Showing items filed under “Jeremy Shirley”
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The Holy Huddle….to some a term that is beautiful and embraced….to others it’s an ugly term. As Christians the idea of a group of people, striving towards holiness, is an incredible thing. God gave us the church as the gathering of believers striving towards holiness…..our weekly or even more often “holy huddle”. It’s a beautiful thing, you come together with likeminded people, to worship the same God, to talk about the same struggles, to learn from God’s Word, and to take care of one another. Those of you that love FBCW or another church you’re apart of know what I’m talking about. You’re excited about your “holy huddle”. But wait there’s more……bad sales pitch I know but the reality is I don’t see the church as a “huddle”, holy yes, huddle no. You can argue in talking about ekklesia or the gathering of the church, it’s meant to be a huddle. Ultimately, that’s fair but when I think about a huddle, I think about the backyard football game where we place the football on the line of scrimmage then huddle up, arms on each other’s shoulders, ready for the mastermind of the group to create some play that they saw on TV in a college football game. The thing about a huddle is it intentionally excludes the other team…..for good reason. In the church’s case, if we exclude the other team, those that are perishing and going to hell without Christ as their Savior, we’re doing great harm to them. So maybe the ‘holy huddle” isn’t always a beautiful thing. I think we’re supposed to Love God, Love Our People…..errrr….I’m sorry I got that wrong, Love God, Love People.

As the pastor who gives leadership to our Adult Sunday School ministry, I love to hear how our people minister to one another. It’s extremely important in the life of the church that we do so. Our Sunday School ministry enables us to break down the larger church gathering into smaller gatherings where we can meet each other’s needs. It shows the beauty of the “Holy Huddle”. I was talking with Paul Fuehrer this past Sunday about meeting on Tuesday when his wife asked him if he’d be able to take one of the group members to physical therapy on Tuesday. As much as I would have enjoyed meeting and hearing about his ministry, he told her he’d opt to take the group member to physical therapy. It was just a few weeks ago that the Edmondsons tragically lost their daughter Victoria. During what had to be an extremely difficult time for that family Prentice Robertson/Kurt Schultz’s Sunday School stepped up in a big way to minister to them. From the scheduled meals, to the special prayer time in class, to the huge presence of class members at the funeral and more that I’m sure I’m not aware of. They surrounded that family with the love of God and His church. A couple months before that, we had a young woman who was pregnant and her parents were in Jerry Lawrence’s Sunday School group and they showered her with gifts to help her as a single mother. The list goes on and on of how the groups show the beauty of the gathering as we care for one another.

As much as I love the incredibly generous ministry that goes on to our people within the “holy huddles” of our Sunday School ministry, sometimes as the huddle grows closer together we can see the harm that comes from the “holy huddle”. It’s natural for all of us, as we grow in relationship with those in the body of Christ, to become focused inwardly, to close off the huddle to newcomers or at least to not think about them as much. As important as the teaching of the Word and fellowship that drives us to ministry to others is in our Sunday Schools, the reaching of people is of extreme importance. Unfortunately, in group life you have 2 seemingly competing forces; the side of things were we must reach new people so we must be intentional about sharing the gospel, inviting people, welcoming people, and following up with people and then there is the side where you must grow in knowledge of the Word and the ministry of loving others as you become a tight knit family. If we’re not careful, the ugly form of the “holy huddle” might be used to describe some of our groups. A group that loses sight of the balance and only grows in knowledge of the Word and the fellowship of ministry together becomes an ugly form of the “holy huddle”. Doing really good things yes….but to the exclusion of one of the most important things which is reaching people for Christ. I think that Satan is completely content to watch a group of people who are Christians study Gods Word and grow in knowledge of it and to minister to one another. That’s a group of people that are distracted from the mission God has given us and thus no threat to Satan and his minions. I don’t believe that people or leaders intentionally set out to neglect God’s mission of making disciples but sometimes we just get distracted, we just close up the huddle to the other team because we’re so focused on our own team’s success. So what should we do to keep from getting distracted, from creating an ugly version of the “holy huddle”? Let’s look to Matthew 9:36-38 for some help:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

  1. It starts with compassion for the people, Jesus cared deeply about the people. Why? Because they were harassed, helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. They were lost! When is the last time you looked at your neighbor, your relative, your coworker, your friend and felt deep within you compassion towards them realizing they’re lost? More importantly when it comes to our Sunday School groups, when is the last time you spent any significant time as a group just talking about your burden for the lost that stems from your compassion for them? That would be a beautiful “holy huddle”, one that is burdened, talks about the lost, and ultimately when the lost are found, they’re welcomed into the huddle as they join in the mission of reaching the lost.
  2. Recognize the harvest is plentiful…..for all the fear some of us have in regards to sharing our faith….God says the harvest is plentiful. Sometimes we fear rejection so much we can’t even think about the reality there are those out there ready to accept the lifesaving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Sunday School groups, are we talking about the potential harvest, talking about the right time to bring in the harvest, preparing the soil for the harvest? A good farmer knows his fields, he’s concerned about the rainfall, the wildlife around it, the timing of when to plant, the timing of when to harvest. Farmers talk to each other to work together to help ensure the harvest if plentiful. How beautiful would the “holy huddle” be if each week part of our gathering was conversation about the preparation and activities related to the future harvest of the lives of people in our mission “fields”?
  3. Pray as though the harvest depends on it, because it does! The passage tells us to pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest. Why? Because the laborers are few. We’re supposed to pray that God would send laborers into the harvest. This is a complex and weighty request because when you pray it you must first recognize that you are to be a laborer and that God needs other laborers to harvest as well. This isn’t the prayer where we sure wish everyone else would get their act together but if you understand anything about the new testament, starting with Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8 you understand as a Spirit filled Christian you are a laborer. So this is a prayer where you say, “Hey God help me be obedient to share my faith and help others to do the same”. What a beautiful thing it would be for our “holy huddle” Sunday School groups to pray together, weekly, for God to help them be obedient and to help others to be obedient to go into the harvest…..to share our faith. On that same note, we’re only the mouthpiece of the gospel, not the one who saves anyone. So while we’re praying to the Lord of the harvest, why don’t we pray specifically for the potential harvest by name? What a beautiful “holy huddle” we would have if weekly when we gather together as Sunday School groups we had lists of people we were praying for together because we know the harvest if plentiful.

God help us to love you as you desire, but also help us to love your people as you desire. Not just our people in our “holy huddle” but also the people all around us that make up the opposing team, the plentiful harvest. Help us to show the beauty of what the church is supposed to be and cast off the distractions of the ugly things we can become. Amen

 

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Halloween is less than a week away. It’s the time of year when Christians come out on various social media outlets to shame people who fully embrace celebrating Halloween or shame those that turn the porch light off and ignore what’s going on all around them on October 31. Some find a middle ground between the two but it’s very clear Halloween isn’t your typical holiday for Christians. I could bore you with the historical background both Christian and secular, but that’s not my point here. As a parent of two candy loving kids, I have to use some discernment and……gasp, the Bible, to help inform how I might lead my family during this holiday.

As I reflect back on my own childhood, Halloween was an occasional Fall Festival dressed as Mickey Mouse. I don’t recall trick or treating much as a child. Halloween just wasn’t a big deal in our home. I don’t even think Halloween decorations, decorative lights etc., even existed when I was a child. For some of you Pinterest loving, Halloween super enthusiasts you’ve already broke out in hives but stick with me here. Last year I sat in my driveway with my Mario carved pumpkin sitting next to me, while my wife took our 2 kids out trick or treating. I had the opportunity to talk with neighbors and hand out candy to the kids in all different positive and negative costumes.

Halloween is worth our consideration, it’s worth our time to question what it’s all about, to question how we as Christians should interact with it and how we might use it to open up opportunities for the gospel. So without further ado, here are some verses worth your consideration as you pray and prepare for October 31.

Let’s start here….

Romans 12:2

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Let’s agree on this first; however you approach Halloween, as a believer it can’t be like the rest of the world. We cannot conform to the world. That’s not a Halloween principle, that’s a life principle. If you want to do God’s will for Halloween, be transformed, not conformed. So let me ask you a question, does the way you celebrate Halloween look differently than the way your neighbors celebrate the holiday?

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.

Look at that, we stumbled upon something that says we should be doing exactly what we’re doing now, examining Halloween carefully. Two principles here….hold fast, or tightly, to what is good and abstain from all evil. I’ll refrain from quoting every verse that speaks to witchcraft, sorcery, demons, summoning the dead etc. All the Halloween haters have already memorized and quoted those verses to you so you feel bad. Here’s a question though….in your celebration of Halloween, are you abstaining from all forms of evil and holding tightly to good?

1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Haunted houses, creepy clowns, death…it is all intended to create fear. Fear is not a God honoring attribute, unless it is the fear of the Lord, but that’s a different kind of fear all together. Fear and love are contrasted here in a passage that speaks to how God is love. In your celebration of Halloween, do you cast out fear through your love of those around you?

1 Corinthians 10:31

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

So whether you eat candy, drink hot cider, or whatever costume you wear, do all to the glory of God. Not exactly a direct quote but the principle holds true. I hope you’re getting this, the question of how to celebrate Halloween isn’t a Halloween issue, it’s a how do we live like Christ issue. With that in mind, as you celebrate Halloween, are you bringing glory to God in EVERYTHING you do?

Mark 2:15-17

And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.

This story caught the self-righteous Pharisees off guard and truth be told could catch some of us off guard today. Jesus was in and amongst sinners; seriously sinners! Guess who comes out of their houses on Halloween…..sinners. Yes that’s right, all those people you never speak to come outside and go door to door interacting with one another. Here’s a question, is there anything about Halloween, like eating with sinners in the story above, that isn’t clearly wrong? If so, in your celebration of Halloween are you helping the sick, not the ones with the fall sniffles/allergies, the ones that need to know Jesus?

The list could go on and on and reflection on the holiday could go on and on. As you consider Halloween, consider your whole life. There is nothing on this list you shouldn’t be considering each and every day of your life. Halloween is no different than any other day; we’re on a sinful planet, surrounded by sinful people, doing sinful things. Maybe we should stop shaming other believers in regards to our Halloween opinions, consider the Scriptures, and do something that brings glory to God!

 

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