An Undivided Heart

The 86th Psalm is a prayer written by David, Israel’s most lauded ancient king. As a psalm, it was presumably set to music though both the tune and the context in which the song was sung have been lost to history. But the beautifully vulnerable words remain as David cries out to Almighty God, the redeemer and restorer of souls. I will have more to say about all that this coming Sunday as Portico Church gathers at The Palace. In the interim, I’m asking you to, specifically, pray about and dwell on one phrase in Psalm 86:11 in which David asks God to, “…give [him] an undivided heart….”

This is the question I am asking you to ponder, “What divides your heart?” That is to say, if your heart isn’t fully devoted to the things of God in all circumstances and at all times, what divides it? Is it one primary thing? Is it a host of “smaller” things? Is it sin? Is it something which left unchecked may become sin? Is it guilt, failure, ambition or greed? What is it? What disrupts your focus on God and your ability to wholeheartedly worship Him in every place and in every situation? Ok, I know that turned out to be more than one question. I can guarantee you, though, if you will wrestle honestly about the division in your own heart, you will be far better prepared to hear from God when Portico Church gathers this coming Sunday.

I hope to see you this Sunday. In the meantime, I leave you with the words of 1Timothy 1:17, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

by Randy Impson

 

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The weight and depth of “Death to Life” for me

Portico Church,

 

This is a post I’ve been dwelling in most of this year and finally, through prayer and others wisdom, have the courage to express. Having just wrapped up a recap of our “Death to Life” motto it’s a perfect time to post. For myself this is simply a way to express the gratitude I have for our church as I am an example of what we’re about. God has orchestrated so much in me from conversations, dates in time, gatherings, music, and so much more. I am, and will always be, a changed Man of God because of Portico.  

 

Several years ago, I believe when Portico went from being the initial college ministry it began as into transitioning into Randy’s leadership, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to attend a service. This was, of course, when it was meeting in the old building. Shortly after I had the privilege of joining one of our very first Community Groups. Even though the group ranged from 6-12 to 15-25 people on a weekly basis I’m sure if everyone came to the group at least once we may have had 50-60 people there! This group jump-started many friendships that I still have today. And being I was only in high school at the time didn’t matter, everyone still loved and accepted me as one of them. It’s been exciting to see how groups have changed and developed through the years and the blessings they’ve been for others because of what started in this group.

 

To highlight and bring attention to what God has done specifically in my life and continues to do here are my thoughts:

           

First and foremost I would not be who I am in Christ if weren’t for the teaching and leadership of Randy and our teaching team. Their level of communication of the scriptures has been of upmost deliverance in the person and work of the Gospel and who Jesus Christ is in me. It exemplifies my personal studies and communication with the Lord in prayer each week.

 

– I live in Monroe because of our church.

After having experienced my share of moving growing up I firmly believe I live in Monroe because of our church and my parent’s blessings for me. This is in addition to the job and the jobs I’ve been blessed to have, of course. With my sister and most of my family living in Texas and with other close family up North I know my families living here is completely by God’s choice. Now that I’m on my own the intensity of this subject matter and Portico’s blessing over my life is even greater. God has taught me that the actual environment in which you live does not have to dictate the setting you live it in – Home truly is where the heart is. (If you’d like to hear more about the crazy story that brought my family and I here, I’d love to share)

 

– I sin less

– Whether it is usual sins we all battle with as followers of Jesus or ones that are more personal to me. It is through our weekly involvement together that God is endowed in me more which is reflective in my own and individual pursuit of Godliness and righteousness.

 

– Relationships

            I believe the friendships that have birthed from Portico will last my lifetime. God has used me as a one whom is “well beyond his years – in maturity” as some say, to learn and to teach also, in difficult and deep conversations with friends. I, therefore, have been blessed and God has used me to be a blessing. I may do better one-on-one but friendships through Portico have impacted me greatly whether in groups or one on one.

            These friendships have helped me get through tough times throughout my life through prayer and conversation. They’ve walked alongside me when I need them. And they’ve essentially been those people I surround myself around from week-to-week when hanging out, sharing a meal together, and getting to know one another.

            Community Groups (Give it up for The Justice League!) have been a huge blessing to me the past year, along with those I’ve been apart of in the years past. To be honest, as primarily an introvert, I’m always a little nervous launching into a new group and this generally continues for the first several weeks – but God has truly broken down the walls in my heart and allowed me to share and get to know people better. Groups have facilitated my growing deeper in Christ, through the scriptures and conversation and much more.

 

– Music

            For me, playing guitar has been the energetic release I often need each week, a display of who I am but much more than this, it has created in me a heart for leading others in worship. Being apart of a band that gets to hear a church sing back, cry out, and pray from the depths of their souls, is like nothing else. And whether this is quietly seen in someone sitting in a chair or standing, it’s an amazing period of time for someone. Christ is even deeper in their bloodstream at that time. To know that how we play often dictates how God wants to communicate to you in our corporate worship setting and knowing that this will effect your own weekly lives, is heavy. It often makes me even more of a nervous perfectionist, but what calms me is grasping the same presence of the Holy Spirit that’s upon you, is also within the band and me. 

 

– Sound & Tech

Working with Jason and others in the technical avenues we have, has allowed me to pour out gifts and talents God has given me, in helping guide our weekly worship gatherings and other events. In addition, in understanding the weight he and I carry and knowing technology is at times fleeting to us and can interrupt a service, I have learned to hold fast to God’s control. It still fascinates me to know I can walk away from a service and point out all of the tech flaws in my mind mentally but then the week after, hear reports of God’s awesome goodness in the room. I’m quickly reminded it doesn’t matter what we use to portray God’s presence, how expensive or sufficient the gear is, God can still move within our hearts. Even if we had all the smoke and lasers – and I’d be frustrated at the idea if we did, it doesn’t matter; God doesn’t need the “stuff”. He needs our hearts and he could work within us, even if we were working without a sound system. He is all knowingly sufficient.

 

I truthfully hope my example helps generate a sense of strength over how we as a church can be a blessing to others. We speak constantly about being missional and though I agree with this, I also would claim to say that being missional is a feature that must be within our church too. Know that you’ve played a part in that for me and will continue to. I am a living embodiment of our purpose, as a church.

 

-Nick Boudreaux


Justice Counseling at The Palace

Three years ago I was praying about having a prayer ministry at Portico. As I prayed an idea popped into my head about offering counseling at Portico, but I quickly dismissed it as I didn’t have the time or resources to pursue it. Years later, that quick vision has turned into reality.

During the last Hub, I shared some about my story of starting Justice Counseling, LLC. It has been amazing to see God move in my life during this new adventure. God is refining my own character and growing my boldness in the process of starting this new ministry. I help strengthen families and marriages. I want to see people experience healing and grow closer to God. Justice Counseling fits Portico’s theme of moving from death to life. My counseling experience includes helping parents use effective discipline and build relationships with their children. I help families navigate through marital conflict, grief, and loss. Families and individuals also heal from difficult experiences such as physical and sexual abuse.

I am looking forward to seeing families grow by serving them through Justice Counseling. Here is how I could use your help!

1)     Share with others that there is counseling available at The Palace.

2)     Come talk to me! Ask questions and get more information for others.

3)     Like Justice Counseling, LLC on Facebook.

Thank you for all your support and encouragement!

Elizabeth Justice
318-953-1291
justicecounseling@gmail.com

It’s Dark

Recently our church challenged us to let our pain be used to breathe life into other people’s pain, to invite others into our pain so they may see hope and healing. This piece of poetry (if you can call it that) is what I offer in response to that challenge. This piece is a piece of my pain. May you seek the face of the one whose name is Peace, the peace in my pain.

 1

It’s dark. Eyes closed. My lungs are empty, my mouth full of water. Open my eyes. Burn. Blur. Light? Dark? Up? Down? Be still. Be still.. Be still…

Gasp. Cough. Exhale water. Breathe in air. Bright light. Close my eyes. Open them. Waves. Burn. Breathe. Swim.

I’m naked. The clothes must have gotten too heavy. Swim. Where? In front of me as far as the eye can see, water. To my left, water. To my right, water. Behind me, water. Which way? Stay? Drown. Swim… drown. How long have I been swimming? How long have I floated? I’ve lost count of the days, the months, the years.

To my left, water. Right, water. Ahead, water. Behind, water. Swim. Which way? I don’t know. But I swim.

 2

In the clearest moment of my castaway journey I decided to swim. We decided to swim. To swim apart. Was it the right way? I don’t know. To the left, water. To the right, water. In front and behind, water. I didn’t know. I don’t know. But I swam. I’m swimming.

I’ve been on the couch. She’s been on the couch. I’ve taken time. She’s taken trips. But on this day my bags were not packed with the intention of returning. It wasn’t a trip. It was a move. The right move? I don’t know. Left, right, forward, backwards… water. Float, drown. Swim, sink. I chose to swim. Swim to a shore? No. I can’t see a shore. Swim to avoid floating. Because after you float long enough you begin to drown. So I swam.

 3

The hotels were cold, lonely. The goodnight phone calls to the kids were unbearable. I can’t imagine what it was like for them. I left. Do they hate me? Does she hate me? Do you hate me? Do I hate me? We split. But I left.

I’ve heard that relationships have anchors and ropes that hold them together. Healthy relationships would have many ropes connecting them. Struggling relationships are sometimes, well, hanging by a thread. Why? Why cut the ropes? To the left, water. To the right, water. Forward, water. Behind, water. Float, drown eventually. Swim.

The last thread was cut. Earlier on it was a strong rope, a steel chain. Let’s stay together for the kids. Really? Let’s live a lie for years only to one day tell them that we lied to them their whole lives? It was a string in chain’s clothing anyway. We cut it along with all of the other strings. We swam. We are swimming.

 4

Have you ever done the walk of shame? For me the walk of shame is a concept I learned from the television. It is when one person unexpectedly stays the night with someone else and they have no fresh clothes or toiletries for the morning. So, when they wake they sneak out past the roommates, down the apartment corridor, into their cars and off to work in wrinkled clothes.

By now I had moved from hotels to friends couches.

One night we talked. One morning I did the walk of shame… from my own house. Kissed my wife as she lay in bed, sneaked past my sleeping kids, out my front door, off to work. Was it the right move? I don’t know. We had cut all strings but now a thread was born. And one string led to another. We’re swimming.

 

Jason Strader

On Snakes and Struggle

A few weeks ago, I was hiking through a beautiful bit of Louisiana woods when I came to a split in the path. Directly in front was a well-cleared, well-marked trail, while the trail to my left was faint and overgrown. Remembering high school English and Robert Frost, I opted for the path less travelled. The way was marked every so often with splotches of faded blue spray paint. This wasn’t too bad, but I was spending all my time straining ahead to find the next marker, or glancing back over my shoulder to make sure I was still on track. A few minutes in, as I was scouting for the next swatch of paint, I noticed from the corner of my eye that my shoe was hovering mid-air over a funny-looking stick on the ground. “Hmm,” my eyes said, “that’s an unusually glossy stick.” “Wait a minute,” said my brain, “That’s no stick. That’s a snake!” I jumped back and sure enough, I had almost stepped right on top of a good-sized snake sunning itself in the leaves. I gripped my walking stick and stared, heart pounding. “How on earth did I miss that?” The snake, a bit surly at having its nap interrupted, coiled itself, hissed, and slithered away into the bushes. I watched, fascinated, but then decided I’d had enough of bush-whacking, and hurried back to the main trail, dodging and dancing away from every slightly-bendy stick and vine in sight.

Listening to Libby’s talk on patience and suffering (http://www.theportico.com/media.php?pageID=6), I realized that, recently, I’ve been running into a different kind of snake on my path. Libby said that the only way to have patience in hardship is to look to Jesus. We learn to be “passionate about God’s presence in the midst of suffering.”

But the enemy of our souls would much rather have us look to the past and feel guilt and shame, or look to the future and feel anxious or grasp after a (false) sense of control. And in doing this we lose sight of Jesus. But isn’t that so often how it happens? I’m barging through the woods, peering over my shoulder or straining my eyes for the next bit of blue paint, and my eyes definitely aren’t on Jesus at all. I’m so busy looking everywhere but at him, that the next thing you know I’ve stumbled across a snake in the path. This is a mean snake. A snake who hisses: “Oh poor you. Look at how hard you’ve served God, and this is where he’s brought you?” Or, “Let’s just figure out a way to make the pain stop.” Or this one: “You are all alone. You’ve been abandoned. You’ll wake up one day and realize how foolish you were to believe.”

Listening to Libby’s message, I realized that for a couple weeks now I’ve been frozen in the middle of the path, listening to this evil but mesmerizing snake. This snake tells me God isn’t moving quickly enough. This snake tells me I’ve been serving God so faithfully, and I shouldn’t have to struggle or wait or trust. This snake says it’s not fair and God must not love me because he treats me this way. This snake is a liar.

The truth is: the struggle doesn’t disappear, the path is still overgrown and difficult, but the Savior is present. We strengthen our hearts by looking to Jesus, and as Libby said, “The beauty of looking to Jesus is that he meets us in the heartache.” He meets us in the waiting, in the impatience, in the confusion, the frustration, the sadness, the loneliness, the despair. All of it.

We’re not home yet. We’re certainly not out of the woods, but we have a companion for the road. So then, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

Emily Morrison

Snake Pic

24 Hours of Prayer Sign up

Hello friends!
I am so excited about our upcoming 24 Hours of Prayer on May 17 and 18! As our church finishes up a several month long study of James, we thought it would be a great time to reflect on all that we have learned and spend some time set aside for prayer.

James was a raw and real book with plenty of application! It was convicting but even more than that, revealing in a really good way. It called me not to just obey Christ in action but to look at the inner motives of my heart, to think through those deeper issues and to have truth in those inner parts. Sometimes what I uncovered there was messy! I hope that spending an hour of prayer will provide you with some good closure to our study of James and that God will give you fresh insight and strength.

The fun part for us is this: You just get to show up! We will have someone there to serve you communion and pray with you briefly before leading you to your room. Then the time can be spent however you like. We will have a guide and some suggested scriptures to read, but feel free to do whatever you want! When your hour is up, come into the sanctuary. We will have some opportunity for you to respond in writing to what you have experienced. For us on the prayer team this most feels like hospitality- creating a space for you to be with the Lord.

I know the summer busyness has already begun! Won’t you spend just a little time quieting your heart in anticipation? You won’t regret it! You will have opportunity to sign up for a one hour slot this coming Sunday! In years past we were more concerned with everyone having a “slot” this year we will have a couple rooms available and I am less concerned with overlap. Just let us know what’s good for you!
So Excited to see how God moves!

Shannon and the Prayer Team

PS- Questions? Email me at ShannonSchalles@gmail.com

Super HUB 2.0

In March, the men and women of The Portico Church gathered to “dream God-Sized Dreams” and plan for the future.
The overwhelming take away from that meeting was a call to seek God’s face, repent of sin and earnestly ask Him what He would have us – as individuals and as a church- do next. In doing this, we would be living out “revival” (aka Obedience).

It has been 6 weeks since that charge went out and now its time to rally together to see what God has been saying and doing since then.

Gather with your church this Sunday from 10:00 to Noon for brunch (provided) and heart-felt conversations. We will spend time praying with one another, hearing from each other and dreaming about what the “death to life” story could do for downtown Monroe and the greater Monroe region – and hearing what it is currently doing.

To get ready for Sunday and have it be the best use of everyone’s time, consider the following:

1. What is God up to in your life? (what’s He teaching you, working on you about, helping you through?) Be prepared to share that with a small group of folks on Sunday morning.

2. Would you spend some time praying about what God is asking you to start? stop? or support within our church?

3. Would you pray for our leaders and Elders as they listen for the guidance of The Spirit and themes from individuals’ stories?

4. Would you join together with others to power activities through your volunteer effort that are proclaiming the Good News of our Great Rescuer in diverse and creative ways?

See you at The Palace on Sunday, May 4th from 10:00 AM to Noon.

24 Hours of Prayer Sign Up!

This coming Sunday you will have an opportunity to sign up for a one hour slot for our 24 Hours of Prayer! The sign up will be in the lobby. Feel free to sign up with a friend or family member or alone. 24 Hours of Prayer will begin Saturday May 17 at 4:00 pm and run until 4:00 pm on Sunday May 18.

Saturday: Make Disciples

Read: Matthew 28:16-20

 

The Great Commission is what we call it. It is the clarion call to action –the profoundly clear and exceedingly simple-to-understand battle plan Jesus gave His followers and His church. Make disciples. That’s it. The passage does go on to tell us “who”and “how”but the “what”is as plain as the nose on our faces. Make disciples. This short message from Jesus served to bring everything into focus for His followers.

 

Their journey since the crucifixion had led them to believe Jesus had, indeed, risen from the dead. They had come to believe that He was the Messiah spoken of by the prophets of old. They understood that they had responsibilities to care for one another (“feed my sheep”) but they had not yet taken hold of their role in Jesus’ redemption story.

 

To be sure, the story of redemption is Jesus’ story. It is through His sacrifice that our sins have been forgiven. It is because of His resurrection that believers will dwell with Him eternally. I don’t save. You don’t save. Jesus saves! Period –but not the end of the story. You see, we have a role in the redemption story. Our role is not that of redeemer; it is the role of disciple maker.

 

As you read the passage, consider:

  1. “Make disciples”is an imperative in the text as opposed to a suggestion. What are the implications of that in your life?
  2. Making disciples presupposes a person’s belief in Jesus. What does this mean regarding our responsibility to tell others about Jesus?
  3. You can’t make disciples unless you are a disciple. Do an honest self-evaluation.
    1. Are you a follower of Jesus? If not, are you ready to believe?
    2. If you are a follower of Jesus, are you growing in your knowledge of and obedience to His teachings?
    3. Can you identify specific things you need to work on?

Friday: Feed My Sheep

Read: John 21:1-25

 

At some unspecified time after the appearances we’ve studied so far this week, Jesus appeared to His disciples by the Sea of Galilee. At that point, it seems certain Jesus’ followers believed He had risen from the dead. It even seems logical that they understood He was the Messiah since, during His previous appearance, Jesus “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures”concerning Him. But they still certainly didn’t understand the implications of that nor did they understand their role in His redemption story. How can I say that with certainty? Because, they went fishing.

 

Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with fishing, of course. But immerse yourself in this story for a moment. The disciples had spent every minute of every day with Jesus for three years. They had heard Him teach things so profound and so revolutionary that listeners were left stunned. They had seen Him heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons. They had even been empowered by Him to do miracles, too! Then Jesus was killed and His followers thought the journey had come to an end. But it had not! Jesus was alive. They had seen Him. They had talked to Him. They had heard Him take the Old Testament Scriptures and make plain that He was God’s Chosen One –The Messiah! What would you have expected them to do next? Map out missions strategies? Plant churches? Choose leaders? Go fishing? Yeah, well probably not go fishing. But that is what they did even though they now believed Jesus was alive and that He was the Messiah. The problem was, they had yet to grasp their role in His redemption story.

 

As you read the passage, consider:

  1. What did Jesus mean by “feed my sheep?”
  2. When people really want to emphasize a point, they sometimes repeat it several times. Is that why Jesus repeated the “feed my sheep”message three times to Peter? Or, do you think it was something else?
  3. Did Jesus’ instructions to feed His sheep apply only to Peter or do you think it extended to the other disciples, as well? If it did extend to the other disciples, what are the implications for you?