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Archive for February, 2016

Worship is War

BY ANDREW SHEFFIELD

Worship is war.  The great battle of all time is the battle for worship—thwarworshipe battle to win the adoration and service of earth and heaven.  And when we gather for corporate worship, part of what we’re doing is fighting in this battle.  So we must be serious about our task.  We must be serious about being unified in our task.  We must be serious about being steadfast in our task.  And if we are to be serious, unified, and steadfast, we must above all be focused only on Christ.  He is the object of our worship, and He is the reason we can worship rightly.  So fix your eyes on Him, continuing to come together week in and week out to fight so that Christ will be exalted in His church and in the world.

Andrew Sheffield is Pastor for Worship and Community at Rocky Bayou Baptist Church in Niceville, Georgia.

Posted in: Worship

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Are You The One?

BY JOE BANCKS

One of the most earthy, human, and moving passages of the New Testament is Luke 7:18-35 (read it HERE).

John the Baptizer, in prison for his opposition to Herod’s unlawful marriage, sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the One?” Jesus, one must imagine, broken-hearted for his cousin and for the righteousness of God He had come to accomplish, replies with simultaneous understatement and glory: “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” In His answer to John, Jesus appeals to Isaiah, beckoning John’s heart to God’s Word, to see the fulfillment of God’s promises. If your Bible has cross-references (a very, very useful tool for understanding how all Scripture fits together!), you might see cross-references to Isaiah chapters 35 and 61 (read them HERE and HERE), foreseeing the Messiah who preaches good tidings to the poor and heals he sick, and this is exactly what is happening in real-time.

Oberzell Alte Kirche Decke Johannes im Kerker.jpg

John the Baptist in prison, by Josef Anton Hafner, 1750. Public Domain.

I think it goes deeper. Often a NT author (and in this case, Jesus) calls our attention to an OT passage without quoting the whole thing, but the omitted portions are just as “referenced” as the explicitly quoted parts.

That’s a little esoteric, so maybe an analogy will help. Suppose you and I share an affinity for the Rolling Stones. If you ask me, some day, “How’s your day?” and I reply simply, “You can’t always get what you want,” you would understand that the next line, the lyric I did not say, is the answer to your question: “But sometimes you get what you need.” I’m saying that this day is not what I wanted, but in God’s providence I have hope that it is what I need. Because you and I have a common lyrical lexicon, in the oblique reference I made, we are sharing more than information: we are sharing solidarity, we are enjoying fellowship.

So Jesus stops His answer with “the poor have good news preached to them.” But Isaiah 61:1 goes on to say something else: that God’s promised Messiah would bring liberty to captives, and opened prisons to those who are bound.

Captives, like Jesus’ cousin John.

What a strong, tender, empathetic response to the prisoner of hope.

Joe Bancks is a member of FCC.

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So, You Want to Feel Better?

BY Julie Ganschow

We live in a world that offers unprecedented access to methods to feel better.  In fact, if you ask most people who have the slightest amount of discomfort what they want, they will tell you they want to “feel better.”
Feelbetter

The world’s methods for feeling better are rooted in psychology and psychological thinking.  This includes the use of various medications.   What Biblical Counselors offer is a completely different method for “feeling better.”  It doesn’t come in a bottle or a pill, and you can’t find it through talk therapy, anger management, or hypnosis.   It begins with understanding the way you feel emotionally is a result – it is an outcome of what you are thinking about.

The Bible is clear that what we think, believe, and desire is what leads us to feel and act the way we do. What you think, believe and desire in your heart is what causes you to feel depressed or have sorrow without hope, be happy, anxious or anything else.  Our thoughts are a reflection of what is in our heart. (Proverbs 23:7) You can look at your heart as the control center of your being—the Bible does! (Proverbs 4:23) We are warned to keep our heart; to watch over it, to guard it, and protect it. The heart is where your thoughts, beliefs, desires, will, soul, feelings, emotions and every other thing about you that cannot be physically handled resides.

The Bible tells us that because of our fallen nature the heart is wicked and deceitful (Jer. 17:9).  Because of this the heart is set upon pleasing self above all.  This is a worship disorder that is rooted in the immaterial man, and affects every aspect of a person if left unchecked.  It manifests itself in the dedicated focus on something or someone other than God and His glory.  We find many other things to lavish our focus on: money, spouses, and children, just to name a few things that you may be familiar with.  But we also give far too much attention to things that are immaterial—feelings, desires, wants, perceived needs, lusts, thoughts, and emotions.  As much as in my humanity I wish I could say something else to you, I know that the truth is this:  How you feel is not as important as what you do with your pain, troubles, or suffering.

The Christian life is not about feeling good or being happy.  The hard truth is that we are here to worship and glorify God and sometimes God chooses suffering and pain as the vehicle He uses to bring Himself glory!  If feeling better is what you focus on, you have got the wrong focus, and you may be reaching for the wrong goal.  I am not saying that you wrong for wanting to relieve physical suffering.  However, the relentless pursuit of feeling better is often completely out of hand!  What if God wants you to suffer with pain?  What if God has placed you in a marriage that is difficult because He is in the process of making you more like Christ?  Would you want to short circuit that?

The goal for the Christian to be more like Christ.  That is what we proclaim as we spout Romans 8:28-29.  We say we believe that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God, but when we have to grapple with what it really means to be called to suffer we say, “God, can’t you make me like Christ some other way? Can’t you conform me without this pain?”   We argue with God, we bargain, we plead, we exhaust every human method and means to avoid pain and misery and sometimes we miss the whole point.  The desires of our hearts are fixed in the wrong place! They are too often placed in what I want, what my rights are, how I can be served, how I can feel better and be happier…and these are not what God wants us to focus on!  He wants our desires to be in line with His— in the midst of the pain, in the middle of the crummy marriage or relationship. He wants us to stop worshipping and idolizing these people and things and fix our eyes on Him!

Living by emotions is a dead end. You will never find stability; there is no even keel.  You will find yourself brought high and low, up and down all the time!  This just creates more misery for you. There is a better way!

Julie Ganschow is the director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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Better Things, Good Things

BY JOE BANCKS

Three years ago, when my son was two years old, my wife and I needed to complete some short task without the kids interfering, and so I instructed the children to sit on the couch and be still. Once the task was finished, the children would be free to romp at will. My two year old was most unhappy with the order, so I said to him that I gave him this instruction because I have something better in store for him. I said, “Sometimes God must say ‘no’ to good things, that we may receive better things.” I’m sure he didn’t yet understand the concept of “better,” but with beautiful candor he replied, “I don’t like better things, I like good things.”

One marshmallow now, or two marshmallows later?

This reminds me of The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, a psychological experiment repeated often (because the results are so spectacularly repeatable!), wherein children are offered a cookie (or marshmallow or candy), but are promised two cookies if they will wait ten minutes without eating the first cookie. The results are consistently predictable: very few children can resist the offer of one cookie now in favor of two cookies later.

Psalm 126:5. Those who sow in tears shall reap in shouts of joy!

This is the heart of sin. We do not trust God, that his commandments are sure and true and for our eternal joy. We want to reap joy without sowing in tears. We want the prize without running the race (1 Corinthians 9:24). Our Lord endured the cross, not because He was a stoic toughguy who was just “into” suffering, but for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12).

When I’m giving instruction to my children, I must try to do better casting a vision for future happiness which is the result of present obedience and delayed gratification. I need to help my kids envision a prosperous future (eternity!) which is the result of patience, work, and self-denial.

Joe Bancks is a member of FCC.

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The Sinkhole Syndrome

BY DONALD S. WHITNEYsinkhole

You know the story. The man has been believer in Christ for decades. To all outward appearances he’s a man of Christian faithfulness and integrity. He has maintained a reputation as a fine example of public and private faithfulness to the things of God for decades. Then, without warning, it all collapses into a sinkhole of sin. Everyone wonders how it could have happened so quickly. In most cases, it soon becomes known that—like most sinkholes—the problem didn’t develop overnight.

Several years ago, this man likely had a relatively consistent devotional life through which the Lord often refreshed, strengthened, and matured him. But with each passing year, his busy life became ever busier. Increasingly he saw his devotional life more as a burden—a mere obligation sometimes—than a blessing. Because of the massive doses of Bible teaching he’d heard—in addition to the knowledge gained teaching church Bible classes himself—he began to imagine that he needed less private prayer and Bible intake than when he was younger and not as spiritually mature. Besides, he had so many other God-given responsibilities that surely God would understand that he was too busy to meet with Him every day.

One small concession led to another; one plausible rationalization led to the next, until the devastating day when a tipping point was reached, and the spiritual weakness developed by too many private compromises could no longer sustain even the appearance of Christian integrity. And into the sinkhole fell his reputation, witness, ministry, and perhaps much more.

If you’re a strong young Christian, passionate about the things of God, and you find it impossible to imagine yourself coming to such a condition: beware. This situation could easily be yours in a few years. The words of 1 Corinthians 10:12 are an apt admonition here: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

I’ve been in pastoral ministry for twenty-four years. For fifteen years I’ve been a professor of biblical spirituality. I’ve written several books and many articles related to spirituality. I speak on the subject to future ministers and missionaries on a daily basis in the seminary classroom, and in churches and conferences around the country almost every weekend. And yet I will freely admit that it’s harder for me to maintain my devotional life now than ever in my life. That’s because I’m busier now than ever. I have many more responsibilities than I had as a young man. And they all take time, time that must come from somewhere.

As the pressures of life increase and more deadlines loom, it becomes harder to maintain time for the devotional life. “Who will know if I abandon a consistent prayer life? Who can tell if I seldom turn the pages of Scripture? I know the Bible pretty well already, and I hear it a lot at church. God has given me this busy life; surely He understands.” And the erosion begins.

At the outset it’s likely that very few will know when the hidden part of your spiritual life begins crumbling. Just as imperceptible movements of water underground can carry away the earth beneath long before anyone on the surface perceives it, so the pressures of life can secretly displace the soil of our private spiritual disciplines long before the impact of their absence is visible to others. The more public parts of a Christian’s life, such as church involvement and various forms of ministry, can often continue with little observable change right up until the awful moment of collapse and the hypocrisy is revealed.

I’m sure you’re already familiar with many factors that undermine intimacy with Christ. Realize that it’s almost certain that the number of time-thieves trying to steal from your time with God will only increase as the years pass. My hope is that this article will alert you to this subtle, creeping tendency so that it won’t overtake you.

Never be deceived by the temptation to think that with the increasing spiritual maturity you expect to come with age, the less you will need to feast your soul on Christ through the Bible and prayer. What Jesus prayed in John 17:17 for all His followers—”Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth”—applies to us all throughout our lives.

Jesus practiced what He prayed for us. While Jesus is infinitely more than our example, nevertheless He is also our example of sanctified living, of living coram deo. The Bible tells us (in Luke 4:16) that Jesus regularly attended when God’s people assembled to hear the Scriptures, and also that He would get alone to meet with His Father (Matthew 14:23). Jesus’ followers need both the sustaining grace that comes through the public worship of God as well as that which comes to us when we meet with Him individually.

I don’t want to minimize the role of the church in preventing spiritual shipwreck in the life of the believer. In this piece, however, I am writing to warn those who will increasingly be tempted to think that frequently meeting God with others can compensate for seldom meeting with Him alone.

There are seasons of life when our devotional habits may be providentially altered. But the general rule is that those reconciled to God through the cross of His Son need conscious, personal communion with Him every day until the day they see Him face to face. And the ordinary means by which He gives it is through the personal spiritual disciplines found in Scripture, chief of which are the intake of the Word of God and prayer.

Pursue the Lord with a relentless, lifelong, obstacle-defying passion. Resolve never let your daily life keep you from Jesus daily.

Donald S. Whitney is Professor of Biblical Spirituality and Associate Dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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Death First, Then Life

In Book 2, Section 8 of John Bunyan’s awesome work, Pilgrim’s Progress, a man named Mr. Great-Heart puts a riddle to a man named Mr. Honest. It’s a fantastic bit of verse:

He that will kill, must first be overcome;
Who live abroad would, first must die at home.

As is Mr. Honest’s response:

He first by Grace must conquer’d be,
That Sin would mortify;
And who, that lives, would convince me,
Unto himself must die.

We will not put to death the sin that remains in us (Colossians 3:5) without first ourselves being conquered, overcome by God (Romans 8!). This is true at the moment of conversion, and throughout the whole of a Christian’s life.

This is not “let go, and let God,” Keswick stoic passivity. God has raised us to life, that we may be part of His Overcomers, subjects of His victorious and ever-advancing Kingdom of Light.

But attempts to crucify the flesh, by the strength of the flesh, always fail, and thank God they do! (Colossians 2:20-23) “Bootstrap theology” brings no glory to the God of grace. The world is full of self-help gurus, but Jesus is not one of them. Why not? Because we must die and be buried with Christ before we can live and be raised with Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it well, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

There can be no honest mistaking one of the central points of Christianity: if you want to live, you must die. Paul says that in our baptism we died with Christ in order that we may be raised with him (Rom 6:4).

The currents of this water are layered, and they run deep. We are born dead (Eph 2:1) and we must die to be born again.

But Jesus is the Great Physician! Looking with compassion on a race of creatures dead in our trespasses and sins, He invites us to receive exactly what we need: to die to our sins, with Him, because He died for us, and was raised for us (Rom 4:25). Dead to the works of the Law, dead to sin, dead to self, and alive to God, alive to righteousness, alive to truth and beauty, alive to life! There is never any variation in the Great Physician’s prescription: first death, then life.

Joe Bancks is a member of FCC.

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Book Review: When Sinners Say “I Do”—Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage

BY SUSAN VERSTRAETE

When Sinners Say “I Do”—Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage
Dave Harvey, Shepherd Press, 2007whensinners

He doesn’t pull any punches. In the preface to his book, When Sinners Say “I Do”, Dave Harvey says, “The more you get to know me, the more you’ll admire my wife.” Harvey has taken a good look at himself in the mirror and has seen a sinner staring back at him—the same experience we’ve all had if we are honest. Even though we believers are being sanctified, and even though God promises to complete the work He begins in us, all of us are still sinners. So now what? How can sinners have a marriage that glorifies God?

Harvey’s surprising answer is “by being good theologians.” Specifically, he encourages us to apply the Gospel to our marriages. “Never make the mistake of thinking that the Gospel is only good for evangelism and conversion,” he says. “Accurately understanding and continually applying the Gospel is the Christian life.”

The first half of Harvey’s book talks about sin. He helps us to redefine the problems we may be experiencing in marriage (or in other relationships) biblically. Not “My marriage is having problems” but “I’m having a problem with sin.” In the second half of the book, Harvey gives us multiple examples from his own life and from others to help us see how we can act toward our spouse with humility, mercy and kindness. We understand the Gospel first, and then we apply it —what Harvey calls “taking your theology out for a spin.” As he says, “Forgiven sinners forgive sin.” Unlike many marriage books, this book focuses on what I need to do, not how I can manipulate my spouse to change to please me.

I was struck by how widely applicable most of the book was—not just for marriage situations, but much of the material was helpful for relationships in general. The book was honest, understandable and often funny. I highly recommend it.

When Sinners Say “I Do” is available on the FCC bookshelf, or from Amazon.com for about $10. (The study guide for this book is about $7.00 from Amazon.com.)

Susan Verstraete is a member of FCC and serves as church secretary.

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John Worley’s Last Words to the Church

By John Worley

Jesus my redeemer has been the anchor of my soul, an anchor hidden behind the veil because He preceded us and opened up access to the safe harbor of heaven. Where he is, I am now also.

I asked to have this read to you at my memorial service to share with you some of my final thoughts. You, my family and my fellow believers in this community of faith, were in these thoughts. In reminding myself of all I had to be thankful for, it occurred to me that you also share in those things because of this safe haven on earth that the Lord has brought us to, which we call Faith Community Church. My last 20 years in this church have been more nurturing and satisfying than all the years I spent in pastoral ministry. You are this church and Christ Jesus is your Lord. For that, be grateful today and rejoice.

The Lord gave me a good life, though not necessarily an easy life. He gave me mercy and grace though I had deserved his wrath.Worley

As a father and particularly a Christian husband, it was hard to think of not being here to fulfill my role to shepherd my family and to nurture and protect my wife. God graciously gave me peace in this, because he made us to be part of this church. I have served with the elders of this church and they are exemplary men of faith, integrity and wisdom. I have no misgivings about entrusting my wife Judy to their spiritual watch care. I am comforted especially by Scripture’s promise that God will become husband to the widow whose God is the Lord.

This is an immensely caring church; a burden bearing, interconnected body that loves in both word and deed. A Church rooted in sound doctrine, biblical proclamation and godly consistency of lifestyle. And so, I entrust Judy, Jackie and the generations of her family into the care of this congregation as well. They will grieve and you will grieve with them, grieving is normal and to be expected. What is not normal or acceptable is obsessive persistence in grief. I don’t expect it will be necessary, but if need be, come along side and help them to move on in living. Our living is for the Lord and His purposes. Life will be filled with losses of all kinds and occasional gains as well. Death is part of life. It is an inescapable occurrence that our Sovereign God has predestined for each of us.

Having had an advanced approximation of the approach of my death (with a few unexpected extensions), it made each final day bring a special awareness of the grace and mercy of God renewed every morning. It heightens one’s appreciation for what God is accomplishing in each of us as he daily makes us his workmanship, creating in advance, daily good works i.e. faithful stewardship responses to opportunities given by God. There is an old saying, “You should not wait till someone’s funeral to say something nice about them.” In like manner we should not wait till we know we are dying, to experience each day with a spirit of rejoicing and thankfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ. I’m glad I didn’t wait, I hope you don’t either. In Him alone there is life eternal.

In conclusion let me add that some of you will no doubt miss my presence or our opportunities to interact. I wanted to say that I will miss you all as well. Realistically however, I expect I will be so occupied with experiencing all the wonders and the worship in being absent from the body but present with the Lord that, as the old hymn puts it, ” the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

John Worley III was an elder at FCC from 1996-2016. John went home to be with the Lord in 2016.”

Posted in: Christian Living

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Deliverance From Sin’s Power Over Our Emotions

BY MARTY BEAMER

I have never thought of myself as an emotional guy. In fact, I have been pretty “anti-emotion”—just ask my wife. I never thought Christians should put much weight into emotions, anyway. How many times have you been led astray by them? In my Christian walk, nothing has betrayed me more than acting how I felt like acting. This is the reason I experienced somewhat conflicted emotions. Usually, they led me to sin. Recently, the Lord showed me my error. I realized it isn’t emotions that lead me to sin but sin that distorts my emotions.

Compass Bulletin Cover Templates(1)

Are we led astray by our emotions? Or are we, emotions and all, led astray by something more insidious?

Have you ever noticed you cannot will yourself to feel a certain emotion? I would love to see you try. Go ahead, decide to be angry and see what happens. Angry yet? How about sad? I could give you an entire list and you could never will yourself to feel a certain way. Yet, how many times have you been angry or sad or jealous and acted on it? You cannot will yourself to feel a certain way, but your feelings can will you to act a certain way.

What does this have to do with sin? The better question is what doesn’t this have to do with sin? What is sin if not your desires (emotions) demanding your will to act against the laws of God? James 1:14 says, “But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires.”  When you see how sin affects humanity one thing is evident: it is has infected your emotions. Further, because your will is chained to your emotions, your will is a slave to sin. But why would God make us this way? Why would so much depend on our emotions when they are so difficult to control?

The Rhetoric Companion for the Modern Student by Edward Corbett and Robert Connors stated something that changed how I will think about this forever. They say, “We arouse emotion by contemplating the object that stirs the emotion.” All at once it hit me. How do you change the emotions? You think. You dwell. You meditate. Isn’t this something Christians are called to do? Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” What does Paul tell these brothers to do? Think about true, honorable, just, pure, commendable things. When you think of these things, this leads to a practice of these things. Only then, according to the text, will you have the God who produces peace (an emotion). Why is Paul telling them to think? Because thinking is what changes your emotions. And your emotions change what you do.

And let me remind you, brothers and sisters, to give new life to your emotions will only happen as you remember the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Therefore…remember that you were at [one] time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:11-13) Daily, call yourself to remember that you were dead with no hope. Remember that you were a vessel of wrath. Remember that God looked upon you with favor. Remember that He gave up His own Son as the ransom for your sins. Remember when you heard these sweet words of truth and your heart was made new. Think. Mediate. Dwell. Remember. Scriptures demand is for all Christians to have a life marked by remembering. The Gospel is not only to change our intellect but our emotions as well.

My call to you today is to remember. Do not neglect your emotions because they are what lead you to sin. Instead, determine to characterize your life as one who remembers, who contemplates and who dwells on the Work of God. Then, and only then, will your life, and emo-tions, be captivated by the Gospel against the power of sin.

Marty Beamer is Assistant Pastor at FCC and an M.Div. and Biblical Languages student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Posted in: Christian Living

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Security Team: FCC Code of Conduct

Recently, a “code of conduct” was established for those attending services and other activities at FCC.  We believe this code is a commonsense and logical approach to assist in ensuring quiet and respectful behavior associated with Christian worship.  The code is as follows:

Faith Community Church (hereinafter FCC) welcomes all members to its facilities for worship and other functions. Guests of members and other visitors or attendees are expected to behave in an appropriate manner and respect and observe the rights of other members, guests and visitors.codeofconduct

Behavior in the Facility

FCC’s facilities are intended to be used for Christian worship, quiet meditation, reading, studying, attending programs, attending meetings and other reverent (quiet and respectful) activities associated with Christian worship. Attendees are expected to conduct themselves in a reverent manner that makes these activities possible. Attendees will respect the rights of others to benefit from their attendance with the least amount of interference or disruption.

The following types of disruptive behavior are NOT allowed in or on FCC property:

  1. Behavior that endangers the safety of another person.
  2. Vandalism or deliberate destruction of FCC property.
  3. Theft of FCC materials or the personal property of others.
  4. Violation of any local, state, or federal law.
  5. Possession, consuming, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  6. Running, yelling or screaming or disruptive behavior.
  7. Selling goods or services or soliciting money without approval of FCC leadership.
  8. Smoking in the facility.
  9. Physical abuse or other unwanted touching of any other person.
  10. Threats of physical harm.
  11. Abusive, profane, vulgar or obscene actions, language or gestures.
  12. Acts of protest or demonstration.
  13. Any other disruptive or outrageous behavior that offends the spirit of reverent Christian fellowship or behavior.

To further the security level here at FCC, we plan to invite the Homeland Security Section of the KCPD to conduct a Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources inventory.  This will involve taking pictures of our facility, obtaining floor plans, hours of operation, critical contact persons etc. Once gathered, this information is then downloaded into a computer database that is shared with KCPD police officers, and KCFD firemen.  Then, if they are ever called to our facility, the officers and/or firemen can bring this information up on their computer laptops before arriving on the scene.

1 Peter 5:8 – Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

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