Category: Families
Midweek – 5.12.17 – Part 2

Mother’s Day Brunch

Calling all men. This Sunday is Mother’s Day Brunch after church. Men, please contact Dawn & Jeff Monroe (716) 870-8937 for more details on helping with setup, cooking and/or clean up. Mother’s and women, please come and enjoy a relaxing brunch, we want to honor all you are and all you do.

Amazing Race Volunteer Meeting

On May 23 at 6:30pm we will be meeting as an entire Amazing Race team to walk through some very important details surrounding the race. If you would like to be a part of this awesome event, please let us know by clicking on this link and filling out the form. Thanks!!

Boot Camp

June 2 & 3 will be our very first annual Boot Camp; Community Group Training. Ian is looking forward to seeing anyone and everyone who is interested in being a part of the future of this church. We believe that God wants us to be a church of Community Groups, and so this event is going to be foundational in continuing to solidify the structure of our future. Please make a point of signing up during this Sunday’s service or speaking to Ian personally (855) 998-9322 ext.701.

Background checks, sponsored families and church sign

What is FBC Inside?

FBC Inside is a weekly or bi-weekly video series that I (Stephen) have started to record. The goal of these videos are to give you some inside information (that’s not typically to be covered on a Sunday morning) about what is going on in the life of the church.

Please feel free to use the form below to share information on what you would like to know more about and I will try to address what you guys send over.

Love Stephen & Nicole

What would you like to know more about?


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Elders meetings, simple church and the church basement

FBC Inside is a weekly or bi-weekly video series that I (Stephen) have started to record. The goal of these videos are to give you some inside information (that’s not typically to be covered on a Sunday morning) about what is going on in the life of the church.

Please feel free to use the form below to share information on what you would like to know more about and I will try to address what you guys send over.

Love Stephen & Nicole

I’m interested to know more about…


I'm interested to know more about... *

Elders Vs. Deacons

Even though church was canceled due to the cold weather, here is Stephen with a short video explaining the differences between the roles of Elders and Deacons.

Follow along with Acts 6:1-7

[1] Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. [2] And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. [3] Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. [4] But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” [5] And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. [6] These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. [7] And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Thank You!

You Were Awesome!

I just wanted to take a quick minute before my day really gets started to say a massive thank you to everyone who volunteered on Sunday night, I don’t think it could have gone any better than it did.

The music, testimony and message came straight from the Lord and I am positive that He used each element to glorify Himself and draw those who were there to closer to Him. James, Tim and Brian, thank you for being obedient to His call on your life to serve, I am praying that the Lord would bless you for your efforts.

The food. There is only one thing to say about the food, it was out of this world. I am so encouraged by everyone who helped prepare this meal. Your pursuit of excellence to provide the best meal possible was both inspiring and contagious. I heard numerous comments about how good the sauce was, so that extra time you took with the garlic was definitely worth it. Thank you!

Those who served did so with class and efficiency. The food was delivered in no time and I didn’t see anyone waiting to eat. I believe the way you interacted with everyone was done in such a way that Christ was reflected through you. I know that your selflessness knocked down walls in their lives. Nicole and I personally got to minister to and pray for a man (Billy) as a result of your efforts, so thank you.

The youth. You guys rocked! The way you gave up your Sunday night for the sake of the Kingdom was incredible. I guarantee the simple fact that you were there and not afraid to get your hands dirty inspired those who were being blessed by your service. My prayer is that through your selfless acts you would lead and inspire older generations towards Jesus.

A super special thank you goes out to Phil for all of the time that he invested into this outing. You were awesome bro and it’s an honor to minister in His Name with you.

Shaun Smith the Executive Director texted me yesterday, here is what he said,

We are thankful for this! We hope only that you were even more blessed than we, or those we serve were, for it is always more blessed to give than to receive.

Looking ahead

We don’t have an official date yet on when or how frequently we are going to head up there, but I do believe the consensus was that this was something the Lord wanted us to be involved with. More details to come in 2015.

Thank you again church! It’s is a privilege to be one of your pastors and to minister in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ with you.

Love one of your Pastors
Stephen

Town Hall Meeting – Notes

[lollum_button text=”Download Notes” url=”http://wilsonfbc.com/download/town-hall-meeting-notes-14-11.pdf” size=”small”]

November 23, 2014

Attended by:  Sally Bishop, Tom, Mimi and Caleb Bach, Tim Bach, Stephen and Nicole Hay,  George and Ida Mae Waters, Lisa Johnston, Phil Sheppard,  Don and Jean Potter,  Dawn and Jeff Monroe,  Rob Reisman,  Ken and Sherrie Twist, Keith and Laura Schessl.  Randy and Kim McNally, Matt and Amanda Vail,  Doug and Lois Farley,  Steve Ornella,  Jack Hanna,  Chris and Sandy Scrufari, Matt Johnson.

The meeting was opened by Stephen Hay who explained the proposed agenda followed by a corporate time of prayer.

Questions, comments and responses;

Lisa Johnston expressed concern about Pulse and the ages that are currently being served on Friday nights…She stated that we are losing some of the older students who are basically the core of strong believers due to the immaturity of the 8th grade students.  Lisa stated that she has heard the students discuss this issue and has also talked with them about it.  Her suggestion was to possibly have 2 rooms segregated by ages.

Rob Reisman then asked as a point of order…if there were notes being taken as per the Constitution.  Though the Church Clerk was not present, Lois Farley stated she was taking notes and would provide them for record.

Jean Potter stated that the Eldership process is in its second year and when it was begun, it was stated that an Evaluation would be part of the process. She then asked, “What is being worked on and when is that going to be shared?” As well as “Is this a tool that the Congregation would have to evaluate the Elders?”

Stephen responded, that indeed there is a tool, it is in its second draft, and the goal is to get this done sooner rather than later.  Stephen also pointed out that the Elders are open to evaluation at any time and that members of the congregation should contact them.  Currently, there are two forms of communication, those being (1) email to the Elders or via the website: wilsonfbc.com,  or (2) write a letter and put it in the box that says Elders upstairs in the sanctuary.  Phone numbers are also listed in the bulletin for each Elder.

Keith Schessl stated he and Laura have been members for 14 years and they love this church and like seeing the ministry grow particularly to youth and community.

  • He stated that he feels that the church is being Elder ruled and not Elder led. Keith listed the scriptural duties of the Elders: settling church disputes, praying for the sick, leading by example, spending time in prayer and teaching the word, leading the church in worship and prayer.  Keith stated that he did not understand the role of the Elder to be so hands on with daily running of the church.  Keith gave examples of issues between himself and Doug Rohring and the Elders in regards to their position as co-chairs of the Maintenance Ministry.
  • The church building itself considering the age of the building and the repairs they have designated such as the cement and bell tower work.
  • As well the parsonage and the work being done and there the bids, concerning specifications, scope, correct licensure, and insurance validation.
  • Also the property recently purchased:  obtaining bids then being told to hold off, the safety issues that Keith has concerning possible injury and vandalism. He feels the area needs to be fenced and posted as soon as possible, if it is not going to be torn down.
  • Keith also listed parking issues, the need for a temporary or permanent lot and how this affects attendance.
  • Keith stated that he does not trust nor have faith in the Eldership.  He brought up the issue of Tim and how the decision made last year was changed after an outcry from the congregation, but the understanding was that they would have 100% agreement yet Tim was leaving and he is the only qualified Elder on board.
  • Keith asked that the Elders search their hearts and meet this week with him and other concerned members to discuss more concerns.

Stephen’s response: Elder Rule versus Elder Led…Stephen stated that the  Elders have recently begun discussing this exact issue…that there is no reference whatsoever to Senior Pastor in Scripture and the desire was for a Scripture based structure of the church.  When the current Elders started the course 3 years ago they thought that the model they were taught was Scriptural and realized within the past 4 months the model is not practical or Scriptural and the Elders have begun discussions as to rectify the discrepancies of the model being used.

One issue they have discussed was George and Tom looking at the Constitution that was put in place with the Eldership program and how it is a key piece to moving the structure from Elder Rule to an Elder Led model.  As well as putting the call out for Godly men to come along side and  work as God leads to Elder Led.

Stephen also responded about the issues Keith had mentioned concerning the Parsonage asking Keith what work he referred to.  Stephen explained that the sign for Kevin Wise was simply some advertising done for Nicole’s brother and the work he did for them was personal; he built a desk for them, which was for them personally.  Stephen stated that the only other work done was a dishwasher was installed and Doug Rohring has been contacted with any changes happening at the parsonage.

Sally Bishop asked for clarification of what was meant by Elder Rule (or Run) versus Elder Led.  Stephen explained that Elder Rule was like a dictatorship with no input or voting from the Congregation that the Elders made all decisions…and the Elder Led model means the church is shepherded, nurtured, guided and decisions are made with the consent of the Congregation.

Stephen stated that one of the issues is how do we engage more of the Congregation in communication.  This forum (the town meeting) was done because it appears the perception is that the Elders were not/are not being transparent and sharing all the information with the Congregation and that to some degree this may be a reality in certain areas.

Tim reiterated, “This is why we are having this meeting,” and that the Congregation is learning as the Elders are learning and the hearts of the Elders is that they lead and not rule.

Nicole brought up the property issue with it being put on hold. Doug and Ken both responded to this.  Ken stated that this may be partly due to his leave from the Elders starting about that time period.  Ken stated that a lack of communication may be at the heart of that issue and Doug stated that with what demolition was going to cost at that time there would not have been enough money to pay for demo and pay current bills. The demolition work was not budgeted so an appeal went out to the church to provide building fund donations to get the demolition done.

Jack Hanna stated there has been a recent rash of break ins in the area and that he felt a swift demo would be warranted, rather than investing money to secure a building that is going to be demolished.

Doug responded that the finances are back in an upswing because of the cycle of church giving and this could be considered, but little or no building fund income has been received yet.

Doug Rohring was not in attendance and Doug Farley stated that he did not speak with Doug Rohring about the demolition and that if he had he would have communicated the financial point.

Stephen spoke at this point about Elder versus Deacon role and the desire to have more men rise up to take active roles in the Ministries. He stated within the last year the Elders have gotten into the bad habit of picking up all the things that need to be done instead of turning it over to particular ministry leaders. He stated that the goal/vision was to raise up Deacons who handle the hands-on daily tasks.

At this point Chris Scrufari suggested a time check to see how many others had issues they wanted to raise and maybe not give answers right now. After a show of hands it was decided to continue in same format.

Tom Bach brought up the issue of the Constitution, wanting to clarify Elders and when they do what they want.

Stephen stated that the goal is not to split and divide but to seek unity.  The Elder’s intention is not to make decisions but come to the Congregation and if they disagree with the Elders recommendations that they would go back to God and continue to pray until a decision could be made in unity.

Nicole stated that with the trust and skepticism issues that it will take time to trust decisions of any leadership.

Lisa brought up the subject of questionnaires’ used in the past to help screen volunteers for youth workers as far as background checks and wanted to know if they are still being used.

Stephen stated that he has spoken with Tammy Rohring about them but they are not widely used right now for any of the youth programs.

George Waters stated that he meets monthly with the current Deacons who are taking care of the ministry to the shut-ins, planning Communion and with flowers and gifts throughout the year.

Rob stated that it is not Biblical to make everyone who serves in a ministry be a Deacon, and that there is only one or two verses that would indicate a difference between Deacon and Elder.  He is concerned with the financial end of things and feels that it is a Deacon responsibility and would take the pressure off the Elders- there should be Deacon run finances. This would leave the Elders to take on spiritual issues inside and outside of the building.

Concerning the Constitution, Rob stated he needed to be ask for forgiveness for not reading the Constitution when he became a member…mentioned that the Constitution does contain a lot of  Scripture references, but felt it was an Elder Rule not Elder-Led.  Rob read the responsibilities of the membership. Rob stated that he has read many Constitutions and there are many on line that could be examined and the fact that the Constitution needs to be rewritten.

As far as the Youth/ Worship Pastor should we bring someone into this disunity and the search should be put on hold because it would not be fair to a candidate or the church.  Rob stated that we already have the most qualified Worship/Youth Leader who knows the youth and is the most Biblically educated pastor.  Rob recommended a solution of putting the search on hold for 6 months.

Rob also shared that he had felt that he was not called to serve as an Elder because he was to serve in this own community but has realized that many of his community, about 30 -35 in number, are presently coming to Wilson FBC.  He is willing to help in the spirit of truly  Elder- Led and not Rule.  He has had experience in getting out from under the brutality of a Constitution.

Tim Bach responded asking,”Is it fair to bring someone into this disunity?”  He cannot answer. Tim stated he has been praying to the Lord for a new staff member – since the Lord has put a huge call to music and eventually to the Philippines.  Tim feels we need prayer and asked if it was disunity or a learning and growing process.

Chris stated that everything that was spoken tonight was a sign of God’s grace.  Also this is an opportunity for the Elders so that we can grow and create unity.

Sally asked how we could pay a salary for new staff with family.

Stephen stated this is certainly not an ideal situation, but that he felt it unwise to go back to a one person staffed church and that Lord has clearly blessed the 2 staff format.   Stephen shared the statistic that regardless of the size of the church-only about 30% of people volunteer in a church but that 15% is a more realistic.  We have to be aware of the calling on Tim’s life and that it would be foolish for us to try to stall God’s call and the timing He has in mind for Tim’s ministry.  He stated that a lot of people are talking and asked that they talk to the Elders.   The Elders are trying to be transparent.  He stated that it was God who opened the church and it is His business to close it.  He stated that there is pain in the birthing or creating process- that we all need grace for the process.

Chris stated that Tim agreed to stay on in an interim basis, so we need to ask God for more provision or ask God to release Tim to stay longer.

George stated that God had given the vision to the church to start the youth program and bring Stephen here and He has continued to confirm this. George also spoke to the property purchase and the funds being there when needed and having faith that God would continue to provide – God pays for what He wants.

Jack Hanna stated concerning the Constitution- that he hoped we would put a committee together to revisit the constitution to be more palatable and Godly. Jack asked the Elder candidates to look in their hearts to examine for prideful debt …that debt can become a god to you if the church is not financially set.

Mimi Bach spoke to the process of the hiring and looking for a new youth pastor and wanted to know who else was included in the process. Her concern is that she wants to be sure that a youth pastor background needs to be looked into- look into everything from their past. Mimi spoke about including some parents of current youth in the search for youth pastor…feeling they would have a better grasp of youth today and the qualities we need in a candidate more so than the Elders on the board.

Don Potter stated the budget was in place before air conditioning was installed and the final cost not being in budget.  He asked if the units need to be covered and also expressed concern about snow plows. Don also wanted to know if he gave money what it would be going toward.

Doug responded the first thing would be the demolition and once costs are estimates are for work on the parsonage and any church work would come to the congregation for approval.

Keith (and Chris) stated that this was the time of year that those who will be graduating from Bible College would be looking for positions and the job posting should go out to college sites.

Sandy asked for Scriptural reference as to how do we faith budget.  God does not go on credit.  She felt the church should budget for what they could afford.

Doug stated that in actuality the entire church budget is a faith budget we have no other income than people’s tithes and offerings, there is no guarantee of meeting a budget…we have to have faith.

Phil Sheppard shared about tithing and stated that we need to use wisdom and discernment in budgeting but have faith.  Phil also stated that it sounds like the engine was sputtering but it is in need of a tune up in regards to the church leadership process.

Rob asked that the Elders have a timeline -a timeframe for the Constitution and that a solution to the parking issue is an important issue since it is one of the top items people look at in a church.

The meeting closed with a time of corporate prayer.

(These are certainly not all the comments and not word for word,   I tried to write key phrases and ideas discussed and I am not a secretary so I ask for grace if you made a comment that was missed in my notes.   Notes were written in the order that the comments were made.)

Respectfully,
Lois Farley

Ten simple ways to love your church

The Bible teaches that for Christians, God is our Father, other Christians are our brothers and sisters, and the church is like a family.

Like every family, the church is made up of imperfect people who need to ask for forgiveness, receive grace, and grow in their love for the other members of the family. With that in mind, I would like to share with you ten practical, simple ways that we as a church family can love one another. This list is by no means comprehensive, but just a “top ten” list that God has put on my heart recently.

1. Pray

One of the most loving things that we can do for each other as a church family is to pray for one another. Great love can be shown not by merely saying “I’ll pray for you,” but by putting a hand on someone’s shoulder right then and there and lifting up the need in prayer.

“Brothers, pray for us.” —1 Thessalonians 5:25

2. Gather

In this age of technology and digital “friendships,” one of the most loving things we can do is gather together in person to worship our King Jesus. When the church gathers together, I like to think of the analogy of the family sitting down for a meal together. The band provides the soundtrack for the party, the preacher is like the cook who serves the meal, the volunteers help set the table, and all the adopted children of God gather around the table to spend time with their Father.

“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some.” —Hebrews 10:25

3. Community

There are approximately 90 “one another” verses in the Bible: greet one another, comfort one another, seek good for one another. It is pretty hard to live out these commands when you don’t actually spend time together. We should want for our Community Groups to be places where these “one another” verses can be lived out in love.

“Live in harmony with one another.” —Romans 12:16

4. Serve together

Serving the church is both corporate and individual, both in large groups and small. We can serve by showing up early on Sunday and helping make the church building welcoming. We can serve by giving money to a friend in need. We can serve by leading a community group. This service is a practical, tangible way to show others the love that God has already shown us.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” —Ecclesiastes 4:9

5. Show honor

In many cultures, honor and respect are huge. American culture is not one of those cultures. In fact, a good argument could be made that our culture actually encourages dishonor and disrespect. God’s children can show love by speaking words of honor where honor is due: for a job well done, for a particular servant-hearted act, for longevity in the faith, etc.

“Outdo one another in showing honor.” —Romans 12:10

6. Encourage

I recently heard from a brother in Christ, how a simple phone call of encouragement meant so much to him and his wife as they faced some challenging circumstances. In this fallen world, trials and hardships are all too frequent. God has put us together as a church family so that we can encourage each other as we face these difficulties.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” —1 Thessalonians 5:11

7. Forgive

People who are looking for a conflict-free life will not find it in following Christ. In fact, there are many verses warning us to expect bumps and bruises as we live out this life together. However, the one thing we cannot do is bail on each other just because we fight. The family of God can love each other by hanging tough even when we disagree.

“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” —Colossians 3:13

8. Play

A godly family is one that also knows how to enjoy each other. I think that sometimes we forget that joy is one of the attributes of God. Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding. He was known for going to parties, so much so that he was accused of being a drunkard. Kids loved spending time with Jesus, and if there’s one thing I know about kids, it’s that they love to play. As a family, we can love each other by simply having fun together.

“Everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.” —Ecclesiastes 3:13

9. Speak truth

God is a truth-speaking God, and as his image bearers, one of the ways that we show love to each other is by following his example. Speaking truth includes, but is not limited to: doctrinal correction, calling to repentance, teaching the Bible, confessing sin, giving wise counsel, not lying or exaggerating or gossiping, and using our words to build up.

“Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” —Ephesians 4:15

10. Pursue godliness

Flee from sin, leave unrighteousness behind, and seek the Holy Spirit’s help to become more and more godly in your words, your thoughts, and your conduct.

“Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” —2 Peter 1:5–7

May God grow us in our love for one another as we seek to be the family that God wants us to be.

[lollum_button text=”Original Blog” url=”http://theresurgence.com/2014/08/27/ten-ways-a-church-family-can-love-one-another” size=”big”]

Town Hall Meetings

Our church has taken significant strides in the last 3 years. Moving from congregational to elder lead has been something we as a body have needed to adapt to. It hasn’t been easy and it isn’t without it’s faults or mistakes. Typically this is a transition process that takes the average church at least 10 years to complete, so we are far from ironing out the 180 year old tradition of a congregationally lead church (we are only 3 years in).

On that note it’s vital that the church family have ample opportunity to talk and address any comments, concerns, ideas or confusions that they may presently have. That’s why we are introducing Town Hall Meetings.

The term Town Hall Meeting (Started in New England in the late 17th Century) was given to the public meeting, function or event that took place to allow attendees the opportunity to present ideas, opinions, concerns and ask questions. Historically it was where the peoples voice was heard.

We are encouraging the church members to join with us on Sunday, November 23 at 7pm for our very first Town Hall Meeting. We would ask that if you have something to present you would observe the follow steps:

01 Write before you speak

James 1:19-20 says that we need to be people who are quick to listen and slow to speak or to become angry. Within the context of what James is addressing here, we see that he is talking about the importance of listening — not to people, although that is important — but rather to God. Please take time this week to listen to exactly what God would have you say, then write it down. It’s very difficult to articulate thoughts accurately especially when there are emotions attached to them. Make sure that you are prayed up and written out before standing up to speak.

Writing your thoughts also allows you to present a written copy that can be used for accurate prayer and understanding after the meeting.

02 Represent yourself not a group

This is an important point when presenting a concern or complaint. Representing yourself alone allows you to follow along with the Biblical patterns of Matthew 18, where Jesus himself teaches on confronting a brother with an issue you have against them. It is also not fair to try to represent other people on their behalf. Sometimes it’s very difficult to represent ourselves well, never mind other people. If indeed others feel the same as you do, let them say so; give them the opportunity to follow the biblical patterns of Matthew 18 too, don’t speak on their behalf. It’s hard to provide help for those who remain anonymous. If someone asks you to represent them, gently encourage them towards Matthew 18.

03 Don’t expect an immediate answer

It’s fair to say that some or most things that are communicated on the night may require the attention of prayer. It is wiser for the thought to be presented and prayed over than it is for it to be presented and answered right away, without seeking the Lord for wisdom first. There may be certain issues raised or a question asked that truly can be tackled on the night, but to save future frustration, come with the mentality that topics raised and questions asked will only be answered after a time of prayer, examination and seeking the Lord. Thank you for understanding.

04 Build up don’t tear down

Of course there is a great chance that whatever issues are talked about on the night have great potential to tear down and break apart. Remember, we are made in the image and likeness of our God, and we are called to look more like Jesus daily. Understand that Jesus’ ministry was not a ministry of separation, it was a ministry of restoration. Please come with the mind of Christ, not the mind of self. Come with the hope of building and bettering what already exists, not tearing down and starting again. Jesus is the only one who opens and closes churches so let’s be sure that our actions cooperate with the love of Christ as he has called us to work with him in building the church. Christians can be very quick in crucifying others, we seem to be one of the only armies who are known for shooting their wounded.

Please be reminded that Jesus has purchased us at great cost to himself.  The blood of the cross has already covered all of our sins.

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brother. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. – 1 John 3:14-15

Lastly, make sure that your heart isn’t just bitterly communicating your concerns with no hope of restoration. Remember, the heart is deceitful above all.

05 Provide a solution not just a problem

Our Lord Jesus Christ never had an issue calling out areas that needed growth or removal in a person’s life. But one thing Jesus never did was point out a problem without providing a solution. It’s very easy to point out things that are wrong. The eye of criticism is much easier to use than the eye of constructive criticism, but that can’t stop us from trying. If you are planning on presenting an area of concern that needs attention, please try to be prayerful in providing a solution and not just the problem. If a solution is something that you don’t currently have, it’s ok to say so, but understand if you are willing to point out the problem then you need to make sure that you are also willing to help towards the solution.

06 Deal with personal issues privately not corporately

This is another encouragement towards Matthew 18:15-17. If the issue or concern you have is with an individual not the leadership or corporate body, the Town Hall Meeting is not the venue for it. Jesus is clear that personal issues must first be dealt with privately, and if that is not successful then there are clear steps to be taken. Between now and the meeting make sure that if you have an issue that needs to be dealt with privately, that it doesn’t become public that night.

If you planned on presenting the issue publicly because you don’t know how to approach the individual, ask for advice, counsel and prayer. Following these 6 steps may be a good place to start too.

 

It is the hope that these Town Hall Meetings would be effective and bring much glory to God, and that the Bride of Christ (whom He purchased with His very own blood) would grow stronger and healthier as a result. Remember we are a family and families truly stick together through the good, bad and the ugly. Yes we might disagree with one another sometimes and discussion can be heated too, but the one thing a family does not do is give up on one another. May we not use this time as foundations for bitterness and hardness but may we seek the Lord through discussion that will build humility and grace with one another.

Remember God is shaping, molding and strengthening His Bride to one day present her pure, holy and blameless before Himself. Jesus loves His church more than we ever will.

Love
Stephen, Tim, Doug & George

Confused Church – Week 15 – Q&A

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

Here are the three questions that were asked in light of Sunday mornings sermon on having the authority to rebuke satan. My answers are below in the form of a blog. Hopefully this clears up any confusion that might have been caused on Sunday.

  1. Is this a close handed issue or open handed?
  2. What authority does a believer have?  Jesus says  “all authority is given until Me” and then the Word states that we are joint heirs with Christ, what is you understanding of this?
  3. Does that mean the prayer, “satan I rebuke you in the name of Jesus” doesn’t work?

These are some good questions that I personally wrestled with myself as I was preparing for the message. Like I said at beginning of the sermon, when I started studying this, I didn’t realize how in-depth this topic was.

Here are my thoughts on the following questions:

I honestly don’t think this is a matter of either one (open hand or closed hand), I think it’s just a matter of understanding where the authority comes from and not feeling the need to tackle satan head on. The benefit of the Holy Spirit is that He is way more powerful than satan and He is willing to fight for us. I think that’s such a beautiful truth, we as believers, get to rest in. I know of so many people who walk fearful of satan because of his destructive ability, and I think the truth of a Warrior God fighting for us cancels all of those fears. I love the truth of being able to run to God in times of crisis & trust Him to defeat satan for me. (He already has, and will do it again). This leaves us to focus putting on the Armor of God – and getting our perspective right – so that we are able to stand against any cheap shots that satan might try.

Now regarding the prayer, I certainly don’t think that God is going to withdraw His loving care or support from us if we get the wording wrong, as He clearly promises, I will never leave you nor forsake you’.  So I think the prayer, ‘satan I rebuke you in the name of Jesus’  still works (maybe I should have made that clearer yesterday), I just don’t think we need to wander down the route of personally confronting satan, especially when scripture never tells us we need to, in fact it tells us that we have a God who will do that for us.

On the point regarding authority. I definitely believe we can walk with all confidence in the authority of God… All I was attempting to do on Sunday (& maybe I didn’t do a good job of it) was communicate that we can never forget the author of that power and authority. It will always belong to God, It’s no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me. The only reason that we can walk with any Kingdom Authority and confidence is because the Holy Spirit is now in us.

I’m not sure if being co-heirs with Christ means that we receive the same authority He has, instead it’s my personal understanding it means we get to enjoy the authority that he has. I come to that conclusion, based on the fact that I don’t believe being co-heirs with Christ means that we share in all the attributes that he has. There has to be certain areas that are uniquely left for Jesus himself. Take Philippians 2:1-11 as an example:

[1] So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, [2] complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. [3] Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. [5] Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I don’t think that being co-heirs with Christ means that we are now highly exalted, and at our name every knee will bow and every tongue will confess. Certain attributes clearly remain unique to Christ, and based on my understanding of Scripture the issue of Authority would be one of them.

The term co-heirs doesn’t mean sharing in all of Jesus’ attributes, it means sharing in all of Jesus’ inheritance (the Kingdom of Heaven, state of perfection etc.).

I have no issue acknowledging the power and authority that we get to enjoy as believers because the Holy dwells inside of us; just so long as we are never claiming it for ourselves; just so long as we are alway pointing back to Jesus as the author of that authority. He is the one that is deserving of all recognition and honor, He is the one that should be given the spot light.

I am always super grateful for the congregation’s questions, I love the we have a body that is open and honest and not afraid to ask important question, church should always be a place where that atmosphere is present. Preaching is one of those jobs that will always challenge me to grow as an effective communicator, especially when you’re not trying to confuse people on ‘non-essential’ or ‘non-dealer-breaker’ questions. This series in particular has presented that challenge in it’s rawest form. It has been a tough but exciting 15 weeks together. I’m looking forward to jumping into the Book of Acts with you all in September.

I hope this blog cleared some things up.

Three Things We can Learn from Fallon

Ever since Johnny Carson, “The Tonight Show” has been a staple of late night television. Our grandparents invited Carson into their homes, our parents invited Leno, and now we welcome Jimmy Fallon every evening to commentate, interview and entertain.

Fallon has taken over “The Tonight Show” and is cranking out viral videos every week. Whether he is tag-teaming with Justin Timberlake, impersonating Neil Young or lip syncing with a celebrity guest, one thing is clear: people love being on and watching “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon.

Why is Fallon so appealing? What makes his show a joy to watch? Why is he a great host? I think Fallon’s success can be traced to three key practices: He doesn’t take himself seriously, he puts the spotlight on others and he speaks through culture. I believe Christians can actually learn from Fallon’s example as they attempt to demonstrate the love of Christ. Here’s how:

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

Fallon is not afraid to acknowledge his faults. He is quick to laugh at his quirks and cheerfully accepts teasing from his guests. Like all great hosts, Fallon demonstrates that people are attracted to those who are humble.

As believers, we are free to take the gospel seriously without necessarily placing ourselves in the same category. James 4:6 reminds the believer, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” We don’t have to present ourselves as perfect. In a culture where pride is pervasively praised, Fallon shows us that humility can be hilarious, endearing and attractive.

Give the Spotlight Away

I don’t know if Fallon has ever read Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor,” but his show is a great example of how to consistently give the spotlight away. For example, most late night shows have a house band; Fallon has The Roots, one of the most celebrated and sophisticated hip-hop groups of the last decade. On most late night shows, the band plays background music and gets the occasional nod from the host. Instead of following this model, Fallon has made The Roots a huge part of his show, offering sketches, punch lines and applause breaks to the band.

Whether at work, home, church or the golf course, we generally want the attention to be on us. We want people to see and celebrate our needs, our gifts, our property and our persons. It has been said that people rarely care how interesting you are, but always care how interested you are. How interested are you in the lives and gifts of those around you? Fallon shows us that making others the focus is not only wise, but enjoyable.

Learn How to Speak Through Culture

Fallon has learned how to listen to culture and make us laugh by using words, analogies and stories that are familiar to our 21st-century ears. Every time Fallon, a musical guest and The Roots collaborate to do one of their infamous songs using classroom instruments, we all share, tweet and like the video because it does three things: It makes us feel nostalgic for elementary school choir, it connects that nostalgia with a current pop hit we can’t get out of our head and it does these things while making us laugh.

Even the Apostle Paul saw value in using the cultural works of the day to speak to the hearts and minds of his audience. When Paul preaches from the Areopagus, he references an idol to an unknown god and quotes a pagan poet to draw Athenian minds to the superiority of the one true God over the false works of metal and wood they called gods (Acts 17:22-34). Believers should feel free, though not obligated, to use various cultural works (i.e. movies, songs, books, etc.) to point back to Christ. Everything that is Truth will be rooted in the One who gives all good gifts (Jas. 1:17).

So, the next time you tune in to watch “The Tonight Show,” consider these questions: Do I take myself too seriously? Do I outdo those around me in showing honor? Have I learned how to speak through culture by using words, analogies and stories that will make sense? We as Christians have the opportunity to communicate a message that is far more captivating than that of any guest on “The Tonight Show.” The question is, will we be known for communicating this story in a captivating way?

 

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Christians, don’t you realize that we’ve been waiting for this opportunity?

For months the movie Noah has come under immense amounts of scrutiny from local churches around America, due to it’s lack of Biblical accuracy. Pastors and church critics have even gone to the extreme of announcing to their congregations from the pulpit that this isn’t a movie that they should be watching, or letting their children watch.

The only question that has been running through my mind during this time is; What in the world are you doing? Don’t you realize that we have been waiting for this opportunity?

 

Evangelism is hard

The harsh truth is that the majority of Christians in North America are very ineffective at reaching people with the message of Jesus.

Non-Chrisitians aren’t interested in the Bible, they don’t want to know what it says. Every time I bring something up in conversation, they switch off or change the subject. It’s too hard for me to push past that barrier, I don’t want them to get mad at me.

These are just some of the excuses that Christians are using today, and if I am honest, they are extremely valid. The truth is that non-Christians aren’t typically interested in the Bible. Therefore, trying to break through that barrier is extremely difficult. It can be exhausting at times, so I can definitely relate!

However, I want you to think for a second… what would be the perfect evangelism scenario for a Christian? What would make your job as a Christian a lot easier? Think about it… It would be if the non-believer approached you, right? It would be if they brought up the stories in the Bible, it would be if they gave you an opportunity to talk about it with them.

Christians, don’t you see that we have been given a unique window, a very rare opportunity? We have a secular world making movies about the Book that we claim to love and follow. We have non-believers breaking down their own walls and giving us free opportunities to bring up the Bible and venture into conversation about faith, Jesus and Christianity with them.

But all we can do is theologically pick it apart, call it heretical, and miss every opportunity to give them Jesus. Opportunities that they are freely giving us.

 

Unfair Expectations

I struggle to understand how any Christian can validate waisting time to theologically pick apart this movie. Why are we placing a level of expectation concerning Biblical accuracy on Hollywood? Let me say this plainly, they are not out to be Biblically accurate, they are out to make money, and they did, over $44m on opening night.

Why are you placing Christian expectations and standards on non-Christians?

Don’t get me wrong, I  understand that it is wise to protect and shepherd the Christians in our lives so that they know what is true and what has been embellished, concerning movies like this. But do we really need to be taking it to the extend that we are?

Wouldn’t it’ make more sense to stop waisting time pointing out everything that is wrong with this movie, ultimately rejecting it, and instead use that time to recognize what elements in this movie can be redeemed? This movie clearly communicates the doctrine of sin and it’s offenses to a holy God, human depravity & the Wrath of God. Even these three elements alone, offer bridges over water we would normally have to try and swim across.

 

Don’t miss it

Don’t you see that we have been given an incredibly unique opportunity, one that past generations were not. But instead of taking advantage of it, the non-Christian world gets to sit back and watch us emotionally vomit our hateful, judgmental opinions on them. They get to watch us completely reject the free pass that they are giving us.

I am suggesting that before we cast judgement so quickly, we prayerfully discern the opportunities we have been given in the middle of a fallen and sinful world.

Are you rejecting something that could actually be redeemed for the glory of God?

Elder Moment – 02.02.14

In our attempt to continue to provide excellent written communication to the church, the Elders are pleased to offer this report of their current work.  Similarly, we would also ask that all other ministry leaders prepare a written report each month to share with the church.  Please send your monthly reports to Elder Doug Farley by the 15th of each month.

After a review of our office space situation in the church, the elders decided to make some changes to make best use of our limited space.  Youth Director Renae Mansfield will have an office on the second floor of the Fellowship Hall.  Pastor Stephen & Pastor Tim are relocating their main offices to the parsonage, and will be sharing an office space on the second floor of the Fellowship Hall. Pastor Tim will be there Tuesday & Wednesday and Pastor Stephen, Thursday & Friday.  We are also setting up a conference room that can be used by any ministry that would like to use an appropriate meeting space.

The elders continue to monitor the finances of the church, especially for the property purchase planned for 2014. The good news is (Praise the Lord!) we ended 2013 with $25,000 more in funds then we had at the start of the year.  Right now we have about $30,000 dedicated to the land purchase in a savings account. (The purchase price for the property is $85,000.)  There is also an additional $15,000 remaining in our operating account to start 2014.  We have received financial information (pledge cards) from 17 families in the church (15 that are able to assist over and above their tithe) with pledges that total $25,000. Of that amount, $7,500 has been received and $17,500 is still to come in. Also, several people are giving towards the building who did not give us pledge cards.  Thank you all for your prayers and support as we draw closer to our planned purchase date of June 1.

As we mentioned last month, we are now ready to ask everyone who attends church to complete a Connect Card. You will be receiving these cards in the bulletin. These forms will give us important information concerning our church family. Deacon Sherrie Twist has very graciously offered to assist with data entry into our church management software. Doug and Stephen will also work with this.  The Welcome Ministry will be involved in utilizing this information.

It was decided to hold a meeting after church today to vote on the proposed Biblical Marriage Amendment to our Constitution.  The meeting will immediately follow the service in the sanctuary. Please plan to stay for this brief but important business matter.   The proposed amendment is printed here for your review.

Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God with Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:24 states: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” In Matthew 19:4-5, Jesus reaffirms this: “He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’?” In response to this biblical instruction, the church will only perform marriage between one man and one woman.

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A serious question about The Grammys

Two days ago one of the most prestigious music award ceremonies took place, The Grammys. As you probably know by now, it has been coined as the most controversial to date.

If you don’t know what happened, here is a link to bring you up to speed, click here.

In my opinion, the spectacle that was “The Grammys” this year, was definitely troubling for the average Christian. In fact, I have found that as I look back over the last several years, that these sort of ceremonies are becoming more and more controversial (Britney and Madonna’s kiss, Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction & not to mention Miley Cyrus’ twerking endeavor).

However, what I have also found as I thought over these events, perhaps troubled me more. That Christians are getting increasingly worse at responding to what happens. I have noticed that Christians are responding in one of two ways now.

Active Intolerance

This would be where the Christian is very vocal about their discontent. Often times that comes in the form of obnoxiously exploding over social media about the demise, and liberalization of the world. This explode is then usually met with a large response from other Christians that they associate themselves with, agreeing and thanking them for their obnoxiousness.

I personally find this response to be ineffective when considering Matthew 28. How can you intentionally reach and make disciples of a world that you are openly insulting and ungraciously pursuing?

Passive Intolerance

This would be the response that I have a tendency to fall into at times. The response where the Christian observes what has just taken place and then says something like, well this is just a sign that Jesus is coming back soon, and then goes on with the rest of their day without thinking twice about trying to biblically respond.

Usually the passive intolerant is easily frustrated by the active intolerant, and the active intolerant is increasingly convinced that the passive intolerant isn’t even saved. How can you just sit back and watch what happened and not say something? What about Romans 12:1-2?

As I think about both camps, I am struck with the sobering reality that they both actually produce the same outcome – an increasing distance from a world that needs Jesus, a world that needs the Gospel.

So, I am writing this blog not to give you a revolutionary answer as to what your response should be (there are too many Christian bloggers trying to do that). But rather to confess to you, that as these spectacles worsen, I am scratching my head for an effective way to respond to them with the Gospel. I understand what both Matthew 28 & Romans 12 say, and I know that it can’t be one or the other, it has to be both and… but how?

I think Christians would be better equipped; they would have a stronger, more effective, testimony and outreach; and God would get more glory if they stopped being actively or passively intolerant – and starting an honest discussion with each other about ways that they can be reaching an ever changing culture for Jesus.

Perhaps the world would see that dialogue and be amazed at the love they have for one another (John 13:35) and concern they have for reaching the world that needs Jesus… just a thought.

So here’s the question I would like to encourage you to have an open discussion about:

How should we & how can we, as Christians
actively & effective respond to the Grammy world with Jesus?

My hope is that this discussion would strengthening Jesus’ church by better equipping them to reach the world for Him. What have you found works for you?

Announcing PewView

This Sunday we are testing out something new and exciting.

Up until now, if you weren’t able to make it to church because you were under the weather,  you could head to wilsonfbc.com/live and listen to a live streamed audio feed of the sermon, which quite honestly, isn’t a bad option for a small church. However the Elders were made more aware that we have some members in our church family that find it difficult to venture out on a Sunday morning in the middle of a Buffalo winter, and so we wanted to provide a better alternative to a simple audio stream.

Obviously the natural step up from audio streaming is video streaming, however to do it well (offering a professional production, the way that mega-churches do it today), you’re talking a few thousand dollars worth of an investment. Which is honestly a great idea, but there is just one problem, we aren’t a mega-church and we can’t afford the large investment.

After several months researching possible cheaper alternative and having no luck, the Lord gifted us with the great idea that we are proud to call PewView. We have purchased a HD 1080p webcam from amazon.com (for $70) and we plan to stream that signal through Google Hangouts every Sunday. Naturally with the video signal coming from a webcam and not our Canon XF100, we don’t have the same versatility that the Canon offers. However, what it will do is provide a High Definition picture that will make you feel like you are watching the sermon from a pew in the church, hence the name PewView.

We will keep the accessibility of this resource just as easy as the audio stream. All you will need to do is visit wilsonfbc.com/live around 10am on any giving Sunday and you should be ready to watch.

PLEASE NOTE   This will not replace the weekly edited sermons that our creative team have ready for viewing by Tuesday, they are still dedicated to that process too.

Important information

Our hope is that this would not replace your commitment to the local church body. Our prayer is that you still see the biblical significance of being actively plugged into the life of the local church body. Jesus didn’t just save us from hell, he also adopted us into his family, one that we are called to actively be a part of. We are very grateful that this is a resource that that Lord has allowed us to offer, but we can’t stress enough the importance of remaining part of the body too.

We are praying that PewView is a resource that you will enjoy, and perhaps a system that other small churches can adopt too.

3 tips for sharing Jesus with others this Christmas

Even as our culture drifts away from Christendom, Christmas is still the most likely time of the year for non-Christians to consider matters of faith. Here are a few tips to help you step out of your comfort zone and talk to non-Christians in your world about Jesus.

It was a Christmas Eve service in 1992, and I had been recruited to play the role of one of the young shepherd boys. With typical 90s flair, the night retold the birth of Jesus with skits, carols, praise banners, and awkwardness. Yet the gospel was preached and many who had been invited by friends responded by turning to Jesus and receiving the gift of God’s grace.

Why is any of this important?

Well, because one of the people who responded to the gospel that night was my dad.

Christmas comes with more opportunities to give people the gift of the gospel than any other time of the year.

You’re probably aware that Christmas is that magical time of the year when lights are up, stores are full, and millions celebrate the angel’s declaration of “peace on earth” by stressing out over the perfect gift or their frustrating family members.

But what you may not be aware of is that Christmas is also the most likely time of the year for non-Christians to consider matters of faith. From the carols that are sung to the nativity scenes that are set up, over the next few weeks Jesus is placed front and center in our cultural eye more than at any other time of the year. Like my dad, many people are more open to Jesus during the Christmas season.

While it is certainly true (and curious) that there are those in our culture who consider it an offensive social taboo to talk about Jesus during his birthday celebration, the bottom line for Christians is that Christmas comes with more opportunities to give people the gift of the gospel than any other time of the year.

As we prepare to celebrate the incarnation of Christ into the world, here are a few tips to help you step out of your comfort zone and talk to non-Christians in your world about Jesus.

1. Don’t hate on Santa, use him

Whether you like it or not, Santa Claus is a part of the cultural landscape of December. And he’s likely not going anywhere. Apart from a few troubling stalker tendencies (“He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake”!?), he seems like a pretty nice fellow who genuinely wants little boys and girls to try their best to be good. If they behave, they’ll have earned themselves a place on the nice list and be showered with presents instead of punished with coal.

Santa is not the enemy. Santa is an opportunity.

Come to think of it, Santa would have been right at home with the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. Santa, like the Pharisees, has a fondness for rule-keeping, good behavior, and rewarding high performers.

However, the message of “try harder, do better” is not good news, and it’s not Christianity. It’s a depressing cultural distortion known as moralism, and is about as liberating as being chained to a treadmill and instructed to run to China. No matter how hard you try, you seem to find yourself in the same place—just more tired and cynical.

But instead of seeing Santa as an opponent to be protested or a myth to naively endorse, Christians should see him as one of our greatest opportunities to astonish people with the gospel. Santa is not the enemy. Santa is an opportunity.

Christian, you don’t need to blow Santa up. Just contrast him with Jesus.

The gospel shows us that the true gift-giver is Jesus.

The gospel is a beautiful scandal that turns the Santa story on its head. InEphesians 2:8, Paul reminds us that the unfathomable joy of salvation is the undeserved gift of God.

Santa says, “Earn it.” Jesus says, “Receive it.”

Santa says, “If you’re good, you’ll get my love.” Jesus says, “Only my love can make you good.”

Santa makes a list and warns, “I’ll be checking it twice.” Jesus fulfilled the list and declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

You don’t need to blow Santa up. Just contrast him with Jesus.

The gospel is an explosion of hope that brilliantly outshines the dull moralism of Santa.

The good news we get to celebrate at Christmas is that Jesus came into the world to detach our hope from our futile attempts to “be good,” and to attach it to himself. By living the life we couldn’t live and dying the death we deserve to die, Jesus gives sinners on the naughty list (if you’re human, you qualify) the gift of God’s love. That’s news worth telling someone over the next few weeks.

2. Redeem religion

While Christendom may be dead, it has left in its wake some quasi-religious cultural traditions. For many non-Christians, attending some sort of church service during the holiday season is as much a part of their family tradition as chopping down a Christmas tree. It allows them to check off the “God” box (at least until Easter). This kind of thinking is nothing more than dead religion that is devoid of the life-altering power of the gospel. But it does come with one redeemable caveat: the opportunity for people to encounter the life-altering power of the gospel.

The gospel is an explosion of hope that brilliantly outshines the dull moralism of Santa.

That friend or family member of yours who doesn’t know Jesus is far more likely to attend a Christmas Eve or Christmas service with you than any other time of the year. Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway Research, has pointed out that “if there is a given day where more unchurched non-Christians are likely to attend church, it would be on Christmas Eve.” Another study by Lifeway shows that 47% of households will attend a Christmas Eve or Christmas service as a part of their celebrations.

So go ahead and invite them!

This year, we have scheduled our Christmas Eve services around the local Christmas parade that takes place a block from our church. Snowflake Lane is one of our city’s favorite traditions, with performances, lights, and Christmas carols. By choosing to schedule our services before and after the parade, we provide an opportunity for our church members to “double up” and invite loved ones to a local celebration plus a Christmas Eve gathering with a gospel presentation.

3. Remember the King’s promise

To many believers, the thought of evangelism can make them feel more uncomfortable than a hammer at a Miley Cyrus video shoot. Christ’s command to leave our comfort zone and be his witnesses often leaves us feeling like Peter stepping out of the boat into the waters of the impossible (Matt. 14:26–33).

Don’t get me wrong; I totally get it. The fear is real. It’s just misplaced. We all experience those moments on mission where we seem to be sinking like Peter under the chaos of the storm. But that is only because we have taken our eyes off the one who rules the weather (Mark 4:41).

We will be as bold for Jesus as we are aware that he is with us.

The key to living out the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19) is in the verses that surround it. In verse 18, Jesus reminds us that he is the King and possesses all authority. He may have humbled himself to a manger, but now Christ reigns once again from his throne. Then in verse 20, King Jesus makes a game-changing promise: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Here lies our courage! Christ’s promise is what fuels his command. We will be as bold for Jesus as we are aware that he is with us. As John Newton once counseled a fearful Christian, “When you cannot see your way, be satisfied that [Christ] is your leader.”

The most important four words you can remember this Christmas season as you step out and give the gift of the gospel are the same four words that Jesus gave to put steel in the backbone of those who loved him: “I am with you.” They are the very words that God has spoken to breathe courage into his people again and again (Josh. 1:9Isa. 41:9Jer. 1:8).

Think about it. If the Author loves you completely and is with you continually, why should you fear the other characters in the story?

Freely we have received. This Christmas, let’s freely give.

Christmas Generosity

How can we reflect God’s generosity toward our family, our church, and our world at Christmas?

As a dad at Christmas time, I want to reflect God the Father’s heart to my family, my church, and the world. And his heart is generous! Very generous. My favorite Christmas verse is “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

God gave. And during the Christmas season, we celebrate the greatest gift ever: Jesus.

Generosity to my family

God the Father gave us something he valued most and we needed most: his beloved Son, Jesus. Christmas is the advent of God entering our world in human form on a rescue mission. During Christmas, I want to mirror God’s gracious heart for his family as I spend time with mine. I want to give my wife and daughters generous gifts. This doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive gifts, but I do want my gifts to be costly. I don’t wish to skimp or be cheap—the Father didn’t and isn’t. I want my family to receive from me the gift they want the most.

During the Christmas season, we celebrate the greatest gift ever: Jesus.

Generosity to my church

As a pastor, I understand how important year-end financial gifts can be to the church. Offerings given during the month of December make up a disproportionate amount of monthly funds during the year. I enjoy doubling my average monthly gift each December, and when possible, I like giving even more than double. Giving to the church is an act of worship. And worshiping Jesus through sacrificial and costly gifts seems to be a fundamental part of the biblical nativity narrative (Matt. 2:1–12). It’s the very best kind of historical re-enactment.

Generosity to the world

While the arrival of Jesus literally did change the world, I realize there isn’t anything I can do at Christmas that would have such far-reaching results. But I enjoy being generous to the point I want others to experience it too. I like to help others feel that same buzz that comes from giving good gifts. So each Christmas season, I set some money aside for spontaneous giving.

During Christmas, I want to mirror God’s gracious heart for his family as I spend time with mine.

Some years this looks like giving cash to the parents of a needy family secretively so they can go big on Christmas Day with their kids. Other years it may look like partnering with solid charitable organizations like Angel Tree or Operation Christmas Child. I have a discretionary amount to give to help people to give who wouldn’t be able to otherwise. In this sense, those who are poor can give generously as if they were rich. And that to me is one of the big ideas about the good news of Christmas: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

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5 ways to love your neighbor during Christmas

The whole Christmas season celebrates God with us. Because God is with us and for us, we are not alone. And neither should our neighbors be, as we have great opportunities during this season to connect with them.

Recently my family and I moved. With moving comes all the obligatory tasks of packing boxes, finding moving trucks, and bribing friends to help you with copious amounts of pizza.

What else comes with moving? A new set of neighbors. People who God knew I was going to live by and who I have been called to know and love.

We can often get lost in the question, Who is my neighbor? Our lives are filled with different places where we connect and relate to other people. These are the places where we shop, work, and live. Jesus taught us that no matter if it’s at work, the gym, the play area at the mall, or right next door, a person in need is your neighbor (Luke 10:25–37).

A joyful season—for some

I grew up in Las Vegas, a city where many people go to spend their Christmas alone. Often it is a place to numb their depression about being alone during a time of year when connecting with family and friends is so important.

The truth is that you don’t have to be in Vegas to find people who are alone during the Christmas season. Many of us have neighbors or co-workers who have a deep sense of dread rather than joy about the Christmas season. Their disdain for Christmas is not rooted in an ideological culture-war, but rather in an emotional pain—they have little to celebrate or few loved ones to celebrate with.

Jesus taught us that no matter if it’s at work, the gym, the mall, or right next door, a person in need is your neighbor.

The Christmas season is amazing. We get to remember and rejoice that Jesus loves us enough that he would not stay far off at a distance, unfamiliar with human life, but rather he became a human to experience all that we experience. He would be a God who is able to empathize with all our struggles and joys (Heb. 4:15).

The whole Christmas season celebrates Jesus as Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Matt. 1:22–23). This changes everything for us. Because God is with us and for us, we are not alone. And neither should our neighbors be, as we have great opportunities during this season to connect with them.

We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Here are some ways we can express Jesus’ love to our neighbors this Christmas season:

1. Love listens

Throughout the Old Testament, God constantly heard the needs and cries of his people. All around us are people with needs during this holiday season, but because we are so busy we often don’t take notice. Take the time to really listen to the needs of your co-workers, friends, and neighbors. Be proactive in finding out if they have somewhere to go. In the midst of all the great Christmas festivities, don’t miss the needs of people around you.

2. Love draws near

When God heard the cries of his people, he didn’t stay removed and wish the world well. Instead he drew near: he came down to earth and took up residence with us. He wasn’t content to just give us distant instruction, but rather close, transforming connection.

Because God is with us and for us, we are not alone. And neither should our neighbors be.

Take a step to draw near to your neighbors this week and include them in your holiday parties, family traditions, and church worship services. This is the time of year where people are usually more open to connecting, conversing, and church. Take advantage of that.

3. Love takes the first step

Here is where it counts. Jesus did not wait for the world to embrace him or roll out the red carpet. Even to this day much of the world stands in opposition to him. Yet Jesus chose to engage and take the first step because he loves first (John 3:16).

Because we are loved by Jesus, we are called to take the first step toward our neighbors. We can’t wait until we just bump into them at the mailbox or while taking out the trash. Let’s go over and knock on their door. For many of us, this could be a life-changing decision. Maybe we have lived next to someone for years and still don’t even know their name. This year, invite them to come over to that ugly sweater Christmas party and drink too much eggnog. Or tell them to come hang out for that inevitable white elephant gift exchange with your community group.

4. Love is inconvenient

Jesus wasn’t in need of more friends or relationships. He had perfect fellowship with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Yet Jesus chose to move toward us at great expense. Becoming human, he experienced loss, betrayal, and even death. It is a major understatement to say that Jesus was willing to be inconvenienced to reach us. Jesus’ love motivates us to endure the inconvenience of disrupting our plans to reach out to our neighbors and invite them into community.

5. Love endures

After the Christmas season has passed and the tree is back in the box or out in the dumpster, let’s not put these new relationships away. Rather, we should endure in loving our neighbors and seeking to draw them into community with us and Jesus. This is exactly what Jesus has done with us, showing us patient love that does not give up (1 Cor. 13).

This is the time of year where people are usually more open to connecting, conversing, and church. Take advantage of that.

So yes, go nuts in filling up your schedule with great holiday activities and events. Have a blast in making memories with your family that will last a lifetime. Just look around and see who you can bring along with you. Draw near to those who are alone and don’t forget them during this significant time of year.

Jesus draws near to the broken-hearted and those who feel alone. When you were alone in your sin, Jesus came looking for you so that you would never be alone. Because this is the love that saved us, we can love like this as well.

So reach out. Extend joy to your neighbor and be generous about loving and connecting with others. That is the whole point of Christmas.

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The nitty-gritty how-to guide on fasting

No one fast to rule them all

Once you have your purpose, plan out your fast. People have been fasting for thousands of years in all different ways.

Once you know your purposes for fasting (the ultimate purpose and immediate purposes), consider your health. Consult your doctor, and if it’s time for a checkup, get in there. Fasting can aggravate medical conditions and you don’t want to find that out the hard way. A few reasons you may not be able to fast safely include a myriad of health concerns from anemia to anorexia to heart disease to pregnancy to nursing—there are many legitimate reasons to not fast.

If fasting from food is not a reality for you, pray about what God wants you to do. He knows your limitations and won’t be disappointed. If you are unable to fast, you might consider partaking in another form of spiritual discipline, abstaining from technology, entertainment, music, a hobby—the list is endless, but the important part is your motive! Use the time you would normally spend eating/snowboarding/facebooking/whatever, and spend it with Jesus.

Thousands of years of fasting could teach us something

Dr. Bill Bright has a very thorough article on fasting that presents and expands on many of the ideas in this article.

There isn’t one particular formula for fasting. It’s a personal decision. How you fast, how long you fast, and what you fast from are all individual choices, none of which are as important as your reason for fasting. God doesn’t command everyone to go 40 days without food. Ask him what he would have you do and start slowly. Avoid jumping into an extended fast without building up to it first.

In the Bible, we find several types of fasts. The partial fast is illustrated by Daniel, who abstained from the best foods and chose to eat vegetables and drink water instead. You could opt for similar plan.

An absolute fast means not eating or drinking anything at all. Paul fasted absolutely for three days. Moses did the same for 40 days, but following suit would be so extreme that you should not copy Moses unless you are absolutely sure God has called you to do so. Don’t worry! If God wants you to do something this extreme, he knows how to make it so clear to you that there is no room for uncertainty.

The most common fast involves not eating any sort of food, but drinking plenty of water and juice. Ideally, juice your own fruits and vegetables or drink 100% juice. Beware of caffeine and sugar, as they will have stronger effects without any solid food in your system.

Ultimately, pray, pick the one that seems best, and think about your motives. God won’t be impressed if your fast is more difficult. He’s already fully pleased with you because of Jesus, so fast in whichever way you choose and praise God that you don’t have to earn his favor through misery!

Plan ahead

It’s tempting to have your own personal Mardi Gras, eating every one of your favorite foods just before starting your fast. While culturally popular, this makes fasting more difficult. It’s better to wean yourself off of food slowly. So plan ahead, as this will mean changing your diet during the days leading up to your fast.

Look at your schedule and plan realistically. Fasting during holidays is not only difficult because of all the special foods you will be around; it can also be a huge bummer to those around you. They want to enjoy a feast with you and celebrate—not easy over the sound of your growling stomach or your sad expression. Avoid this. There is a time to fast and a holiday probably isn’t it.

Also consider the point of fasting: spending time with Jesus. If you’re running a million errands in the lead-up to Christmas or a birthday or another special event, you won’t have the time to sit and commune with God in isolation. Remember, the point of fasting isn’t just to be hungry; it’s to take the time you would normally spend eating and use it to focus on God.

Breakfast vs. breaking your fast

When your fast ends, it’s very important to reintroduce food slowly. Avoid the six-course dinner or the all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. Your body will have responded and adjusted to life without food fairly quickly. Suddenly shoveling in normal food will not end well. Start simply, with plain vegetables or broth. Take your time and eat small quantities. Just like you led into the fast slowly, come out of it slowly.

Eye on the prize

Fasting isn’t a burden or a requirement for belonging to God. It’s a gift that helps you to know and run alongside your heavenly father. Going without food is a reminder that cuts straight to one of our most basic needs.

If you’ve never fasted before, be courageous, give it a go, and expect great things. Fasting is an act of faith, and faith pleases God.

Fasting during the Living for a Legacy campaign

During the Living for a Legacy campaign, we are asking people to be praying everyday for 40 days. We will conclude the 40 days with five days of fasting, beginning at sundown on January 5, calling the people of Mars Hill Church, including our Extended Family, to abstain from food or use one of the alternative fasts. We will then, as a gathered family at each of our locations, celebrate by breaking our fasts on the evening of Friday, January 10. We would encourage you, if you do not attend a local Mars Hill church, to also have a celebratory meal of thanksgiving and rejoicing.

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6 Ways to Handle Stress this Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching, I’m sure a lot of people (me included) can feel that pull of stress and exhaustion.

It is like sitting at the top of a stress slide, scooting forward inch by inch. We know what is coming, and we might already be worried about how we will land in the bark chips at the bottom. While Christmas may always be busy, here are a few simple things to think about that have helped me control some of the stress.

1. Traditions are tools

Traditions are tools that we use to make culture, to make memories, and to make childhoods. Traditions are not a base that we have to tag or we can’t count the run. Failure to make the gingerbread house does not make your Christmas a sham, for example.

If we were craftsmen, we would not mark our success by how many of our tools we touched. Instead, we’d look at the product. The point of gingerbread houses, cookies, homemade stockings, Christmas pajamas, hot chocolate, presents, shopping, caroling, lights, and every joyful tradition you can think of is joy. If you are failing to get that result, that’s a heart issue that using more tools will not help.

Joy is not something that you can manufacture through traditions—it is something you can shape with traditions.

But the joy itself cannot come from festive moments, new gifts, or tasty treats. The joy can only come from our salvation and our hearts resting in that. After that, joy is expressed in our physical world through our traditions, through what means we have at hand.

If your Christmas is not joyful, get things right with God. The joy of our salvation is the substance of celebrating. Traditions are simply a human response to great joy. Love your traditions because of why we have them, but never love them apart from our deepest joy in Jesus.

2. Know when to not let go

You can reduce stress tremendously by tightening up on the normal things rather than loosening up.

Tighten up your standards on yourself first, and then your children. Do not use the holidays to have a self-indulgent spiritual slump. When you feel rushed, it is easy to give yourself leeway that you shouldn’t.

Baking a lot of cookies is not an excuse to snap at your children. “Needing” to run errands is not an excuse to ignore your small child’s temper tantrum and just buckle them up napless and mad to go peeling off to the mall. Do not get into a cycle of bribing with treats instead of blessing with them. This is a time to follow through. Be clear, be calm, and be consistent. This will not decrease your workload, but it will sweeten it considerably! It is also a great gift to your children, helping them to celebrate such a precious time from a place of security and peace.

3. Size it up or sit it out

If you are finding it impossible to do the things that you think you need to do while maintaining joy in your home, you need to lower the standard. Years ago, we went to a wedding where one of the bridesmaids no longer fit into her dress and wore it down the aisle unzipped in the back. That’s not what you want to be.

Fancy traditions, fun shopping expeditions, huge parties, or insanely perfect gift-buying are all beautiful things to do, but not if you no longer are able to fit them into your family’s life. There comes a time to either size it up or sit it out. Be reasonable about what you can accomplish, and do what you can joyfully.

4. Prepare your children for disappointment

Anticipating opening presents is such a fun thing for kids, that it’s easy to forget that Christmas is full of temptations too. It is a good idea to talk to your kids about what to expect. With our kids, my husband and I talk about envy and thankfulness. We talk about people less fortunate and people more fortunate. We try to have our children be aware that Christmas morning is hugely joyful, and that we all need to discipline our hearts and stay in grateful fellowship.

We have used the illustration of running with our kids: Look in front of you, look at the way you are running, and be thankful. Whenever you start to look at what other people are getting, or what other people are doing, you are likely to run into something, and it will probably be a big envy tree.

This certainly applies to grown-ups too. Do not spend a lot of time or energy examining the motives of celebrations of others. Christmas celebrations are a response to our salvation. Look at your own feet and at your own work. The fact that people out there are just talking about Santa, holidays, and Xmas, and being all greedy and ugly and commercial about it really doesn’t matter. The power of a joyful, thankful, God-honoring celebration is not changed because some people do not know God and are trying to mimic it. Psalm 37:1 sums this up nicely: “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!”

Do not spend your time getting wound up over the sins of others. Do not tie yourself into knots over unbelieving family members or friends who are doing things wrong. Take responsibility for yourself, and leave their hearts to God.

5. Get your head in the game

With so much happening all the time, it is easy to slip into a pattern of virtual life. When we view our phones and computers as relaxation, we can start turning to them when we feel stressed. Live in your home with your family. Don’t spend all your time looking at other people’s ideas—have some of your own!

Try leaving your phone on the counter all day and skip Facebook. Spend your downtime actually down and not hopping all over the virtual world. You are needed in the real world, so be there.

6. It’s all about Jesus

And lastly, the best way of all to keep from getting grumpy and wound up and stressed out about Christmas is to remember what we are doing in the first place.

We are celebrating that God dwelled among us, that he sent his Son to redeem us. This is not a big burden; this is about the absence of a burden. We are not obligated to party. The excitement, the joy, the laughter, the lights, the food, and the presents: this is all part of the glory of having been forgiven. We are free to do this, and we are free to do this with light hearts. Because, “To us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Isa. 9:6).

That child wasn’t just born to be a neat story from a long time ago—he was born so that the world might be born anew in him.

This is not just the birthday of our Savior, but one big collective birthday celebration for all who have been born in him. Don’t let a little anxiety or a big to-do list separate you from the joy of that salvation.

It isn’t that we shouldn’t be stressed because Christmas doesn’t really matter anyways; our stress is simply pointless. Christmas is so much bigger than our little efforts to mark it. It is so far beyond us, that we should take comfort in knowing that our celebrations—our paper plates of cookies, our singing of glorious carols, our joyful gifting to others—can only scratch the surface of a joy that is so big, so vibrant, and so deep that it changed the world.

The love of the Father for his perfect Son is so great that we have been caught up in it. Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas, indeed.

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What is and is not fasting

Fasting is an awesome gift. And like all awesome gifts, it can be misconstrued in a way that leaves us bitterly disappointed. Now that we know what fasting is and why we fast, let’s consider what it is not.

God doesn’t owe you

Fasting is not a manipulation tactic or a way to earn points with God. Fasting doesn’t make you more holy or acceptable to God. Christ Jesus alone has made us holy. Instead, by practicing a fast and other spiritual disciplines, we are asking for grace just like we did when we prayed for salvation. We didn’t save ourselves. We received God’s gift to us. So in fasting, we don’t transform ourselves; we receive the grace that transforms us (1 Pet. 1:13–14).

This isn’t to impress your mom

Fasting is not an endurance test and, like anything else, can be done in pride forthe praise of men. Self-righteousness is a signpost on the road to hell. That’s the reason we must clarify our purpose for fasting—to avoid ego-tripping. Jesus warned us not to make our fasting a public service announcement in order to get attention. If you’re tempted to look at your contrite spirituality and get smug about fasting, remember that even the ability to fast is yours by grace alone and without Jesus you couldn’t even do that much.

Not an end in itself

Fasting is not some religious formality to check off the list. Some believers, out of a feeling of duty, will participate in the 40 days of Lent by giving up something easy, but their sacrifice becomes a mere annoyance which they are glad to drop by the time Easter Sunday comes. Without a purpose beyond “It’s Lent,” a religious approach to fasting falls far, far short of the awesomeness God wove into the fabric of fasting.

It doesn’t impress God

Fasting doesn’t force God to be more attentive or give us quicker answers. We don’t tell God, “We’re fasting now. That’s our part; now you do your part” (Isa. 58). No matter what we do, God will perform all his holy will. So fasting isn’t our effort to twist God’s arm. It’s our response of pressing into him like it says in Joel: “rend your hearts and not your garments.” Fasting is one way that we express our surrender and honest petition before God.

Finally, be careful to differentiate between aligning your heart with God (what fasting does) and getting closer to God (what fasting does not). Jesus alone brings you, spotless, into God’s presence. If you belong to Jesus, fasting basically makes you more aware of where you already are.

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Why do we fast?

The purpose of fasting is ultimately God himself. There are many reasons to undertake a fast, but the bottom line for them all is to align your heart directly with him. Think of that as the big picture. The small picture, the immediate purpose for a fast, can vary. So the first step for any kind of fast is to declare our immediate purpose. Fasting can’t be done casually, because there isn’t any spiritual benefit in simply not eating. Going through the motions just makes us hungry, but genuine, purposeful fasting is a powerful discipline for the disciple of Jesus and can play a part in literally transforming your life.

To help us define a godly purpose for fasting, Donald Whitney gives us these 10 reasons:

  1. To strengthen prayer
  2. To seek God’s guidance
  3. To express grief
  4. To seek deliverance or protection
  5. To express repentance and return to God
  6. To humble oneself before God
  7. To express concern for the work of God
  8. To minister to the needs of others
  9. To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God
  10. To express love and worship to God

Throughout the Bible, we see people fast for a variety of reasons:

  1. To be like Jesus (Matt. 4:1–17Luke 4:1–13)
  2. To obtain spiritual purity (Isa. 58:5–7)
  3. To repent from sins (See Jon. 3:8Neh. 1:49:1–31 Sam. 14:24)
  4. To influence God (2 Sam. 12:16–23)
  5. To mourn for the dead (1 Sam. 31:132 Sam. 1:12)
  6. To request God’s help in times of crisis and calamity (Ezra 8:21–23Neh. 1:4–11)
  7. To strengthen prayer (Matt. 17:21Mark 9:17–29Acts 10:301 Cor. 7:5)

None of these purposes amounts to twisting God’s arm to do what we want. Who can do that? God is not a genie who will grant us whatever we wish. He is a good father who is working out his sovereign will. Our reasons for fasting are for our own humility. By denying ourselves for a time, we provoke ourselves to rely more on God Almighty. It isn’t about changing God; it’s about changing us. In fasting:

  1. We pray more intently
  2. We become more receptive to God’s guidance
  3. We lean more on Scripture to hear his voice
  4. We demonstrate our grief and honest repentance
  5. We physically declare that we need God to survive
  6. We learn to sense spiritual reality more than the physical world
  7. We prepare to love others better than ourselves

Lastly, fasting helps us to remember the true source of our utmost joy. Most people would agree that food is a good thing. If you’re unable to fast but chose to abstain from something else, such as a hobby or technology or entertainment, those can also be good things. All good things come from God, but the human heart is inclined to worship God’s gifts rather than God himself. Fasting helps our hearts to look past the good gift to the good God, who blesses us despite ourselves.

I don’t really feel like it

Even if fasting makes sense, you may not feel like you need it right now. But think of fasting as similar to praise and worship. Oftentimes joy overflows in songs of praise, but more often singing leads us into joy. We sing first and that brings us to a place of thankfulness and joy. Likewise, when our souls overflow with godly emotions and repentance, we may be led to fasting, but far more often we need to choose to fast in order to be humbled and to fight our pride by rejecting the ways we so often cope with our feelings. It’s the proactive approach.

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What is fasting?

What is fasting and what is the purpose? This is the first of a four-part series committed to answering those questions.

Hunger for God

Dr. Carl Lundquist, former president of Bethel College and Seminary, would fast once a week. In a letter, he writes, “I spend my lunch break in fellowship with God and in prayer. And I have learned a very personal dimension to what Jesus declared, ‘I have had meat to eat ye know not of.’”

Fasting is a spiritual discipline. Simply put, it means not eating. Instead of using mealtime for food, you use it to spend time with God. Some fasts last for one meal, one day, multiple days, or even weeks. Fasting may begin at sunrise and end at sunset or extend 24 hours per day. There are many ways and reasons to fast, but the basic idea is to set aside the time you would usually spend eating and focus that time on God instead, praying, reading the Bible, and worshiping.

When you’re fasting, you’re likely to feel hunger pangs. Allow those to serve as reminders that you are hungry to know Jesus and that you rely on him for every need. When you pray, ask the Holy Spirit to deepen your understanding and experience of Jesus in everyday life. You might pray something like, “Father, you are my daily bread. You are my comforter, my redeemer, my provider. My life is hidden in Christ. What more do I need?” Christians often focus their mind on one particular idea during a fast, such as the crucifixion during Easter. During this holiday season, as you pray and fast, you may choose to meditate on the humility of Christ’s birth.

What about my medium extra-hot half-caf sugar-free hazelnut americano with room?

A normal biblical fast is to avoid food, but not water. However, you have a great deal of freedom as you fast. Some people avoid everything but water. Others focus solely on not eating and instead drink whatever they want.

Whatever your plan, make sure to consult with your doctor to ensure you are medically fit enough for a fast, and get tips from your doctor on how to fast safely. There are a number of reasons a traditional fast may not be a viable option for you. These reasons range from stage of life to pregnancy to medical conditions to eating disorders and everything in between. Most people are capable of fasting without compromising their health, but if that’s not the case for you, don’t be discouraged! You can fast in other ways. One option is to eat less than normal rather than not at all. You could fast from coffee or give up the foods you enjoy most, eating only simple, plain foods. This type of fasting is commonly called a “Daniel Fast,” referring to the story of Daniel in the Old Testament when he and his friends abstained from eating meat and consumed only vegetables and water (see Daniel 1:12).

While the majority of people are able to fast from food, if you are unable to fast from food, you could consider abstaining from certain activities instead. Though this is technically not a biblical fast, people have abstained from television, Facebook, music, golf—all sorts of things. The idea is to use the time you would normally spend on the activities you love to focus on the Lord instead, praying, reading the Bible, and worshiping God.

But why is the food gone?

Okay, so you’re told you should fast, that it’s a good spiritual discipline, and that it doesn’t necessarily require food. But fasting does emphasize food and it’s preferable if you are physically able to abstain from eating. Why?

There is a mystery to fasting and part of the reason we do it as Christians is simply because God wants us to. Jesus expects his disciples to fast (Matt. 6:16) and obeying God, even when it seems weird, is always a good idea.

The physical implication of fasting is that it directly impacts one of our most basic needs as humans. God has built us into a physical world with physical needs, and the physical world directly impacts the spiritual. By staying away from food and focusing our attention on God, we shut our bodies up, strengthen our soul in God, and put into action our dependence on him. He provides us with life. Food is the way he chooses to do so, but he is the source and can very well sustain us without food, water, or any of the physical necessities of life.

We do not discount the value of the body or consider the physical world bad. Fasting serves many purposes, one of which is to remind our minds, spirits, and bodies who and what we worship: God himself.

One fast, many fasters

You can fast with other believers as well. If it will help you overcome any fear you might have of fasting, ask another believer to join you. Biblically, there are instances of corporate fasting where entire nations fasted together (Esther 4; Ezra 8). So feel free to fast together and pray for one another. Our church-wide fast will lend itself to this opportunity, because there’s a good chance the people around you will be fasting at the same time.

Find out what fasting should look like for you. Be in prayer about it now as we move forward into the 40 days of prayer. Then join us in our church-wide fast to dedicate this time to the Lord as we ask him in prayer for big things at Mars Hill Church in 2014. Even if you feel intimidated to try, let us all agree together as a church to fast for at least one day, in some fashion, if not the full five days.

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How to Live in a Secular World

How should Christians relate to a secular society that does not know Jesus? Paul’s letter to Titus sheds light on this scenario, showing us how God’s grace should motivate Christians to be good citizens and neighbors.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. Titus 3:1–8

Christians are a minority in our secular culture, which largely doesn’t honor Jesus. That’s not going to change, but there’s an ongoing debate among Christians about how we approach a secular culture that doesn’t agree with us about Jesus.

As we think about our relationship with our society, it’s important to remember we too were once far from God, but he saved us through his grace. It’s with this grace in mind that Paul teaches us, through his letter to Titus, how we should respond to a secular society.\

 

Grace results in good citizens

The first way Christians should engage a secular culture is the same way we always have. We’re to be good citizens, obey the law, submit to authority, and not cause rebellion, strife, or insurrection. We are to be obedient to the law except for when it would require us to disobey Jesus. Christians need to live under the law of the land—it’s one of the ways we manifest our faith in meekness through Jesus Christ.

Remember we too were once far from God, but he saved us through his grace.

 

Grace results in good works

Christians should care about the people living around us in our city, and we should be active in working toward the common good. We have a responsibility according to this text that goes beyond the walls of the church. Yes, our priority should be the people in the church, but we are also responsible for the well-being of our neighbors and our city.

 

Grace results in good words

Christians shouldn’t speak evil of anyone. We may disagree with someone, but we can still respect them. This is one of the ways we reflect the goodness of God. It’s not that we don’t call out false doctrine, but we do it in a respectful and loving way.

Christians should care about the people living around us in our city.

We have more opportunity than anyone in the history of the world to use our words negatively on the Internet. Words are critically important. When Jesus’ disciples were criticized for not ceremonially washing their hands, Jesus emphasized that it’s not what goes into our mouth that makes us unclean—it’s what comes out of our heart. If the gospel, through the power of the Holy Spirit, washes us from sin and gives us a new identity, then good words can flow out of a good heart.

 

Grace results in good manners

Christians should be courteous to all people. Good manners are very important, because the basic posture of a Christian is that we see others as more important than us. That means we treat them with respect, dignity, and honor.

Christians shouldn’t speak evil of anyone. We may disagree with someone, but we can still respect them.

Jesus was strong and bold, but he was also deferential, gentle, meek, and mild. That’s the way Jesus loves and cares for us, and we want people to see Jesus.

In the United States, many Christians act as if something has been stolen from them, and they approach non-Christian culture in a very combative and antagonistic way. To make an impact on our culture and see people meet Jesus, we must be good citizens, do good works, speak good words, and display good manners. If we’re going to be filled with the Holy Spirit and live in a culture where the rhetoric is toxic, we need to be an exemplary in our actions. Otherwise, people will never see Jesus in us.

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Internet Hate & the Gospel

The living God is grieved when our attacks and slander bring disunity to the body of Christ. There is a better way to spend our time than arguing with other Christians over the Internet.

“Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion! Unchain it and it will defend itself.” –C.H. Spurgeon

As a young pastor of a growing church, I am in the most demanding season of my life. We are setting up and tearing down in a community college gym every week. We have outgrown our kids space and are trying to raise $750,000 to renovate a new location. I have been working long, hard hours as our church toils to see the gospel proclaimed, sinners saved, and Jesus made great. And to top it all off, our church has recently been experiencing gossip and attacks over social media by fellow Christians who have never been through the doors of our church.

I have found myself increasingly disappointed and dismayed for those who fill their hours engaging in rock-throwing like this while displaying no interest in resolving their disagreements face-to-face. Have you ever experienced this in your ministry? Have you ever been guilty of this?

I used to be divisive and foolish like this. Early in my walk with the Lord, I was one to proclaim judgment over ministries that didn’t preach my version of Christianity, and I was even verbally unsupportive of leadership in a church I attended. But this is not what God wants for us.

Our speech should reek of grace and be seasoned with salt.

 

Being right vs. being godly

The living God is grieved when our attacks and slander bring disunity to the body of Christ. There is a better way to spend our time than arguing with other Christians over the Internet. King David declares in Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” The reverse is true as well: How bad and unpleasant it is when brothers have disunity!

 

You might be missing something

Consider this: Your current theological position may not be the one you die holding. Look back at your walk with the Lord. Are there positions you once held that you no longer believe to be the truth? Maybe you have not yet arrived at your final destination, and the Lord may be continuing to shape and mold you. Be careful in making it seem that if someone holds a different position on a secondary issue then they are outside of the faith.

God is grieved when our attacks and slander bring disunity to the body of Christ.

Rather than contending for disunity over secondary topics, you could begin to contend for unity on the essentials of our faith—the things that are of “first importance…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3–4). Your time and energy would be better spent contending for the proclamation of the gospel or encouraging brothers and sisters to make much of Jesus.

 

Your witness is more important

Christian, you are being watched. The outside world sees how you engage with, disagree with, and relate to your brothers and sisters within the church and with those outside the church. Paul gives us good counsel: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:5–6).

Our speech should reek of grace and be seasoned with salt. When discussing secondary issues with other Christians, go out of your way to show respect and love for others. If you find that you cannot do that, please do not hit Enter and post your comment.

Your current theological position may not be the one you die holding.

Let the Scriptures speak for themselves: “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:12–13).

As I mentioned, I have been guilty of rock-throwing and criticizing from a distance. Gossip like this is something all of us can slip into, even if only in private conversation. It’s a lesson we all need to learn and an area where many of us need to repent. As you read this, I pray that you would ask God to show you where he is calling you to repent and grow in maturity to represent Jesus well to all.

We are not God’s protectors. He is sovereign, and he is far more concerned with his glory and his name being made great than we are.

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Multiply – Week 03 – Coaching

The Heart of a Disciple Maker

Why do you want to make disciples?

Have you ever asked yourself that question? The answer is incredibly important.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we should be focused on making disciples. But if we don’t do it with the right motives, we are wasting our time. Worse yet, we could be doing more harm than good. Ministering to other people has been a deadly trap for seemingly godly people throughout the ages. If God cared only about outward appearances and religious activities, then any effort toward ministry would please Him. But God tells us repeatedly that He cares more about the heart than the externals.

If God cared only about religious activities, then the Pharisees would have been heroes of the faith. They were continuously engaged in ministry: they vigorously pursued outward demonstrations of godliness; they made sure the people around them kept themselves holy, and they diligently taught the law of God. And yet the Gospels present the Pharisees as villains. Jesus’s harshest words were reserved for these religious overachievers:

 

This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (Matt. 15:8–9)

 

The Pharisees devoted their whole lives to religious activity. They must have seemed so impressive to the people around them. Yet Jesus came along and declared that it was all in vain! An important theme that runs throughout Scripture is this: “The LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart“ (1 Sam. 16:7). Clearly, God wants us to pursue certain actions, but as we put God’s commands into action, our motivation makes all the difference.

Q1 | Take a moment to examine your heart. In all honesty, why do you want to make disciples? Do you struggle with wanting your actions to be noticed by others?

 

Teaching Is Dangerous

Ask yourself again: Why do you want to make disciples?

Maybe your decision to be a disciple maker has been reluctant. Perhaps the only reason you are still working through this material is because Jesus commands you to make disciples, and you don’t want to be disobedient. You’re not sure if you have much to offer, but you know you should let God use you however He desires.

Or maybe you’ve always seen yourself as a leader. You have a message that the church needs to hear, and you’re ready to teach anyone who will listen. You don’t need motivation; you just want to be better equipped.

For those of you who are reluctant, remember that God wants you to minister out of joy, not mere obligation. God wants us to enjoy the privilege and pleasure of ministering to others. He wants us to be cheerful when we give (2 Cor. 9:7), and He wants us to lead others willingly and eagerly:

 

Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly. (1 Pet. 5:2)

 

For those who are eager to lead, remember that God wants us to be cautious as we lead. Remember that you will be teaching people about the Bible and guiding them into godly living. The Bible takes the role of a teacher very seriously, and so should we.

James gave us a terrifying warning about the power of the tongue. While we can speak truth and bring life to people, he warned that our words can also cause incredible damage. The tongue is untamable, James said, capable of diverting the direction of our lives, producing deadly poison, and “setting on fire the entire course of life“ (James 3:6). Indeed, James even accused the tongue of being set on fire by hell!

If you look at your heart and find even a trace of desire for the glory and prestige that come through teaching and leading other people, take some time to let James’s warning sink in. Think about what your tongue is capable of. As a disciple maker, you could make a huge impact for the kingdom of God. Or you could lead people horribly astray.

Q2 | Read James 3:1–12 and meditate on James’s warning. How do these powerful words affect you? How might you need to adjust your approach to making disciples?

 

Love Comes First

Paul added a challenge from a different angle. In the most beautiful terms, he said that gaining knowledge and power—even sacrificing our own bodies—is completely worthless apart from love:

 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor. 13:1–3)

 

The result of loveless ministry is serious: “I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal … I am nothing … I gain nothing.“ In other words, even the most impressive and sacrificial actions are worthless if they are not empowered by love.

Are you the type of person who would teach someone without loving them? Don’t be quick to answer. Many good pastors have confessed that they got so caught up in the busyness of ministry that they went through the motions without loving their people. Most of us have to work hard to keep love at the forefront.

What do you think and feel when you are in a group of people? Are you overly aware of the ones who are wealthy, attractive, or have something they can offer you? Do you worry about what people think of you? Or do you look for ways to love and opportunities to give? A sure sign of a loveless heart is seeing people as a means to your own ends—they listen to you, give you affirmation when you want it, stay out of your way when you don’t, etc. Teaching other people with this type of mentality is bound to be sterile and unfruitful. According to Paul, every time we try to teach someone with this mentality, we can be sure that we have become nothing more than a clanging gong or resounding cymbal; we have made ourselves both annoying and irrelevant.

Fulfilling Jesus’s command to make disciples is about more than having the right theology or well-developed teaching points. Remember that if you “understand all mysteries and all knowledge“ yet don’t have love, you are nothing. Earlier in the same letter, Paul said, “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God“ (1 Cor. 8:2–3). It’s not about what you know—or what you think you know—it’s about love.

If you’re not willing to make loving God and loving people your highest priority, then stop. Seriously, walk away until you’ve settled this one essential point. Lack of love is the unmistakable mark of death: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death“ (1 John 3:14).

Making disciples isn’t about gathering pupils to listen to your teaching. The real focus is not on teaching people at all—the focus is on loving them. Jesus’s call to make disciples includes teaching people to be obedient followers of Jesus, but the teaching isn’t the end goal. Ultimately, it’s all about being faithful to God’s call to love the people around you. It’s about loving those people enough to help them see their need to love and obey God. It’s about bringing them to the Savior and allowing Him to set them free from the power of sin and death and transform them into loving followers of Jesus Christ. It’s about glorifying God by obediently making disciples who will teach others to love and obey God.

So the question is, how much do you care about the people around you? When you stand in a crowd, interact with your family, or talk to people in your church, do you love them and long to see them glorify God in every aspect of their lives? Honestly assessing your heart and asking God to purify your motives need to become habits in your life.

Q3 | Up to this point, would you say that your desire to make disciples has been motivated by love? Why or why not?

Take some time to consider your existing relationships—family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc. The way you think about and interact with the people that God has placed in your life can tell you a lot about your heart. Think about your relationships and ask yourself how well you love those around you. By assessing your current relationships, you should be able to identify areas you need to work on.

Q4 | Describe your love for the people God has placed in your life. What evidence can you point to that shows that you love the people around you?

Q5 | In addition to praying fervently, what practical steps can you take to increase your love for people?

 

Teaching by Example

One of the worst things you can do is teach truths that you are not applying. We call this hypocrisy, and it’s the most common criticism of Christians in America. You could argue that it may be better not to teach at all than to teach truth without applying it to your own life. Jesus gave some harsh warnings toward the religious leaders who were doing that very thing. He said:

 

Do and observe whatever they [the scribes and Pharisees] tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. (Matt. 23:3–5)

 

Hypocrisy has damaged many, so let’s run far from it.

James also gave a strong warning against this type of thinking. He said that if we hear the Word of God, but don’t do what it says, we are merely deceiving ourselves (James 1:22–25). He went on to say that religion without practical action is worthless (vv. 26–27). Let’s be realistic: a self-deceived teacher who practices worthless religion is probably not the best candidate for a disciple maker.

Maybe the clearest explanation of teaching by example can be found in the book of Hebrews: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith“ (Heb. 13:7). The author of Hebrews actually called us to consider—literally, “to examine carefully“—the outcome of a teacher’s lifestyle. We can get so caught up in examining a person’s doctrinal positions that we overlook his or her pattern of life. But this is essential because Hebrews calls us to imitate the faith of these people. If you are going to make disciples, you need to be putting your faith into practice so that the people around you can imitate your faith.

Because of this, being a disciple maker demands your entire life. The job description of a disciple maker is the same as that of a disciple of Jesus Christ. It requires everything. It means following Jesus in every aspect of your life, pursuing Him with a wholehearted devotion. If you’re not ready to lay down your life for Christ’s sake, then you’re not ready to make disciples. It’s that simple.

This doesn’t mean that you need to be perfect before you start. Perfection is a lifelong process that won’t end until eternity (see Phil. 1:6 and 3:12–14). But it does mean that you need to “count the cost“ (see Luke 14:25–33) and allow God’s truth to change your life. Making disciples is all about seeing people transformed by the power of God’s Word. If you want to see that happen in others, you need to be experiencing such transformation yourself.

Q6 | Would you say that your life is being transformed by the truth of God’s Word? Why or why not?

Q7 | What changes do you need to make in order to live the truths that you will be teaching other people?

Q8 | The things you’ve been thinking through in this session are not easy to address—there are no “quick fixes“ here. End your time with this session by praying that God will give you the proper motivation to make disciples, increase your love for Him and the people around you, and empower you to live out the truths that He has called you to teach to others.

4 Dangerous Postures of Christian Living

This video was shown during week number 3 of our series Multiply. We are praying that it speaks to you the way that it was used during the sermon that Sunday morning.

More teens are leaving the church now than ever before. Ever wonder why? Skye Jethani makes it simple and clear in this video. He goes beyond pointing out the flaws.. he offers up an answer as well.