excerpt: On Knowing God – Ephesians 1

may [God] give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened… (Ephesians 1).

Finding a quiet space in your day, read over this passage several times. See if you can commit it to memory. Create a personal prayer over the next season of time using this passage… [Example] God, would you give me a spirit of wisdom and revelation, so I will be able to know you in deeper and fuller ways.

If it would be helpful, set a regular alarm on your watch or phone to remind you to pray this prayer a few times every day.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

excerpt from On Trusting God – Isaiah 26

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You (Isaiah 26).

Take several quiet moments to read over this passage. Let it impact you as you read. What does it mean for you, right now, in this time to keep your mind on God? He promises his perfect peace to us as we gaze upon him, as we trust him.

 

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

excerpt from On Trusting God – Isaiah 43

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God… (Isaiah 43).

Read through this passage several times in a quiet, undistracted space. Fear not — I have redeemed you — I have called you by name — You are mine — I will be with you — [waters] shall not overflow you — fire shall not burn you — I am the Lord your God. Allow the reality of each phrase to wash over you.

Allow yourself to visualize the most challenging thing in your life right now [repeat where necessary]. Thank God for these promises surrounding your specific hardship. Thank him for his command to fear not. Thank him for the promise that this hardship will not overtake you or destroy you. YOU ARE MINE. Thank him for this reality.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

excerpt from On Trusting God – Revelation 4

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come (Revelation 4)!

He is the one who was and is and is to come. God, our anchor, has always been, is with us now, and will always be. His depth is our foundation. His being is our stronghold.

Take a moment to set aside distraction. Turn your phone on silent… or even… put your phone/computer/tablet elsewhere. Find an undistracted place and contemplate this attribute of God — the one who was and is and is to come. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you understanding of this reality, the vastness of it, even the implications of this reality. Ask him to give you understanding on how the scope of this attribute enables you to trust God more deeply.

Take as much time on this session as you need. Feel free to revisit it for several days if it feels helpful.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

Turnkey Church?

Thoughts continued from Organizational Turnkey and the Great American Detox

I think the turnkey approach can be incredibly helpful in many industries and organizations… but in my opinion, local church is not one of them. To reiterate, this is my opinion, and I’m voicing it, hopefully, to relieve some pressure that many of our local church communities can so easily begin to feel — finding themselves taking on things they were never meant to take on, carrying things they were never meant to carry, and trying to be something they were never meant to be. Because of the way we, the church, have looked to marketing and business as the way we build, organize, and strategize [which are, at times, incredibly helpful tools], we have unfortunately also taken on this pressure to offer every spiritual service imaginable — often for the sake of marketing or more simply, appeasement — going back to our turnkey definition from my previous entrya complete product or service that is ready for immediate use. Is it necessary [or healthy] for a local believing community to be a spiritual one-stop shop? Is there a subtle cost that we are paying for over time?

For the body does not consist of one part, but of many… If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has arranged the members of the body, every one of them, according to His design. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body (1 Corinthians 12).

Paul’s admonition has often been directed toward the individual, but not typically toward the local congregation of believers. Yes, each community of believers is made up of many gifts. But to say each groups is to carry the fullness of the glory of Jesus [his entire body], would not be correct, as it’s missing entirely the purpose of the whole, universal, catholic body of believers — the one body of Christ. There are not local bodies of Christ… There is only one body and He, the head, has invited us to be part of what He is doing.

Despite this reality, our churches and leadership teams feel pressure to be the best in every area — Hollywood caliber teaching, rockstar worship experience, over the top youth and children programs, small groups geared toward the older generation, the newly married, the not married, the young families, the empty-nesters, the un-nested. What we do in the name of excellence, if we are not careful, becomes an aside that distracts us from the very identity the Spirit of God has spoken into each distinct expression of his body — communicating a unique piece of His heart and character.

So where do we go from here?

We have each been uniquely created. We have each been uniquely gifted. Would it not also be true that each community of believing people would also be unique in composition? It takes courageous leadership to communicate this is who we are, this is what we are best at, this is our contribution.

Let’s courageously ask ourselves… What is my contribution? What is my part? Where do I come alive and how do I bring God glory from this place? How does he want to impact my world? 

And leaders, let’s ask the same of our local expressions… How has the Spirit of God identified us? Who has he called us to be? — And taking it one step further — What areas are we weaker in? — And another amazingly courageous step forward — What other groups, communities, organizations are strong in these areas and how has God invited us to join together in order to further his kingdom in our region?

Instead of reinventing the wheel — the wheel that we really don’t have time, energy, vision, capacity, to build anyway — what if we walked out of our house and looked down the street to see if anyone else had already built it. What if, when we do find someone with the wheel we are missing, we ask them if we could come down to their house to use their wheel too?

It could really position us to keep doing what we do best. And, you know what? As we get to know the folks who’s wheel we are using, we might even become friends.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

excerpt from On Trusting God – Psalm 25

To you, O Lord, I lift up my souls. O my God, in you I trust (Psalm 25).

Trusting in God is at the core of being his disciple. If we do not trust him, then we do not rest in him. If we cannot trust him, then we cannot receive love from him. If we will not trust him, we will not follow him.

Take a few quiet moments and meditate on this excerpt from Psalm 25. Then take a few deep breaths and ask God the following question: God, in what places am I not trusting you?

If something comes to mind, write it down. If nothing comes to mind, set an alarm for a later time in the day and ask again. Continue asking in a regular way until something comes to mind. When you do have something, ask God for the next step in trusting him in this area. Continue to ask for next steps as you are obedient with the last step.

May we all experience his gentle leadership as we continue to trust him.

 

note: I’m currently in the process of writing and compiling some devotional resources. I thought it could be helpful for some to include snapshots of my process. Enjoy!

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

Turnkey organization and the great American detox

Here’s a starting place:

google search turnkey defined -> of or involving the provision of a complete product or service that is ready for immediate use

A complete product or service that is ready for use. I walk into one grocery store to get all the groceries I need. Oh yeah, and I’ll grab a pack of batteries while I’m there… and maybe throw in a pack of white v-neck tee’s while I’m here… Oh… and I’ve been meaning to get my oil changed. I’ll do that here too. Convenient.

Why should’t I get my oil changed while I get my groceries and the newest blu-ray release? What’s wrong with capping a burger and fries with a McLatte? Nothing is necessarily wrong with it… it’s convenient. And if you don’t mind your latte tasting kind of like that burger and fries, then go for it.

There we have it… a complete product or service that is ready for IMMEDIATE use — so convenient.

But, do we lose something in the turnkey rat race? Do we lose something when we can walk into a place and get everything we need and everything we want? Does some inner fortification of my soul die within me when I open a single iPhone application to make 99% of my purchases, promising to arrive at my doorstep within 48 hours? I mean… it’s totally convenient… but is there a hidden cost somewhere flying just below the radar?

I love the german originated Aldi Grocery Stores for this very reason. It’s the consumer’s AA rehab protocol. Americans Anonymous — My name is Phil … Hi Phil… and I’m American. I feel entitled to get anything I want, whenever I want… I need help. Aldi stocks one kind of most — not necessarily all — grocery items. One week they may have lightly salted cashews and only lightly salted almonds the next. No apology. They have found a way to simplify their business model and have somehow convinced their patrons that we are not entitled to get everything we want. Thank you Aldi… I needed that. Want a shopping cart? That will be $.25. Oh, don’t worry, you’ll get your quarter back… after you return your shopping cart exactly where you found it. Grocery sacks? That will cost you a few pennies as well. Or, you can use these boxes that we have lying around after stocking the shelves. Need something that Aldi didn’t actually carry in stock this week? Sorry, maybe try next week. The best way I can describe this transcendent experience is #thegreatamericandetox — sometimes… it’s healthy for my soul to not get what I want.

Thanks Aldi.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember