This Is Us

Picture the New Testament church. Acts 2:42-44 describes a group of people devoted to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…all the believers were together and had everything in common…they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. This is exactly how I would describe my Life Group.

On Sunday night, we gathered at the home of Wayne and Debbie Kellis. It was a cold and rainy night, but that didn’t stop 17 of us from gathering together for a meal, fellowship, and a Bible study. It was no ordinary night by any means, but when is it ever? We are no ordinary group of people. We are a unique group of individuals that come from many different backgrounds, different ages, and different places in life. There is no doubt in my mind that God had a hand in forming our group, and I am so glad He did. I love our group! And I wouldn’t change a thing about it! In fact, there was a moment on Sunday night in which I looked around the room, and I thought to myself how very thankful I am for this unique bunch of people that has become my family. Most of us were gathered in the living room listening to the severe weather warning of a tornado that was spotted nearby, while the others were outside trying to pull a truck out of the mud. Some of us were reminiscing of storms that we had endured over the years, while others were on their cell phones contacting friends and loved ones to make sure they were safe. The funny thing was, none of us felt the slightest bit in danger. We talked about where we should hide out if the tornado were to touch down on this house, but we were glad to be in the company of who we were with. Eventually, we decided to go ahead with our study, and we ended up having a very meaningful conversation about what it means to be a person of integrity. The best part about this discussion was that everyone in the room, including the teenagers and young adults, contributed without reservation. Each person was honest in what they had to say, and no one felt like it had to be perfect, just real.

Eventually, the guys came in, completely soaked, but with smiles on their faces because they succeeded in getting the truck out of the mud! The rain subsided, and the tornado passed by without harm. Our Bible study concluded with a beautiful prayer all together, and we were able to enjoy some more fellowship before we all went home. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday evening! Although we all may come from different backgrounds, have different ages and different situations in life, we all share one thing in common…Jesus Christ. Our faith ties us together and makes us a family that can relate to one another in good times, and in struggles, in fear, and in peace. We are a family that loves one another and looks out for each other, even if that means standing in the rain and pulling a truck out of the mud, or standing side by side and pulling each other out of the mud. That’s the beauty of Life Groups! My hope and prayer is that you all are experiencing the joy of being a part of these small groups. If you are not, please let us know how we can help you get connected. I promise you won’t regret it!

Blessings,

Dawn

The Younger Son and the Pig Pen

January 23rd-26th of 2017 I sat in Lexington County Detention Center. I was full of despair to the point of taking my own life. I silently began to pray Psalms 46:10 over and over again. God sent a nameless middle aged man, who could have truly been an angel, into jail to point me quietly back to the Father. I started that slow journey back home to the Father on the cold concrete ground with a coverless Bible in jail.

In the middle of the parable in Luke 15, the younger son finds himself in the pig pen.  As our preacher said two Sundays ago “if you wanted to paint a picture lower than this you couldn’t.” It is very easy to identify where people have stumbled into blatant pig pens, which is a very sensitive way of saying a disastrous mess. It is like the man who has thrown all his future away for alcohol; it is like the drug abuser who lives in the ghetto; and the list goes on and on, and we immediately see the squalor they are living in. However, the pig pen doesn’t always look disgusting or unappealing or lowly. In fact, this world dresses up its’ pig pens quite well, but Christ makes it clear in this parable that heading away from the Father leads right to them.  You will slowly sink lower and lower until you find yourself destitute.

The Good news of the Gospel is Jesus Christ was the true older son!  He sees us in our desperation, and comes and gets us to bring us back to the Father. He went to the real pig pen physically, spiritually, and emotionally, and on the third day he rose from the mud! We are allowed back into the feast with seats as sons and daughters because of Christ’s righteousness.  He left our righteousness in the mud where he found us. The Father looks at us in Christ’s perfect righteousness wholly forgiven and made perfectly beautiful!

Blessings,

Brian Devereaux

Winterfest 2019

Just One

February 15-17, 24 of our teens and adults boarded a bus bound for Gatlinburg, TN to participate in an annual event called Winterfest. This must be about the 15th year that I have had the opportunity to experience this weekend trip with our teens, and yet I can honestly say it never grows old on me. Although each year may be different, every year is special, and every group of students holds a special place in my heart. This year is no exception! I cannot begin to describe to you what an awesome group of teens we had! Although the boys were younger, they stepped up to the plate and helped out in big ways, from carrying luggage, to opening doors, and looking out for the girls. The girls were amazing in the way they constantly led by example, spoke up during our devotionals, and always found ways to be inclusive. These students not only followed the rules, but they exceeded every expectation that was set before them. They not only represented our church well, but they represented Christ. I couldn’t be more proud of them!

The theme of the weekend, Just One, revolved around the idea that every Christian has a story to tell, and we are all called to be story tellers. God is constantly at work in our individual lives, whether we know it or not, and He is weaving our individual stories into His great story. Revelation 12:11 says “they triumphed over him (the accuser) by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) and by the word of their testimony…” As Christians, we each have the awesome privilege of being a part of this great story, a story of triumph over evil, and God intends for us to share our individual stories with others so that we may all join together in defeating the accuser. John 4 gives us a beautiful example of the power of testimony. When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, she was an outcast, forced to draw water by herself in the middle of day because she could not be trusted. This was understandable considering the fact that she had five husbands, and the one she was currently with was not her own. However, Jesus entered into her life, and this changed everything. He knew everything about her, and yet he was not repulsed by her. Rather, he asked her for a drink; he talked to her; and he revealed himself to her. When she realized that the man with whom she was speaking to was the Messiah, she went back to her town, and she told everyone about this man who told her everything she ever did. John 4:39 says, “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony.”

Are you sitting on a story? Maybe you think your story isn’t that exciting, or maybe you are embarrassed to share your story. If this is the case, consider this…your testimony is not about what you have done, but what God has done. Your testimony is the world’s proof that there is a God, and that He is still very much alive and active. People need to hear our stories, so they can have hope, and so that together, we may be able to triumph over the accuser.

Blessings, Dawn

Jonah

In religious jargon, there is a thing known as “common grace.” It is the idea that God gives good things to everyone, not just to those who know and worship Him. He causes the rain and the sunshine to fall on all of His creation. Beautiful music and art, acts of kindness, innovation, recreation, professional skill and every other good thing, common to man are all manifestations of God’s common grace. He gives them to people without regard to their race or religion.

When Jonah was on the boat, the Gentile sailors exhibited a much better spirit than Jonah. They all worked for the good of everyone. They called on their gods. They treated Jonah with respect. Jonah did none of this. He kept silent for as long he could. When asked to pray, he refused. How is it that the people who do not know God, sometimes behave in ways that are superior to the actions of those who do? They have understood some very important things by and through common grace.

If we are not careful, Christians can develop the view that since we know God, non-Christians have nothing to teach us. If we will open our eyes, we might see that others know more about what it means to “love thy neighbor” than we do. At least they sometimes do it better. God’s common grace, growing in non-believers can teach us about courage, diligence, respect for others, discipline and even moral purity. I am reminded of the Good Samaritan. In this story, someone with no religious pedigree demonstrates for the whole world what it means to “love thy neighbor.” Where did he learn this?

As believers in our Lord, Jesus Christ, we must pay careful attention to how we view and treat people who do not share our faith. We must respect and love them. We must never look down on them and we must never assume they have nothing to teach us. God has given us a special grace but the common grace that He gives to all is still there and everyone you meet will have it to some degree. They have much to teach us.

Grace and peace,

The shepherds