Five Simple Rules For Improving Your Prayer Life

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As followers of Christ, prayer is something we know is critical and something we want to excel in, but if we're honest, many of us are weak in this area of our lives. We have so many things vying for our attention that distract us away from prayer. We need some rules to guide us in this area, to help us make prayer a priority. So here are five simple rules for improving your prayer life: 

1. Have a set time (or times) to pray every day - Zig Ziglar famously said, "If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time." Without a set time to pray, chances are you won't get around to it. A healthy prayer life requires discipline. It won't just happen. You need to choose a time that you plan on getting alone and talking to God. Then, invite an accountability partner to help you be disciplined to actually stick to praying during this time. 

2. Keep a list - When you sit down to pray, do you have a way of guiding yourself along, or do you just shoot from the hip? It's okay to pray extemporaneously; in fact, I would expect that the Holy Spirit will, from time to time, prompt you to pray for certain people and things that you didn't enter into prayer thinking about. That said, it's a good idea to go into your time of prayer with a list of petitions and needs to bring before the Lord. Within that list, you might want to create categories (worship and adoration, thanksgiving, kingdom come prayers, bereavement and suffering, sickness, etc). Throughout the week, you can update and add to your list (smartphones are great for this) and that way anytime you pull away to pray, you have fuel for the fire. 

3. Use Scripture - George Mueller is one of the greatest men of prayer the world has ever known. If you don't believe me, check out his biography. His prayer life, however, was not always so great. In fact, he once wrote in his journal that he would often waste a half hour just trying to get himself into a spirit of prayer (a lot of us would've given up a lot sooner, I'm afraid). But then Mueller discovered a something that transformed his praying. He began to use God's Word as a prompt for prayer. This has helped my own prayer life tremendously. When you use a passage of scripture to guide your prayer, you no longer have to struggle for words, the words are right there in front of you, divinely inspired! You simply take them, pray them back to God, and apply them to your life. Check out this brief video by Dr. Whitney where he models this method for prayer! 

4. Pray With Others - There are times when, for some reason, it's really hard for me to pray by myself or for myself. I know I need to pray, but I'm weak in faith and my spirit feels dry and weary. In those times I’ve found that I need to pull some people in to pray with me. They can pray for me what I might struggle to pray for myself, and vice versa. Make it a habit to pray with brothers and sisters in Christ. Be vulnerable with them about your current struggles and needs. To the extent that they know what you're facing, they can pray with you and for you. 

5. Remind Yourself Often That Prayer Is The Weapon - The way that the Kingdom of God will advance in and through our lives is by prayer. Psalm 20:7 says, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright."  How is it that we exhibit trust in God? We demonstrate faith in God through dependent prayer. If we try to live our lives without prayer, we are trusting in modern day chariots that will fail us. Prayer is the weapon of our warfare. It is the way we will make progress and push back the gates of hell. Remind yourself every day that your battle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenly realm. Pray accordingly. 


   Andy Adkison // Pastor of Preaching & Vision

  Andy Adkison // Pastor of Preaching & Vision

Resources for Colossians Series

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This Sunday we begin a three month journey through the book of Colossians. I am tremendously excited about diving into this book of the bible together as a faith family! I have high hopes that the next 12 weeks are going to be an encouraging, challenging, refreshing, and life-changing time, not in any way because of who is preaching, but because of who inspired the words of this book, and the theme of its content. 

Colossians is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Colossae sometime around the year AD 50. It was written to a group of believers who needed to be encouraged and reminded not to drift away from the gospel toward other religious ideas, but to place their hope squarely in Christ, because He is supremely glorious and sufficient to save in every way. That’s what the book of Colossians is about! It’s about the supremacy and the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. 

This is a timely word for us as well, who are so often tempted to doubt the ability of Jesus to fully save us or satisfy our souls. 

My hope, as we journey through this God-breathed letter together, is that our souls will be awestruck by the glory of Christ, and that the Spirit will lead us to rest upon His grace. 

To help us along the journey, I want to share a couple resources with you…

Streetlights App

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Streetlights is a resource for listening to the Bible. The team at Streetlights have read and recorded the entire New Testament and hosted it online *for free* to use for our listening pleasure. And this isn’t your run-of-the-mill recording either. The Streetlight readers read with inflection and intonation, backed by subtle electronic and hip hop beats, making the listening moment dynamic and engaging. The scriptures really come to life as you listen. 

I’ve been using Streetlights to soak in the book of Colossians over the past few weeks and it has greatly helped my overall grasp of the letter. You can find out more by going to http://www.streetlightsbible.com/ and you can download the app by searching “Streetlights”. 

Read Scripture App

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The Read Scripture app is a great bible reading resource. It gives you a way to read the bible chronologically, in an organized way, and to track your progress. One fantastic resource available through this app are the introductory videos before each book of the bible. Each video provides some context and sets up the book so that you know where you are in the overall story of Scripture, as well as key ideas and themes you’ll encounter as you read. 

As we dive into the book of Colossians, I recommend that you download this app (again, FREE!) and watch the Introduction to Colossians video. It will help you understand the occasion for the letter, and prepare you as we jump into this book on Sunday. You can find the app by searching “Read Scripture” on the app store, and you can learn more by going to http://www.readscripture.org/.

I hope you’ll take time between now and Sunday, not only to check out these resources, but to pray and to ask God to speak to you as we begin this journey in Colossians. Let’s commit to being present each Sunday for worship, and to going deeper with our Gospel Communities. If we do, I believe this series will leave an indelible mark on our church. 

- Pastor Andy -

Why Being Labeled “Too Gospel Focused” Has Me Encouraged But Concerned

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I recently had someone tell me that they would no longer be attending our church. For obvious reasons, this was discouraging news. Whenever it happens (this wasn’t the first time), it’s easy for me to begin down a rabbit hole of what ifs… What if I’d have said this? What if I had done this… What if… What if… What if… 

The truth is, there are good reasons for leaving a church, and bad ones. Some people choose to leave for petty or consumeristic reasons. Their departing words typically begin with, “I didn’t like…” But sometimes people leave because God is calling them to something else, or because they cannot submit to the leadership of the elders. In such cases it is good for them to go (there’s an entire blog that needs to be written on this topic, but it is beside the point of this one). 

On this occasion, what the person leaving stated to me as the reason for their departure both encouraged me and led me to take a cautious pause of evaluation. Among other things said, one of the points of frustration voiced was that we focused too much on just the gospel message. I’ll be honest, when they said that, a faint smile broke across my face, and I thought to myself, “What an encouraging criticism!” 

We are a church that believes, as Tim Keller so aptly puts it that, “the gospel is not just the A-B-C’s but the A-Z of Christianity.” He explains, 

“The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make progress in the kingdom. We are not justified by the gospel and then sanctified by obedience, but the gospel is the way we grow and are renewed. It is the solution to each problem, the key to each closed door, the power through every barrier.”

If I’m going to be criticized for anything in my ministry, let it be for preaching the gospel too much! 


“The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s
but the A-Z of Christianity.”
-Tim Keller


But as I’ve reflected further on this criticism, it has caused me to stop and try to listen to what's actually being said. Recently, author Paul Tripp released an article titled, “My Confession: Toward A More Balanced Gospel” in which he publicly repented of neglecting to give more attention to the fact that “we cannot celebrate the gospel of God’s grace without being a committed ambassador of the gospel of his justice as well.”

He states in the article that for too long he has been committed to proclaiming the good news of Christ’s sacrifice, but unwilling to make sacrifices for those different from himself, and he repents of “being an advocate of grace, but silent in the face of injustice.” In other words, Tripp had failed to see to how Christ’s sacrifice compels him to live in that same pattern of sacrifice. There was a disconnect in his outworking of the gospel. In the same piece that I quoted earlier, Tim Keller says, “The main problem…in the Christian life is that we have not thought out the deep implications of the gospel, we have not ‘used' the gospel in and on all parts of our life.”

The more I’ve reflected on the critique that our church focuses too much on the gospel, the more I think what was really being expressed is that the gospel I preach is often too truncated. There was a longing from this person for a clear, plainly stated call to action in loving our neighbors, caring for the poor, and living holy lives: to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33). 


The gospel must be worked over,
kneaded, and squeezed until it oozes
with love and bleeds faith into action.


Faithful, "gospel-centered" ministry is not only preaching and teaching the doctrine of justification by faith alone, it is also preaching the character of God expressed in the person of Jesus Christ. It is calling people to love God supremely and to love their neighbors sacrificially. The gospel must be worked over, kneaded, and squeezed until it oozes with love and bleeds faith into action. The gospel’s implications and applications must be preached just as faithfully as the gospel itself or the gospel I preach becomes anemic and aloof from real life. 

On this front, I do not think that I have done an adequate job showing how the gospel leads the christian to live a life of holiness, sacrifice, and service, or how it compels us to love our neighbor as ourself. I’m afraid that much of my preaching has,, at times, turned into an overly simplistic, “Just believe the gospel!” This is an unhelpful approach and worthy of criticism. 

James the brother of Jesus put it this way, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (James 2:14–17). 

The Apostle John exhorts, “if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:17–18).


We dare not preach good works in a way that is untethered from the person and work of Jesus, but we also do not dare avoid preaching the good works Jesus called us to!


Let us not love in word or talk… Let’s not just talk and preach the gospel, but let us apply the good news to real life. In Keller’s words, let's “use the gospel in and on all parts of our life.” It must sink deeply into our souls and grow deep roots so that it produces the fruit of righteousness, love, and justice. This does not mean that we move past the gospel. It means that we move deeper into it. We dare not preach good works in a way that is untethered from the person and work of Jesus, but we also do not dare avoid preaching the good works Jesus called us to!

There are worse things to be criticized for than preaching the gospel too much, but I do not boast in that critique. I hear within it a call to BE about it, not just TALK about it. Yes and amen! Let’s be about the gospel.  



   Andy Adkison / Pastor of Preaching & Vision 

  Andy Adkison / Pastor of Preaching & Vision 

The African Church Fathers

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Last Sunday, our confession contained a quote from St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.).

But my sin was this, that I looked for pleasure, beauty, and truth not in Him but in myself and His other creatures, and the search led me instead to pain, confusion, and error.

 

Augustine, Bishop of the African city of Hippo, may be the most influential Christian thinker in the church's history, outside of the biblical writers themselves. His writings, most famous among them Confessions and City of God, helped give definition, clarity, and shape to the early church's theology on topics such as original sin, predestination, and the nature of man.  Augustine also spoke into topics such as sexual ethics and the evil of slavery. 

Further, Augustine's impact has gone well beyond his own time period. His "just war theory" has impacted government and military policies for nearly two millennia. The Reformation is indebted to the work of Augustine, as well. It was, in part, Luther's rediscovery of Augustine's works that ignited a passion to reexamine the Scriptures anew.

However, Augustine is only one of the "African Church Fathers" whom the church is indebted.  The African beginnings of the early church cannot be overstated.  Christianity was birthed in Israel but was nursed in the cradle of Africa.  The impact that African thought has had upon Christianity is important for the church to recognize and study.  There are three reasons we should study the African church fathers.

 

The African Fathers Shaped Christian Theology

Christianity spread to Africa en masse by at least the 2nd Century A.D., but the Bible tells us that the first African conversion to Christianity happened a mere year after the ascension of Christ.  In Acts 8, Philip encounters the Ethiopian eunuch whom he baptizes.  From there, the Gospel spread to Africa and African thinkers began influencing the theology of the early church.  Tertullian (160-225 A.D.) was an early African thinker who made numerous doctrinal contributions and was the first known theologian to coin the term trinitas ("trinity") to explain the Godhead.  Athanasius (293-373 A.D.), among many other contributions, made clear the biblical canon in his festal letter in 369 A.D. We are indebted to the likes of Augustine, Tertullian, and Athanasius for shaping the theology of the early church.

 

The African Fathers Protected the Early Church from Heresy

The African Fathers were able to withstand the onslaught of heretical teaching during the first few centuries of the church.  A number of heresies, often related to the divinity and humanity of Jesus, arose and necessitated attention.  No heresy gained more traction than Arianism.  Arius, an Alexandrian priest, began teaching that Jesus was not eternally God, but was created by the Father.  Arius famously claimed, "There was a time when [the Son] was not."  This controversy lasted most of the 4th century A.D. but was famously addressed during the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.  During the this first ecumenical council, the early church rejected Arius's teaching and confirmed the long-held belief that Jesus was "of the same substance" as the Father and was eternally God.

The Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed clarified the church's position upon the nature of God.  These creeds, formed by African theologians, have been confessed by churches for over 1600 years.  If not for the African Fathers tirelessly fighting to preserve our faith, the early church may have given way to heretical teaching.

 

The African Fathers Reveal the Need for Black History Month

My church history professor in seminary drilled this mantra into our heads: "Church history is a category of divine providence.  Thus, church history is a subcategory of theology proper (i.e. the Doctrine of God)." God has worked sovereignly throughout human history to bring about his will.  It's important that we study how God formed his church and that includes black history.  Forgetting the African roots and contribution of the early church is harmful for at least two reasons. 

For one, it can be easy to "whitewash" church history.  As a white guy from Alabama, though I knew Jesus was Jewish, I pictured him as a white guy, someone who looked like me.  We do the same with the church fathers.  Studying church history will reveal that black history is intricately intertwined.  In fact, this is not limited to the church fathers.  Black Christians have had a major impact on the church in America.  Men such as Lemuel Haynes, George Liele, and Richard Allen shaped Christianity in our country.  It's important that we discover, or re-discover, black history in our church history because the contribution of black theologians and pastors have been ignored, overlooked, or downplayed to the detriment of the church.

Secondly, the African Fathers combat a common misconception that Christianity is a "white man's religion."  This could not be further from the truth.  Christianity has a rich, African heritage that led to the conversion of Europe to Christianity, not the other way around.  The African Church Fathers remind us that we need to study black history because it is a part of our common history as God's people.

Pastor Steven

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For Further Reading:

"Oneness Embraced" by Tony Evans (Pay special attention to chapters 5-11)

"Baptists in America: A History" by Thomas Kidd

https://urbanfaith.com/2014/02/the-faith-of-our-fathers-reclaiming-the-north-african-church-fathers.html/

Preparing Our Hearts For Easter

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I love holidays. I like that there is a specific day each year devoted to remembering and celebrating something or someone significant. MLK Day helps us reflect on the life and work of a very important person in our nation’s history. Memorial Day helps us reflect and remember soldiers who payed the price for our nation’s freedom. Thanksgiving Day helps us remember and reflect on all the blessings we have received from the Lord.  

 

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I especially love Christmas and Easter. These holidays are the most important holidays of the year for Christians because these days are dedicated to remembering and celebrating the most significant story of all (the Gospel) and the most significant person of all (Jesus Christ). At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus’s coming. At Easter, we celebrate Jesus’s resurrection. 


These holidays are the most important holidays of the year for Christians because these days are dedicated to remembering and celebrating the most significant story of all and the most significant person of all.


Historically, Christians have not only celebrated these specific days, but also the seasons that precede them. Before Christmas, there is the Advent season. And before Easter, there is the Lenten season. This Wednesday (2/14/18) is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. 

 

If you’re anything like me, you weren’t brought up and discipled in a tradition that observed Lent. To be honest, I didn’t really know much about Lent until a couple of years ago when I began seminary at Beeson Divinity School (BDS). Because BDS is interdenominational, I get to take classes with students and learn under faculty from several different denominations, many of which annually observe Lent. 

 

So around this time each year, I learn a bit more about Lent, and each year I grow to appreciate its meaning and significance. I’m thankful for my Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist and other friends and professors who have taught me about the importance of this season and have helped me understand why we Baptists would do well to observe Lent too. 

 

If you are unfamiliar with Lent, it is a season of forty days, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday (the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday). These forty days are meant to represent the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness, where he fasted, prayed and endured temptation, before beginning his ministry. 

 

During the forty days of Lent, Christians around the world take time to repent, and abstain from certain foods or physical pleasures. Lent is a season dedicated to self-examination, reflection, and repentance. It’s a special season meant for us to focus intently on our relationship with God by giving up certain things in order to imitate Jesus’s forty day fast in the wilderness. Its a season dedicated to preparing our hearts for Easter. 


Lent is a season dedicated to self-examination, reflection, and repentance.


Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “What can I do specifically to observe Lent this year?” Let me offer three things you can do to participate.

 

Fast

    

We can fast in a number of different ways. Its not necessary that we completely give up eating until Easter. Rather, we go without something important to us for the forty days of Lent to draw our attention to our need for God. This may or may not be food.

 

The important thing is not necessarily what you give up for Lent, but instead why you give it up. Ultimately, we should choose to give up something that would be difficult for us to go without in order to remind ourselves of our dependence on God. 


The important thing is not necessarily what you give up for Lent, but instead why you give it up.


Pray

 

Of course as Christians are always supposed to pray. We are told by the apostle Paul to “pray without ceasing.” But for these forty days, when we pray, perhaps we could devote more of our attention toward our dependence upon God and our need for God’s grace. Perhaps, during this season we can focus on specific areas of our lives where we long to be more sanctified.  And certainly, we use our fasting as a prompt to pray. Whenever we think about what it is that we have laid aside during Lent, we should use this as an invitation to cry out to God. 

 

Serve 

 

As Christians, we know that what God gives us isn’t meant for us to keep to ourselves but to share with others. As Christians, we know that we should follow the example of Jesus who gave up what was rightfully his in order to serve us (Philippians 2:1-8). 

 

Depending on what you decide to go without during this Lenten season, perhaps you could give that something to someone who would benefit from, or appreciate that something. If you are giving up movie watching, maybe you could buy a movie gift card for someone else. If you are giving up social media, maybe you could spend that time that you would be on social media serving others instead. 

 


 

By intentionally practicing these three disciplines over the next forty days, we will become more mindful of the ways that God has blessed us and has provided us with more than we could ever need. We will also become more aware of the ultimate sacrifice that Christ made for us, by giving up his life so that we could truly live. This will allow us to better prepare our hearts for Easter Sunday, when we will rejoice and celebrate the fact that Christ has defeated death and has accomplished our salvation. 

 


 Wes Durrwachter // Pastoral Intern

Wes Durrwachter // Pastoral Intern

Why We Need Ash Wednesday

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Yesterday, I went to the dentist for the first time in years. My lapse in going first started when I moved to a new city. Finding a new dentist wasn’t at the top of my priority list, and honestly, it slipped my mind.

I went on with life without out giving it any thought until, eventually, it dawned on me that it had been a good while since I’d had my teeth cleaned. Upon recollection, the thought of going was unwelcomed; the dentist seemed to me a really inconvenient thing. Though I knew I needed to go, I continued putting it off.

Eventually, my obstinance became embarrassment over how long it had been since I’d gone, and I feared humiliation, as well as what I might find out about my teeth. I became worried that my extended hiatus from the dentist would likely translate into lots of issues with my teeth, and with it, lots of dollars out of my bank account!

So I decided that ignorance was bliss. I would rather not know what was wrong with my teeth and just carry on with life as if all was fine. How foolish!

I bet that I’m not the only one who’s ever thought this way. My guess is that for some of you, even though your health insurance provides for an annual physical exam, you haven’t had one in years. You’d just as soon not know if you have any major health issues because it allows you to go on with life as usual.

However, pretending that nothing is wrong doesn’t make your issues go away; they’re there whether you acknowledge them or not. You can’t bury your head in the sand and actually make the outside world disappear, even though it seems that way. Ignoring truth and choosing to live in a fantasy doesn't alter reality.


Every single one of us will be laid in a coffin.


A prime example of the way we try to do this is demonstrated in how most of us go about our lives suppressing the fact that one day we will die. We are mortals, and the mortality rate for homo sapiens is 100%. Every single one of us will be laid in a coffin.

We’d like to believe that we are invincible; that we are the exception to the rule. Deep down we know that death is an inescapable reality; yet we live our lives ignoring this inconvenient truth. We busy our lives with work and amusements to keep us distracted from the fact that one day we will return to the dust.

This is one reason why I have recently begun to see the beauty of the liturgical calendar.

The church calendar is designed to orient our lives around ultimate reality; namely, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And as we follow Jesus’s life throughout the year, there are annual reminders about what it means to be a follower of Jesus living in a broken, sinful world.

One of those reminders is that, like Jesus, we are human, which means that we will die. And there is a day on the calendar specifically to help us with this called Ash Wednesday. It is a day to acknowledge our mortality.


We busy our lives with work and amusements to keep us distracted from the fact that one day we will return to the dust.


Scripture says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90: 12). Considering our mortality leads to wisdom, because when we recognize that we have a limited number of days, we will also live to make the most of each one of them.

James 4:14 reminds us that life is like a mist that quickly vanishes. It’s here and then it’s gone. You came from the dust, and to the dust you shall return. So, in the words of pastor John Piper, “Don’t waste your life.”

We need Ash Wednesday. We need to be forced to look our frailty square in the eyes and acknowledge it. We need to contemplate that we are sinners in need of a Savior; that we are mortals in need of a grave-conqueror.


We need Ash Wednesday. We need to be forced to look our frailty square in the eyes and acknowledge it.


Ash Wednesday ushers us into a season of fasting and seeking the Lord (Lent) in light of our impending date with death. It initiates a six week journey of pursuing God that culminates in Holy Week, where we fix our attention on the passion of Jesus.

It is here we finally celebrate (Easter), because through Jesus’ suffering we gain deliverance. By his death and through his resurrection, our sin has been paid for and our enemy, Death, has been defeated.

So next Wednesday, as we remember our mortality, we do so with sobriety, but also with hope. We can acknowledge death; we don’t have to avoid it like I did the dentist’s office for so long, because it doesn’t have ultimate power over us.

Death is certain, but so is resurrection.

And by looking it in the eye, death becomes a powerful tool to help us leverage every waking moment we are given to make the most of each gift-wrapped day.


Death is certain, but so is resurrection.


I hope you’ll join me for an Ash Wednesday service next week with our friends at Birmingham Community Church. We will gather with them at 2183 Parkway Lake Dr, Birmingham, AL 35244 at 6PM.

~Pastor Andy

 


  Andy Adkison // Pastor of Preaching & Vision

 Andy Adkison // Pastor of Preaching & Vision

Mercedes Marathon Traffic

This weekend is the Mercedes Marathon, which means getting to worship this Sunday could present challenges, since our building is inside of the race course. Unless you live within the parameters of the course, the best way to get to worship this week will be via the Red Mountain Expressway (Hwy 280/31). Be sure to chart your course before heading to worship so that you’re not stopped and rerouted! See you Sunday!

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Coming from the North

  • Take I-65S to Exit 261A to I-20E/59N
  • Take I-20E/59N to Exit 126A
  • Take exit 126A to merge onto US-280 E/US-31 S
  • Take the exit toward US-78/3rd-4th Ave S
  • Turn Left onto 25th St. S
  • Turn Right onto 5th Ave. S
  • Arrive at the Immanuel Building

Coming from the East

  • Take I-20W/59S to Exit 126A
  • Take exit 126A to merge onto US-280 E/US-31 S
  • Take the exit toward US-78/3rd-4th Ave S
  • Turn Left onto 25th St. S
  • Turn Right onto 5th Ave. S
  • Arrive at the Immanuel Building

Coming from the South

  • Take I-65N to Exit 261A to I-20E/59N
  • Take I-20E/59N to Exit 126A
  • Take exit 126A to merge onto US-280 E/US-31 S
  • Take the exit toward US-78/3rd-4th Ave S
  • Turn Left onto 25th St. S
  • Turn Right onto 5th Ave. S
  • Arrive at the Immanuel Building

Coming from the South Option 2

  • Take US280W to US31N
  • Take the exit toward US-78/3rd-4th Ave S
  • Turn Left onto 25th St. S
  • Turn Right onto 5th Ave. S
  • Arrive at the Immanuel Building

Coming from the West

  • Take I-20E/59N to Exit 126A
  • Take exit 126A to merge onto US-280 E/US-31 S
  • Take the exit toward US-78/3rd-4th Ave S
  • Turn Left onto 25th St. S
  • Turn Right onto 5th Ave. S
  • Arrive at Immanuel Building

Who Are You Inviting To Your Super Bowl Party?

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On February 4th, Tom Brady will go for his sixth (Yes, SIXTH!) Super Bowl ring. This Sunday is one of the most culturally significant days of the year in the U.S. Sports fans and non-sports fans alike will gather in living rooms across the country to watch the big game (or the commercials!) between the Eagles and the Patriots. I will definitely be munching on Doritos and tuning in…


Four out of five college students from other countries go their entire college experience without ever being welcomed into the home of a local. 


Chances are, though, that there is one group of people that will not be watching the game, at least not in a living room. According to studies, more than 80% of international students who come to the United States for college never set foot in the home of an American. Never. Four out of five college students from other countries go their entire college experience without ever being welcomed into the home of a local in the city or town in which they are attending school. Frankly, that’s ridiculous.

The Super Bowl represents a fantastic opportunity to push back against that ugly statistic. As you and your friends plan for the big party on Sunday and delegate who’s bringing the rotel, who’s bringing the buffalo chicken dip, and who’s got the Doritos (what is a Super Bowl party without Doritos?!) you should also consider inviting some international students to come over and share in the fun. I bet they’ll take you up on the offer.

If you don’t know any internationals, you should! But even if you don’t, I bet someone in your church does know some and would love to crash your party and bring along some of his or her friends.


Jesus said to go to all nations and make disciples, but truthfully, the nations are in our backyard!


Who knows what could happen from there... Perhaps your guests will be unfamiliar with American football and you can help them begin to learn the rules of the game. Or maybe they will have never tried Doritos (God forbid!) and you can be the one to introduce them to this manna from heaven. Or you might find out they have a deep love for both football and Doritos!

Parties are a great environment for getting to know people and casually building relationships. By the end of the night, you may’ve made a new friend, and this new friendship might just be divinely appointed. It could be God’s providential way of getting his good news to an unreached people group.

Jesus said to go to all nations and make disciples, but truthfully, the nations are in our backyard! For many of us, going to all nations is as simple as going across the street or to the university down the street. It’s as easy as inviting over some international students to your Super Bowl Party. And while you’re at it, go ahead and invite your neighbors, friends, and coworkers as well. Celebrations, holidays, and culturally significant rhythms are great opportunities to live missionally.


God loves parties! Jesus regularly attended them, and it could be that he shows up at yours on Sunday evening to begin introducing himself to some folks who've yet to meet him! 


So as you plan for Sunday, make sure you have your bases covered for food and drinks, then intentionally think about who you’re going to invite over, and be sure it involves some friends who don’t yet know Jesus. Then take some time to pray for them, and for the party. I know that it might sound weird to pray over your Super Bowl Party, but God loves parties! Jesus regularly attended them, and it could be that he shows up at yours on Sunday evening to begin introducing himself to some folks who've yet to meet him!


                 Andy Adkison

                Andy Adkison

More Than At The Ballot Box: Six Ways To Get Serious About Being Pro-Life

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Being Pro-Life involves more than a vote. As staff writer for Desiring God Marshall Segal put it, "an authentically Christian cause for life should begin at conception, celebrate every birth, provide love and care through childhood, and advocate for health, growth, and protection even through death. In other words, we should be pro-life from the womb to the tomb."

 

A truly consistent pro-life position means that we not only advocate for unborn lives but that we also proactively and sacrificially care for those around us who are marginalized, oppressed, suffering, and in need. If we say, "I'm pro-life" but fail to actually extend the love of Christ to those in proximity to us, we are giving lip service to a dead faith (James 2:14-17). We are like the hypocritical religious leaders that Jesus warned about when he said, "They preach, but do not practice." (Matt. 23:3). The Apostle John, in the pattern of Jesus' teaching, exhorts us, "Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." (1 John 3:18). 

In that vein, here are six local ministries that you can get involved with as a way of getting serious and walking the talk when it comes to truly being pro-Life.

 

1. Families Count.

Families Count is a family restoration ministry that seeks to minister to the parents of children who have been placed into the local foster care system or are at risk of entering it. In collaboration with Jefferson County Family Court, Families Count provides Christ-centered and biblically based training for parents. For more information regarding Families Count, visit: https://lifelinechild.org/families-count/. Some primary needs of Families Count are meals for trainings, mentors, and transportation providers. 

To get involved, contact Bethany Golden: bethanyrgolden@gmail.com

 

2. Christ Health Center

Christ Health Center is a local medical ministry that exists to provide physical, mental and spiritual aid for patients with such needs. Christ Health Center provides primary care, dental services and professional counseling to patients in need at an affordable cost. This ministry is not limited to experts in the medical field. CHC needs volunteers to help with patient triage, record scanning, groundskeeping, and pastoral care. 

To get involved, visit: https://christhealthcenter.org/get-involved/

 

3. Aspire Movement

Aspire Movement is a mentoring ministry geared at developing and deploying the next generation of urban leaders through mutually transforming mentor relationships. Aspire mentors  provide guidance and direction to urban youth and point them to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

To get involved visit: http://www.aspiremovement.org/opportunities.html

 

4. Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes (ABCA)

ABCA is a ministry that exists to protect, nurture, and restore children and families through Christ-centered services. There are many ways to serve with ABCA, but one specific way is to get involved in foster care. ABCA provides training to help you become a foster parent and/or to provide respite care for foster families. 

To get involved, visit: http://www.alabamachild.org/foster-parenting/.

 

5. Sav-A-Life

Sav-A-Life is a comprehensive crisis pregnancy care ministry that is dedicated to offering free and confidential services in a loving environment to women, men, and families facing an unplanned pregnancy. A variety of volunteer services are needed, including counseling and emotional support. 

To get involved, visit: http://savalife.org/HowtoHelp/Volunteer.aspx

 

6. Lifeline

Lifeline is an organization that exists to equip the church to manifest the gospel to vulnerable children. One area of their ministry focuses on assisting families with international and domestic adoption.

To get involved, visit: http://lifelinechild.org/

Making Room For More: A Giving Initiative for 2018

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Healthy things grow.  When you place a plant in a pot, water it, feed it, tend to it, and give it light, it flourishes and becomes a bigger, more vibrant plant.  As a plant grows, it needs ample space in order for the roots to extend deeper and grow stronger.  Sometimes a plant outgrows its pot, and you have to place it in a new pot in order for it to continue to grow and stay healthy.

A church is no different.  You may have noticed the signs of health and growth in our church over the last couple of months.  Our childcare rooms are overflowing with kids.  The worship gathering is increasingly filling up.  We are excitedly looking to mobilize a team of missionaries to Boston to go plant a new, gospel-proclaiming church! 

As our roots extend and our church bears the fruit of growth, we are feeling the pinch of being in a "pot" that is too small.  Our kids rooms are overcrowded. Noise from our children's area often travels into the worship room, causing distractions, especially for guests who tend to sit nearest the kids area.  The worship gathering has begun to surpass the 70% capacity threshold of feeling "full".  


On Sunday December 3rd, we will have a special giving Sunday to raise funds to "make room for more"


Simply put, we need to find a way to make room for our growth. The Making Room For More Initiative aims to do just that.  On Sunday December 3rd, we will have a special giving Sunday to raise funds to "make room for more."

Through Making Room for More we aim to raise funds to:

  • Convert the office into multi-purpose classroom space for Immanuel Kids and for trainings and workshops. 
  • Sound proof the kid's area through added insulation and by installing a new glass door by the water fountain.
  • Provide initial moving costs for the Castellos as they prepare to head to Boston.

Our goal is to raise $20,000 to achieve these goals.  We are asking every member and attender of Immanuel Church to pray and consider how the Lord is asking you to "make room for more".  We believe it is the responsibility of every member to give intentionally, sacrificially, and cheerfully toward God's work in the world.  


We believe it is the responsibility of every member to give intentionally, sacrificially, and cheerfully toward God's work in the world.  


Here are two things we want every member of Immanuel to do in order to make room for more:

- Bring a Special Offering.  Pray and seek the Lord and ask him how much you are supposed to give. The Lord uses our faithful, sacrificial giving to reach, build up, and multiply more disciples of Jesus!

- Turn in a Giving Pledge.  This year we are encouraging all members to make a pledge for giving toward the 2018 budget.  We believe this will help you see giving as an issue of worship and  committed devotion to advancing Christ's Kingdom. Pledge cards also help the elders and finance team set the budget by giving us real numbers to work with.  

 

Let's work together, dig deep, and give generously in order to "make room for more" people to meet Jesus!