True Love

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By Susan Bullard

In light of the recent holiday filled with its sweet tokens of human affection and proclamations of such great favor bestowed upon others, I find myself heaving a bit of a sigh.  It’s more so during this time of year that I’m reminded too often of the many interpretations of the definition of love.  

When I see the word “love,” my first thought is of a short passage in 1 John 4:7-19 describing that “God is love.” It’s the essence of who He is. I begin to ponder that this is an attribute of His “being” and not this mere verb that the rest of us use to profess to others, in varying degrees, our sincerest emotions.  So, what does Love actually look like? Well, of course, we have the “Great Love Chapter” of  1 Corinthians 13 that most of us immediately consider, but before we go there, I initially tend to think of Philippians 2: 1-11 instead.  Let’s look at this passage together.  Here the chapter opens with “if” clauses to exhort unity by comforting, fellowshipping and displaying mercy within the body of believers. Years ago, this segment of Scripture made such an impact on me, because I was seeking diligently to understand the “Greatest Commandment” (Matthew 22:36-40 ref. of Exodus 20|The Ten Commandments) and what it is to love God and my neighbor as myself.   This passage described to me in a simple, practical way how to execute this on a daily basis.    

The chapter continues in verse 3 with the unity of like-mindedness, (“let each esteem others better than themselves”) – not to exclude self, as further explained in verse 4, (“look not every man on his own things”) but to also prefer another (“but every man also on the things of others”) as being just as significant as oneself is in contributing to the functional factor of one unified body.  There’s no room for pride here but a sober understanding of one’s place within the body.  Then, the remaining verses (5-11) provide the example of how we should emulate this same like-mindedness beginning in verse 5, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”  Though being very God in human flesh, He expressed Himself as a servant filled with great humility as our daily example to follow.  

Now as we steal a look at 1 Cor. 13:1-8, if we’re honest, we find it’s not an easy task to love others.  We have the chance to exhibit it at all times as we seek to be more like Him.  However, even though we fail so often, it’s encouraging to know than an unloving act can be followed by an act of forgiveness and/or the choice to “love” instead of harboring bitterness, jealousy, etc. This is an ongoing state of mind… “blessed are” as introduced in Luke chapter 6, that continues with the application thereof, found in verses 27-38|section of the Beatitudes. Remember, it’s a continuous behavior for us, “our verb” to love which expresses kindness, truthfulness, longsuffering, not given to arrogance nor being self-seeking, etc., and His continuous state of being, “His attribute.” God IS Love.

In closing with the original question, “What does Love look like?”, I see throughout the pages of Scripture that Love looks just like Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 4: 8-10 opens with “…love shall cover the multitude of sins.”  Albeit, the next time you sense a prompting from within to “grant grace” to another, know that you’re just emulating the traits of your Father.  This type of meekness is a great strength to possess.  Nurture it and wield its virtue wisely, knowing that the possessor has the character to love another enough to rebuke in private while pardoning just the same should the offender ever attempt a reply to shame in a public forum. The 1 Cor. 13 Love Chapter passage makes me feel like I’m reading a beautiful poem that ends with sudden clarity for the truest definition for Love.  He’s the Greatest, 1 Cor. 13:13,… and His love never ends! 1 Cor. 13:8 / 1 John 4:19 “We love Him, because He first loved us.”   

Cooking in God’s Kitchen

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By Tracy Griess

Life is a journey.  I would venture to guess that most of you have heard this phrase or at least some variation of it.  Recently I have been reflecting on the journey part of that phrase.  Life is a journey; we look back and we see that sometimes we got it right and sometimes we didn’t.  One of my favorite songs uses this line.  And it strikes me as so very true.  I have won, I have lost, I got it right sometimes and sometimes I did not.  Colton Dixon may have penned those words but it rings true for all of us.  What he also goes on to sing to us is that God has been there through all of it.  All of it.

As I reflect on this journey of life, that is also true for me and I suspect for most of you.  We can, in fact, look back and see God’s hand, His work, His plan carried out.  But, what about the time in the middle of the struggle or difficult time?  What about the journey?  The truth is that if we are reading this, we have not yet come to the end of the journey.   So, what about now?  The rest of this truth is that we all want the destination but we don’t necessarily want the journey.  We want the outcome, but not the process of getting there.  We look toward the finish line, but we might prefer to skip the race or at least the preparation.  The problem with that thinking is that it is in the journey or the holding pattern where the growth occurs, where God does his best work in us.  Some of us might pray for patience on purpose.  While others of us have not stepped out in complete faith to pray for patience because we know God doesn’t simply give us patience, he teaches us patience through the journey.  James 5:7 says, ”Be patient, dear brothers until the Lord’s coming.  A quick search and you will find that God talks about patience or being patient dozens of times in His word.  In James, we are learning about patience in suffering.  While we all experience suffering in different degrees and at different times, I think we can learn something here about the time spent waiting.  Whether we are waiting during health issues, marital issues, prodigal child issues, financial issues, loss of loved ones, job change, or simply change, we can learn something here.

I recently heard Bryan Loritts, pastor at Abundant Life Christian Fellowship, deliver a message.  Pastor Loritts spoke of being patient while waiting.  He used a great analogy and said, “There are no microwaves in God’s kitchen.  God only uses crockpots.”   Oh my goodness, yes!  This is absolutely true in every sense.  God does not snap his fingers and 90 seconds later have a fully mature Christ follower.  He slowly, over time, with lots of ingredients all mixed together into our lives, “cooks” us into the disciple He planned for us to be.  It is simply our job to stay in the crockpot long enough to wait for Him to finish us.  Again, it’s that journey or waiting part while we are molded and “cooked” that is difficult.  That is the part that we sometimes get frustrated with.  While we know we will never be finished this side of heaven, I love what Pastor Loritts went on to say, “The only thing worse than waiting on God, is wishing that you had.”  Again, oh my goodness, yes!  How many times have we looked back and wished we would have known this or that.  We wished we would have sought God on something first.  

So, how do we wait?  Well, James goes on to say in verses 8-9, “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.  Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!”  Yikes, is he serious?  Do not grumble?  Be patient and we can’t complain?  Philippians 2:14 tells us we must do everything without grumbling or arguing.  Yikes again!  Some of you with children may have used this verse a time or two to admonish our children to obey without complaint.  I have certainly said this a time or two.  But have we applied it to ourselves?  How many times do we as Christ followers find ourselves grumbling or complaining as we journey thorough change?   It’s so easy to apply this to other people as we hear them complaining or grumbling, but I think it might be time that we really take a look at how we are waiting.  God uses all of us in different ways.  He has gifted us all differently.  Sometimes I must remind myself that there are people wiser than me.  We aren’t all in the same “crockpot”.  My journey looks different than yours and it is for a very good and well thought out reason.  God has a good and perfect plan.  And one thing I know for sure is that I serve a God that is 100% always on time.  I will remember one last thing that Pastor Loritts said and that is this:  “Always let what you know about God trump how you feel.”   Sometimes what I feel or think about change or things happening in our “holding pattern” needs to take a back seat to what I know about God.  God has a plan for us individually and as a body of believers.  We may not always understand it, we may not always love it, but we can ALWAYS trust it.  

Relationship To Government

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By John Porter

The Lord Jesus made it very clear that we have a responsibility to human government. You remember that He was asked by His enemies, “Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar, or not?” He asked them to show Him a coin—He wanted to teach them from something they themselves had. He asked them whose superscription and whose image was on the coin. They said, “Caesar’s.” Then He made this significant statement, “…Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s”.  (Luke 20:25)

Paul said to a young preacher, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” (I Tim. 2:1-3)

The duty of the believer as a citizen of heaven is spiritual. The duty of a believer as a citizen under a government is secular.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  (Romans 13:1)

We are to submit ourselves to governmental authorities for the very simple reason that they are ordained of God. It is true that the kingdoms of this world belong to Satan and that injustice and corruption abound in all governments, yet God still has control. God still rules—even over this earth. God has not abdicated His throne; He is riding triumphantly in His own chariot. Neither is He disturbed about what is happening on this earth.

Christianity never became a movement to improve government, help society, or clean up the town. The gospel is the power of God unto the salvation of the individual. What is the Christian to do? Our business is to spread the Word of God abroad and to obey the law.

Please pray for Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and their families.

Please pray for basic respect and honor among all peoples.

Please pray for the Trump cabinet, the Senate and the House.

Continue to pray for First Federated Church and Pastor Mike and Connie as we continue through this transition in our ministry.

Thank You!

Having a Thankful and Humble Heart

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By: Dannetta Feleay

The past six months have had its ups and downs, …excitement, uncertainty, frustration and everything in between. The devotions, scripture readings, and prayers-September through December 2016-in Our Daily Bread have been a reminder of (God’s commands, promises), a challenge (that I must strive to be more committed in my walk with the Lord), and an encouragement and hope (that God will be beside me as I continue my journey). And I have used some of the thoughts from Our Daily Bread.

There are times “we” as Church members and attendees, who are also Christians, might disagree, complain or gripe to anyone, and not always in a pleasant voice. When we focus on our negative thoughts and others don’t agree with us, or don’t want to listen, our attitude might become angry and hateful.

Forgive me, Lord, when I bring anger into a situation. Soften my heart and help me use my words to encourage others.

Sometimes, we think we know how everything should be, that “our way” is the “only way”. We should seek God’s way, will, and opinion before we say something.

Philippians 2:3b tells us “…but in humility, consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others”.

While there may be something to complain about, discuss the issue with the person in charge, also, if we look carefully, there always will be blessings to be thankful for.

Oswald Chambers said, “The knowledge that God has loved me beyond all limits will compel me to go into the world to love others in the same way”.

Teach me the liberating joy of being thankful. Lord, help me to find the blessings that are locked up in the things I complain about and be willing to encourage, and even sincerely compliment, others and give You the thanks, praise, and glory!

Our Pastor needs encouragement! And He deserves to be treated with love and respect. I know that Jim and I are not the only ones at Church who have seen how Pastor Mike has grown and how the Lord has used him to help us grow since he and Connie came.

1 Peter 2:17 “Show proper respect to everyone; Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king”

We have elected Godly men as elders and deacons to work with our pastor and our congregation. they have been transparent, willing to share their ideas and decisions and are also open to suggestions and willing to listen. They also should have our respect when we share our thoughts.

…Just imagine you were and elder, a deacon or the pastor, … if five or ten people came to you, with a preference as to what would be the best time to have our Sunday Morning Worship Service or the ABF Classes. They each had a different time and had a reason why their time was the BEST and ONLY time. This a mess I wouldn’t like to deal with.

The Offical Board and the various volunteer committees have done research and looked at different plans. I know they must be trying hard to please, but you know you can’t please everybody all of the time.

Our youth are very important. Many college students are involved in a ministry that is very popular. They are studying God’s Word and bringing their friends. It is called the Salt Company. Our Youth Department is using some of the Salt Co. ideas, and from what I’ve learned from talking with them, they are growing through the Small Life Group plan. I pray we are all open to trying new ideas to bring young people into our fellowship.

Marian trader told me I could mention her experience. She had a great time talking with a tableful of our youth in Fellowship Hall. This was a “new thing” for her and it happened because she was willing to step out in faith and wasn’t offended because they filled in at her table when she stepped away.

As a group, our leaders have been, and are, very straight forward about seekings God’s Will. They have asked us to pray for His Will. To know, understand, and discern God’s Will can be demanding and requires a lot of patience.

When we are concerned and struggle with situations and difficult circumstances, an encouraging word from someone can lift out spirits and renew our faith. This may be done with a kind word in a phone call, a card or written note. It won’t take a lot of time, but it could mean so very much to the other person.

First Federated Church needs and wants to be known as a friendly and Christ Centered Church. It is important for us to reach out, on a regular, consistent basis: to visitors, people who have come for the first time or the fifth time, to people you’ve seen, and maybe even spoken to, but don’t know, to people who are not in your ‘group’ or ‘ABF’, and also to your friends (this also shows we are a friendly church).

There is life changing power in the words of scripture.

Ephesians 4:4-6 “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Colossians 3:12b-14 “…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have agaisnt one another. And over all these virtues put on love, which bind them all together in perfect unity.”

 

OUR BODIES, OUR STORIES

 

By David Bush with Joe Tewell

“I don’t know if I can do this!” Marci confessed as she retreated to a bench. We were just halfway through her second session warm-up and things were already unraveling. I didn’t want a scene in the crowded fitness center, but it was against my nature to let someone fold so quickly. I formulated some phrases that I’d found were effective over the years in prodding my clients to give more than they thought they were capable of giving. After all, she’d hardly broken a sweat, and I knew I wasn’t doing her any favors by accommodating her preconceived barriers. If I caved every time an unfit client got winded I’d be out of a job.

Which verbal switch should I use on Marci? “Go ahead and quit then…I’m sure quitting will solve your problems” had proven effective in the past. I was ready to unleash this pearl of wisdom when I noticed that Marci’s cries of physical pain had somehow morphed into something deeper. Tears were staining her cheeks as she sat staring into space.
The uncomfortable scene that was playing out in front of me was enough of a shock to remind me that I wasn’t just a personal trainer trying to keep a client on task. I was also supposed to be a spiritual mentor and encourager to those who reached out for help after experiencing a faith-focused fitness ministry I helped facilitate. “What’s going on Marci?” was all I could muster at the time.

 

blogI soon discovered the answer to my question. Marci called me and asked if I could meet to talk. I was certain this appointment was when she was going to tell me my services were no longer needed and that she was going to address her physical issues some other way. Instead, she brought a sheet of copy paper to our meeting covered with writing. On the paper she’d listed significant dysfunctional relationships, tragic offenses, hurtful memories, damaging personal violations, and harmful responses and coping mechanisms: heavy drinking, sexual promiscuity, and broken relationships. One statement on the page particularly jumped out at me – “Fat is acting like a protective layer…” In a commendable act of transparency, Marci was revealing how her regrettable personal history had ultimately metastasized to her physical body.
It was a story I knew all too well myself.

 

blog-2All I could offer Marci was the same strong medicine that had revolutionized my life and perspective: surrender. Not compliance to a new diet or workout routine – after all, of what help is a set of burpees to a crushed and broken spirit? Marci’s greatest need was to surrender to the only Personal Trainer who is capable of transforming broken lives, bodies, and spirits: Jesus. I found that out for myself only after years of trying things my way and wondering why I could never outrun my past. Fully entrusting her scars, her fears, her shame, and her own misconduct was the only way out of the prison that held her.
Marci is finding, as I did, that surrender is actually liberating. It’s also necessary for anyone who says they want to follow Jesus. Marci and I are reminding each other of this each week as we meet to continue transforming our bodies and our spirits.

Fear and Hope Collide at the Manger

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By David Bush

An affront to the proud, Jesus’ presence always brings joy to the humble of heart

Appropriately enough, the arrival of Christmas and the New Year brings a Dickensian variety of perspectives with them. Hope, joy, and wonder mix with cynicism, uncertainty, and fear. For many, this time of year becomes “the best of times and the worst of times.”
This polarization is nothing new. Jesus’ presence has instilled both fear and hope since His arrival in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.

For King Herod and those aligned with his interests, news of Jesus’ birth was an intimidating and unwelcome development. For lowly shepherds and soft-hearted dignitaries from the East, it was unimaginably good news.

The initiation of Jesus’ earthly ministry was a longing fulfilled for bold yet humble John the Baptist (he of “He must increase and I must decrease” fame). Satan saw Jesus as a usurper who represented the first real challenge to his earthly kingdom.
The common man rejoiced in the light of the gospel Jesus proclaimed and advanced during his ministry; all while the religious establishment reviled and plotted destruction.
In the consummation of the ages, we will again see the spontaneous worship of the redeemed contrast with the begrudging and bitter bending of the knee from the self-sufficient.

Like the narcissists of centuries past, those who commercialize and marginalize the celebration of this season will never understand the wonder and joy that comes to believers as a result of Jesus’ incarnation. On the cusp of an uncertain new year, the persevering hope of the Christ -follower will always stand in contrast to the fear and brooding of those earth-bound souls desperate to preserve that which is fading away.

As we celebrate Jesus’ birth anew, may the Lord grant us humble hearts to comprehend His rich provision in the midst of our great need. As we enter a new year, may we be firmly established in the confidence that comes from a surrender to God’s sovereignty and a strength not our own.

“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people”
– Luke 2:10

On Mission With God

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By John Porter

God is on a mission. He has been on a mission throughout history to accomplish His purpose throughout the earth. Each time we see God in the Bible, He is acting in accordance with His purpose: to reveal Himself in order that His name would be glorified, that His Kingdom would be established and that some from every people would be reconciled to Himself.

God Reveals Himself to Reconcile the World to Himself

God has chosen to reveal Himself, His purpose, and His ways, involving His people with Him as He invites all the world’s peoples to know and worship Him.

God Initiates His Work Through His People

God chooses to accomplish His mission in a very personal way, He chooses to involve His people with Him, working through them to accomplish His purposes.

Jesus: On Mission with His Father

God wants us to be like Jesus, who always obeyed Him. He announced that He had come not to do His own will, but the will of the Father who had sent Him. (Matt 26:42; John 4:34, 5:30; 6:38; 8:29)

Knowing and Working in God’s Way

Even a casual reader of the Bible can see that God’s ways and plans are so different from the ways that people accomplish their goals. God said, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isa 55:8)

Knowing and Doing God’s Will

How can you know God’s will? Since all true mission is really God on His mission, there is not a different mission for you, for me, for the people who lived a thousand years ago, or for believers on the other side of the world.  God’s mission is to glorify His name, to establish His kingdom and to reconcile the world to Himself.

On Mission With Jesus

Jesus was on a mission with the Father, and He calls every one of His followers to join Him in that relationship of love, power, and purpose. Nothing could be more precious than to follow God on a mission in the same way that Jesus did.  (From the writings of Henry T. Blackaby and Avery T. Willis, Jr.)

Come learn more about how you can be involved in God’s Mission for your life!

Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: Mondays, January 16-May 8, 2017 at Valley Church in West Des Moines. Learn more about God’s unchanging purposes for the nations. Got questions or need more information? Call or email John Porter at the church office (515-255-2122,  jporter@firstfederated.org) or check their website: Perspectives.org

Experience a short term opportunity in 2017:

Uganda: June 29 – July 9, 2017

Dominican Republic: July 9-17, 2017