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An Ordinary Sunday

Are you ready for an ordinary, average, run of the mill Sunday? I am. I can’t wait.

Come this Sunday for ordinary.

Last week was Easter. Man was it good! We had more people at a worship service here than we have had since 2012. Yes. You read that right. It was our largest worship service in five years! Easter is one of those extraordinary days. It’s the Sunday when visitors, extended family and irregular members come out to see what’s going on. And I love Easter! But here’s the thing…

The Church is not all about Easter.

Wait. What?! Shouldn’t we be all about Easter? Isn’t that the most important day ever? Shouldn’t we make Easter bigger and better in a celebration of the extraordinary, miraculous, world changing resurrection of the Son of God?

Yes. But…

We celebrate the resurrection everyday. I don’t know how other churches do it, but here at Fellowship every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday! Everyday is extraordinary, even the ordinary ones.

We tend to find ourselves obsessed over the big days and big events. Maybe you are one of the millions of Americans who gathers to watch the Superbowl every year after not watching a single NFL game. Or have you ever filled out a March Madness bracket after not watching a minute of college basketball all year? Has anyone else ever stayed up until midnight watching musicians you never listen to play from Times Square on Christmas Eve? Or watched an awards show to see movies you haven’t seen win awards? Maybe its just me, but I don’t really think it is.

Big events attract me. Sometimes I get bored with the ordinary too.

When did the movement begun at the resurrection of the Son of God become ordinary? Maybe its because so many of us have grown up in the church, been Christians for years, and just gotten used to the whole story. But literally EVERY ASPECT of what we believe is EXTRAordinary.

So how could a worship service become ordinary? Because we do it every week. When you gather 52 Sundays a year to celebrate the same message, worship the same God, learn from the same book, and interact with the same people it becomes ordinary. That is a good thing.

It is a good thing for the worship of the extraordinary King to become a regular, usual or ordinary part of your life. However, we must make sure we are using the right definition or ordinary. If your worship and obedience to the King is “of no special quality or interest, unexceptional and mediocre,” that’s not a good thing. Nothing done in the name of Jesus is that kind of ordinary. However, if worship and obedience becomes a “usual, customary, or normal” part of your life, that’s a really good thing. That is why I want us to be an extraordinarily ordinary church.

A group of ordinary people, worshipping an extraordinary God, bringing the extraordinary message into ordinary daily life. 

So this Sunday we will worship by praying, singing, and hearing God’s word. We will do the same ordinary things we always do, but…

The result of an ordinary worship service is always extraordinary. God always shows up. He always moves in His people. God is not more excited to meet with His people on Easter Sunday, He always wants to meet with His people. We are the ones that get more excited at Christmas and Easter. God always shows up.

In Jesus, ordinary people get swept up into an extraordinary, world-changing movement. We can live in the extraordinary even on the ordinary days.

So I’ll come back to worship this ordinary Sunday and bring the same excitement, gratitude, and expectancy I brought last Sunday.

And one more thing, God will be with us this Sunday. So you know what? I was wrong. There won't be anything ordinary about it.

Everyday is extraordinary.

 

- Tim Chaney

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God's Presence, and why I became a weepy mess in front of my Church

     If you happened to be at Fellowship this Sunday, you might be aware of the fact that I kind of lost it on stage... In a good way. Frankly, what happened was an answer to a prayer that I have prayed over my own life for a number of years. I have long wanted to be undone before the Lord, and He just so happened to grant me that request Sunday morning in front of 250 of my closest friends. Throughout the morning, my heart was a strange cocktail of longing for Him, joyful abandon, and brokenness. The tears started coming when I hit brokenness. 

     Holy Spirit is a beautiful song, and I have sung it hundreds of times, but never with tears in my eyes. However, when we sang the line in the chorus, "Your glory God is what our hearts long for, to be overcome by your presence Lord." I realized something foundational.

We have a weak understanding of presence. 

     To begin to understand why I would say that, we first need to agree on something. It is healthy for us to be dissatisfied in our relationship with God. If He is infinite, then we can be infinitely learning who He is, and uncovering more beauty, grace, love, justice, etc. in His character. And most importantly, we must agree that He has not called us to be in a long distance relationship with Him. He is always wanting us to draw near to Him. 

James 4:7-8 "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded."

     Take just a second and paint a picture in your mind of what this looks like. Where are you? Where is the Devil, and where is God? Here is how it plays out in my mind. 

Psalm 16:8  "I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken." 

     So God is on my right side, and..

1 Peter 5:8 "Be sober minded; be watchful, Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." 

     My enemy is circling me, and with every pass, he steps between me and God who is at my right hand. Now things are getting interesting, and I hope that you can feel the tension. However, we still need to ask some good questions about these passages to paint a clearer picture. 

  1. Why is the devil prowling like a lion? 
    1. He does not need to convert us to demonism in order for us to be effective for his kingdom and therefore ineffective for the Kingdom of God. He just has to scare us enough to stand still. 
    2. Our eyes are naturally attracted to movement [which is why we have moving backgrounds behind the lyrics on the screen on Sunday], and he knows that distraction is just as effective as fear.  
    3. God is often referred to as a Lion. It is important to know that our enemy can look LIKE a lion without actually being one. James Tealy said at a conference that I went to this past week, "The most dangerous things for Christians are not the enemies of God, but those that are almost God." He then mentioned that Jesus was tempted by the devil not through intimidation, fear, or empty threats, but by scripture taken out of context. We need to know why we believe what we say we believe, or something that is close to the truth is going to rob us of a relationship with the only one who is fighting for you.
    4. If he is LIKE a lion, than he has the appearance of something powerful, but we know that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. [Matt. 28:19] Past tense. It is over. He has the authority. Period.
  2. What am I supposed to do? 
    1. Resist him. In both James 4, and 1 Peter 5, we are called to resist the devil. In the Greek, this word simply means to stand firm, or to hold your ground. This word can also mean "to forcefully declare one's personal conviction." When was the last time you actually declared something over your own life? For me, that was right before we rehearsed Sunday morning. I declared out loud that God has called me to shepherd His people for His glory, and to put words of life and praise into their mouths. By declaring truth over myself, and our team, I actively resisted the lie that we are unqualified to bring praise to our king. 
    2. Draw near to God. The Greek for this word simply means to approach or "extreme closeness, immediate imminence - even PRESENCE." Do you want to draw near to Him? Do you want to know that He is present? 

     I do. That is why I cried. I simply realized that He has shown up. He is there every week, but there are many of us who just come to church because that is what we always do on Sunday. He is simply asking that we resist, and press against the distraction and the monotony of our schedules just enough to remember that He is there, present with us in that moment. That we would just lean into that truth a little bit, and He will do everything else.

     That is why I read Psalm 18 in the middle of the song. Here David goes on and on about the miraculous way in which God has saved him, when all he did was to call to Him! And in verse 19, David tells us WHY God would go to such great lengths.  

     He delights in us! 

     He really does fight for us when we are helpless because He likes us. He actually likes us. Why is presence important? Because God wants to be near you. God actually wants to be present with His children in the same way that I want to be around my kids. Wyatt is really funny! He told me a joke today that went like this... 

Wyatt: Knock knock!

Me: Who's there?

Wyatt: A goat in a tree

Me: A goat in a tree, who? 

Wyatt: You sound like an Owl

     ... I don't know about you, but I want to be around comedy gold like that as much as possible. And Logan just said "Da Da" for the first time on Sunday. The best thing about a 7 month old saying "Da Da" is that he will only say it if he is happy. If he is sad or tired or pretty much any other unpleasant emotion, the boy is calling for "Ma Ma." I want to be there so I can here him call for me. We have a father who wants to be around. Please don't ignore that fact. Please don't assume that He doesn't want to make Himself known to you.

     Just take a second on Sunday or this week as you are reading scripture and simply say aloud, "I'm here." Press into Him just a little bit and see what happens. I did, and I will tell you now that it was not safe. I ugly cried in front of 250 people. We were also live streaming so it is now the internet for the rest of my life, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. This is not safe, but I am telling you now, I am pressing into Him again because He is good. He is worth it. 

     Jason Hundley

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Djibo, Dr. Ken Elliot and Forgetful Prayer

 

This week I learned that a Fulani pastor whom we support has made the decision to move his family out of Djibo, a town in northern Burkina Faso. This was hard for me to hear. Let me tell you why.

 

Djibo is a small town in northern Burkina Faso where the dominate people group are the Fulani. The Fulanis are a nomadic tribe that spans multiple countries in West Africa. For most Fulani, to be Fulani is to be Muslim. The Fulanis were one of the first groups in Africa to convert to Islam, and their nomadic ways have allowed the religion to spread to new areas over many generations. Today more than 99% of the Fulani follow Islam and less than one percent have come to follow Jesus.

 

In 1972 an Australian doctor named Ken Elliott moved to Burkina Faso along with his wife Jocelyn. The couple set up a medical clinic and surgical hospital in Djibo and served faithfully for over 40 years. This is the only clinic of its kind in a region of about 2 million people.

 

On January 15, 2016 Ken and Jocelyn Elliott were kidnapped. A group known as the AQIM, a local division of Al-Qaeda, took credit for their capture. Jocelyn was released in February but Ken’s whereabouts remain unknown.

 

Ken has remained on our prayer list now for over a year. Occasionally we pray for him in our services on Sundays or Wednesday evenings. Maybe some of our members still pray for him. But my fear is most of us have forgotten. Sometimes I forget.

 

Don’t get me wrong, if at any point you over the year you came to me and asked if I remembered, I would have certainly remembered. But if you hadn’t asked me? I wouldn’t have prayed. I wouldn’t have even thought about Ken or Djibo or even the Fulani believers I met personally in 2014. You see I bring this up because it shows the shortness of our prayer memories. Sometimes in one season we pray intensely for a person, or a ministry, or a region. And then we forget.

 

I’m glad I now remember. I remember because the pastor whom our church has sponsored for years is moving out of Djibo in fear. He is fearful for the safety of his family.

 

So let’s think about this for a second. Who continues to preach the life-saving message of the gospel in Djibo? Ken Elliott? Jocelyn Elliott? My friend? None of those witnesses remain in this city.

 

So will you pray? Will you pray for the gospel of Jesus to be proclaimed in Djibo? Will you pray and earnestly ask God to bring people to Himself in this area? Will you pray for Ken? Don’t just pray for His release, pray for his ministry. Pray Philippians 1:13, that Ken’s captors would know the truth.

 

Will you pray for the ministry to Fulani believers in Burkina Faso? Will you pray specifically for this family being uprooted out of their home because it is no longer safe for them?

 

What else has touched your heart and one time and then been forgotten? What other forgotten prayer requests need to be remembered? 

 

- Tim Chaney

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Within Us

     I have done something that I have always said that I would not do, I have gone back to school.

Kind of. 

     I am a firm believer that we should always be learning and sharpening our skills, particularly the ones that we can use to advance the Kingdom, so I have hopped into a series of online courses on worship, songwriting, worship tech, etc. It has been wonderful and exciting to refresh a lot of what I already know, as well as to be challenged with new ideas and opinions. One new idea that I had never considered before was this: "The whole book of Acts is basically the human race trying to figure out what to do with God within us." -Melissa Helser

     I like that a lot. We so often forget, or deemphasize the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and that one phrase challenged me. It is simple, yet complex, and everything within my doctrine tells me it is true, but it seems to wonderful to be reality. The truth is that we know God lives in us through the Holy Spirit, but sometimes it is easier to pretend otherwise. That is why I wrote the song "Within Us." 

     At first glance, it is more about the cross than it is about the Holy Spirit, but He is there. Without the cross, we have no access to God (Heb. 9:22). However, because Jesus defeated sin, death, and the grave, we can now have access. The Holy Spirit is more than that though. He is in us. He doesn't just load up his spiritual shopping cart with our praise and prayer and transport it to the Father, he does life with us. And when we listen to Him, he directs our attention to the Father, and causes us to praise. That is why I wrote these words:

"We give you glory, for you are worthy of all of the honor and our praise! To you, and you only, be power and glory! Your presence is with us in this place."

Presence. How beautiful is His presence? We praise Him. We affirm that He is glorious and powerful and HERE. I hope that God uses these songs to enrich your life and to direct your heart to Him. 

Feel free to listen and download any of these songs to keep with you on your phone or whatever. I also recorded a newer and cleaner version of One Cry. Here is that audio as well. 

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Season of Hope

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Season of Hope

     Just because the calendar turns to December does not insure that our hearts and minds turn toward the miracle of “God with Us,” Emmanuel. As Tim’s sermon series has pointed out, we must remember more than His birth. We must remember what God the Father, through writings He inspired, said about the coming of His only Son. John 1 reminds us He is the light that lights every man, and the glory that existed before anything was created. Philippians 2 reminds us that he set aside his position in the heavens to restore mankind into fellowship with the Godhead.

The Christ was born to die, as the very strips of cloth he was swaddled in were a foretaste of his burial.

     The glory he set aside in order to take on human form would not be his again until his ascension, after which he appeared to His disciples. This appearance to his disciples was a taste of the promise that they too one day would be with him in a glorious existence. What we celebrate this Christmas is not just a baby in a manger but a king on the throne who will come again to restore us to the glory we were created with, before sin marred the communion He made man and woman to enjoy in the garden. While we sing songs of Christmas and enjoy the time with family and as the gathered community, the Body of Christ, let us remember what we were made for. We were made to be image bearers, and despite mankind’s Fall, we were redeemed into an even nobler identity, becoming sons and daughters because of Christ’s death and resurrection. That is one of the implications of Christmas. God became a man so that in Christ, man could enjoy the relationship God intended between the Godhead and us (John 17:21, Eph 1:7-13)

Let’s not get lost among decorations, parties, and bustling around to find the right gifts, without also reflecting on the “beyond belief” story that God has written in His Son.

     C.S. Lewis said in his essay “The Weight of Glory” the following description of what God restoring a level of fellowship between man with God, through the birth and eath of Jesus, really means, and why we should be overwhelmed with the wonder of it.

     “I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God. By

God Himself, it is not! How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more

important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except in so far as it is related to

how He thinks of us. It is written that we shall “stand before” Him, shall appear, shall be

inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work

of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that

examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God...to be a real ingredient in the

divine happiness...to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in

his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our

thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.”

     Jesus’ gospel is not man-centered. As Lewis says, it’s not what we think about God that matters most. The “good news” of His message is that God loves us and delights in us. Certainly we must respond to that offer of love and salvation. But the worth, the delight He assigns to His creations, is what matters. That is why peace and joy, those traits that are so often mentioned at Christmas, can rest on those of us who believe in Him, because we can be found by God, at the time of “examination,” as Lewis calls it, when we appear before God at the judgment, and be found righteous because of Jesus’ perfect life and sacrifice. (Philippians 3:9, Titus 3:5)

So if peace and joy are to be ours, based on the actions and character of God on our behalf, how do we exemplify the peace and joy that he creates in us?

     One way to demonstrate these gifts of peace and joy is to be thankful for our salvation. It is easy when we have celebrated many Christmases to focus on the birth story. But a “longing for a Savior” existed from long ago in Israel’s history. We would do well to remember He was fulfillment of hope, even as some failed to recognize it.

     A song that doesn’t appear among traditional carols is “Deliver Us,” written by Andrew Peterson, as part of his “Behold the Lamb of God” tour. Like Tim’s sermons, its lyrics reflect the story before the Luke 2 account, namely, of Israel’s wish for a deliverer. Those Jews living closest to the time of Jesus did not experience the same type of bondage as those during Moses’ time, but they were bound in their own way, looking for a Savior. Jesus did not enter history without a context; his entry as a baby was part of the salvation story God had begun from ages past among His own people.

Our enemy, our captor is no pharaoh on the Nile

Our toil is neither mud nor brick nor sand

Our ankles bear no calluses from chains, yet Lord, we're bound

Imprisoned here, we dwell in our own land

Deliver us, deliver us

Oh Yahweh, hear our cry

And gather us beneath your wings tonight

Our sins they are more numerous than all the lambs we slay

These shackles they were made with our own hands

Our toil is our atonement and our freedom yours to give

So Yahweh, break your silence if you can

Jerusalem, Jerusalem

How often I have longed

To gather you beneath my gentle wings

     One way to be thankful this Christmas is to thank Him for providing a deliverer for Israel, and thus, for the Gentile world. And praise Him that the baby King’s arrival means that “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) Here God promised Israel in this time period, if they obeyed Him, He would cleanse them. It was a preview of the obedience of Christ, in suffering and dying for our sin, cleansing us from sin.

Merry Christmas to all of us who hope in His coming!

- Dr. Bryan McIntosh

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The Existence of Light

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The Existence of Light

Hi, my name is Matthew Gunn. Our worship pastor, Jason, asked me if I would be interested in writing this installment of the church’s blog, specifically regarding the presentation I will be giving on May 21st from 4-6pm. The presentation is kind of a book talk/class about the book I wrote last year and also kind of a forum about the subject I wrote on. The book is called The Existence of Light: A Layman Attempts Theosophysics and it discusses what it actually means to hold a literal interpretation of Genesis, which is usually termed the Young Earth Creation view of life, the universe, and everything else. (Links for ebook purchase are here and here)

 

The presentation I will be giving will be an apology for the Young Earth worldview as well as a discussion of Atheistic cosmology and Old Earth Creation theories, the challenges they present to the Young Earth view, and how Einstein’s Theories of Relativity help account for and reconcile some of the differences between all three worldviews. So, that’s kind of overwhelming. I understand that. You probably didn’t expect to read about this kind of thing in your casual church blog update. You might have even lost all interest in going to the event or ever picking up the book, so allow to not start there and see if that will help ease your mind.

 

This book began as an idea I had while reading a book titled Death by Living by N. D. Wilson. In it, one of the things he discusses is the nature of time. We often view time in a fatalistic way because it is so very clear that it is a limited commodity with no individually marked expiration dates, and, ultimately, Death is one of the few things that has served more people than McDonalds (though it should be noted that McDonald’s has likely contributed a number of notches to Death’s talley, which cannot be said for the other way around.) Because human suffering is due to human sinfulness and depravity, we most often view death as the final and greatest punishment for our wickedness.

 

[I have inserted this break as an opportunity for you to scourge yourself in your wretchedness if you’d like. Otherwise you may move on.]  

 

However, in Death by Living, Wilson blew apart my theological box, turned my theological table, and firmly place the shoe on my other theological foot when he said,

 

Time is a kindness…. Mortality is a consequence of sin.

But it is also a gift. A mercy. A kindness. Death is grace.

 

This seemed entirely unfair to me at first. I know people and have read news stories about people to whom death did not come kindly, easily, or quickly. But Wilson’s point answered mine: Would it be gracious for God to allow you to live eternally in your current state? Would the person dying of a disease prefer to live if it meant eternity with that disease? With that imperfection? Your imperfections, your failures, your heartache, your loss, your struggle. Would you like these things forever with a heaping side of vanity and never ending dissatisfaction with all that is under the sun? Or might I interest you in our soups?

 

            I realized that death, in all of its ugliness and pain and devastation is a mercy that keeps us from living eternally as the hurting and hurtful people that we are by nature. It is also grace to the believer who will not only end their suffering here but, through death, go on to live a whole life in the presence of God--the undoer of all ills and the satisfaction we can never quite find while here on Earth. These realizations led me naturally to the next logical step: physics. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “that’s exactly where I thought you would be going next! Oh, please tell me about the thrilling world of physics!” And while I appreciate your excitement, doing so would make this post lengthier than it already is. I will leave further explanations of the physics for the actual presentation.

 

I hope it will suffice, then, for me to say that shortly after reading Death by Living, I began an investigation into the concept of time and took an astronomy elective in school that talked about planets, distances, energy, matter, and our perception of these things. I, an English student, began talking with my professors about Einstein’s Theories of Relativity and elementary particles and other weird stuff way over my head. I was told that there were stars billions of lightyears away and a cosmic microwave background which indicated that the world was at least 13.7 billion years old. Needless to say, that data and its evolutionary implications conflicted more than a little with my morning devotional. The game, for me, was afoot to find a justification for a literal interpretation of Genesis because I deduced that, if the beginning of the book I’m staking my life on can be chalked up to mere poetry, I have little if any defense against objections to equally unlikely events like the incarnation, the resurrection, and other arguably important things of that caliber.

 

What I found is that regardless of the numbers we ascribe to the scale, Creation and Evolutionary cosmology agree on several things: both describe a beginning that can only be described as miraculous (whether you attribute the miracle to chance or the love of God), a movement from disorder to order, and an agreement on the selfish nature of man. Atheistic, evolutionary cosmology describes a world of fear, of selfishness, where might makes right, where you’re either lucky or dead, where you can be an agent in the onward-marching genetic progression or you can become the food that helps someone else move along in it. In this world, lying is never off the table. Stealing, rape, murder, and other questionable acts are not a question of morality, but of payoff. In this world, where we are no higher than the animals, the only thing that separates us from those animals is our ability to do and create things that make us think that we are somehow above them. 

 

My “Aha-moment” came when I realized that the Bible says a lot of things similar to this when describing the state of humanity. How much of human action is predicated on fear and selfish reasons. Do we not back-bite? Bark and growl at one another? Take advantage, overpower, and deceive? Never have I heard an argument that the Bible isn’t true because it was unbelievable to think humanity is capable of putting entire cities to death, calling for the murder of firstborn children for political security, or dashing their heads against rocks. The argument, instead, is always against God Himself for allowing these things to happen. I realized that both Atheistic and Christian explanations posit the ability of humankind to reduce itself to animal status. The difference is that one believes that we began as nothing more than animals and will continue to be so, while the other believes that we did not start here, nor are we meant to stay here. This is not to say that I have no other qualms with the Evolutionary worldview, rather this is the first and only one I can engage with in this space. But I think it important that we see how Christianity pivots on the assumption that we are horribly broken and sinful people who think in terms as selfish as the “survival of the fittest” mindset described in the Evolutionary worldview. But Christianity, believes that that has only and ever pointed to the savior we find in Christ. And in Christ, we found a rule change and a role change, from an old system of sinfulness and death by our own wills to a new system of righteousness and life, flagshipped by Christ.

 

This idea of role/rule change is incredibly important as we move into a discussion of Relativity and observe how it changes the reality we experience and helps explain other issues which remain between scientific discovery and faith. However, I will leave that discussion for my presentation on the 21st. If you’ve actually read this, thank you. I hope I haven’t offended too many of your sensibilities with my proposition and, if I have, would like to remind you that there will be time for questions during the presentation to address those grievances. And so, I hope to see you there.      

- Matthew Gunn 

  

 

 

 

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Honor

     Over the last 6 months or so, a theme has surfaced in a number of Tim Chaney's sermons. It is not usually the focal point of the sermon, but rather a thread that has been woven into the fabric of the last few series. If you listen back, you might be able to uncover a slow and steady admonition. He has challenged us over and over again to move from an attitude of somber remorse, to an attitude of victorious warriors and co-heirs with Christ. We as a church are guilty of being so overwhelmed by our sin, our family issues, our country, our finances etc. that we tread water week after week, just hoping and praying that God keeps our heads above water. We need a paradigm shift. We need the church to be a more than a crutch that gets us from Sunday to Wednesday and back again, but rather a catalyst that causes us to thrive in life. 

     Change will not happen because Tim is the pastor, or because we have hired two other yahoos to do the stuff of ministry here at Fellowship. The change will happen because the Holy Spirit will move and the people of God will respond. 

     Think about this, someone in China is battling cancer, and it is no different than someone battling cancer in the United States. In Europe, depression is no different than it is here in the good 'ole U.S.of A. Anger is the same, jealousy is the same, sexual immorality is the same. They are the same because the enemy uses the same tools no matter where he attacks. He is unified in his attack. Jesus himself said, "A Kingdom divided against itself cannot stand." [Matt 12:25] Worship Pastor Dustin Smith says, "There is a reason Satan's kingdom hasn't fallen on its own, and its because it's very unified, and its unified in one thing, bringing dishonor to the name of God. 

     We as a church [both globally and here at Fellowship] need to make sure that we are unified against this enemy. We need to know how to use worship as a weapon against the enemy. Because if the enemy's goal is to dishonor God, then when we bring honor to Him, we are doing damage to Satan's agenda. So let's talk practical battle plans. 

1. Your Heart - "Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life." Prov. 4:23

     Your heart is not something you can ignore. If you come into contact with a situation where God is clearly moving, and you come away unchanged, the first thing you need to do is to take stock of where your heart is. As a general rule, whatever you spend your time and money on is what your heart is invested in. How much of your heart is surrendered to Christ? How are you willing to let God change the way you do battle for Him? 

2. Your Mouth - "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks" Luke 6:45

     You do not have an excuse. You need to sing. I know this is weird coming from the worship pastor and can seem self-serving, but I am telling you, this is so important in spiritual warfare. There are multiple examples I could use, but I will limit myself to two examples of this.

(1) The demoniac in Luke 8 calls out to Jesus as soon as he sees him "What do you want from me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?" Clearly this is not the man talking but the "Legion" speaking to Jesus. Jesus of course, rebukes them and sends them into a heard of pigs. We have a nonbiblical understanding of how spiritual warfare takes place. We assume because we cannot see what is going on physically, that we should be able to "do battle in our minds." However, in every encounter with demonic forces, Jesus, or the disciples audibly SPEAK against them in the authority of Jesus. [click here for more on our authority

(2) If we are to worship in unity in order to do battle against the enemy and to restore the honor of God in our church and in the lives of the people who come through the doors, then it is not about any one person. As the worship pastor, of course I want you on a personal level to get something out of the music section of our worship service, but ultimately that is not the goal. We are at war. There is a big misconception that it is ok to "worship God in your heart." To the enemy, that is great news because he knows that there is power in your words, and if he can keep it contained within you then he has won a battle. You see, it is not about being a good singer, or about what people think around you, but about proclaiming truth over yourself AND over the person sitting next to you. Even if you don't "feel it" on Sunday morning, it is important to not allow the enemy to shut you up. Someone needs to hear your voice speaking truth and encouragement, and they are more than likely sitting next to you in the worship center. 

3. Your Emotions - 2 Samuel 6

     I won't take time to write out this whole passage, but take a minute and turn there. We can clearly see that David is a man who does not care what people think of him when he worships, and more than that, God doesn't care about dignity in worship, just authenticity (he punishes Michal with barrenness for trying to shame David [6:23]). Now, what I am not saying is that we should all don linen ephods, which are glorified whitey tighties, and dance around this Sunday. What I am saying is that your emotions are part of you. There is not a single person that in a meaningful relationship with another human being, has not felt anything. We claim daily that our relationship with God is the most meaningful and important relationship in our lives, and yet on Sunday morning, there is a definitive limit to what is ok to feel. Much less to act on those emotions. 

     I can hear the alarms going off in your head even now as I write. "But Jason, that is emotionalism! We are not supposed to be controlled by that!" To which I would respond: Emotionalism is controlling of your emotions. Keeping your arms by your side when God is calling you to lift your hands in surrender is emotionalism. I agree that you can't worship God just based off of your feelings, but we need to discover what it is to unlock our emotions and cause us to feel like worshiping. People of our church dictate the reality of the importance of our God by how they express themselves during worship. When my son shoots a ball into his little basketball goal, I don't go up to him and say "I want to tell you how good that was, but it is just not part of my personality to tell you that." NO! I am either going to act and tell him how great he did, or I am not going to do anything. If I do nothing, it communicates something to my son. It tells him that he is not important enough for my attention. Is God important enough?

     We are more concerned with excess than we are with lack. When I read Jesus' words, He is more concerned with lack. Are we doing enough? Are we lukewarm? Are we going to return to our first love? Love is a mind-altering drug, and causes us to act. Our emotions can really help us to capture the reality of who God is. It is impossible to gain a sense of wonder without emotions, and every person in scripture who walks away from a glimpse of God's Glory walks away in wonder. (Mt. Sinai, Jesus' Transfiguration, Isaiah, John in Revelation, etc.)  

     We claim adoption as sons and daughters, we claim co-heirs with Christ, we claim unlimited access to the Father, we claim that he pursues us, we claim Christ's death for us, we claim the Holy Spirit within us. What more could we ask for from God before we will go to battle for Him in His own house? Let us stand up this week and make a bold proclamation that we will be the ones to bring honor to Him.

Jason 

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Looking Back, Looking Forward

     The end of the year always brings both reflection and anticipation. Looking back we reflect on both the victories and the losses of 2015. Looking forward we anticipate what could happen in 2016. Unfortunately, for many of us, looking back can be a painful enterprise. As we reflect backward, all of the could-have-beens come into focus and the should-have-beens wound us afresh. The losses experienced over the last year suddenly seem to have healed less than we once thought. The pain throbs like it once did.

     Looking forward, however, seems to be a much more exciting exercise. Perhaps 2016 will be better, brighter, more profitable, more fulfilling. For me, I always find the new year exciting. I enjoy pondering the possibilities and dreaming of the potential blessings to come. Spiritually, I believe looking back and looking forward is an essential discipline for each of us. We must never forget what lies behind us, both in terms of blessing and trial, and we must always look expectantly forward to what lies ahead. For me an unexpected and well-known story in Scripture helps bring the beauty of this discipline into focus.

Simeon’s Story

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,

according to your word;

for my eyes have seen your salvation

that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and for glory to your people Israel.

Luke 2:29-32

     I think God intentionally gives us very little information about Simeon. We don’t know much about his background, his family, or anything he did throughout the whole course of his life other than this one huge day. We know he was righteous; he was devout; he knew the Scriptures and was anticipating the coming Messiah and restoration of Israel; and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Don’t let that last fact pass by so quickly. The Spirit of God filled Simeon at a point in salvation history in which that was not common. We see the same thing to be true of Elizabeth and Zechariah in the Christmas narrative, but they seem to me more important to the story, at least from our perspective. From God’s vantage point, however, Simeon is playing a significant role of both reflecting and anticipating the work of God. I see Simeon seeing three important phases of God’s work.

     First, he sees God’s past faithfulness both to himself and to God’s chosen people Israel. “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word…” Simeon recognizes that in the child he now holds, God has fulfilled a personal promise made to Simeon that he would see the Messiah before he passed. But the child does not just fulfill a personal promise. The child also fulfills a series of ancient promises made to a people, God’s people. Simeon recognizes that God has once again proven himself faithful to his people. Just like he did with Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David, God has once again kept his promises.

     Second, he sees God’s present blessings. “…for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples…” In these words Simeon recognizes the uniqueness of his place in the history of the world. For him salvation is not just a past memory or a future expectation; salvation is literally in his hands. The child in his hands was named “God saves,” and the fact was not lost on Simeon. He was literally gazing into the eyes of God’s plan of salvation prepared in eternity past. This salvation was not just for him, but for God’s people also. But the salvation was not just for them either.

     Third, he anticipates the blessing God has prepared for the future. “…a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel…” Simeon knows what few had grasped in his day: that because of this child, salvation would soon be available not just to Israel but to all nations. He knows the Scripture well enough to see the basics of the plan. He listens to the indwelling Spirit carefully enough to see the role of both Israel and the Gentiles in this plan. And he knows the character of God well enough to speak with boldness that this plan will come to fruition.

Your Story

     The outline of Simeon’s song has challenged me to discipline myself to gaze deeply into the unfolding plan of God as it intersects with my life. How might we adopt this discipline as we prepare for the new year?

Seeing God’s Past Faithfulness

   Can you remember all of the incredible things God has done within your life? Start small. What has He done in 2015 to bless you, provide for you, answer your prayers, open doors, resolve conflict, heal wounds? Now go deeper. What about the last five years? Or the last ten? Or your entire life? In what unexpected ways has He come through for you? When did He bring light into the darkness of a painful situation?

   Now think beyond yourself and into the plan of salvation for all of God’s people. How has your salvation been a part of God’s plan for all eternity? In what ways can you recount all of His faithfulness?

   What stories of God’s faithfulness have you neglected to tell? God wants us to tell others about what He has done, not just for all people but for us individually. People around you want to hear your story. What story are you not telling them?

Seeing God’s Present Salvation

   Sometimes when we look at our present situation, it is easier for us to think about what could be better rather than express gratitude for the beauty of how far God has brought us. How is where you are right now a product of the blessings He has provided? Where would you be without His salvation?

   As God’s child you have been adopted, accepted, loved, cleansed, declared just, purified, made holy, and redeemed. Have you taken these things that are now true of you for granted?

   Where is the darkness in your life right now? Where do you still need the light to shine and God to move? Use this time of reflection to petition God to finish what He has started in you. If all of your life is a story, then the most painful times come when chapters are unresolved. Ask God to finish your unfinished stories and bring your life to the resolution He has purposed, not the one you have planned.

Anticipating Prepared Blessings

   What are you longing to see God do in the year ahead? What brokenness might He heal? What personal failures might He redeem? What closed doors might He open?

   Where might God take you that you don’t expect to go? How might He be moving in ways you have not yet recognized?

   How might He exceed your expectations for the year ahead? How might He do immeasurably more than all you can ask, think, or imagine?

   When have you been disobedient in the last year and how might God in the year ahead provide opportunities for you to trust Him where you were once disobedient?

   Who might God bring into your life this year that needs to see the light God has entrusted you with? To what dark corner of the earth might He be leading you to shine his light?

   When might you be united with your Father, King, and Creator? Are you longing for that day? Are you anticipating the coming of the Bridegroom as a bride awaits the coming of her beloved? Are you longing for eternity and allowing that longing to shape your life now? What might God do through you if your eyes were constantly set on his coming consummation and the eternal weight of glory you are being prepared for?

 

     I hope Simeon’s song will inspire you to gaze deeper into the plan and promises of God and how they intersect with what God is doing in your life right now. May 2016 be a year of new blessing in part because you see more clearly how God is moving around you.

 

Tim Chaney

 

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Faithful Love

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Faithful Love

     Our current sermon series takes place in 1 Peter. It only takes one read-through to realize that this book is mostly about suffering Christians. I think that it is hard to come to grips with the fact that God calls us to suffer, and even to suffer like Christ. It is kind of a tough pill to swallow for me. Here I am, raised in a comfortable, Christian home, never hungry, never threatened to be killed for my faith, and fairly regularly encouraged to pursue my relationship with Christ. Now, I have certainly had my fair share of people bashing my faith, and calling into question what I believe, but I have had far more influences in my life to point me towards Jesus, than those who would be audacious enough to try and pull me away. 

     That being said, I have experienced suffering. Not in its physical manifestation, but in the form of broken relationships, loss, and disappointment. Christ suffered the cross, for our salvation and for us to enter His Kingdom, but his suffering was deeper than the physical as well. "Forgive them Father, for they do not know what they are doing!" He cried out on the cross. He grieved over his murderers. Jesus wept for Lazarus. Many times in the Gospels, we see the phrase "Jesus had compassion." The word for compassion in Greek implies the same kind of emotion that we feel that makes our stomach flip. We are called to suffer in this way as well. 

     At first glance, the book of 1 Peter is a little bit depressing. However, in chapters 1-2, Peter gives us a key. He takes some time to address his suffering audience with a reminder of their identity before he calls them to suffer well. I believe it is a mistake to skip forward to chapters 3 and following without making absolutely certain that we understand what came before. We are strangers and exiles. But we are also royalty, priests, children of God, God's people, and most importantly, holy. 

     That is why I wrote this song. It is a reminder to myself that when things are tough, I am His. When I am overcome with grief, I am His child. When I am overwhelmed, I am defined by what He says about me, and what He says about me remains true forever. 

     Why? Why would He do this for His children? I believe the answer is found in 2:9

          "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."

     He called you and saved you THAT YOU MAY praise him. You see, praise is part of our identity too. Dive headlong into that truth and mine its depths, just as we have been studying the other truths about ourselves, and you will suffer well. 

If you would like to download FBC's new song, "Faithful Love" for free and listen to it anytime you would like, just click HERE

     Jason Hundley   

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