Saying Goodbye to the Periphery

Saying Goodbye to the Periphery

Word in Season

Believers in the New Testament had fellowship together. It is an odd word, isn’t it? Fellowship. What does it mean and why is that detail about believers included in God’s Word?

Real fellowship is a deep love for our brothers and sisters in Christ; a visible love that will attract other people to Jesus.

Biblical fellowship is rooted in Jesus. Through him, believers become united together in Christ as fellow citizens and heirs (Eph 2:19, 3:6), and partner together for the gospel (Phil 1:5). In Acts, fellowship looked like doing life together – a life primarily focused on the advancement of the gospel (Acts 2:42, 4:32).

Real fellowship is a deep love for our brothers and sisters in Christ; a visible love that will attract other people to Jesus. I was shocked, rebuked, and then convicted when I realized John uses “one another” in his gospel and in 1 John to refer to fellow believers. Our Lord Jesus commands this love for fellow believers at least 3 times in the gospel of John (John 13:34-35, 15:12, 15:17).

John emphasizes this commandment of Jesus 4 times in 1 John (1 John 3:23, 4:7, 4:11, 4:12). He even says that one evidence of our salvation is our love for our brothers (1 John 3:14). Let the weight of that sink in a bit.

The road is hard, suffering is promised, the world (maybe even dear friends and family) will hate us and yet we must persevere until the end (Hebrews 3:14)

Why do we need fellowship? God, in his great wisdom and because he alone is our provider, knew we would need to be loved like this. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday and possibly sooner than we think. The road is hard, suffering is promised, the world (maybe even dear friends and family) will hate us and yet we must persevere until the end (Hebrews 3:14). How? By God’s grace, he has given you an eternal family to exhort you every day; to serve you in your darkest hour, and to strive side by side together for the faith of the gospel (Phil 1:27). A family that you also have a responsibility to exhort every day so that none of us might be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:12-13).

A family to lift your hands up together with on Sunday mornings and praise God in the best and worst of times. A family to bear unspeakable burdens with you. The world cannot love you like this. Those of you who have experienced some of these things from your church are nodding your head right now. I can hear your “Amen” and I join you! You can tell of God’s mercy that he has extended to you through the body of Christ. You can recall that time when you had no words to pray and your brothers and sisters endlessly interceded on your behalf. You remember the Sunday you wondered if you could ever continue another day in this fight for the faith and you walked in that door only to be refreshed and renewed. This bond between believers surpasses all others and satisfies our deep need for community. This is how God designed it and like everything else he designed, it is good (Genesis 1:4).

We experience this deep, relational community in the greater body of Christ with our brothers and sisters around the world but more intimately this fellowship is intended to be lived out within our local church.

Periphery isn’t real fellowship and if we stay there we miss out on an important and necessary means of God’s grace in our lives.

If God’s design is ultimately what we should desire and strive for, why are so many of us content to stay on the periphery of our church?

We attend church but we rarely get involved in anything outside of Sunday morning. We make small talk, but we never share our life or become aware of the needs of others. In fact, we don’t really want to be involved in church because our schedules are too full already. Church falls off the priority list when it competes with sports, vacations, hobbies, exercise, work, sleep, etc.

To my great shame, this was how I interacted with the local church for many years. My thoughts about my life, my wants, and my over-packed schedule ruled my interaction with church. Idolatry. Putting other gods in place of the one God, for whom we all exist and in place of our one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom we exist (1 Cor 8:6).

Periphery isn’t real fellowship and if we stay there we miss out on an important and necessary means of God’s grace in our lives.

So, what do we do? This post can’t change hearts. Only God can do that work through his Spirit and oh how I pray he will! Father, open our eyes to see and experience this glorious truth!

Father, help us to look at our schedules and re-prioritize (or remove) to make room to love “one another” and engage in true biblical fellowship with our local church.

Father, help us make time for fellowship outside of just Sunday morning.

Father, help us prioritize building relationships and discipleship within the church.

Father, help us to leave room in our schedules, so when a need arises within the church we have the time and the energy to fill it.

And Father, help us carefully weigh the costs with missing a Sunday at church vs whatever is causing us to be absent

Father, help us say goodbye to the periphery.

How to Study the Bible, Part 1

How to Study the Bible, Part 1

Word in Season

Have you resolved to study the Bible in 2019? If not, maybe this post will help. If you are ready to start studying the Bible, then you may be wondering, “What now?”

This new series of posts is intended to help with that question. Although the Bible is unique because it is the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16), we study it as we would any other literary text. The Bible, simply put, is a book. It is The Book. We want to know what it says, what it means, and then how to respond. Another way to say this is that we want to observe, interpret, and then apply the text.

  1. Observe – What does it say?
  2. Interpret – What does it mean?
  3. Apply – How do I respond?

We begin with observation because we need to know what it says if we want to correctly determine what it means. Furthermore, we don’t want to respond to how we feel at that moment about the text, we want to respond to the true meaning of the text. Observation is not hard, but it does take time. Observations are things in a passage that cannot be disputed. In other words, things that are simply true about the text.

But how? First, take time to pray. God loves that you are seeking Him out in His Word. He wants to be known. Ask Him for wisdom and to help you understand and handle His word rightly (2 Tim 2:15). Next, get out your Bible, paper, pen and start to read, read, and read the text again. Here are some things to look for:

  • Who is it talking about, who is the author talking to, who are the key people?
  • What are the keywords, repeated phrases, repetitive thoughts/patterns?
  • Identify and make note of lists and/or any contrasts or comparisons
  • Take a close look at grammar, especially connecting words (therefore, thus, for, but, so that, hence, if/then), also note subjects and verbs, questions and answers, and quotes
  • Note imperatives (direct commands), these show us the outcome(s) the author desires

Let’s use Hebrews 3:12-14 as an example. Here are 10 observations from this text:

  1. V.10: The author is talking to “brothers”, so these are believers. The author includes himself with the believers when he uses “we” two times in v.14
  2. V.12: The author wants the believers to watch out for unbelief within themselves and each other
  3. This unbelief is a repetitive thought and key concern of the author. It is brought up again in v.13 as a sin that is deceitful and could “harden” the believers
  4. V.13: An unbelieving heart can lead these believers to fall away from God
  5. V.12 & 14: The result of unbelief/sin is serious because of the effect it would have on their relationship with the “Living God” or their “sharing in Christ”
  6. V.13: “But” is a key transition word shows a contrast or another option. Instead of an unbelieving heart, exhort “one another”
  7. V.13: The frequency of when to exhort seems stressed as he says, “every day” and “as long as” it is called “today”
  8. V.13: Exhortation serves a purpose to help against being hardened by sin – I see this in the transition word “that”
  9.  V.14: “For” shows me there is a reason the author wants the believers to watch out for sin and to take care to exhort one other. (See next observation)
  10.  V.14: I’ll want to carefully observe the “if / then” statement – If believers hold their original confidence firm to the end, then the believers have come to share in Christ

If you are like me, my mind is already going to interpretation. I have lots of “why” questions that I may write down for later and then go back to my observation. It is a good practice to reference the verse for each observation as it keeps us accountable to the text.

Now, it is your turn. See if you can make 10 additional observations from this passage. Our next post will talk about what to do with these observations as we move onto interpretation. I encourage you to follow along and practice with us as we move through this series of blog posts. Let me be clear, this does take practice. Don’t get discouraged if you are finding it hard. Laboring to understand the word of God is the best labor you will ever do.

Click here to read How to Study the Bible, Part 2.

Resolve to Study the Bible in 2019

Resolve to Study the Bible in 2019

Announcements Word in Season

Why should Christians study the Bible? What reason would you give someone if they asked you this question? Isn’t sitting through a sermon most Sundays enough “time in the Bible”? I have asked myself these questions and now I have two young kids wondering the same thing when we sit down to read the Bible together. “Why mama?” I open the Bible and we start in Matthew 22.

Jesus said the first and greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind…” (Matt 22:37). How can you love someone with the magnitude that Jesus describes here that you hardly even know? As Christians, we read and study the Bible so we can know God. What is He like, what breaks His heart, what brings Him joy, what is His greatest desire? Furthermore, it is no small thing that Jesus claims that the scriptures “bear witness about him” (John 5:39). Every one of the 66 books of the Bible shows us something about our Savior, Jesus, who is the exact imprint of God (Heb 1:3). So if you want to know God, look at Jesus. If you want to know Jesus, study God’s word as if your life depended on it. We don’t have a shot at living out the greatest commandment if we neglect God’s word.

Which brings me to my next point. God has spoken. Let that sink in a bit. How can we, as Christians, be uninterested in what God has to say? Paul reminds his beloved Timothy, that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17). God has spoken and if that isn’t enough, He claims it is profitable and serves a purpose to “complete” and “equip” all believers. As Christians, God’s word is essential, equipping us properly for the work He has for prepared for us (Eph 2:10).

Not convinced yet? What about the fact that man lives by these words (Deut 8:3), that we are called to long for these words, so we can grow to understand our salvation (1 Pt 2:2), and that we are soberly warned to pay close attention to these words, so we don’t drift away from our faith (Heb 2:1). Do you want to take a stand against evil? You need the word of God, your sword (Eph. 6:17). Do you want to be the wise man who built his house on the rock? You must know God’s word to obey it (Matt 7:24). Do you want to be blessed? Delight in the law of the Lord day and night (Psalm 1:2). Studying and laboring over the Bible is not a burden or another item on your to-do list. There is life in these words. These words satisfy deep longings in your soul and will eventually become sweet like honey to the believer (Psalm 119:103). Your greatest joy will be loving God with every inch of your being as you come to know Him through the scriptures.

Resolve to study the Bible, God’s very own words, this year. Don’t do it alone though. Make it a point to commit to one of our women’s studies and enjoy the fellowship of studying the Bible with others. We have four women’s studies starting in the new year.

Galatians: Tuesdays at 6:30PM @ church – Starting January 15th – Contact Lacy Troester
Ecclesiastes: Tuesdays at 6:30PM @ church – Starting January 15th – Contact Maya Johnson
Biblical Overview: Wednesdays at 9:30AM @ church – Starting January 23rd – Contact Kristen Huls
Gospel Study: Mondays at 7:00PM @ the Varvel house in Hay Springs – Starting February 4th – Contact Raime Varvel

Let the cry of the prophet Jeremiah ring true for you in 2019. “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart…” (Jeremiah 15:16).

Editor’s Note: We have a few other studies going on for men and women. One of them is an in-depth study of 1 Thessalonians, which meets on Sundays at 9AM @ church. We are also planning to launch a men’s group in the Spring. Check the Event Calendar for the latest meeting times.