Easter is Over…Now Take Your Next Step

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What a great celebration we had on Easter weekend at Avalon Church! Seeing our church buy in to the vision by giving, serving, praying, and inviting is always special. Seeing dozens of people get saved or get reconnected to their faith was amazing. But now that Easter is over, what is your next step? What do you need to do to continue to move down the path of your spiritual journey? Here are three things you need to do:

1.     Plan to Attend the Next Step Class Sunday, April 15th.

The Next Step classes help you discover what it means to be a follower of Jesus. We will teach you some basic steps for living a blessed life. You will learn about baptism, reading the Bible, prayer, making friends at church, living in financial blessing, and making an impact with your life. You will make connections with people who will love and support you. The class is after the 11:15 service. We provide free child-care and a free lunch. The class lasts approximately 2 hours.

2.     Get baptized on April 22nd.

Getting baptized after you receive Christ demonstrates your faith in Jesus and lets everyone know that you are serious about your decision to follow Christ. We will baptize on April 22nd at the 9:30 and 11:15 services. We encourage you to invite friends and family to help you celebrate this wonderful occasion.

3.     Get Connected.

Attending church every Sunday is vital to your spiritual growth. It will help you get connected quickly. You will learn what God says to us in the Bible, make new friends, grow closer to God, and learn about his love for you. Two other ways to get plugged in and make friends are to volunteer in a ministry and to join a small group.

God loves you more than you can comprehend. He has a plan for your life. He has a purpose for your life. You are not an accident! He promises that he will never leave you and that he will always be there for you no matter what. Make sure to receive all He offers by connecting to a church! Remember, God wants you to belong, not just believe. The Next Step Class will help you discover how to feel connected and to live a blessed life.

 

 

 

Why Many Christians Don’t Take Easter Seriously

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That may be a shocking headline, but I believe it is true. Easter is not that big a deal to many Christians. I am not suggesting that most Christians do not understand the importance of the first Easter. I believe followers of Christ must have a basic understanding of the gospel in order to be saved. They believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and they believe the finished work of Christ is necessary for salvation. The problem is that the further away they get from the time of their conversion, the more Easter becomes white noise. Once again, I do not suggest that they have no fondness for Easter. After all, they do go to church and many even give, serve, and participate in the activities at church. It is just that it gets increasingly easier to lose the awe and wonder that is the gospel. It is easy to get so busy with things that pertain to Easter, that we forget about the essence, the meaning, and the wonder of how the God of the universe, God the Son, would leave heaven, become human (the Creator becoming what He created), and not only die for our sins, but become them and absorb the wrath of the Father for all the sins ever committed or that ever would be committed by every human that would ever breathe in His air.

The longer a person follows Christ, the more central Easter should become to him or her. But the truth is that while most believe it is important, many of us don’t prioritize it with our actions. We treat it flippantly sometimes. Can you imagine missing your child’s first birthday, or graduation from high school, or wedding just to take a vacation, a trip, or a cruise? I can’t. Yet, the most important event in the universe we treat as optional sometimes. Even if we don’t skip it, we can become very casual about the most important event in history. Nothing comes close to the meaning and importance of Easter. Without it, there is no salvation, no eternal life, no heaven, no abundant life here on earth, no joy, no peace, no forgiveness, no reconciliation with God, no purpose in life, and no hope. Yet we can get so busy doing Easter that we forget to remember Easter.

Here are four things I want you to consider this Easter:

1.     Reorder Your Focus

Isn’t it easy to get so busy that we forget the true meaning of Easter? I want to challenge you to take time to focus on all that Jesus did for you when he died and rose again. I am not just talking about the physical and material blessings in your life. Those are important, but not the most important. Think about what I said before. Without Jesus, there is no salvation, eternal life, heaven, abundant life here on earth, joy, peace, forgiveness, reconciliation with God, purpose in life, or hope. Easter is a perfect time to renew your focus and thankfulness.

2.     Recommit to Evangelism

Easter is the greatest time on the church calendar for bringing people to Christ. More people get saved on Easter than any other time during the year in most churches. Make an effort to be a part of that this year. Giving, serving, and participating is important and helps reach people, but inviting someone who needs Jesus is even better. Just imagine what you will feel like when you invite someone to church and he or she receives Christ. It will be incredible!

3.     Be Gospel-Centered

Easter is a great time to build your life around the gospel of God’s grace. You don’t earn, merit, or deserve salvation. Why would you think that the rest of your life should be built on your own good deeds? The truth is that the gospel is necessary to become a follower and it is necessary to grow as a follower.

4.     Celebrate More

Sometimes I am guilty of not celebrating enough. I set goals and I drive, work, plan, and sweat until I reach them. As soon as I reach the goal, I immediately shift my focus to the next one. That is not good. Celebration is a big part of God’s story. He and heaven celebrate every time a lost person is found. I have been to some pretty big celebrations in my life, but can you imagine what a celebration in heaven is like? I have to imagine that our best celebrations pale in comparison. The point is that we need to celebrate more. God is pleased with it and you are encouraged by it.

I have examined my heart about Easter. There are some things I need to do better so that it does not become just another event on the church calendar. I hope you will examine your heart as well. Let’s make this Easter a really big deal. 

5 Commandments for Easter at Avalon Church 

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Easter is approaching quickly, and we are getting ready for a great move of God at Avalon Church. Since Easter is the time of year when more people visit church and more people get saved than any other weekend, we must be on our “A Game” at Avalon Church. With that in mind here are 5 Commandments for Easter.

1. Thou Shalt Not Ignore a Guest (or anyone else).

We must all take responsibility. Reaching and connecting people requires that all hands be on deck. This is not just for our Guest Services ministry; it is for all of us. We are better together! Having a good attitude will help our guests take their next step. So, let’s be friendly, helpful, and welcoming. We are preparing and working for a great move of God, so let’s show everyone that we are prepared.

2. Thou Shalt Not Say, “I Don’t Care.”

It is OK not to know the answer to a question, but it is never OK to say, “I don’t know.” Instead of pointing or shrugging, make sure to walk a guest to the check-in, the children’s area, or wherever they need to go. It is critical for people to feel loved and cared for when they arrive. Your actions say I care about you. If you don’t know the answer to their question, then take them to Guest Central. Offer to help carry their things. This lets people know that we truly care about them.

3. Thou Shalt Not Sit on the Sidelines. 

Easter is the most important time of the year for Avalon Church. More people will come to Christ on Easter weekend than any other time of year. We need you to be involved. Invite people. Hand out invite cards. Invite friends, family, and neighbors. Commit to join us at the Good Friday service at 7:00 PM for prayer and communion. Attend Saturday at 6:00 PM and bring a guest. Attend and serve on Sunday at 9:30 and 11:15. Serve somewhere. Let your leader know that you are available. If you don’t normally serve, this is a great time to start!

4. Thou Shalt Own It.

Owners take responsibility. Since you are Avalon Church, you must take responsibility and be involved. This is not just for the staff or the leaders. It is for everyone. This is a huge team effort and we will see a great move of God if we all get involved. Your language is important too. Don’t say “they” or “them” but say “we” and “our.” This is your church. Pray for it. Love it. Own it. I am asking every person who attends Avalon Church to say, “I care.”

5. Thou Shalt Expect God to Do Something Big.

Jesus said, "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22) Join me in praying and believing God for great things at Easter. Let’s pray for 100 people to be saved on Easter Weekend! That only happens if we all get involved and we all pray in faith. 

I am praying for a God-sized Easter. Let’s all pull together and watch God do something big!

 

Five Keys to Overcoming Mental Barriers

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Roger Bannister, a British doctor, knight, and neurologist, died this past week at 88 years of age. Bannister is famous for becoming the first person to break the “four-minute-mile,” a feat at the time that was considered physically impossible. But on May 6, 1954 he ran the mile in 3:59.4. It was a record that did not stand very long. Several runners over the next year broke the four-minute barrier. Today the world record for the mile stands at an astonishing 3:43.13.

What is outstanding about Bannister’s amazing accomplishment is not the physical accomplishment, but the mental accomplishment. To be sure, running a mile in less than four minutes is an amazing physical feat, but it was the mental achievement that launched him to his goal. He had to break through mental barriers to reach his potential. I believe the same is true for you. We must break through our doubts in order to reach our God-given ambitions. Here are five keys to breaking mental barriers and doubts.

Faith Fuel

Obviously, one must have faith in order to reach a goal. We must believe in the mission and in ourselves in order to break through. This is true from a physical perspective, but it is particularly true from a spiritual perspective. Faith in God, His Word, His Plan, and His Promises is not the same as believing in oneself or self-confidence. We must go from self-confidence to God-confidence. Nevertheless, faith is the starting point. If faith is critical, then we must learn to fuel our faith. There will be times when our faith is weak. The key here is to fuel our faith with the Bible and God’s promises because, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”

Perseverance 

Perseverance gets a bad rap in our culture. I am an extreme grace guy, because I believe God’s grace is exceedingly abundant and powerful. It is the finished work of Jesus, not my efforts, that makes me whole and delivers me to the place I need to be. But perseverance is a fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit grows patience, faithfulness, and self-control in our lives. Perseverance is a critical component of successful living of any kind. When seeking to overcome mental barriers, we must persevere, just like Roger Bannister did.

Mind Fuel

What you put into your mind determines how you think. How you think determines how you believe and live. You must get the right kind of fuel in your mind. When trying to overcome a mental barrier, it is essential to fill your mind with good things. Read good books that educate and encourage you. Listen to podcasts. Read blogs. Get training. Make sure that you connect with the stories of people who have already had success. These kinds of things fuel your mind and give you the strength to continue.

Encouragement

The Bible says that King David encouraged himself in the Lord. Encouragement is essential. I have never seen a greatly discouraged person achieve his or her goals. Encouragement comes from filling your mind with God’s promises in the Bible, repeating them often, prayer, and surrounding yourself with the right people. If you surround yourself with doubters, naysayers, and negative people, you will get discouraged. Find someone who will speak truth and encouragement into your life.

Support

Support comes from having the right people in your life, as we just discussed. To take it a step further, you must have the support of a team. The saying, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” may be a cliché, but it is true. Strong support is necessary for you to succeed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be willing to receive counsel. Be willing to talk to a mentor. Open yourself to the support of others and you will be more empowered to overcome the mental barriers that keep you from your dream. 

Navigating the Turbulent Waters of Criticism

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I don’t know if you have noticed, but there is a lot of criticism in our world today. Turn on the news and you will find people with opposing views “yelling it like it is.” It is like they think that the louder they make their point, the more they demean their counterpart, and the more outlandish they are in their criticism, the more they validate themselves. Add in social media and we have a firestorm of condemnation and criticism.

No one likes to be criticized. Some people handle it well and others do not. You could deal with criticism by becoming bitter, angry, defensive, and withdrawn. You could be too sensitive and let it hurt you and lead you into discouragement or depression. Or you could see criticism for what it is, keep a good perspective, learn from constructive criticism, and ignore invalid criticism. Here are a few ways to handle criticism.

 

1.     Don’t take it personally.

Learning to separate the criticism from the person is an important skill to master. This applies to public and professional relationships especially. Why? Because there will always be criticism. Think about how good you have it if only a few people criticize you. The most popular and effective presidents in history normally have at least 40% of the people who disagree with them and 25% of the people who despise them!

 

2.     Stay calm, assess, and release.

It is easy to obsess over one critical comment. In my personal experience, I have found myself upset over one or two negative comments. 99% of the comments I receive could be loving, approving, and encouraging, and I will fixate on the negative comment that may not even be true! Don’t focus on the one. Focus on the big picture. Stay calm and remember the love of Jesus. Assess whether or not the criticism is valid. If it is, address it. If it is not, release it.

 

3.     See the big picture.

My dad used to tell me that if people were kicking me in the rear, it meant that I was in front of them. If you want to avoid all criticism, then never lead and never do anything. In fact, just talk about how you would do it differently and criticize those who actually lead and take risks. Criticism goes with the territory of leadership. You must believe in your vision and learn to ignore the critics. Give yourself permission to succeed. If you don’t believe in your vision, then no one will.

 

4.     Give yourself permission to be yourself.

God only made one you. He gave abilities, gifts, and a personality to you that he loves. Be yourself and be OK with how God made you. That does not mean that we should not learn, improve, and receive instruction. We should never make excuses for bad behavior and claim, “That is just the way I am.” Successful leaders are comfortable in their own skin. You must decide whether you want to please God or your critics.

 

5.     Don’t feel guilty about success.

People often criticize because of envy or jealousy. That is not always the case, but it is the root cause of much criticism. Some will criticize without having all the facts. Don’t let your success be a stumbling block in your life. If you become filled with pride over your success, then that is sinful. On the other hand, don’t apologize for being successful. Thank God and give him the glory.

 

6.     Realize that it is ok if not everyone agrees.

Why some people believe that everyone has to be exactly the same baffles me. I am not talking about major points of the Christian faith. Nor do I believe in relativism that denies absolute truth. Truth is truth and differing opinions do not change the facts. But it is OK to be unique. God is wonderfully creative and uses many unique things for his glory. If he created over 300,000 species of beetles why should it surprise us that he creates people with differing styles, abilities, ideas, and personalities? It is OK if not everyone agrees with you. Unfortunately, the enemy uses disagreements over minor issues to divide us and to hinder the spread of the gospel. Don’t let it bother you if not everyone agrees. Keep your eyes on Jesus Christ and worry about pleasing him!

The Power of Prayer

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“God’s purpose may be thwarted, or it may be accomplished depending, to one degree or another, on the obedience of His people and their willingness to use the weapons of spiritual warfare that He has provided. God is powerful enough to win any battle, but He has designed things so that the release of His power at a given moment of time often is contingent upon the decisions and the actions of His people. A principle weapon of spiritual warfare is prayer. Not just routine or mediocre prayer, but prayer powerful enough to move God’s hand in order to determine the destiny of a whole nation.” C. Peter Wagner

God sent Jesus to die for our sins as the only possible way to get back into the right relationship with God. Everything in our lives, whether we are Christ-followers or not, is shaped by this spiritual need to be in right standing with God. No one has the power to do this through their own strength, design, or merit. It is the work of the Holy Spirit drawing us to the Father. It is the work of prayer.

One of the greatest privileges in the universe is to talk to our Creator. Did you know that praying is something that every human is designed to do? Anthropologists and historians have discovered that every culture throughout history prays. They do not all pray to the one true God, but the desire to pray is something that God has place within us. God wants to have a conversation with you!

Humans naturally love the merit system. Personal property, human rights, governments, capitalism, judicial systems, and even elementary school are based on the merit system. The better I do, the better grades I get, the better job I get, the more money I make, and the better relationships I have. This system works except in your spiritual life. You can’t earn God’s favor. He simply gives it to you because of His grace. Any spiritual system based on works or the merit system does not work. It always leads to legalism, Pharisaic attitudes, burnout, failure, and unrealistic expectations. Prayer helps you align yourself with God’s grace.

On the other hand, when you begin with God’s grace and mercy and you understand that everything is based on His desire for you which, in turn, creates your desire for Him, it changes everything. In my marriage I can do things for my wife out of a heart of love and desire for her and it is wonderful. When those acts of love based on desire become expectations, however, they lose their meaning and actually hinder our relationship. If I buy her a gift simply because she expects it and I would be in trouble if I did not, that gesture no longer has any meaning. If, however, I buy her a gift because of my desire and love for her it has tremendous significance.

I want you to experience the kind of relationship with God that is based on desire rather than expectation. I want you to experience the joy of praying to know Him better. Prayer is one of the most important things you can do.

How can you make your prayer life better? Here are a few things that can help.

Prayer is Simply Talking to God. You don’t have to know lots of fancy words or have a theological degree to pray. Prayer is simply talking to God. I love the words of Jesus in Matthew 6: 7-9. He says, “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God.
Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply.” (MES)

Prayer is Asking and Receiving. Praying requires action and faith. We are to pray in faith in order to receive. Prayer is simply asking and receiving.

Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.”

Prayer is Aligning Yourself under God’s Authority, Grace, and Power. One of the most powerful things about prayer is that it expresses our need for God. He loves it when you come to Him. He loves to help those who admit that they can’t help themselves. He loves it when we depend on Him. That is how we experience His power in action.

John 15:5 “…for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (NASB)

 Prayer Must be Authentic and Sincere. Who are the prayer experts? It is the ones who are genuine. God does not require fancy words or big fanfare. He simply wants you to talk to Him.

Matthew 6:6 "Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. (MES)

Prayer changes things. It will change the world. It will change your world. It will change you. I hope you will take new ground in 2018 through the power of prayer. 

How to Set Yourself up for a Great Week!  

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Let’s be honest for a second. We all need help with our attitude and outlook from time to time. As followers of Christ, we have the greatest future, the greatest promises, and Jesus is with us. We have no right to be cast down! But the truth is, life gets the best of us sometimes. We are busy. We get tired. We get stuck. Our routines get boring. Life can be mundane. I saw a quote that captures this thought: “How can I fly with the eagles when I’m stuck with a bunch of turkeys!” Well said.                      

There is a way to help your week go better. When we keep our eyes on Jesus and express thankfulness and praise to him, it makes everything better. It helps us see the truth. It brings right perspective, which brings joy. A great way to do that is to attend the Night of Worship on February 11th, at 6:00 PM. Here are a few reasons why you should attend:

1.     It will make your week better!

Starting out your week by attending church is good. Adding the Night of Worship makes it better. When you are able to experience corporate worship in a setting that helps you focus on Jesus and his grace, you feel better, you gain a true perspective on the life you have been given, and you connect the dots to remind you of God’s grace. It really helps when you find yourself with a bunch of turkeys during the week!

2.     You will connect with God and draw closer to Him.

Some of the greatest spiritual moments for me are experienced at the Night of Worship. I make a connection with God that is greater than any other time. I feel God’s presence. I am filled with unbelievable joy. I am overwhelmed by his love. I feel his grace like no other time. It really is a time I would never miss because of how I feel afterward.

3.     It will release unbridled joy in your life.

When you connect with God and sense his presence, you become filled with the kind of joy only God can give. It is really amazing how joy from the Holy Spirit lifts your attitude, blesses your outlook on life, gives you strength to face your problems, and empowers you with energy from God. It is nothing short of amazing to me.

Don’t miss the Night of Worship on February 11th, at 6:00 PM. I believe it will ensure a great week for you!

 

 

Don’t Miss Hearing a Super Bowl Champion!

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On Super Bowl Sunday, you will have an awesome opportunity to bring people to Jesus! At Avalon Church, I will interview our very own Super Bowl Champion, Josh Gordy, during our services. We will show photos from his playing career, hear how he got started, hear about his playing experience, and hear his own testimony of faith. Josh will wear his Super Bowl ring and you will get to see it in person.

I hope you will use Super Bowl Sunday as an opportunity to invite people to Christ. Invite friends and neighbors to meet a Super Bowl Champion at church and then invite them to your Super Bowl party after church.

Wear gear from your favorite team and join the celebration on Super Bowl Sunday. Remember, inviting is evangelism! 

5 Tips to Help You Finish a Difficult Project

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Difficult projects are, well, difficult. No surprise there. But how we manage a difficult project often determines how successfully we complete it. Research papers, big reports, marathons, DIY projects, writing a book, or starting a business all have the same common denominator – they are difficult. They require determination, planning, sweat equity, and did I mention determination? If you have a big, difficult project, here are 5 tips that will help you complete it on time.

1.     “See” your goal regularly. Written goals get accomplished, but only if they are seen regularly. You must have a way to remind yourself of your goal. For some, this means displaying it in your workspace so you read it every day. For others, this means reading your goals every morning before you start your day because you need to hear your goals read aloud. The point is you need to remind yourself daily of your goals because interruptions happen every day.

2.     Build a team around you. Even if you don’t have employees working for you, you can build a team. It could be as simple as sharing your vision with your spouse so he or she can encourage you. A team includes people who can encourage, direct, and advise you as you march toward your goal.

3.     Eliminate the negative. You will have lots of people who will tell you that you can’t do whatever it is that you want to do. They will tell you it is unreasonable, too expensive, or too hard. Do not listen to them. Find your encouragement. It could come from a book, a podcast, a blog, a picture, a story, the Bible, or a person.

4.     Celebrate break-through moments. Celebrating small milestones will encourage you and help you feel like you are making progress toward your goal. Learn to enjoy the small wins so you will achieve the big win. For example, if your goal is to run a marathon, then celebrate with friends and family when you run your first 15-mile training run. It helps condition your mind to remember that you can finish the race when you face 26.2 miles on the big race day.

5.     Remove distractions. No matter what your difficult project is, you will face distractions. Distractions rob you of your time and will derail your progress. Assess your environment. Eliminate all unnecessary distractions. No one can remove all distractions but you can remove the ones that have the most potential to distract you and keep you from your goal. For example, if you want to write, you must turn off your email, Twitter, and Facebook so you won’t be tempted to turn your attention off your project.

Finishing a difficult project requires fortitude, grit, and strength of purpose. But when you complete the task and realize your goal, it is always rewarding.

 

How to be a Volunteer Superhero in 2018

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A hero is someone who displays courage, makes extraordinary achievements, and is a role model for others. You can be a hero in 2018 by being a volunteer at Avalon Church! I believe all of our volunteers are heroes, but there are some that are superheroes because of the way they lead, the boldness they display by serving, the lives they touch, and the discipleship model they display to others. You may not know it yet, but there is a superhero in each of us!

To reach your potential and maximize your influence, I believe that attending Involve is a must. “What is Involve,” you ask? It is the special vision-casting, training, and appreciation gathering from 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM at Avalon Church on Saturday, January 20th. We will have a powerful time of worship. I will bring a special message that is exclusively for those who want to step up, have a great year, take new ground, become a better leader, get inspired, and get filled with purpose and direction for 2018. This motivating and encouraging message will be exclusively for those at Involve. It will not be recorded, it will not be posted, and it will not be repeated. I really want you to hear it and you really need to hear it! The main part of the gathering will be our ministry-specific breakout sessions. We will offer several different options for you. Obviously, you will want to go to the training associated with your ministry, but you can check out others as well. At the end of the gathering, we will have lunch and will present our “Avi Awards” for our volunteers of the year.

Involve is not just for people who currently volunteer in a ministry at Avalon. It is also for anyone who wants to check it out and for anyone who is considering serving and volunteering in a ministry. I hope to see you at Involve!

 

Pastor Ritchie 

Setting Yourself Up for a Great 2018

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The New Year is a natural time to find a fresh start. In 2018, our theme will be “Taking Ground.” My goal for you and our church is to get a clearer understanding of who Jesus is, to trust more in His grace, to deepen your faith, to live in God’s abundance without fear, and to live with the kind of peace that only Jesus can give. No one has the power to do this through their own strength, design, or merit. It is the work of the Holy Spirit drawing us to the Father. That is the purpose of fasting together as a church.                          

Humans naturally love the merit system. Human rights, governments, capitalism, judicial systems, and even elementary schools are based on the merit system. The better I do, the better grades I get, the better job I get, the more money I make, and the better relationships I have. This system works… except in your life with Christ. You can’t earn God’s favor. He simply gives it to you because of His grace. Any spiritual system based on the merit system does not work. It leads to legalism, judgmental attitudes, burnout, failure, and unmet expectations.

On the other hand, when you grow in God’s grace, you learn to let go of your worries, stress, and self-righteousness. You begin to understand that everything in your life is based on His desire and love for you. His grace fuels your desire for Jesus, it frees you from sin and self-effort, and it changes everything in your life. Resting in His grace has tremendous significance in every area of your life.

This year I want you to experience that kind of relationship with God. I want you to grow in your understanding of grace. I want you to learn to experience and receive the love of Jesus. I want you to learn how to rest in Him. I want you to learn how to grow in your faith, let go of your worries, and experience His amazing peace that passes all human understanding. I hope you will join me in 2018 in pursuing Jesus.

 

Pastor Ritchie 

 

Avalon Church Taking Ground Fast – January 8-17, 2018

What is a Daniel Fast? A Daniel Fast is based on Daniel 10:2-3. It is when a person refrains from eating bread, sweets, meat, and alcohol to pursue answers to prayer and grow closer to God.

What can you expect? When you fast, you can expect God to answer prayer and to work in your life. You will draw closer to God. Don’t focus on what you can and cannot eat, but on praying. A side benefit is that you will feel better and become healthier.

Prayer List for the Taking Ground Fast

And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love, which are in Christ Jesus. 1 Tim. 1:14

In 2018, we are praying to take new ground in faith in our personal lives and in our church. We are praying for every member to get a clearer picture of the greatness of Jesus, to learn how to rest in His grace, and to live in the abundance of His grace. We believe this will help you grow in your faith, get better in your relationships, live with greater peace, get better in your finances, and improve your spiritual and physical health. The results of God’s increase in your life will become evident in our church. We believe God will give us more people saved and baptized, more people completing their Next Steps, more offerings for ministry, and greater growth in our church.

As you participate in the Taking Ground Fast, pray for these things:

  • Pray that you get a bigger picture of Jesus and His love
  • Pray that you live in the peace that only God can give
  • Pray that you get a clearer understanding of grace
  • Pray that God will give you increase as you pursue Jesus
  • Pray for our pastor, our staff, and their families
  • Pray for church growth and church unity
  • Pray for healing for our members
  • Pray for our church to Take New Ground
  • Pray for the salvation of family and friends of our members

 

 

The Funniest Thoughts I Had in 2017

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As we close 2017, here are a few humorous thoughts that I had this year. Not all are original with me, but they are funny nonetheless.

 

1.     Teamwork is important. It gives you someone else to blame when you screw things up!

2.     The smarter our phones get the dumber we get.

3.     If the voices in my head are not real, then why are their ideas so awesome?

4.     I counseled a couple and the wife complained that her husband never took her to expensive places anymore. I suggested the grocery store.

5.     The older I get the clearer my conscience gets. I don’t know if I have dealt with my issues or if I can’t remember what I did.

6.     If the saying, “Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away” is true, then taking the stairs must be one of life’s greatest moments.

7.     I like to think that a hamburger in one hand and fries in the other is a balanced diet.

8.     Someone told me if I finish what I start, I’d feel better. I just finished an entire bag of chocolate chips and I feel awesome!

9.     The cautious, slow driver is considerate when he is behind me, but a jerk when he is in front of me.

10.  I would eat more vegetables if they tasted like bacon.

11.  My doctor told me there was a thin person inside me waiting to get out. That must be why I weigh so much.

12.  The reason I run early in the morning i my brain isn’t awake enough to tell me how stupid that is.

13.  When I was in college I often arrived late to class, but I made up for it by leaving early.

14.  A woman commented on Facebook, “This picture is of me when I was younger.” Aren’t all pictures?

Smile! God loves you!

 

Four Gifts Every Person Can Have This Christmas

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The greatest gift ever given was the gift of Jesus. God gave Him so that we can have salvation and be put in right standing with God. Christmas is a time that we celebrate God’s gift to us. With that in mind, here are four gifts God offers to everyone this Christmas.

The Gift of Laughter

Solomon has been hailed as the wisest man who ever lived. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he gave us great wisdom when he wrote, “A merry heart does us good like a medicine.” Imagine that. Holy Scripture not only allows for merriment, joy, happiness, and laughter, but it encourages it.

Take time to laugh. We have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to be happy about. Laughter will ease your stress and it will even make you feel better. Spend time with family, friends, coworkers, and your small group. Tell funny stories. Recollect those darn things that the kids said. Watch a funny movie. Tell a joke. Enjoy yourself. It will be an elixir for your soul. It is, after all, the best medicine.

The Gift of Friends

How great is the gift of friends? I thank God for salvation, forgiveness, family, and many other things. But having friends makes everything else better. I imagine trying to go through life without friends is kind of like trying to catch a wild skunk. You might be able to do it, but I doubt it would be worth it. God has designed us to need others. If you need a friend, here are a few suggestions to help you: be friendly, smile a lot, get involved in a ministry at church, ask God to bring the right friends into your life, don’t try too hard, and avoid friendships that damage you. Spend time with your friends at church worshipping God this Sunday. Friends are a special gift to you.

The Gift of Perspective

Perspective changes everything. It is easy to believe the lies that the devil tries to tell you about your life. He says that you are no good, but God says that you have the righteousness of God through Jesus. He tells you that there is no hope, but God sent Jesus to bring you hope and a future. No matter how bad your circumstances, there is hope and joy through Jesus. The devil tries to tell you things are bad, but reading God’s promises in the Bible changes your perspective. God is in control!

The Gift of Forgiveness

Through Jesus Christ, I have been given the gift of forgiveness. Because of His grace, I am redeemed, made new, released from my past, connected to His future, loved, empowered, able to forgive others, and blessed beyond my wildest imaginations. Thank you, Jesus, for the gift of forgiveness!

These four gifts are available to you this Christmas. They don’t cost you anything because Jesus already paid for them through His finished work on the cross. Get busy celebrating these gifts this Christmas and you will have the best Christmas ever!

 

 

A Perfect Time to Invite Others

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Last Sunday we began a new series entitled, “A Christmas Story.” This series is taken from the Gospel of Matthew chapters 1-2. We began with talking about the genealogies. Yes, the genealogies! It was awesome and if you missed it, then check it out here.                

This week I will talk about how Jesus answers life’s difficult questions. We all face difficult questions about family, relationships, money, timing, friendships, health, and many other things. This message will give you great hope as we learn to look to Jesus the way that Joseph did in Matthew chapter 1. I will end my message this week in a way that you will not want to miss. I think it will be a great encouragement to you, so don’t miss it.

This time of year is a perfect time to invite others to church. With our Christmas series, HOPE for Families, the Wonder of Christmas, and our Christmas Eve services, you have a perfect opportunity to bring friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers to hear the Good News at Avalon Church. Ask God to open a door for you to talk to someone today about coming to Avalon Church this weekend!

 

 

 

Thank God for Coffee!

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Have you ever stopped just to say thank you to God for the simple things in life? We often overlook the obvious blessings because we are so used to them. Have you ever thanked God for fingernails? What about beautiful smells? Have you ever stopped to think how much richer life is simply because you can smell beautiful things? Have you ever thanked Him for your bed? Do you know how many people in the world do not have one? Life is so rich and so blessed. Don’t forget to thank God for the little things.

So here is one I want to thank God for – coffee! Man, I love coffee. I love the routine of preparing the water and the freshly ground beans each morning for my French Press. I love the smell. I mean I really love the smell of coffee in the morning. I love how the first taste feels on my tongue. I love the rich, dark, amber liquid. It feels like I am sipping the nectar of the gods. Coffee in the morning is awesome! It is also good in the afternoon.

What about you? What little things are you thankful for? 

Miracle Offering This Sunday!

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Ecclesiastes 11:4 If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done. (NLT)

Too many times we put off until later what God leads us to do right now. Now is the time to act and take a step of faith! I think this is true for the Miracle Offering. Don’t wait! Step out in faith now!

God clearly promises to bless us when we are generous. The beauty of giving God’s way is that God truly wants this for you, not from you. God blesses me when I give. This is stated over and over in the Bible.  God blesses those who give to His work.  A good example of this is in the book of 1 Kings. Elijah was a prophet of God. There was a famine in the land. Elijah asked a woman who was basically down to her last meal to do something for him.  He said put God first and make a meal for me and watch what happens. 

1 Kings 17:8 "Elijah said, ‘Don't be afraid. Go ahead and cook that "last meal" but bake me a little loaf of bread first and afterwards there will still be enough food for you and your son.  For this is what the Lord says, "There will always be enough flour and oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rains and the crops will grow again.'  So she did as Elijah said and she and Elijah and her son continued to eat from her supply of flour and oil for many days.  For no matter how much they used there was always just enough left in the containers just as the Lord had promised through Elijah."         

So there really isn’t a bad time to learn this faith lesson. The best time to give could be when I'm flat broke and need God's help to get out of debt or to get out of financial trouble. God truly wants us to trust him in the middle of our own personal famine. When I put God first He'll take care of my needs. I cannot out give God.

Pray for our Miracle Offering on this Sunday, December 3rd. God has a miracle waiting for you if you will trust him!

How can you give?

Be creative in how you plan to give. You can give property, stocks, vehicles, equipment, jewelry, or anything valuable that can be turned into cash. You can even have a huge yard sale and raise cash to give. The key is to be creative and pray for God to empower you to give.  

You Can’t Get Ahead Without Being Honest

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Did you ever go to a carnival or a fair that had one of those funny mirrors that distorts reality? I love standing in front of the one that makes you look thin and tall. I like to imagine myself being seven feet tall, playing in the NBA, dunking the basketball, blocking shots, bumping chests with my teammates, and blowing kisses to thousands of adoring fans. Of course, that is about as likely to happen as waking up and finding a unicorn to ride to work, a DeLorean time machine to transport me back to 1985, or an Alabama fan that isn’t annoying.

I love what King David wrote in Psalm 51:6. But you desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being.

Get honest with yourself. Don’t pretend, lie, or cover up. Don’t distort reality. Take a long, hard look in the mirror and get totally honest. That is difficult but necessary. It is a lot easier to make excuses, pass the buck, or blame someone else for our situation.

Honesty is important for marriage, work, friendships, success, and every relationship. You can’t have success without it. Consider three things that David shows us from this verse.

1.    God uses honesty to teach me.

One of the most important aspects of honesty is what it teaches me about life. While it may often be easier to lie in the moment, honesty always wins. Over time, honesty builds a foundation of trust and empowers me to grow. Being honest with yourself is necessary to grow personally. You can’t get better until you become honest with yourself.

2.    God uses honesty to give me wisdom and guidance.

Honesty produces wisdom and insight for living. Not until I am willing to look at myself in the mirror and honestly evaluate my life, my performance, my circumstances, or my sin, will I be able to improve. It is true for leadership, sports, job performance, or your health.

3.    God uses honesty to grow my inner life.

I love what he said about being honest in his innermost being. Until we get completely honest with ourselves, we will never grow in the most important part of our life – the inner life. It is one thing to have a good public persona, but it is another thing altogether to have a strong private life. We must learn to spend more energy on being that on doing. The doing part is what everyone else sees. It is public and is found in our job, our performance, and in our social presence. The only way to make the “doing” sustainable, blessed, and authentic is through “being.”

Being is about the inner life. It is spiritual. It is found in connecting with God through prayer, scripture, faith, and resting in Him. Being must always precede doing. Without being honest in this way, we set ourselves up for failure, burnout, stress, worry, hypocrisy, and thinness in our souls. According to God’s Word, it all begins with getting honest with yourself. This way God will begin a work in you that lasts. 

 

The Best is Yet to Come!

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In our culture, it is easy to get a gloom and doom outlook. With mass shootings, political upheaval, tensions between every conceivable group, and the constant bombardment of bad news, one can feel hopeless. But as followers of Christ, we have good news. Jesus wins! The best is yet to come!

We have a bright future!

The Bible tells us that we are citizens of another world. We are simply pilgrims passing through. This world is not our final home. Our home is in heaven with Jesus and the Father. In every conceivable way, followers of Christ have a bright future. Jesus is with you. He provides, protects, blesses, delivers, and fills us with joy. We get all that and heaven too! Don’t let the lies of the enemy get to you. We have much to look forward to!

Jesus will set everything right one day.

Do not despair because of our world and the evil in it. Jesus will put all things right one day. I long for justice and a righteous system that is unsullied and pure. Everyone does, really. No human government will ever give us what we long for. But do not worry. Jesus will rule in perfect righteousness and justice when He comes again. There will be no need to worry about bribes, unfairness, misplaced justice, or evil because Jesus will reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus wins!

The gospel of Christ is still the hope of the world.

The hope of the world is not found in government, religion, or religiously imposed laws. It is not found in easy tasks, full bank accounts, or lots of likes on Facebook. It is not found in anything that is temporary. Real hope only comes through Jesus. Yet we often act as if money, education, or politics provide hope for the world. I want a perfect, beautiful, problem-free culture. One day we will get it when King Jesus rules in righteousness and sets all things back to order. But until then God has not called us to live in a sterile land filled with leprechauns and unicorns. He has called us to live three feet from the gates of hell and to attack with the only weapon capable of winning the war – the beautiful, radical, amazing love of the only One who can set us free.  So, let’s get busy sharing the gospel. I’ve read the end of the book and Jesus wins!

Take hope. The best is yet to come!

The Key to Prosperity is Rest

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Every person wants to succeed. No matter what your vocation is you want to prosper in it. I believe God has wired us this way. Parents want to succeed in raising their children. Athletes want to succeed in their sport. People want to succeed in their careers. Whatever we do, we want to prosper in it.

The key to prosperity is rest. Yes, hard work is good. God tells us to work for His glory. We are to plan, train, and do our best. But God gives us a secret to success in all we do. We are to rest in Him.

In Genesis chapter two we find a very interesting order of events. After God had worked for “six days” creating, then He rested. He did not rest because He was tired but He rested for our instruction. After He rested, He put mankind in the Garden to “work” and “keep” the Garden of Eden. In chapter one He created everything and gave mankind a blessing and a mandate. We find in chapter two that He rested and then put Adam and Eve to work. This is a very important order. We tend to think that we must work first and rest later. But God teaches us to rest in Him and then work. It is from this inflow of connecting with God that we are empowered to produce the outflow or overflow of resting in Him for our prosperity and work. Our success is rooted in resting in Him for everything.

In Genesis 2:15 God’s Word tells us that he put man and woman in the Garden of Eden “to work it and keep it.” The Hebrew word for “work” is translated 227 times as “serve,” five times as “servant,” five times as “worshippers,” and five times as “work.” The main idea is that we are to serve and worship God through our work. We do this by resting in Him. Resting is an act of worship and faith. It means that we trust in His work, not ours. The best work is done through resting! “Keep” means to “watch” or to be a “watchman.” We are to rest in God and observe His greatness.

I believe the point is that we must learn to rest in God for everything. We rest in Him for grace, salvation, success, spiritual growth, meaning, purpose, and prosperity. It is from this position of faith that we please God. This position frees us from stress, worry, and turmoil. It breaks the sin of pride, self-righteousness, and self-reliance. It frees us to work as worship. It allows us to rest in Him for our provision and prosperity. It frees us from fear over our finances. It allows us to worship Him through bringing our tithes. It creates a spirit of thankfulness and generosity in us. It is the key to biblical prosperity. Biblical prosperity is not just about money. We all know of people who have lots of money who are miserable and troubled by worry, greed, family problems, and personal problems.

I believe that resting is an act of faith. Faith in every area of our lives begins with declaring our trust in God. It begins by admitting that we need God. It begins by throwing ourselves onto His mercy and grace. Before you work, give, plan, train, or strive, try resting in Him. It is the secret to your success.