Pastor’s Al Blog

January 13, 2022                        Testimony about Reading God’s Word

Yesterday I sent out an invitation by email to join me (and our church) in reading the New Testament in a year beginning February 1, 2022. I got this response from one of our young mothers. With her permission, I am sharing it with you.

“This is AWESOME! I read the Bible through for the first time in 2020 and it changed my life. I have since re-dedicated my life to Him after getting to know the Lord on a whole new level.

 

“God had put it on my heart to do it for a long time and I finally told myself that was my new year’s resolution for 2020. I was so eager to begin that I bought a new bible (one that I could easily read and take notes in) and began in October of 2019. Needless to say, God’s timing is perfect because he was preparing my heart for what was to come that year….and everything that has followed since then. I encourage everyone I know to get into the scriptures if they have never done so before.

 

“I’ve been working especially hard on my mom for the last few months because she sees daily how knowing scripture has impacted me. She has made it her resolution to read through it this year. Would it be possible to invite her to this as well?”

You can get the app with this link: https://bible.com/p/47075074/c93600cdc0d987518a513cc811f53b41
The link opens to an invitation to read this plan with Al Magnuson. It’s safe … click on “Accept Invitation” and you are ready to go.

For those who prefer to place a printed reading schedule in their Bible as a bookmark, printed copies have been placed in your mailbox and are available in the south foyer.

Please join us on February 1. Read It Thru in 22!
 
 

January 5, 2022                                                        Read It Thru in 22!

Last year I was part of a group who followed a Bible Project plan to read the Bible through in 2021. It was a great experience! So, as the Transition Team discussed ways in which we can grow in our love relationship with Jesus Christ, it was proposed that Zoar read the New Testament through in 2022. Thus the slogan: Read It Thru in 22!

If you will set aside 10 minutes each day for reading the New Testament, we can read it through together in one year. Simply ask God to allow you to see Him more clearly in what you read today; then read it like the love letter from God that it is. If you have time to reflect a bit, ask yourself what you learned about Jesus/God in this passage and what that means in living with Him today.

Just imagine how this could influence our conversations. Having read the same portion of the New Testament that our friends read, we can share what we observed and ask for insight on questions we have. If that conversation takes place at the café, the elevator, the office or school, you may even discover others being drawn into your conversation. It is really fun; the Word of God is living and powerful and profitable for equipping us for every good work.

Because January has been devoted to praying, we are going to start reading the New Testament on February 1. I prefer to use a Bible app which gives me access to some excellent short video introductions to the books of the New Testament and insightful word studies. You can get the app with this link: https://bible.com/p/47075074/c93600cdc0d987518a513cc811f53b41 The link opens to an invitation to read this plan with Al Magnuson. It’s safe … click on “Accept Invitation” and you are ready to go.

For those who prefer to place a printed reading schedule in their Bible as a bookmark, printed copies are available (or will be soon) in the south foyer.

Please join us on February 1. Read It Thru in 22!
 
 

December 29, 2021                                                All Is New in 2022!

All is new in 22! I like the slogan. I like the hope it projects after a hard year. Admittedly, there will be a few carry-overs – viruses will still be present, politics will continue to be divisive, and most of us will still have the same neighbors. But we have a new calendar, new opportunities, new challenges, and the anticipation of a new lead pastor.

When Jesus faced new events, opportunities, or challenges, He always talked it over with His Father. Sometimes He drew apart by Himself to pray (Luke 5:16); sometimes He prayed with others (Luke 9:28-29); but He always prayed. When Jesus was baptized, He prayed (Luke 3:21). Before selecting His twelve disciples, Jesus prayed all night (Luke 6:12-16). Jesus was praying with His disciples when He posed the question of His identity to them (Luke 9:18). Jesus went up a mountain to pray with Peter, James, and John before He was transfigured (Luke 9:28-29). Jesus prayed before His trial and crucifixion (Luke 22:40-44).

It is in the spirit of Jesus’ model that Zoar has dedicated much of January 2022 to an emphasis on praying. We are calling it 21 Days of Deeper Prayer after the title of the book which was purchased for you by the Elder Board. I urge each of you to use this book, in accordance with the plan the authors set forth, individually or as a family, beginning Monday, January 3.

The stage area in the Fellowship Hall will be set up as a Prayer Room Monday, January 3 through Sunday, January 23. It will contain 4 sequential “praystations” focused on different aspects of prayer – adoration, thanksgiving, confession/reflection, and petition. The Prayer Room is designed for praying silently in deference to our western culture where we are unfamiliar with everyone talking aloud to God at once. The prayer guides at each “praystation” will, like the mercies of God, be new every morning so avail yourself of this opportunity as often as you can. Hours of availability will be regular office hours during the day (pick up an instruction sheet at the office when you come) and 6:00-8:00 PM every evening except Wednesdays.

Each evening, January 3-23, a Transition Team member will lead those who gather to pray conversationally in the Fellowship Hall (near the kitchen) from 6:30 to 7:30 PM (Wednesdays following TeamKid at 8:00-9:00 PM). If you are not familiar with conversational prayer, this is a great opportunity to learn another way of praying together that can be equally engaging to the verbal and the non-verbal person, to the one comfortable with praying in groups and the one who is shy about praying publicly. I urge everyone to participate at least once during these 21 days.

We will be using only the north foyer for these events. During evening hours, a Transition Team member will greet you. You are not expected to be at every Prayer Gathering or to use the Prayer Room every day, but I encourage you to avail yourself of these resources as often as you can. Let’s draw apart and talk with our Heavenly Father before we venture forth on this path marked 2022.
 
 

December 15, 2021                                                What Is Prayer

How would you answer a 4-year-old child who asked, “What is prayer?”

The answer of the Gospel team with whom I traveled doing children’s meetings: Prayer is simply talking to God. Just like you and I are talking, we can talk to God.

I still like that answer, but it leaves a lot unsaid. How does a child learn to talk? By listening to other people talk. In fact, it is claimed that the fastest way to learn a language conversationally (not grammatically) is to live where only that language is spoken.

Shy people may listen for a long time before trying to speak themselves. They may practice in private; but without feedback it is difficult to gain confidence. So eventually even the shy venture to utter simple statements … gain confidence … and learn to converse.

If praying truly is simply talking to God, we learn to talk to God by hearing others pray – in church, in the home, in prayer gatherings. Our ability to talk develops from baby talk (which only our parents understood) to eloquent exchanges of thought through listening, experience, and training. Likewise, our ability to converse with God grows through listening, experience, and training. I believe that is why Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1).

I invite you to join us any evening Monday, January 3, through Sunday, January 23, from 6:30 to 7:30 PM to talk with God together. (Except Wednesdays when we will pray 8:00-9:00 PM.) Our goal is not to gang up on God so He will give us what we demand; but to grow in our love and adoration of God, our submission and obedience to God, and our ability to converse with God by talking to Him together. Each gathering will be led by one of the Transition Team members who is also learning to pray conversationally. Whether you only listen or actively converse, you are welcome. I am looking forward to learning together with you how to more clearly express my adoration of God, my gratitude, and our needs.
 

October 20, 2021                        What is the Greatest Commandment

Mark 12:28 is the record of a teacher asking Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Zoar’s Transition Team has been asking a similar question, “Of the eight characteristics of a healthy church measured by the Natural Church Development Survey, which is the most important for us to focus on at this time?” And the answer to both questions is the same: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

But how do you encourage a person who accepted Jesus as his/her Savior 50 years ago to be as passionate about loving God, trusting God, obeying God through the aches and pains as he/she was as a carefree child? How can we rekindle our first love for God when we have become encumbered with the responsibilities of a business, a family, and/or a job?

I asked the members of the Transition Team what had been most influential in their growing passionately in love with Jesus Christ. It was delightful to hear them share prayer emphases at certain times of the year, church-wide Bible reading promotions and Bible memory programs, and times of rolling up their sleeves and working side by side in service projects and on mission trips.

It dawned on me as they shared, that this is exactly what motivated and energized the apostolic church. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42) We don’t read about their children’s programs, their stewardship campaigns, or their seasonal festivals. What is recorded is that they devoted themselves to four things: 1] they read and studied the Bible together (apostles’ teaching), 2] they bore the burden of service and care together (fellowship), 3] they ate together (the breaking of bread), and 4] they prayed together [prayer].

In Acts 2:46-47, we are told that they met every day in the temple and that they broke bread in their homes. It seems to allow for both mass gatherings and home meetings, but all with glad and sincere hearts, praising God. Are we simply being nostalgic to long for such a movement of the Holy Spirit at Zoar or are we longing for the Church to be restored to its first love?

Pray for Zoar’s Transition Team as we meet weekly to discern ways that we might encourage one another to love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength.