Great and Greatly

To Wise Up…Look Up!

This simple statement inspired by Proverbs 1:7 is the driving truth behind our summer series “Wise Up.”  We are preaching on Psalms and Proverbs all summer and we invite you to read through these two wisdom writings through this reading plan.

Psalm 96 teaches us some wonderfully wise truths about worship.

It is wise to praise what is praise-worthy.
Whether it is in our worship of the one True God or in our appreciation for one another praise that which is praise-worthy is simply wise.  The wise person speaks the praise of that which deserves to whom deserves it.

Psalm 96:4 makes this point abundantly clear.  “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.”

God is not great because he is greatly praised.  God is greatly praised because he is great.
The wise person greatly praises the Lord because it is simply the only right response to the greatness of God.  If there were no other reason than his greatness, we should still praise Him, but not only is he great, he is good.

This week there has been much online and on-air chatter about who is great.  The NBA Finals has sparked some odd and strange dialogue.  The defeat of Lebron James and his Cavaliers causes some to denounce his greatness as a player while others diminish the greatness of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson because they all play on a team together.  The conversation about who is the greatest players will simply continue and the opinions will grow in number.  Why?  None of these players have a greatness that separates them in every way from everything else.  God is so great he is different.  He is unique.  There is literally none like him.   Not even close.

Yet, I would say the wise sportscaster or social media commentator would be willing to acknowledge each player for their individual talents.  Truthfully, they are all great basketball players.  The wise man is willing to praise what is praise-worthy.

God simply desires what God deserves.
God desires, and therefore demands, our praise.  Why?  He deserves it.  He desires it because it is right and he wants you to be right with Him.  He desires this so much that he gave his one and only son that if you would believe in Him you would not perish but have eternal life.

Praise that is honors what is praise-worthy includes works and words.
Psalm 96:6 instructs us to “Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.”
This literally means give God glory and strength.  The issue is that God is already all-powerful and absolutely glorious.  He does not need your glory or your strength – but he deserves it.

We worship the Lord honorably when our worship with our words matches the worship with our works.  We serve the Lord with words by “declaring his glory among the nations” and “his marvelous work among all the peoples.”  We honor him with our words when we “tell of his salvation from day to day.”  (These are quotes from Psalm 96:1-3)

We give to him strength by serving him with all our of our life.  God rebukes His people in Isaiah by telling them you “honor me with your lips, but your hearts are far from me.”  The heart that is truly for God leads to words from our mouths and works from our hands and lives that bring God the glory he deserves.

I have a challenge for you.

Greatly praise the God that is great.  Read the Psalms and Proverbs with us this summer.  Write a psalm and share it with us.  Serve the Lord with your hands and your heart.  Speak his truth to those far from him and sing his truth among those who love him.

Click this link to check out the sermon from Sunday on this passage.

 

Opportunities to Worship with Words –
Sundays 9 & 10:45 every Sunday.
Students grade 6-12 – Wednesdays at 6 PM.  (Although not tonight due to VBS)
Kids – VBS today and tomorrow at both campuses – Airline 9-11:30 AM / Prairieville 6-8:30

Opportunities to Worship with Work –
Geaux Day – June 24

When doubt comes…   

Doubt is unavoidable part of living a life of faith.  Faith is not the absence of doubt.  Faith is the reality of certainty.  Faith is being “sure of what you hope for and certain of what you have not seen.”  Many believers take the words sure and certain to mean that they should never have disquieting or uncomfortable thoughts or questions about what they believe.

Faith, however, is the choice of will to believe any when you have a question.  Faith is certainty in the one you believe in even when you struggle to see them in and from your life.  Doubt comes to us all.  I spoke plainly about that this past Sunday as I preached from Matthew 7. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” 

After my message Sunday I received a great question via email.  This follower of Christ boldly proclaimed their faith and their certainty in Christ, but then admitted that they still have doubts at times.  Their question, however, was the right one.  “What do I do when I doubt?”  Now that is a great question and one worth answering and worth sharing.

What do we do when we doubt?

#1.  Do not fake it till you make it. Faith is not fake…ever.  Don’t fake it – face it.  Bring your honest questions, doubt, or fears to God.  Share them with other believers who can help you find answers in God’s Word. 

#2.  Go to the Word “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12

God’s word reveals more than thoughts, but intentions. Through his Word God can bring us to the right place in our hearts as we also discover the right truths with our heads.  They go together.  Often when we doubt we try to feed the head but ignore the heart of we try to jumpstart the heart but we ignore the head.  We need to learn truth and lean into the truth in seasons of doubt.

1 John 5:13 says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”  It does not say so that you may think or that you may hope – but that you may know.  These things have been written.  The Scriptures exist so we can live in certainty not doubt.

Fill your mind with truth.  Memorize Scriptures that declare the grace and effectiveness of God in salvation.

Here are a couple of good verses to memorize when dealing with doubts. Hebrews 7:25  Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through                him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Romans 6:10-11  For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives                to God.  Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

#3.  Learn more than your questions. Ask questions.  Seek out answers to those particular issues by asking season believers and reading intelligent and Scripture-honoring authors, but don’t just seek answers to your questions.  Seek the truth and the One who is True.  Some times we cause ourselves more questions if all we seek are specific answers.  We stop nurturing our personal growth and only seek to solve our current faith struggle.  That struggle is a part of a larger relationship with God.  Treat it as such.

#4.  Pray Spend personal time with God in prayer.  Do not stop doing the acts of faith when doubt clouds their significance.  You will not believe in the Lord more by ignoring him.  You will grow in your faith by pursuing him.

#5.  Repent I put this last because I want to spend the most time on it.  Doubt is never an isolated issue.  The majority of doubt is birthed out of disobedience.  Rarely do people struggle with doubt when they feel they are in a right relationship with the Lord.  Typically people who are struggling with doubt have experienced other spiritual issues in their lives.  Some times it is circumstances that are beyond their control, but the majority of doubt is birthed out a place of sin.  People living in rebellion against God are going to have a difficult time experiencing the peace found in the Spirit of the Lord.  You are asking God to make you feel comfort and peace and he is calling you back to Himself.  He has not rejected you.  He has not forgotten you – your name is still in the Book.  You simply are no longer in a position for his peace to reflect clearly upon you.

Repent.  Turn away from your sin. AND trust the goodness and grace of God.

Stop asking God for peace when you know He should bring conviction and restlessness into your life.  Sin will not condemn you again, but it will prevent you from experiencing the fullness of a right relationship with God – as it should.

#6.  Recognize spiritual warfare for what it is. The thief has come to kill and to steal and to destroy, but I have come that you might have life and that life to the full.  John 10:10

We have an adversary.  He is the accuser.  He is the prince of deception.  He wants you to live in doubt.  We face struggles that are not of flesh and blood but of spirits and principalities.  I do not encourage you to worry with what it is you face as much as I challenge you to call upon the One who has already faced every battle own your behalf…and won!

Satan’s greatest tool is doubt.  He asks the first question in the Bible, “Did not God say…”  His quest is to get you to say did not God.  Doubt is a distraction; not a death sentence.  Doubt cannot kill faith, but it can kill faithfulness.  When you feel doubt…fight.

One key weapon is this truth found in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  Take captive every thought with OBEDIENCE.  Do what you know is right even when you are not sure you feel like all is right.  Take captive the thoughts of doubt with actions of faith.

 

Doubt is something every believer faces.  Those who come out of such seasons stronger – face their doubts head on with the truth and in the power of the True One.

Keep it Real (and a note about Mother’s Day)

Keeping it real is one of the 4 core actions at Fellowship Church.  We believe it is essential to living a life of faith.  It requires willingness to be 2 things.  Be authentic and be unique.

Unfortunately, most people find it difficult to be authentic and unique in a healthy manner.  Often uniqueness is confused with being eccentric and authenticity is confused with selfish rudeness.  This, however, is not what they mean.

There is no clearer call to authenticity in Scripture than when we are taught in James 5:16 , “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”  Authenticity requires the willingness to share your struggles not just your successes.  True authenticity even leads us to discussing how these things became true in our lives.  A place and group to be authentic is not easy to find and is even harder to maintain.  Authenticity is always only one cover up or lie away from being lost.

I hope you are finding some people who are following hard after Christ you can be authentic with.  The number one way to experience that is to become the type of person that others believe they can be authentic with.  Become the type of confidant that can be trusted to listen with grace, speak truth with love, and mourn with the mourning.  Keeping it real starts with you.  I know it is a scary proposition, but lead out.

Being unique does not mean a person needs to look radically different or stand out physically.  Uniqueness means honoring the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  In 1 Corinthians 12 we are taught, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  God did not make you good at what you are good at simply for your good, but for everyone’s good.

Many believers fail to ever take their unique place in the Kingdom of God simply because they do not see (or want to see) the value of investing their talents and gifts in the spiritual well-being of others.  How are other people growing in their faith and life because of who God made you uniquely?  If you cannot answer that question with clarity, I pray you will dive deep into what it means to be gifted by God and to use those gifts for his glory.  Invite a mature believer into this journey and ask them to hold you accountable to finding a place to serve the Lord within the church and allow them to speak wisdom into how you might be gifted to do that.

This Sunday is an opportunity at Fellowship to Keep it Real.  Mother’s Day is a great celebration that someone came up with.  It is not a Biblical holiday.  It has no command or calling behind it.  Yet, mothers find it meaningful and encouraging.  It is a great opportunity for us to honor one another above ourselves.

There is, however, a dark side to such a celebration.  Many women find Mother’s Day to be one of the most difficult days of the year.  They have experienced the pains of infertility, loss of child, miscarriages, and abortions.  This day is often a hard reminder instead of a joyful celebration.  Fellowship has some ladies of great faith that lead in our church that have experienced such pains personally.  This year one of the ladies that leads out in ladies’ ministry is hosting a special time for ladies that find this day difficult.  (That difficulty might also be because of recent loss of one’s own mother or broken and damaged relationships with your own children – for whatever reasons.)  We simply want to give a place for ladies dealing with these pains to Keep it Real with one another.  You will study the Word together, pray together, and encourage one another.  We are not publishing the details for this event publicly because of the private nature of it, so if you are interested in this event please email us today at alanoux@gmail.com and someone will contact you with the information.

The Indescribable

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.  (2 Corinthians 9:15)

There is no gift greater than God’s grace.

In 2 Corinthians 9 Paul is exhorting and encouraging the people of God to be generous because God is generous.  He teaches them to give cheerfully and not begrudgingly nor because of requirement or expectation.  The teaching is that God is a good and gracious God and generosity honors him and brings him praise.

I believe one of the greatest dangers for a Christ-follower is to lose one’s appreciation for the grace of God.  It is easy to take grace for granted.  If we are not careful in how we consider the love and work of Christ, we fail to consider fully and truthfully the grace of God.  The value of our forgiveness becomes common place.  The cost for our souls is not purposefully belittled, we simply fail to stop and consider the gift we have received.  We begin – if we are not careful – to treat that which is indescribable as something much less than it is because we have learned the words that are accurate theologically and we know the truths that are right doctrinally.  Those are so important but never allow what you understand theologically and doctrinally to lose its value personally.

This Easter Season I want to encourage you to do a few things to help you celebrate the inexpressible, unfathomable, and immeasurable grace of God given to you in Jesus Christ.

  1. Meditate on the events and happenings of the Passion of Christ. (Matthew 21-28, Mark 11-16, Luke 19-24, and/or John 12-21) Read it and consider that it happened.  Try to put yourself there.  Watch The Passion of the Christ to help you consider fully what grace cost.  Your salvation is a free gift to you because a high price was paid for you.
  2. Share your story of grace with someone who does not know the grace of God. Tell someone else the story of when and how you came to know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Tell them about how you learned about grace and forgiveness.  Tell them there is no greater gift than the grace of God and I want to share the greatest gift I have ever received with you.  FCers, use your chess piece and have a conversation about how you met the King.
  3. Bring someone (or many some ones) to church with you this weekend.
    80% of people who do not attend church regularly say they would go to church if someone invited them – especially for a holiday.  Go to church with them.  If your church has multiple services work it out where you will be in worship service with the people you bring.  If you have people coming to multiple services (because you are truly BEING A BRINGER) then go to service with the person you think will feel most awkward without you – or attend worship multiple times.  This will give you the opportunity to discuss what is taught with them later.
  4. Spend some time with your family focusing on Jesus and not candy or eggs. I am not bashing eggs or killing bunnies here, but let’s be honest, they have nothing to do with Jesus or his death and resurrection.  They can, though.  Eggs can be used to tell the story of salvation.  (https://www.amazon.com/Resurrection-Eggs-12-Piece-Religious-Figurines/dp/1602003920)  Honestly, I am not sure how to redeem the bunny myth, but make sure that you are focused on truth with your kids.  Specifically ask these questions and have these conversations.  –  Do you know why Jesus needed to die for us?  Because we are sinners. –   Do you know why Jesus would die for us?  He loves us. –   Where is Jesus now?  Reigning on His throne in Heaven at the right hand of God.

The gift of God’s grace is indescribable.
His love is immeasurable.
His glory is unfathomable.

So share it, shine it, and spread the great hope that our Savior lives!

See the Shore

I recently had the privilege of knocking a couple of items off of my bucket list.  There are a few things I really want to do in life.  One was to go to Hawaii – which we were blessed to do.  Another was to learn to surf – which I got to do.  To be honest, I expected more instruction.  I expected the lesson to be longer and harder.  The balance of standing up on a board flowing through the water was as difficult to figure out as I had imagined, but the process did not take as long as I thought it would.

Really were given just a few instructions.  One was about how to place ourselves on the board from back to front.  The second was about how to get to our feet.  The third was, “look at the shore.”  A pretty simple set of instructions – simple does not, however, mean easy.

As my son and I both started figuring out how to stand up and stay on the board, I realized the importance of keeping my eyes on the shore.  As I watched the GoPro video from the camera I was wearing, I realized that every time I wiped out, I had looked down before I went down.  I was looking at the wave and not the shore.

I am also aware that riding 30 plus waves during one surf lesson with someone helping me know the timing is far from being a surfer.  I feel, however, the lessons I learned looking for the shore, catching a wave, and riding a board might help me discuss some key marks of maturity we should all strive for our as Christ-followers.

Philippians 3:12-4:1 teaches us some important lessons about maturity in life and in our relationship with God.  There are three key points from this text I want to explore with you deeper.  I will give a quick breakdown of all the points I shared Sunday from this text (plus one) and then go further with 3 of them.

  1. Remember you’re not there yet. There is more maturity.  You can experience more growth.  You can walk in fuller obedience.
  2. Keep Looking Ahead. Don’t take your eyes off of Jesus – the Author and Perfecter of your faith.
  3. Press for the right prize. There is nothing more discouraging to realize you’ve been running hard – just the wrong race.
  4. Seek maturity through imitation. Paul tells others to imitate him as he imitates Christ. We all need to find people to imitate.  The right people!
  5. Measure your appetites. Consumption tells us where we are; appetites tell us where we are headed.
  6. Remember your citizenship. We are citizens of God’s Kingdom. Your life is meant to look and sound different.
  7. Stand Firm. It’s not always about gaining ground; some days you win if you simply do not lose any.

Keep looking ahead is the lesson we took to the water and used on a board.  Michael from Houston taught me this truth on a beach in Kihei, Hawaii and I did my best to apply it.  This lesson, however, is consistent in Scripture yet absent in the majority of our decisions.  How often do you really consider eternity when making a decision?  When was the last time you considered what effect that decision you were making about your finances or about your time was going to have on eternity?  Look ahead and never forget that our life here is not the point of our life here.

Seeking maturity through imitation is a key to living a healthy spiritual life.  You need people in your life that are good examples of following Jesus.  You need people you can ask questions.  Who are you learning from?  Who are you allowing to speak into your life?  One of the saddest things in Christianity is how people treat other believers when they start struggling with convictions.  They distance themselves from the very people they would have said just a year earlier were key examples in their Christian faith.  Then as they wrestle with issues and beliefs they lose their compass.  This is usually the result of arrogance or shame.  Some feel shame because they know better than where they are headed.  Others are arrogant enough to believe that all the other believers they have trusted and viewed as true Christ-followers (sometimes for years) have really all been wrong about Jesus all this time.  You need people to imitate and if you come across a place you feel imitating them does not imitate Jesus, don’t abandon them, influence them.  You might find they are not as wrong as you think they are…and then you both mature.

Maturity will never be found through isolation – although you do need some times of solitude.  It will never be found through jumping from place to place to find the truths you want to find – although God might move you along the way.  It will never be found outside of strong relationships with other believers who can speak into your life and you can speak into theirs – although this is very uncomfortable.  Maturity is an imitation issue and true imitation requires a level of intimacy in your relationships with other believers.

Measure your appetites; not just your consumption.  What are you desiring?  If you find yourself considering and thinking about the same things over and over again in life; you might be consumed.  You might even have an idol.  I encourage you to not just measure your consumption.  Don’t just measure what you are taking in.  Measure what you want to take in.  What is growing as an appetite?

Is it a hunger and thirst for righteousness?  Do you want more of the things of God or more of the things of this world?  Which is growing?  Your appetite will tell you where you are headed.  Be aware.  If you realize you have a dangerous appetite growing…tell someone you are imitating.  Tell another someone that you believe has the spiritual maturity to help you.  Don’t fade away alone.

So, set your eyes on the shore.  Don’t look back.  Find some people you can imitate and measure your hunger.  Today’s desires will be tomorrow’s decisions.

Do not Do

“To do or not to do.”  That is often the question in life.  Sometimes we are asking that question as we about to do some silly prank or take some ridiculous risk in the name of fun and entertainment.

“Do Not” is not incorrect; it is incomplete.

Many people who claim to follow Christ define their faith by the actions their lives are void of not the actions their life is filled with.  They can tell you all the things they do not do but they have very short lists of the things they do because they are following Christ.

Jesus taught about the switch from “do not” to “do” in Matthew 6.  He said do not store up treasures on earth.  He said do store up treasures in Heaven.  It is not simply wrong to store up for yourselves earthly treasure; it is right to store up Heavenly treasure.  Next he told us to not be anxious but to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Anxiety or worry is the byproduct of disproportionate concern for proper cares.

Jesus speaks of clothing and food and simple life issues in this passage.  These things are proper Biblical cares.  Proverbs 31 and 1 Timothy 5:8 teach both men and women the call to provide such items for their families in honoring the Lord.  So if these things are proper, what is the issue?  The issue is anxiety.  “Oh you of little faith” is what Jesus goes onto say.  The issue is a lack of faith in the Lord to provide such things.

The question we must ask ourselves in dealing with such cares and concerns is, “Do I believe God truly cares about me in all things?”  Worry is the byproduct of disproportionate concern.  When we are overly concerned and consumed with the things of this world, we worry.

When we focus on the temporary the result is worry.  When we focus on the eternal the result is rest. How, then, would we not worry.  Is it as simple as, “Don’t worry.  Be Happy?”  No, it is not.  The answer is not simply found in the “do not;” it is found in the “do.”  It is found in the instruction to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.

We care less about lesser things only when we care more about greater things. The answer is not to stop caring about food for your family.  The answer is not to stop wearing clothes.  The answer is what you start.  Start seeking the Lord and His will in all things.  Seek God’s Kingdom and not your own.  Allow the priority of the Kingdom of God to be the filter through which all decisions are made.  The more you focus on the greater things the less you will focus on lesser ones.

We must seek the reign of Christ to experience the righteousness of Christ. You will never experience the goodness of God without the governance of God.  If you desire to know the greatness of his glory and grace in your life, you must actively seek out his governance over your life…his Lordship.

The answer to so many of life’s deep struggles is not found in the things we “do not,” but in the things we “do.”

Pray this prayer daily, maybe even moment by moment or decision by decision to help you learn this truth in a practical faith. God, I believe you truly care about me in all things. Say it over and over again.  Say it until you mean it.  This prayer is not asking God to change a thing.  It is asking God to change you.

The Joy of a Long Time

This week we asked the people of Fellowship Church to share pictures with us over social media to use in our 15 year celebration this Sunday.  Those pictures have made me smile and laugh.  Seeing the smiling face of people who we have lost made me sad.  Seeing people who have moved away made me nostalgic.  There are a lot of emotions and feelings one deals with when they look back at life.   It helps you gain some perspective about your journey.

As we head into our 15 year celebration weekend the emotion I feel is joy.  Over the years I have heard pastors sound bitter and jaded about the church and I have heard churches sound jaded and bitter about their pastors and their mission.  That always saddens me to hear and to see.

We are celebrating a milestone this weekend.  This is not a destination.  We are simply pulling over at a historic milestone and taking a picture.  I cannot tell you right now if we are stopping at a beautiful overlook or whether we are in valley as a church right now.  We will only be able to answer that question accurately when we look back at this vantage point from the one further down the road.  I know this much, though, I am glad I am on this journey.

The joy of a long time is found when you stop seeing the time it takes and you see the treasure invested.  The Kingdom of God is like a treasure buried in a field and when found it is worth selling all you have and buying that field so you can own that treasure.  It is priceless.

They joy of a long time is found in being able to enjoy many different types of times along the journey.  We have experienced highs and lows, successes and failures, embarrassment and encouragement.

The reason so many people lose the joy of long journeys is their unrealistic desire to enjoy every second.  Long journeys are not always enjoyable.  They are exhausting at times, yet exhilarating at others.  If you are not enjoying a long journey among the people of God, I encourage you to stop trying to make every moment better than the one before.  Stop living that way in your marriage or with your kids.

Live in the moments not for them.

This principle has allowed me, and Fellowship, to ride out tough seasons and celebrate the best seasons.  The best of moments and the worst of moments all come and go.

Take time to remember the moments along the way.

Stopping and celebrating and remembering is a great discipline.  Look back and see what God has done.  It is interesting how some of the most difficult things are celebrated later as the most meaningful.  As Fellowship shared pictures, I was encouraged by how many favorite memories are pictures of hard work in the Kingdom of God.

Never get stuck trying to relive a moment of the past or you will miss the moments of the present and future.

Many Christians lose their passion for the Lord and His Church, not because of the Church or because of change, but because they decided they wanted to experience something again instead of experiencing something new.  When they were not able to experience again what they had loved in the past it robbed them of the ability to love what they were experiencing in the present.  Quit asking God to do what He has already done again and ask him to do whatever He wills.

My last piece of advice is simple but important.

Have fun.

Enjoy people and projects.  Let your emotions be embedded in what you do.  Smile with people.  Laugh with people.  Cry with people.  Have fun when you work and when you play.

The joy of a long time is not found in the big moments but in the small ones.  It is not the result of one’s greatest successes but in the totality of all the moments.

We would love for you to celebrate our 15 Year Anniversary with us at either of our locations this Sunday at 9 or 10:45 AM.