Preparing for Lord’s Supper

We’ll be taking the Lord’s Supper together during all worship services this Sunday.  Preparing our hearts is an important part of taking communion together. Our Founding Pastor, Rick Duncan, shared some thoughts on how we can prepare for this special time of worship. For those who aren’t able to join us on campus, we’re also offering some tips on how you can participate with us from your home.

Communion (the Lord’s Supper) is an ordinance given to all believers by Jesus to remember His sacrifice for us.  If you are a true believer in Jesus Christ and are in good standing with us at Cuyahoga Valley Church, you are invited to join us online to remember His selfless sacrifice. Consider this as an invitation, not a requirement.

The elements of bread and juice are symbols of Jesus’ broken body and shed blood. Communion is not a means of salvation. It is an act of obedience and worship that demonstrates a believer’s faith in the atoning work of the cross. It’s a way for us to worship, to think soberly about our forgiveness, to commune with Christ, and to reaffirm our surrender to follow Jesus as Lord.

If you don’t feel led to participate or if you feel uncomfortable for any reason about participating, then don’t participate. At that point in the service, simply lift up your heart in gratitude to God for the sacrifice of His Son.  If you are not in the place where you consider Christ Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior or if you are unrepentant about sin in your life, then we would encourage you to pray quietly while others celebrate the Lord’s Supper together.

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES FOR PERSONAL PREPARATION:

  • Matthew 26:26-30
  • Mark 14:22-26
  • Luke 22:19-20
  • 1 Corinthians 11:23-29

HOW TO PREPARE FOR COMMUNION AT HOME

Prepare your heart: Confess all known sin.  Seek restoration with anyone you may have hurt or offended.  God’s Word says that we should not eat of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy way.  

Gather the elements: Grape juice and bread or crackers – find elements that best approximate those that we would use for Lord’s Supper at CVC.  

Prepare the juice: Serve the juice in individual small glasses for each participant.  We encourage you to use glasses that you would not normally use.  This will help you and your family remember the significance of Communion.  

Prepare the bread or crackers: Use a special dish or tray.  When you share the elements, allow people in your family to access the elements one at a time in order to maintain a safe distance from one another.  

Follow the directions: The Teaching Pastor will guide you to eat and drink together with others in the CVC family of faith.  

Praying for God’s Favor

by Founding Pastor Rick Duncan

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It appears from the Psalms that we are on safe Biblical ground to “entreat” the favor of God. We are always right to use God’s words when we approach God’s throne. James reminds us that we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). So, let’s not fail to ask God for His favor on our lives and ministries. 

Below is a prayer built from the Psalms to help us entreat the favor of God. 

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Don’t use this prayer in a “meaningless repetition” kind of way. Instead, pray one verse at a time. Then rephrase that verse in prayer by using your own words. Move to the next verse and repeat the process until you are finished.

May the Lord cover you with His favor as with a shield. 

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My heavenly Father,

You, LORD God, are a sun and shield. You bestow favor and honor. No good thing do You withhold from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 81:11).

Your anger is but for a moment. Your favor is for a lifetime (Psalm 30:5).

Remember me, O LORD, when You show favor to Your people; help me when You save them (Psalm 106:4).

Let Your favor, Lord God, be upon us, and establish the work of our hands (Psalm 90:17).

Show me a sign of Your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because You, LORD, have helped me and comforted me (Psalm 86:17).

I entreat Your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to Your promise (Psalm 119:58).

For You bless the righteous, O LORD; You cover him with favor as with a shield (Psalm 5:12).

I know that Your favor can only come to me through the merits of Your Son, Jesus.

So, I pray all this in His name, Amen.

A Prayer from Psalm 90:13-17

by Founding Pastor Rick Duncan

Dear Lord God almighty, my loving heavenly Father,

I praise You for being a God of great compassion. You delight in showing pity to Your servants even when we deserve Your righteous anger because of our willful sin.

So, I ask You to have pity on me. How long will You delay? Turn, O Lord, from Your fierce anger. Revoke Your sentence. Help me, Lord! Don’t wait!

When each new day breaks, surprise me with Your steadfast love. May my soul be satisfied each morning with Your unfailing love – a love demonstrated by Jesus when He died on the cross so I could be forgiven and brought into a right relationship with You.

Help me rejoice and be glad all day long every single day. I want to celebrate You to the very end of my life on earth and throughout all eternity.

You have been right to afflict me and to discipline me. But now, O Lord, make me glad for as many days as You have afflicted me. Make up for the hard times with just as many good times. Please replace the difficult years with good ones.

Let me, Your servant, see You work in me, through me, for me, and with me again. May Your power be revealed in my circle of influence. And do wonderful things for all Your servants, Lord God. Let our children see Your glorious rule and Your mighty power.

May Your favor, our Lord God, be upon me and upon those I love. Show us Your approval and treat us with kindness. Establish the work of our hands. Affirm the work that we do! Make our efforts successful. Yes, Lord, give permanence to the work of our hands.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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This prayer has been composed from Psalm 90:13-17 by using words and phrases from the English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, New Living Translation, the Amplified Bible, the Contemporary English Version, and the Message.

Developing Your 2022 Spiritual Growth Plan

By Pastor Rick Duncan

We all need to make changes if we are going to experience more new life in Christ in 2022, stopping some things that limit our life in Christ and starting some things that will enhance the possibility of God making us more vibrant.

We must clearly answer the “who, what, why, when, where, and how” questions when it comes to making changes.

I: Schedule an hour to put your plan together. Make an appointment with yourself to be alone with God. 

II: Spend an hour reflecting and praying.

You may want to think in these 5 categories: spiritual, relational, intellectual, emotional, and physical. Do an honest self-assessment using the 6 questions below. Then ask God to reveal the answer to the following question: What changes do I most need to make in order to experience more new life in Christ? Now, get out some paper and pen or pencil and start writing.

7 spiritual growth plan questions for 2022

1. Since our church has set a goal in 2022 of becoming a more unified family of believers who are devoted to the Great Commandment and motivated by the Great Commission, how will I demonstrate greater unity? What relationships need to be repaired? How will I decrease the presence of a critical spirit in me and increase the presence of a collaborative spirit in me?

2. As a Beloved Child, what promises from the Father do I need to claim in prayer this year? What is the most humanly impossible thing I will ask my Father in heaven to do this year?

3. As a Self-Feeder, what will I read and memorize in scripture this year and what books, CDs, and podcasts will I learn from this year?

4. As a Servant, what is the biggest time-waster in my life and how will I minimize that in order to volunteer somewhere significant as a servant-leader?

5. As an Investor, how will I grow in my generosity to my church and other ministries this year? (Think priority giving – Matthew 6:33; percentage giving – Malachi 3:8-10; and progressive giving – II Peter 3:18).

6. As a Discipler, this year how will I deepen my commitment to others, especially the others in my LifeGroup and how will I encourage/mentor a few of my friends?

7. As a Missionary, how will I commit to Missional Living, joining God in His mission to restore the broken so that others will come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord?

III. Write down your plan. Be realistic. Don’t set the bar so high that you end up discouraged if you should fail. Make your goals SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time-bound. Keep your plan visible and share it with family, your LifeGroup, and an accountability partner. 

Jesus makes all things new. Invite Him to help you.

Everyone. Live New. Everyday. 

The Christian’s Hope: A Prayer

by Pastor Rick Duncan

One of the greatest announcements of hope came from an angel to the shepherds on the night Jesus was born.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). 

In preparation to speak on Christian Hope on Christmas Eve 2021, I crafted a prayer for hope after looking up every instance of the use of the word “hope” in the Old and New Testaments.

Perhaps this prayer might encourage you as it has encouraged me.

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O Lord God, the Hope of Israel,

You have called every Christian to live in light of the hope that is found in Christ alone and that is attained only through the gospel of grace. Thank You that this gift of hope is not something I have to produce through self-effort, but is empowered by the Your Spirit and encouraged by Your Word. Grant that I may enjoy and exhibit the hope to which You have called me so that I can be more and more pleasing to You, Father.

Teach me that Christian hope is not a worldly optimism that present circumstances will necessarily improve, but the godly expectation that You will redeem and reward Your people in the life to come. May this ultimate hope for the glory that is coming fuel my belief that You are now causing all the things that happen in my life on earth to work together for my good and for Your glory.

Thank You that my hope is not wishful thinking, but a confident expectation based on Your character as a loving Father who keeps His promises. Thank You that Your redemption, deliverance, and salvation will ultimately be mine because You have caused me to be born again to a living hope and because I have been justified by faith.

May my hope in You enable me to wait on You, to rejoice in sufferings, to endure hardships, to display proven character, and to find encouragement from the Scriptures. Remind me that my hope will increase as spend unhurried time with You in expectant prayer.

And so, Lord, even in the midst of the trials I face, may the hope You’ve given me enable me to experience a supernatural joy, purity, righteousness, security, endurance, and peace that causes others to notice it and to desire it. May hope stabilize my soul like an anchor as it connects me to Your steadfastness. May the confidence in You that I display open doors for me to gently and respectfully give a reason for this hope that is in me. 

Finally, I ask, O Lord, that my hope in You will bring great glory to You.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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This prayer was taken from truths about hope found in Ephesians 1:17-18, Ephesians 4:4, Psalm 62:5, Lamentations 3:24, Colossians 1:27, I Timothy 4:10, Hebrews 6:18-20, I Peter 1:20-21, Colossians 1:23, II Thessalonians 2:16-17, Romans 15:13, Psalm 119:81, Psalm 130:5-6, Romans 15:4, Psalm 147:11, Colossians 1:27, Titus 1:1-2, Titus 3:7, Hebrews 6:18-20, I Peter 1:3, Romans 8:18-28, Psalm 73:22, Psalm 130:7, Lamentations 3:19-24, Hebrews 10:23, Psalm 130:7, Psalm 33:18-19, Psalm 42:11, I Peter 1:3, Romans 5:1-2, Proverbs 23:17-18, Isaiah 8:17, Galatians 5:5, Titus 3:11-14, Romans 5:3-4, Romans 15:4, Psalm 33:22, Psalm 39:7, Jeremiah 14:7-8, Proverbs 10:28, I John 3:2-3, Galatians 5:5, Acts 2:25-26, Romans 15:4, Romans 15:4, I Peter 3:15, Romans 5:2, Ephesians 1:12, Colossians 1:27, and Titus 2:13.

Christian Hope As We Anticipate Christmas

by Pastor Rick Duncan

On Christmas Eve 2021, we will explore one of the greatest announcements of hope that the world has ever known. It’s what the shepherds heard the angels say on the night Jesus was born.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). 

In preparation to speak on Christian Hope on Christmas Eve, I thought I better do my homework to define it. I looked up every instance of the use of the word “hope” in the Old and New Testaments.

Below is my stab at a biblical definition. As you read it, be asking yourself, “What stands out to you about this definition?”

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Christian Hope

Christian hope is a confident expectation based on the character of God (Psalm 73:22, Psalm 130:7, Lamentations 3:19-24, Hebrews 10:23) that ultimate redemption (Psalm 130:7), deliverance (Psalm 33:18-19), and salvation (Psalm 42:11) will come to those who have experienced new life in Christ (I Peter 1:3) and who have, therefore, been justified by faith (Romans 5:1-2).

Christian hope is not a worldly optimism that present circumstances will improve, but the godly expectation that God will redeem and reward His people in the life to come (Colossians 1:27, Titus 1:1-2, Titus 3:7, Hebrews 6:18-20, I Peter 1:3). It is this hope that enables Christians to believe that God is causing all the things that happen in this life to work together for good (Romans 8:18-28).

Every Christian has been called to live in light of the hope (Ephesians 1:17-18, Ephesians 4:4) that is found in Christ alone (Psalm 62:5, Lamentations 3:24, Colossians 1:27, I Timothy 4:10, Hebrews 6:18-20, I Peter 1:20-21), is attained through the gospel of grace (Colossians 1;23, II Thessalonians 2:16-17), is empowered by the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13), is encouraged by the Word of God (Psalm 119:81, Psalm 130:5-6, Romans 15:4), and is pleasing to the Father (Psalm 147:11).

This hope is a gracious gift to those who, because of the gospel, fear the Lord (Proverbs 23:17-18), wait on the Lord (Isaiah 8:17, Galatians 5:5, Titus 3:11-14), rejoice in sufferings (Romans 5:3a), endure hardships (Romans 5:3b), display proven character (Romans 5:4), find encouragement of the Scriptures (Romans 15:4), and earnestly ask for it through prayer (Psalm 33:22, Psalm 39:7, Jeremiah 14:7-8).

Even in the midst of the trials of life, the Christian who hopes will experience a supernatural joy (Proverbs 10:28), purity (I John 3:2-3), righteousness (Galatians 5:5), security (Acts 2:25-26), endurance (Romans 15:4), and peace (Romans 15:12-13) that will cause others to notice it and desire it. Believers who hope in God gently and respectfully give a reason for the hope that is in them (I Peter 3:15).

The Christian’s hope thus glorifies God (Romans 5:2, Ephesians 1:12, Colossians 1:27, Titus 2:13).

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What stands out to you about this definition? How can hope for tomorrow give you fuel for today? What is God saying to you about your hope? What change is He asking you to make?  

Long Story Short – Write Your Four Minute Story, Part Four

We’re completing the work to write our own “Long Story Short”. The goal of writing our story is to share it with others. Remember: Effective communication is clear, concise, and compelling. Sharing your story should in total take 3-4 minutes. That’s between 500 and 700 words. These weekly guides will help you craft and capture the four segments of your story of faith in Christ.

Today’s Focus: RESTORATION – How would you describe your new identity and your new life in Christ?

Who are you now after you received Christ? What transformation have you experienced since coming to faith in Christ? What happened inside of you when you received Christ? How and why did your attitudes and actions begin to change? What have you noticed about yourself since you received Christ? How has your life changed? When did you notice that change? How are your life motivations different now? How does knowing you are forgiven help you each day? How does the promised hope of heaven motivate you to live your life now?

State how Jesus is filling your deep inner needs and redeeming you from your brokenness. In the previous section, you expressed your needs and how you tried unsuccessfully to meet them. You now want to briefly show the difference that Jesus has made in your life. Shine the spotlight on Jesus and showcase His life-transforming power.

As you wrap up your story, if there is a particular verse that captures your conversion experience, or if you have a particular life verse, this would be a good place to share it.

Long Story Short – Write Your Four Minute Story, Part Three

We’re continuing our work to write our own “Long Story Short”. The goal of writing our story is to share it with others. Remember: Effective communication is clear, concise, and compelling. Sharing your story should in total take 3-4 minutes. That’s between 500 and 700 words. These weekly guides will help you craft and capture the four segments of your story of faith in Christ.

Today’s Focus: RESCUE – How did you meet Jesus and come to understand the Gospel?

What were your struggles just before you received Christ? When and how did you first truly understand the story about Jesus? State specifically the steps you took to become a follower of Jesus. What people did God use to draw you to Him? What event or location were you in when you put your faith in Christ?

Make sure to share the truth of the Gospel. Communicate:

  1. That you understood that you have disobeyed God.
  2. That you understood that you were a sinner.
  3. That you embraced the fact that you did not deserve His forgiveness.
  4. That you realized that Jesus died on the cross in your place to forgive You.
  5. That you received Jesus as your Forgiver and Leader.

Remember that it’s the Gospel that has the power to change lives. (See Romans 1:16.) So, again, include how you came to understand that Jesus came, that He died on the cross in your place to save you, and that He rose again.

You likely cannot remember exactly what you prayed when you received Christ. But sharing a few words about how you prayed (what you may have said in your prayer) might encourage someone else to express their faith in a similar way.

Sending Your “One” Some Love This Thanksgiving

As we pray for our “ones” and look for ways to leverage Thanksgiving, a simple way to keep cultivating your relationship with those people is to send a brief text showing gratitude for them and your friendship. Here’s an example of a text I sent to a friend today: 

“Hey (name), as we approach Thanksgiving, I just want you to know I thank the Lord for our friendship and I’m grateful for the conversations and hang outs that we have had. May you and your family feel God‘s presence and peace and joy in this season! I look forward to connecting again soon. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!”

I encourage you to pause and send a little note or test to your one (or ones), along with pausing and praying for them.  May God use your love and friendship to draw them to Christ!

Live new,

Pastor Chad

Long Story Short – Write Your Four Minute Story, Part Two

We’re continuing our work to write our own “Long Story Short”. The goal of writing our story is to share it with others. Remember: Effective communication is clear, concise, and compelling. Sharing your story should in total take 3-4 minutes. That’s between 500 and 700 words. These weekly guides will help you craft and capture the four segments of your story of faith in Christ.

Today’s focus – THE FALL – What did sin and brokenness look like in your life?

What are the evidences of the fall in your own life? What was the pain that you experienced and the pain that you caused? The pain we experience and cause in life often springs out of seeking to satisfy our deep inner needs and fix our own brokenness apart from God. You likely sought to fix your brokenness and deep inner needs through unsatisfactory solutions that damaged your own life or caused hurt in the lives of others.

What were one or two of your unsatisfied deep inner needs before you came to know Jesus? How did you see brokenness playing out in your life? What unsatisfactory solutions did you use to attempt to meet those deep inner needs or fix your brokenness? How did these attempts disappoint you or let you down? How was your life unfulfilling? How did you come to realize this? What were your struggles before you received Christ?

Some examples could be:

“I was seeking for…”

“My life revolved around…”

“I gained happiness and security from…”

“My life was missing…”

“My attitude was…”

“I blamed my issues on…”

“My life was filled with problems I could not solve…”

(Use an example from your personal life here. For instance, did your security come from money, your relationships, etc.?)