3 Reasons Why You Can't Miss LEGACY SUNDAY

A few years back, we created Legacy Sunday as a can't-miss event for anyone who has ever been part of Christ Community. Here are three reasons why you don't want to miss being part of this year's Legacy Sunday on September 11th:

First, because you are part of Christ Community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, 'Christian community is not an ideal we have to realize, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.' If you have ever been part of our church, you are always part of our church. Legacy Sunday exists as a reminder of a reality in which we are privileged to participate; gathering together to worship as a rehearsal for the day when every tribe, tongue and people group from every generation will come together to worship Jesus.

Second, because you were made to leave a legacy. Most of the men and women who are part of Christ Community live in Athens for just a few years. My message at the Legacy Sunday gathering from Genesis 1:31 will lay out a plan for making a difference both now and for years to come that will make Jesus impossible to ignore here in Athens and beyond.

Third, because you're going to make memories. Whether you are new to the church, or you are coming back into town for the day, Legacy Sunday will be hard to forget. This will be the first Legacy Sunday in the 890 Boulevard building, and we have a great lunch planned afterward at Terrapin Brewery. You will not want to see pictures and video from the event and wish you had taken the time to be with us.

So let's make this simple. Decide right now that you are going to be part of Legacy Sunday on Sept. 11, and let us know that you are coming so we can have enough food for everyone. 

- Matt Adair, Lead Pastor Christ Community Church

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Life in the AD (After Degree)

Life in the AD (After Degree)

One of the things I have always loved about our church is that so many people come in for a season and are sent out to impact the world . For over half of the year, 35,000 young adults rub elbows on a campus a little larger than a square mile. Like an airport, its inhabitants are heading to their own destinations. Yet here we are, spending several years in our own terminal and now we are boarding our flight into the “real world”. We see people grow in their faith, share the Gospel with others, and love people well.

But what happens after college? Where will I live? What will my job be? With whom will I surround myself?

These are all questions I asked myself as my time at the University of Georgia was winding down. Sometimes it seems there isn’t much decision-making remaining for yourself. You fall into a job and…well, you just take it! I’m not here to make you second-guess the job you already took. If you took one, then congratulations on securing your first position after college! But, let’s figure out how to set you up for success when you get there.

First, do you know people where you are going who love Jesus and want other people to know His love?

If yes, then go ahead and reach out to them. They will be a great resource! Ask them if they know of a good Gospel-centered church in the area and a community group around your stage of life. You don’t need to church hop every weekend. Find your fit, set your stance, plant your feet, and dig your cleats in. It’s game time.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to stick around a place that isn’t preaching the Gospel, but doing some research will help in the process. Go ahead and reach out to the churches and tell them you’re moving there and looking to get connected with a gospel community. They want to help you follow Jesus and love people well so let them do that. You'll want help in the process.

Life after college is…an adventure. You may be worried about losing your Christian community, but instead of worrying, think of this next stage as an opportunity to dive and conquer and share The Gospel with even more people. Set yourself up with people who point you to Jesus, preach the Gospel to you, point out evidences of God’s grace in your life and around you, and ask you the tough questions. Press into things and have conversations with people beyond the limits of school and work. School and work will inevitably be a topic of conversation, but don’t stop there.

Get to know your new friends, for they will become your family. Spend time with them. Listen. Ask questions. Eat with them—you may want to venture outside your college staple Ramen, Pop-Tarts, and Yoo-hoo.

So, how do you set yourself up to grow in your faith as you take your next step in adulting? Put yourself out there to intentionally get to know fellow Christians. Commit to membership in a Gospel-centered, missional church. Participate in a regular worship gathering (with a consistent group of believers). Engage in regular spiritual conversations consulting the Bible as the ultimate truth, and look to share the Gospel with those who God has brought into your life.

Let’s look to create rhythms in our lives that set us up to reflect on God’s Holiness, our sinfulness, and God’s incredible love shown to us in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Happy adulting.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, Amen.”

-- Ephesians 3:20-21

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I Am Free From "Enough"

“You’re not good enough.” 

This is what Satan has whispered to me throughout my life. Even though I became a Christian at an early age, I still believed that grace wasn’t enough for me. I can still go into what I call “failure" mode - if a few things go wrong, I start to feel like a failure. Each mistake paralyzes me and I begin to think that life is not worth living because I’m not worthy of it.

Then about three years ago, things changed. The Spirit spoke. I couldn’t fall asleep because my mind was stuck in failure mode. I was hearing in one ear, “You’re not good enough” and I sunk into despair. Suddenly, I heard a voice in my other ear saying, “You’re right.” This was not like the first voice. I felt instantly calm, soothed, at peace. This was the voice of the Spirit. He didn’t speak audibly, but directly to my soul. These were the only words He said, but what I heard in that moment was, “You’re right to think you’re not good enough. You don’t have to be. I AM.” 

That was absolute freedom for me. I was no longer focused on my self and my failures, but grateful for Jesus caring enough for me not only to take my sins to the cross but to speak to me in my moment of stress. I could finally fall rest and fall asleep because in that moment, I gave all the mess-ups of my day up to Him instead of worrying about how I could make up for them the next day.

The word “enough” denotes measurement. By being “good enough,” I try to live up to some kind of expectation, and when I reach it, then I’ll be “enough." But if Christ has set us free, we are free indeed (Galatians 5:1). We are free to live, not to be slaves to standards. At the end of my day, all I could remember was the dust on the ceiling fan above me begging to be cleaned, paperwork I forgot to fill out again at work, the jacket I left on a park bench somewhere, all the times I failed to pray before interactions with people, the many “I love you’s” left unsaid. I had my failures of commission and omission piled up in my mind and showing up as stress in my shoulders and insomnia in my brain. But when the Spirit spoke, I knew He was in control and I didn’t have to be. I could fall asleep and trust that God’s mercies would be new in the morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Fighting For Freedom Through Faith 

In this sermon series, we are talking about fighting for freedom through faith. For me, this fight looks like remembering what God says in the midst of personal failure. I cannot keep fighting for self-approval, others’  approval, or even God’s approval.

Let’s take work for an example. I get up to write at 5:15am, train a few clients, then come home and take care of a two-year-old. If I try and live up to my own standards, I will disappoint others because I have to say no to hanging out past 9pm. If I try and live up to God’s standards, I will disappoint Him because I get angry at myself or others for getting in the way of my pre-set times to work. I will sleep in by accident, my daughter will skip a nap, or somebody will need my help. There are too many competing factors for me to keep up with. And there is freedom in not having to keep up. If I fight for approval, I will lose. Instead, I’ll fight for faith. 

I still fall into the trap of performing and feeling good, then failing and despairing. But God says He will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), so that means He’s not with me based on what I can do. He’s with me based on what He has done. Even if I mess up a million times, He will still be there. 

I Know The Great "I AM"

Fighting for freedom though faith means relying on His power and responding to it in a life of praise, not a jail sentence to performance. If I am here - breathing and writing, I know that God sustains me. If He sustains me, then He must have a purpose for me. I have to remember that He created me because He is “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:6-7a). God is love and just. I was guilty, I did have to pay a price, and I was sentenced to death for my sins. But Jesus stepped in and traded places with me. He died, so that I may live. He lives, so I may be free. Thanks be to God!

Today, fighting for freedom through faith for me means focusing on the Lord’s kind rule instead of the cold cruelty of conditional love and impossible standards. It means remembering that Jesus is worthy, that Jesus paid the price, that Jesus is reigning, that Jesus will come again.

Jesus refers to Himself as “I AM” (John 8:58). Living in freedom means knowing that when the enemy says to me, “You’re not good enough,” I can respond with, “I know I AM, and I am His.”

 

What has Christ set you free from?

How are you living in that freedom today? 

What are the ways you fight for freedom through faith?

Written by Kasey Shuler

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My Sabbatical

My Sabbatical

Today is April 25th and it marks my first day back in the office in four weeks. I am sitting at my desk with a different outlook on who I am, what I do, and why I do it. It would mean a lot to me if you would take a few minutes to read through this post about my 4 week sabbatical from Christ Community.

In 2015 the Elders discussed the ifs, whys, and whens Pastoral staff would have the opportunity for a sabbatical. The Elders decided to provide a sabbatical for the primary purpose of finding rest in God and rejuvenation in the  work of pastoral ministry.

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Let Jesus Do The Dirty Work

This post was first published on kaseybshuler.com

It’s Maundy Thursday, the day we commemorate the Last Supper before Jesus’ crucifixion. At this Passover Meal, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. Washing dirty, crusty, worn feet is equivalent to me changing dirty diapers. It's dirty work. 

"Did we need to change your diaper?”—me

*looks straight at me with raised eyebrows* “Nope!”—Little E

"Hmm, I think we do. Let’s get you cleaned up.”—me

“NOOOOOO!!!" *runs away*—Little E

This is the first time our daughter lied to us. Almost everyday, she denies she needs a diaper change and runs in the other direction.

I try and reason with her, “Why don’t you want to get clean? It feels so good to get clean and dry!"

Then it hit me. At the IF:Gathering, Jennie Allen talked about offering our dirty feet, or our sin, to Jesus so He can wash us clean with His righteousness. I put myself in Peter’s shoes, in my daughter’s diapers, and realized I do the same things and deny Jesus when He tells me I need to get cleaned up. 

Offering Dirty Feet

Changing diapers requires the child to:

  • Stop playing
  • Lay down
  • Be still
  • Let someone else do the dirty work

Offering my sin to Jesus requires me to:

  • Stop in the middle of my "productive task"
  • Get in a low posture of prayer
  • Remain still in my soul
  • Humbly let Jesus do the cleaning instead of trying to fix the problems myself 

Jesus says “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean” (John 13:10) because when we receive salvation in Christ, we are cleansed in the waters of baptism. We are completely clean. But we still need to wash our feet on a daily basis.

Our feet travel the roads of the world. We must shake off the dust (Matthew 10:14). 

Let Jesus Do The Daily Cleansing

The necessity of a daily bath is a reminder of our need to go to Jesus in prayer and be washed from the dust of worldly desires and deeds. This regular bodily cleansing is a reminder that Jesus has made us clean from the inside out, yet we still depend on Him for our daily salvation. We cannot wash off sin with soap and water. We cannot just wipe it away and throw it in the trash. We need Jesus to do the dirty work. 

Jesus set an example for the disciples by serving them and cleaning their feet with water. Today, we are cleansed through:

The Word of God: "that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” Ephesians 5:26

Prayer: "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8

Obedience in loving others: "Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” 1 Peter 1:22

By the Word of God, we recognize we have some dirt in our lives that needs to be cleaned.

Through prayer, we submit to Jesus’ work in our lives. 

We go forth in obedience and love others from the inside out.  

I may have grown out of diapers, but I haven’t grown out of sin.

Jesus is the one who bends low to purify us. We have to stick out our dirty feet and set aside our pride so we can be clean. In turn, we get to go in His humble Spirit and serve others. 

For Deeper Thought

What do you need to offer to Jesus for cleansing?

What is keeping you from admitting you need His help? 

What are you trying to do on your own instead of giving it to God?

Written by Kasey Shuler

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Hosanna!

 

12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.
13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!"
- John 12:12-13

When our little girl was about 10 months old, she learned how to wave. She and I went to Target while my husband went on an errand. We finished our shopping first and waited outside for him to come pick us up. It must have been 20 minutes before he got there—an eternity with a squirming infant—but they were some of the most delightful 20 minutes I’ve had. Our little one started waving to people coming in to Target, and they waved back! She thought that was the most fun thing in the world. Her wave said, “Hey, you! You’re a person, and so am I! Welcome!” and their wave back said to her, “I see you, and I celebrate you!” It was a mutual exchange of happiness.

Waving is one of the simplest forms of communication. God ingrained this nonverbal cue in our bodies from birth, He requires it in worship in the Old Testament, and confirms the motion during the celebration of Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is coming up soon on the church calendar, and we continue worshipping by celebrating salvation in Jesus by waving our hands and exclaiming “Hosanna!” in expectation that He will come again. 

Wave Offering

In Biblical times, waving wasn’t just a nice thing to do at Target; God commanded it in His temple. The book of Leviticus mentions all kinds of different sacrifices that God prescribed for worship. There were burnt offerings, grain offerings, purification offerings, guilt offerings, and peace offerings.

One of the required peace offerings in Leviticus was the wave offering, where an offering of first fruits was waved before the Lord’s altar to say, “thank you for your provision!” When I read this, I thought it was kind of strange. Why did they need to wave the offering in the air? Who were they waving to? 

Waving can either signify a need for saving or a cause for celebration:

Save us

Waving is the slow signal of a white flag of surrender.

Waving is thrashing arms in the air on a sinking boat.

Celebrate

Waving is an act of attention. It’s to say, “Hey there!” or “I’m over here!”

Waving is extending oneself to say “hi!" to another human being.

Hosanna!

When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, the people of the city waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13) The act of waving branches is reminiscent of the wave offerings presented in the temple worship in Leviticus. This time, the object of the people’s worship was right in front of them. They waved their branches for their God, King Jesus.  They shouted, “Hosanna!” when he rode through the streets on a humble donkey, just as the prophets foretold (Zechariah 9:9).

Similar to the act of waving, the word “Hosanna” also means saving and celebration:

Save Us

“Hosanna" used to mean “save us, please!” (Psalm 118:25).

Celebrate

Gradually, "Hosanna" came to mean “Salvation is here! Salvation is coming!”

Blended together, “Hosanna" means: “Hooray for salvation! It’s coming and it’s here!” The people presented their wave offerings in the temple as a sacrifice, but now their sacrifice has come. The people were waiting for a King to restore all things, and now Jesus has arrived on the scene.

Palm Sunday

The wave offerings make so much more sense to me now. Waving is a grand gesture of worship, acknowledging our great need for the Savior while celebrating His arrival into our lives. 

Easter is coming. Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem. We celebrate Jesus’ homecoming by acknowledging Palm Sunday, the day when the crowds shouted, “Hosanna!” to the King on the colt. 

This year, Palm Sunday falls on March 20th. We honor Jesus’ arrival into our lives by proclaiming, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” We give thanks for salvation in Jesus, and wave our palm fronds (or just our hands) in expectation that He will come again. Salvation is here, and it’s coming. Hosanna in the highest!

For Deeper Thought

What does the act of waving mean to you? How can you think about waving as a way to worship Jesus?

“Hosanna” is a mix of fulfillment and yearning. Are you in a place of prayerful expectation, or are you celebrating the contentment of salvation in your life? What does it look like to live in the tension of both expectation and completeness? 

Written by Kasey Shuler

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14 Years

Sometimes life is hectic and nights are sleepless and times are not quiet, and yet in that moment God finds a way to speak to me. Whether it be through friends or family or short phrases whispered by our children God finds a way to grab my heart when I simply cannot find a moment to sit and be still.

 

This week God used an email from a friend to continually bring my mind back to Him...even in the midst of inconsolable children.

 

My friend reminded me of Psalm 29 - a Psalm that this friend and I had set to music several years ago.

 

At the age of 21 reading Psalm 29 hit me like a punch to the gut, it overwhelmed me with the image of God’s power. Even a girl like me (who often “missed” things or had things go over my head) wouldn’t be able to not pay attention in the situation the Psalmist describes:

 

“The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon...The voice of the Lord flashes like lightning. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness.”

 

This description of a destructive voice resulted in an unexpected feeling:  comfort.  It was a comfort in my relative youth that this booming, all-powerful voice of God was the same voice that was also  still and small. That it had the ability to get my attention in a way that was irrefutable. It could shake me. It could break me. But at the same time, it could be small and a comfort.

 

I’ve meditated on that passage for the past few weeks and my appreciation for the Psalmist’s message has only deepened over the past 14 years.

 

I read the words and am able to look back on moments of immense joy and know that it was God. I can look back on seasons filled with grief and pain so debilitating that I could barely breathe and know that it too was God - that nothing was beyond the reach of His voice. The words let me see the hand of God as I look back and encourage me as I look ahead.

 

Scripture urges us on several occasions to meditate on God’s word. The original Hebrew for “meditate” is hagah and according to Strong’s Concordance it means “to moan, growl, utter, speak, muse”.

 

That definition fits well with my life. I know there are times when all I can do it simply moan the Word in grief and pain and sorrow. There are still other times when I growl it ferociously over a loved one or a child as I pray for their salvation. And still, there are times when I simply muse.

 

It has taken 14 years, but now I feel like the Psalm is truly sinking in. Taking root in my heart. I am more able to recognize its truth in even the murkiest of earthly moments.

 

I pray for you and for myself that today we will meditate on God’s scripture. That we would practice this meditation in the simplest of ways and allow His voice to sink deeply into our hearts - whether it be still and small or shaking us to a breaking point.

 

 

Written by Lydia Wells

 

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God before me.

Sunday, Klint preached out of Acts 20 where Paul is describing his ministry. Paul is addressing elders of the church of Ephesus.

 

Think of it as a small-ish leadership conference. But one that bears no resemblance to a modern day leadership pep talk.

 

Instead, Paul’s description of his ministry and leadership reads more like a tragedy than the rags-to-riches success stories that we are inundated with today.

 

Currently, people who are considered leaders have a certain code of conduct. They tout their successes, point to their strengths...make it about them. Only THEY can do what has been done or what has to be done. When a modern day leader fails, they  often downplay or disregard it, blame the circumstances , or even blame others.

 

My guess is is that even in the early church leaders probably struggled with these inclinations. Afterall, they were only human.

 

Paul (as the Keynote speaker equivalent at this leadership conference) takes a different approach.

 

He doesn’t give his audience strategies or a list of “five things to do today” to increase their following. He doesn’t guild the lily.  He doesn’t gloss over the hard work.

 

He is brutally honest:

 

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not count my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
(Acts 20: 18-24, ESV)

 

What strikes me most about this passage is Paul’s brokenness and humility. He claims no value of his own. He doesn’t cover up the hardship. He has served faithfully, yes, but with tears and trials. He lives in physical uncertainty - not knowing what will happen next. He is certain of one thing: imprisonment and afflictions await him. He counts himself of no value. His life means nothing. He only wants to finish.

 

He just wants to finish.

 

Paul takes the conference talk template and throws it out the window. What he gives is a speech that probably brought the elders in his presence to stunned silence. It should bring us to stunned silence.

 

Paul is PAUL. He is the man that a resurrected Jesus slapped blind from his donkey and called to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles. There is likely no greater evangelist than Paul throughout all of church history. Billy Graham has nothing on Paul.

 

And while I am sure that this speech was given with passion - this is a man who has been through trials near impossible for us to imagine. He doesn’t try to hide the pain, the scars, the uncertainty of his fate. He just wants to finish. He’s been given a job; it’s a beautiful calling - if only he may finish his course.

 

Have you ever been in a situation or a physical place where you just wanted to finish what was started?

 

I think most of us can relate to the feeling.

 

That awkward family dinner. A half-marathon you signed up, but didn’t train for (even though you really meant to). Child birth. Chronic or terminal Illness.

 

A moment when all the emotions and feelings and pep talks bow out. Where physical symptoms and weariness come full force. All we are left with is….nothing - just the need to be finished, for it all to be done.

 

We know that in this rock-and-a-hard-place moment, we have the decision to give up or to keep going. To push through or walk away. To bear down and do the work or to crumble into a ineffective mess.

 

So, what do we do? We create motivating playlists on Spotify. We surround ourselves with encouraging quotes and images. We visualize. We read a lot of self-help books. We join forums and chatboards and clubs. We fight through with short-lived and fleeting emotions and bursts of energy.

 

But eventually, we have to face the challenge.  We will find ourselves in this definitive “do or die” moment and attempt to force through by “sheer force of will.” And while this might allow us to continue successfully for a short time (in a minute-by-minute fashion) - after all, a child will eventually be born, the marathon ends, the illness wins;  shear force of will cannot sustain us when the end is unforeseeable.

 

Feelings. Emotions. Willpower. They will only take us so far. They are brilliant and beautiful and strong and powerful, but they fade in both the best and hardest of circumstances. They are fleeting.

 

Clearly, Paul wasn’t running off of feelings or emotions. He was tired - probably physically broken. He calls his life worthless..

 

Except...Unless...If only he could finish what God has called him to.

 

What kept Paul going? What was the driving force?

 

Knowing God.

 

Not feeling God. Knowing Him.

 

Paul was learned in the scriptures. He was a Jewish rock star. He had an amazing foundation in the Law and well, he showed it off in some of the most horrendous ways. That is until he was thrown from his donkey onto a road, struck blind, and spoken to by name by the living God, the resurrected Jesus.

 

Paul met God. Paul knew God. Paul committed to God.

 

It was not about a warm and fuzzy feeling that Paul got when thinking about God. It was a harrowing and shocking experience that told Paul all that he needed to know about God: Jesus is the Messiah. He is the resurrected Savior. He is “God with us.” He is the fulfillment of the Law. All this time, Paul had thought it was about his knowledge, his rules, his actions - but it wasn’t about him.

 

It is always about God.

 

So, when Paul finds himself faced with uncertainty, he knows that this is not about him - even if it is the kind of uncertainty that will always lead to tears, trials, imprisonment, and affliction. It’s not about what he wants. It’s not about his success.

 

Because he counts his life as nothing. Because he just wants to finish.

 

It can sound like weariness and brokenness (and there is a twinge of that in his voice, I’m sure of it), but what overpowers that small hint of exhaustion is a focus and an intention. This is not a man who is "self"-motivated. This is a man who is driven by the Holy Spirit. This is a man focused on the God of the Universe.

 

This is a man who puts God before himself.

 

God before his dreams. God before his wants. God before his safety. God before his needs. God before what others expect from him. God before his life.

 

God before everything else.

 

Leaders will often start with a mission statement or a strategy, but as markets and demographics and times shift, practices adjust as well - to avoid downturns or downright calamity.

 

Paul never waivers.

 

God before all.

 

How do we do this?  How is it even possible? This is Paul we are talking about - he was some sort of superhuman whose origin story takes place on a dirt road with nothing but a servant and a donkey and a really bright light.

 

But before that...beyond that, Paul was just a man…...  A man who KNEW  God.

 

He didn’t function on feeling, but from knowledge.

 

Church culture talks a lot about our hearts: having a “heart change,” Jesus coming into our hearts, the Holy Spirit transforming our hearts, loving God with all of our hearts.

 

We forget (or perhaps ignore) that God also requires our minds - a knowledge of his Word, a knowledge of who He is.

 

Because in those hard moments our hearts will fail us. Our emotions and feelings will tell us that we cannot do it. We should walk away. We are not enough.

 

But a mind transformed by a knowledge of God and His Word will draw on deep truths. It will turn us NOT towards who we are and what we are capable of, but who God is and what He has already done.

 

A mind transformed cannot help but put God in His proper place.

 

Before everything.

 

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Are You Crowd Surfing With The Mob?

When I lived in Seattle, if you didn’t bring your reusable bags to the grocery store, you were publicly shamed and thrown into the stocks at the checkout until you swore to bring them next time. Okay so it wasn’t that extreme, but I definitely got the side eye and exasperated sigh from the cashier if I bought two weeks’ worth of groceries and they all went into disposable bags. That was before the city of Seattle completely got rid of plastic bags and I panicked: what was I supposed to use as bathroom trash can liners?

"And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” Acts 19:26-27

In the above verses from Acts, Paul is pro-Gospel and anti-idols, and his stance not only threatens a whole industry of idol-makers, but their worship and value system, their whole way of life. The idol-maker Demetrius even uses the word “danger,” when referring to Paul’s preaching.

He feels attacked, puts up defenses, and builds an army of rioters. 

Do you ever feel like your way of life is being threatened? One indicator of feeling threatened is being offended. How do you respond?

Feeling Ashamed

In order to build his army, Demetrius creates a mob mentality, exaggerating the facts and accusing Paul of leading “practically the whole province of Asia” astray, and that the goddess Artemis is “worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world.” He paints Paul as the enemy and claims that the whole world worships Artemis, so Paul is basically an enemy of the entire world. This leads many to believe that Paul is attacking them too, and others to believe that they are outsiders if they don’t agree with Demetrius. This is Demetrius’ way of publicly shaming those who believe Paul and those who don’t worship Artemis.

On a much smaller scale, I felt ashamed by the cashier at the grocery store in Seattle. This is the track that played in my head after seeing the look on the cashier’s face: "Everyone brings their reusable bags, why didn’t you? Are you against the movement of banning plastic bags? This is a step toward progress, why are you hindering our progress as a city? (I’m threatening his way of life) Don’t you know how bad they are for the environment? Do you hate the earth? (I’m threatening his worship of the earth)” Now of course nobody actually said those things to me, and this cashier may have just had a bad day and doesn’t even care about the earth, but this was a flash emotion of how I felt. 

Have you been shamed by opposing someone or something? Did you give in or stand firm? 

Great Are Plastic Bags!

God did tell us to take care of the earth and steward it as our home, and I wholeheartedly agree with the steps the city of Seattle takes towards taking care our surroundings. However, some people would get really fired up about the environment and publicly shame others for not agreeing. What would happen if I started preaching over the grocery store’s intercom: “Good people of Seattle! Use plastic bags. Plastic bags are awesome! After getting them at the store, you can use them to cover bags of meat in the fridge so they don't contaminate other food, you can reuse them as trash can liners! Stop bringing your reusable bags! Great are plastic bags! Great are plastic bags! Great are plastic bags!”?

I would shout this for two hours until a riot started and I was taken down by the green police. That’s what Demetrius did, and if it sounds silly, it was. People who joined his idol riot were "in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there” (Acts 19:32). This is what happens with a mob mentality: the leader is threatened, the leader pegs an enemy, exaggerates the facts, and riles up a crowd in agreement. After a while, the crowd forgets why they came in the first place.

Have you been involved in a mob or crowd movement? Did you get caught up in the hysteria or did you maintain reason? What about when you went against popular opinion? How did you feel? 

Don't Get Caught Up In The Crowd

I can get into an argument with my husband and then forgetting why I got mad in the first place, so I get it. But this story from Acts reminds me to beware of mob mentality. There are a few hot-button issues I can think of that create crowds of protests: abortion, gay marriage, and vaccines, just to name a few. But they can even be smaller issues within the circles of my city and friends, such as mid-wives versus MDs or organic food versus low cost food.

Am I joining an argument or cause just because everyone else around me is, or am I asking the Spirit to help me identify idols and loving people beyond man-made traditions and industries? 

Before getting caught up in the crowd, we can ask ourselves a few questions:

  1. Am I putting this cause, thing, or person above God? Am I placing more of my wealth and value in it than the Lord?
  2. Am I being defensive and standing up for myself and my stuff, or am I leaning on the cross and Christ’s righteousness for me?
  3. Am I being swept away by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14) and crowd surfing with the mob, or am I speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)?

Written by Kasey Shuler

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Abiding

This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, a day that marks the beginning of Lent for many churches. Traditionally, Ash Wednesday is a somber day in which one is reminded that “you come from dust and to dust you will return” or, more to the point, “Remember, you will die.”

 

Lent is a season that allows us to journey alongside Jesus towards the cross. This is to be a time of fasting and reflection - reflecting on what our lives would look like without the Resurrection - about the work that was done on the Cross. It is a sobering time that leads us, forty days later, into Holy Week and, ultimately, to the Resurrection.

 

My family and I observe this season every year. Sometimes half-heartedly, but most years we are very much in a place of needing to hear something - a place where we need to remember. We found ourselves in a place of need this past Wednesday.

 

Over the past several weeks during the evening hours, in those rare few minutes that the adults in our house have to talk about things of consequence (I.E. anything that does not revolve around Disney Princesses, Palace Pets, or whatever other marketing scheme my children have latched onto that week), our conversation has centered around a feeling of discontentment, unsettledness, uneasiness - specifically concerning the spiritual growth in our lives.

 

We feel unmet, unheard, lonely, unsatisfied, hungry, thirsty, and, in all honesty, a little angry.

 

In the past, these feelings would send me into a bit of a tailspin. I would try to make it better, force the issue, or blame someone else for simply not meeting my needs. However, an incredible therapist told me several years ago that anger is actually a God-given emotion. It’s purpose it to let us know that something is off, unfair, not right.

 

And so rather than giving into feelings of “others are letting me down” and just being angry, I have been sitting in the unsettled feelings. I allowed the soil of my soul (that has admittedly sat stagnant for a bit) to be tilled, turned over, and uprooted. It’s not pleasant, but it is freeing.

 

When we allow ourselves to be reminded of our flaws, our deep-seated imperfections, our sin, our death - we let all of that into the light. It’s unearthed and aired out. We can look at it plainly - inspecting what’s been uprooted. We can look to heaven and ask that some things in our life be pulled up and thrown into the fire.

 

The season of Lent, aside from being a time of reflection, it is a time of fasting. Many fast rich foods or wine. Some fast behaviors or earthly joys. Some get caught up in the restriction and the “emptying out” and forget that fasting for fasting sake is simply an exercise in self-discipline and self-discipline is not all we are called to. It is not all that Lent should be. Instead, Lent is a time of  giving something up with the sole purpose of allowing that new found space in our day to be employed in an activity that is LIFE giving - praise, worship, the Word, serving. A time of re-centering.

 

Lent as an experiment in self-depravation is not the point.

 

God does not want us empty. He wants us full. He wants us overflowing.

 

This Lenten season, I have personally chosen to take a step back from some social media - although I will be sharing links to my CC blog posts. The reason being that it is time consuming.  I will even go so far as to say it is LIFE consuming. It can leave me mumbling, judging, irritated, and mad. Which is not an indictment of social media, but more on the condition of my heart.

 

When I am Bored. Lonely. Desperate. Joyful. Confused. I go to the internet. I go online. There is where I will seek answers, comfort, friendship, confirmation, encouragement...Love.

 

I have found in my times of reflection in preparation for Ash Wednesday and Lent that I am incredibly unsettled because I am abiding in the wrong places. I am not ABIDING in God.

 

A few definitions of “abide” are:

  1. (v. i.) To stay; to continue in a place; to have one's abode; to dwell; to sojourn; -- with before a person, and commonly with at or in before a place.
  2. (v. i.) To wait; to pause; to delay.
  3. (v. i.) To remain stable or fixed in some state or condition; to continue; to remain.
  4. (v. t.) To wait for; to be prepared for; to await; to watch for; as, I abide my time.
  5. (v. t.) To endure; to sustain; to submit to.
  6. (v. t.) To bear patiently; to tolerate; to put up with.
  7. (v. t.) To stand the consequences of; to answer for; to suffer for.

 

Jesus says in John 15:4 that we are to “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”

 

Now, read that verse again, replacing “abide” with the above definitions.  

 

“Prepare for me, as I prepare for you.”  “Dwell in me as I in you.”

 

The Bible instructs us, encourages us, to abide in God. My tendency toward social media as a default simply does not allow me to fully participate in the Lenten journey alongside Jesus to the cross.   

 

So, I am fasting the seeking out of others online. And I’m going to try and fill that space with life-giving water, daily bread - to spend my time abiding in the Word. I want to fill that time up with God.  I want to be overflowing with Him, not with tweets, likes, and pins.

 

I believe my unsatisfied, unsettled, and freshly tilled heart will find comfort and peace there.    

 

Perhaps you find yourself some place similar.

 

Perhaps there are emotions, sins, attitudes that seem to be blocking out everything else.

 

Perhaps this is the time to allow the soil to be tilled - to learn to abide.
 

 

Written by Lydia Wells

 

 

**Christ Community does not corporately celebrate Ash Wednesday or Lent, but many of those in our body do participate in this liturgical season. Visit this link to read a blog written by Pastor Matt addressing this time of year.**

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