“Light of the World…Speak"

“Light of the World…Speak"

By: Ben Sholtes

Based on John 1:1-5 and this weeks sermon.

Light of Creativity

Deep darkness foams, total silence of night

Chaos nihilo, awaiting first Light

Divine Breath hovers, awaiting command

“Peace, be still” sovereign Word demands

Rushing of Wind, tumultuous Light!

Breaking forth, transforms the night

What was not...now no longer, 

Divine Breath proves infinitely stronger

Disorder is tamed by Eternal plan:

The Word, the Light, O, Son of man!

Light of the World…He Spoke.

Light of Redemption

Man, Crown of creation stands

Kneels before Sovereign right hand

Blissful garden his to spread

Save one tree whose promise, dead

Finite we, slap Infinite's hand

On our own we vainly stand

In darkness amidst life’s crashing waves

Desperate, reaching, can any save?

"Peace be still” creation's Word doth cry

At last! Man no more may die

Light of the World…He Speaks.

Light of Expectation

We, your people in darkness wait

Silent, our word cannot create

Holy Word within, flickering, His breath!

Yea, divine light, which conquered death

Endure our chaos, soul's peace create

Emmanuel! Word speak, we wait

Proclaim your peace, our breakers still

Accomplish in us Creator's will

May our exile display your “Peace, be calm”

That all may know of heaven’s shalom

Light of the World...Speak!


Note from the author: Brothers and sisters, if you’re not accustomed to poetry, here are a few tips:  Read the poem slowly and prayerfully. Expect multiple layers of meaning. It may even be helpful to read it several times. If something strikes you, stop and rest in the moment. Let the words connect to your life and invite you into prayer, even stillness before the Divine Word. As you feel led, turn your meditations into praise, thanksgiving, confession, or requests. Finding peace in our chaotic world will not come with a hurried spirit. Let this be an invitation into the Advent “Expectation” that Jesus is coming to bring us peace, especially in a season with many worldly distractions that so easily overwhelm us and steal our peace. May the Light of the World speak His peace to you!

Emotions: Guilt

By: Sydney Gautier

Scripture: Psalm 51

None of us are immune to screwing up.  Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We all have moments or maybe even seasons of life we look back on and wish we could just erase. With those failures, we experience guilt. We all know the feeling when it starts to set in; your stomach starts to turn, your head hangs a little low, maybe your mind starts racing, “what have I done?” 

In a sermon Barry did back in 2016, he talked about guilt as being an emotional gift that allows us to feel and accept that we have done something wrong. However, this gift of guilt can often be used in the wrong way. For instance, when I think of the way I respond to guilt, I think of an endless loop of struggle that I often find myself in when the feelings of regret set in. 

It goes something like this: mess up/sin/fail, beat myself up over it, try harder, fail again despite all the effort I put in to doing or being better, REPEAT. Each failure starts feeling worse than the last, and the guilt starts running deeper and deeper. This kind of response drives me towards myself and all the ways I’ve messed up. This is what Barry referred to as the religious response. One that doesn’t have a lasting change because it never gets to the root of the problem, one that is more focused on ourselves and our shortcomings than on God. 

But there’s a type of response that Barry pointed us to in Psalm 51 that’s much different, that he referred to as the Christian response. This Psalm shows us how guilt is to be used as a gift, as a way to drive us towards Jesus and to repentance instead of towards ourselves. 

In this Psalm we see David’s response to his own sin and failure. Long story short, David committed adultery with Bathsheba, who was the wife of one of his own men named Uriah, and got her pregnant. Then intentionally had Uriah killed in battle so that he would never know he had slept with his wife. Problem solved, no one had to know what he had done. For a while, David didn’t feel bad about it, he felt no guilt at all. The sin ran deep and Barry told us his heart was calloused, because that’s what sin does to us when we don’t get to the root of the problem. But then God sent Nathan to David to help expose his sin to him. 

Once Nathan exposed David’s sin to him, we see his response was not to try harder or do better, it was to run to God and ask for forgiveness and mercy. He asked God to change his heart and change his mind, he got to the root of the problem. 

Psalms 51:1-2, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgression. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

Psalms 51: 9-10 “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

This should be our response to guilt, too. We serve a good and loving God who wants us to use this guilt to drive us to Him, to ask Him to change our heart and mind! Barry told us He does not abandon us in our sin, he doesn’t take his spirit from us, he doesn’t disown us, he is with us always. He is a good, good Father.

Barry said that the answer to our guilt is all summed up on the cross in Jesus Christ, who took all the sin of those who would believe! Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we can run to him in repentance, with all of the messes we’ve created and be caught in a sea of God’s unending grace and mercy and forgiveness. What an amazing gift that is! 

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Click here to listen to a playback of the sermon, Emotions: Guilt

Emotions: Joy

By: Micha Kandal

Scripture: Psalm 16

From a young age, especially being Americans, we are taught to seek happiness. That being happy is how we know we’ve “made it.” We are taught to live the American Dream, and that our life motto should be “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” At least this is what society shouts at us.

As Jesus followers, we are promised that we will face trials of many kinds, and that we should consider those specific hardships pure joy (James 1:2). We are instructed to “Take heart, knowing that He will overcome the world (John 16:33). These scriptures do not promise that we will be happy, life will be easy, or that our lives will be flawless. We are essentially promised the opposite, that we WILL experience hardship. So, how do we make happy happen?

What I have found and personally have come to know, is that God is always inviting us to seek joy in each and every moment of life. Joy not happiness. Joy is so much deeper than the simple emotions of being happy or sad. Joy can thrive and coexist in the presence of sadness or anger or happiness. This is because joy is a state of being. We see evidence of joy and the desire or placement of it in our lives throughout scripture, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”(Romans 15:13) I believe that joy is a space we are meant to operate out of long term. In the moments and various times that God calls us into His presence, we are also being invited to become fully aware of our heart’s posture and if we are operating out of a place of joy. We are able to accept this beautiful, freeing invitation even when the circumstances aren’t ideal. 

This is why joy is so unique. While we live through various trials and temptations and we may experience a whole range of emotions and thought patterns, joy can still be active and 100% intentionally part of our lives. I think as Jesus followers who have heard the good news and know the promises of our Father, joy is meant to exist and overflow from our souls and into our lives. Even in hardship, or pain, or disappointment. As people who know the truth and promises of God and His character, we must remember that we are capable and strong enough to hold onto joy, even when it feels next to impossible. We were created to live a joyful life, we just have to accept the invitation.  

Click here to listen to the sermon, Emotions: Joy!

Emotions: Hurt

By: Nathan Hood

Scripture: Psalm 42

We tend to obsess over finding a cure for pain.  There has to be a way to cease this infernal hurt.  There has to be a way to never feel this way again.  We medicate.  We labor.  We study so we might be able to explain away the pain but still, it hurts.  Our bodies are failing us.  We feel so young in our hearts but our knees and shoulders ache whenever we do anything.  We look around and see people unable to eat, people screaming and hating each other, old men molesting young children.  It really hurts.

St. Augustine is attributed with coining the latin phrase, “Felix culpa” which is often translated to mean, “happy fault” or “fortunate fall”.  It is the idea that “God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit any evil to exist.”  Perhaps this is true.  Or perhaps God did not judge it better for evil to exist, but was so resolute in His decision to let us decide that He did not interfere when the pain was first introduced.  Perhaps it hurt Him to see it happen.  A man can sit and tussle in his mind forever.  But, the fact of the matter is: it hurts.

The Bible tells us and Pastor Barry reminded us in His sermon on “Hurt” that “…we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  I do not know much.  But I do know that hope in God is good.  I know that He is good and that to put our trust in Him is right.  So, if suffering eventually puts our hope in Him, we can thank God for it.  Unfortunately, that does not make it not hurt.

All of our life, we should pursue a way to feed the hungry, help the hurting and console the brokenhearted.  These are all affirmed by scripture and encouraged.  We should try to cure the pain though we can be pretty sure it is not going anywhere as long as we are earthbound.  Hurt is the disease and it truly seems that as long as we are here on earth, we will be treating symptoms.  We know an eternal cure which is faith in Jesus Christ but here and now, there will be hurt.  But God assures us a way to navigate it.  He assures us that He will bring good out of it.  It is going to hurt.  Our sweet savior carried the same hurt that we do.  How sweet it is to have something in common with him.  But even that hurts to say.  Every time it hurts, our hope should grow and we should proclaim that hope here on earth.  We keep walking, we keep hurting, and we keep hoping.

The Cure for Pain - Jon Foreman
I'm not sure why it always goes downhill

Why broken cisterns never could stay filled

I've spent ten years singing gravity away

But the water keeps on falling from the sky

And here tonight, while the stars are blacking out

With every hope and dream I've ever had in doubt

I've spent ten years trying to sing these doubts away

But the water keeps on falling from my eyes

And heaven knows, heaven knows

I tried to find a cure for the pain

Oh my Lord, to suffer like You do

It would be a lie to run away

So blood is fire pulsing through our veins

We're either riders, or fools behind the reins

I've spent ten years trying to sing it all away

But the water keeps on falling from my tries

And heaven knows, heaven knows

I tried to find a cure for the pain

Oh my Lord, to suffer like You do

It would be a lie to run away



Emotions: Fear & Anxiety

By: Nathan Hood

Scripture: Psalm 46

Grandma Verneal was always there, quietly waiting on those around her.  She would serve and support until everyone else had been taken care of, then she would get herself a plate of tacos for Christmas Eve dinner.  We have tacos for Christmas Eve dinner.  Then, one day, she could not be there for us anymore.  Her mind started to leave and we needed to be there for her.  The names she knew, the faces that made her smile, the memories she had collected over her decades of loving life started to vanish from her frail, failing mind and I was afraid.  The woman who had always been there was fading from presence on earth and it shook me to my core.  I was afraid.  I was anxious.  I was unable to fix the issue.  All I could do was watch and wait for my grandmother to pass away.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” - Psalm 46:1

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” - Psalm 34:18

These ideas presented in the Psalms, that Barry preached in his sermon on November 13, 2016, that have been passed down from Christian to Christian for as long as we have been passing ideas are challenging.  In the midst of fear, we do not feel safe.  When we cannot grab the wheel and steer the car of our life in the way we would like it to go, we do not feel comfortable.  Our lack of control makes us need.  So how is it that God is our refuge?  How is it that He is close to me in my brokenhearted state?

After Grandma Verneal went home to sweet Jesus, I was running in Eagle Creek Park one afternoon, trying to think of how I would write a song to honor her memory.  I like to write about the things I do not understand.  It helps me process them.  And I had hit nothing but walls.  As I rounded a corner in those quiet woods, the sunlight from above peppering the ground below with light as it tried to breach the thick canopy of trees between, I came to an opening that gave me a vision of Eagle Creek reservoir and a big, vast, blue sky on top of it.  I pictured my grandmother sailing off into the great, blue beyond.  I would not be able to ensure that she got where she was going.  I did not empirically know that she was in heaven, worshipping with the Cherubim and Seraphim, and my heart began to fill again with fear.  But then these words came to me: 

“If the sky were a sea, then hope would be the boat that lets us cross it.”

I was filled with peace.  God is our refuge.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.  In these moments of uncertainty, fear, anxiety, a special kind of wisdom that comes from God and is grounded in trusting Him descends upon us.  The way God sees things is not a common worldview, but it is eternally comforting.  The way God understands the world is separate, but it is the single best way to emotionally proceed through life on this earth.  The comfort of the wisdom of the Lord swaddles the Christian like a thick cloak wrapped around them by a loving parent.  “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18) and God is perfect love.  But thank God for this fear.  Thank God that we can “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) because when the mercy of God descends and drives out fear, God’s power is undeniable.  Things are out of our hands, but the hands that they are in do not shake.  The hands that things are in do not tremble and they do not fail.  And if those hands are attached to a God that knows all, understands everything, is everywhere and is infinitely powerful, I fully believe those hands can be trusted.  Lean into His understanding in your moments of fear and anxiety.  God is our refuge.

Listen to a playback of the sermon, Emotions: Fear & Anxiety here!   

Emotions: Sadness

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Emotions: Sadness

By: Audrey Masterson

Scripture: Psalm 77

A few years ago I was consistently reminded of how deep my emotions ran. It seemed as though everything I touched was a product of a negative reaction to some type of way I was feeling in any particular moment. I was controlled by my emotions and allowed them to dictate my actions. It was a pretty destructive practice. However, around the same time, I was going through a major transition in my life, and in that season, I heard Barry preach on emotions from a wildly different perspective. Instead of seeing my emotions as negative, I was able to instead see that the way I was reacting was an indicator that I was really just emotionally unhealthy. The emotions series at New Circle Church changed me in a profound way though-- where I once saw emotions as a reactionary, I now see that emotions are the product of the inner workings of our souls given to us by God and they are common, expected, and very important for our lives.

This sermon series has been one that I often refer back to especially when I am sad. Sadness can appear in our lives for many different reasons, but to be unaffected by our sadness, to shut it out, to say “we’re fine” when really we are experiencing something deeper “shouldn’t be a christian virtue” (Barry). Our emotions should affect us. Jesus, in fact, is sorrowful, but He is also the most excited person in scripture. If Jesus experienced emotions then we are free to feel them too.

One of the most profound things I remember about Barry preaching on this topic is that our emotions have the ability to lead us to the deepest joy and gratitude in God-- where we can better worship Him, follow Him, and be enamored by Him.

In Psalm 77 we learn that sadness will challenge our faith and cause questions to be raised in our minds (“has God forgotten to be merciful/ has he in anger withheld his compassion?” v.9), but we also know that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18) so, with Asaph, we should lean into them, asking and discerning the source and severity of our sadness with friends and with Jesus.

Think about it. Are you experiencing sadness in your life now? What grieves you?

For me, it’s the reality that young girls are being taken advantage of, manipulated, tortured (both physically and mentally), and exploited for sex in our city and around the world every day. This tears me apart every time I walk into my office. Whether I’m working on a project with our interns, helping develop our mentorship program, or preparing for a group session with girls who have been sexually abused and mistreated, I’m reminded that I am not entitled to the life I have been given and that there is a whole host of things that can and do make me sad in this world. I can get caught in cycles of sadness and oftentimes when I do it will lead me to a deeper, more personal place of sadness if I’m not habitually handing it back over to God.

Sadness is real, sadness is to be taken seriously, and it is deep for those who are experiencing it no matter what the cause. There is no one particular way that sadness manifests itself in our lives, but we are allowed to be sad and to ask the hard questions during hard seasons. It’s not that God wants us to be sad-- He didn’t create the world for sadness-- but because we experience things in a fallen world, sadness is a byproduct and we have been given the permission to feel it. God is not offended by our brokenness. God is grieved too. So when you are tempted to dismiss these feelings, remember that our emotions should lead us back to God.

I know that it’s the most difficult when you are in a emotional spiraling pit to look to God, to find the strength to talk about it with others, and see emotions as a way to worship God more intimately, but Barry offered us three pathways to finding comfort in these times. So I highly suggest to take a listen to the playback of this sermon and hide these three comforting tactics in your heart.

  1. Recall past blessings “You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I consider the days of old, the years of long ago. I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search…” Psalm 77:4-6

  2. Redirect your thoughtsThen I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Lord’ yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77:10-12

  3. Reorient your view of God “Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook.” Psalm 77:13-18

I know that there isn’t a quick fix to coming out of feeling sad and sometimes sadness consumes your life, but when you’re surrounded with bad news or you’re feeling like a failure or whatever it is--big or small-- that makes you sad, I would encourage you to recall times in your life where you have felt God’s faithfulness and blessings, redirect your thoughts to something that is encouraging and uplifting rather than something that is untrue, and remember that our God is the Most High God and that he is present in times of trouble (Psalm 46).  

When I find myself weighed down by the constant beating of the realization of what’s going on in our backyards across America, I recall that time that just one girl was rescued from a life of misery; I remember, too, that it’s not even up to me to save each and every girl trapped in slavery today, but that it is God’s work and He has invited me into love and care and walk alongside of them-- and that’s a beautiful blessing; and instead of thinking that God is losing this seemingly never-ending battle, I remember that God has already won and stands victorious over all the evil schemes of this world.

God is good, friends, seek him in your sadness.

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Building your house on The Rock

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Building your house on The Rock

Building Your House on the Rock by Cory Paskins

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” - Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV)

The most important part in building any home is the building of its foundation. You could build yourself a million dollar home with the most beautiful layout and design, but if that home has no foundation it will always fall. Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Christian life. He is known as the Chief Cornerstone and the Rock that we, the children of God, build our house on. (Ephesians 2:20) (1 Corinthians 3:11) The house that we are building represents our life and our soul, for we believe that our body is the temple of God, and that His Spirit dwells within our midst.(1Corinthians 3:16)

Building the Foundation

Jesus gives us two different foundations to choose from in Matthew 7:24-27, one that is made of rock and the other that's made of sand. The obvious material to choose is the rock of course, but how do we do that? There comes a point in life where we have to ask ourselves, are we going to build our house on our own works, or are we going to build our house on the completed works of Jesus Christ? When we choose to build our lives on our own works rather than the works of Jesus, we are choosing to build our lives on shifting sand rather than on solid rock. When we come to Jesus and confess that He is Lord, and truly believe in our hearts that He is the Son of God, He will save us.(Romans 10:9) The very moment that we are saved by the grace of God, is the very moment that Jesus becomes the firm foundation in our life.

Building the House

Lets say you do have your foundation established in Jesus Christ, now what does it look like to build your house on that foundation? Jesus says in Matthew 7:24-27, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock”, and “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” The Christian life isn’t just about hearing and believing in the words of Jesus, but its also about being obedient and doing what Jesus told us to do. When we do what Jesus commands us to do, we are allowing Him to be the Master Designer and Master Planner of our house. It's not always easy building the house that God instructs us to build, Jesus even warns us in Matthew 7:24-27 about the rain, floods and wind that will try and beat us down. However, during these seasons we can always rely on Jesus to help us through the storms, and give us the strength to continue our build.

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus Christ as the foundation of your life I would venture to ask you, what foundation are you building your life on now? Is it on money, friends, family, successes, or is it something else? What ever it might be, I would invite and encourage you to allow Jesus Christ to be the solid foundation in your life. Through the Holy Spirit we are given the strength and power build our house on the foundation of Jesus, and we are able to decorate the walls of our house with His fruit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

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Philippians - The Power Of Intercession: Sermon Highlight

Philippians - The Power Of Intercession: Sermon Highlight

Scripture | Philippians 1:18-26

 

One of the hardest things to do is watch people you love go through difficult times and be unable to change their situation, or be unable to change our own situations. Feeling powerless as we—or those we love—go through hard times, we can quickly become frustrated, scared and sad. We know that Paul had a strong relationship with the Philippians, and we know that the Philippians loved Paul dearly. In the season that Paul is writing this letter to them, he was in the Roman prison. The struggles that the Philippian church watched Paul endure broke their hearts. They were 800 miles away and had no political power to change his situation. But they knew the power of prayer, so they prayed to God and their prayers changed everything. Paul wrote, “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance…” (Philippians 1:18-19). Barry told us that God acts when his people intercede for one another, and this is something that is still true for us today.

 

 

To intercede means “to intervene on behalf of another.” We see this in many different places throughout the Bible, like when Moses intercedes on the behalf of Israel. Just like Moses interceded for the people of Israel, we see the Philippians going to God in prayer on behalf of Paul. This is important because God partners with His people in order to bring about His desires. Barry told us that there is a direct correlation between the prayers of his people and His actions. James told the early church, “You do not have because you do not ask…” (James 4:2). The Philippians accepted God’s invitation to partner with Him to bring about His desires for the church in interceding for Paul, and we get the same invitation to partner with God in prayer.

 

 

Barry said that in prayers of intercession we should seek to be aware of God’s desires for someone and join Him in what He is doing. It does not mean manipulating God to do our will, but rather becoming aware of God’s desires for someone and joining Him in that. Paul wrote, “I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance…” (Philippians 1:19) Paul knew that the Philippians were praying for God to help him. We know God wanted good for Paul and desired his deliverance, and that is exactly what He provided. In difficult situations, it is so easy to become discouraged and frustrated, but we need to remember that God is good and desires good for His children. Psalm 100:5 says, “For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

 

 

We are told in 1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” Then Hebrews 4:16 says, “Come boldly to his throne of grace.” Barry told us that when we are praying God’s heart for his children, we can come to Him confidently. Even in hearing this, we don’t always feel like we can go confidently to God in prayer because we worry we will pray for the wrong things. Often times we will, because none of us can discern the will of God perfectly; however, we can trust God and know that He is good—that He will not give someone something they don’t need or that isn’t good for them simply because we asked for it. Romans 8:26-27 tells us that when we don’t pray for the right things, or don’t know what to pray at all, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God! And Romans 8:34 says that Jesus in interceding for us as well!

 

So let us boldly approach the throne of God through prayer: for ourselves, for one another, and for our city and our world. Let us give thanks for the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ who intercede for us, and for our God who hears every word of our prayers. Let us intercede for one another just as the Philippian church did for Paul.