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The Upper Story, the Lower Story and Your Story!

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Finding Your Story in God’s Story … 

The Bible contains an Upper Story and a Lower Story. The Upper Story tells the big picture, the grand narrative of God seeking to be in relationship with mankind as it unfolds throughout history. The Lower Story contains the details of particular people, the episodes we’ve become familiar with: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the flood, etc. The Lower Story helps us better understand the Upper Story which becomes for us a framework around which we approach and apply the Bible to Our Story. It unifies God’s whole message to us and helps guide us through the hard times in life by doing two things:

  1. a) reminding us of God’s eternal, long-range plan and,
  2. b) putting our experiences into a divine context formed by a perfect Creator.

For example, without the “Upper Story,” a lost job could be seen as an event without hope. But put into the context of the larger chronicle of our lives, and God’s perfect design, that lost job can be seen in a very different light, perhaps as an opportunity for God to reveal something better.

So, by putting all we read into the larger picture, we can make modern-day application from the Bible that takes into account the grand, mysterious ways of God, and guards us from misapplications that can result from an isolated “what this verse says to me” approach. In other words, the Upper Story creates the context for the Lower Story.

At our church we want to use The Story to help everyone gain a better understanding of the big picture of the Bible and to better understand God’s redemptive plan for us today. As we journey together through The Story we will take note of both the temporal events and characters (Lower Story), as well as the eternal purpose of God: to restore and build a relationship with His creation (Upper Story).  Through this, we hope you’ll begin to see with amazing clarity what God wants to do in your life (Your Story).

To assist with finding Your Story in God’s Story, we are recommending that you ask yourself these seven questions continually throughout your reading and discussion of The Story.  You may want to consider writing the answers into your “Life Journal.”*

  • What did you learn about God, yourself or others in this chapter? God has revealed Himself to mankind in the pages of the Bible.  When you and I read the Bible, we begin to see with the eyes of faith, what is invisible to the naked/physical eye.
  • How do the events in this chapter relate to the overall Story of God’s pursuit and redemption? God has revealed His overall plan through the pages of the Bible – from the first chapters of Genesis to the last chapters of Revelation, God’s plan is unfolding. No longer do you have to feel tossed about by the waves of uncertainty.  Nothing in life is without purpose.
  • What do you struggle to understand or embrace from this reading? Some things that God reveals are difficult to understand or accept. That is ok.  We know that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).  As you and I wrestle with these challenging verses, God is creating in us a discontent for the things of this world, to ready our hearts for His Kingdom and eternity.
  • Write a one or two sentence summary of this chapter. By summarizing the chapter while it is fresh in your mind, not only do you create a brief synopsis, but you capture the main points that God is trying to convey to you in a larger section of Scripture.  This will help you turn loose and disconnected sections of Scripture into a larger narrative.
  • Write out a prayer to God of appreciation or petition. For me, this is where it “gets real.”  When you turn what you’ve learned or experienced into a prayer, you are asking – even begging! – God to use it to make a difference in your life. This is what turns Bible reading from information, to transformation!
  • How does this chapter point to Jesus, or challenge you to be more like Him? Jesus said that the Scriptures point to Him – even the Old Testament. He is in the whole of God’s Story – not just the New Testament.  Searching for Jesus in the Old Testament is very illuminating, and again shows that God is working His redemptive plan throughout the pages of the Bible.
  • Is there something you learned that needs to be shared with others? We learn and internalize information best by sharing it with another person.  A Growth Group is the best place to do this.  Even if you aren’t in a group studying The Story itself, you’ll have in any group an opportunity to share how God is teaching you and challenging you through your reading of The Story.

We hope that you’ll join us in this unique journey through Scripture!   “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword…” (Hebrews 4:12).  How does God want to inform, shape and transform you through His Word?

Journeying with you!

Pastor Augie.

* If you do not have a Life Journal, take the “Essentials 201” class.  They are provided, free of charge, for attendees of that class.

Vision 2015!

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At Redeemer by the Sea, we are BLESSED!  So many positive things are happening right now.  I believe we are positioned very well for the new year that is at hand.  When I look back over the last few years, I see that we have many gifted people on our church council, elders, committees and teams. Perhaps more importantly, we have a congregation that is passionate about God’s Word, and has a desire to love God and serve our neighbor in His Name.  Where I think that puts us at this time is in a spirit of “readiness.”  We are ready for action!

leaders gather to envision God’s future for our church!

At our recent Annual Planning Meeting (January 24th) it was clear among the more than two dozen leaders who were present that we are at a time in our ministry where we can no longer just talk about reaching our community, we must put plans in place to accomplish this.  Further, we are keenly aware that this is not going to happen with just a few of us working toward it.  It will take our whole congregation working together.  So we set out to discuss ways that our whole congregation can be mobilized into meaningful ministry to our community.

To do this, we took a step back – way back – to the Old Testament.  Using the book “The Four Cups: God’s Timeless Promises for a Life of Fulfillment” by Chris Hodges, we looked at this passage from Scripture:

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.’” (Exodus 6:6-7)

We saw there that God made some promises to the people of Israel, that He still makes to us today – His New Testament people.  In fact, we see this pattern regularly in the Bible: Many things in the Old Testament are merely types and shadows of what will only most completely be fulfilled in Jesus. For example, sacrifices in the Old Testament were incomplete.  They served to point to the most complete and significant sacrifice of Christ on the cross (Hebrews 7:27).  Or consider even the temple itself.  The temple pointed to Jesus Christ. In Him God most completely made His dwelling with mankind.

Likewise with these promises in Exodus…  God made them to Israel, and He honored them in the Exodus, but they are most fully given through Jesus Christ.  So we claim them for ourselves and our ministry even today.  In fact, they become a kind of pattern for ministry, that I believe fits very well with our “WORSHIP-GROW-SERVE” model:

  • WORSHIP: God’s promise to “bring you out” is a promise of Salvation.  In 2015, we have a goal to see our Worship Services be an inviting place where lost people are saved.
  • GROW: God’s promise to “free you” is a promise of Deliverance. When the people of Israel were rescued from slavery, they still needed to learn how to live as free people.  As saved people we need to learn how to live in the freedom of Christ, no longer in bondage to sin.  In 2015, we desire to see our Growth Groups become places where people are restored.  We have a goal to create structures where Groups can more easily form and more effectively function as “hubs” of discipleship and service.
  • DISCOVER: God’s promise to “redeem you” is a promise of Redemption. When you redeem something, you release it for its intended purpose.  Redeemer’s Discovery Track series of classes are designed to help people discover their redemptive potential.  In other words, people discover how God is calling them to WORSHIP, GROW and SERVE, and then they engage.
  • SERVE: God’s promise to “take you as my own people” is a promise of Fulfillment. In 2015, we have a goal to see our congregation complete 1,000 hours of community service. This is not just service for service sake.  We believe that God desires his people to live fulfilled lives in Christ, by serving in a meaningful way.

At the planning meeting, these promises and our plan to achieve them was formulated into this vision statement below.  See if it describes a congregation that you want to be a part of!

Vision: Redeemer is a place that reaches and accepts people from all walks of life and circumstances. Our hubs provide multiple services and venues that meet various needs. We explore God’s hand in all areas of life. We are good stewards of God’s gifts to us. We are an inviting place where people want to be with a connected family of friends and believers.

May Redeemer truly become a place where lost people are saved, saved people are restored, restored people discover their redemptive potential, and live fulfilled lives in Christ!

In ministry with you,

Pastor Augie.