Worship In Truth

Jesus told the woman at the well that “true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth” John 4:23. Can there be more than one truth? Can there be different forms or versions of truth? Sometimes I consider God and I consider the truth He has revealed. Since God cannot be directly experienced through our usual means, our five senses, the primary way we experience God is by learning, knowing, and focusing on His truth.

I would like to emphasize again the importance of focusing on God’s truth. The Scriptures emphasize this again and again. “Fix your eyes on Jesus” Heb 12:2, “Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is…Set your minds on things above” Col 3:1-2, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Rom 12:2, “Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” Mark 12:30, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32. All of these verses point believers to focus on the reality of God and his love and salvation through Jesus.

Attempting to be a good person is impossible, trying to do the right thing is also impossible; humans have flashes, have moments, have periods of success, but then fail again and again.

Fortunately, God doesn’t want our work for him, he just wants us. I believe that and I focus on that a lot so that I don’t get discouraged by the pain and sin in and around me. Focusing on God’s revealed truth is focusing on him (worshiping). Believing his truth allows us to connect with him. Trusting his truth is faith. God wants faith. That is it.

I like EFCC’s new mission statement; you may have heard Pastor Paulson say it over these last months or may have seen it on the church website www.efcc.org, “Living in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.” This phrase is a prescription for or description of aligning oneself with the truth. It is a statement of a life of faith or as Jesus portrayed true worship.

Faith does change our behavior, but you can’t force faith by changing behavior. Good behavior may lead to faith, or it may not. Good behavior can happen apart from faith, but it is empty; I don’t mean it is meaningless but in light of worship — empty.

So, spend some time today considering how you might align your thoughts and focus on the truth that God has revealed.

Pastor John Riley
Jr. High Pastor

Worship in Spirit

“...the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” - John 4:23

What is the Father seeking? Well, the simple answer is, “such people.” But if you read the phrases before and after this sentence, you will find that “such people” refers to the “true worshippers” who “worship the Father in spirit and truth.” Now, I understand the idea of worshiping in truth… that makes sense. Clearly, if you worship a golden calf that you just made from your Great Grandmother’s hand-me-down gold earrings, you will have to know that this is not worshiping in truth. There is nothing true about an idol. We must worship the one true God who made himself known in Jesus. That makes sense to me. What is a little more unclear is, what does it mean to worship “in spirit?” Now, the next phrase after the passage above says that “God is spirit.” So, does that mean that we need to become like God and become a spirit to worship God? I don’t think so, in fact, I really hope not. If that were the case, that would mean that I have never actually worshipped God and that I would have to lose this body (I would have to die) to worship God. That is not what Jesus is saying here. Jesus does NOT say that “the Father is seeking spirits to worship him.” It says that he is seeking “such people.” The Father is seeking PEOPLE! People like you and me, who worship in spirit.

So, the good news is that God is not looking for people to somehow get out of our physical bodies to worship. He isn’t wanting us to enter some sort of spiritual trance. He wants us to worship him as people… but a certain type of people… a spirit empowered people. Instead of thinking of being “in spirit” as another place that is outside of your body, think about it as the power that animates all that you are. You see, in Genesis 2:7, it is the breath of God that animates the previously lifeless body of Adam and makes him a “living creature” (ESV). The word that is translated “creature” here is the Hebrew word, nephesh, but the interesting thing is that the more common translations of that word include things like “soul” or “spirit” or “life.” What was breathed into Adam was the animating power that gave him life. When Jesus says that the Father is seeking people who worship “in spirit” he is saying that he wants people who are worshiping him out of a renewed spirit. Remember, the good news is that the old is gone and the new has come. We have been crucified with Christ. You could even say that our old spirit has died, and when we trust Jesus, we are given a new spirit … a new animating power. That is where we now live. That is where we worship from. We worship with, we worship in, and we worship out of a new source of strength.

So, next time you worship God, think about the new source of power that you have been given and allow yourself to worship “in spirit.”

Josh Rose
Teaching Pastor

We Are a Temple

Have you ever played Jenga? It is a simple game made up of small blocks stacked upon one another. The point of the game is to keep removing blocks and stacking them on the top, so the structure keeps getting taller and taller until someone removes the wrong block and the whole structure comes tumbling down. My kids loved this game and when they were little, I would keep placing blocks back in weak areas so the structure wouldn’t fall too quickly! It is a good metaphor for the spiritual family or temple we are a part of.

God is building his church and keeps putting more and more pieces together. As God does his work, we see how important the foundation is. Jesus, the cornerstone, must be the base for everything. The spiritual temple is built on his life, death, and resurrection. He gives stability, safety, and the ability to keep building. The woman at the well in John 4 became one of the pieces that were being moved and placed back in the structure, then God worked powerfully to bring in so many more. Jesus was not worried about the physical structure (mountain nor temple, verse 20), he was building up the spiritual body, creating a family that could keep growing.

Individually we are “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19), God resides in us! He gives us new life (Titus 3:5), gifts to serve (1 Cor. 12:11), and the ability to live for him (Galatians 5:16). God does this for a purpose, to bring us together as one church and one body (1 Cor. 12:13). This way we are built together to become a holy temple and we can become what God is building us to be.

God is building us together while working in us individually. It is not separate or mutually exclusive, God instead is weaving it all together for his purpose and our benefit. As he works in each believer's life, he joins us together to build his kingdom and uses each one of us for a bigger purpose. He wants us to work together for his mission, his people, his church. The question for us is- will we allow Him to work in us and will we join his community? If you need help with either part of this question, will you let us know so we can help?

Pastor Jeremy Johnson
Family Pastor

Examine the Questions Asked

Mark 2:1-17 records two stories about healing, sort of. In both stories, “the teachers of the law” were present and asked questions that revealed the distance between their perception of what they were seeing and their understanding of what they were seeing.

It is sad when this happens to people, but it is common. There can be a great divide between one’s perception and one’s understanding, a divide between perception and truth.

A quick look at the stories: In verses 1-12, four men carry a paralyzed man on a mat so that he can be healed by Jesus. The crowd of people seeing Jesus inside a house was so big that they couldn’t get the paralyzed man close. Therefore, they brought him up onto the roof and made a hole in the roof so they could lower the man straight to Jesus. Jesus sees the faith of these men and then says to the paralyzed man in verse 5, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Interestingly, this isn’t the heart of this story, what comes next are questions from the teachers of the law. In verse 7 they ask, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

In the next story, verses 13-17 Jesus invites the tax collector Levi (the later named apostle Matthew) to follow him, and Levi immediately got up from his tax collector booth and followed Jesus. They went to Levi’s house for dinner with Levi’s friends. While there, the teachers of the law ask Jesus' disciples in verse 16, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

In both stories, anger accompanies the questions. If you didn’t picture anger or disgust along with those questions, read them again and imagine a kind of righteous indignation coming from the teachers of the law.

I wrote righteous indignation above in order to evoke a certain kind of feeling in your mind, but honestly, it should have been un-righteous indignation. Was Jesus blaspheming? No! Was Jesus able to forgive sins? Yes! Was Jesus wrong to eat with tax collectors and sinners? No! The problem was not in what Jesus was doing but in the minds of the teachers of the law who refused to see Jesus for who he was and what he was here to do. Jesus came, according to his words in verse 17, which is what makes the second story about healing, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

What do your questions about life and the people around you reveal about your perspective? Spend some time considering the big questions you have and ask God to help reveal what those questions indicate about the way you see life, see Jesus and see his mission and your part in it today.

Pastor John Riley
Jr. High Pastor

In the Presence of Pain

Mark 2:15-17:

"While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

A few years ago, a movie called Hacksaw Ridge came out detailing the life of Desmond Doss, a pacifist during World War II who refused to touch a weapon but served in the Pacific theater as a combat medic. In April 1945, Doss and his battalion fought along the ridge where Doss was credited for saving the lives of 75 soldiers during one of the most horrific days of fighting and was later awarded the Medal of Honor upon his return to the states. Despite the dangers faced, he continued to venture into areas with wounded and hurting people in order to bring them rescue.

As we witness in the story of Jesus dining with the tax collectors and other sinners, we see a willingness from Jesus to enter into (and seek out!) the company of the wounded and broken in order to bring about restoration and healing. We see Jesus enter into people’s brokenness and pain and ultimately bring spiritual restoration and salvation to many.

In the battlefield of the world for the hearts and souls of people, there are many who are being wounded. There are many who are hurt. What do we see Jesus doing in these situations? We see him entering into people’s brokenness and embracing them with grace and truth. You see, Jesus is not afraid of people’s pain but I admit, sometimes I am. Why are we afraid of other people’s pain? Maybe it’s because we try to carry the pain of others only meant to be carried by Jesus. Maybe it’s because we haven’t allowed Jesus to enter into our own pain to experience the healing and peace that only he brings. We are people of pain, it’s the effects of living in a broken world. We love, we lose, we lament and yet Jesus enters into our pain and whispers to us tenderly that there is hope.

The world is a spiritual and emotional battlefield that is full of broken people desperate for hope. You and I, we are the medics. We are those who allow Jesus to enter into our own pain and brokenness to experience healing that we then offer to others. May we be reminded of this sacred duty to be bringers of hope in the presence of pain.

Seth Redden 
HS Pastor

The Doctor Will See You Now

When I was about 8 years old, I fell on broken glass and cut my leg badly. My dad picked me up, wrapped a towel around the wound, and rushed me to a crowded waiting room in the doctor’s office. He sat down without explaining the injury to the receptionist. When blood began to soak through the towel, the receptionist noticed and took me to see the doctor immediately.  The doctor cleaned and stitched up the wound while Dad held my hand to comfort and encourage me.  Dad knew where to take me to get help. When he saw how afraid and anxious I was, he stayed with me to encourage me and give me hope. The receptionist saw the urgency of my situation, and she knew the only one who could heal me was the doctor. Both Dad and the receptionist brought me where I needed to be.

Jesus invites people to “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). What about people who don’t know how to come to Jesus or won’t come to Jesus without someone to comfort and encourage them? A person who needs someone to actually bring them to Jesus.

Have you ever brought someone to a place where you knew they could find healing? What about healing for wounds that are not outwardly apparent? Wounds that are revealed through a person’s attitudes and actions like the blood that leaked through the towel on my leg. What about the person who needs to be lifted out of the mess of their past life?  Someone who needs to have feet set on a rock and given a firm place upon which to stand – a fresh way to start life over. (Psalm 40:2) A person who might need you to bring them to Jesus?

Just as my dad knew without a doubt that a doctor was the only one who could repair the cut on my leg, I know that Jesus is the only one who can heal, repair, and restore a damaged, weary, and burdened soul.  Just as my dad and the receptionist both had faith in the doctor’s ability to heal me, I have faith that Jesus has the power to heal others. Will you love someone enough to bring them to Jesus for healing and restoration?

Sharon Chapman
Truths that Transform Leader

Maslow and the Messiah

Abraham Maslow created an explanation for how human needs work and how we try to fulfill our needs at five basic levels. Essentially the first level is our physiological needs (Basics: breathing, eating, etc.). Then are we safe, are we loved/belong, how we feel about where we are, and the top of the hierarchy is self-actualization (are you okay with who you are). When you think of our hierarchy of needs and we apply it to this story in Mark 2 about the paralyzed man, we see how Jesus has a completely different idea of what is really needed. Jesus knows what we need, better than we do.

The man and his friends came to Jesus because he needed healing. His basic needs were not being met, so they came to Jesus to find healing and find a better life situation. The man's friends knew Jesus was the best chance to have his life’s basic needs met. When they cut the hole in the roof and lowered their friend Jesus saw the real need. Jesus simply said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” This was so much more than just fixing the man’s body so he could get his basic needs met. Jesus addressed the real need, the real problem, and created a hierarchy of needs that our world doesn’t want to believe. Jesus revealed through his words, sin has to be forgiven before other needs can really be met. Fixing sin is the first need to be met so God can heal everything else. The brokenness that sin brought to humanity, needs healing and that only comes through the forgiveness Jesus can offer.

For most of my life, I’ve tried to make sure my needs and the needs of the people around me are met.  I enjoy cooking and making sure people are comfortable, but Jesus looks at our hearts and wants to make us holy and righteous. He wants to bring us into his family so we can find what we need in God first, not just comfort. Will we let him actually take care of us, will we allow him to really forgive our sins, or will we try to do this on our own? Here are two things I am going to ask you to do: 1) Spend some time with Jesus and ask him to show you where you need him today.  2) Like the friends in the story, who do you need to share the hope of Jesus with?

Pastor Jeremy Johnson
Family Pastor

Carrying the Corners

Have you ever heard yourself say that you can’t force someone to seek help; they have to want it for themselves? I’ve said those words myself, but as we studied Mark 2, my view started to change. Four men saw a paralytic, looked at the packed entrance to the building where Jesus was teaching, and decided to take matters into their own hands. The reality was that the paralytic was not able to help himself, so if he was going to get to see the physician, he had to have help.

These four men took four corners of a mat, cut a hole in the roof above Jesus, and lowered the mat with the paralytic to a position where all he would have to do was say, “yes, please heal me.” Who were these four men and what role might each of them have played in the life of the paralytic?

One man may have held the corner of faith. Without faith, these men would not have dared to disrupt such a large gathering and go to the work of destroying a building. They had faith that Jesus would heal otherwise they would have not attempted such a feat.

A second man may have held a corner that declared the truth. The paralytic was most likely painfully aware of his physical state. Yet how many people do we encounter on a daily basis who are in denial of their broken state; numbed by drugs, food, or toxic beliefs? John 8:32 says that the truth will set you free. When in bondage though, freedom is often only a distant dream. A good friend will continue to speak the truth in love even if the truth hurts.

The third corner may have been held by an encourager. This man provided hope, telling the paralytic to hang on; the journey was not going to be easy but healing and wholeness were waiting on the other end.

And the fourth? He may have been the prayer warrior. He was the one who called out Scripture, declaring that the Physician was the way, the truth, and the life. He would cry out to God asking for strength to endure.

Stop and think about a time when you were struggling and needed someone to come alongside you and offer one if not all four of these forms of assistance. Has there ever been a time when you knew in the depths of your soul that you needed healing but you also knew that you couldn’t do it alone? Making the final decision to receive healing or forgiveness does belong to the person seeking help, but that person, while crying out on the inside, may not have the ability or willingness to ask. Their brokenness may have them crippled; unable to stand and seek help for themselves. As followers of Jesus, we are called to carry one another’s burdens. That may require shedding light on sin by speaking bold, honest truth, and by having faith that God can heal even when the crippled person has lost all hope. It will require encouragement and prayer, but what a privilege it is to carry a corner for a friend in order to bring them to the feet of Jesus, our forgiver, our healer, and our source of all hope. Jesus is our Great Physician.

Lynette Fuson
Director of Care & Counseling

Living Sent

As a kid, I used to love hearing from the missionaries that our church sent out. In my mind, it combined Indiana Jones with the Bible – and that was a great union. Stories of taking the message of Jesus to remote places in the jungle. Testimonies of seeing people groups respond to Jesus for the first time. Chronicling of translating the scriptures into different languages. It all seemed so exotic and almost otherworldly.

Those stories were inspiring, but they were also paralyzing. Those stories somehow drove home the erroneous point, at least in my heart, that mission was something that only a select group of Jesus followers do. The rest of the church is charged with sending people out on a mission, but they aren’t called to live it out themselves. In speaking about missions, one famous pastor said, “you are either called to go or to send.” I understand his point. He’s talking about global missions, but I think that rhetoric subtly drives home the same idea I had as a kid. Some people are “sent,” and others are not. However, that’s not the way Jesus described our calling as a church.

When Jesus commissioned his disciples, he said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21) Nearly all scholars agree that this commissioning wasn’t just for the original disciples, but for every disciple. To be a Jesus follower is to be sent. The question is not whether you're sent, the question is where you are sent. Jesus is sending his church as light into darkness, to bring healing to sickness, as peacemakers into warzones, to infuse love into hate, and as good into evil. Like arrows, he is pulling us in that he might launch us out in peace and power and purpose in his name. God is on a mission and his church is his method.

I think it’s easy to get caught up in wondering where Jesus is sending us. That question often paralyzes us and prevents us from living as a sent person. What if you assumed that Jesus simply wanted you to live sent right where you are? How might you interact with your family, your neighbors, or your coworkers differently if you assumed you were sent to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus right now?

Spend some time today praying that God would open your eyes to see the mission field that you’re planted in, then ask him to give you the boldness to step into it with his Spirit and power. You are sent by the King of Kings!

Pastor Ryan Paulson
Lead Pastor

Our Source of Power

We all know the devastation Hurricane Ida brought to thousands of people in the south and east recently. It was a powerful storm that left people powerless and many even homeless. The lack of electricity meant no lights, no computers, no air conditioning, in some cases no cooking, no refrigeration—they weren’t just without power, they felt powerless and helpless in their situation and just had to find ways to survive until power resumed.

Thankfully, no matter what situation we find ourselves in, we can rise above the feeling of powerlessness and have peace because the Holy Spirit dwells within us when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. He is our source of power. (Romans 8:9) We can’t do anything without the Spirit, but we can do everything because of Him.

Several years ago, Bill McCartney, the founder of the Promise Keepers Men’s Movement and coach of the University of Colorado football team, asked the leader of a nationally known ministry to speak to his players before a big college football game.  For 30 minutes, the dynamic preacher exhorted the young men to reach beyond themselves and unite for victory on the football field.  When he finished, he sat down next to McCartney and asked, "Well coach, what do you think of that?"  Coach Bill looked him in the eye and said, "You know, all you seem to care about is whether or not they win a football game.  And all I care about is whether they know Jesus Christ.  We should trade places.”

Bill McCartney knew what his real mission in life was, and the Holy Spirit gave him the power to accomplish it. Some questions to think about: are we letting ourselves be filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit to accomplish the mission? Are the spiritual gifts He gives us evidence to those around us? Are we asking the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth in God’s Word and help to remember it?

Romans 8:14-16 says “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So, you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful as slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children.”

We can be more than a friendly church; we can be a unified church with a mission to reach our community with the Good News. God will accomplish His mission with or without us, but wouldn’t we rather be on His team and be in the game rather than sitting on the sidelines?  He can help you get off the bench, just ask Him to show you how and then spend some time with Him listening.

Deb Hill
Executive Assistant