Learning from Jonah

Ryan McCreery, Associate Pastor of Ministry Development

This summer over a hundred adults went through the book of Jonah together here at Fellowship in a weekly Bible study. This 8-week study seemed to have a profound impact on those who attended and sought to apply this Old Testament Scripture to their lives. As a way to wrap up the study and summer together, I thought I would share my personal take-aways from Jonah.

I heard many people say, “I am like Jonah, more than I thought.” I couldn’t agree more. It is easy to read stories from the Bible and think we would have responded differently. However, when we slide into Jonah’s sandals and walk a mile in his place, we experience just how difficult it is following God when we merely consider life from our own perspective.

You see, this book of the Bible is best known for the miracle which took place inside a fish. After being swallowed up, Jonah was in the belly of a big fish for three days, three nights and lived to tell about it. However, the greatest emphasis ought to be given to how God demonstrated His compassion for the people of a foreign city called Nineveh, and His calling on Jonah’s life to share with them His grace. For this is the only book in the Old Testament where God sends one of His people to the “gentiles” – to the nations – to share His desire for them to turn from their evil ways so that He might relent from judging them.

When Jonah received this calling to share, he disobeyed.  He thought God’s plan was unfair, and quite frankly, inconvenient and a distraction from what he ought to be doing to serve God.  He felt the Ninevites did not deserve God’s love because of how evil they were acting. In fact, as part of the Assyrian nation, the Ninevites were an immediate threat to Israel, Jonah’s country.  It did not make sense to Jonah why God would give them an opportunity to repent, so he up and left.  Additionally, God’s plan was quite inconvenient for Jonah.  Instead of staying safe in his country, God called him to “Arise, go to Nineveh” hundreds of miles away.  God encouraged Jonah to live on mission, completely dependent on Him, rather than living for self and doing what looked right in his own eyes.

This book will shake your foundation and get your attention if you are currently living for yourself.  Are you like Jonah?  I know I am, when living selfishly, apart from God.  When I choose to live for myself, I am unconcerned with the people around me and I am following an agenda that best benefits my goals.  If things don’t go my way, I merely see it as a setback versus seeing the situation from God’s perspective.  People become servants helping me to accomplish my tasks, instead of the opposite.  During these times, I certainly do not see the lost the way God does nor exercise compassion toward them.

I think Jonah serves as an excellent example of a conflicted follower of God.  There were times when he was disobedient and other times when he obeyed.  We don’t know ultimately how the end of the story went for Jonah because of the abrupt ending of the book.  However, we can conclude that Jonah was most miserable when running from God and living in direct opposition to God’s will.  Jonah was most blessed when turning to God and living for Him.

Therefore, as a believer in Jesus, having received grace and enjoying the steadfast love of God, let us not live like Jonah.  But let us intentionally live for God, viewing others the way God does. Let us seek to serve others, rather than being served.  Let us look past our differences and see that everyone is made in the image of God.  Let’s be kind, gracious and merciful to each another — in our homes, in our church, and in the world.  Let’s live with compassion, especially toward those who are lost and hopeless, looking to share about Jesus and the salvation that is only experienced when trusting in Him for the forgiveness of sins.  Simply put, let us live for God, extending to others the very thing we have been given — grace and love. 

If you joined us this summer, let me encourage you to live differently today, and every day.  If you didn’t, then pick up the Bible and read the book of Jonah with this in mind.  God’s compassion, grace and love is amazing; so let’s share it with everyone without prejudice, both in action and speech.

Sincerely in Christ,

Pastor Ryan

“You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” – Jonah 4:4

How to Respond to Anxiety

Steven Knight, Family Life Pastor

Have you ever been worried before? Anxious about what might happen next in life? Anxious about what is happening right now in your life?

There are different worries that we deal with in our lives. Most of the time, anxiety strikes when we get surprised by different situations in life. An unexpected bill. Health problems. Car trouble. Financial difficulty. Relationship issues… the list could get pretty long!

In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul writes about the topic of anxiety. How should Christians respond to anxiety? Should we be worried about certain things in our lives? Let’s take a look at what the Bible says:

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. – Phil. 4:6-7

Our response to uncertainty in life should be to lift our requests to God, so that we can have the peace of God as we place our trust in Him during the trials of life. God cares for us and is able to provide for our every need. In fact, Matthew 6 shares how God cares for us:

“This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these!If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore, don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:25-34

God is our Provider. Even through the difficult times, we can trust Him to lead us, guide us, and provide for our every need. In this process, He calls us to focus on today and not worry about tomorrow. He isn’t saying we should never plan ahead but is instructing us to not worry about what lies ahead, because God will care for us. We can respond to anxiety by placing our trust in God and lifting our requests up to Him in prayer. After all, the Father takes care of the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields – certainly He will take care of you as well.

If you would like others to pray with you, consider sending your prayer requests to our prayer chain email: office@fellowshipwaco.org. Please keep in mind, these prayer requests are made public to the church. If you could use one-to-one care, consider reaching out to our Care Ministry or connecting with a Stephen Minister to walk along side you: care@fellowshipwaco.org.

The Reality of His Resurrection

By Grant Kaul, Senior Pastor

Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.

Acts 2:22-24

Life in Christ is rooted in the reality of His resurrection.

What would life be like if you didn’t know its purpose?  For many, this isn’t a question to ponder, but a pattern of daily existence.  Even those who claim to know the ultimate reason for our lives sometimes become infrequent visitors to the well-spring of meaning and purpose.  It’s as if the state of being spiritually dehydrated has become a way of life, even though the water of life is in abundance. 

God, however, wants us to regularly renew our mind and soul with the hinge of all history and apex of all meaning– that Jesus Christ through death has paid the penalty for our sin and through His resurrection has provided us the victory of His life.  Christ’s perfect life enabled Him to be our substitute, sacrificial death for sin.  His resurrection from the dead is God’s divine guarantee that authentic spiritual life is truly found in the life of His Son.

This providential plan accomplished God’s purpose of bringing redemption to His people; and each time we fix our attention on the resurrected Jesus, we are once again renewed to God’s purpose for us – to live in light of the resurrection of Christ.  At the beginning and the end of our day – in our trials, in our ministry and in our work – we should think of the conquering Jesus who has all authority and loves us eternally.  When life is hard, remember that Jesus is Lord. 

Ultimately, the Author of life could never be held by the power of the grave, and Christ’s mission to “make disciples” is truly possible because He really is with us always (Matt. 28:18-20).  Each day this week, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, for our life in Christ is rooted in the reality of His resurrection. 

The Next Generation: Are We Missing Them?

By Ryan McCreery, Associate Pastor of Ministry Development

Last month, I attended a church leader conference in Dallas.  It is one that I have attended for many years on and off, depending on my availability.  It is also one of those conferences that I get something out of every time and is a great investment for ministry and for my life as a whole.

Every year perspectives are shared about ministry taking place in churches of all sizes across America.  Like looking out of the plane window at 30,000 feet in the air, we consider what is trending in society and how these trends are impacting the local church as well as how to respond as church leadership.  Alongside dynamic keynote speakers, there are numerous breakout sessions offered throughout the week.

For one of my breakouts, I decided to attend the “Engaging Millennials” session.  Honestly, it was not high on my list, but I was very curious to hear about connecting with the next generation.  And, wow, am glad I went!  Honestly, it was worth the price of the conference.

Two Christians representing the millennial generation were interviewed by a session host.  The session host was about my age, early 40’s.  Those being interviewed were in their late 20’s, maybe right at 30; one male and one female.  They dressed differently than me and used hipster words that I didn’t understand at times.  As they began to speak, I was ready for all my stereotypes of millennials – you know, the ones that commercials tend to emphasize – to be proven true.  And, then they started talking about Jesus.

You see, as they spoke, I sensed the Lord reminding me that I am getting older and that I needed to listen up.  If you are ten to twenty years older than me, you will tell me that I am still very young.  And, from your perspective that is fair.  But, if you are 10-20 years younger than me, I look old and I am getting older.  I do dress differently, and as much as I would like to think my slang is current, some words were only meant to be used by millennials and my children’s generation.

But, the common denominator across all generational lines in the church is our faith in Jesus Christ.  Pursuing a relationship with God never gets old.  The next generation, specifically, the millennials want something authentic from Generation X, Baby Boomers and the Builders generations.  Enough with the polish, they say, we want to believe and follow something real.  “What does it look in your life to follow Christ?”  They want to know both your wins and your losses, not just your wins.  They want to know that you have fallen, and they want to know that you got back up.  Basically, what I heard these younger believers saying was, “We want you, not your flash.”

Not only do they want to hear from you in an authentic way, they want to genuinely know you.  They want relationships, not programs.  It may be surprising to hear this, especially since the younger generations spend so much time on their screens (phones, tablets, etc.).  You see FaceBook and Instagram are not satisfying our social need for interaction.  Therefore, the next generation want an opportunity to meet up face-to-face and learn from you, if only you would engage them in conversation and invite them into your life regardless of what they wear or how they talk.

Lastly, I learned that the next generation is hungry to follow something relevant connected to what is going on in the world around them.  That is why so many jump onboard social causes for raising money or raising awareness for an injustice.  They want the church to not preach at them, but to help them understand how to take a stand in love in this world with a biblical worldview.  Unfortunately, many millennials are leaving the traditional church setting, either for good or to start up their own church because they don’t think church is speaking to the issues they are facing.  Wherever they land, they are hungry to believe in a cause greater than themselves that is making a difference.

As Christians, we have the greatest mission this world has ever known, but my generation and older is falling short connecting with the next generation.  Millennials are hungry to follow and learn, but we are missing them. We must find a way to connect with the next generations for they will be the next generation of leaders in the church.  In the Old Testament, Moses passed the leadership baton to Joshua.  In the New Testament, Paul passed it to Timothy.  The question is, “Who is investing in the next generation today?”, knowing one day it will be time to pass the baton again.

Stepping out of the breakout session at that conference was both convicting and invigorating.  I was convicted because I realized I let generational stereotypes overshadow my need to connect with millennials.  I was invigorated because God helped me to see evidently clear their desire for connection and effective leadership.

The opportunity is at hand.  Connecting and investing in the next generation is key to spiritual health in the life cycle of the church.  If you are my generation and older, the time is now to intentionally engage millennials.  Invite them to coffee to better get to know them, invest in them relationally by meeting regularly, and encourage them to serve alongside you in ministry.  They are hungry for biblical discipleship, something that is authentic, genuine, and relevant to everyday life.  If you are younger than me, don’t be hesitant.  Reach out to the generations older than you.  Let the older generations know that you value their wisdom, desire their biblical perspective, and will commit the time to spiritually grow together pursuing Jesus.

Before Paul passed away, he wrote his last epistle to Timothy, his protégé.  In spite of those chaotic times in the life of the church, Timothy was encouraged to continue in the leadership to which he was appointed, while looking for opportunity to connect with the next generation.  In the spirit of discipleship, we are challenged to do the same.  Let’s not let spiritual effectiveness end with us.  Let’s reach out to the next generation, spanning generations for the sake of the gospel.

Sincerely in Christ,

And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”2 Timothy 2:2