Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I (Kate Toriseva) am honored to write to you on the behalf of Pastor Jerry Johnson, who invited me to write this month’s Vision 2024 Letter. I would like to start by encouraging you all to pray for him, as he takes a leap of faith in allowing me to do so. Please join me in prayer for the church as we look to the future and the difficult issues that we must prepare to face.
At the end of the day, when we turn off our TV’s and plug in our phones for the night, more often than not we go to bed worried and disappointed by what we’ve seen and experienced that day. The church grieves with God as we witness a world that both despises sin and embraces it, longs for truth and turns away from it in fear and disgust, and celebrates moral uprightness yet brutally tears down those who live by those standards. Our world both cries out for God and curses him, leaving us disheartened and weary. We struggle to find ways to speak truth into a world that abhors our God, and grow disheartened and bitter, or fall to the demands of our world to worship their gods, not ours. As we face the slurry of dissatisfaction and anger from a world that both seeks God and resents him, please pray for our church, that we will remain strong, pressing forward towards the ultimate goal.
Please join me in prayer for the church as we seek to modernize while avoiding falling into the trap of modernism. Pray that as we assess uncertainty and derision, our judgement will remain strong and firm in Biblical Truth. Pray that which each new conflict we address, that we seek to walk with God, always trusting his will above our understandings. As we are asked to address issues of sin in the world, things like sexual immorality, drunkenness, theft and deceit, pray that we as a church do not fall into stride with them, but stay strong and steady with our eyes fixed solely on Jesus Christ. Pray that God’s will for our outward actions and responses bless his ministry instead of harming it.
As we have come into an age of twitter and Facebook, likes and shares, and overnight sensationalism, the church must now face the staggering responsibility of being visible. While we have been given blessings such as church websites and Livestreams to share our ministry, we now must also face the massive task of being visible and accessible. As we struggle through social issues such as facemasks, race, gender and more the world watches us. Please pray that through this opportunity we will bear witness to a Unifying God.
Galatians 3:27-29 declares that “For all you who were baptized into Christ put-on Christ. There is no Jew nor Greek, there is no slave nor free, there is no male and female. For you all are one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are seed of Abraham— heirs according-to the promise.” The world seeks identity, clinging to Jew and Gentile, Slave and Free, Male and female. Each group follows their own interests and yearns after their own fulfillment. But in the power and grace of God we are baptized into a new identity. We are made new as children of God, and under him are unified, all a seed of Abraham, all walking towards the promise of our inheritance. In this, we are unified towards an ultimate end: the fulfilment of God’s kingdom. We are uniquely diverse, male and female, young and old, of every race and culture and creed, but we are not unified by the color of our skin or the state of our finances. We are one in the Lord, becoming “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (Philippians 2:2)
Pray that we as a church will be different. Pray that we as a church will celebrate the diversity of our congregation in immutable characteristics, opinions, and backgrounds, knowing that in Christ we are one, striving towards the same goal, and receive from God the same inheritance. Pray that in this way we are not hidden to the world. Pray that we do not honor the sins in their distress and anger, but that we address their yearning for a source of unity and wholeness, pointing them to our God who heals and restores. May we as a church set the example of looking to God for value above man’s empty identities.
The church now faces a generation hungry for identity, looking for value in things such as sexuality, politics and money, filled with all-consuming desire for worth and meaning that they cannot satisfy. The generations that come after us are continually bombarded with messages of self-worth, of true identities and ways to fulfill themselves. As they struggle with dissatisfaction and fulfillment, they are vulnerable to the lies and manipulations of sin, easily tempted by empty promises that leave them still seeking more. As the world desperately searches for self, God calls his disciples In Matthew 16:24-26 to deny themselves, going on to tell them to take up his cross, declaring that “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
People are looking. They are seeking truth and belonging, unity and fulfillment. They seek God even if they deny him. Please pray that these seekers’ hearts will be softened, and their ears open to the truth of God. Pray that we as a church will speak truth in love, living out the gaining of life we have in the act of laying ourselves aside. Pray that our church will be a living testimony, not of what the world wants to see, but of the truth that they seek, even when they do not understand.
Lastly, I encourage you to pray for willing hearts among our church. Jeremiah 29:13 promises that those who seek with all their heart will find him, so pray that we the church will be the willing hands and feet he uses to fulfill that promise. Please pray for those who seek truth and identity in a post-truth society that thrives off a fruitless search and endless confusion, that we will answer their questions and pour into them. Pray that we will be good disciple-makers, faithful and constant as we guide the questioning and lost to God.
The world is messy. We face uncertain times and unanswered questions. As a church and as individuals we grieve the presence of sin in our lives and in our world, and we watch it play out with disappointment and frustration. But let us be courageous. Let us remember that through these sorrows we have been promised a great inheritance. Our anguish stems from a knowledge of better things, and as one family in Christ we may encourage one another to turn to a loving and faithful God. As we face harder and harder things we can remain of one mind and love—that of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in laying down our lives to him, we will receive our great inheritance. Thank you for praying for our church, and turning to God in faith and hope of what he will achieve.
As Paul so eloquently says in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, “…Run in such a way as to get the prize…we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” And with any luck, when we are finished, we may turn around and see a multitude of runner’s right behind us.
God bless you all, and may you seek Him unfailingly.
E-Free Church of Bemidji
Becoming fully devoted followers of Jesus together