Wednesday, July 30, 2014

From the Outside Looking In

From the Outside Looking In

by Donna Ebanks
Associate Pastor of Women’s Ministries

I recently had the privilege to attend a ConnXtions Tour lead by Pastor Nate. If you have never been to a ConnXtions Tour and you are fairly new to our church, or if you have been coming a while but you want to learn how you can have a deeper connection, I highly recommend it. At the event you can learn about our mission and vision for the church and ask questions regarding specific areas of ministry to help you plug into life at the Naz. Sandwiched in between a short presentation, a tour of the church, and a meal, was a time for those in attendance to share their spiritual journeys: What led them to us and what they are looking for in a church. The group was very open in sharing about their relationship with the Lord and what they have experienced as they worshiped with us. They specifically shared how they felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in our worship. Even though each story was very inspiring and unique there was a lot of common ground in experiences and in their expectations for a place to call their church home. They shared their desire to become a part of a community of believers that genuinely studies the scriptures to apply it to their lives and to go deeper in their relationship with Christ. A couple of those present have children and the kids even shared their testimony and how quickly they felt a part of us. I went home that night feeling a great sense of thankfulness to the Lord for what He has done and what He is doing in the life of our church. I am really proud of my church family and very thankful for the honest feedback of those present at the meeting.  

As wonderful as the meeting was, I was hoping to meet someone who did not know Christ or someone who may have known Him but has fallen away from a relationship with Him. Please understand me, I would love it if everyone knew Him, loved Him and served Him, but I know that is not a true picture of our present world. I was once one of those people who came into a church with no intimate knowledge of God. In fact I had very little true knowledge of Him, but I was seeking to know Him. I was discipled by my neighbor Evis, whom I had grown to trust and appreciate, and she led me to a church. I was 23 years old at the time.
In his book Multiply, Francis Chan asked “Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a disciple maker? “Being a disciple maker means that you will need to begin to look at the people in your life differently. Every person in your life is created in the image of God, and Jesus commands every one of them to follow Him. God has placed these people in your life so that you will do everything you can to influence them. Following Jesus means that you will be reaching other people to follow Jesus.”  

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40)

"But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9)

The summer is a great time to get to know your neighbors or a co-worker. Make a plan to invite someone over for dinner, or to our last church picnic to build a relationship that can last forever.  Pray for your neighbor or co-worker by name. Ask God to provide an opportunity for a relationship to grow. Evis was not the best cook, nor did she have a great house or influential friends. Very quickly I learned that Evis loved the Lord and was genuinely concerned for my soul.  After all these years I have never forgotten her and, over the years, I have remembered her in my prayers and I have thanked my God for her!  
I love my church family but I long to see it grow with new believers and new relationships that will stretch us and bring something so unique that we will wonder how we ever got along without them!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Get Your Armor On

Get Your Armor On

Dear Church family and friends,
Good day from the Castle of King Christopher from the days of yore, when knights fought to protect kingdoms from evil, and dragons roamed the land!
In case you'd forgotten, we are in the middle of the Kingdom Chronicles Vacation Bible Adventure this week. We've been blessed with over 80 children each night, and about 50 volunteers who help to make this event a success! You are welcome to come visit any night between 6:00 - 8:30pm, but especially exciting are the nightly dramas at 8:05! Thursday night will be a special medieval re-enactment from 8:15-8:45, demonstrating hand-to-hand combat techniques of the day. Finally, you won't want to miss our VBA highlight service during the 10:45am worship time in the Family Life Center this coming Sunday. You will be blessed and encouraged by what you see our children learning about the armor of God and the battle for truth. I hope you'll join us! Don't forget that we will also be worshipping at 9:15am in the sanctuary, too, with Pastor Nate sharing the Word.
I encourage you to take time to reacquaint yourself with the scripture from Ephesians 6:11-18, regarding the Armor of God. I'll share a special version of that in a moment. As we are studying about God's truth here at VBA we are reminded about a very real battle we all daily encounter. Satan is crafty, the father of all lies, and he wants to trip us up and confuse us regarding God's absolute truth. As we spend time reading God's words in Scripture it will be easier to recognize these lies. But we can further protect ourselves and our children if we make use of the spiritual armor God has provided for us.
God knew Satan would try to send his attacks on us, and He made special provisions for us! Let's remember to use this protection God has provided. How ridiculous would it be for our military personnel to go into battle without all their protective gear? It is equally ridiculous for us to neglect daily putting on our armor or dressing our loved ones in it!
I love this scripture prayer that was written by Jodie Berndt in her book, Praying the Scriptures for Your Children. She suggests that as we dress our young children, fold laundry for our family, or pack clothes for a trip, that we pray this prayer. Make it a daily routine. We all have special people in our lives, so this prayer isn't limited to just children. Fill in the blanks with the name of the person you are "praying on" the armor of God!
Lord, clothe ________ with your full armor so he/she can take his stand against the Devil's schemes. Help him to stand firm, with the belt of truth buckled around his waist and the breastplate of righteousness in place. Fit his feet with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Give _________ the shield of faith, with which he can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Place the helmet of salvation on his head and the sword of the Spirit, which is your Word, in his hands. Finally, teach him to pray and be alert. (Ephesians 6:11-18)
The battle is raging; suit up, grab your sword and be victorious in the Lord!
Blessings and peace,
Queen Susan, of VBAland

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Busyness of Life

The Busyness of Life

By Jessica Myers
Youth Pastor

I don’t know about your schedule, but this summer for me has been crazy busy. I am not entirely sure where the entire month of June went! The teens have been busy participating in regional BLAST at MVNU, NYI convention, a weeklong mission trip to Chicago, C4 camp and all of the in between things. Its crazy how time can just fly by and you don’t notice it. 
When I was a teen, not that long ago, my youth pastor taught a lesson on being busy. He shared the acronym that being busy was Being Under Satan’s Yoke. This has stuck with me over the years and I think of it when things get crazy and time starts passing me by. This is a tactic of the devil. If he cannot hinder our relationship with God by making us immoral, he makes us busy. Just look around and you will see the proof of this sad truth.  
I was lying in bed thinking of all the things that need to get done and adding things to my to-do list and I remembered this scripture:
Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Where has our busyness gotten us? It makes us tired because our busyness cuts into our sleep time, and when we do get to sleep a little, we don’t sleep very well. Ecclesiastes 5:3 says, “Too much activity gives you restless dreams” (NLT). Our busy lifestyles makes us less healthy too. We push ourselves past the point of where our bodies function normally. We often suffer for it with headaches, stomachaches, anxiety, depression, etc. This isn’t how God wanted us to live. He wants “A peaceful heart [that] leads to a healthy body" (Proverbs 14:30, NLT). 
Besides costing us our health and peace of mind, our busy lifestyles can cost us our relationships. When we are rushed and under pressure, we have a tendency to mistreat the people around us. Because of this, our relationships with our spouses, children, friends, and family suffer. But even more than that, our relationship with God suffers. If you are too busy to spend time with God, then you are too busy! We have to spend regular, quality time with the people we love, including God, in order to deepen our relationships and move past the shallow, meaningless, and unfulfilling status that they are when we are busy.  
What are you giving your attention to? What keeps you busy? Maybe its time we ask God what He wants us to change or things we need to say “no” to. It’s hard to say “no” to things that have good intentions. And, when we get so busy, we tend to push our relationship with Christ to the back burner, and we become burnt out and tired and weary, even though we are doing “good” things. We must fill our time with God’s business.
God doesn’t expect us to make changes like this on our own. I like how the Eugene Peterson put these same verses from Matthew in the Message: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Summers are still going to be full of events, camps, sports, vacations, mission trips, but I encourage you to stop, be aware, say “no” sometimes and don’t be caught being BUSY. Spend some time in His presence today and let Him teach you how to follow in His footsteps and take a real rest.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Worship Blessings

Worship Blessings

By Amy Mead, Director of Worship Arts

Haven’t our worship services been wonderful to be a part of? I can tell you that I cherish Sunday mornings. I look forward to them all week. I anticipate seeing how God is going to move each week and He has been faithful in continuing to move in hearts and lives.
It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to you that I LOVE worshipping with my church family! I count it a huge blessing to be able to minister with an amazing team of people. Our worship team is filled with people who are not only incredibly talented, but have a heart and a passion for leading our church family before the Lord in worship every single week. They give up hours of time to rehearse and make our worship as excellent as it can be. They encourage me all the time and there is such a spirit of unity and teamwork . . . I just can’t say enough good things about them! 
However, the biggest blessing I get every week is looking out across the congregation and seeing you! Seeing you singing . . . seeing you reflecting on the words of a song . . . seeing you engaging in beautiful worship. I get a perspective that many of you don’t ever get to see. I look out and see you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, some of whom are going through tremendous struggle. And I see you worshipping. Sometimes with a hand lifted in praise, sometimes with eyes closed in prayer, sometimes with a smile, and sometimes through a lot of tears. That type of worship . . . the kind that is found even through great struggle . . . I believe is something that brings great honor to our King. Watching you worship Him moves me to want to worship Him more.
John talks about worship in John 4:23 (ESV)
            But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will
            worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people
            to worship Him. 

The Father, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the very God who spoke this world into being. HE seeks us to worship Him. He desires for us to worship Him. It is the very reason we were created! Isn’t that an incredible thing to think about? When we worship, we are interacting with God in an up-close and personal way. WOW! I certainly don’t feel one bit worthy to be sought after by the God of the Universe to worship Him. Yet I am so, so thankful that He values me in an intimate way and desires for me to seek to know Him more. 
So, I trust when you worship this coming Sunday that you fix your eyes on Him, the author and perfector of our faith! Be here or you’ll miss out on a blessing and a great start to your week! I’m looking forward to worshiping our amazing Jesus with you! 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Celebrating "In-Dependence" Day

Celebrating "In-Dependence" Day

by Nate Stults

Associate Pastor

This week we celebrate as a nation our independence from the British crown, the becoming of a free country. It is an amazing story indeed of how these brave men stood and fought for freedom and liberty and became outlaws when they signed the Declaration of Independence. You can find some interesting information about the Declaration if you go to this website and click around-

We need to remember during this time and season, however, not our independence as a people but our dependence upon God, our sovereign King, provider, protector, and as Rev. Claude Nicolas put it so well last Sunday – our Shepherd! (If you missed this insightful sermon, take a listen at our website -  As he pointed out, we cannot trust a God who we do not know and we must also know the good Shepherd’s voice.  I would add that we spend time listening to Him and His Word, and spend time confessing on behalf of our own selves, community, country and/or fellow humanity our sinfulness, depravity, and waywardness; and ask for His healing and restoration.

I had mentioned last Sunday as we participated in the Call2Fall:

• that even evil Spirits fell down before Jesus to proclaim Him the Son of God (Mark 3:11)
• the vision in Revelation of those who fell down before God in heaven (Revelation 7:9-17)
• the word of the Lord that came to Solomon after he completed the temple and palace.    (2 Chronicles 7:11-22)
• and the telling verses that surround the well-known verse of 7:14“…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land…”

Also, consider the majesty and power of God as revealed in 2 Chronicles 7:1-10 just before this other section, and consider how we can celebrate and be joyful for the “consecration” and “dedication” of our own lives through the gift of salvation and holy sanctification. See how the people fell down in awe of his fire falling from heaven. I will include here just the first four verses:

The Dedication of the Temple
When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it.When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the Lord. 
You can easily read the entire chapter of 2 Chronicles 7 here:

As we remember these verses about being humbled before God and falling prostrate before the Lord, let us be encouraged that the Lord listens to our prayers. We are called to be a people of prayer. As Oswald Chambers and many others write: Prayer is not the preparation for the work of ministry, prayer is the great work and ministry of the church! And the Spirit wants to give us the power of prayer.

I encourage you all to participate in the seven-day prayer movement that is now under way. It was begun by Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz. Today is Day 2 and it concludes on the seventh day of the seventh month with a 7-hour fast. So mark your calendar for 7/7/14 and check out today’s prayer and info at  

I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday and hearing a word from Pastor Donna!

Have a Happy In-Dependence Day!
Pastor Nate