Fear Not

Fear Not

by Phil Baker

Have you ever heard this sound?

If you’ve watched any amount of reality TV you’ve heard it. It’s a staple of Hollywood sound design. This sound usually signifies a plot twist or the dubious intents of an antagonist. It’s simply a bow being drawn across a cymbal.

How about these sounds?

This unique instrument creates a variety of sounds that have the same effect – to chill us to the bone!

With these audio cues, TV and movie producers create a sense of fear in us. They tell us something bad is about to happen.

It’s fun to be scared…sometimes. Like on Halloween. But this is the safe, fun kind of fear. Its similar to the kind Hollywood churns out. And Hollywood has gotten really good at fabricating fear. But there are some fears that aren’t so fun. Fear of losing your job. Fear of getting sick. Losing a loved one. If we’re not careful, fear can overtake our lives.

But the Bible tells us to not be afraid.

“Fear Not” appears in the Bible 365 times. People have always been afraid. Especially of God. “Fear Not” is usually said when God shows up. But we really shouldn’t fear God. At least not in the sense I’m talking about here. Psalms actually says “fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.”

Fear of God is actually the only fear we need. All those other fears are…well…fake. If you pursue God first, everything else will fall into place. So fear of anything else is a lie (Thanks Zach Williams).

This world can manipulate our feelings and create fear in us just as easily as reality tv. Don’t let it. Don’t listen to those fake sound effects. They only serve to give you pause when you should immediately obey. Look to God and His word. Fear not.

 

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Give yourself Up: Sermon Recap

by Brock Benson

Sometimes technology fails us. For those of you who were out of town this past Sunday celebrating Labor Day and tried tuning into the worship service, the internet went down on so we couldn’t stream to our normal place on Facebook. However for those who of you who would like to go back and listen to the message you can click here. Or it’s on our podcast channel too.

The big idea and take away Sunday was giving ourselves up. In Luke 5:8-10 Peter had given himself up in his declaration to Jesus even though certain scholars might debate me on that. Regardless I think it’s safe to say at the most basic level this was the beginning of the sunrise for Peter’s salvation moment.  The term “sinner” is the first time Luke uses the word in his gospel. And so we aren’t exactly sure what he means by it until later on in his gospel where we have more context and instances of its use. However we still know Peter is being shaped by Jesus in a profound way. Furthermore those near Peter are also being shaped by Jesus and their views are being expanded because of this whole fish catching episode. Some of those present are simply caught in the moment of excitement and some are seeing Jesus in a whole new way and their view of him is being expanded. From this point forward the disciples would continually have Jesus stretching and expanding their view of him. This leads me to reiterate a very important question from Sunday’s message – How big is our view of God?

If we have a limited view of God and he isn’t actively shaping and stretching us in new ways, we can be sure our motivation and desire to share who he is with others will be negatively affected too. Some practical suggestions I’d like to give are a few books. A.W. Tozer- The Pursuit of God, JD Greear –  Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, and Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C .Wilson are all books I can say with a high level of confidence would help in this particular area. Two of these I have in my personal library at the church office if you’d like to borrow them.

Luke 5:10 is the heart of the passage where Jesus connects the dots and finally issues the mission to the fisherman of Galilee they will now be involved in a new enterprise – People catching. One of the more profound points I think from the verse is Jesus initial instructions. “Do not be afraid.” In such an upbeat passage as this one is with all of the celebratory ideas we see happening why does he tell them not be scared? The New living translation translates verse 9 as people were awestruck at what had happened. I believe part of Jesus encouragement and instruction about not fearing is a crucial part of any evangelistic efforts we engage in. I think this is a main takeaway for those of us who are historically on this side of the passage.  But in the moment of Jesus miracle I have to wonder if the direction to not be scared was because only he realized how deeply wounded their identity now was. Professional fisherman being out fished by the carpenter from Nazareth doesn’t go well on the fishing guide resume. And it doesn’t get you the big corporate sponsorships. Perhaps Jesus knew that to engage in evangelism as he was doing meant one had to be willing to deeply wound someone’s identity so they could know who their true identity comes from. Jesus was actively showing us his willingness to confront, love, encourage, and challenge all at the same time in his effort with the fisherman. This is evangelism and discipleship in its purest form.

Yesterday Cassie and I took the boys to see Incredibles 2.Kandler had already seen it once but this would be Garner’s first movie-going experience. He did great and I think he loved the movie except for a few moments when the music got really loud.  Watching the movie reminded me of common strategy I think many of us have the capability of employing for gospel efforts but don’t take readily advantage of. (SPOILER ALERT: Please forgive me but I might end up giving away a little bit of the movie but I can’t help it because it stood out so clearly.) In the movie there were three major movements. Chosen Mom, Loving Dad, and a baby boy who helps the whole world see again. If you’re a believer those three movements should scream out to you the movements of our story. The Story of God redeeming us. My brother-in-law Kyle Reed shared with me several years ago something I won’t soon forget “every good story is retelling the story.”  I’m misquoting his exact words but this was the essence of his thought. Since that point it’s been cool to see how this is so true. I’m deeply grateful the Bakers who lead Movies by Moonlight also subscribe to this philosophy by creating questions and thoughts for our feature presentations at MxM during the summer who help those in attendance see the gospel through the film.

Fishing in the first century wasn’t a leisurely past time like it is for a lot of us today. In fact in the NET bible it says this notes for Luke 5:10

The occupation of fisherman was labor-intensive. The imagery of using a lure and a line (and waiting for the fish to strike) is thus foreign to this text. Rather, the imagery of a fisherman involved much strain, long hours, and often little results. Jesus’ point may have been one or more of the following: the strenuousness of evangelism, the work ethic that it required, persistence and dedication to the task (often in spite of minimal results), the infinite value of the new “catch” (viz., people), and perhaps an eschatological theme of snatching people from judgment.

So many times I am passive about so many things including evangelism. I take too much of a God’s sovereign approach. (Which He is!!!!!) But watching Incredibles 2 with the family yesterday reminded me how God can use anything as a bridge to the gospel. But I have to be faithful to keep net casting so those who need to know the living God might.

Often I’ve thought of evangelism and discipleship as tracks and studies. I think both of those strategies have their place and time. But many of us are missionaries to people who are in many senses much like us. Building a wooden bridge between your driveway and your neighbors wouldn’t be natural when you can just walk right down the sidewalk. There are sidewalks all around us.  Let’s learn to walk down them and see who’s on the other side.

May we become better fisher of men!

On the journey with you,

Pastor Brock

Cast – Partnering Problems

Cast – Partnering Problems

by Brock Benson

Sunday we continued on with another week of Cast in Luke 5 where we started back in the spring.  Our attention has been learning about Jesus’ calling of the first disciples and how we can become fishers of men. As we discussed Sunday, this entire passage and series is on the subject of evangelism and what it looks like to be a fisher of men. Sharing our faith isn’t easy. Especially when we are unsure what the person on the receiving end believes or thinks about faith in general.

It’s critical we remember the command to share isn’t an optional one but an expectation Jesus left us with. There are millions of opinions on what is right, wrong, and how far is too far when it comes to sharing Jesus with someone else. So much so we could spend an eternity talking about the best methods. But that’s not really the point. The point is we have a life changing proclamation of good news. It is the only cure for the human condition of sin.

During Sunday’s message we centered our focus on the response of Peter and the disciples to the miracle Jesus performed while on the boat with them. Luke 5:6-7 tells us the disciples caught such a larger number of fish upon obeying Jesus WORD that their nets were breaking and their boats were sinking. Peter was so convicted by the whole encounter he told Jesus to get away from him because he realized he was in the presence of true deity. Peter was beginning to see himself clearly and God more clearly. This was Peter’s moment. It was in this moment that Jesus drew even nearer to Peter as we will discover this week and next week. This is paramount for us as we rest in the gospel. The gospel is about us seeing who we are; sinners, and simultaneously seeing who God is – Savior. Peter’s response is a typical one you’ve probably seen if you’ve had the chance to share Jesus with someone before. I’m not worthy so get away. But Jesus doesn’t leave! Jesus stays! All the while on a boat!

Upon catching the fish there is a situation we see unfold in Luke 5:7. The catch Luke tells us was so great the fisherman on Peter and Jesus’ boat had to signal to their partners in the other boat to come to their aid. Asking for help is something first century fisherman or any fisherman for that matter are rarely accustomed to doing. But they did it in this instance because their mission had overwhelmed them. God’s mission is too big for one boat.

Another idea and observation we discussed was the act of retrieving the nets into the boat once Peter’s partners had been called. Were they on different boats because they had differing fishing philosophies to begin with? Was there friction during the excitement of getting the fish on the boat as to how best to go about the process? Some of these things we don’t know. But one important point is God’s blessings and power brings challenges and problems. New people to a team normally bring new ideas and thoughts which sometimes create real challenges.

One of the core principles I was always taught when it comes to bible study and bible teaching is called “crossing the hermeneutical bridge”.  In other words what is the passage saying for the 21st century believer me? Be careful when you ask this question because sometimes you really learn. LOL.

Tuesday morning driving to work I was in my normal routine of taking the trash to the dump and heading into the office when some of Sunday’s message hit me square in the eyes…literally and spiritually. I like to drink a big cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee in the morning with about a third of the cup filled with creamer. (Here is my man card.) Another abnormal trait I have is I like to drink my coffee out of a mug with no lid (so the mug doesn’t tear my lips up). (Again presenting my man card.) I had drunk about half the cup as I made my way down Sunset Road to the church office when I got lost in the moment listening to the radio. I set the cup on my thigh as I headed through the Sunset school zone when I hit one of our lovely bumps along Sunset road. Coffee went flying out of the cup before I realized it and made the proper adjustment. While it wasn’t a complete spillage it was enough to grab my attention.

One of the top concerns it seems like I’ve heard about Nolensville is how poor our roads are. And how bad they all are because of the construction. Is this true? Absolutely! Sunset Road looks more like a train track at some places than it does pavement. Often times I swerve driving down it so I can avoid the crazy potholes that are every 3 feet. It’s seriously ridiculous. But as this happened the hermeneutical  bridge came into clearer view. Sunset Road is a part of my community and it’s wrecked because new people are moving to our community seemingly overnight. Construction is booming and houses can’t get built fast enough. The havoc that is Sunset Road is one of those good problems. Like the nets breaking and the boats sinking. It means people are here. People are a part of God’s mission. This doesn’t mean wrecked roads makes us more holy as a town. It simply means more pavement is going to have to be purchased and crews hired to patch, build, maintain etc. But to fail to see the bigger picture I’m afraid is us missing the plan of God as it unfolds.

As we finish the week up and we look forward to circling back together as a family Sunday morning, look for the moments God’s giving you. Sometimes the moment is an irritating one and others might be really subtle. Part of being a good fisherman is learning to read the water. By God’s grace may we have eyes to see!

On the Journey with you!

Brock

The Tower and the Pool

by Phil Baker

The biggest obstacle most people face to belief in a loving god is the problem of pain and suffering in the world. If there is a loving god, why is there evil in the world? How could a god who loves us allow school shootings and disease? These things exist. Therefore, a loving god must not exist. Even those who believe God does exist struggle with this paradox. But we hold to our faith and wait for the day when we can ask God face-to-face why he allows such atrocities.

The disciples didn’t have to wait. They had Jesus right there with them.

And, guess what!  They asked him!

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

John 9:1-7

It was common then to have a karma-like view of life. If you did bad things, bad things would happen to you. Jesus tried to counter this type of thinking by showing that bad things happen (a man is born blind) so that good things can happen (Jesus can heal him and God can be glorified).

Jesus healing the man is an act of grace. It is an example of God’s mercy sent to us through Jesus. So it’s fitting that the name of the pool is “Sent”. Siloam was a small neighborhood in Jerusalem. It is mentioned one other time, in the book of Luke. Jesus was teaching and was again asked about the problem of sin and evil. As he explained that there are no degrees of sin – everyone is a sinner – he referenced a recent event where a tower in Siloam collapsed and killed 18 people. Like the blind man, everyone wondered if these 18 deserved their fate through something they had done. Again Jesus corrected their thinking. But instead of showing grace and mercy, this time he highlighted the need for repentance.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Luke 13:1-5

Think about these two references to Siloam. A tower and a pool. One is a tall building. The other is a low well. One is a positive edifice. The other a negative depression. One reaches toward heaven. The other is recessed into the earth. At one, mercy is shown. At the other, salvation was needed.

Jesus had two sides that were just as opposing. At times he reached down to touch the lowly. Other times he raised his hands to praise his father. Sometimes he showed mercy (and it was gratefully received). Other times he prescribed repentance (and it was sadly rejected). What he was doing was setting an example for us to follow. We are to be like him. We are to be both a pool and a tower. We are to serve humbly and to proclaim boldly. Reach down and reach up. We are called to be both visible and invisible. We are to be the visible, tangible hands and feet of Jesus in the world. While, at the same time, we are to divert attention from ourselves to the source of our love.

When I think about the problem of evil in the world (and in my own life), God twists the question around on me. If there are Christians, why is there evil in the world? Then I am forced to ask myself if I am a tower and a pool? Am I reaching down to heal? Am I standing up for righteousness? Am I both brave and humble? Who am I in this messed-up world?

The answer comes back to me – I am Siloam. I am sent.

Confessions of an Easter Bunny

Confessions of an Easter Bunny

by Phil Baker

I am the Easter Bunny. If you didn’t already know that, I’m sorry to burst your bubble. I’ve been playing the Easter Bunny at Revive for several Easters now and it is probably one of my favorite times.

Kids have funny reactions to the Easter Bunny. As soon as I come out in costume some kids stare at me, some cry, and some run up and give me a hug. The kids that stare are usually the younger ones. This may be their first time seeing Mr. Bunny. They need time to process and decide how they feel about him. It’s understandable. A large costumed character can be a lot to deal with. The ones that cry usually have recently had an experience with another Easter Bunny that didn’t go well. They see me and get flashbacks of their parents forcing them to sit on my lap, like some sort of holiday PTSD. But the ones that run up to me are the ones I love. I don’t have to explain why. The Easter Bunny is a celebrity. They know me and love me. They just want to come up and thank me for the Easter basket they received earlier that morning.

As the Easter festivities at Revive go along, a few of the kids who were “on the fence” about the Easter Bunny might warm up to me. I do my best to put them at ease and charm them into coming closer so their parents can snap a picture. One thing that seems to happen over and over during these interactions is that the kids will often give me one of their Easter eggs. It is such a sweet gesture. They just worked hard searching for and gathering these eggs and now they want to give one to me?! Why would they do this? Maybe they want to be my friend. Maybe they know that Easter Eggs come from the Easter Bunny so they are just giving back what is mine. Or maybe they just want to give.

Of course, I don’t keep the eggs. I thank them for their offering (as best I can in my own bunny miming way) and give it back to them. If they were previously unsure about the Easter Bunny, this usually closes the deal. We’re friends now. And that’s all I really want.

A few days after Easter (as I was coming down from my candy high), I thought about this exchange and how it reminds me of our interactions with God. When God shows up in our lives, some will stare, not sure what to make of it. Some will cry at how He has interrupted the plans and expectations they had. But some will recognize Him immediately and run to Him.

God has placed Easter eggs in our lives. They might be a job, children or a spouse. They might be your stuff, your dreams or your future.  As we wander this field of life, we fill our basket with these eggs.

And then we see God.

And we look down at our basket.

How are we going to react? Will we run to thank Him? Will we cry and run away, fearful that He will take away our eggs? Or will we just stop and stare?

What being the Easter Bunny has taught me is that maybe the best response is to offer our eggs back to God. This is what Abraham did with Isaac. This is what Hannah did with Samuel. Call it reciprocation, reciprocity or re-gifting. This simple exchange of receiving something from God, offering it back to Him only to have Him give it back to us, is just another way to grow your relationship with Him.

He, like the Easter Bunny, just wants to be your friend.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

by Phil Baker

It was 50 years ago that Fred Rogers first asked us to be his neighbor. For the next 33 years, the Presbyterian minister-turned PBS icon welcomed us into his home with a song as he donned a sweater and comfy sneakers. Then he proceeded to teach us without the slightest hint of judgment or condescension. We felt welcomed to be there. His gentle nature made us feel this was a safe place and that we were loved.

Mr. Rogers wanted to be our neighbor. He wanted us to be his neighbor. Did he mean he wanted everyone to move to Pittsburg? I mean, we all can’t live next door. Mr. McFeely would never be able to deliver all our mail! No. He was just reminding us of Jesus’ teachings about what it means to be a neighbor.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Luke 10:25-37

Being a neighbor has little to do with geographic location. According to Jesus, it has everything to do with how you treat everyone else. Being a neighbor means showing love. Being a neighbor means spreading joy and peace. It means having patience, showing kindness, being faithful. It means being a friend to everyone regardless of race, creed or economic status.

As we begin this new chapter of Revive church’s outreach efforts, let’s not get hung up on who our literal neighbors are. Instead, put on your Mr. Rogers sweater and comfy shoes and focus on the person in front of us in the moment. Who is sitting next to you right now? Who’s Facebook page did you just look at? Who is behind you in the check-out line?

Who is you neighbor?

#Revive37135

The Fall

The Fall

by Phil Baker

I’m coming off a very busy summer. My wife and I took a trip to Pennsylvania to research her family tree. I helped Montgomery Bell State Park put on their first ever “Ernest Day”. Our VBS is always a big but rewarding effort. We did a 5th year of Movies by Moonlight. I had minor surgery. And I started learning the banjo. Phew! I was looking forward to becoming less busy and fading into the background for a while. But what I didn’t anticipate was that my self-worth would also fade.

As the temperature began to fall with the leaves, I started to fall into a funk. I felt like I was descending into “the winter of [my] discontent.” Why is this? Things in my life are pretty good. I have a roof over my head, money in the bank, and food on the table. As I thought about this, I was reminded of all the things I did this summer. I was missing the busyness of it all. My identity had become tied up in it. So when all this went away so did my identity, my self-worth.

God softly whispered to me “It’s time to slow down. Let’s spend some time together.” I read 2 Corinthians 3:5 which reminded me that my identity, my adequacy, my sufficiency should be in Christ. We often find our identity in other things – our jobs, our family, our stuff – when God should be at the core of who we are. What’s just as janky is when we supplant Him with His gifts or His mission. While well intentioned, these also miss the mark.

In his book “Spiritual Rhythms” Mark Buchanan illustrates the seasons in our life. Each season is necessary for healthy growth. Just as a tree must lose its leaves and go dormant for a while so that it can leaf out in glorious green again in the spring, we have to retreat at times into God’s loving arms so that He can nurture us and prepare us for our next season of fruitfulness.

If you too find yourself discouraged or a little down. It’s okay. Maybe you just need to go dormant for a while. Spend some time just being with God. Set everything else aside, including what you are doing for Him. You don’t need to do anything for Him. He is enough.

‘nuff said.