Table Talk

August 13.pptx

By Julie Denger

By nature, I’m an introvert. When walking into a room, I prefer to come in unnoticed, rather than “make an entrance”! I function best as a “behind the scenes” person; I am most at ease when working hard in the background to accomplish a task.  When in a group setting, I prefer to sit back, let others speak up. It’s uncomfortable for me to share my life with many people.

That said, I know that God created us to live in community. His desire for us is to share our lives with others… including all of the ups, the downs, and challenges of life.  I believe God uses the challenges in our lives to allow us to encourage others going through similar situations.  But for me, this is a stretch.  Even though I know this is God’s desire.

When asked to be part of a Table Group, I reluctantly said yes, knowing that God wanted me to be part of it, but also knowing that it was outside of my comfort zone. So for the past two years I’ve been in a Table. I have grown to know and truly love women of various ages and life stages.  We share, we laugh, we cry and we love and encourage each other.  We are growing and deepening our relationship with each other and the Lord.  And it’s interesting…despite our wide range of backgrounds, ages and life experiences we have so much in common.  It’s amazing!  God uses all of our life experiences, as we share them, in other’s lives.

It has been a stretching, but extremely positive part of my life.  Do I still love opening up and sharing my life?  It’s not my favorite thing to do; but honestly, I know that’s what God wants me to do.  He made us with the desire in our hearts to love others and be loved, to share our lives with others.

If you are looking to make a connection, find new friends, or join in fellowship, I would encourage you to check out the Table Gathering for the fall kick-off on Thursday, September 7. If you have questions or would like more information, there will be a signup table in the foyer on Sunday, August 20 and 27. Please come, enjoy a meal and a taste of what it’s like to be part of a Table Group.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT)

For the Sake of the Gospel

dominican_republic_where_we_go

By Adam Evans

There I stood, in a room, soaked in sweat, in front of 150 children who were staring at me.  We had zero in common.  They were Dominican, I was American.  They spoke Spanish, I spoke English.  They were poor, and I, well, I was rich.  They had never been outside of their village, but I came from a different village that very day. By all intents and purposes, there was absolutely no reason for us to ever interact, ever meet, or even talk to each other.  But there I stood, in a wood-framed hut with a tin roof and no air circulation.  It should have been awkward, but it wasn’t.  I should have been miserable, but I wasn’t. I should have been hot. Okay, I was hot – extremely hot.  But I didn’t want to be anywhere else.  That was exactly where I needed to be, that is exactly what I wanted to be doing, and I couldn’t picture a better day.  Why? Why was a day so perfect in such miserable and awkward conditions? The Gospel.

You see, in February, when I came to First Federated and learned that the youth were going on a mission trip to the D.R., I was excited.  I had never been there, it would be a new experience, and I would get to be a part of something a lot bigger than myself.  That excitement quickly turned to fear.  Plans kept changing, we didn’t know what we’d be doing, and so we didn’t quite know how to plan for ministry down there.  Is this going to be a failure? What if we have a bad time? Are we going to be ready in time?  That fear, over a few months, turned into peace.  At all of our training times, we worked diligently to plan for this trip.  We tried to figure out what we could, but there were still many questions left unanswered.  Finally, our group came to this conclusion:  whatever we may be doing, even if it’s completely different than what we planned for, we will share the Gospel.  The Gospel became the prime focus of every decision we made, every plan we worked out, and every question we had. And even if our plans flopped in a dramatic fashion, we were determined to share the Gospel with everyone we came into contact with. This reliance on the Gospel drove within us a peace that was absolutely amazing.  So what could have been awkward situations of unpreparedness turned into opportunities to share the Gospel.  Miserable conditions of heat, exhaustion, and pain (hammers and thumbs don’t mix too well) turned into times for us to rely on the Gospel.  The Gospel became the focus of every facet of our trip – for us personally and for those we were serving.

I can’t help but think about how we need that same focus now.  A lot of things have gone down in the past month that could easily get a lot of us distracted, frustrated, angry, sad, and miserable. We have a new church name, some people were for it, others against it, and still some indifferent.  We have some upset that we’re even moving at all, others for it, and still some others who are indifferent.  We have changes in staff, budget, focuses, and even future plans.  Again, some are for it, some against it, and others indifferent.  How in the world do we move forward when there are so many distractions and divisive issues in our midst? The only way – The Gospel.

Even though that time in the D.R. could have been awkward, it wasn’t. Even though I could have made it miserable for myself, and everyone around me, it wasn’t. Even though we had nothing in common with most of the people we served, we were connected with them. How? The Gospel. The Gospel has this ability to break down barriers, walls, awkwardness, and even struggles.  It has the ability to penetrate the human heart to the point that we stop thinking about what divides us, and we start to focus on what unites us.  That’s what we need as a church.  Moving forward, every decision we make as a church, every decision we make individually, needs to be based on The Gospel.  Each one of us needs to be so focused on advancing the Gospel that we don’t have time to think on anything else.  We can let things get awkward, we can let opportunities pass us by because we’re afraid, or we can choose together to submit to the work that God is doing through us, both individually and corporately.  There are amazing times ahead of us as a church – hard, but absolutely amazing.  However, it has nothing to do with the name we have, the building we’re in, or even what color the new carpet is.  These times are solely based on us coming together under the banner of Christ, focusing on the Gospel, and striving to share that sweet message of salvation with everyone we come into contact with.  Not for us, but for the sake of the Gospel.

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”- Philippians 1:27

 

Home

Luxury house with beautiful landscaping on a sunny dayBy Susan Bullard

Home is the best place to be!
Home is a place of joy, happiness, and hope.

This is the opening stanza in a poem I wrote as a nine-year-old.  The bulk of it sounds a little childish, so I’ll spare most of its details.  I’m no stranger to new places. I’ve lived in a handful of different states throughout the years and have considered many of them “home.”  However, as I age, I wonder more often about what my Heavenly home will be like.  I don’t dwell on it too much, but it’s a pleasant curiosity to ponder at times.  I have loved ones there now, and realizing the limitations of my own physical being reminds me that life is far too precious. I need to remember to enjoy it.  The duration of our time here is an unknown, and yet, life itself is eternal.  We all have a destination. (John 5:28-29) For those who know Jesus Christ as Savior shall enjoy all the splendors of Heaven one day (1 Cor. 15:51-54), plus should we desire it, we can know the “Kingdom of God” in our present lives. “… the kingdom of God is within you.”  (Luke 17:20-21) (Matt 6:33) Unfortunately, we so often forget to tap into this reservoir from day to day as Eternity fast approaches us.  So, here are a few things I try to remember:    

  • JOY

Joy appears to be a result of peace. “For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace:” (Isaiah 55:12) It can actually be present in happiness or sorrow.  Even in the midst of tragedy, when we don’t understand, this is the kind of strength that endures while providing a sense of “security.”  Through each trial we know Him, and thus, He has provided us with a greater confidence; His confidence at best!  (Psalm 89:15-16 / 97:11-12.) 

  • HAPPINESS

Happiness is fleeting. It’s emotional in nature.  While this is based upon momentary feelings, it’s likened to “contentment” and reveals merriment, (Prov.17:22) godliness (1 Tim.6:6) and trust. (Prov. 16:20) That’s why we can still laugh some during those trials, too.  We must choose to be happy even when the road gets hard and arduous.   “…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”  (Phil 4:11)

  • HOPE

 Hope is a knowledge.  (1 Peter 1:3) That’s a “know so” faith, (1 Peter 1:13 / Col. 1-5) not a “hope so” faith.  It shows Him our faith, because we trust Him, and this is what pleases Him the most.  “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God (…) and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”  (Hebrews 11:6) (Matt 17:20) We can choose to live this eternal life right NOW.    

Upon this reflection, I sense a rest in my spirit. Much like the wisdom found in the “Fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22-23) (1 Cor 13:1-8), we can surely have a confidence as we walk through our daily lives.  Jesus Christ has already prepared the way to secure our residency as citizens of His heavenly home.  Now, I have no anticipation to arrive there anytime soon, but to anticipate THE CALL when eventually… it’s time to finally move Home.   (John 6:47 / 11:25-26) This is a comforting contentment (Psalm 138:7) that produces real joy in everyday life. (John 15:11) “Who by him do believe in God, (…) gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.” (1 Peter 1:21) 

Home is not a mere address of where you live.  No…
Home is not only a place, but it is a knowing within you revealing that this is home.

Ready To Go, Wherever, Whenever

D.R. Mission Trip - 2017 (FLAG)

By Jon Kalvig

One of the most enviable traits of Jesus was his willingness and obedience in going when, and where, God directed. Isn’t it difficult to release that to the Lord? I know the struggle, despite my desire to walk with the Holy Spirit. Think about how the Spirit of God led Jesus into… and out of… the wilderness. Glance through the gospels and you’ll witness numerous mission trips Jesus went on immediately following a time of communing with God. Imagine having that perspective on life – always tuned into the Spirit’s prompting to go wherever and whenever He leads. But this spiritual discipline wasn’t only practiced by Jesus, this was evidenced by Paul as well. The founding father of missions also sought discernment from the Lord on where and when to travel. Consider the following examples from the book of Acts and take notice of how Paul was sent.

  • Paul and Barnabas were instructed, by the Holy Spirit, in the middle of a worship service to be sent on a mission (13:1-3)
  • Due to division and threat of persecution and possible death, Paul leaves Iconium for Lystra (14:5)
  • After preaching the gospel and doing the initial work of making disciples, Paul saw it fit to leave Derbe and return to Lystra (14:21)
  • Paul and Barnabas decide to strengthen the churches they helped plant. Though they split due to a strong disagreement, the effort was multiplied and they further equipped the new believers to carry on the mission (14:36-41)
  • The Spirit of God prevented Paul and Silas from doing the work of the gospel in Bithynia. Instead, they went to Troas (16:7-8)
  • After receiving a vision from the Lord, Paul heads to Macedonia. It says in Acts 16:10, “And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
  • The Ephesians requested Paul to stay. He seemed interested but felt called to sail on noting “I will return to you if God wills” (18:20-21)

When I take notice of the examples of Jesus and Paul (not to mention others in both testaments) I have pondered how this should impact the way we do missions. While I believe that planning for trips months in advance is a healthy way to launch into global ministry, should we not consider an alternative route as displayed by the pioneers of missions?

What if we made ourselves available for God to send us on His timeline? What if the Spirit of Jesus directed you to leave in a few weeks rather than a few months? What if you were always prepared to present the gospel, both in word and deed, at the call of the Lord?

This is the posture I desire more and more for myself, not only in terms of global missions but also neighborhood ministry. Most of us would agree that difficult circumstances often put people in a place ready to receive the good news. Whether that’s a natural disaster in a different state or a house fire in your community. What would it say about you as a Christian, and perhaps more so us as a Church, if we were ready to GO at the Spirit’s prompting? As I have been praying along these fronts in recent months, I was surprised (though shouldn’t have been) that God has told me to go with our Dominican Republic team, despite the narrow two-week window to prepare. Yes, that means I have a lot of catching up to do, and my faith is being tested in raising funds. But there is a peace in the midst of surrender when it is my Savior calling.

May we position ourselves in prayer and anticipation to be sent. To GO… whenever… and wherever… the Spirit of God would guide.

Is It Really That Simple?

 

Reflection.jpg

By Tracy Griess

Lately I have been wondering if we take time to reflect as much as we should.  Is a time of reflection and then response something that we should be actively doing?  As I have been looking back at the last 18 months, both personally and professionally I have experienced a lot of change.  Change has been one of the most commonly used words in my vocabulary.  So I paused recently to think about what that actually has meant and how I responded to it.  I think, to learn from the journey, we have to evaluate and be willing to look back just long enough to stay on the path.

As many of you reading this know, it was just over a year ago that I went through a cancer diagnosis and treatment.  I am happy to report that I am still cancer free and things look good.  I can honestly say however, that is one of the least consequential changes in my life in the last year.  That was sort of the kick off to a period of time when life has seemed like a roller coaster.  Just when you think you are on the straight away, there’s another hill or another free fall.   I am sure almost everyone can relate to this on some level.

So is that it?  That’s all you got, so-to-speak?   If you are reading this and we attend the same church, you can definitely relate to the roller coaster of change.   As a church family we have experienced some ups and downs in the last year.   In my personal life I have experienced several health related diagnoses with my parents and Jason’s parents.  My middle son has graduated and will soon leave for college which changes the dynamics in my home.  Do I love this?  No, but this is simply part of the next phase of life.  Do I love that my parents are dealing with health issues?  No, but this is simply part of life.  I have to wonder, is it really that simple?

As my son graduated, this brought many opportunities to interact with family I don’t get to see very often.  Our graduations are sort of an opportunity for a family reunion.  This particular graduation season was no different and I had several very meaningful conversations and interactions.  I spent time with people who have been important to me my entire life.  While life has taken us to different states, different jobs, experiences and perhaps different ways of life, there were so many times I found myself interacting with people as if no time had passed at all.  The beauty of social media makes it clear that many of us don’t see eye to eye on issues of politics or religion and everything in between, yet none of that seemed to matter.  So I wondered, why not?  Why were these times great even though . . . and you could fill in the blank with so many things.  And at the heart of it was family.  At the heart of the interaction was love.

Is it really that simple?   Faith.  Family.  Love.   I think it is.  I think the reason change doesn’t seem to strand me at the top of the roller coaster is that I have faith that, no matter what I know,  I serve a God who is 100% always on time.  While I may not have been born into this particular church family at FFC, it is just that.  This is my church family.  Family sticks together and when things get tough we just stick it out together.  We must learn to grow together, change together and look back just long enough to stay on the path that God has.  And with our own individual families, it is very much the same.  As believers, God has called us to something different.  Much like with our children, God has different expectations for us.  And we simply must rise to the occasion.  There really isn’t a choice.  And while we will still go through trials, doubts, and even worry, it really is that simple.  Faith.  Family.  Love.  If Jesus is at the heart of every interaction, it really should be that simple.  Have I responded perfectly in the face of all of this change?  Of course not.  Have I looked in the rear view mirror just long enough to learn?  I hope so.  I would challenge you to glance back just long enough to stay on the path.  Ask God to show you where you might make a change.  Ask God to remind you that it really is that simple.   If Jesus is really at the center, you may free fall, there may be a hill, in fact, He says there will be.  But He will show up.  He is 100% always on time.  Sometimes it takes a moment of quiet reflection to remember that.  Take that time.  Reflect on God’s faithfulness.   

 

 

 

A Psalm for the Aged

CaptureBy David Bush

A  pastoral call took me to the oncology floor of a local hospital last week. I had the privilege of spending some time in conversation, scripture, and prayer with a dear saint whose battle with cancer was entering its final weeks.  The individual’s faithfulness to the Lord has had many expressions, but at sixty-two I’m sure there is a temporal belief that much remains unfinished.

We’ve all experienced at least the vicarious discomfort of learning of someone’s passing soon after retiring from a lifetime of full-time work. “Tough break” we think to ourselves. “They finally get to live life on their terms…enjoy their Golden Years relaxing after a lifetime of toil… and then this.”

This perspective is understandable but flawed. Not because it’s wrong to anticipate greater flexibility and a change of pace and responsibilities in our latter years, but because it assumes that retirement from a vocation entitles the follower of Christ entre into a prolonged season of autonomy and disengagement from the work of the church. Scripture knows nothing of the kind of “retirement” that is the expectation of many in the western world.

How should we approach the fall and winter of our lives in light of life’s uncertainty and unpredictability? Scripture does not leave us without instruction in this area. Psalm 71 is a resource that provides encouragement regarding the stewardship of the entirety of the days God gives us. Seemingly written by someone mature in years, it shares wisdom for the past, the present, and the future – all of which are to be leveraged for God’s praise and glory.

 

The Past

“For You, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of You. I have been as a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day… O God, from my youth You  have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds…Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like You?” –Psalm 71:5-8, 17, 19

The elderly have a valuable commodity we all need: history and perspective.  Are you telling others the history of God’s faithfulness in your life? Do you have stories like this to tell? Or are others quick to hear of hardships that infer God “did you wrong” in some aspect of your life? Like Job, do you have many questions and complaints you’d like God to answer for you?

 

The Present

“In You, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame!.. Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come…Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent…So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim Your might to another generation, Your power to all those to come.” – Psalm 71:1, 3, 9, 17-18

Our praise of the Lord never stops. Our service to the Lord never ends. Our reliance upon the Lord never diminishes. The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit continues until we die; there is no point at which we “arrive” and coast to the finish line. Are you still growing in your walk? Have you resigned yourself to attitudes and character issues the Holy Spirit desires to transform under the excuse “what’s the use of changing at this point?” Also found here is a strong vision for generational faithfulness. What can you do to assist those coming behind in running the race of faith well?

 

The Future

“But I will hope in You continually and will praise You yet more and more. My mouth will tell of Your righteous acts, of Your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge…You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again… You will increase my greatness and comfort me again. I will also praise You with the harp for Your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to You with the lyre…my lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to You; my soul also, which You have redeemed. – Psalm 71: 14-15, 20-23

We see an optimistic anticipation here. God, Who has been faithful in the past and is faithful in the present will continue to be faithful in the future. Some relevant questions for those entering their winter years:

 

  • Am I setting myself up for prolonged ministry in the future? The way you are stewarding your physical body will play an oversized role in how this question is answered.
  • Are the retirement decisions I’m making, making me less available to God? Financial decisions, relocation decisions, the pursuit of hobbies, etc. all have a direct impact on our availability.

 

The reality of ministry at First Federated is this: most of the routine work each week is accomplished by retired or semi-retired people who have decided to remain available for ministry work.  They have stewarded their time, finances, and health in such a way that they are available. Their availability is a blessing to all of us, and their servant attitudes bring glory to God.

The timing and manner of our passing remain in God’s sovereign hands. My visit to the hospital was both a reminder that my plans for the future will ultimately give way to God’s plans and that it’s possible to bring God glory right up ‘til our final breath. May Psalm 71 inform the steps of those who are in or approaching a season of life that can be the most fruitful and satisfying of all.

One For the Books

jim-cymbala-STORM

By Mike Rose
pastor-cymbala-bio
I would like to use this week’s blog to make a book recommendation. The title is STORM: Hearing Jesus for The Times We Live In. The author is Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle in Brooklyn, New York. Pastor Cymbala tells of the night when Hurricane Sandy slammed into New York and the always lit, always bustling Lower Manhattan District suddenly disappeared from sight. Cymbala writes: “It was unfathomable to think that parts of New York could just suddenly dissolve into darkness. It struck me that this could be the perfect metaphor for what is happening in the church in America today.”

Although Pastor Cymbala begins the book with his account of the devastation brought by a powerful hurricane, that is not the storm he is really concerned about. The storm Cymbala is concerned with is a storm that is dwindling the gospel light of the church in America. Reporting that nearly 247,000,000 people in America claim to be Christian, (79.5% of our population) he asks why the effects of such a high percentage is not being felt in our culture. Author John S. Dickerson in his work The Great Evangelical Recession gives a likely answer: “…the numbers don’t add up. …the vast majority of those claiming to be ‘Christian’ rarely attend any church, nor do they trust in Christ alone for their salvation, nor do they value God’s Word as the only rule for faith and practice.” In 2012, the Barna Research Group reported that: “46% of churchgoers said their life had not changed at all as a result of church going.” Additionally, “three out of five church attenders said they could not remember a significant new insight gained by attending church services.” Furthermore, “one-third of those who have attended a church in the past have never felt God’s presence while in a congregational setting.” Cymbala concludes: “This is a critical warning sign that something is terribly wrong.” I agree!

So how does the church respond to such ominous warning signs? Here is where we get down to the real issue Cymbala is addressing. Instead of falling on our knees to seek God’s face, instead of confessing our sins of apathy and “what’s in it for me mentality”, instead of doubling down on the gospel and power of Scripture and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the church is turning to other means to seek its renewal. Pray tell where has the church been looking? With increasing numbers the church seems to be turning to fads and cultural trends to regain her perceived former glory. If you should read the book, you will find many examples of how this “storm” has been wreaking havoc on ministry after ministry, always promising great results, but seldom delivering. I’ll not take up your time in this blog covering those examples. Instead, I’ll cut to the chase.

The ultimate point that Cymbala makes, one that I whole heartily agree with, is that fads and cultural trends will not win the day in the church. What the church needs, what FFC needs, is an old fashioned, Holy Spirit-authored revival of love for Jesus, each other and a passion to share the good news of Christ with the spiritually lost. The church needs to return to The Word as our final authority of faith and practice. We need to return to prayer as the engine that drives every ministry and every decision. Prayer is our declaration that we are dependent on God and our prayerlessness is a statement that we think we are sufficient in ourselves. We don’t need newer or better techniques, better music, slicker presentations, or fancier facilities. But what is needed is the LOVE of God coursing through our spiritual veins. Love that drives us to forgive one another, encourage one another, help one another, and moves us to share the powerful, life-changing message of the gospel with friends, neighbors, relatives and associates.

Ok… enough of my ramblings. I encourage you to contact Twila Shreves at Hidden Treasures Gifts & Book-Tea-Que, and ask her to get you a copy of the book, STORM. After you’ve read it, I’d love to hear how it impacted you.

Have a great weekend!