The Very Biggest

Most kids think in very concrete terms.  Big is better, small is well, smaller, or less desirable. When we teach children about God, we remind them that He is the creator of the universe, bigger and better than anything we can image or think. He is The Supreme Being, the Alpha, the Omega, the Savior, the Lord the Creator. He is love; He is light, He is truth. He is righteousness. He is God!

God’s character and being are so beyond what we can understand it is hard to put into words. In the Exodus when Moses met with God at the burning bush, he asked God what His name was. God’s answer was “I am Who I am.” (Exodus 3:14). Again, words cannot adequately explain God.

So in kid’s terminology, God is Very Big- The Very Biggest. I am sure that most of us would agree with this generalization. But do we really believe it? 

When I sit and read my Bible, or hear an excellent message on Sunday, I am encouraged to trust and rely on our Very Big God. After all, He is the Very Biggest. 

Then Monday comes, and life begins to test my resolve.  As the challenges of the day bleed into the week, I find myself working to handle, resolve and fix things. Addressing the challenges that come before us is important, as long as we remember to trust God in the midst, and in the leadership of those actions that we take.   The problem comes when:

  1. When we begin to insert our own set of controls, little by little becoming more self-directed and less dependent on God’s leadership in our lives
  2. When we insert our own ability to handle, resolve and fix things. Relying less on God’s power and wisdom. 
  3. When we do this, we make ourselves a little bigger and our God a little smaller.  
  4. This is a good time to stop and remember the story in the Gospel of Mark chapter nine when a father brings his son to Jesus for healing. Jesus questions his belief in Him. 
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief
— Mark 9:24

When our need to control, or take charge -handle all of the stuff life throws at us becomes overwhelming, maybe it is time to remember that God is the very biggest and we need to be smaller. We need to be like the father in the scripture above and confess that we do believe, but our belief or trust in God must get bigger, to grow and trust Him more. 

We can live very defeated and frustrated lives if we do not rely on our Very Biggest God. When we work to let go our need to control things and trust Him to be the Big God that He is, then we can lean into His power, His knowledge, His peace, and His love. He becomes bigger to us, and we learn to become more trusting and dependent on Him. After all, He is the Very Biggest!

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Lori Ferguson serves as Children's Director at NUMC, and has been at the church since 2015. When she's not planning or teaching, she enjoys spending time with her grandkids. Read more about Lori here.

#ChurchToo

Christmas Eve is one of the biggest days for churches. In our church alone we’ll see about three hundred people more than we usually do on a Sunday. Even though most of America’s traditions point otherwise, we celebrate Christmas because Jesus was born in Bethlehem to the virgin Mary. If you read Matthew 1:19-26 you’ll see one of the two passages in the entire Bible that talk about that virgin birth. I don’t know how many sermons I’ve heard on Joseph being a good guy for trying to dismiss her privately or secretly instead of public shame and disgrace, but there is a new hashtag on twitter called #ChurchToo that has completely changed the way I see this story now. 

You might have heard of the #MeToo that came around a few weeks ago, and all of the Hollywood accusations going around, and closer to home we have Roy Moore’s accusations. They all involve sexual abuse, some have publicly apologized, some have flat out denied the accusations, but it’s been hard to watch. But then I came across #ChurchToo, and my heart broke. Here are a few excerpts: 

When I was in college, a male Sunday school teacher taught my class that rape wouldn’t exist if women just learned to say yes more often.

This sentence plays in my head every single day. #ChurchToo

A teacher and an esteemed member of the baptist church in grew up in was caught with a student. 4th grade. Others came forward. The church protected him. My best friend was one of his victims. She committed suicide in High School. #ChurchToo

I was 13 and the pastor’s daughter. A prominent church member molested me, and I reported him to the church. The church covered it up, fired my father, and made the church member an elder. #ChurchToo

That and, questions like "what were you wearing?", "did you lead him on?", "are you sure it was rape- did he *actually* penetrate?" from my Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) leader #ChurchToo

A guy I met at my church’s junior high camp sent me sexually explicit emails about how he’d molested his sister’s friend while she was asleep. He was proud to finally be brave enough for his “confession.” I got in trouble for opening the emails. #ChurchToo

At a friend’s youth group, in response to a talk on purity and modesty, l went with tears in my eyes to a female volunteer. I shared that l had been raped and felt shame about not being pure. She responded by asking if l had repented of my role in what happened. #ChurchToo

I wish that these were the worst or the majority of the stories shared, but they aren’t even close. There are literally hundreds of stories shared, most of them without mentioning names or churches involved, and therefore having no ulterior motives for the person sharing. The fact that I feel the need to specify that these women who are finally sharing their experiences with churches and abuse don’t have a reason to make up these stories is sickening. This isn’t a witch hunt; this isn’t thousands of people from all over the world unifying to bring down the church with made up stories. This is people opening up about times the church, the people who claim to follow him, got it wrong and stopped being the bride of Christ.

 Yes, the Bible talks about modesty. It also talks about cutting off body parts that cause you to sin (Matthew 5:29), being better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around your next if you cause a little one to stumble (Luke 17:2),  and killing the rapist and protecting the woman from shame (Deut. 22:25-27). And just for the record, the verses right before and after that last one do not say that a rapist gets to marry his victim and just pay off the father, it’s more along the lines of two consenting people having sex before marriage and having to stay committed to each other (Hebrew words don’t always translate nicely into English).  

Some of the other misogynistic misinterpretations of the Bible have to deal with Eve being the sole reason sin entered the world (Adam ate the fruit right along with her and Romans 5:12 says it was when he sinned that sin entered the world, not when Eve sinned), wives submitting to their husbands (which is not the same thing as submitting to abuse) and women not being able to speak in church (some denominations still believe this means women can’t be pastors, even though there has long been solid exegesis to show that Paul didn’t mean all women for all time). 

The church has a very real problem. We claim to believe “in Jesus Christ, [God’s] only son, our Lord,  who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary”. One of our core beliefs is believing that a teenage girl didn’t have sex with her fiancé. We praise her fiancé for not wanting to shame her even though it had to be difficult. In our own modern lives, some have little hesitation in saying women are just liars when it comes to sexual assault. We take their pain and their bravery and twist it around to make them out to be the bad guy. And at our worst, we acknowledge that there is abuse but cover it up because they are a big tither (or whatever other reason we think makes it ok). 

I don’t know what the solution is. I am much more thankful now for our church’s Safe Sanctuaries policy that tries to prevent abuse from happening. But a policy doesn’t solve everything. There are still dozens of other areas we need to address, but an awareness that a problem exists is the first step in doing something to bring about change. So read through some of the comments, weep with those that are hurting, and pray that we can start to do something about this. 

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Nathan Persell serves as our Youth Director. When he's not leading devotions and playing basketball with teenagers, he enjoys disc golf and bike riding. Learn more about Nathan here.

Leaning in...Mentoring

New Testament scripture uses the term “koinoneo” koinonia (bibletools.org)

  1. To come into communion or fellowship with, to become a sharer, be made a partner
  2. To enter fellowship, join one’s self to an associate, make one’s self a sharer or partner.

The word partaker is a common translation. It gives us the picture that we are to regularly lean into each other’s lives for growing in our own faith and building the kingdom of God together. It is a wonderful picture of love, sharing, cooperation, and collaboration. 

Leaning in on someone else involves moving from a vertical position and sloping or bending towards that person. The positioning involves the redistribution of your weight and hopefully as you lean in, it is accepted and welcomed by that other person as they adjust to the additional weight. 

That sounds complicated, however it is also a good way think about mentoring (leaning into someone else’s life).

When we lean into other’s lives for mentoring, we take the weight of our experience, ideas, information and offer it to another to take into their lives. Ideally, they adjust with the new information (weight) to accept and welcome that information. 

There is a subtle difference between leaning in and pushing in. Sometimes we are asked or invited to share information, ideas, experience and knowledge with others. Other times we look for context clues, or windows of opportunity, teachable moments, to do that same. But that is the tricky part, finding those.  Sometimes we push, or bulldozer our ideas on others, and this is rarely helpful, or welcomed. Most of us are usually quick to give advice, but less apt to invite it into our own lives.

So, when we lean into other’s lives and they adjust to accept or welcome our leaning, it is truly a privilege. 

The Bible gives us ample support that we are to be involved in each other’s lives to be partners. Not only for worship, and learning the word of God together, but for support, encouragement, training and building the Body of Christ together. We are meant to live our lives in support, encouragement, learning and leaning together. 

The trouble for us comes when we get to the part where the weight re-distribution begins; when others begin to share our space, offer countering opinions, suggest or require change.  That is usually the time we think of it as butting in, not leaning in. 

Consider this, if we are to truly gain from one another, we need to be open to these exchanges, this sharing of life and wisdom together. We need to lean in, and lean on one another.

 I would like to lean in and share some scripture that I think give support to the process. 

  1. James 1: 19-22: be quick to listen, and slow to speak 
  2. II Timothy 4: 2: correct, rebuke and encourage (each other) with great patience and careful instruction.
  3. Proverbs 20:5: The purposes of a person’s heart are deep water, but one who has insight draws them out.
  4. Proverbs 1:5: let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance- (remember: everyone needs to allow others to lean into their lives. - We all need each other)
  5. Proverbs 12:15: The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. 
  6. Romans 15: 14: I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 

Below are other scripture passages to read as you consider the leaning or partaking process. 

Colossians 3: 12-17

Romans 15: 5

Acts 15: 30-35

Hebrews 3: 13

Hebrews 13: 16

Hebrews 10:25

John 21: 16

I Thessalonians 5: 15-17

Ephesians 4: 15

Exodus 18: 1-16 (Moses’s Father-In-Law leans in…)

Romans 15: 5

James 5: 13-20

Are you leaning?
Are you listening? 
Are you sharing life with one another?

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Lori Ferguson serves as Children's Director at NUMC, and has been at the church since 2015. When she's not planning or teaching, she enjoys spending time with her grandkids. Read more about Lori here.

Is That In The Bible?

Thanks to the internet there has been an explosion of different prospectives on your favorite movies. My personal favorite is the new plot summary for Finding Nemo - “The protagonist’s wife is murdered by a serial killer while his son is left physically disabled. After his son is kidnapped, the man must travel thousands of miles with the help of a mentally unstable woman in order to get him back.” Of course, there are many others that just completely change the whole mood of a movie. The most depressing for me is about the Lord of the Rings trilogy - “Nine hours of men returning jewelry.” There are dozens of these plot lines explained badly out there, and I always laugh at them.  

So then I thought, how would this work with Bible stories. David and Goliath - teenage boy, cheats in single combat and then chops off the head of his defeated opponent. He proceeds to break the rules of the agreement by chasing down his enemies stabbing them in the back all while holding the decapitated head of a giant.  Gideon, the story of a scared farmer who reluctantly obeys God, raises an army, down sizes that army twice, and then proceeds to trick the worlds biggest army into killing itself. Jesus was basically on a three-year backpacking trip with 12 outcasts who didn’t quite understand what was going on. John the Baptist is killed because of a striptease. 

There is a reason that this is usually called explain a movie (Bible) plot badly. These descriptions leave out some of the most important things, especially the Bible examples. They leave out the most important component of the story, God. Gideon isn’t about how Gideon tricks the big bad army into killing themselves but about how God can use the least important person possible who has the least credentials to do his will. But even though these bad explanations aren’t the points of the story, they help us do something we often are bad at - read the Bible like it’s our first time. 

There’s this well-known parable called the parable of the sower. This guy is throwing seeds around. Some seeds land on good soil, some land on a path, on rocky soil, or among the thorns. Jesus goes on to explain what happens to the seeds that fall on the various soils and let’s just say it only turns out good for the seed that falls on the good soil. As a kid, I heard this parable all the time, and the message was usually “be the good soil” so I thought I was the good soil. But then Francis Chan wrote a book called Crazy Love where he used this parable to say “don’t assume you are the good soil”. It blew my mind. I had read that story so many times and knew the punchline that I forgot to put myself into the story; I never thought about if I was good soil or not. More than likely most of us fall into the weedy soil, we have some roots, we are growing, but we are constantly fighting to grow in our faith journeys because of all the distractions (weeds). We have to deal with. We love Jesus, but we also love football. We love the church, but we want to spend time at the beach. We would love to give 10% of our income to the church, but the new iPhone just came out. 

So read the Bible as you’ve never read it before. Put yourself into the stories, and then put yourself into a different character’s place in the story and see if that changes anything for you. Try to picture exactly what is going on and place it within the larger context of what is going on. Learn to read the Bible for all it’s worth.

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Nathan Persell serves as our Youth Director. When he's not leading devotions and playing basketball with teenagers, he enjoys disc golf and bike riding. Learn more about Nathan here.

What?

We all have seasons of change.  Some we plan on and others that we do not plan on and we adapt.  Many of you know that my wife and I are in a season of change in geography.  Moving from the hustle and bustle of Orlando to Navarre with all the pieces, which have to fall into place.  We have not moved in 20 years so you can imagine the chaos of packing. A friend of mine said everyone should move once every ten years to get rid of the stuff you don’t need. We feel very blessed to be moving here, and through everything, God’s hand is guiding us.  

There is a huge amount of trust associated with this change in season.  Vicki and I love to fish, and we are excited to be in an area where we can explore new bodies of water to cast our lines. 

Jesus is standing on the shore after the disciples have had a long night of fishing but no catch.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
— John 21

If you have spent any time fishing in a boat and you have been anchored in a current or with the wind blowing you always throw your line or nets with the wind.  So your line will stay tight. This is what the disciples have been doing throwing the nets with the wind.  When Jesus said throw your net on the right side of the boat, which would go against all rules in fishing.  “When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.”

How many times in your life have you been casting a net and come up empty?  Then there is God saying try it my way.  You might lean your head to a 45-degree angle and say WHAT? Which I am sure the disciples were saying the same thing. But they trusted Jesus and the nets were full of an abundance of fish.  We all have that moment when we say “you want me to do what?” Trusting God will align you with God’s desires and not yours.  

A friend of mine Pastor Steve Hambrick once told me while he was preaching a sermon, he heard a voice say “Do 10 Push-ups now” WHAT? He thought to himself. He said he continued the sermon and heard the same voice say “Do 10 Push-ups now” So not to be disobedient he did ten push-ups in the middle of his sermon. At the end of the service, a woman came up to him crying tears of joy. She had been trying to get her husband to church for ten years, and he came that day.  The husband told her the only way he would come back to church is if the pastor started doing push-ups in the middle of his sermon.

You never know what God will ask you to do; he is asking you to trust in him.  Regardless of your circumstances, take the time to align yourself with God.  “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
— Mark 10:27

The last thing Jesus said be for he ascended into heaven is “I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS” This reassurance that God is with us always. It is up to us to be intentional to be still in God’s presence.


This is the season of change for Vicki and me, and we are trusting God, and we are aligning ourselves up to his wishes and desires.  Whatever your circumstances take the initiative and ask God for his guidance and his direction.  

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Mike Conrad serves as our Worship Director. When he's not preparing for worship or playing an instrument, he enjoys spending time with his wife boating and fishing. Learn more about Mike here.