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.

Bring

“Bringing it” is natural for some people.  I’ve coached 100’s of kids through the years and can tell you that some kids will naturally “bring it”.  You do not have to tell them to go hard at it in a game or practice.  They are full speed ahead at all times.  There are some kids, however, that are completely unaware there is a ball, a game, or other people in the world.  They are more interested in the shapes of the clouds in the sky than the ball that is about to hit them in the face.

When a coach tells a player to bring it, she is telling her players to bring themselves – all of themselves.  It is a call to give maximum effort and full attention to the task at hand.  God has called us to bring it in following him.  The call to follow Christ is by definition not half-hearted.  If you are half-hearted, you are not a follower of Christ.  We are called to love the Lord our God with ALL of our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Either you bring it or you don’t come.

When Jesus told a few men, “Come and follow me” they left everything and followed him.  He told them he would make them “fishers of men.”  That seems a little odd to most of us.  These guys were called to catch men.  Yes…and so are you.

What does that even look like?  In John 1 Jesus calls his first disciples and they immediately go and bring others.  John the Baptist has 2 disciples he tells about Jesus is the Lamb of God.  They go and follow Jesus.  One of them is Andrew.  Andrew brings his brother Simon – aka Simon Peter.  Then Jesus calls Phillip.  Phillip brings Nathaniel.  Andrew and Phillip brought Simon and Nathaniel but it is Jesus himself who speaks to them revealing to them the truth of who he is.  They do not believe simply because their brother and friend believed.  They have their own encounter with Jesus that causes them to believe, but they would not have encountered Jesus without an invitation.  Andrew and Phillip “brought it.”

Be a Bringer!

This is the first of the 4 Core Actions we are challenging Fellowship Church with in our current BEYOND ORDINARY series.  God has called Fellowship Church to express the Great Commission to bring the Good News to all the world in this way.  We exist to bring real life in Christ to Ascension Parish and Beyond.

We are all called to be bringers.  We are commanded to proclaim the Good News.  We are exhorted to make disciples of all nations.  We are instructed to be the witnesses of Christ.

Bring people to Jesus and Jesus to people.

The disciples of Jesus bring Jesus to people over and over again in the Gospels.  They also bring people to Jesus.  Simon Peter was used by God to bring many people to Jesus and Jesus to many people.  It all began, however, when Andrew brought Simon.  Andrew might be remembered as Simon Peter’s brother but he was also his bringer.

Why would we do this?
Loved people love people.
Found people find people.
Saved people seek people.

If we do not forget who we were, what we were like, and how we were living when Jesus found us lost and saved our souls, we would never quit bringing those far from Jesus to Him and Him to them.

We do this by being faithful where God finds and where God leads us.  God finds us in one place in life but he does not leave us there.  Be faithful right where he finds you but be willing to go wherever he leads you.  Your geographical location might not change, but your circles of influence will.  Be faithful every step along the journey – and never journey alone – bring people to Jesus and Jesus to people.

I encourage and challenge you to BE A BRINGER!

FCers,

Be a Bringer this week.  Sunday we will be talking about “Keeping it real.”  Invite someone to come to church with you and tell them they can ask you anything about your faith and life as a Christ follower.  Put the keep it real action to the test this week.  Bring someone to the 15 year celebration on 1/29 or the flag football game on 2/5 or date night on 2/11.

Be a bringer.  Bring Jesus to people in your life this week and bring people in your life to Jesus this week!

Bring it!  Jesus is always worth bringing.

As time rolls by…

Time is a wanderer.  It wanders in and out of our lives.  We have enough time.  We have no time.  We have extra time.  We are out of time.  Time wanders in and out and up and down.  One day time is urgent and the next it is of no consequence.

Ephesians 5:15&16 says, “ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” 

Wisdom allows us to use time well instead of being used by the wandering of time.  Time is not our problem, lack of perspective is.  Time is nothing more than a measurement.  The problem comes when we measure the quality of life by time instead of the quality of time by life.

Today I celebrate a marking of time.  On January 3, 1998, I married an incredible woman named Wendy Daniel.  19 years later it is my joy and privilege to live life with her.  God has allowed us some incredible adventures in ministry and life together and I look forward to many more.

January 6, 2002 was the first public worship service for Fellowship Church.  A small group of believers began a bold new work in the rental hall of an old fire station in Prairieville 15 years ago this week.  This small group of believers dived head first into the vision and dreams of a 26 year-old preacher kid.  We celebrate 15 years together and the humbling reality of how God has blessed our ministry together.

The celebration of time humbles me and challenges me.  I know I could have done more in my life than I have, but I also know I have tried to do well with the time God has blessed me with.  I want to encourage you to consider the following truths about time as we kick off this year and apply them to your life.

  1. Focus on being faithful not successful. Success without faithfulness is fraud.  Don’t waste your time putting on a show; spend your life pressing into serve.
  2. Do what you can when you can. Everything does not have to happen today; but something should.  Do not allow what you cannot get done today rob your of the joy of what you can do today.
  3. Time off is not time lost. Spend some time doing what refreshes you.  For some of us, that is a nice long run, for others it is anything but a run.  Whatever refreshes you is worth doing, but you do not live simply to be refreshed by God; you live to be used by God.  When you get done resting; get back to working.
  4. Don’t allow quantity to be a substitute for quality. Ministry and family do not always flow together smoothly.  Wendy and I have learned the art of quality.  30 good minutes together will outweigh 3 hours of being in the same room. 
  5. Manage your energy; not your time. Give your energy to the right things at the right time and you will have time to get it done.
  6. Enjoy the journey. This is one of life’s hardest lessons for me.  I am a type-A personality and am always driving toward better.  A life focused on better will make you bitter unless you learn to see the blessings of what is. “What is” is not the enemy of “what ought to be”; it is simply “what is.”  You can change it; it simply has not changed yet.  The key is learning to enjoy the journey as much as you do the destination.

Don’t take your eyes off the destination ahead of you – run the race marked out for you – but do not lose the ability to see the blessings of what is already all around you.

I am grateful for a wife that enjoys this journey of life and ministry with me.  I am blessed by a church that has allowed me the grace to learn from the lead.  I am no longer a 26 year old kid trying to lead a church but I am who I am because of those who loved me when I was…and every step along the way.  Thank you to all of you who are part of this ministry and life journey for your love, support, and grace.

I look forward to what is ahead but am committed to enjoying what is now.  I hope you are too.

Figure out the things that are worth investing your life and time in and then dive in head first.  Time is not the answer – perspective is.

 

Wendy,

Thank you for bringing perspective into my life time and time again.  Of all the blessings I have known in this world you are the most precious.  Your love inspires me, encourages me, and challenges me to be a better man.  Thank you for loving me when I am and when I am not.  I have indeed found “a good thing and obtained favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 18:22)

Always and Forever, KJ