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Today Pastor Ed began a new sermon series called "Fantastic: Incredible stories from Jesus' life and their significance for us."  Today's message was based on Luke 8:26-39, and was called Swine Flew.

It was icing outside, but those of us who made it were challenged and uplifted.

In talking about the word "Fantastic," Pastor Ed kept using the word "bizarre."  He talked about the "fantasy" connections of the word including "odd, remarkable, mysterious," as well as "glorious, wonderful, extreme, and exorbitant" -- the perfect description for Jesus.

This passage tells us of a demon-possessed man being restored.  The people of that day did know about mental illness, but this was something different.

There are many touches of authenticity to the story.  One is that the naked man used his own Gentile terminology for God.  Another is that the people of the region were terrified of Jesus and asked him to leave immediately.

Pastor Ed gave us four takeaways:

  1. The life and ministry of Jesus was incomparably fantastic.  Some of us aren't following the real Jesus.  We're following a watered-down suburban version that doesn't match the Jesus of the Bible.
  2. Reality is strange:  There is a spiritual realm around us.  Some of those forces are evil and mean to harm us.  If we're going to make spiritual progress at all, we need to acknowledge this truth.  If you battle a spiritual entity and try to tackle it with more discipline, trying harder, and the like, you won't make any progress.
  3. Sometimes problems that present themselves as emotional, mental, or physical issues can really be issues of tormenting spiritual forces.
  4. These forces recognize the fantastic authority and power of Jesus.  They submit to him fully.  In the case of evil forces, he can set us free from their influence.

Along with these takeaways, he gave us modern examples -- from his own ministry, and from accounts of other pastors.

The overarching message:  We can have full freedom from the weird forces around us.

He imagines Luke writing this story and thinking, "Wait'll you hear this one!  It's fantastic!"


I'm not completely sure how to respond to this sermon.  I do think my awareness can use a nudge.  I do tend to respond to issues in my life by trying harder, by trying to be more disciplined.

And that does remind me of one response:  Julie Abraham and some members of the Prayer Team have begun meeting to pray for the church service each week at 9:30 in the music room closest to the hall leading to the parking lot.  We would like to open it to all members of the congregation.  Is your spouse coming early to serve on one of the ministry teams?  Come join us and pray against these weird forces!

How about you?  What do you think of this message?  How will it touch your life?

Greetings from the Showers' Small Group

Pastor Ed recently said that as Gateway gets bigger, we need to become smaller -- Small Groups are part of our DNA.  So I'd like to do a series of features about the Small Groups of our church, saying hello to the rest of the family, inviting others to jump in and join us, and let others know how God is working in our group.

The easiest group to start with is the one I attend.  But I hope that someone from each other small group will answer the same questions!

Who is in your group?  Rob and Evie Showers lead this Small Group.  This picture was taken at our Christmas party.  Other members are Renée and Erik Saunders, me (Sondy Eklund), George and Nancy Dennis, and Debbie and Ray Schmidt.

When and where do you meet?  Sunday after church, in South Riding at Sondy's house.  Because of distance and schedule issues, it works well for us to put our activities on the same day as the church service.  We each grab some food and meet at my house to eat it.  They used the church office before I joined, but I was happy they were able to take advantage of my nice close-to-Gateway location.

What about child care?  We all have children, but they are all old enough to not need child care, so that's not available with this group.

What are you studying?  We are currently slowly going through John Eldredge's book and workbook, Waking the Dead

For me, this has been a powerful experience.  As an example, I've been dealing with not getting a job I applied for which I thought I was uniquely suited for.  This book looks at who God created you to be, so helped me get through that experience with my self-identity intact.

What are some answers to prayer your group has seen recently?

A healthy grandbaby born safely after a difficult pregnancy

Biopsy results that came back benign

Business needs met

Two different young adult daughters who got successfully settled into a major city -- Boston and New York City

How has being in this group touched your life?

Ray Schmidt has a nice answer for this and speaks for the group: "For me, the smallness of the group has allowed us all to open our hearts and lives to each other. Seeing God work to "peel back the onion," so to speak, in each other's lives has been beautiful and breathtaking. A weekly reminder that our hearts do matter to God and that he is in it for the long run to renew and restore each of us, little by little and day by day, to be the men and women he created us to be."



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