Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
 
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
 
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Matthew 11: 28-30
 
 
 
 

Lessons We Learn From Our Children

As parents we often think about all the responsibility and important life lessons we are called on by God to teach our children. While here on this earth, He has given us these wonderful blessings to teach, nurture and care for. 

All too often we get caught up in what we can teach them throughout the day, when sometimes we need to sit back and observe the things they are teaching us daily. Here are a few things I’ve observed lately, and maybe you have too: 

Childlike Faith

When you look at the life of a child, you see the unwavering faith they have in their parents. They know their parents will pick them up from school without even thinking twice. They know they are going to be caught at the end of the slide while playing at the playground. If we could only have this type of faith in our relationship with our heavenly Father…how much better would we live life unafraid! 

Matthew 18:2-3

Jesus called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

Worry Less

We tend to worry about something on a daily basis…

  • What will we have for dinner?
  • How am I going to pay that bill?
  • What if the load of laundry with our kid’s baseball jersey won’t be done in time for their game tonight?
  • What will that other mom think of my child’s lunch I packed while walking out the door?
All of us have stuff stress out about. While our children are young, they may not have those types of stresses in their lives, but they do remind us to stop worrying so much about the small things in life. They live life day to day without thinking about things that don’t matter.
 
While kids can rest in the care of their parents, so can we rest in the care of our heavenly Father. That issue that’s restlessly plaguing your mind? He already knows all about it, and desires for you to let Him handle it in His way and His time.
 
Philippians 4:6
Don’t worry about anything, instead, pray about everything.
 

 

Enjoying the Simple Things

When very young kids open presents, often times they end up playing more with the box than the actual toy itself. They enjoy the simple things in life: playing peek-a-boo, picking flowers outside, walking to the park, throwing a baseball. It does not take trips to Disney or shopping sprees to please them. All it takes is spending time with them to enjoy life to its fullest.  If we could only realize that life does not exist around things and more around relationships… the simple things in life, how much more would we enjoy life and not always be needing (or wanting) the next best thing.
 
Focus on what matters and practice gratefulness in the simple things every day. We are God’s children and He has given us so many simple things- and relationships- to delight in. 
 
Proverbs 15:16
Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.
 
 
Author:
Children’s Ministry Lead at Faith Assembly

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To My Children – A Mis Hijos

God gave my wife Marguerite, and I six wonderful sons. Now we also have 4 wonderful daughters-in-law. I’ve worked to be a good and godly father, so in that light I’ve endeavored to leave my sons a legacy of instruction in truth. I want to pass on a world view of truth- one that will help them live life as magnificent and abundant as the Creator intended.

Just as God has arranged for his children through His Word and Abraham passed on instruction to Israel in Deuteronomy, so should we pass on God’s instruction to our children- God’s truth- as opposed to the world’s view of how to live. 

I like to use the K.I.S.S. method—Keep it Short and Simple. The following are two main instructions in truth that I feel are important for my boys to know, embrace and live out. 

1. KNOW GOD
The first indispensable instruction I can give is to truly know God. The original languages of the Bible are mainly Hebrew and Greek. In both, the word translated “know” means far more than information and facts. The Word includes the ideas of intimacy and authentic experience. The Hebrew word “know”, or “yada” means far more than intellectual information. It involves intimate experience and relationship.

It was sometimes compared to the intimate relations experienced by a husband and wife. For example, Genesis 4 speaks of Adam and Eve, our first parents and says…

GENESIS 4:1 And Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have gotten a man from the Lord.” KJV

Another example of this definition is Mary’s response to the angel who tells she will be having a baby.

Luke 1:34 Then said Mary unto the angel, “How shall this be, seeing I KNOW not a man?” KJV

I say to you- and my sons- the most essential and important thing in life is that you know God. That means you have encountered him by way of intimate experience and continue to have an intimate relationship with Him.

2. LOVE GOD
The second indispensable instruction I can give is to truly love God. The simple and absolute truth is this: Scriptures teach that knowing God and loving God is really a matter of obeying Him.
 
John 8:31 So Jesus said to the Jews who believed in him, “If you continue to obey my teaching, you are truly my followers.” NCV
 
Col 1:23 But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it. NLT
 
Passionate pursuit. Encountering God. Intentional and intimately knowing and loving Him. All of this fleshes out by obedience to His will and way for you. Nothing is more important in this life. Pass these truths on to your children and your children’s children. Write it on your hearts and discuss it in your homes. Leave a Godly legacy.
 
Author:
Pastor Liandro Arellano

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Listen Up!

 
Have you ever been talking with someone and you suddenly realize you have no idea what the person is saying? Not because they aren’t making sense, but because your mind is far away thinking about what matters to you. This has been me on too many occasions, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve experienced it as well. Let’s talk about the importance of being a good listener. Yes, there is a difference between listening and hearing!
 

I have always been told that communication takes two people: one person to send a message- verbal or nonverbal- and one person to receive the message. Of course, message sent doesn’t always mean message received. Good communication requires the message receiver to actually acknowledge the message was received.

In general, our society is filled with people engrossed with pleasing only themselves. When we participate in this behavior, our focus is off of others and solely on ourselves.

 
I can tell you from personal experience that when this happens, I suddenly find myself with more anxiety, more stress and more self-pity. When I finally wake up, listen to God and start serving others, my perspective about my situation changes. Serving others as Christ did is a whole other topic, but let’s face it, taking time to listen to each other is a vital part of serving one another.

Most people in life just want to be heard. I witness it in my job every day. Someone else’s problem may seem small to us, but to them it could be a major crisis or devastatingly life changing.

The Bible tells us in James 1:19:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…

 

Did you notice what James points out first? Be quick to listen. I am so quick to think of what to say next- or have a response prepared- before I’ve even completely processed what someone else is actually saying. That makes it all about me.

Making it about them requires more than merely hearing, but actively listening.

I encourage you- along with myself- to take the time to really listen to others. You never know how you may impact someone’s life just by taking the time required to truly listen to them. The next time you find yourself working to actively listen to someone, remember these three things:

1. Actively listening prepares us to speak well.
2. Actively listening is an act of love.
3. Actively listening reflects your relationship with Christ.
 
Author: 

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Stand for the Truth

Pastor Jon’s sermon last week on honesty really convicted me, as well as the many people kneeling before the Lord at the altar.
Every day, it seems we have opportunities to make big and not-so-big choices. But are there really “not so big” choices?
 
Sure, in our way of thinking a choice to not be truthful (more appropriately called a lie) is much worse and more condemning when compared to exaggerating how many or how big the fish really were… or embellishing a real achievement to make ourselves look just a little bit better.
 
But according to God’s way of thinking, a lie is a lie- pretty cut and dried.
 

As we learned, every time we exaggerate or embellish the facts, it gets a little easier to do it the next time. We stretch it just a little further each time we embellish. Eventually, this is who we become and reflects our way of interacting on everything- from what we say and how we act to what we get in the habit of doing.

Some of my friends and I- way back from high school- still talk about a person we knew who always “climbed a little higher” or “ran a little faster” than we all knew to be true. It is sad to see how these seemingly insignificant embellishments (over several decades) now have affected his employment, marriage(s), reputation and walk with the Lord.

As for me, I can easily be tempted to wear the Admiral’s star or the sheriff’s badge. Meaning this:  when I use inappropriate leverage to get more help, drum up additional resources or win additional funding for a new project. This can often include an embellishment (a.k.a. an outright lie) regardless of whether or not it’s a “not so big” exaggeration.

Consider this example. Do you recall growing up and saying to your siblings, “mom said you are supposed to go do this” when really she told you to do it. This is where it starts, little by little. Before you know it, it turns into exaggerating a project requirement at work to be competitive since you know others are doing it. Yikes! It’s an all-too-easy, slippery slope that so often we don’t even realize is happening.

The Bible has a lot to say about truth-tellers (those that don’t exaggerate, embellish, pretend, tell outright lies), as well as how God feels about those that practice deceit.
 
One of my favorites though, is what Jesus says in the gospel of John verses 31-32: “To the Jews that believed Him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free’.”
 
Bottom line? Run from falsehood whenever temptation strikes.
Run towards Jesus and His revelation of Truth in every part of your life.
Be a truth-teller and be set free.
 
Author:
Randy Ortgeisen, Elder at Faith Assembly

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Honesty Is the Only Policy

 
As a student at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, one thing other students always would try to argue and prove in class is that there are times when it is not wrong or immoral to lie. They would try to find a situation in which I would find it expedient, advantageous or necessary to lie.

This is the point they missed: I am not the standard or authority

that makes lying or dishonesty immoral.

It’s an absolute in natural law and from God.

 
If I lie to save or protect myself, my wife, or even my sons; it’s still a lie and it’s still wrong. I must repent, confess and seek God’s forgiveness.
My fellow students were sure I would find lying acceptable if I was the one “sinning”. But God sees, and eventually the truth comes to light.

No, honesty is not the best policy- a.k.a. the best choice among other equally good options-

honesty is the only policy.

 
One reason the message of honesty is so important is because people (individuals) and groups (i.e. a culture or nation) are on the path to self-destruction when it has contempt for truth. Our nation has contempt for truth. Honesty has lost its value in our world.
So where are we headed as people? As a nation?
 
“Thou shalt not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16) is not a suggestion or a negotiation according to God.
It’s a commandment applying not only when we are in court, but honesty in general… in all of life.
With Him, with yourself and with others- God wants honesty always.

Honesty is more than not telling lies and more than saying something false. Honesty is speaking that which conforms to truth and reality. It is living in integrity and Godly character; which includes moral rightness, truthfulness, trustworthiness and to be free of deceit.

 
The Bible does not teach that “honesty is the best policy”  like Ben Franklin liked to think.
The Bible teaches that honesty is the only policy.
 
May the Truth reside in your heart, mind and in deed- always- for the glory of God.
 
Author:
Pastor Liandro Arellano
 

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When Was Your Last Spiritual Check-up?

My wife Cindy and I just recently had our doctor appointments. We both had good reports- hers better than mine. This caused me to think of other check-ups we might experience, either because they are required or we choose to have them. We may have a performance review at work, do a yearly financial review, go to the dentist (don’t like that one) and many others.
 
So, what about a spiritual check-up? Have you thought about your spiritual health lately?
 
Between research and some of my own thoughts, I came up with questions I asked myself as a part of my own spiritual checkup.
Why the checkup? To make sure I’m growing as a Christ-follower. The key word here is growing.
 
Honestly, some of these questions convicted me because they forced me to be honest with myself. But if we want to grow more in His love and grace, I think we must ask ourselves these questions. I’d encourage you to think about these as well, plus a few that are unique to you.
 
• Do I love God with all my heart, soul, and mind?
• How is my alone time with Him: bible reading, prayer life?
• How am I serving God: volunteering at church, welcoming visitors at church, providing assistants to those in need?
• Is it my desire to give sacrificially to the church family?
• Do I live humbly before ALL men?
• Is grace growing in my life?
• Do I love my neighbor?
• How do I measure-up according to scripture, when expressing love to my family?
• Am I forgiving others that have wronged me?
• Do I fellowship with other believers?
• Is my life a witness of God’s hand working in it?
• Am I helping the poor and needy?
Matthew 22:37-40 says
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it; love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.
 
These are the questions I asked myself. I’d encourage you to do the same and be honest about it… the Lord knows anyway… do you? So often it’s easier to fool ourselves into thinking we’re growing when we’re really just barely maintaining or standing still.
 
In the end, the important thing is to take time to do a spiritual check-up on a regular basis. I believe this is what God is looking for from us.
Take an honest look- how is your spiritual health these days?

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4 Things to Remember When You’re On the Edge

Have you ever been in a place in your life where you feel like one more major event, circumstance or let-down and you could completely fall apart?
You are on the edge: you hold it together and keep calm or you are about to have a melt down?
Doesn’t it feel like the expectations we have to live up to are just too exhausting?
 

I can honestly tell you this: you are not alone. Over the past two years, I have had some major events in my life that have not only tested my emotions and thoughts, but also tested everything I believe in and the will to keep pushing through those events. By the grace of God and a great support system, I have come out of all of those circumstances a much stronger person… or so I thought.

Every now and then, a little something from each of those events creeps back into my life and thoughts. I feel the weight of things that happened in the past all over again. I feel the wounds they have left behind- in my mind and the inner most parts of my being.

It is usually then that I find myself right on the edge of keeping it all together…

I feel like I’m about to have a good old fashion freak-out moment.

 
Sometimes those freak-out moments may feel like anger, other times it is simply crying out… from the pain of what I have seen and those close to me who are hurting. But, I’m here to tell you, even though these cycle of emotions come and go, there is hope!
 
What has helped me “get off” the edge when I’m feeling overwhelmed with emotions from the past? Here’s the short list:
 

1. Normal – The definition of “normal” is up for interpretation. What I have learned is that my feelings and my reactions are absolutely normal. I am not weird for feeling upset or wanting to cry about past traumatic events. Neither are you.

2. Time – they say time heals all wounds. Not really. It may be a nice cliché, but in real life it takes intentional work to heal through the pain. This is what heals the wounds and grows us. If the pain isn’t dealt with and merely buried in “time” (denial), it will one day rip that scab off with the same intensity as it did 30 years ago. Scars will always be there, but I know with the Lord working in me as I do the work of healing and the buffer of time- this allows us to become stronger. One step at a time. One day at a time. It must be a conscious choice we make every day.

3. A Support System – they say that you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family. If you’re not close with your family, you must still have a support system in place. Usually our parents have gone through something in the course of their lives. They can offer advice or just be there to listen. Be wise about this- choose people who are safe, honest and have your best interest at heart.

4. God – they say to just lean on God in the hard times. It’s so easy to say, harder to do. What I have learned is this: God deeply cares for me and feels the overwhelming emotions with me. When I question God on why bad things happen to good people, He doesn’t get mad at me. He tells me that evil things are not His plan- His plan is for our good. His plan is for all of us to live in eternity with him. But there is a darkness in this world and that darkness (our enemy- Satan) is the cause of those bad things happening to good people.

The bottom line?
When I am sometimes on the edge, God can work in my life if I allow him to. God wants what is best for us, and sometimes being on the edge is just where he wants us. No pain is wasted in the hands of our Savior. He desires to grow us through it. He wants us to reach out and grab his hand, so he can pull us into his loving arms.

 
Check out this song by Elevation Worship called “O Come to the Altar”.
When you feel like you’re on the edge, stop and listen. Jesus is calling and his arms are open wide.
 
Author: Ryan Bivins


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Patience- When You Think You Can’t Wait

In case you missed it, during the month of April we focused on the virtue of patience…everyone’s favorite subject. We even tend to make fun of ourselves having a lack of patience, and in moments of great frustration nearly everyone cries out to God.. “Lord give me patience!”
 

Ever notice how effective that is?

Situations of life that expose our lack of patience can be as varied as life itself. Just when we think we’ve learned to be patient with one thing, we’re taken by surprise with another… and right back to impatience.

Here’s one thing I’m grateful for: on the subject of Patience, the Bible is full of stories of situations as varied as life itself. It really helps to look at how other people deal – or don’t deal – with impatience so we can get a better grip on our own situations. Our Children’s Pastor and I often work together to bring the subjects we talk about into the forefront for the entire family. The hope is that if both parents and kids are working on it at the same time, then perhaps the entire family benefits more…grows more.

To review, we’ve given a very simple definition for Patience and a memory verse to make it easy and practical.

Patience is “Waiting until later for what you want now.”

And, the memory verse is, Psalm 27:14 
“Wait for the Lord. Be strong and don’t lose hope. Wait for the Lord.”
 

Here are some of the Biblical stories that we covered and the Bottom Line for each:

  • Hannah Prays for a Baby
    • Hannah prayed out of her deep anguish and found God’s Peace. Remember, God doesn’t grant Patience, but He does grant Peace.
      Found in 1 Samuel 1:9 – 2:1
      Bottom Line: When you think you can’t wait, tell God about it.
  • The Golden Calf:
    • They were blinded by their own sight. Remember, insecurity gropes for something physical-tangible, which can often result in a dismissal of God’s help in order to make room for your own frantic solution.
      Found in Exodus 32:1 – 35
      Bottom Line: When you think you can’t wait, don’t forget what’s true.
  • Esau’s Birthright:
    • Esau was consumed with the urgency of his own hunger. Remember, yielding to immediate and overwhelming desire nearly always leads to tragic loss.
      Found in Genesis 25:24 – 34
      Bottom Line: When you think you can’t wait, think twice.
  • Solomon’s Wise Words:
    • Arresting your immediate frustration gives you greater clarity of mind. Remember, long-term unresolved anger always becomes bitterness…unresolved bitterness often becomes despair and depression. Found in Proverbs 14:29 – 30 
“He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly. A tranquil heart is life to the body, but passion (unbridled emotion) is rottenness to the bones.”
 

Bottom Line: When you think you can’t wait, don’t lose your cool.

Take a few moments to read James 5:7 – 11. Being Patient = Self-Control: A strength you develop over time through adversity, which can only be done through practice.
 
Continued practice will strengthen your self-control.
 
If you pray for patience, God will grant opportunities to practice and grow in patience. If you pray for peace, God will grant you peace to settle your spirit so you can practice… you guessed it… patience.
 
Author:
Pastor Jon Marx, Lead Pastor at Faith Assembly

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Practice Doesn’t Get Us to Perfect, But Makes Us Better

Some people count to 10.
Others take a deep breath.
Many simply tune out or walk away.
 

Personally, when I am faced with injustice- just plain old someone being mean, or unrealistic deadlines that start to build my stress level- I do a couple of things.

First, I Consider the Source

Generally, the people driving me crazy are not drawing from the same source that I do. How do I know this? From the fruits they display.

Galatians 5:22-23 speaks of the Fruit of the Spirit being love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
 
Once I recognize the fruit isn’t there, I really can’t expect someone to act otherwise. This helps me not respond in a similar fashion even though I often want to respond in kind. I try to pray for them even while they are still “being unreasonable”. Hard to do? Yes. But this helps me have patience, and it gets easier each time knowing their souls might be at risk.
 
Sure, even some Christians can be the perpetrators! No one is perfect. While their souls aren’t at risk in this case, we can still be poor witnesses when we act like there’s no evidence of the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Remember, it’s not their action you can control-  your own reaction is your responsibility.
 
Second, I Realize Sometimes I Am the Unreasonable One
Yes it happens! I am thankful the Holy Spirt convicts me to the point of an apology and eventually changed behavior. Again, this is developed over time with practice, as God allows opportunities. Sad to say, it doesn’t happen in each of us automatically (wouldn’t that be so much easier!), but does get better as we choose to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
 

Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:11-12:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and say all sorts of false evil against you because of me, rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in Heaven.

It’s helpful to remember that Jesus tells us this injustice will happen when we are living in and for Him. Remembering who I am in Christ and the knowledge that I have all of eternity to look forward to helps me to stay focused and remember what is next!

Practice doesn’t get us to perfect, but in the long run, makes us better. We have much to be thankful for because God’s promises are true. This should drive our behavior. Does it drive yours?

P.S.
This may not be all that helpful (even to some Christians since in my opinion there is a real lack of understanding on what eternity will be like) to some. Considering this, how can one look forward to eternity if one doesn’t know what it is? Another blog for another time! No one knows for sure what eternity will be like, but God does tell us in His Word a lot about this and it will be terrific for those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior! Revelation Chapter 21 is the culmination of this. Halleluiah and Amen!
 
Author:
Randy Ortgeisen, Elder at Faith Assembly

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Lessons in the Rearview Mirror

I was driving home the other day, heading East just about the time the sun was going down behind me.
Rolling hills, music playing, little traffic. Nice and relaxing.
 
Until the setting sun just about blinded me in the rearview mirror.
Blinking from seeing spots, I flipped the mirror up and tried to get back to my relaxing drive home.
 

Not so fast. God had something to say.

 
As I glanced back up to the rearview mirror, I noticed the strange pattern of shadows it was creating from the reflection of the sun. I had to squint to see any kind of detail. All the rolling hills behind me were now cast in various shades of shadow. I couldn’t clearly make out much of anything, and the beauty I was beholding a few minutes before had now turned to ominous shifting patterns of grey.
 
In true form, I took notice and began to ponder how with one flip of a switch everything took on such a drastically different appearance. I use this function at night all the time, but rarely during the day.
 
In true form, God proceeded to do what He regularly does with me… speaking through life, creation and observation.
 
What I heard was this: Now you see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.
 
Hold up. I recognized this from my younger years memorizing the King James Version of I Cor. 13:12:
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
 
Ok Lord, but what are you really trying to tell me.
  
His response:
Your heart may be troubled about many things, but be patient, you can’t see everything clearly yet.
 
I had questions. Of course I had questions.
  
But Lord, it’s hard to be patient when I still don’t have the answers I need. I need clarity!
  
Now you see through a glass darkly. You are my daughter. Trust me, I’ve got you.
  
But Lord, I’d rather understand right now. How do I find peace in this situation without understanding?
 
Right now you can only see a small part of the picture. I am bigger than that. Find peace in ME, not in the understanding.
 
Okay. (sigh) It’s just hard to see beauty through the distortion, purpose in the pain, solid ground in shifting shadows.
  
Your story is not yet complete. I am doing a good work in you. Work with me.
Do not be afraid, I am with you. I AM your solid ground.
 
He had more to say, but you get the idea.
When I got home, I looked up that verse in my chosen translation these days. This is how the NLT puts I Cor. 13:12:
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Sometimes we don’t see beauty looking in the rearview mirror- in the car or in our lives.

 
We often look back and still desire clarity. Sometime hindsight is clearer and sometimes it isn’t. But we serve a God that knows us completely.
As we trust and obey Him, one day we will see- with perfect clarity- the why, the how, the purpose.
 
This month we focus on the Godly virtue and Fruit of the Spirit: Patience. So often it is in the process of “seeing through a glass darkly” where God does His good work. We practice patience, baby-stepping through circumstances and trusting Him to bear fruit in and through us.
 
Our lives can shift and change in an instant. We often stumble around trying to gain focus and grasp for stability.
Do not be afraid. Your story is not yet complete. The God of Angel Armies is behind you, goes before you and is by your side.
 
As Yoda tells an impatient Luke at the start of his training in Star Wars… “Patience you must have, my young Padawan.” 
 
Author:
Michelle Marx
You can read more of Michelle’s writing here.

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Am I a Peacemaker?

In March, Pastor Jon preached a series on the topic of peace. On one of those Sundays, he spoke specifically about peacemakers.
This caused me think about myself. Could I call myself a peacemaker?

So before I started to investigate the scripture, I decided to look up the meaning of “peacemaker” to find out who, if anyone, could identify as one.

One of the websites listed the basic traits of a peacemaker. I found the information very interesting, primarily because I had to take an honest look at my own strengths and weaknesses in each area. I definitely felt a cringe of the “ouch” factor!

Dominant traits: people pleaser, friendly, trusting, easy going
Basic fear: conflict, chaos, separation
Strengths: warm, open-minded, caring, peace-loving
Weaknesses: avoids conflict, stubborn, indecisive, does not like change

Keep in mind, this is the world’s definition of a peacemaker. (I only planned to use this as a point of reference)
Regardless, I can look at the description above and see myself in every category.

The dictionary says this: A peacemaker is a person who brings about peace, especially by reconciling adversaries (a contest, conflict, or a dispute).

Now, what does God say in the Scriptures?

Romans 12:18
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

Hebrews 12:14
Pursue (to continue or proceed along a path or route) peace with all men and sanctification, without which no one will see the Lord.

James 3:17
But the wisdom from above is first pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering without hypocrisy.

John 14:27
Jesus says He leaves and gives His peace to us not from the world.

Matthew 5:9
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.

Pastor had Genesis 13: 8-9 in his message about Abram letting Lot take the land that he wanted. This was a great example of a peacemaker.

The bottom line: we are all called to be peacemakers.

 
The information on the internet only identifies the possible characteristics of a peacemaker from the world’s point of view.
 
God’s Word says the important part is this:
Pursuing the peace we desire to have
Doing the work toward developing a peacemaker heart
Cultivating the characteristics of making peace with everyone whenever possible
 
We are all called. We are all equipped by the power of His Spirit.
The most effective peacemakers are the ones who follow our ultimate example: JESUS!
 
Author: Ken Drew
Christ-Follower, Husband, Father, Grandfather
Elder at Faith Assembly

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Control Freak

I’m going to be upfront and honest here.
 

I’m a control freak.

I am a Type A personality, having to ensure everything is figured out. I need to be the one in the driver’s seat. Having a background in the military and law enforcement; I have my day planned out, I am task driven and I will make decisions… well, decisively!

Because let’s face it: a so-so decision is better than no decision at all… am I right?

Let’s put the brakes on that thought process for just a minute. As we have been talking about peace this month, I couldn’t help but think of the peace I have missed out on in my own life because of my control freak mindset.

It really just boils down to these simple thoughts:
I’m afraid of not having control of my life and my family.
I’m afraid of not having control of my job.
What if something bad happens?
Can I prevent this from happening to my kids?

Somehow, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.

God tells us in John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
 

I seek to control the world around me, but the world around me will not bring peace to my life. As a result of sin in this world, bad things will happen, loved ones will die, my children may make bad decisions as they grow up and the list goes on.

I cannot control any of these things, but what I can control is my thought process, resolve to focus on God’s word and remember His promises. One of these promises being that he will never leave me or forsake me- in good times and in bad.

 
“Let go and let God”… have you heard of that saying?
I’m working on this very concept in my life and I want to encourage you to do the same.
 
As we release control and let God take over, I know we will begin to find a peace that is only from our Father. A peace that passes all human understanding.
 
He is our ultimate daddy and he cares for our wellbeing more than anyone on this earth.
He wants us to be at peace with ourselves, with others and most importantly with Him.
 
So let’s take the brakes off now and re-examine my first thoughts through this prayer:
 
God, I am asking you to take control. Let my Type A personality be used for your glory and not to try and control the world around me. Lord, help me to slow down in life and not rush to make decisions, but rather seek your council and wisdom first. I ask you Father that as I allow you to take control, you bring a peace in my life that I have never experience before. Help me Jesus to not be a control freak, but rather to let go of control and let you do your perfect work. Thank you for your peace. In Jesus name, Amen.
 
Author:
Husband, Father and Christ-Follower
Ryan leads worship at Faith Assembly

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Intentional Peacemakers

As I was thinking about Pastor Jon’s sermon last week- as part of his series on Peace- I was reminded of what Jesus tells us in His Sermon on the Mount (also known as the Beatitudes) in Matthew 5:9:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons (children) of God.

 This thinking took me back to a time 25 years ago.

 When family was visiting us in New Mexico, I was taking six young kids up to the top of the Sandia Mountains for a day trip.  I chose the back way up on a single lane dirt road. Since it was shorter and more primitive, it ended up being more excitement than I had planned!

Picture this:

Single lane dirt road

Winding through deep mountain valleys

Limited road width for two vehicles

Must often back up or squeeze close to the rock walls or deep valleys edges
 

On this specific day, a pickup truck full of (shall I say) “excited young men” wanted to get around me. There was nowhere for me to go (and nothing to do about it) in my 1990 Ford Aerostar van with six young children. Based on their shouts and gestures, I didn’t want to stop and try talking! 

The more this happened, the more irritated I became and knew stopping wouldn’t be the wise thing to do. After about 10 minutes, a place finally came for me to squeeze off the road to let them pass… but it was clear they now wanted more than just to pass. As they started to drive around my van, I could see them getting ready to jump out and approach me. I could feel myself getting very tense!

Looking back at that day, I now know the Spirit of God came upon me. Instead of a fight, I simply gestured that I was sorry for blocking the way. Not a person jumped out of the truck, nothing more was thrown our way and they were completely disarmed.

Keep in mind, at this time I had only been a believer in Jesus a mere six months. I still marvel having reacted in a manner that wasn’t really like me (trust me). I believe the Lord knew that I, as His newly adopted son, wasn’t quite ready to take the high road (no pun intended). Instead, He took over for me in order to teach me and protect my family.

As children of God, He tells us in 2nd Peter 3:11:

We must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.  

“Seek” and “pursue” are proactive words! They don’t mean to passively let our old nature kick in, but to let our new nature in Christ call us to action. This takes intention.

 

Since that time over 25 years ago, I still recall the important life lesson God taught me that day on the mountain pass. I am regretfully still a work in progress when it comes to peacemaking, but growing each day.

Let us be intentional peacemakers. God requires it of His children… and guess what, He gives us the power to live it out!
 
Author:
Husband, Father and Grandfather
Elder at Faith Assembly

 


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Why Old Testament Sacrifice?

Old Testament sacrifice. It’s neither pretty, nor appealing.

In the Old Testament, God asks for sacrifices and lays out meticulous demands. Why? Why were they part of God’s covenant relationship with the Israelites? In various ways; sacrifices are obnoxious, offensive and dreadful. To the modern world, sacrifices seem violent and brutal.

Why Sacrifices in the Old Testament?
Sacrifices were designed to teach impure and imperfect people how to live in a relationship with a totally perfect and absolutely Holy God. They helped people see the nature of their Creator God, and further illustrated the reverence, respect and honor due Him. Sacrifices provided atonement for the people’s sin, through substitution. It was a picture of what was to come- Jesus ultimate sacrifice (atonement) on the cross for all sin, past, present and future.

God Repetitively Decreed He Didn’t Need Sacrifices
God simply didn’t want them if they were not completed with sincerity and a contrite, repentant heart.

If God had to choose, he prefers a right heart:

Psalm 51:16-17
You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

God informs us that it is an insult and an offense to bring sacrifices to Him with any kind of wrong heart:
Isaiah 1:13-14
Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath
and your special days for fasting—
they are all sinful and false.
I want no more of your pious meetings.
I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!

To do so is hypocrisy, a sin God thoroughly hates. Jesus pronounced His strongest indictments against hypocrisy in Matthew 23, when he criticized the religious leaders of the day.

The Significance and Application for Christians Today
1. Jesus taught that sincerity and authenticity were God’s principal need in worship.
John 4:23-24
But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.
 
2. Sacrifices are a reminder that each of us contributes to the evil in our world. It demonstrates that something must be done… and we must do more than conveniently question why God allows sin. For if God were to remove all evil, none of us would continue existing!
 
3. God gave instructions for whenever sin was “unintentional” or “in ignorance”. This was because even when done in ignorance; sin still pollutes, poisons, and brings judgment. This thought runs contrary to modern rational.. the thinking today that sin does no harm when it’s between “consenting adults”. God called for sacrifice because sin’s destructive effect still poisons, defiles and hurts though done in ignorance (or unintentionally). These sins poisoned, defiled, and hurt the person, his family, society; indeed they hurt the very environment and the community as a whole. Any cries of blamelessness due to ignorance did nothing to stop or cancel the destructive effect of sin or halt its judgement. While sympathetic to a person being in ignorance, God in His wisdom knew all of this and provided guidelines to address it to protect His people.
 
 
Biblical Sacrifices Taught These and Many More Lessons.
Today, because of Jesus death and resurrection, we are asked to sacrifice in different ways- not for atonement- but rather to give up our lives for the sake of Christ. This is the new covenant. We sacrifice daily because of our love for Jesus and gratefulness for the grace we’ve been given. We sacrifice by giving up our rights, serving others, working to build His kingdom, denying our old nature and choosing God’s will and way.
 

God’s nature has not changed and never will. He is holy, and we are still impure and imperfect people. Thank you Father for Jesus! He is our sacrificial Lamb, and now we live in a new covenant with God!

 
May the Lord continue to teach us how to live in relationship with a totally perfect and absolutely holy God. Let our prayer be that our lives continue to give Him all the reverence, respect and honor due Him.
 
Author:
Pastor Liandro Arellano
Christ-Follower, Husband, Father, Grandfather and Retired Pastor at large

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Soul Tattoo- What Defines You?

The Scripture is full of references that talk about the soul and the spirit.
It’s so important in fact, that the Old Testament mentions it over 785 times and the New Testament over 103 times.
 

It’s pretty clear that in God’s big story for mankind, our souls- the essence of our inner most beings- is important to Him- so important that He sent His son to die for our sin, our weaknesses, and our shame. Our soul is the thing that makes us unique. It’s how we relate to others and how we understand ourselves. It comprises who we are.

Often our souls feel like a roller coaster- sometimes weary or unsure- sometimes comfortable, content or even at peace. We all have invisible tattoos (so to speak) that make an imprint on our souls… earthly things that work to define us. They may have been in the past or are currently influencing our perspectives.
They can make a mark so deep that the imprint may feel like it will last forever.

So the question is this: what defines you?

Are you allowing your past, your education, your mistakes, your job, your talents, ministry, kids, marital status, successes… whatever- to define who you are? The world would project this onto you… especially your failures! This should not be! You see friend, when we allow these things to define who we are, we have embraced a false identity. We are then allowing everything but God to define our worth.
 
This is why God says we must examine our hearts.
 
He knows that if we embrace a false identity, we are vulnerable to the enemy’s schemes and lies. This leaves us vulnerable to the many traps the enemy of our souls delights putting right in our path. He loves to plant seeds of self doubt, confusion, relationship drama, unforgiveness, bad decisions, selfish pride or self-hatred… even disobedience to the God we say we love.

But with God’s Truth, He tells us that if we place our soul identity in Him, nothing can touch the essence of who we are! When we believe on His name and claim Christ as our Savior, we are a new creation found in Christ Jesus. No longer do we have to be defined by those old things. We are now sons and daughters of the King of Kings!

Hebrews 6:18-19 says
“Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.
This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls…”
 
This Truth of our identity isn’t always something that we “feel”… but rather God’s Truth that we must choose.
 
2 Corinthians 1:20-22 (MSG)
Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.

Because of God’s overwhelming love for us, it’s that same love that will transform our souls into something beautiful, confident, at peace and blazing with purpose. This is the ultimate miracle- the transformation of the very essence of our being!

Let us make our “soul tattoo” permanent once and for all, by…
1) knowing the Truth
2) embracing the Truth
3) practice the Truth daily
4) make the Truth known as a testimony for God’s glory
 
For if we can run with the Truth of who we really are in Jesus– nothing…and I mean nothing-
will stop us from fulfilling the destiny God has planned for us to fulfill!
 
Author: 
Michelle Marx
Wife, Mom and Lover of Jesus
You can read more of Michelle’s writing at Pianogirl Speaks.

 


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The Ultimate Do Over

People often use these phrases…

I wish I could do ________ again!
If I only had another chance to do _________.

Today, it’s… I want a Do Over!

I remember when I was on the 6th grade basketball team. I got to start the second half of the game. We all lined up for the tip off and I got the tip. I dribbled down the court for a layup… and missed! My teammate Tommy came to my rescue and got the rebound.

Then he told me I was shooting at the wrong basket! Boy, did I want a do over!

Remembering this experience caused me to think of God and His amazing love for all of us- no exceptions.

God sent His only son to be a sacrifice on our behalf. Through His sacrifice- and our acknowledgement and repentance of sin in our lives- we would have salvation thru the Lord Jesus Christ. This is our do over!

Acts 2:21 says
And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord (talking of Jesus) will be saved!

This is the ultimate do over for us. But thank God the reality is this:

God extends do overs to us every day.

 

Knowing this, shouldn’t our goal be to be more like Jesus every day? I know we will fail at times, but our heart’s desire should be to live like Jesus every day.

Proverbs 21:2 says
Every man’s way is right in his own eyes but the Lord weighs the heart.

Psalm 63:8 says
My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.
 

Every day our desire should be to…

Thank God for every breath we take
Thank Him for every blessing we receive
Thank Him for every obstacle we experience
Worship Him for every do over His love allows us.

I know this: our God is not a liar.
He has promised He would never forsake us, especially in those times when we have failed Him.
He is there lovingly and graciously forgiving us, promising to give us a do over. Thank you Jesus!
 

How many times has God graciously given you a do over?

Take a moment right now to thank Him for his mercies- new every morning- and His unfailing love that sustains you through each new day.
 
Author: 
Ken Drew
Loving husband, dad, granddad and Elder at Faith Assembly

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Fear & Anxiety… What Does God Say?

Webster’s definition of fear is…
“an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by expectation or awareness of danger”
“the concern about what might happen”
 
Fear is something that can rule and control every aspect of our lives.
I can tell you, I have often let fear control my actions, thoughts and words. I don’t like to say I was a victim of fear, because it’s my own personal choice to either live in fear or live with no fear. Living with no fear in today’s day and age is something that seems nearly impossible. I fear something bad might happen to my kids or that I may not have enough money to pay the bills.
 

We all have things that we fear, but you can choose to overcome those fears and live in confidence through Jesus Christ. The Bible has numerous encouraging words about fear, the hope and great confidence we can have in Jesus.

 
Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. 
 
2 Timothy 1:7
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid; but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
 
Psalm 94:19
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.
God gives us all the tools we need to overcome our fears and anxiety. We are His children and He tells us he will take care of our every need. When we look for comfort and hope in things like money, jobs, and personal security; our fear and anxiety will only be fueled in a negative way.
 
Psalm 115:11
You who fear him – trust in the Lord, he is their help and shield.
 

Having fear in the Lord is how we overcome the fears and anxiety of this life. This doesn’t mean to be scared of God, it means to trust in him, respect and have reverence towards him. When we develop a healthy fear of the Lord, he begins to put life into a perspective from his eyes.

 
One of my favorite verses is from Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy one is understanding.”
Fear can sometimes be healthy, but when the fear and anxiety consumes our life,
it’s time to take a step back and remember what God says about it.
 
As always, I like to encourage you with a song that has helped me. Take a moment to listen to Kari Jobe’s song “I Am Not Alone.”
The song doesn’t specifically mention fear, but it does paint a picture of someone who may be struggling with life, fears and anxiety.
 
Thank God for His love and for his ability to overcome our fears and anxieties. We are truly never alone!
 
Christ Follower, Husband, Dad
Worship Leader, Faith Assembly
 

 


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Thoughts on Preparing For the Ultimate Marriage

Perhaps the most important part of God’s creation story is the institution of marriage and family in Genesis 1- 2. In this first book of the Bible, God creates man and woman, telling them to be fruitful and multiply. This final act of creation represents the very first marriage relationship and nuclear family. In this, we can see how God was beginning to create His Church.

The “Church” is referred to as the bride of Christ- the ultimate picture of relationship.

 
This includes all those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God- the essence of the gospel- and are committed, loving, and living for God. Revelation 19: 7 (the last book in the Bible) speaks to the ultimate marriage relationship when it states,
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.”
Jesus is the Lamb of God, who was identified in the gospel of John: “Look, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
 
So if the beginning of the Bible establishes the first marriage and the end of the Bible represents the last marriage, it’s the in-between marriages, families and relationships that are needed to prepare the Church to be the bride of Christ, our church family.
 

This is the hard part and little messy too… okay, a lot messy!

The Church and its people are not perfect, and won’t be until the ultimate redemption and reunion of the bride with Christ, the Bridegroom.

 
We should however desire to be more like Jesus, and take actions needed to move from the first marriage and our in-between relationships to the church family becoming the bride of Christ. This is done in part by progressing beyond solely our earthly family to the church family as adopted sons and daughters of God. Every marriage and family has challenges that threaten their existence, and the crisis of the family is sadly more common now than at any time in human history.
 
Today’s local church must be the bridge- the connection between the first original marriage and the last and final marriage relationship. As Jesus is our hope, the local church (the bride) is the hope of the world as it plants, cultivates, harvests and nurtures people to full Christian maturity.
 

Our earthly relationships are meant to be a (albeit imperfect) picture of the ultimate (perfect) relationship with Christ, with the glory of God flowing out of our marriages, singleness and family relationships.

 
Let us make the decision today to know God… really know God… through the redeeming power of Jesus Christ. It is He who strengthens relationships and builds His Church through imperfect people who are deeply loved by an amazing God.
 
Author: 

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Fasting and Prayer

It is January, which for our church is the month we set aside as a time to pray and fast.
I have to admit something. Last year when Pastor Jon asked us to join in with him as a church, I was a little reluctant.
 
With the fasting part- not the prayer part.
 
However, now I can say during that period of time…
 
I personally was drawn closer to the Lord
I was able to join my church family in seeking God’s direction for our church
I was able to seek God’s direction for my life in the months to come
This year I feel better prepared spiritually, mentally, and emotionally to move into a period of fasting.
 
Consider these questions as we pray and fast this month:
 
Is fasting necessary for today?
Jesus Himself encouraged his followers to fast.
Matthew 9:15 says, “The time will come when the Bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast.”
 
What kind of attitude should we have when we fast and pray?
I believe we need to have a humble heart and open hands when we fast.
The fast is directed to God (not man), bringing humility and openness to His guidance.
 
What is the benefit of fasting?
The spiritual discipline of fasting can be a tool God uses to…
Draw us closer to God, causing a deeper in relationship with Jesus
Convicts us of areas in our lives that perhaps have too large of a hold on us
Makes us aware of unhealthy life patterns that need addressing
Brings about humble confession
Shows us what He has for us as a church, renews personal and congregational vision
And so much more…
II Corinthians 4:16 says, “though outwardly I am wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
Now grant you, I do not think that I am wasting away, but I can say I am being renewed day by day!”
Amen!
 
As we enter into fasting and praying together,
let’s seek God’s face for direction, encouragement, and a desire for a deeper love for Him during this time.
 
Let’s come together and support each other.
May God bless you all greatly as we seek and serve Him together.
 
Author: 
Ken Drew, Elder at Faith Assembly

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Why I Believe in Christian Education

I believe children come from God, as a blessing.. a reward… a profound responsibility.

Children too, are a gift from Adonai; the fruit of the womb is a reward. The children born when one is young are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. How blessed is the man who has filled his quiver with them; he will not have to be embarrassed.
Psalm 127
 

A dominant and repeated theme of the scriptures is this: responsibility and authority for the children is given by God to their parents.

 
Scripture also clearly shows parents that it is their responsibility to see their children trained in the knowledge, love, fear and admonition of God and His Word. Hebrew/Jewish tradition dictates that God gave his people two assignments that can be seen in Psalms 78 and Deuteronomy 6:
 

To know, love and obey God

To pass it on to the next generation

I also believe it takes a family and the local church, in this fallen world and culture we live in, to raise Godly children.

Everyone has a world view, but the difference is where it comes from.

 
Are we adopting the world’s philosophy and actions, or are we determining that God and His Word
must define our philosophy and actions in this life?
 
 My viewpoints are not to point the finger and say everyone belongs in a Christian school or home school. This is a decision that needs to be made by parents and the Lord. No education is perfection! However, I would like to share my personal reasons for why I believe in and support Christian education.
 
 
Some of the goals and purposes of Christian education simply make them different, even spiritually healthier.
In I Corinthians 11, Paul says “Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.”
 
They typically:
 

Partner with parents

Communicate and impart the Gospel of Christ

Teach and develop a Christian worldview

Convey, model, affirm and develop character based on Jesus character

Teach right from wrong; per Jesus example of a love for righteousness and a hatred for evil

Work to proclaim, present and live out the Gospel in every day life

Hire staff that love God and His Word, love children and feel called to teach

Honor the principle of revelation: God must be embraced as God… God first, foremost and throughout

Practice the principle of integration, educating from a Biblical and Christ-like worldview in all subjects

 

We live in a fallen world; unfriendly and even hostile to Jesus, Biblical Truth and the church.

 
Sometimes, we have earned that cynicism and dismissal through our imperfect actions. Still, our world fights against God and His Truth! We can see the evidence of this in all of our major institutions. Sadly, as a culture we are failing and falling apart. We need Jesus in every area of our lives!
 
 Christian education cannot guarantee our children will become perfect, or even great Christians. They can only endeavor to present Jesus Christ and teach from a Christian perspective. My prayer is for each parent to earnestly seek God for what is best for their individual child and family.
 
 
 
Author:
Pastor Liandro Arellano
Loving husband, father and grandfather
Retired Pastor & Superintendent of Faith Christian School
 
 
 
 

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Commitment of Steel: How About Those New Year Resolutions?

Every January it seems like everyone turns to thinking about commitment. New resolutions are considered and pledged.
Lots of folks consider making a new commitment, but never do because they assume they’ll fail anyway.
So why try?
 

This January, we will most likely see a glut of opinion pieces written on how to make and keep new resolutions… and even what to do if we fail. They’re intended to encourage us to not give up- press on- be patient- and imagine the reward at the finish.

Today, I’d like to offer a perspective on one way those commitments begin to break down in the first place.
These thoughts came when I was pondering Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness,
and pondering nearly 3 decades of ministry experiences with people.
 

We find our story in Matthew 4. Right after Jesus was baptized by John, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, and His Father speaks some of the most reassuring words a son could hope to hear. Matthew also says that Jesus successfully completed the 40 days and nights of fasting before the tempter came to distract Him (Matt. 4:2).

After so much spiritual accomplishment, one could think that Jesus would be immune to temptation,
and indeed Jesus was able to resist the evil one and give us His example to follow.
 

And still, I’m intrigued by the timing of the tempter.

So, here are a few of the nuances that got my attention.

First, the enemy of our souls loves to attack when we’re tired and vulnerable.
This seems obvious since the attack came after Jesus’ 40 days and nights of fasting.
 
Second, the enemy of our souls also loves to attack when we least expect it…usually when we’re fresh and excited.
It’s as if he uses a quick jab to the face to surprise us and knock us just a bit off balance. I’ve heard boxers say they all have a game plan that seems solid until they get hit in the face.
 

So here’s a couple encouraging tips to remember:

Keep in mind that’s the enemy’s job.

Don’t allow him the satisfaction of making you feel weak or victimized.

God will use the opportunity to continue growing you in wisdom,

further grow you up in His ways, and even toughen you up in the process.

 
Remember through your relationship with Him in Jesus Christ, God has instilled Himself in you. His wisdom is in you (Psalm 119:98 & 99).
And, “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
 
In January we are discussing the theme of commitment with our adults and children.
 
We define it as this:

Making a Plan and Putting it into Practice

Based on I Tim. 4:8

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things,

holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

As you work through setting new resolutions and taking on good advice of how others keep them,

remember these bits of encouragement to help you keep your focus on Jesus.

With His help and in His power, you can turn your resolutions into commitments of steel.

 
 
 
 
Author:
Pastor Jon is lead pastor of Faith Assembly Grand Detour
 

 


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Jesus at the Center

As Christmas is upon us it’s hard not to notice the lights, decorations and all of the hard work we put into making everything look just perfect for the holidays. One thing that always stands out to me is the nativity scene. It seems that there just aren’t quite as many set up as there used to be. The thing I love about the nativity scene is that Jesus is always in the center…and all eyes are on Him.
 
 
 
This is a great reminder to me. Through all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the most important thing now (and always) is placing Jesus at the center of all we are and all we do.

I want Jesus to be the center of everything…
the center of my life
the center of my family’s life
the center of the Church
the center of my work

We live in a world with so many distractions… and let’s not forget our adversary,

who loves to use those distractions to try and pull us a way from Jesus.

 

One distraction I have found to be a hindrance- a roadblock- in my Christ-centered life is getting involved with too much. Being too busy can be a tool the enemy uses, and one that is a common struggle for most people. Personally, I’m active in a lot of different groups, meetings at work and at church. All the things I’m a part of are great causes and have great meaning, but the tasks and time that each one of those things takes can take over my true purpose very quickly.

I have found, when I try and put an order of importance on my priorities and stick to that order, I sometimes fail miserably.

I tend to allow all these good, meaningful things to become the center of what I am doing instead of Christ being the center of all I do.
There is a difference.

 
Through God’s grace in my life, I’ve also discovered this: when I place Jesus at the very center,
my priorities are set by God as he shapes me into who He wants me to be.
 
I encourage all of us to take a step back this Christmas and holiday season. Take a step back and allow Jesus to be the center of it all.
Only we can do this for ourselves, and when we do, we can truly thank God for His amazing generosity by sending us His one and only Son.
 
Make this your prayer while you listen to Israel Houghton’s song “Jesus at the Center.”
 
Author:
Christ Follower, Husband, Dad
Worship Leader, Faith Assembly
 

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Intentional Spirituality | Focused Meditation

On my hour or so drive to work, I often recite a medley of various scripture verses that begins with Psalm 1.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the council of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on it he meditates daily…

I try to avoid recitation of the scripture becoming just part of my driving routine.

 

To help with this, I meditate on the words to understand better what God intended in giving them to us.

Pastor Jon would say, “Let them marinate.”

 
No matter how many times I recite the first two verses of Psalm 1, I always find it fascinating (and incredibly helpful) to be reminded how the subtle progression of sin can take over our lives. Of course this includes my own life, to the point of even becoming comfortable with it.
 
Take a look at this progression as shown in this Psalm, using physical activity and the laws of physics:
 
Psalm 1 speaks to a person first walking, then standing, then sitting.
When we walk we can decide to move left or right, or even turn around with our momentum requiring less energy to change direction.
But then we stand, requiring a bit more energy to get moving again.
Finally, when we sit down, it takes even more energy to get up and get moving.
 

So too is the progression of sin. It can look like this:

 
  1. We look to the crowd- the world- and start listening to their advice (…council of the wicked)
  2. We justify wrong behaviors, instead of evaluating the advice of God’s absolute Truth
  3. We begin to slow down, stop to accept the advice, believe all the lies and do what the ungodly do (…stand in the same way as sinners)
  4. After sinning repeatedly and ignoring the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we begin to sit comfortably in the sin, justifying behavior we know is wrong and often even begin to defend the behavior to others or in secret (…sit in the seat of mockers)

 

But then Psalm 1:2 goes on to say …but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on it he meditates daily. So while the Psalm warns about the propensity for sin to creep in to our daily lives, verse 2 tells us that by being in the Word (the Bible) we delight in the law of the Lord.

This means that by being in the Word consistently, we are directly connected to the Source of Life itself.

We are not just understanding absolute Truth, but actually delighting in it!

 
The other critical aspect of this verse is meditating on it every day.
Making the time- and being consistently intentional- is crucial, and is also hard because it takes discipline.
 

Eighteen years ago I didn’t look forward to my long drive to work, but I can now say that this drive continues to be a real blessing. It has provided the time I may not have otherwise carved out for my daily spiritual feeding and meditation. My time in the car encourages my intentional and focused discipline and draws me closer to my Savior.

We eat physical food each day to stay physically nourished. How much more important is our spiritual nourishment!
How do you carve out time from your busy schedules for your spiritual feeding?
 
Author:
Randy Ortgiesen is a Husband, Father and Grandfather
who loves Jesus and serves as an Elder at Faith Assembly.

 

 


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Living in the Light

Recently I was leading our congregation in the old hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”
I’ve always been intrigued by a particular phrase in verse 1.
 
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changes not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be
 
There is no shadow of turning with God.
Think about that for a minute.
 
 
A shadow is formed when an object blocks another light source.
This means there has to be an external light source in order for a shadow to be created.

 

There is no light source other than God. He is the source.
There is no shadow when He turns.
There is no other source of Light and Truth.
He is constant, everlasting, and never-changing.
Without Him, there is only darkness… not even a shadow!

Mind. Blown.
 

Consider James 1: 17

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.
 

…or I John 1: 5-6

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.
 

So what does it mean then; to live, to worship, to embrace His light?

 

When we live and worship in the shadows, it may look a little something like this:

Living in fear, shame or regret
Faking it, in fear of being fully and honestly known
Denial of our own character flaws & how they impact others
Sweeping issues under the rug, hoping they’ll go away
Judging others, while ignoring our own secret stuff
Creating unnecessary drama or conflict
 

When we live and worship in the Light, it may look a little something like this:

Choosing to live in honesty, tempered with love & compassion
Embracing God’s grace and forgiveness, and extending that to others
Allowing for vulnerability & relationship, with ourselves and others
Realizing none of us are perfect, only humans saved by an incredible, merciful God
Exposing the lies we believe & replacing them with the light of Truth
Extending love, grace and peace to others

When we truly believe the concept that we are not the Source of Light and Truth- only God is-

we can then understand that we are mere reflections of His light.

 

We don’t have to perform. We don’t have to be harsh with ourselves or others.
We simply reflect Him.

It sure takes the pressure off doesn’t it?
 

But here’s the other thing: it also takes effort on our part… the practicing the Truth part.

Uh oh.
 
It takes digging into His Word, meditating on His Truth and intentional abiding in Christ.
It takes a whole lot of honesty and humble introspection.
It takes letting the Spirit reveal the Truth to us and embracing it deep in our souls.
It takes practice to flesh it out in our real lives, not just in our heads.
 
So I ask you dear friend, what are you reflecting?
 
P.S. I love this version of the hymn. Check it out!

 
 
Author: Michelle Marx
You can read more of Michelle’s writing on her personal blog PianoGirlSpeaks,
or for Seedbed.com.

 

 

 

 


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Everyone Needs Compassion

“Everyone needs compassion” are the first lyrics in Chris Tomlin’s
song “Mighty to Save.”
This word “Compassion” has really become a focal point for
me over the past 10 years.
I think about our compassion for others and Christ’s compassion for us.
 

How many times a day do we receive grace?

How many times a day does God look at us with compassion and mercy?

The answer is an emphatic…Unending!

 

We can look throughout the Bible and see God’s compassion in the Old Testament and Christ’s compassion in the New Testament. Through Christ, we can see a living example of what compassion is supposed to look like.

God has worked on my heart to be more compassionate. What better way to show the love Christ to others then to be compassionate towards everyone? Not just the people that are easy to get along with, but those we don’t always see eye to eye with.

Ephesians 4:32 says

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
 

We have a tendency to be quick to judge and condemn just because someone isn’t living the way we are living or doing the things we are doing. Through all of the negativity, political differences and racial tensions that seem to divide our country; is it possible we can let compassion and the love of Christ shine through what we say and do? Let’s put those things aside and be compassionate to all.

1 Peter 3:8 tells us to

…be like minded, be sympathetic, love one another, compassionate and humble.
 

One of God’s challenges for us today- and every day- is to love one another and show compassion to those hurting and in need.

Take a listen to this Hillsong version of the song, and join me in this compassion journey.
 
Author:
Ryan Bivins
Worship Leader, Faith Assembly

 

 

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Thankful In All Things

Well, it’s that time of year again!
 
We gather with family, eat more than we should, laugh and talk around the table sharing memories…
what a wonderful effect celebrating Thanksgiving can have on us.
 
 
 Many people, including myself, will reflect on the things in their life that they are thankful for:
Our spouse
Our children
Our parents
Our siblings
Our jobs
All the necessities of life
and the list
goes
on…
 
I know as Christians we want to be thankful, but at times people or circumstances can make it difficult to accomplish.
Lord help us!
 

Colossians 3:15 says,

…and let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you are called in one body, and be thankful.
 

Psalms 100: 4-5 says,

…enter His gates with thanksgiving and to enter His courts with praise, be thankful unto Him and bless His holy name.
 

God calls us to be thankful in all things, at all times, because of His great provision and love for us.

His care covers us, sustains us, and carries us through challenges in life that call us to thankfulness.

When we look at how He provides for us, we see His hand of provision through

every circumstance that faces us daily.

 
I want to encourage us to look at the things we encounter every day and give thanks for all the things the Lord is doing in our lives.
Let’s try every day to think of things to honor the Lord, allowing us to give Him thanks for all things.
 

It is amazing how the Lord works!

I started this blog last week just to find myself challenged to be thankful every day. This week has been a real test for me, but with God’s grace I am bound and determined to practice thankfulness continually.

 

With God’s help, you can too.
 
Author:
Ken Drew
Jesus Follower, Husband, Father, Grandfather and Elder at Faith Assembly

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Discovering Jesus, the Real Deal

I often have conversations with people seeking to understand my story in discovering Jesus.
 
Frequently, I get this specific question: 
How do you know your religion is real?
 
My answer always gets me excited because it reminds me of my own search.
 
The answer without hesitation is this:

Christianity isn’t a religion as much as it is a relationship with Jesus Christ.

 
Jesus is the only person in any religion that is still alive and was raised from the dead by God, proving everything he said when on this earth. He was seen by over 500 people after the resurrection. This happened only a little over 2000 years ago. This miracle- and many others God did through Jesus in his 3 years of ministry- is not only documented in the Bible, but also confirmed by secular historians of that day.
 
1 Corinthians 15 speaks to this.
 

The evidence of the Bible being true, from an archaeological standpoint, is another way one can know Christianity is real. Even as recent as the last decade, locations (and types of destruction of Biblical cities/Biblical events) have been discovered and unearthed.

A few of many examples:

The walls of Jericho falling in- instead of out- when God’s people marched on the city and the walls tumbled down. Based on the type of wall construction, it was a miracle for them to fall in (not out) at that very moment in history.

Prophecy fulfilled as God used the prophets of the Old Testament to predict hundreds of events that would take place in the future… and some of them thousands of years later. The most notable prophecies are about Jesus. It was foretold where he would be born, what family line, how he would die, and how he would be raised from the dead in three days. Powerful stuff!

Lastly, and maybe most convincing to others that know us, are changed lives.

 

When the Holy Spirit draws us, repentance takes place and we submit to God’s Lordship over our lives. We accept Jesus as our personal savior; this is our new birth and call to action to work out the salvation that God, through Jesus, has worked into us.

An important part of that call to action is being prepared to tell your story.

 
Since God is in it, it is the best story you could ever tell.
 

God will use your story powerfully as you share how Jesus is the real deal in your life.

 
So friends, tell it boldly and confidently.
 
Author:  
Randy Ortgiesen is a Husband, Father and Grandfather
who loves Jesus and serves as an Elder at Faith Assembly.

 


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Prayers for Our Children (With a Little Help From Paul)

Parents tend to pray for their children,
no matter what religion they may or may not profess.
I’ve met parents of dozens of different nationalities,
religions and philosophical backgrounds.
One thing we all have in common is deep concern for our children.
 
It’s interesting that somewhere along the way, it seems to be innate that our concern for them often turns to prayer for them.
It often seems it’s the God of the Bible and Christianity that parents turn to even if they haven’t had a personal history believing in Him.
 
In Ephesians 1: 15-23, Paul is praying for the Ephesian believers.
The following points warm my heart when thinking in terms of praying for our children:
That God would give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in their knowledge of Him.
(vs. 17)
That the eyes of their hearts would be opened so that they’d know the hope of His calling of them.
(vs. 18)
That they’d know the surpassing greatness of His power toward those who believe in Him.
(vs. 19)
 
That these things are done in their lives by the same power and strength that God used to raise Jesus from the dead. (vs. 19 – 20)
 
It would seem to be a parent’s job to lay awake at night with concern for our kids.
Let me encourage you to turn those moments into praying moments.
Borrowing Paul’s prayer when we pray for our children elevates what we’re praying for them;
from the circumstances of their lives, to the condition of their lives.
 
And, perhaps God’s involvement in their lives is not a matter of mere religion,
but an actual relationship as we pray they’d come to really know Him.
 
What’s more, you may be surprised how praying this prayer will change your life as well.
After all, God knows that change starts with us. 
 
Pastor Jon is Lead Pastor at Faith Assembly

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I’m So Busy!

How many times have we used these statements?

I’m so busy!
My life is so hectic!
I have NO time!
 
I am as guilty as anyone else.

The Lord has been speaking to me lately about how to use my time more wisely. It seems our time is consumed by many things in our everyday life; running kids to soccer practice or games, working on things around the house, personal appointments… oh, and let’s not forget about work.

We obviously have many things vying for our time. I know we should, and even need, to do these things.

How about the times our busy lives affect our Bible reading or we don’t spend enough time in prayer? Then there are the times we can’t help in a church ministry because our time is so stretched, or we can’t help someone in need in our church or our neighbors.
I’m sure there are many more on this “can’t do” list.
 
Psalm 28:7 says

The Lord is my strength and shield… my heart trusts in him and he helps me.

In the Bible, we read many stories where Jesus made time for those in need-

whatever and whenever the need might have been.

 

Jesus took time to…

Teach (Matt 21:23)
Heal (Mark 5:21 – 40)
Feed (Mark 6:30)
Witness (John 8:14-18)
 
I came across this quote on the internet I haven’t forgotten:
(author unknown)

God does not call people as a favor, but because He has something for them to do.

 

What is God calling me to do today? What is God calling you to do today?

Let us all be open to the moving of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Let us all start today to make the Lord the focal point in our lives and allow Him to work through us… then walk in His leading.
 
Let’s not wait.

When the Lord speaks to us about something he wants us to do, let’s take time to say:

Lord, use me in whatever way you want.

 
Author:
Ken Drew
Jesus Follower, Husband, Father, Grandfather and Elder at Faith Assembly

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In the Eye of the Storm

As a worship leader, I can’t help but take the old or new songs and apply them to my life. It’s something God has used to not only draw me closer, but also to reflect on and help me through difficult times.
 

In my life currently, God has used Ryan Stevenson’s song “In the Eye of the Storm” to help me through a very difficult situation. Not only am I experiencing some trying times, but our country too, along with those severely impacted by hurricanes and natural disasters.

 
In recent days, I have been pointed to Psalm 27:1

The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life of – whom shall I be afraid?

 
We all have real struggles in life, things that are tragic and hard to deal with.
God tells us in His Word that his promise still stands and He is the stronghold in our lives.
God is with us in the dark moments…the moments we feel alone.

 

The chorus of “In the Eye of the Storm” goes like this:
In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
In the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm
 

Are you experiencing troubled times or difficult situations today?

Be encouraged by this song and know that God is in control of every storm in life we face.

He is our light and salvation…our stronghold in the storm.

 
You can check out the song via YouTube below.
 

Click for video

 
Author:
Ryan Bivins
Worship Leader, Faith Assembly

 


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Defining Truth

Truth as defined by Webster is that which is true and in accordance with fact or reality; accurate or exact.
 
In the 1828 yearly edition of Webster, definition for the word truth even quotes Jesus in the gospel of John stating “Sanctify them by your truth father, your word is truth.”
 
The Bible states, “If teaching or advice is true, then it will agree with the words of Jesus. Luke 9:35
 
Disciples Peter, James and John actually heard God audibly at Jesus baptism,
“This is my son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased, listen to Him.”
 

These days, we often hear statements like “Truth is what I define it to be.”

 
Regrettably, comments like these are a common way of thinking… that each of us can define our own truth.
This comes from a belief that truth is not an absolute, but rather relative to an individual’s way of thinking.
Without absolutes, right and wrong can not only be defined however we want it, but can change when convenient.
 
Perhaps we believe it’s okay to steal since it is needed, it’s okay to lie if we don’t get caught or
it’s okay to view inappropriate things on a computer since it’s private. I say no. No, no, a thousand times no!
Until we discover God’s truth as revealed by the Holy Spirit, this can be seemingly acceptable behavior.
 
All truth is God’s truth. He doesn’t use it to hold us back, but to create loving boundaries for our good.
 
God provides the absolutes for living a life that is not only pleasing to Him, but also contributes to a healthy society. Without moral absolutes, actions become chaotic and each person lives only for themselves. Acting on truth is a choice, and like many choices God allows us to make influences how we interact with people and God. If we agree it is only God’s Word that reveals truth, then we behave one way and it is noticeable. If our behavior is not based on God’s truth, this too is noticeable…. by a spouse, by a child, by employers and by God.
 

So how do we define truth? Not by the world’s standards,

what our friends say or what’s fed to us by the media.

Only by the Word of God.

 
As Christ followers, let’s tighten the Belt of Truth and put on the Armor of God!
We can’t act on truth- or even model it- until we personally discover it, and then choose to do what is right.
 
Author:  Randy Ortgiesen is a Husband, Father and Grandfather
who loves Jesus and serves as an Elder at Faith Assembly.

 


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A Stone of Remembrance

Everyone experiences moments in life that are big.

Birthdays like… 13 (finally a teenager!) 16 (now I can drive!) 18 (I’m an adult!)
Graduations & new jobs
Wedding day & new homes
The birth of your first child & raising a family
All those same milestones with your children and grandchildren
Your own life transitions and eventually, retirement

It seems that our church is in the middle of one of these types of moments right now as we’re working through the purchase of a new campus for our grade school.

 
 
What about moments that mark other big personal life changes?
Reaching a major life goal
Paying off your house
Getting a promotion
Discovering a new thing about yourself
Experiencing deep personal healing
Restoring a lost relationship
 

It seems that the biggest life moments tend to center around the deeper and more personal things. They shape our lives and create the deepest memories.

 
Sometimes they can be harder to talk about, and sometimes we can’t wait to stand on a roof and crow. They are the moments that tend to mark the change from what was to what has become. The last thing we want to do is go back to the old life of what was.
 

In Joshua 3 & 4, we find the story of Israel crossing the Jordan River on their way into the Promised Land. This moment marked the end of two eras in Israel’s painful history: 400 years of slavery in Egypt and 40 years of desert wandering. This particular generation of people was well acquainted with the on-going pains of desert life; food and water were a constant concern, safety from dangerous neighbors plagued them and a continual sensation of not belonging anywhere reminded them they still had not found home.

God told them to cross the Jordan River with the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant. Joshua describes the waters immediately receding as far north as the city of Adam (15 miles upriver), as well as all the tributary streams down river toward the Salt Sea (Dead Sea). By the way, the river was already at flood stage as always at this time of year.

While crossing, Joshua picked up 12 stones from the middle of the river and built an altar of thanks to the Lord in the exact place the priests were standing, while all Israel crossed in front of them on dry ground. He also ordered the leaders of Israel to pick up 12 more stones in order to build another altar of thanks after they finished crossing. That altar was built near the city of Gilgal.
 
Joshua named this altar a “Stone of Remembrance” to remind Israel that what was will never be again, and what has become
is now their new freedom.
 
The “Stone of Remembrance” was a permanent symbol of God’s faithfulness.
It visually showed that…
God provided through their painful hardships
God declared they had come to their place of promise and freedom
God provided a reminder that freedom deserves reverence
God provided a visible barrier to never return to the way things were.
 

Mark your big moments with a “Stone of Remembrance.”
Raise it so it’s plainly visible in your life and home. Keep it as a reminder that by God’s grace, You will never return to the way things were.

 
Author: Jon Marx, Lead Pastor at Faith Assembly
 
 

 


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Grace in the Grey

 

It would be nice if the world were always black or white, where issues and circumstances were either one way or the other,
right or wrong, good or bad and so on…life just might be easier to navigate.
 
Don’t misunderstand, I do believe there are absolutes in this world.
Good and evil. Right and wrong. I believe this with every fiber of my being.
I also believe that these things are instilled deep inside of us.
Things such as a true sense of justice, crimes that turn our stomachs
and leave no doubt in our mind, actions and words that hurt, steal or wound.
 
 
There are all kinds of right and wrong… pretty obvious ones.
 
I believe that God himself created us to know it.

But while there are black and white issues in the world,

there are also circumstances that live somewhere between the black and white.

Somewhere in the blur of the grey.

 

We don’t typically like the grey.
The grey is nebulous. The grey doesn’t offer quick and easy answers.
The grey can present itself suddenly, or very slowly over time.
And the grey isn’t always wrong…or always right.
There isn’t always a cut and dried practical, logical, or spiritual answer.
One of the problems with human nature is that we are often too quick to jump to conclusions about other people and their grey.
Too quick to look at a situation we think we know a little something about and call it black or white.
Too often, I’ve witnessed people quoting scripture to “prove” their judgement of what they perceive
as right or wrong…for everyone else but themselves.
 
Without knowing all the facts.
Without walking in their shoes.
Without understanding their journey.
Without, well… grace.

Truth is, real life is lived in a variety of colors.

Remember when you were a kid playing with watercolor?
Sometimes when certain colors were mixed- or mixed too much-
they would blur together to make a not-so-pretty, unattractive mess.
Sometimes our life is like that. Messy. Okay, maybe more than sometimes!
 
 
This is where grace comes in.

The loving them through it part.

Giving people grace and time to work through their grey, even if you don’t agree and even if it’s not on your timetable.
And guess what, that includes

grace for you.

If God offers us His grace and love to lavishly, who are we to not offer that same grace to ourselves and others?
And the beautiful thing is that Jesus- the one who entered our fallen grey state- is also in our grey even now,
working on our behalf, gently leading us into clarity… and eventually, full color.
 
I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me.
When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
Psalm 94:18-19
 
 Author:  Michelle Marx
You can read more of Michelle’s writing on her personal blog PianoGirlSpeaks,
or often under the topic of Soul Care for Seedbed.com.

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