The Seductive Lie Of Fast Results

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By David Bush

It’s early January. This is the time of year when Christmas carols fade and the siren song of diet marketers promising “quick results” saturate print, radio, television and social media.

When someone claims they can deliver huge financial returns virtually overnight we call it a “get rich quick scheme.” When they promise a degree over a 3-day weekend we call it a “diploma mill.” We know intuitively that any worthwhile and beneficial endeavor will involve perseverance and discipline, and that any shortcut is likely a scam. When speaking about quick changes in our body composition, however, we tend to use more nuanced language. For millions of Americans, rapid weight loss is called a “personal goal” or “New Year’s resolution.”

I will call it what it is – a seductive lie.

The same forces that are at work when we visit a casino or pay ten percent down for a new car that depreciates the moment it leaves the dealer’s lot are at work when we pursue shortcuts in physiological discipleship. We want to own or experience something we have not earned or for which we have not paid for. It takes months or years of consistent behavior patterns to gain significant unwanted weight, but we want the consequences of these behaviors mitigated in six weeks or less.

Few good, enduring, and sustainable things in life happen quickly. We are warned in Scripture to avoid the allure of gain without effort or pain:

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. – Proverbs 13:11

A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. – Proverbs 28:20

We are warned in Scripture not to elevate a new believer quickly to leadership as true spiritual maturity takes time:

The leader must not be a new believer. If he is, he might become proud. Then he would be judged just like the devil. – 1 Timothy 3:6

Even the Apostle Paul, who possessed serious spiritual credentials at the time of his conversion, spent three years letting the Holy Spirit transform a heart given to zealous legalism. (Gal 1: 14-18)

The sad truth is our flesh craves transformation without the testing of time, the crucible of denial and the discipline of perseverance and faithfulness. This is the domain of covetousness, not sanctification. You can’t achieve physiological “fast results” that stand the test of time any more than you can microwave spiritual maturity.

Quick weight loss – if it does occur – doesn’t last because it never addresses the underlying issues that initially fostered the unhealthy behavior. In this regard, crash diets are simply another manifestation of man-centered shortcuts to a desired destination: belief without repentance and spiritual maturity without testing. Like the redeemed magician in Acts chapter 8, we’d rather pay for quick results without the burden of actually dealing with a heart condition.

Our journey of transformation in Christ is always described as a daily walk, a race requiring endurance, and a strategic discipline. Instead of “revving up our metabolism”, let’s commit to the bigger challenge of an honest, humble, and Spirit-empowered pursuit of daily discipline. If we can do that, the first week in January will be no different than the other fifty-one.

“…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” – Heb 12: 1-2a

For more information on how to live a daily walk in Christ while shaping the body to better serve him, check out this year’s INSPIRE 2018 conference HERE.

God’s Faithfulness in 2017

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By Jeff Harper

In many ways a year goes by quickly, but on the other hand I often marvel at how much transpires during a year and I certainly feel that this was the case for our church during 2017.  As a board and leadership team we felt it would be valuable for us as a church to look back and recall God’s faithfulness in directing and leading our local church body.  As we have been reading passages from the Old Testament as part of the church Bible reading plan, there have been frequent reminders to the nation of Israel to setup memorials and make sure not to forget all the things God has done so they, and we, would continue to give Him the glory.  

One year ago I wrote a letter to the church entitled “Laying the Groundwork for Growth.”  In the letter I explained the plans for the time while Pastor Mike was on sabbatical and that the leadership saw God’s leading in this to bring Mike and our church body greater health and growth.  This provided the opportunity to distribute the load during the sabbatical as well as after Mike’s return in early March.  Pastor Jon Kalvig stepped up to provide interim staff leadership and the one service format was instituted.  When Mike returned from sabbatical in early March it was with greater energy, reliance on God, and a renewed vision and calling.   We recognize that God uses times of challenge to make us stronger as we trust Him more.

Some of the primary goals the board and staff had at the beginning of 2017 included greater stability, greater unity, and leading by example in our love, friendliness and confidence that the Lord would direct us.  We believe God has worked in many of these areas during 2017.  

Here are a number of areas, though many more could be listed, where we praise God for his direction and work this year:

  • From a staff standpoint,
    • Adam Evans was hired early in 2017 as the Youth Pastor.
    • David Bush transitioned from the Worship Pastor role to a broader role as Associate Pastor.  At the same time the worship responsibilities were added to Adam’s role.
    • Jim Olson was hired in September as the church administrator to fill a position that Tom Hefner had been volunteering to do for quite some time.  Jim brings great skills, experience, dedication and desire to serve well to the position.  
    • John Porter retired from his position after 11 years as Missions Director and Congregational Care to prepare to go to the mission field overseas.  Jane Christiansen has been hired as the new Missions Director due to her passion and experience.
    • It should be pointed out that we can look at the staff that were called to other opportunities and ministries in the last couple of years and see that God is blessing them and confirming they are in His will.
  • From a ministry standpoint,
    • We have focused on areas from the Pathway Ministry Model that needed attention.
    • Discipleship ministry was enhanced with the creation of the Man2Man ministry by Jon Kalvig and launched last June.
    • David Bush has given renewed focus and organization to the Small Group ministry with new groups created and new people included in groups beginning last fall.
    • GO Nights were continued and expanded to greater service with more involvement by creating week-long efforts.
    • Greater numbers of the body helping with children’s ministry, by having a goal of serving once a month, to give more of us the enjoyment and purpose from serving.  
    • Many other ongoing ministries have continued to serve and be led by lay volunteers to meet the needs of those in our body and minister to those outside of it.
  • From a facilities standpoint,
    • God leading us to Ridgemont in His perfect timing.  This was enabled by the seller agreeing to purchase the Franklin building.  
    • Demolition beginning even before the July 20th purchase date and much of it being accomplished by church volunteers to conserve resources and to labor together.
    • Exemption from property taxes being approved as an exception after the deadline.
    • Disposition of items by donating to other ministries or selling them prior to our move.
    • Capital campaign pledges of over $454,000 to enable full renovation now while keeping borrowing at or below the planned amounts.

As I think about changes that have occurred in 2017 I am reminded of many dear saints that graduated to heaven last year.  One of those that will always be associated as a face (a smile showing the love of Jesus) of First Federated Church was Chuck Underwood.  His life verses included:  Proverbs 3:5-6, Joshua 1:9 and Joshua 24:15.  As a leadership team we have tried to follow Proverbs 3:5-6 and trust in the Lord and let Him direct our paths as we recognize our complete need to have Him lead us.  I pray that as a leadership team and as the entire church body we follow God’s Word in these areas and trust Him, not be afraid or discouraged, know that He is with us wherever we go, and choose to serve the Lord in this needy world.

If we stopped to think back through the year fully we could list many more areas and ways that the Lord blessed us and led us this last year.  As you thank God and give Him the glory for the items mentioned above let Him remind you of other ways and thank Him for those too.

Setting up memorials or reminders for ourselves shows us that God has come through in the past to His praise.  It should also encourage us that He will come through according to His gospel plan in the future so we can rely on and even be confident in moving forward in His work.  Things will again change in many ways in 2018, but we know we can trust God in and through it.  Let’s have a zeal for God’s glory in 2018 and look for ways to see more people giving Him glory in more and greater ways.

 

Jeff Harper

Chair, Official Board

Thankfulness

thankfulnessBy Jon Porter

Philippians 1:3-6: I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

These verses express my heartfelt thanks to the body of First Federated Church for all the support, encouragement and love shown as I prepare for this next phase of my life and ministry.

Paul had such great, positive memories of the Philippian church; it brought joy to his heart because of their fellowship. The Greek word is koinonia, and it means believers sharing the things of Christ. They shared the great truths of Christ, worked together for Christ, and partnered with Christ. This is true fellowship. Knowing without a doubt that God has prepared ALL believers for whatever occurs in our lives.

Thanks to:

  • God for allowing me to be a part of FFC for 59 years and to serve on staff for the last 11 years.
  • My parents who raised me to be a believer of Christ, and who served Him with their entire lives.
  • The Mission Council who has assisted me in supporting, encouraging and communicating missions at FFC.
  • The Stephen Ministers who have come alongside many in our body experiencing crisis in their lives and helping them find hope, meaning and purpose again.
  • Our Parish Nurse, Marabel Kersey, for her support and encouragement to those going through medical issues.
  • Our Card Ministry and Clarice Green, who has sent birthday, get-well, sympathy, and praying-for-you cards to thousands over the years.
  • Our volunteers: 60+ Fellowship, Clothes Closet, Food Pantry, Sunday Coffee, Funeral Lunches and everyone else.
  • Thanks be to God for everyone at First Federated Church as we continue to follow the Spirit’s leading in our personal lives and as a body, until His coming. May God be glorified!

In Christ’s Love,
John Porter

Devotion: An Enduring Strength

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By Susan Bullard

One of the best definitions I’ve ever heard for the meaning of character is this:
Character is “who you are when no one is looking.” Some people’s character may
be considered strong and others incredibly weak but we all have a measure of it. It’s
those quality traits within a single person that initiate discipline, vision, endurance,
respectfulness, mercy, and etc. Although character traits are revealed to self and unto
others by one’s display of certain qualities, it’s not merited upon any kind of
accomplishment nor is calculated upon how others perceive you. Our character is the
essence that makes up the one unique you. No two of us are alike.

An encouraging point about the men and women of the Bible is the transparency
provided about their shortcomings and the victories throughout their lives that reveal the real strength/test of their enduring characters.

I have chosen to take a woman from Scripture that encourages us to become
courageous while still possessing a dignified, modest demeanor. It appears to me as
“devotion.”

Ruth was devoted to Naomi. Even in the midst of her own grief over the death of her
husband, she desired to serve her mother-in- law and compassionately care for Naomi’s
needs. (Ruth 1: 16-17). In the opening verses of chapter two, it is Ruth who takes the
initiative to gather the leftovers in the neighboring field of a relative by the name of Boaz
upon their arrival to Bethlehem. Ruth was a Moabite woman yet seemed formerly well
versed in the mosaic laws and knew she might have success in this simple gleaning
endeavor. (Deu. 24:17-19). Just by reading between the lines, one can see the type of
woman/wife she was in earlier happier times; studious, hardworking, with humility much like that of the model Proverbs 31 woman. I see her as prepared for this. Each day
was lived by faith and aspects of her character were already well equipped to take on
the next few steps to further develop these traits even more. The word definitely got
around about her. Ruth’s life was on display daily for others to marvel over her
embrace of their Jewish culture and lifestyle. She may have appeared rebuking to
some, but all were very impressed by this foreigner. (Ruth 2:11-12).

Finally, she was obedient with a specific request from Naomi to ask of Boaz to honor
further tradition to extend redemption per the “kinsman redeemer law” of Lev. 25:25 -27
to restore the family name and land/s and/or possessions of the extended family
member/s. Although not the norm, but in truth, Ruth did propose to Boaz by reminding him of this obligation that began the procession of events to finalize their union as man
and wife. (Ruth 3: 9-11). Now, that certainly took some real courage. Little did she
know that one day she would be found in the lineage of the coming Messiah, and her
life would still be making such an impact on us even to this present day!

I have learned that the hardest part of cultivating any one of these quality traits involves
the testing and trial of them throughout life. Devotion is a longsuffering endeavor that’s
worth all of our efforts to pursue. It’s such an enduring strength that reveals both the
softness and toughness of its character trait. There have been folks that I have
considered to possess certain qualities that I longed to emulate in my own life. Some of
them are deceased loved ones while others were long ago mentors, and now, a few
present friends; however, instead of trying to copy their words or behavior, I end up
trying to make the “trait” I admire my own. They’re still influential to me and dear to my
heart, and so, I ponder the caliber of their characters. (Phil 4:8.)

Zambia 2017

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By Deb Boscaljon

The Zambia Mission Team just returned home from our trip to serve Family Legacy in Lusaka, Zambia where Danny Lightner and his family now serve. Before we left, we collected books to take with us to fill one of the Family Legacy school libraries. Thanks to your generosity, we collected over 1,000 books! Thank you! Pastor Danny and his family are doing very well and they send their love, hugs and greetings.

This is the first mission trip I have ever been on. I have never flown across the ocean and visited other countries and had no idea what to expect. What I experienced was both eye-opening and rewarding. Eye-opening in that I saw and experienced things I have never seen before – other countries as we flew over them, jet lag, driving on the opposite side of the road, new culture and landscapes – but the thing that affected me the most was when we took a tour of the slum areas of Lusaka and saw third world extreme poverty. I’ve heard about it and even seen pictures, but nothing could prepare me for the actual experience. I had no idea how to process what I had just seen – there are no words, really. This grandmother’s heart broke for the children who called this home.

Mobbed!

The trip was also very rewarding in that we were able to accomplish all that we had set out to do. We were able to set up a library at one of the schools where there had not been a library before. There are 23 Family Legacy schools around Lusaka, but only 6 have a library. When we arrived at the school, the children all assembled in the common area outside and provided a program for us, quoting their verse for the year, school rules, singing their national anthem, a skit about books and several special choirs singing for us. I’m not sure who was blessed more! They were extremely grateful.

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We conducted an afternoon VBS for the children of Chelstone – the intake home where the children first come until they have a home they can go to in the Tree of Life Village. This has got to be one of the hardest jobs, being a mamma at Chelstone. Some of the children do not know how to use the bathroom, eat with utensils, and most of the children come there sick, malnourished, and even some already suffering with the aids virus. Barbara Hammel wrote a beautiful poem for the mammas of Chelstone. I’ve included it at the end.

The children will learn English at school, but for now, we mostly had to communicate through interpreters. However, we found that hugs and laughter are universal languages that everyone understands!

Dorothy after footwashing

One of my most rewarding experiences was on the last day that we were there. The ladies on the team went to Chelstone to serve the mommas there by washing their feet. We then proceeded to pamper them a little by massaging their feet and calves with lotion and painting their toenails. I have never been part of a foot washing before and was not exactly sure how I should feel about it or what my response would be, but as my knees hit the floor and I began to wash Mamma Dorothy’s feet, I was the one who felt honored. She felt the same way and the bond between us was complete. In God’s upside-down kingdom, the more you bless others, the more you are blessed. The more you give, the more you receive. This concept was evidenced over and over again throughout the week. I don’t know who was blessed more!

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Of course, when you go on a mission trip, they always set aside a day to have fun. We were able to go with the Lightner family to Chaminuka on a mini-safari. We got to see giraffes, elephants, antelopes, zebras, warthogs, cape buffaloes and many other animals on safari, but the best thing for me was when I got to walk a cheetah on a leash and pet it – amazing!

We saw God meet our needs on this trip and the needs of those we went to serve. The people and sights of Zambia will live long in my heart and my heart is full!

 

GOD’S LOVE
by Barbara Hammel

Oh, mamas of Chelstone,
My heart goes to you
Who work on the frontlines
With all that you do.

Jehovah be praised
For women so strong
To love these dear children
All day and night long.

They come, little soldiers,
Some fighting for life,
All grown up they are,
From their world of strife.

They had to be grown up
To live like they did.
They couldn’t have survived
Just being a kid.

God grant you all patience,
Sweet mamas of Chelstone.
You nurture these babies
Though their bodies are grown.

You take back the power
They needed to live
And show them God’s love
Has good things to give.

Powerless, these children
Feel secure and free
To revert to the toddlers
They didn’t get to be.

For yesterday’s soldiers
Are babies once more
That you must now grow back
To eleven or four.

And now you surround them
With God’s love and care,
Kind mamas of Chelstone
Who now must prepare

These vulnerable children,
Who’ve trusted in you,
To stand on their own
With a whole different view.

They need not depend
On themselves any more
To get their needs met
Like they had to before.

You’re Jesus with skin on,
To teach them His ways,
As you tend to their wounds
In these beginning days.

For these precious treasures
You cherish like your own,
As God’s love shines through you,
Dear mamas of Chelstone.

Fear Not

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By Pastor Mike Rose

Fear is something that I’ve become well-acquainted with. I am often confronted by a brother or sister in Christ who is experiencing fear because of the dire circumstances that surround us in a world that has become so unsettled. Fear that our religious freedoms are on the brink of being taken away. Fear that non-Christian religions are gaining ground in America. Fear of our national debt. Fear that North Korea will launch an attack. Fear that a cataclysmic economic collapse looms on the horizon. Fear that life will never be like it used to be.

A little closer to home is a fear that has gripped me about my own life and ministry. When I was younger I had so much more confidence… some might say cockiness! I thought I was invincible, that I had the answer for everything… that as long as I worked hard and held faithfully to the Gospel, life and ministry would be a continual incline of ever-increasing success. And don’t get me wrong, God has been so good to me, so generous and kind. But in His wisdom He has also allowed me to bloody my “ministry nose” more than once in recent years. Discovering that I am not invincible, that I don’t have all the answers and watching fleshly confidence fade away like the evening sun has created within me an unexpected and uncomfortable fear. Do I have what it takes? Can I actually continue in ministry?  Am I washed up and if so, what’s next for me? Yes, I know what it’s like to live in fear. I can sympathize with all who look at their life and the world and wonder if they have what it takes to make it another day.

Despite my ability to sympathize, I must call myself and any other believers into account. Fear is NOT the path for a Christ-follower. Now, apart from Christ, there is every legitimate reason in the world to be afraid. Without Him, we are left to our own abilities to deal with life’s complex issues. That in itself is enough to generate fear. Our natural abilities are no match for all the turmoil that surrounds us. But in Christ, there is never a legitimate reason to fear. Our lives are in the hands of the One who created all things and sustains them. He is the one who allows nations to rise up or causes them to fall down. Despite the chaos around us, God’s hand is sovereignly upon this world and upon our lives. We are safe in Him. I’m not saying that we may not encounter difficult times, loss of job, wealth, health or even life. We may in fact suffer, but we will never do so apart from God’s loving hand moving us through difficulty for His ultimate glory and our ultimate good. That’s what the Apostle Paul is talking about when he writes: “All things work together for good, for those who love God, and are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28  He does not say that all things work together for our “comfort” or “Convenience” or even for our “happiness.” But as the children of God, everything our loving Father allows us to go through, it is for our good.

So here’s the big question: What good is Paul talking about? It’s found in the next verse, Romans 8:29: “For those whom He foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son…” Everything a child of God faces, both those we would call “positive” and those we think “negative” have a purpose to fulfill. Molding us into the image of Christ Jesus our Lord.  Yes, my head-on collision eleven years ago was a transforming event. The breakdown I suffered last December, a transforming event. Even the birth of my first grandchild, a transforming event.  All things work together for my good.  I praise God for that.

I’ll close with this…  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7  Christ-followers have the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within. We have the love of Christ that has been poured into our hearts…and we have the Word of God that transforms our minds to live and see life from God’s perspective. Yes, the world can be a scary place and life’s unexpected turns and twists will threaten to dredge up fear. But let us keep our eyes on Christ, holding to the reality that He is bigger, stronger and able to make all things work for our good. Let us not fear, but live life with purpose and faith.         

God’s Calendar

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By Tracy Griess

Can you feel it?  It’s that time of year again.  Kids are heading back to school, it’s football season and everywhere we look there are reminders from God that the season is changing.   This time of year is familiar to all of us.  We go through similar routines and traditions every year as we gear up for what many call the busy season.  This year is no different.   I, like you, am gearing up for the “busy season”.  And this year I also looked back at my post from last year.  Every year much is familiar.  We look at the school calendar, we get excited for football, there are back to school shoes and supplies.  Some things never change and then some things do.  

As I put pen to paper I am reminded that last year at this time, there was more than just the routine of back to school.   I lost one of my very best friends to cancer.  Over the last week as the anniversary of her passing was approaching I was reflecting on the memories, the life well lived.  This year, back to school season has been different for me as well.  I sent son #2 off to college.  Since it was the second time it should have been familiar and somewhat easier.  Well, it is anything but easy.  This one actually “left” and lives far enough away that I can’t have lunch on a random Tuesday or tell him to zip over for spaghetti and meatballs.  He has also chosen to play college sports so even if he was a bit closer his schedule is such that our conversations happen via text or at midnight when he’s done for the day.  It’s another busy fall season where emotions seem to be all over the map.  So, as I embrace all that life has in store, I look even more to the Father for strength and endurance.  

I could easily interject at this point to hang on to your little ones and cherish every moment.  And you should.  Or, I could say enjoy those teenage years with your kids even if they are moody and messy and sometimes unbearable.  And you should.  But I won’t.  I won’t simply hand out cliché advice.  All of it is true and I would sure give that advice, but there is more as we color code our calendars, make decisions about which activities should get priority and hunker down for the roller coaster of the season.  Even if your children are all grown and you aren’t sending anyone back to school, you know the “busy” of this season.  You might be gearing up for fall ministry or a winter season in a different state.  Perhaps your grandchildren are heading back to school and your calendar is filled with their activities.  Whatever life stage you are in, I am sure you can relate.  

First of all, I will tell you to embrace the busy-ness.  Embrace all that life is throwing at you.  Don’t necessarily look for ways to cut something out or lighten the calendar.  Embrace all of it.  Seek God first and ask Him to lead you as you carpool, do laundry, go to dance class or football games.  Seek God and ask Him how you can bring Him glory through your daily activities.  How will you use your time to bring glory to Him?  

Sometimes we have to rest, and sometimes we don’t.  What we must always do is be in communication with the Father.  We must always remember that our sole purpose is to bring Him glory.  As I reflect on the last 21 years of back to school seasons and as I remember my dear friend Joyce, I am reminded that I have one job.  That job is to bring glory to God.  I don’t always get it right, but I will continue this journey and strive to do better.  I will look more toward the Father, I will seek His direction more, and I will meet with Him more.  As we think about sending our kids off to school and ponder the advice we should give them, perhaps it is us that need a reminder.   As tired as we are and as full as our calendar becomes, don’t get bogged down in the busy-ness of life.  Embrace it!

So in this busy, back to school season, yes, I have learned a few things over the years.  Plan ahead, set the alarm just a few minutes earlier, expect the unexpected, buy extra folders (they will rip or get lost), and enjoy the ride to school while you play that music loud and laugh with your kids.  But beyond all of that, I have learned, and today I am reminded again, that I serve a God that is 100% always on time.  My plans may appear derailed, I may struggle to find the answer and I may not understand or even like everything that is happening around me.   But, I can trust that God has already shown up, He’s just waiting for me.  His plan is good and I can rest in knowing that He will work all of it out for His glory.  So today as you are preparing for your particular busy season, take a moment to be reminded that God is good, He is on time and if you ask, He will lead you down His path.