Category Archives: Sundays

Resources for Understanding James

This past Sunday night The Portico Church embarked upon an ambitious verse-by-verse journey through the New Testament “Letter of James.”
During the gathering, I purposed 5 questions that need to be answered to better understand the letter:
1. Who Wrote the Letter?
2. When & Where Was It Written?
3. Why Was It Written?
4. What Does It Say?
5. How Can We Best Engage The Letter Today?

If you missed the talk, you can listen to the podcast here: (

By understanding who wrote the letter and why, we are better able to understand what it says and properly gain application to our own lives.

Below are some of the references and resources I used to better understand the background & overview of James. I hope you find theme helpful as we trek through the letter.


Bob Utley’s Intro:


So as we set out to know Jesus and His teachings, may God’s Spirit bless you with an unquenchable thirst for His Word, an ability to understand it, a heart that is moved to obey it and a life that is marked by behavior that proves it.

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Straight Talk From James


2014 has dawned and with it a new teaching series for our Sunday night gatherings.

The New Testament Letter of James is one of the most practical pieces of Christian writing available.

For centuries, Christ-Followers have turned to its pages to find straight-forward and simple instructions on how to live, along with answers to some of life’s most troubling questions.

James is full of insightful advice for your everyday life as you walk in faith:

  • Wondering what to do when bad things happen?
  • Ready for some guidance to better your communication with others?
  • Curious about how to handle temptation?
  • Wondering how to plan for the future?

James addresses these issues and so many more with a simple theme: A changed heart leads to changed behavior.

As we endeavor to trek through the Letter of James, you’ll find the messages of the letter to be concise and immediately applicable.  James is full of “one liners” that are easy to remember and vibrant imagery from the natural world around us.

No mysteries here. No wondering, “What does that mean?” or “What’s he talking about?”  Just direct statements of how life should look and what you should do differently.  James takes faith out of a theoretical discussion and into the real world around each of us.  The lessons here are observable, measurable and tangible.

Here are some ways you can get the most out of this study:

  1. Read the Letter of James for yourself: all at once, chapter by chapter, a few verses at a time.
  2. Chose some important portions to memorize.  Tell a friend about your choice.
  3. Start a conversation with someone about what you are seeing in the Letter.
  4. Share your thoughts in a weekly Small Group.
  5. Create a piece of art inspired by something you’re learning in James.  A song, painting, poetry, sculpture, t-shirt… whatever.
  6. Blog about your thoughts right here on The Biz.

See you this Sunday night as we introduce you to the Letter of James.

Title Image Credit:

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Seeing The Story in our stories

Through the Jesse Tree Reading guide, we are seeing numerous stories of how God is about pursuit and rescue.  From Adam & Eve to Moses to Samuel, God is continually moving to rescue and bring his children back into an intimate fellowship and communion with Himself.  These are beautiful stories of trial and triumph, tragedy and glorious victory.

But what do we do with the times that don’t “feel” like God is rescuing us?  What are we to make of the moments when devastation sets in and we grieve the loss of what was or will never be?  Where is God when things seem to be falling apart?  And what happens when we do the best we can and still miss the mark of the God’s heart and plan?

Where is God in the day-to-day affairs of life, love, loss and hope?

On Sunday night, we will engage a very familiar story in a surprisingly relevant way.  Matthew 1:18-25 briefly explains the back story of Joseph of Nazareth (Mary’s husband).  You may be well acquainted with the details of his story, but you may not see how similar Joseph’s experience may be to your own.  Sure you are not going to find out your spouse is pregnant by a miracle today, but you may wrestle with some similar emotional processes like Joseph.

Through Joseph’s story we may find elements of our own:

  • The Devastation over life circumstances that don’t turn out like we planned…
  • The Disbelief over the meaning and message of your current situations…
  • The Decision to do the best you know how with the current circumstances; to try and move on with your life…
  • Experiencing a clear and loving sense of exactly what God wants for you in a Dream…
  • Trusting beyond what your eyes can see in whole-hearted Devotion to Gods invitation…

By understanding Joseph’s story, we may very well find that we understand our own a bit better and see that in these little stories, God is weaving a much bigger, more beautiful tapestry of Grace, Pursuit and Rescue.  The best news is that He is doing this “with us.”  After all, He is Emmanuel.

So join us Sunday night as we peer into “The Stories behind The Story.”devestation

The Power of a Letter


There is something special about the feel of paper in your hands as your read words written in ink from a person you love.  Letters seem to speak louder and more clearly than other forms of communication.  They endure time and resonate deep emotions (I still have love notes from Valerie dating back nearly 20 years ago) .

At different points in my life I have been moved by a letter.
A love letter from my fiancé.
A handwritten card from my mom.
An unexpected note from a friend.

Each of these correspondences has led me to experience powerful emotions and reassure me of simple truths.
The right words at just the right time.

Enter Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

With pen and paper The Great Apostle writes a letter to some dear friends that resonates deep feeling and solid truth for where they found themselves – in life and the faith.

As you read his words it may be easy to miss the emotional connection and sincerity with which Paul must have written.

So imagine yourself in a similar situation.  You find yourself exiled from your friends and family -far away from the comforts of the familiar.  You have no means of communicating with those concerned about your well-being, except through… letters.  So you take up pen and paper.  And write.  You write feverously to the ones who mean the most to you.  Pen striking paper with quick and intentional strokes.  But what do you say?  With limited space and ink your words must cut to the heart of the matter and you must be clear about your message.  So, you write from the heart:  sincere sentiment and clear-as-day-truths.

This Sunday evening at 6:00 PM, the Portico Church will begin a teaching series entitled: “This, Not That: Living Life in the Rescue” which will examine the core of Paul’s letter to his friends while in prison.  The message is simple yet profound.  The letter is filled with contract: light and dark, abandon and adoption, this – not that.  As we get started, you’re invited to open the letter before Sunday and read – experience the power of a letter for yourself.

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I had breakfast with Moses: No, really, I did.

Bill Riddle is a retired newspaper editor and political consultant who chucked it all away a decade ago to become a family therapist. He is still pretty new to the Portico family, but hopes his love for writing stories will help him connect with new friends here. Inspired by 1 Peter 4:10, Bill shares this story.

Moses is not a biscuit and gravy man. But he does like omelets, Spanish ones, with dry toast, as I recall. And he also enjoys a good, stout cup of Joe: “No creamer, just dark please.” And with that voice–yes, that voice—not a single server under the sun could have ever gotten the breakfast order wrong.

As we sat there at the Holiday Inn in Memphis, I was mesmerized by everything about this legend: his hair was perfect, especially for an old guy; there wasn’t a follicle out of line. And his teeth. My, what dentist was responsible for that gorgeous set, that gorgeous, full set of teeth: white as a new piano’s keys? Incredible, actually. And Moses’ voice: mighty as a raging river, deep as an Ozark valley. Yet mellow as a lovebird’s song. Authority. Confidence. Certainty. Control. And Pleasantness. No wonder the Pharaoh, let his people go!

We talked about the parting of the Red Sea that morning. About how incredibly it had all come to pass for the much of the world to see. He was not pretentious about how nervous he had sometimes been about the task he’d been handed. Humbly, he thundered, “Of all men, who was I to step into such a role?” He talked about the fears and the setbacks, about the negative naysayers who said it could never be done, about the challenge of trying to persuade everyone to just stay focused, to encourage one another, to not quit, to just…believe.

Thing is, he had me so convinced, persuaded, so mesmerized as he relived his Red Sea adventures (from the movie The Ten Commandments) that early Memphis morning that my newspaper photographer leaned in behind me, and reminded me that we were actually there to do a story on a certain Congressional candidate for that district. Some poor drab, milquetoast, non-descript fellow who thought he could make a difference in Washington. I don’t even remember his name.

But Moses: ah, I will never forget his name. Heston. Charlton Heston. The Hollywood legend who had captured the fascination of the entire world with his award-winning roles as Ben Hur, Michelangelo, Marc Antony and El Cid. Mighty movies like Midway, Airport, Earthquake and a little iconic something called Planet of the Apes.

But for me, he was and is, and shall forever be…Moses, the leader of the Exodus, the walk toward freedom.

What a guy! What a leader! Yes, both the real Moses, and…Chuck. Yes, he insisted on it. (I reminded the newspaper photographer that he was to call him Mr. Heston.)

Haven’t thought about that day in quite a while. But every time I’m in Memphis, I try to have breakfast at the Holiday Inn.

So, that’s my little story today. Thing is, all Christians, non-Christians, too, have a story to tell. So if stories are your gift, tell them. If listening is your gift, hear them.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…” I Peter 4:10

~ Bill Riddle



Meals for the Stokes

Here is how you can bless a growing family in our community!  Let’s welcome Andersyn into the world and ease the transition for her family by providing meals for them.  Click on the link below (or copy and paste it to your browser) to find out how to help.  Thanks!

Let’s live #lifetogether


A Challenge

We’ve officially made the dive into the New Testament’s “one another” passages. Brandon McQuillin got us started with a great intro at our Sunday gathering. Curtis Eberts asked us via the blog to check out the passages and inject them into our relationships.

That brings us to the next step, a One Another Challenge! It’s time to pair these great passages with intentional, tangible actions. Action is what breathes God’s words into life out in the world among people. Don’t just think “oh yeah, I’ll _______ others more.” Narrow those broad statements down to something specific you can do about it, and then do it.

One Another Challenge:
1. Portico Facebook & Twitter will post a “one another passage” each weekday during the “Life Together” series.
2. DO something about that passage. Yes, meditate on it and consider it’s implications, but also put some tangible, specific action to it. It can be as simple or as complicated as you deem appropriate.

Portico Church

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Life Together – the way of the cross in relationship

The Christian ethic, the moral code that guides our interactions with others, is rooted in the love, which proceeds from the heart of the crucified and risen Lord.  When fully embraced, it is not based on any rational grounds. It is therefore not possible to articulate in advance all the details of conduct, which that love, requires.  To complicate matters, the mere outward observance of the Christian ethic, the way of the cross, is no guarantee that the heart has been conformed and brought into submission to the love of Christ.

So here we are in quite a quandary.  As we study the one another passages, we will explore with some specificity the manner in which we ought to externally express the inward workings of Christ’s love on our hearts and our genuine submission to the way of the cross in our relationships.  Our natural tendency may be to pervert the teachings of the one another passages by focusing on works, on the appearances of living in the way of the cross in relationships.  We may also become overwhelmed thinking that we might not ever be able to truly “submit to others out of reverence to Christ”– especially when things are really not going our way!  So how can we properly orient ourselves to get the most out of our study of the one another passages?

Well, here’s a thought or two… First of all, don’t allow yourself to get bogged down in the theoretical.  I don’t know that we need an exegesis from the Greek to understand what it means to “be patient with one another”, and honestly it’s not the understanding of patience that’s so difficult but the practice of extending patience when folks around us repeatedly upset us.  So move quickly from the theoretical to the practical by reading through the one another passages paying close attention to your conscience and Spirit’s prompting… be sensitive to this prompting and act in obedience.  Secondly, keep in mind that it is in our primary relationships that our true selves emerge.  For example, rarely will we lose our cool with a co-worker, but how about your spouse, your siblings, or that roommate who consistently depletes the hot water with those 30 minute showers!  In these primary relationships our real selves are manifest and this is the proving ground by which we discover the extent to which we have been crucified with Christ.  So throughout this study, ask those closest to you, perhaps that invest partner, or a member of your small group how you are doing.  Confess to others those things that God is teaching you, pray for one another, spur one another on toward good works… for that is what we were created to do.  And together may we all take small, incremental steps towards Christlikeness and live the way of the cross in our relationships with one another!


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Time of Prayer

prayerWe are starting a new time of prayer!  On the SECOND SUNDAY of every month we will meet at 2:00 pm at the Palace to pray over the upcoming service and needs in our Portico family.  We hope this will allow for some un-rushed time to pray and thank God for how He is moving at Portico. The first one will be June 9th.  Please come if you can and invite anyone you like!  (Questions?  Please email Shannon at

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The Gift of Hospitality


The Hospitality Group (formerly known as the Sunday Night Engagement Group) is looking for people who feel they have the gift of hospitality!

We are looking for individuals who have the heart and gifted in meeting, greeting, and making our visitors feel welcomed and comfortable at Portico. You would help greet visitor before service as well as be there afterwards to help them get connected on what Portico has to offer over the following week. Not only are we looking for people with the heart to welcome our visitors, but we’re also looking for people who have a heart to better serve and invest in the needs of our own Portico family. This might look like making a meal for a family who is sick or had a baby, plan play date with a family you don’t know as well, invite someone over for dinner, etc. There are so many creative ways that we can be hospitable and loving to our guests and our Portico family. If making others feel welcomed and loved is your gift we would appreciate bringing your skills and creativity to our group!!!

If you’re interested or need more information contact Rachel Peterson cell: 318.614.2421 email:

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