Our Hope in Jesus is Secure

HEBREWS 6:19 says:  This HOPE we have as an anchor of the soul, a HOPE both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil.

 

The hope we have in Jesus is that we can run to Him to be our spiritual and eternal refuge—i.e. our salvation, our support, our safe shelter, secure home. Here the Bible calls this hope “an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast”. This is a striking image!
 
The Gospel is more than mere doctrine. Our trust in Jesus realizes for us what an anchor accomplishes for a ship. Since an anchor is fixed and secure, it simply keeps a ship from drifting. This is vital when the storms hit. An anchor keeps a ship fast and secure when wind and waves would sink it or throw it way off course. As long as one’s anchor holds, the ship is safe from any danger.
 

The good news is this: our anchor grips the solid rock—Jesus.

 
I remember singing an old hymn with the following refrain:
 
In times like these you need a Savior, In times like these, you need an Anchor
Be very sure, be very sure, your anchor hold and grips the solid rock
this Rock is Jesus, yes He’s the One. This Rock is Jesus, the only One
I’m very sure, I’m very sure, my anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock
 
The latter part of our verse tells of our anchor entering within the veil. This is representative of being anchored in heaven. Because of Jesus we are anchored in heaven – our true home – and Jesus has gone there before us.
 

Abraham’s life teaches us that in some sense, hope is also a decision. Hope was his decision to believe God and His promises more than what he saw as impossible—something he couldn’t do without God’s help.

 
ROMANS 4:18 states When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, DECIDING TO live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”
 
Like faith, hope is confidently expecting something we do not see. Abraham could have said, “God you created me and you know I’m too old to father a child.” Remember the scripture…
 
If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently. Romans 8:24—25
 
One final thought about hope. God often teaches by using contrasts. Notice the contrasts He uses relative to hope in these verses:
 
JOB 8:13 That’s what happens to all who forget God — all their hopes come to nothing.
PS 33:18 Behold, the eye of Jehovah is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his lovingkindness.
 
What are you putting your hope in today? Are you placing your trust where there’s a sure foundation? Remember, Jesus is the hope we have as an anchor for our soul, a hope both sure and steadfast, and one that promises an eternal home when our faith and trust is in Him. Trust in Him today. When everything else around you may be shifting and unsure, Jesus is steadfast.
 
Author:
Pastor Liandro Arellano

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Share Your Struggles with Your Children

A parent’s love for their child is powerful and unyielding. My own daughter is not even two years old, yet I already know there is no limit to what I would do for her. As parents, we have so many hopes for our children’s future, what career they will pursue, hobbies we want to pass on, and relationships they will have. We also know the difficulty in letting our child figure something out on their own, knowing how much easier it would be to just do it for them or to give them the answers.
 
Yet we persevere, let our children explore new things, let them try to hold a cup of water with no lid, get dressed by themselves, pick a sport.
 
We train and guide them on how to deal with a tough teacher, a friend who was mean, their first breakup, how to make good decisions in life.
 

We hold fast to Proverbs 22:6, praying that our kids choose Jesus someday.

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

 
But all along the way, do we ever let our kids see our own struggles, witness how we deal adversity and how we go to God with our challenges? We so desperately want to preserve our children’s innocence as long as possible, but there will be a day when they will have to deal with an adult-level problem. If they haven’t been shown how to do that, their first instinct may not be to turn to Christ.
 

If you have children in junior high or high school, I can promise you that your kids know when something is wrong.

 
They may not know the details, but they can tell when something is going on – and they worry about it. I have previously worked as a camp counselor for 7 years and have been a youth group leader for over a year. Many of the prayer requests I hear from students are about their family or their parents. Instead of hiding everything from them in the hopes of protecting them, invite them in so they can see how you lean on Christ. They don’t need all the specifics (and it’s not always healthy for them to know every detail), but the more you try to hide, the more they will fill in with their own imaginations.
 

Pray for God’s discernment and be open as God leads.

 
Pray about it as a family, teach them how they can be helpful by praying and listening to God. Show them how you lean on Jesus even when nothing is going right, so when they find themselves in a similar situation, they too will run fiercely after Jesus.
 

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

 
Let’s teach our children how to run to Christ in every situation by letting them see how we do it first. Let’s give them an example to follow when things in their own life seem out of control. By sharing our struggles, we have a prime opportunity to point them to Jesus.
 
Author: 

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Listening to God’s Call

The calling the Lord puts on your life – what is it?

 
I’m not talking about when you accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. I’m talking about the calling that God puts on your life after that to further His kingdom.
I’m not sure I took this part of my walk in the Lord seriously enough early in my walk. When I first became a Christ-follower, I needed time to mature by reading the bible, praying, and just falling deeper in love with the Lord.
 
Still, when you embrace a love relationship with Jesus, His calling is already there waiting for you to live it out. At some point in our walk, we need pray that the Holy Spirit will show us what the Lord has for us to do through ministry in the Kingdom. The important part here is that the Holy Spirit – and your heart – are in line with His calling, then to obey and follow through with what the Lord has called you to do.
 
God’s calling for you could be serving in the church in some way, a ministry in your community, your neighbors and a multitude of more ways. There is no limit to what the Lord can call a child of His to do, and it is often a combination of areas. Remember though, the calling is to glorify God.
I love how the following scriptures call us to ministry:
Philippians 3:14
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
 
John 15:15
We did not choose Him, He choose us and appointed us to go out and bear fruit and it should abide (accept or act in accordance with this appointment).
 
Ephesians 4:4
There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call.
 
I Peter 2:21 (our example)
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His footsteps.
 
When we talk about a “calling”, it can be kind of scary. However, in big ways and small, His Word lays out what His will is for our lives. Sometimes we make it too complicated. It’s really quite simple: God wants a servant’s heart willing to do what He asks, when He asks it, according to His will and guidance laid out in His Word. What has the Lord called you to do?
 
Author: 

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A Counter-Cultural Fruit of the Spirit

The following is a snapshot of a recent interview with John Wegmeyer, diving into his thoughts about self-control and how God uses it in our lives.
 
When I think about the fruits of the spirit, “love” has always been the fruit that stands out to me. I don’t think it is just coincidence that it is the first one listed of all the gifts – I feel like it is the critical foundation for all of the other gifts. If we allow the Spirit to develop a sincere concern and caring for others in us, it will result in other fruits being manifested in our life. If we don’t show love, others will have a harder time believing the other fruits in our life are genuine.
 
That said, self-control is probably the most difficult for me – mostly because it is the challenge that I face nearly all the time. Most of the other fruits are relational and are most visible when we are interacting with other people. Patience, kindness, goodness, and the rest are usually only tested when others are present or involved.

Self-control is a 24/7 challenge and involves every area of life.

 

For some people, it is controlling their anger, or their tongues. My biggest challenge is controlling my use of time. Time is one of the greatest gifts God has given us and we need to make sure we are not selfishly wasting it. I need to continually challenge myself to make sure I am using my time to do beneficial things, pleasing to God and not just easy for me.

The first thing I think of regarding self-control is controlling the urge to say or do something without taking the time to think about what the consequences will be. The Bible has many lessons about how difficult it is to control our tongues. Self-control is even more important when we feel anger because we are more likely to say or do something hurtful. Everyone has different areas they need to be careful in, but apparently not thinking before we talk is a common human flaw, because God warns us over and over again to control our tongues.

Of all the many verses in the Bible about controlling out tongues, my favorite is James 3:2:

Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

Self-control requires making “self” less important and considering what others say or need.

 

I feel the most destructive aspects of our culture today is that it promotes the “me first” attitude. The whole world revolves around what “I” want or think. What God says is right or wrong has been replaced by what “I” say is right or wrong. Since “I” is correct, there is no need to think about or consider what someone else says that is opposed to my opinion since they are wrong and “I” am right. Our culture also encourages going after whatever you think will make you happy. It doesn’t matter whether or not you can afford it, or whether or not you hurt someone else to get it. Self-control is discarded since nothing else needs to be considered because the only thing that matters is if “I” think it will make me happy.

Considering others to be more important than self is contrary to the “looking out for yourself” philosophy that is promoted in today’s culture.

 

Self-control requires delaying what we want or think until we consider others first. This is very difficult in our “me first” culture with our human nature being naturally selfish. The only way we can develop self-control is to surrender our personal desires to God and let his Spirit help us. It takes supernatural help to overcome our earthly responses to the situations we face.

Self-control is a daily walk where we stop and think about each situation we find ourselves in. We need to ask ourselves how Jesus would respond. We need to surrender control of our self to God and let his Spirit direct our response.

Marriage is an essential place to put this into practice.

 

I like this description of self-control: choosing to do what you should do, not what you want to do. God’s challenge to men in marriage is to love our wives as Christ loved us. Christ made us his priority and gave his life for us. We need to do the same for our wives. That only happens if we put what they need in our relationship ahead of what we want. We need to choose to put someone else ahead of own desires. While this can be a challenge to our human nature, God has promised that the more we give, the more joy and satisfaction we will receive.

Unfortunately, I am oftentimes not good at recognizing when God is gently trying to get my attention. I’m not very good at picking up quiet, subtle hints. Since it is easier to see the faults of others easier than to see our own, God sometimes uses that to get my attention. Instead of being critical of the failures of other people, we need to use each situation to evaluate ourselves and make sure our responses reflect what God wants from us. No matter how good or self-disciplined we are, we all need God and his Spirit to open our eyes to our needs and of those around us.

The Pharisees blew it.

 

These men devoted their whole lives to trying to be holy and perfect before God by following all the rules of the Law. Jesus made it very clear they all failed miserably because they were trying to succeed on their own strength. We need fellowship with others to help us see areas we need to grow in. Only when we are ready to put aside our pride and ask for help/grace from God and other people will our efforts be fruitful and directed where they should be. Pride is a major stumbling block as we want to do things for and by ourselves.

Growing to be whom God wants us to be can be confusing and difficult. There are times it seems overwhelming because it seems like there are so many things we “should” do, and so many areas of our lives to grow in. With advice coming from many directions, it can be confusing as to what God wants us to do. At these times, I turn to one of my favorite verses about what God wants from me.

Micah 6:8 says
No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you; to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” God also will give us the strength to do these things by the power of his Spirit.

2 Peter 1:3 says
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a Godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.

God will give us everything we need to walk with Him – if we let Him. Whenever you need encouragement, look to God’s word and let his love show you that you are valuable and that he will be with you through every situation. Cooperate with what He’s trying to do in you, and you will grow.
 
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Capture Every Thought

Can you imagine if every one of our thoughts was on display for everyone around us to view as we were thinking it real time?
That’s a pretty scary thought.
 
Over the past year I have learned a lot about anxiety and fear.
It never occurred to me until a wise, Christ-following friend pointed out
that it all starts with a thought.
 
My response to that revelation was,
“But the thoughts just keep coming and the first place my mind goes is to the worst case scenario or most severe outcome.”
 
 
I thank God for using this friend to speak His wisdom to me… because their next response was Spirit-led and inspired.
They brought me to the scripture in 2 Corinthians 10:5:
 

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

 
Then they shared something I could really relate to about capturing the thoughts that cause anxiety or fear. Here was the advice:
 

Take the thought that comes into your head, think of taking a lasso and capture the thought – then throw it out of your head.

Then, think of Jesus.

 

This concept hit home with me and has really helped me get control of thoughts that can lead to stress, anxiety and fear.

 

You may not struggle with thoughts that cause anxiety, stress, or fear. Maybe you struggle with thoughts leading to depression, lust, pride or a variety of other battles. No matter what the thoughts are that come into our head, we can remain victorious if we make an effort to take the thought captive and focus (fix our eyes) on Jesus.

 
This is the key my friends – keeping Jesus at the center of every thought we have and asking him to help us take it captive.
He will help us overcome!
 
With every breath, with every thought, we need Jesus to meet us.
 Be encouraged by “Here Again”
 

Author:

 


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A Simple Powerful Truth

I have known the first stanza and refrain for the song “Jesus Loves Me” for many years even before becoming a Christian, but I never knew until recently that it had six stanzas. Before I share these powerful lyrics, I’ll share with you how I discovered this fact.

While participating in a Bible Exploration Group study – including people from different faiths and no faith – it became apparent the discussion was way too focused on divisive topics (some that have notoriously divided churches). Some of these topics certainly didn’t help people from other faiths (or no faith) to understand the purpose of the Bible – that God loves people! So, I sometimes made it a point to help end the meetings with the simple statement and gentle rebuke: Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.
 

Anticipating questions from this, I reviewed scripture that validates this truth and did a little research. Here is one of the things I discovered…

 

The song “Jesus Loves Me” was written in 1860 by Anna B. Warner and in 1862, William B. Bradbury composed the music and added the refrain. The following are the rich lyrics and refrain to the song:

Jesus loves me! This I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak, but He is strong

Jesus loves me! This I know
As He loved so long ago
Taking children on His knee
Saying, ‘Let them come to Me”

Jesus loves me still today
Walking with me on my way
Wanting as a friend to give
Light and love to all who live

Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide
He will wash away my sin
Let His little child come in

Jesus loves me! He will stay
Close beside me all the way
Thou hast bled and died for me
I will henceforth live for Thee

Jesus loves me! Loves me still
Though I’m very weak and ill
That I might from sin be free
Bled and died upon the tree

Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

The lyrics represent the simple and powerful message of God’s word

and purpose of the Bible.

 
Do you ever think you may not be prepared?
Do you sometimes feel like you’re just not capable to share your faith or explain it?
 
Keep it simple with this message: Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.
 
Author:
Elder at Faith Assembly

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The Challenge of Self-Control

Self-Control… those words roll of the tongue so easily, but are so much harder to live out.

I would like to look at this fruit of the Spirit through spiritual eyes, as opposed to the eyes of the world. Bible Gateway discusses self-control as being one of the basic Christian virtues, the mastery of self, and the exercise of restraint. Only through submitting our will to the work of the Holy Spirit can we expect to have self-control.

Self-control is a fruit that needs work on a daily basis. Just look at scripture and witness the choices people made in a moment of temptation. We can see some practiced self-control – and some did not. There are many places we can find the good, bad and ugly regarding self-control in the scriptures.
 
 
Here are just a few examples:
 

Genesis 3
Hello Adam and Eve. What if Eve would have practiced self-control, remembered God’s care and command, and simply said no? What if Adam would have stepped up as the leader God created him to be, said yes to self-control, said no to passivity, and no to temptation? Remember, Satan knew the right words to entice them to commit the first sin.

Genesis 39
Joseph is a slave in Egypt. At one point, the lady of the house tries to seduce Joseph, but he literally runs from her. Joseph made the right choice and used self-control. He resisted temptation, fled from certain death and as a result, fulfilled the destiny God had planned for him.

Proverbs 25:28
“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left with no walls. No walls means no defense, no safety and in time, certain destruction. When we talk of right and wrong on a spiritual level, we are talking about sinning or not sinning. So, when we decide on right or wrong in the sight of the Lord, we are choosing good or evil. And let us not forget – God hates evil – that is what sent His Son to the cross.

Galatians 5:19-23
There are 15 works of the flesh and 9 fruits of the Spirit all noted here. This shows Christ-followers this: we have to work twice as hard on the fruits of the Spirit to overcome the flesh. Our enemy knows the works of the flesh we deal with on a daily basis! Don’t be surprised – he will do anything he can to get our eyes off of Jesus and on to ourselves, tempt us to give in to what satisfies the flesh in an attempt to lead us away from Christ. So, know your stumbling blocks, and when the evil one comes to tempt you, use that fruit of the spirit – self-control.

Here’s the good news: God is always at our side to help us when we call.

 
We must call out to Jesus for help… every day. He has told us that no temptation is new, but is common to all. He has promised He will always provide a way of escape. Our job is to lean on the power of the Holy Spirit, look for the way of escape, and use self-control to take the right path. Lean into Him today, and let Him help you grow in self-control in every way.
 
Author: Ken Drew

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Defensiveness and Denial – The Two Issues of Cain – Part 2

The last time we visited the story of Cain, we looked at his issues with denial – and his refusal to acknowledge responsibility in his relationship with his brother. Today, let’s examine how denial played an even larger role in his relationship with God in Genesis 4:1 – 24.

The story opens with a brief introduction of the main characters – Cain and Abel – the two sons of Adam and Eve. When the boys become men, it’s time for them to take responsibility for their own relationships with God.

In time, they both offer sacrifices to God in worship from the fruit of their own labors. The next thing we know, God has accepted Abel’s offering of animal sacrifice but rejected Cain’s offering of grain. Cain responds to the rejection with anger and despondency. Later, he lures his brother out into a field to talk about it. In a moment of rage he strikes him, killing him.

I used to struggle just a bit with a small sense of injustice for Cain’s sake. How was he supposed to know God didn’t want an offering of vegetables? After all, God instituted a grain offering years later through Moses (Leviticus 2:1 – 15). Besides, this came from him and what he was good at doing. It kind of feels like the parent who doesn’t accept a small child’s art project because it wasn’t good enough.

Thing is, Cain knew exactly what he was doing. He was worshiping God on his own terms without care or concern for how God would feel about it. That’s not a healthy relationship. Let me explain…

 

The expulsion from Eden would have been far more devastating for his parents than we might think. The exclamation point of watching two animals get slaughtered to cover the nakedness of their lives after sin might have been far more personal than we realize… they weren’t likely just farm animals.

God’s covenantal relationship with them was established and sealed with blood, and Cain would have known the story all too well. For Cain, worshiping God on his own terms carries at least some similar characteristics to his parent’s sin. Cain wanted to be in control of the terms of the relationship rather than submitted to the expectations of someone else (God) like his brother, Abel.

Taking control places him beside God, which is similar to the enemy’s sin as well.

Even then, in a moment of mercy, God beckons Cain to see where he is, and to reach out in trust to Him when He says, “7If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7 NIV)

Denial keeps us from recognizing where we truly are by keeping us focused on only ourselves… our rights… our own version of justice or fairness. It keeps us from hearing the heart of someone else and finding the path to wholeness. Whenever that happens, both people are robbed of life. Often times, those effects play out in the lives of others in the vicinity.

 

Take a moment and ask yourself if you’re trying to be in control.

It may help you realize whether you’re in denial in your relationship with God and/or someone else in your life.

God was indeed reaching back to Cain. If only he had noticed God’s compassion before he crossed a line that stole Abel’s life… a theft that affected his parents, himself and all the members of the family he was about to have.

God is indeed reaching to you. Reach back to Him and let Him walk with you to restoration.
 
Author:
Faith Assembly

 


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Choose Joy – Use the HAPPY Method

Have you ever heard of SAD Syndrome? I hadn’t until about a year ago. SAD is an acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s is a type of depression related to changes in seasons — it begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue throughout the winter, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. I can see how this has an impact on a person and have even experienced it myself at some point. After it’s been cloudy, rainy, snowy, or cold, all you want is a day to enjoy the sunshine and just be outside. It can start to wear on your emotions and thought-life which can – in turn – cause anxiety, depression and even fear.

At this point in the year, everyone is longing for some warmth and spring-like weather. Something to help us feel alive again and feel happy.

 

Let’s take a quick look at Paul’s life and the situations he faced. Paul was thrown in jail, beaten several times, stoned, robbed, shipwrecked several times, and even faced death – just to name just a few! When we look at a brief snapshot of Paul’s life, we see that no one is immune to pain or trial. It seems to come in waves and in varying degrees throughout our life. But here’s the point: Paul lived a life of gratitude, which in turn allowed him to live a life where he chose joy instead of despair.

In Philippians 3:8 Paul wrote, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…”

 

Paul saw the bigger picture of what his sufferings in life were all about. It was a mindset and a way of thinking he chose to embrace. He realized that the world’s kind of happiness tended to be based on fleeting circumstances, but God’s kind of joy is never dependent on if we are going through trials and sufferings… or not.

 
Rather, Jesus offers life-giving contentment and peace no matter what we are facing. So instead of allowing outside circumstances to control you, follow Paul’s example and chose an attitude of joy that can only come from God. This is the deep kind of joy that circumstantial, temporary happiness can’t provide.

 

We have so much to be happy about in life. Our family, our health, our friends and the list goes on with a multitude of blessings every day. However, if you still struggle to be happy about life, then choose to be joyful about Jesus love for you – so much love he gave his life for you on the cross. He did this so you might have life – and life more abundantly. Once we embrace this and turn our thoughts to Jesus, our circumstances may not change, but our mind will as we begin to see them in the light of Jesus and through his eyes.
 

As we finish out this winter season, I would like to encourage us to focus on embracing joy and choosing happiness in our thinking. Here is a little acronym to use for HAPPY when you are struggling:

H – Help others (there is great joy in helping others)
A – Adjust your thought-life to Jesus’ life and his example
P – Pause and reflect on all your blessings
P – Pray
Y – Yearn for Jesus

Let this Happy Song encourage you and help you remember why we can choose joy every day.
 


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Defensiveness and Denial – The Two Issues of Cain

You can find the story of Cain and Abel, the first two sons of Adam and Eve, in Genesis 4:1 – 24. This is the story of the first sacrificial offering given to God after their parents left the Garden of Eden. It’s made famous by Cain’s dodging question to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Strangely, it seems Cain’s question makes its way into every generation, even among those who have no idea where it came from.
 
But, for those who are familiar with this story it tends to present two issues that most of us struggle with.
The most obvious issue is defensive denial.
 

 

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)

God asks Cain where his brother is, and this is his defensive answer. Cain had just killed his brother in a fit of rage and jealousy after God accepted Abel’s (his brother’s) offering of animal sacrifice but rejected Cain’s grain offering. It’s a classic case of denial – a skill he learned from his parents. They did the same thing when they were confronted by God after choosing to disobey Him, elevating their own desires above God’s or anyone else’s.
It’s interesting that when his parents shifted the blame, they made someone else responsible for their actions. Not Cain. Cain wanted no responsibility at all. If he had fully copied his parent’s logic, he should have at least behaved the same way they did by pointing to some other person nearby. Nope. He swatted away blame like an annoying fly, and didn’t even care if it found a landing place… but, the fly always come back to land.
 
God simply wasn’t buying it. Cain was justly called out, properly given consequences and graciously spared. The issue of Cain’s question wasn’t really identifying his responsibility for his brother as most sermons and teachings go with this story. It has a great deal more to do with his stark disregard – or callous indifference – toward anyone but himself, even someone that was family.

Most all of us have seen that before. Typically, we recognize the look of that in someone else and at the same time linger in denial of its presence in our own lives.

 
In January, our church takes time to focus on prayer while hearing what the Word says about Self-Control. We’re directing all messages for the month to our adults, children and teens onto the same theme to move our church families at the same pace toward the same conviction. We’re defining Self-Control as “Choosing to do what you should even when you don’t want to.” The memory verse for the month is 1 Peter 1:3a “God’s power has given us everything we need to lead a Godly life.”
 

Dealing with someone who turns away with Cain’s indifference can hurt beyond description. Be careful not to return the favor. It will only hurt you further. Cry out to God with your hurt. Call a trusted pastor, friend or counselor who will help you to find God’s healing.

On the other hand, dealing with lingering denial requires a blatant honesty, and that only comes by great effort to control self-protective tendencies. There’s really only one solution to this. Turn toward both the One who is confronting (ultimately) and the only One who is big enough to help you beyond yourself. Essentially, that’s choosing to do what you should even when you don’t want to.

 
If Cain would have turned to God rather than putting up a wall of denial, then the rest of his story would have been different. We can be confident in that because even in his denial, God didn’t take his punishment as far as He could have.
 
One thing I have learned about God… He’d far rather deal with us where we really are than where we pretend to be.
Take courage from these words in 1 Peter 1:3a “God’s power has given us everything we need to lead a Godly life.”

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Embracing Humility

On Wednesday evenings, Pastor Jon has been taking us thru the book of Philippians. I would like to take a moment and concentrate on Philippians 2:1-11.  In these verses, we are encouraged to imitate Christ’s humility.
 
Let’s first look at the definition of humility:
A modest or low view of one’s own importance, humbleness. Some synonyms for humility are lowliness, meekness, submissiveness.
 
In verses 2- 5, Paul gives us insight into how to take on some of these positive traits as we interact with one another.
– Be like minded
– Have the same love
– Being one in the spirit and of one mind
– Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit
– Not looking to your own interests but to others
 
End of verse 3: “…rather in humility value others above yourself.”
 
Verse 5: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” So if we have the mindset of Jesus, we serve with a humble attitude.
 
Verses 6-11: ”Jesus, even though He was the Son of God did not use that to his advantage.” He took on a servant attitude as a human.
 
As you read on, verse 8 talks about how Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even the cross.
 
It becomes very clear in these verses that to imitate Christ, we must humble ourselves to our brothers and sisters in Christ and this world – just like Jesus did.
 
Finally in verse 9, God exalts Jesus to the highest place and gives him the name above all names. He states that every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
 
Living by Jesus example and imitating Him every day is what God is calling us to do as His children.
 
His call on our lives?
-To love our brothers and sisters in Christ,
-In unity, to cleave to the same mindset as Jesus
-To embrace being of one spirit,
-To put ourselves aside for the wellbeing of others
 
Sound familiar?
James 4:10 says: “Humble yourself before the Lord and he will lift you up.”
Author: Ken Drew
 

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Doing Your Part to Seek God First

God says in Matthew 6:25-26, Therefore I tell you do not worry about your life – look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
 

 The Blind. AKA: The Palace

I recently spent several hours on a cold wintery day with my oldest grandson in a deer blind we call the palace. It’s called the palace because this blind is larger than the first one we constructed that we call the hut. It has real windows, carpeted floor (for quietness of course), aluminum siding (to keep squirrels from chewing through the wood), and great views on all sides of God’s majestic creation.
 
On this day it was slow so far as deer sightings were going, but we did observe blue birds grouped up for the winter and several white breasted nuthatches just a few feet from us in an old hedge tree. My grandson wanted to know what they were doing, since food sources seemed to be long gone as was the warmer weather. This became a teaching moment about preparation. As the squirrels bury nuts for food in the winter, so too do nuthatches hide food in the bark of trees for the winter – this is called “salting a tree” and the birds were feeding from their work months before.
 
While God feeds the birds (as scripture says), the nuthatches still have a role to play to gather and salt the trees for winter food. I’m pretty sure they don’t worry about gathering and salting; they just inherently do what God placed in them to fulfill His design. If this is the case for nuthatches, why do we make fulfillment of God’s design for us so challenging? Oh golly, if it were that easy!
 

 Doing Your Part to Seek God First

God tells us in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto to you. Therefore do not worry…”

Maybe fulfillment of God’s design for us is challenging because we aren’t seeking first His Kingdom. Maybe we aren’t “seeking first” because we are worrying about the tanking stock market, world news that seems to never be positive, or simply not having enough time to check everything off our to-do lists. God knows what it is in each of our cases, and He cares! This is why He tells us to seek Him and His design for our lives because He knows best.

 
Psalm 16:11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Speaking from experience, this takes some of us a long time to understand and longer to apply.

God will do His part, yet we still have to do ours.

 
Are you trusting? Are you doing your part to “seek first” the kingdom of God?
 
If you really pursue God, He will show Himself to you, and all these things will be added unto you.

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New Year, New You

Do you ever feel like you are not enough?

 
Like you may be in a position at work (or church) and you just don’t feel you are “Christian” enough. Maybe you find yourself at the crossroads of life and have a life changing decision to make. Your first thought may be “What if I make the wrong choice?” The next thought might be, “God, I’m not good enough, strong enough or wise enough to do what is before me.”
 
Let me start out by saying that you aren’t alone in feeling this way. I personally have this feeling often, and it’s been a recurring theme throughout my Christian walk. I also know that other Christians – yes, even pastors, elders, deacons, board members and worship team members – also struggle with this feeling as well. No one is immune to self-doubt.
 
Let’s be honest about this feeling of inadequacy. It stinks and can make us feel worthless.
Here’s the truth about this feeling: it’s a lie the devil wants us to buy into. Decide and make this declaration right now with God: “God, it’s a new year and I want to be a new me.”

No matter how much the world around you tries to beat you down or tell you that you are not good enough, it’s never enough to overshadow this fact – you are a new creation and a child of the One True God.

 
When God sent his son Jesus to live among us and then die on the cross, we were given the ultimate gift. Through this gift, we have a personal relationship with a God who will give us the power to rise above the lies of the world and find strength and confidence to accomplish what he lays before us each day.

As we are now into the New Year, be encouraged! This is a new year and you are a new you.

 
Fortunately for us, the grace, love and mercy of God allows us to be a new person each and every day. Just like the following song says: Your grace so free, washes over me. You have made me new now life begins with you.
 
This couldn’t be any truer about our lives when we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
 
Author: Ryan Bivins
 


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New Year’s Resolutions Worth keeping

I can hear the audible sigh already. New year resolutions – why bother?
 
Here’s the thing… often we trip over them because of our internal baggage. We start out with good intentions, only to end up in self-sabotage.
• We want to be gentler on ourselves, but continue with negative self-talk
We want to start (fill in the blank), but have no plan • We want to change a behavior, but don’t deal with underlying, contributing emotional issues • We want to get out of debt, but don’t really want to do what it takes • We want to take steps towards a goal or a dream, but allow fear to hold us back
 

What if we made our internal lives a priority this year? What if we focused on what we can do to build our character and energize our spirits instead of yearly external resolutions? A rich internal life makes us a better, more mature person. After all, everything trickles down from our inner lives anyway. This is why God makes the “heart” a priority – for all attitudes, behavior and external issues begin there.

To help you jumpstart, consider these four resolution ideas that will help build your inner life – resolutions that may be worth keeping.

1. GROW YOUR ROOTS

We can’t pour from an empty cup, so we need to pay special attention to soul care. Soul care is neither selfish nor complicated, and it’s absolutely essential to our spiritual lives. Remember, if we’re not learning we’re not growing. We must be intentional about building in regular time to commune with the Lord alone.

Colossians 2:6-10 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

There are many ways to grow your spiritual roots, in pursuit of loving and honoring Jesus while becoming mature in the Lord. Consider adopting this one practice – it could change your life:

Embrace Solitude This is very hard from some people, but a necessary part of growing deep roots. Get alone with God and just BE. Rest in His presence. Meditate on a small portion – even just one verse of scripture – and quiet your spirit. Be still. Be silent. Listen. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak and minister to you. Give Jesus your anxious thoughts. Even if you have a bunch of kids (or grands), find time even if it’s 15 minutes a day. Your spirit will be renewed and your roots will grow deeper. This is not about doing – it’s about abiding in His presence.

2. PURSUE MEANINGFUL CONVERSATION

There are so many talking heads out there competing for our attention – so many opinions and so much noise. Our society seems to have gone off the deep end, reinforcing a general lack of respect for one another, common sense restraint and selfishness. This kind of rhetoric only fosters more division and suffering. Generalized statements tend to throw shame and blame around, solving nothing.
 

When was the last time you had a truly respectful, meaningful dialogue with someone? How about your spouse?

Can you do it even if you don’t agree on all points?

This year, we can purpose to really listen without agenda or bias. Seek to understand first. Ask questions and resist going on the defense. Respectful dialogue fosters mutual respect, clarity and reconciliation. As Christians, we need to be the example in this area. Otherwise, how will others know we are different?

James 1:19, 20 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

James 3:2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

3. PRACTICE KINDNESS

Because of God’s gift of kindness to us, we can be free of the bondage of sin and death. Because of His kindness, we can be adopted into His family. One of the fruits of the Spirit is kindness (Galatians 5:22), and practicing this fruit is proof of a transformed life.

Ephesians 1:7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.
 

What are some ways this year you can practice kindness? How can you show kindness to not only those you love, but those you struggle with? How can you practice kindness with yourself?

James 3:13, 17 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom… the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.

2 Corinthians 6:6 We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love.

4. START ONE NEW THING

We get busy with our routines, families, service, work and so much more. Often we forget to replenish ourselves and do things that energize us personally. No one can do this for you – only you can make the choice to recharge.

What brings you joy? What energizes your spirit? It could be breathing in the peaceful air of a woodland hike. Perhaps it’s heading to an art gallery or botanical gardens to breathe in beauty. It could be creating something with your hands. Maybe it’s growing in your craft, journaling in the park or simply making a standing coffee date with someone that makes you laugh.

Figure out one good thing that energizes you and schedule it into your life. Don’t feel guilty about doing it either! Everyone needs a recharge and when that happens on a regular basis, everyone benefits.

So, which resolutions will we make a priority this year? If we build our inner lives, it will grow us and impact the world around us in deeper ways. With God’s help, we can focus on what matters in this new year.
 

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Saturated and Full of God

One Sunday in November, Pastor Mike Gates and his wife (Living Hope Church, Elk Grove Village, IL) ministered to us while Pastor Jon and his family took some time off. During his message, he mentioned their church went through an in-depth study on being saturated by God, their ministries and church.
 
I tried to wrap my head around that idea. How does one be saturated by God? I looked up the definition of saturation and it said “to fill (something or someone) with something until no more can be held or absorbed”.
 
I remembered a message Pastor Jon shared with our church family using a sponge as his example. The sponge represented man. As the sponge absorbs water, it’s like man absorbing God. The result of man absorbing God is ‘saturation’ or the filling of our lives with the Lord’s presence and His ways. After thinking about this further, I concluded there are several areas of life we may need examine.
 

Our lives need to show those around us how the Lord is working in us – of course – but the real question is this: what does our heart really look like? Does it also shows the Lord’s work in it? Pretty important question since the heart is what the Lord looks at to determine where we are with Him. God works from the inside out.

 
How can we truly saturate ourselves with God?
We must actively give the Holy Spirit permission to reveal God to us – His glory, His path and all of His awesomeness.
When this happens, we start to absorb all the Lord has for us.
 

Ephesians 3:19 says: To know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge the you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. 

Acts 7:55 tells us: But being filled with the Holy Spirit he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
 

The bottom line for me is this: to know God to the fullest, serving Him completely requires we allow the Holy Spirit absolute control of every part of our life. By doing this, the natural outcome is to be saturated (or filled up) with God.

 
Let this song encourage you to pursue the fullness of God, allowing the Holy Spirit to consume us from the inside out.
 

Author:
Ken Drew, Elder

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