Mark notes in verse 35:
  "In the morning, long before dawn, Jesus got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there."  

When Henri Nouwen reflected on this chapter, he had this to say about the verse:


"The more I read this nearly silent sentence locked in between the loud words of action, the more I have the sense that the secret of Jesus' ministry is hidden in the lonely place where he went to pray, early in the morning, long before dawn. 
In the lonely place, Jesus finds the courage to follow God's will and not his own; to speak God's words and not his own; to do God's work and not his own....It is in the lonely place, where Jesus enters into intimacy with the Father, that his ministry is born."


You're probably thinking, "What's your point?"

Here it is: Ministry is really, really important. When we serve those in need, we're joining Jesus in establishing the Kingdom here on earth! 


But we can only truly extend the kingdom when we're seeking the King. 

And let me say this: We all have our own ways that we connect with God, those are mecessary. But there's something important about...stillness. In the midst of the craziness, of all the amazing ministry, we need to learn to just be still before God.

One of my Professors in school put it this way:
"Before we presume to speak about God, or for God, we must first learn to be silent before Him." 

As I speak mostly to millennials who dream of doing great deeds for the kingdom, let me rephrase this statement: Before we presume to do great things on God's behalf, we must first learn to be humble and still before Him.

So if you're still reading this...
Why don't you simply take 5 minutes to be still before God? 

Let all the noise, all the voices be stilled, and listen for the one voice that really matters.



-----

Evan Smith

wants to be a man who is marked by a hunger for God. Born and raised in Texas, he grew up the third-born of 7 kids and loved (almost) every minute of it! He majored in New Testament studies at Ozark Christian College, and also studied Ministry at Christ's Church of the Valley in Phoenix. He now makes his home in Dallas, is happily married to his high school sweetheart, Breanna, and has two wonderful kids, Hannah Joy and Peter. 


The God who came, still comes. The God who spoke, still speaks.”

Monday, September 21, 2015

Learning How to Worship: Psalm 73

“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”
-Corrie Ten Boom

Have you ever wondered why good things happen to bad people?

You aren't alone.

How can a Christian maintain our worldview of God's goodness to those who love Him (Rom 8:28), when so many terrible things happen in the lives of God's people.

In Psalm 73 Asaph resonates with every Christian (and every Jew) who has ever lived by exploring the issue of the prosperity of the wicked, and his answer is one that sometimes is unsatisfying, but one that is the most true. We find our answer to the question only when we take our eyes off of the prosperity of the wicked and enter into God's presence.

I think a maxim from one of my college professor's that, "What we need most is a clear vision of Jesus," is one that satisfies this longing expressed in the Psalm the best way we can attempt to.

Everyone can look around and desire the prosperity they see of people who live in evil. We do from time to time question whether the truth we know is worth the suffering or sense of unrest that we tend to experience. The way of the Godly is rough at times. The road is narrow. The covenant in Asaph's eyes was at times hard to desire. And so he writes down in a beautiful declaration what we all feel from time to time.

We want to know why Godless people like Donald Trump seem to prosper (yes, I just went there). We want to know why people idolize Hugh Hefner.

Is our way, is God's way REALLY worth it?


Asaph struggles for a bit, but eventually comes to the conclusion that yes, it is. 

The text says that he sought to understand this, but it seemed to be a very wearisome task, UNTIL Asaph went into the presence of God. He discerned the end of wicked people there.


The presence of God changes us.

Because the good that happens to bad people on earth will come to an end. To borrow a line from Jonathan Edward's famous sermon on this particular Psalm, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God":


"...he that walks in slippery places is every moment liable to fall; he can't foresee one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once, without warning." 

Let us remember that just because God allows evil to seem to flourish, and prosper those who do injustice; he has promised to repay. 

In Romans 12:19-21 Paul writes,
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
“I will take revenge;
 I will pay them back,”
 says the Lord.
Instead,
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
 If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
 In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. (NLT)

And again, Paul says in Galatians 6:7,
"Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap."
While in the presence of God, Asaph realizes his own weariness, frailty, and sin. He says that the bitterness he felt in his heart toward the wicked actually stirred his affections away from God. 

We will go through life always having one more question that never seems to be answered to our satisfaction, but like we see in this Psalm, our answer we get is rarely the answer we desire, but rather God gives us Himself.

Asaph realizes that the wicked are actually at a loss, because they don't get to be near God. He ends the Psalm by saying,

"But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works."

Asaph's heart is changed, and instead of bitterness toward the wicked he decides to evangelize. He wants to "tell of all God's works".

In the middle of this Psalm are some of my absolute favorite verses in the Bible. It is part of Asaph's prayer before he comes to his grand conclusion. It is a confession and a plea. The language he uses has always just been striking to me, and this is a prayer that I pray a lot throughout my day to remind myself of God's faithfulness to me, His presence with me, and that He is my lot, my portion, and my strength.

I would encourage everyone to memorize these verses and think about the words, hold them tight, and may they encourage you in the same way that they encouraged Asaph, encouraged Israel, encouraged Jesus (as I am sure He prayed these exact words while on earth, maybe even from the cross), and have encouraged me:

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
    you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (vs.23-26)



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Nathan Bryant


is a pastor at River Run Church in East Orlando, FL. As a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri he majored in Biblical Leadership, New Testament Studies, and Missiology.  In 2014 he attended the Leadership Institute in Phoenix, AZ where he continued his education from other pastors and educators at one of the fastest growing churches in the United States. He loves the outdoors, whether it is camping in the mountains or jumping through the waves at the beach, nothing is better than enjoying God’s creation. Nathan longs for unity and commitment to Jesus to be a defining element in the global church of his generation.

Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our boundaries.

Follow him on Twitter:

Nathan's Website


 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Prayer from St. Ignatius of Loyola

"I say to the Lord, 'You are my Lord; I have no good apart from You.'"
Psalm 16:2 (ESV)


Born in 1491, Ignatius grew up in a family with 13 children, his father a noble in northern Spain. As just one child among many, Ignatius dreamed only of romance and of making a name for himself by joining the military.

He thought his wish had been granted as he rapidly rose through the ranks in the army. But as he fought in a battle against the French, he was struck by a cannonball, shattering both his leg and his hopes of great deeds and military fame.

It was during his time of recovery that Ignatius began reading the Gospels and the stories of saints who had devoted their lives to Christ. Most people only have one moment, two if they're lucky, when they face a crossroads that will change the entire direction of their lives. Ignatius found himself at this moment, and he would not turn away.

Ignatius was captivated with the life of Jesus and inspired by the devotion of past men and women of faith. He devoted the rest of his life to two great aims: Knowing God and serving with all his might. His boyhood dreams of "great deeds and military fame" became dreams of great deeds for the glory of God. His lifelong motto was ad majoram Dei gloriam –– "for the greater glory of God."

He compiled his prayers and insights in a book entitled "Spiritual Exercises," which would become one of the most influential books on Spiritual Formation ever written. In 1534, at the age of 43, Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus, which you may know as the Jesuits. He described the Society as "contemplatives in action."

Contemplatives...men devoted to prayer. Contemplatives...men of prayer who refused to stay cloistered in an abbey. The influence of these men of prayer and action is still present today in the life of Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope in the history of the Catholic church, and all those who follow his example.

So, who was this Ignatius of Loyola?

A man whose life was consumed with the pursuit of personal glory found his dreams –– and his very body –– completely shattered. Yet it was in his despair that Ignatius discovered the hope that would drive him for the rest of his life. 

Where are you? Where do you find yourself right now, in this present moment? What consumes your dreams? I pray that you will find hope in the same Gospel that changed his life.

And may this prayer penned by Ignatius become your own.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Let Him Love You


"Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us––He calls us children of God! It's true; we are His beloved children."
1 John 3:1 (The Voice)




Over the last few years, I have become convinced that one of the most important issues––perhaps the issue of supreme importance––in the Christian Life is knowing and understanding that we are children of God. And almost all of our problems stem from the fact that we have misunderstood this vital truth.

Two men who have influenced my personal journey in knowing God as my Father are Henri Nouwen and Dennis Jernigan. I've already written here about Nouwen, but I wanted to share one of Dennis' most powerful songs about the love of God, written from Father God's perspective.

So please...shut the door, isolate yourself, and listen to these words from your Father. 

Let Him love you.


A prolific songwriter and author, Dennis Jernigan has been one of the most influential worship leaders for the last 30 years. If you would like to discover more about Dennis and his ministry, you can visit his website, www.dennisjernigan.com.

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Evan Smith

wants to be a man who is marked by a hunger for God. Born and raised in Texas, he grew up the third-born of 7 kids and loved (almost) every minute of it! He majored in New Testament studies at Ozark Christian College, and also studied Ministry at Christ's Church of the Valley in Phoenix. He now makes his home in Dallas, is happily married to his high school sweetheart, Breanna, and has two wonderful kids, Hannah Joy and Peter. 


The God who came, still comes. The God who spoke, still speaks.”

Evan's Website


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Learning How to Worship: Psalm 55

Throughout this series we have been posting our reflections on specific psalms and taking from them something we can apply to our lives as we attempt to live a life of worship to our God and King. Looking back on the last few posts I was struck, well of course it is easy to worship God when we read Psalm 8, Psalm 19, Psalm 23, 42, or the penitential desire of Psalm 51… God is listening, God is near, God is active.

But what about those times when He feels distant?

What about when we have been so beaten and battered by life, by un-hopeful circumstances that surround us?

When we are in anguish?


What about when we truly feel like we have been unjustly accused?

Wronged.

Hurt.

Where the bleeding just won’t stop from a deep emotional wound.


How do we worship in those moments?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Breathing Room: Psalm 42

For the next four weeks my church is going through a series called, "Breathing Room". Because of the Psalm series we have been walking through this Fall and Pastor Mitch's main text he used in this message (Psalm 42), I thought I would share this. Learn why margin is important for a full life in Christ!

- Nate

 
September 13, 2015 from River Run Church on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Prayer for when You're on the Edge

John Piper has said 
"I feel like I have to get saved every morning. I wake up and the devil is sitting on my face."

For any of you objectors to this statement, let me cut you off at the pass here: Let's all be adults and recognize the use of hyperbole. Piper isn't saying that he is standing outside of Christ's salvation at the dawn of each day. He is recognizing his weakness, his vulnerability, his propensity to turn away from faith and focus on fear and temptation and pride.

Don't you feel that sometimes?

If truly I'm honest with myself, when I actually unplug from the constant distraction of technology and am alone with myself, I am forced to acknowledge the darkness within my own heart. I find myself....vulnerable.


It is precisely in this moment, when I find myself on the edge, that my Heavenly Father is beckoning me.






So don't stay there, alone with the darkness. But don't run away to the distractions either. Cry out. Cry out for help, for rescue, for more of God.

Because you are never truly alone with your darkness.

 "The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
       a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know Your name will trust in You, 
       for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You."

-Psalm 9:9-10 (NIV)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Learning How to Worship: Psalm 51

Throughout this Fall we are writing reflections on the Psalms; I (Nathan) am required to do this for class, but invited the whole team to chime in on this series. Here we have a psalm many of us are probably VERY familiar with, we have heard it sung in church, we have heard sermons on the background story of this psalm, we have read it as our very own prayer of sorrow and plea for forgiveness before. And yet, every time I come to it, I personally get wrecked. Grace, something David could see but not fully grasp the implications of. Yes, that same grace that is fully offered and freely given to me... Should that not lead us to worship?

My hope is that though this penitential psalm of David, this heart breaking plea for forgiveness and for God to have mercy is hard to read and pray and feel... that we will see it as just another way to worship. I have stolen this line from one of my professors who I am truly indebted to for so much of my education and spiritual journey, but in the end, what we need most is a clear vision of Jesus.

Today, we continue "Learning How to Worship" with Psalm 51 written by our friend, Thomas Montgomery.

------



I can’t help but see the risen Christ all throughout this Psalm. I can’t help but see his mercy and grace weaving in and out of the words of the Psalmist. 


Monday, September 7, 2015

Learning How to Worship: Psalm 42

(ATTENTION READER: There is music embedded into this post, I encourage you to read with your speakers on low volume.)

If the book of Psalms is, as some have spoke of it, a mirror of holy and passionate affections spilled from the heart into words upon scrolls, then this psalm in particular deserves, as much as any one psalm, to have the same description attached to it. Psalm 42 begins book 2 of the Psalter, compiled directly after a wisdom psalm that echoes the desire for holiness and loyalty to YHWH as Lord.
Here, the introduction to the 2nd Book of the Psalter, Psalm 42 is focused upon the longing of one to be in the presence of God.

Psalm 42 is known in Christian circles mostly for its opening line. Martin Nystrom famously wrote the chorus, "As the Deer" in 1981, and it immediately became a favorite praise song to be sung in churches across the United States. I saw it fitting to add to this post as an extra effect, the song playing is an instrumental version of Mr. Nystrom's song.

The Psalm itself however was written by the Sons of Korah. The first of many of these psalms.
The Korahites became doorkeepers and custodians for the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 9:19–21; 1 Chronicles 2.) However, the most remarkable thing to note about the sons of Korah is that during the time of King David, they became the great leaders in choral and orchestral music in the tabernacle. Heman the Korahite had a place of great importance as a singer, along with Asaph (a Gershonite) and Ethan or Jeduthan (a Merarite). These individuals played an important role in the thanksgiving services and pageantry when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem. David formed an elaborate organization for song, instrumental music, and prophesying through these men.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Prayer from A.W. Tozer

I have found that so long as I live at a frenetic pace of life, and can fill every moment with distractions, I am oblivious to the state of my soul. But as soon as I slow down...I am confronted with true reality.
"Who am I? Who is God? How do I relate to God?"
These questions, and more, begin to arise when we enter stillness.

And more often than not, my soul has a profound lack of desire for God.

The instant I slow down, I just want more distractions, more fleeting pleasure. There is something inside of us that runs away from being satisfied by knowing God.

But God has done an incredible thing:
The moment we cry out for hunger is the moment He begins to answer our cry.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Call to Worship

Sunday night, my church hosted a Night of Worship and Prayer to again, call us back to what we are. A family of believers united under and with God. We worshiped freely, made specific communal prayer requests, and had our elders pray over people who came forward for healing (in accordance with James 5). It was a wonderful time. I had the privilege to start he night by issuing a Call to Worship for our church. Since I have been studying the Psalms for the last few weeks and been writing and speaking on specific psalms I decided to use the Psalter as my inspiration for my prayer and call for the attenders to worship. I thought I would share it with you today.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Learning How To Worship: Psalm 19

The great author, C.S. Lewis, once said of Psalm 19 that it was by far "the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world."


One of the most profound philosophers to ever live, Immanuel Kant, marveled at the starry heavens above and the moral law within and noted that "both echo this truth of this psalm, because both reveal God's glory."

Any time I come to this psalm it forces me to think through all of the things the writer references. How often have I taken for granted the world around me?
How often have I missed the beauty of the sun rising "like a great athlete eager to run a race"?
I chose to focus our attention on this psalm today in hopes that we will learn to worship God in the every day things, because as the psalmist goes on they point us to the Word of the LORD, or the Laws of God.

Spurgeon comments regarding this psalm as a response of David and his particular study of God's two great books: nature and Torah, saying,
[David] had so thoroughly entered into the spirit of these two only volumes in his library that he was able with a devout criticism to compare and contrast them, magnifying the excellency of the Author as seen in both. He is wisest who reads both the world-book, and the Word-book as two volumes of the same work, and feels concerning them, "My Father wrote them both."

In Psalm 19, God transcends any box of understanding I could possibly try to trap Him in.
Yet, He is immanently revealing Himself in the most paradoxical, wonderful, mysterious, and intimate of ways.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Learning How to Worship: Psalm 12

Words are weapons.

Depending on who wields them determines if they are used for destruction or protection.  The world uses words to destroy because that is its’ identity. John’s Gospel paints the world as what Jesus came to save and yet the world remains in darkness because that is what it loves (John 3:16-20). Words from the world communicate a message to trap people into a mold they do not belong in. This mold turns humans into creatures who boast and are full of lies and lust. The world cannot create people who protect because the world remains in the darkness.  The words of God however, create people who bring life and love into the world.

Psalm 12 is a lament, and it is the first lament where God speaks.

Eight laments have already passed by the time the reader reaches this one and God has remained silent. The psalmist has pealed with God for help over and over again with no response. All the psalmist has is the confidence in God’s character.

Yet, this psalm is different.

God speaks.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Learning How to Worship: Psalm 8



Today I will be starting a new series of posts that will last a few weeks, specifically on the book of Psalms. This is for a class assignment that I am working on, but nonetheless one I wanted to share with everyone who visits our site frequently. I'm calling it "Learning How to Worship" since this book has historically been a collection of poems, prayers, and songs that were addressed to and about God.

Today to start us off will be a thought on Psalm 8.

----


Psalm 8 opens with the lines, “Oh LORD, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens.” It is at its very core and expression of praise, an adoration of worship. I think there is a lot we can learn as a culture about God, about His church, and about His creation from this psalm alone. My boss has always said that it is sad and increasingly sad that we save our best praises for sports teams and not for our creator. This psalm, written by David for a worshipful environment has rich theology about God and man’s place in God’s universe bookended by these statements of adoration and worship. 

“Oh LORD, our Lord…” The name of God and who He is by His very own nature our Lord, our King, our ruler, begins and shapes this cry of love.

Charles Spurgeon commentates on this opening and closing line in his famous work, The Treasury of David, which I will be using a lot during this study, 


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Love Where You Live

A hefty critique on our culture. A hard but much needed message.

"...Think about it! What are we going to do? Who’s going to speak up?” -Judges 19:30 NLT


August 16, 2015 from River Run Church on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015