Don't Rely on Recognition

We all  have people in our life to guide and shape us. If not a mother or father, it might have been a coach, teacher, or minister. There will be so many people’s lives we sincerely impact, while receiving little to no recognition. Paul highlights two such ladies in his second letter to his disciple Timothy. Paul sees extraordinary faith in Timothy because of his mother and grandmother’s teachings. Eunice and Lois are only mentioned in the entire Bible once, but their impact is immeasurably great. They pass their faith on to Timothy, who was one of the most significant church leaders of the first century. In a time when women were not typically mentioned by name, this statement carried heavy weight, if only in a few words.

Today, recognition for the mundane tasks and the exceptional achievements are everywhere, no matter your gender or age. If we aren’t publicly recognized for our good deeds, we tend to become discouraged or embittered. Whether you are a stay-at-home mother or a public servant, there are plenty of good works you do but don’t receive recognition.

So, don’t be discouraged if there isn’t as much earthly recognition or praise in the role God has called you to as you thought. He has a greater purpose for your life than you can imagine. Paul writes of that specific promise to the church in Ephesus and we need that specific reminder today. Even if you can’t see it, don’t stop believing that the purpose is there. Eunice and Lois didn’t know what Timothy would become, and you have no idea whose life you touch by your words, faith, or example. Keep walking in the faith Christ has called you to and trust that God will bless your obedience and perseverance.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. Ephesians 3:20

Blessings

Brian Devereaux

Women of Worth

Households around the nation celebrated their mothers on Sunday. Mother’s Day has become the great day to highlight an invaluable person in all of our lives. Even to those without traditional mothers, most envision a woman in their life who stepped up to fill the role. Proverbs says that your mother’s teaching is not to be disregarded.

I want to highlight some exemplary characteristics of mothers. The Bible repeatedly depicts women of power and strength and most of them were mothers! I encourage you to open your Bible and read about them. Sarah is the mother of all Israel [Genesis 12-23]. Moses’ mother, Jochebed, had the strength to give up her son, instead of holding on and letting him die at the hands of the Egyptians [Exodus 2]. Deborah had the power and strength to lead Israel in the time of the Judges [Judges 4&5], and the list continues to this day.

The Bible depicts women of bold faith and many of the examples are mothers too. Ruth is the woman who boldly asked Boaz for marriage due to Naomi’s council. The widow of Zarephath had the faith to feed Elijah when she had no more food but had herself and a child to feed [1 Kings 17]. Mary had the faith to believe the angel when he said she was the one to carry the Messiah [Luke 1].

This world continues to need women to know their worth to the Father. God goes out of his way with story after story to highlight how much he loves his daughters. We thank all the mothers and pray for your tireless efforts.  We ask you to continue to be strong and believe boldly.

Blessings

Brian Devereaux

Propriety to Providence

We live in a culture that is constantly trying to take God out of everything. It can be as simple as taking the word “God” out of the pledge of allegiance in schools to vehemently opposing the Ten Commandments at the courthouse. It is peculiar that God in His infinite wisdom would provide a book in The Bible without the utterance of His name at all. We find this to be the case in the Book of Esther. In the face of a fallen world that was quickly worsening. We open the story of Esther and Mordecai. Doesn’t this sound familiar?

Esther continues to weave an intricate story. It reminds me of a movie I was watching the other day that began “this is the story of how 12 strangers’ lives intersected.” This story is rich in evidence for the ever existing providence of God. It displays how faithfulness can produce circumstance that leads to deliverance. It is the same providence the letter of Ephesians opens with, as Paul repeats, we were predestined to be God’s treasured possession.

So, in the immortal words of Christ may we “Take heart!” for He has “Overcome the world.” The world makes relentless efforts to blot His name out. God makes it continually known all throughout His word. His glory will be made known by His name, if not, then by His mighty deeds. For the story of Esther concludes, what man meant for death, persecution, and genocide God used for deliverance, glory, and providence.

Blessings,

Brian Devereaux

The Greatest Commission

In one of his last conversations with the disciples, Jesus gives them a command. It is known as the “The Great Commission” where He charges them, and also us with the responsibility of going and making disciples. The command in this passage is the making, not the going. But we cannot make disciples unless we go. We all spend our entire week going to work, to functions for our kids, to church, to restaurants, etc. Christ compels us to intentionally go. Later, before His ascension He tells us where. To Jerusalem, all of Judea, Samaria and the ends of the Earth (Acts 1:8). That means here, there, where it is least likely for us to go and everywhere! What will we do when we go?

Christ charges us with the responsibility of making disciples (Matthew 28:19) and being His witness (Acts 1:8). This means it should be at the forefront of our conversations. It should influence the going. It will determine who we are talking to as well as why we are talking to them and what we talk about. It will change what we do with our free time, and how we open our homes up. We will interact with our neighbors and be involved with them. It will impact how we spend our money and share our love.

       How do we make disciples? First, we must be disciple. This week take time to consider people in your life who are where you want to be spiritually, and reach out to one asking if they will disciple you. Second, consider people around you who are in the same stage as you spiritually and seek a relationship where you can grow together. This will feel much like a friendship but continue to study and grow together as well. Finally, seek out the non-Christian neighbor, and pray for them, invite them to church, or for coffee. We can start forming the relationship that will position them to see Christ’s love in our life and community. We can share Jesus with them so that they can also share Jesus with others.

I encourage you to go for Christ’s glory, make disciples for His kingdom, until all have heard. I want to remind you we are not in this alone, He sent the helper, the Holy Spirit so that you and I can boldly go. Let’s go!

Blessings

Brian Devereaux

It Is Finished

On Sunday we celebrated Resurrection day. We commemorated our Savior victory. He was tried (John 18:12-14, 18:28-19:16), crucified (John 19:17-18) and died on the cross (John 19:28-30). God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). And so, we did! When Jesus said it is finished, he meant it. The word ‘finished’ in English only captures the idea of completing a task. However, in the original text, tetelestai (it is finished), has a threefold meaning. Jesus uses the perfect tense of the word, which is rare to use in New Testament times. It gives a word punctiliar sense which means something happens at a specific time. It also gives the word a linear sense in which the word means something will come in the future. Jesus said “tetelestai” in the sense of carrying out a task, fulfilling an obligation, done to the full extent. In light of the cross, Jesus said it is finished now and it will continue to be finished. Jesus' last words, “It is finished” are a declaration of salvation that is both for right now, and for eternity. Both linear and punctiliar. Jesus declares our debt is paid, we are redeemed. Justified by his death. Sanctified by his blood. We rest in the fact that it was finished at that and will continued to be finished for all time. So, we boast on the cross! “Far be it from me [us] to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). In order to boast in the cross, we must live near and on the cross. We become radically cross exalting when we realize that we “have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). So those words Jesus said, “it is finished”, become a reality. For us now, and for eternity we live assured of our salvation and seeing everything through the cross. Our children, our family, our jobs, every good thing and every bad thing turned around for our good is enjoyed as a tribute to the infinite value of the cross of our Savior. We boast, we rejoice in the glory of God. Today, our Savior lives. We live in him, through faith. He finished it all!

In Jesus’ love and for his glory,

Jessica Brayboy

Passion Week, The Week That Changed It All

Sunday began what we call passion or holy week. Eight days in which:

Sunday: Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem

Monday: Cleansed the temple

Tuesday:  Leaders attempt to trap Jesus with questions

Wednesday: Judas goes to conspire against Jesus

Thursday: Jesus presents the Passover meal and the upper room discourse

Friday: Jesus goes through trials, is crucified and dies

Saturday: Pilate provides guards and seals Jesus tomb

Sunday: Jesus raises from the dead and leaves the tomb empty!

Our pastor challenged us to make the most out of passion week by taking time out to pray, and think about the significance of each day. We do not think of this week as an obligation, rather as an opportunity to rejoice in our Saviors victory. Jesus triumphantly entered to die for the world (John 3:16). He had you in mind as he went through this week over two thousand years ago. Grab a cup of coffee or tea, sit back and ponder about Jesus, savor this week. Read the narratives Matthew 21-28, Mark 11-16, Luke 19-24, John 12-21. We pray that Ephesians 3:16-19 grows increasingly true in all of us as we take the opportunity to celebrate passion week, may we freshly know the love our Savior has for us.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:16-19)

In Jesus’ Love,

Jessica Brayboy

The Power of Jesus Christ

A preacher once said, “if you’re going to destroy his [Christ] power, what are you going to use for power.” This is an obvious observation pertaining to what is written and known about Christ’s power, but it does not often translate into our lives. Do we live like Christ has ultimate power? Jesus has power over the storms, power over the spiritual forces of good and evil, power over sickness, and power over death. The reality is that all power in heaven and on earth has been given to Christ.

We live in a world that is saturated in the “I got the power” mantra. It is the target of all the advertisements we are flooded with daily. If your loved one is sick, we have the power to buy medicine and make them well. This gives an allusion of power to us because we bought and administered the medication. There are hundreds of self-help books to read that help you navigate the storms of life. They diminish the problems and convince you that you hold all the power to change your life.

No one is against these things but don’t lose the forest for the trees. When Christ rose from the dead he said the Father gave him all authority in heaven and on earth. He holds that power to this very day. Let’s continue to live as people under the authority of Christ. Christ is the Lord of our hearts and king of our lives. I pray we all spend some time at the foot of the cross submitting to his authority this week.

Blessings,

Brian Devereaux

Follow Me

On Sunday, Marlo preached from the passage in Mark 8:34-35 about discipleship. In his sermon, he highlighted the three key aspects of discipleship that Jesus emphasized: deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me. If you consider what had just happened prior to Jesus’ command, I think it helps paint a clearer picture of what Jesus was trying to convey to the crowd of people. Jesus was speaking to his disciples, preparing them of what was about to happen to him. He told them how he was about to suffer many things, be rejected by the leaders, and killed. Of course, this left them all confused and heartbroken. Peter even took Jesus aside, and actually scolded him for saying these things. But Jesus immediately replied by saying, “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” In other words, ‘you are thinking and acting from a worldly perspective, rather than a Godly perspective.’

What Jesus consistently called the crowds, and his disciples, to do was not easy. In fact, it was both counter-intuitive and counter-cultural. For Peter and his disciples, they would have to accept the fact that they did not fully understand God’s plan, and they would have to trust that Jesus’ death was meant for a good purpose. Well, if they didn’t understand the plan, then imagine how difficult it would be for them to see how Jesus’ death could possibly be any good. After all, this was the man whom they had been “following” for three years, the one whom they had become quite close to and dependent upon. This was the man whom they walked with, ate meals with, prayed with, listened to, learned from, and experienced life with. They watched as Jesus spoke to crowds, healed the sick, fed the hungry, and performed many miracles, all while he stood up to the critics, confronted the religious leaders, and silenced the oppressors. So, in their minds, how could Jesus’ death possibly serve any good? It just seemed so completely out of line with all they had come to believe about Jesus, and all that Jesus had done for the people of this world, including themselves. They did not know what we know today. Jesus’ death would be tantamount to the salvation of the entire world.

When Jesus gave the command for all of us to “deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me,” it still goes against everything we understand and experience in this world. Letting go of our own ideas for the sake of God’s will, enduring the pain and suffering that comes along with this, and following Jesus’ way as opposed to the world’s way can certainly feel counter-intuitive and counter-cultural. It’s not in our nature to deny ourselves of what we want or what we think is best. It doesn’t make sense when we have to endure the hardships of “doing the right thing.” And if we’re honest, it is extremely difficult to follow Jesus when the world is pulling us in a different direction. The world’s way seems so much easier sometimes. But the Bible warns us to be careful when it comes to following the world. 1 John 2:16 says that “the world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” This is the promise that comes with following Jesus…eternal life. Although it won’t always be easy, and you won’t always understand where you are going, following Jesus comes with the greatest reward.

Blessings,

Dawn

Put the “Share” back in Sharing the Gospel

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Jesus says this to the church he calls lukewarm and threatens to spit out of his mouth.  These people tell Christ, they are rich. They can fend for themselves. However, Christ knows they are poor, pitiful, and weak without Him. He continues to stand at the door of their heart and knock, hoping they let Him in. We must continuously share the Gospel, as Christ does. We must be ready to take offense, insult, evil committed wrongly against us, but know our great reward is in Heaven. This will allow us to share the Gospel to everyone around us with patient endurance.

The Gospel is a message of radiant beauty that as a church we have begun to unpack over the last several weeks.  It is a message of immeasurable power that the Bible says “Even angels long to look into these things.” “These things” refers to everything the prophets prophesied about Jesus Christ and his life. As we continue to teach, preach, and participate in Life Groups together, our body will continue to explore and unpack the Gospel and why it changes everything. We need to be challenged to take the Gospel and share it with the world around us.

Let’s continue to be a church that opens up to the world around us. Continue to be a body that invites neighbors over for dinner to love them. Continue to feed the community. Continue to build ramps for the needy and desperate. Continue to invite guests and welcome them so lovingly. We are inviting people into the greatest news they have ever received. The gospel has power in itself. We do not give it power or add to its power but Christ always uses his people to share it. So, go and share the news that Christ lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died, so that God would receive you, not for your record or your sake but for Jesus’ record and Jesus’ sake.

Blessings,

Brian Devereaux

The Gospel Without Fear, Pride, or Deadness

All of us have experienced fear.  We fear speaking in front of a group of people or we are frightened in other situations. Most of us can think of a time when fear held us back from doing something we should have done.  It is the thing that keeps us from trying. However, “love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.” 1 John 4:18  The presence of fear reveals a lack of wholly believing in the Gospel, because the Gospel is the truest and greatest revelation of love. Through belief in the Gospel, all fear is cast out.

Each of us has experienced pride. It is the natural condition of all our hearts without the presence of Christ through the transformation of the Gospel. We are inclined to think too much of ourselves.  We rely too much on what we have by nature. It is the first sin from the Garden of Eden, and the one Satan knows best. C.S. Lewis said, “it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” He goes on to make the case that without the presence of Pride no other sin can be committed because to break the first commandment one must elevate themselves above God.

We have all experienced deadness. It is the “season” you are going through and don’t want to tell anyone about. It leads you away from regular prayer, involvement in Christian community, and continuously reading the Bible. It starts slowly and takes over your entire life. God feels so distant, and you lack the motivation to reach out to him.

Fear, pride, and deadness take root in our hearts and minds. They will only be removed by the transforming power of the gospel.  The power of the Gospel in the world is:

    We can be pure and blameless in the Father’s presence

    Fully adopted to sonship

    In the unity of all things in Heaven and Earth

    Have our full inheritance in our Father and be his full inheritance in the Universe

    Sealed with the Holy Spirit guaranteeing all these things until they come to pass

    -Ephesians 1:3-14

Blessings,

Brian Devereaux

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