Knife Fighting the Devil

Megan JohnsonDevotionalLeave a Comment

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"You don’t have to bow to your feelings.”

Sounds pretty simple, right? My emotions have a place, and rightly so, God made us to be feeling creatures, but emotions shouldn’t have the final say about what is true in a situation. God, in his severe mercy, has given me a number of opportunities to practice this lately.

I have been thinking about the analogy of being a racquetball court instead of a sponge. I think somewhere along the way I got this idea from the book, Loving the Little Years, by Rachel Jankovich. For me, being a racquetball court (and not a sponge) means I don’t have to absorb other’s emotions around me and take them all in. When I absorb the emotions of my kids, for instance, I become enslaved to them. Or if I absorb the frustrations of others, I think I must “fix it”. Rather, the wall of the racquetball court feels the hit, the sting even, of the ball, yet it lets it go.

If I am a sponge with my kids, it means that when they are happy, I am happy. When they are mad, I am mad. When they are scared, I am scared. We can logically see how this is not helpful when we take a step back. Thankfully, God is not like this with us – taking on our emotions, being changed by them, and responding in kind. Yes, He weeps with those who weep and clearly and vividly displays emotion! Yet, He is not controlled by other’s emotions or his own.

Most of us can identify with being trapped in the endless cycle of FEEL – ACT – FEEL – ACT. We are reminded in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast all our anxieties on Jesus because He cares for us. I imagine throwing emotion onto Jesus, knowing He can handle it, and asking Him to lead me in the truth, then bowing in submission to that truth, not bowing to my ever-changing emotion.

In his phenomenal book, A Loving Life, Paul Miller says this about Naomi as we see her at the beginning of the book of Ruth:

“Naomi neither suppresses her feelings nor is trapped by them. She didn’t have to act on her feelings. She felt anguish, yet she was free from the tyranny of her feelings … if we follow (our feelings) we become trapped by them.”

Naomi is dealing with great pain and anguish – and most of her anguish comes because she trusts that God is Sovereign and good, but she can’t see it in her circumstance.

There is something liberating about not being trapped in our feelings; being able to feel and lament and love deeply – yes! – but not having to act on every emotion that rears its head up. Satan may prowl around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour – whether through internal suppressed emotion, or explosive words, or anything else, but the truth is: Jesus IS the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Jesus is the Lion. While Satan prowls like a lion, his power is limited by the power of the true Lion – the eternal King.

As I was driving to pick up my kids from school this week, I was in the midst of “knife fighting with the devil” as my husband lovingly says, internally fighting between my flesh-driven instincts and thoughts (the barbarians roaming the streets of my mind), OR looking up to Jesus, attempting to sing and proclaim THE truth louder than the thoughts in my mind, and this worship song by Phil Wickham came on leading me to worship and to the truth of freedom in Christ:

Out of the silence, the roaring Lion declared
The grave has NO claim on me!
Hallelujah! Praise the one who set me free.
Hallelujah! Death has lost it’s grip on me.
You have broken every chain!
Jesus Christ – my Living Hope.”

This King has delivered us from the tyranny of ourselves if we belong to Him. We are not held hostage by emotions, or our past, or our sin. We are filled with and empowered by the Spirit to kick out the lies, for me, it’s the fake conversations I’m having with others in my mind, particularly if I’ve been hurt or am angry. We can replace these with the truth.

The Lord has delivered me from myself; the Lord IS delivering me from myself. All I have to do fall into dependence on and look up instead of down, planning my response in my own strength by staring intently at the circumstance.

Submitting to the Lord and leaning into him instead of our natural flesh-driven responses, having to wait and trust, can lead us into sweet moments of worship. Even the sins of others, or choices of others, are allowed by God to impact me because it drives me to Him in dependence which becomes a sweet opportunity for growth and sanctification.

This is soul work. This is good work. And it’s also a knife fight with the devil.

A Liturgy for a Time of Widespread Suffering

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A Liturgy for a Time of Widespread Suffering

A beautiful, liturgical prayer from the folks at Rabbit Room. 

Christ Our King,

Our world is overtaken by unexpected
calamity, and by a host of attending fears,
worries, and insecurities.

We witness suffering, confusion, and
hardship multiplied around us, and we find
ourselves swept up in these same anxieties and
troubles, dismayed by so many uncertainties.

Now we turn to you, O God,
in this season of our common distress.

Be merciful, O Christ, to those who suffer,
to those who worry, to those who grieve, to
those who are threatened or harmed in any
way by this upheaval. Let your holy compassions
be active throughout the world even now—
tending the afflicted, comforting the
brokenhearted, and bringing hope to
many who are hopeless.

Use even these hardships to woo our hearts MORE

Building Update May 2020

Ryan JohnsonChurch NewsLeave a Comment

I visited the construction site of our new facility this week to provide an update on our progress. I also shared briefly some thoughts about our plans to reopen in-person worship and what you can do to help us prepare to do that well.

The Lord’s Table – Online

Brandon DeanChurch News, TheologyLeave a Comment

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The Lord's Table

Perhaps the most heart wrenching aspect of not being together in person is that we do not take the Lord's Table together every week. It's not ideal for us to partake of the sacrament online, but as it is one of the means of grace we do not want to neglect it. Therefore, we have decided to have a time for the Lord's Table next Sunday, May 24, 2020.

We are aware that some feel a conviction not to take the Lord's Supper until we can truly be in communion together face-to-face. We completely understand and support your decision not to partake. We suggest simply using the time to pray. 

If you will be joining together with us for The Lord's Table, here's all you need to know to be prepared:

The ELEMENTS

THE BREAD | The Scripture tells us that Jesus broke bread when he instituted the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Most likely he had a loaf of unleavened bread. Any loaf of bread will do, or you can use crackers (especially if you are avoiding gluten.)

THE WINE | Jesus instituted the sacrament using wine. Many people prefer to use grape juice instead, but any drink made from grapes would be sufficient.

Although we refer to them as the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the bread and wine do not actually change. Nevertheless, something very real and very profound occurs spiritually. When we take communion, the Holy Spirit is present. He communicates Jesus to us and makes us present with Him in Heaven. However, physically Jesus remains at the right hand of the Father and does not come and “hide” within the bread and the wine.

Before the worship gathering:

  1. Set aside a small portion of bread for each person who will be partaking. This should be the size of one bite.
  2. Set aside a small portion of drink in any kind of glass for each person who will be participating. Just one swallow’s amount is sufficient.
  3. The preparation of the elements should be done with the reverence and honor due to the sacrament, but there is no special blessing or ritual necessary.

After the worship gathering, if you have bread or wine left over, you can dispose of them as you normally would. Again, they remain simply bread and wine.

PREPARING OURSELVES SPIRITUALLY

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

1 Corinthians 11:27-28
Whenever we know we will be coming to the Lord’s Table, it is very important that we have prepared and examined ourselves spiritually. The sacrament is intended as a means of grace for those who believe, but Scripture warns us that we bring judgement upon ourselves if we partake in an unworthy manner.

Sin does not make us unworthy to take the Table. Indeed, only those who know they are sinners saved by grace, are worthy. The Heidelberg Catechism says that “those who are displeased with themselves because of their sins” are welcome at the Lord’s Supper.

We examine ourselves by acknowledging and repenting of our sins, and determining to seek reconciliation with others when possible, and relying upon our Savior Jesus for forgiveness.

If you find that you are unwilling to repent, it would not be wise to partake of the Sacrament. Instead you should pray and ask God to help you to truly hate your sin and to give you the resolve to recommit yourself to obedience.

WHO SHOULD PARTAKE?

In your household, only those who are believers in Jesus Christ and who have been examined by the elders of the Church and found to have a credible profession of faith should partake of the sacrament. This means that if you have not-yet-believers staying with you, they should not take communion. If you have young children who have not yet been baptized and have not yet made a profession of faith, they should not take communion.

Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ, and has examined themselves and can partake in a worthy manner, should take communion.

Those who are unable to participate are encouraged to spend the moment in contemplative prayer, perhaps asking God to reveal Himself to them in a new way.

HOW WILL THIS WORK?

Pastor Ryan will walk us through this time of communion, explaining each of the elements and then giving you a moment to eat and drink each of them. We recommend placing the elements in a spot where everyone can reach them, and then allowing each person to serve themselves as Ryan leads.

We look forward to the coming day when we will be able to enjoy this moment of communion face to face. Until then, know we are praying for you to experience the grace of God in other ways as He is always with us.

Vallejos | Family Moment

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Vallejos | Family Moment

The Vallejos give us a peek into the colorful life of their family during the quarantine, Jorge encourages us through God's Word, and we are presented with an opportunity to serve those in need.

Edwards | Family Moment

New CityDevotional, Family MomentLeave a Comment

The Edwards family gives us a peek into their quarantined life and Sherry opens up the Word.

Laish

Jenna SimmonsDevotional4 Comments

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Then they took what Micah had made, and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a people at peace and secure. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else.
Judges 18:27-28

I have been working my way through a Bible-in-a-year plan the past few months. One thing I've learned: the old testament is wild. While stories occasionally leave me shocked, often angry, and sometimes inspired, I'll admit that much of the Old Testament has left me bored. There are a lot of names, a long list of laws, a bunch of (literal) meanderings, and drawn out stories of military conquests and land-settling. The latter is where I landed this week as the Israelites once again became discontent and traipsed off to find new land to inhabit (read: steal). However, this verse caught my attention and slowed my skim.

A little context before I tell you why: the Israelite tribe of Dan was searching for land to inhabit because they lost the land God had given them to another tribe. Rather than fight for it, they decided to search elsewhere for land to take with less resistance. In their search, they came across the town of Laish.

So the five men left and came to Laish, where they saw that the people were living in safety, like the Sidonians, at peace and secure. And since their land lacked nothing, they were prosperous. Also, they lived a long way from the Sidonians and had no relationship with anyone else.
Judges 18:7

This city was the perfect target - it had everything they needed and it was vulnerable for the taking. So the Dan clan attacks the thriving, yet unsuspecting, people of Laish; burning the city to the ground and destroying everything they had built for themselves. Before your eyes glaze over, consider with me Laish's fatal point of weakness.

"There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else."

Social distancing was their downfall.

As we practice social distancing in our country today, I think we are all learning how important relationships are. My heart is heavy for those who are single, living alone, or who simply miss their friends and family so much it hurts. I've seen isolation take its toll as people share their struggles on social media, group texts, and Zoom calls.

Then, when I close my apps, I often sit and ponder that something must be wrong with me. I don't feel the anxiety, the pain of lost connection, the longing to be back in the community. In fact, I can go days without even noticing it. At first, this was a small point of pride for me. As someone who has begrudgingly worked from home my entire career, I felt vindicated by everyone's complaints and struggles and realizations that working in your pajamas isn't all that fun after all. But more than that, I've been able to study more, build a home gym, try new dinner recipes, and tackle some home projects that I haven't had time for. Essentially, social distancing has allowed me to be more prosperous, more productive ... more selfish.

Just like Laish.

The people of Laish had everything they needed - they were tucked in a valley where their land was fruitful and protected. They were self-sufficient and at peace. They were safe and happy - until they weren't.

I feel convicted by this passage, but also incredibly grateful. Because if it were up to me, I would choose self-sufficiency and prosperity too. But God, in his great mercy, has planted me in a community that loves me too much to let me self-isolate. I forget to call friends, but they continue to call me. I choose to work and play hard, but my discipleship group calls me to rest and pray. I prefer to think and plan, but my close friends expect me to feel. I don't deserve the relationships I have been given, but God has given them to me anyway. Unlike Laish, I am rescued - and rescued often - by my relationships.

I don't know where you are on the social distancing wheel of feelings today - maybe you're like me, and you're happily spinning a web of self-improvement. Maybe you're drowning in anxiety and depression from loneliness. Most of us are probably somewhere in the middle. I do know that we are all tired of maintaining relationships over the screen. Zoom is helpful, but it does not replace the ease of casual conversation, the subtlety of body language, the warmth of a hug. And we're all tempted to check out.

Evan and I are with you. We drag ourselves to virtual Missional Community, sometimes by obligation alone. (Just being honest here.) But we never regret the effort, and we always end the call feeling blessed and encouraged. Even if we don't, we know that somebody did - someone who maybe needed it more than we did. It matters that we not only tune in to New City Live on Sunday mornings but that we type "good morning" in the chatbox and post PJ-selfies on our Instagram stories. It makes me smile to see Brandon giving announcements from his office and to get a glimpse into your homes on Family Moment videos. We have to stay physically distant right now, but the choice to be socially distant is ours.

If you're like me and you feel secure enough, busy enough, prosperous enough, safe enough - let me be the first to tell you - from one Laish to another - you're wrong. You need us. We need you.

So please keep showing up - for us, for each other, and for yourselves.

Stay well, friends. And if you're looking for community, please check out our list of Missional Communities - we would all be blessed to have you!

Ministry Moment | Generosity Catalyst

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Pastor Ryan introduces us to Mark Ryan, Generosity Catalyst at New City Church.

CDM | Total Depravity

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The Committee on Discipleship Ministry posted this short devotional about Total Depravity. It's worth checking out.