Category Archives: Devotional

True Freedom

As we celebrate our nation’s freedom, we can’t help but give thanks for what it means to live in a free country.

We feel grateful for the men and women who laid down their lives and sacrificed in so many ways to fight for and protect that freedom. As Christians, it’s also a great time to pause and ponder, what does freedom really mean to us? Outwardly being able to worship and lift up the name of Jesus is freedom. To be able to pursue our potential to the fullest is freedom. True freedom, however, is an inside job. We can be very free on the outside and still not be free on the inside. And we can actually be free on the inside even when we aren’t free on the outside. It’s a paradox really – the freer we are the more options we often have to things that keep us from freedom.

Moses found this to be true with the Israelites. What a story that is! Here’s this precious little Israelite baby boy who was rescued in a basket in the Nile River by the princess of Egypt, raised in the palace, became a prince, grew into a learned man with privilege, and then forsook it all to free his own people. He saw God move with the ten plagues. He led the Israelites through the red sea, no doubt marveling at the walls of water that stood ominously divided — making a way for their escape. And then what should have been an eleven day journey (Deut. 1:2) took 40 years instead, because in their new found freedom from slavery, the people’s faith wavered again and again and they stumbled over themselves and their mistakes. In Moses’ last sermon to the people, he passionately poured forth a message of freedom; zealous to see them get to enter the land they so long journeyed toward; the very land that was promised to them for generations.

That message he spoke all those years ago is a message that applies to our nation even today. His first point is found in Deuteronomy 10:17, where he said, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome.” He wanted to leave them with the key reminder that to live truly free; they must trust in God’s power. But there’s another side to the greatness of our God he wanted to leave them with as well. We see this in his second point found in Deuteronomy 2:21, which says, “The Lord your God the great and awesome God is among you.” There he reminded them to rely on God’s presence.

With Moses’ last breaths he implored his people to live free by tapping into the power of God and staying free by relying on the presence of God. He knew then what we still know to be true now – it’s impossible to live this Christian life on our own. We simply can’t do it. We can’t make choices that lead us to freedom and honor God without relying on His power and tapping into His presence. When we recognize this and apply it, we find what it means to live truly free!

The Key to Happiness

God wants you to live with overwhelming joy. Following Christ is not just going to heaven when you die, it is abundant, joy-filled life here and now. So what is the key to happiness?

Recently a twenty-year study by Mayo Clinic revealed that the key to happiness was living positively in the moment.

Don’t you love it when scientists and doctors confirm what we already know to be true from God’s Word?

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6:34 MSG

The Bible calls us to live in the moment with our focus on God, on his provision and goodness.

One of the biggest challenges we face is not having the strength for today because we’ve used it up on yesterday’s regrets or tomorrow’s concerns. Anxiety splits our energy between past mistakes and future fears.

If we want to enjoy life in the moment we must:

Release the Past – To live in the moment we have to release our failures, mistakes, regrets and misfortunes.  We may still recall the past, but it doesn’t control us anymore.

Resist Tomorrow  – The future seems uncontrollable and uncertain but God never intended that we would face the future with uncertainty. God knows everything. The future will never surprise him. He knows the future and he has a plan.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Develop the Skill of Living Positively in the Moment – Focus on what you can do TODAY. Make a gratitude list. Treasure the relationships in your life. Focus on the positive even in the negative. Execute keystone habits like exercise and healthy eating. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Connect authentically with God.

Real joy is only found in God. We cannot do anything significant or worthwhile alone, but if we connect with God, we can live life to the fullest in each and every moment.

Words are Powerful

We carry our words in buckets. When faced with a fiery challenge we can either douse the flames with cool, quenching water or add explosive fuel to the fire.  Our words are powerful.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. James 3:3-6 NIV

The tongue is just a small part of the body, but small is not to be confused with insignificant. Our words steer the course of our lives.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.  Luke 6:45 NIV

If you want to know what is in your heart, listen. Listen to the words that come out of your mouth in conversation and to your internal dialogue. Jesus was interrupted by a woman who had been suffering for twelve years. She pushed her way through the crowd to get to him because she said to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” (Matthew 9:21 NLT) Her internal dialogue revealed her faith and when she touched Jesus she was healed. Her future was shaped by her words.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, Proverbs 18:21 NKJV

Think about the words that have passed through your brain today (whether or not they’ve passed through your lips). Are you speaking death into the days ahead or are you shaping your future with hopeful expectation?

Would you be willing to do an experiment? Speak positive words over your life every day this week and see what effect it has on your outlook and how words can transform your attitude and atmosphere. Use Pastor Rob’s daily confession (or customize your own):

Today I will love freely, live fearlessly, dream expectantly, laugh deeply, learn insatiably, take initiative ferociously, forgive wholeheartedly, persevere tenaciously, serve humbly, think purely, choose in each moment wisely, rest completely, give generously, give thanks audaciously and surrender trustingly.

Be sure to let us know the results of your experiment with words. How did speaking words of inspiration, courage, blessing and gratitude shape your world?

Heart for the House – How Your Giving Changes Lives

There are experiences that happen at church that cannot be duplicated in any other environment. Psalm 92:13 says, “Those who are planted in the House of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.” The power of the right atmosphere provides an intangible gift for living life.

“Because of Shoreline I am free from addiction, I have a ‘bajillion’ friends and I love my life.” – Jillian Roberts, Shoreline North

We are everyday people who recognize our own need for acceptance and accept each other right where we are. Take a look around you’ll find people from all walks of life, all ages, all cultures and skin colors, with a variety of hairstyles.  Some have tattoos and body piercings and yes, there are clean-cut people too. Some drive old beaters and others drive Benz and Beamers and still there are chicks that ride Harleys and a few guys with pickup trucks. Regardless of what you drive, if you look for a friend, you can find one easily because Shoreline is a church of relationships.

 “I met some friends…the small group equipped me to love people like God loves people” – Lindsey Fischer, Shoreline Small Groups

The highlights of the 2015 Heart for the House campaign are renovations for the youth room, improving the audio/visual technology for Shoreline South and laying new carpet in the nursery. We are also funding a church plant in war torn South Sudan.

“Juba is a city in the midst of horrific turmoil, tribal warfare, a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the nation of South Sudan…the church is perfectly positioned to help” – Pastor Rob Koke

At the heart of the “Heart for the House” is a desire to create an atmosphere where you will grow in all the promises God originally designed and purposed for you.

“…after prayer we didn’t want to miss the purposes of God for our lives, so we opted for obedience” rather than safety, water & electricity –Pastor Joe & Jackie Ogwal, South Sudan

 Call to Action:

1. Thank God for the financial seeds planted into Shoreline that created an environment where you are experiencing encouragement and true fellowship between brothers and sisters in Christ.

2. Reflect on the intangible gifts of authenticity, acceptance and life giving hope that you have received at Shoreline.

3. Prayerfully consider where your life can count for more by resourcing the church through the Heart for the House campaign. Give Safely Online

4. Acknowledge how you have been shaped by the Word of God, refreshed by the presence of God and make a decision to share your time and talent with others at Shoreline.  Find Volunteer Opportunities

 Paul sums it like this, we are blessed by God to give and as we give we are blessed all the more! (2 Corinthians 9:6-9).

 

 

Why go to church? Part 2

When a seed is planted in the ground it produces fruit. Scientists understand to a degree what happens underground but even in the 21st century there are still indefinable mysteries in the soil.  In the same inexplicable way, you will bloom and grow in the soil of the local church.

People thrive in an atmosphere of acceptance, authenticity and hope.  We talked about that last week. We are intentional about providing that transformational atmosphere at Shoreline.  We believe going to church is more than checking something off your good-stuff-to-do-list.  You will find things in church you just can’t find anywhere else:

1. The refreshing of his presence – We can experience refreshing in our personal quiet time, but something special happens when we gather together.  We enjoy the energy and enthusiasm of worshiping God together.  It’s just the boost we need to keep moving forward.

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122:

2. The shaping of his word – Every week at church we come hungry to hear the word of God. We know his word is life. It sustains and guides our lives. The truth of God’s word helps us live well.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

3. The fellowship of his people – Over and over in the Bible we are challenged to be there for each other. Love each other. Pray for each other. Comfort each other. Encourage each other. We were never intended to live life alone.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

 4. The intervention of his power – God is all-powerful. When we come together and pray we see God do what only he can do. We experience healing, deliverance, reconciliation, miracles and more.

5. The significance of our place in his service – We all want to do things that matter. In the church we find the opportunity to live for something bigger than ourselves.  The church is the best opportunity we have to take a portion of our time, talent and treasure and say with conviction, “I want my life to count!”

You become the best you when you are planted in the life-giving, life-changing atmosphere of the church.

Why go to church?

You could fill your Sunday mornings with all kinds of activities. In a beautiful city like Austin, the options are endless. You could rent a kayak on Lady Bird Lake or take your dog for a run through Zilker Park. You could visit a museum, an art gallery or a coffee shop on South Congress. You could snuggle under the covers in your own warm bed or enjoy the sunshine on your back patio. So why go to church?

Why get up, take a shower and drive across town? What’s the big deal? Is it really that important?

We could be a little biased, but we believe it’s a pretty big deal and here’s why:

The atmosphere you hang out in has a way of influencing the way you live. Every concerned parent knows the power of atmosphere. We know that smart kids do stupid things when they hang around the wrong crowd.

Spend time with negative, cynical people and you might hear their words come out of your mouth.  On the flip side, spend time with enthusiastic, energetic people and you’ll find yourself feeling more optimistic.

Jesus spoke about the power of atmosphere in Mark 4:26-28

This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.

It’s incredible.  All by itself the soil produces grain.

That’s how it works in God’s kingdom. When a seed is planted in the right soil, surrounded by the right atmosphere, it produces good fruit!

Just like a seed, you need to be planted in the right atmosphere in order to grow and flourish. So what is the right soil for you and me?

Those who are planted in the house of the Lord
Shall flourish in the courts of our God. Psalm 92:13

When you are planted in the house of God, in his church, you will flourish and everyone around you will enjoy the fruit.

Yah, we know there are lots of churches. Some are unhealthy and some have lost their way. There are no perfect churches because there are no perfect people.

But there are healthy churches that celebrate the beauty of God’s love and the gift of his grace through Jesus. They provide the perfect atmosphere for transforming imperfect people.

In a healthy live-giving church you will find:

Acceptance – God loved us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8) He accepts us just the way we are. No ifs, ands or buts. Paul instructed the early church to follow suit, “Accept one another just as Christ accepted you.” (Romans 15:7)

Authenticity – Jesus was 100% authentic. He never pretended to be something he wasn’t. A healthy church will express and embrace authenticity. No hiding and no pretending.

Hope – Life is not always easy. It takes a swing and we get the hope knocked out of us. The Bible is filled with hopeless situations being turned around for good. A healthy church will offer heaping helpings of hope.

There is plenty of time to enjoy life in Central Texas on Sunday afternoons. Join us Sunday morning. Soak up the atmosphere of acceptance, authenticity and hope and enjoy the fruit of change in your own life.

Click here for service times and locations.

Love and Belonging

Some things just go together:

  • peanut butter and jelly,
  • macaroni and cheese,
  • Batman and Robin

Love and belonging go together like that. The whole human race is biologically, cognitively, physically and spiritually wired to desire and experience these two things.

Without them life goes a little haywire. We lose our sense of security and identity. We live disconnected or we align ourselves to the wrong crowd in search of what we need.

The good news is that love and belonging are available to us through our relationship with God. Jesus illustrated this idea in one of the most well known stories he told.

We’ve talked about the parable of the prodigal son before, or as we like to call it – The Parable of the Extravagant Love of the Father.

In this story we see the devastating results of searching for belonging with the wrong crowd but we also see a picture of the love of our Father God.

The son is lost and alone, trying to eek out an existence, but the story takes a dramatic turn in Luke 15:20

“So he got up and went to his father.”

We want you to know wherever you are, whatever you done – you can ALWAYS get up and go to the Father!

Because look at how the father responds:

“But while he (the lost son) was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)

What amazing love! But it doesn’t end there. Listen to what the father says:

 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  (Luke 15:22)

With these instructions the father is not just getting some decent clothes on the boy. Each one of these items – the robe, the ring, the sandals – is a symbol of belonging to the family.

The father sees his boy and is filled with love and in their first interaction he demonstrates for all to see that his wayward son belongs to the family. See? Love and belonging go together!

We believe one of the best places on earth to find love and belonging is in the local church.  We are loved by God. We love God. We love each other. And we experience belonging to God’s family in a very tangible way through the relationships we build and fellowship we find in a church family.

Right now is the perfect time to get involved in a small group and find a community of like minded people to do life with at Shoreline. Host a group or join a group and together we’ll find these two things we desperately need  – love and belonging.

Lay Your Burden Down

Every week, my mother walked from our home to a church in nearby town. She carried my baby sister while my three older siblings trailed behind her.  People stopped to offer her a ride but she refused. She not only carried my sister, she carried the burden of performance. She felt like she had to prove her devotion to God.

One day, her cousin looked her in the eye and said, “You don’t have to earn God’s love. He already loves you. “

My mom found freedom when she laid down her burdens.

Now, we love babies at Shoreline.  We love children. But we know some of us are walking into this new year carrying the wrong little bundle. We are carrying performance, worry, fear, pride, rejection and shame.

Could it be you?

Do you feel tired and worn out trying to manage the pain of the past? Are your arms burning, trembling under the weight of the load you carry?

This is a fresh new year!  It’s time to lay your burden down!

Jesus came to bring freedom.

 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Lay down the burdens of 2014. Lay down the burdens of your past. Don’t carry them into 2015.

Hear God saying this to you today, “Give me your burden, your pain, your worry, your disappointment. Cast all your care on me.”

 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. I Peter 5:6-7

You are God’s child. His son. His daughter. He cares deeply for you. Like a loving Father he waits to scoop you up in his strong arms.

Don’t carry your burdensome bundles. Let the baby born in a manger carry you.

Living As One Who Is Actually Alive

Paul wrote a letter to a body of believers who, because of what they had been taught or told, were placing other things alongside Christ in significance and priority. He was writing with a heart to bring Christ back to the center of their lives. Colossians 3 is entitled “Living As Those Who Are Alive In Christ.” In this passage Paul suggests that being thankful is very important to living like you are alive in Christ.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17

It’s not easy to be thankful in all situations. But that is not all Paul highlights when describing what it looks like to live like you are alive in Christ. The life described in these verses and the number of things Paul suggests we would have to let go of or begin applying to our lives is daunting.  Colossians 3:1-17

The thing to realize as you reflect on Paul’s instructions and begin feeling like a terrible human being is Paul didn’t want these people to try to live as though they were alive in Christ. He wanted them to actually be alive in Christ. This makes all the difference in the world.

Without Christ we will never be capable of living life to our fullest potential. With Christ, our best life is inevitable. When we are alive in Christ and focused on him, we will naturally walk away from sin and the fruits of the spirit will pour out of us – not by our efforts but by His. We need Him, and in Him we have everything.

Shift Happens

The chilly air bites my fingers and toes as fall arrives in Central Texas. Seasons shift. Change is constant. Just about the time I figure out my phone, my job, my kids – something shifts and I have to figure it out all over again. Shift happens.

I don’t particularly like change while it’s changing. Once it’s changed and I see how awesome the fresh, new wonderful change is, then I love it!

But shift isn’t always easy or pleasant. Sometimes shift causes earth shattering, life altering change. Change brings unfamiliar, uncharted, unknown territory.

Here’s the challenge, place your shifting life into the hands of an unshiftable God!

How do we do that? I’m glad you asked:

First, realize God never shifts. He never changes. In the midst of everything else that changes in life, he remains the same. This bedrock, solid truth anchors our lives.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 NIV

Next, understand that God’s word never shifts. The world is forever changing its ideas about truth. Nutrition and exercise advice changes. Philosophy and psychology changes with the times. People change their minds like they change their clothes. But God’s principles, his commandments, his ways, his words never change or become obsolete.

 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Matthew 24:35 NIV

Then, know God’s love never shifts. It’s hard to imagine because human love is always shifting, but God doesn’t love like we love. His love never fails. His love for you is unshifting.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Shift happens. Life changes and it’s hard to judge in the middle of it whether that shift is good or bad. When difficult, painful things come our way, it may be really healthy to shift our perspective.

Shift is often good, because God is good and God never shifts.