Embracing Humility

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

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Doing Your Part to Seek God First

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

 The Blind. AKA: The Palace

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

 Doing Your Part to Seek God First

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Year, New You

Do you ever feel like you are not enough?

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

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

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

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

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


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New Year’s Resolutions Worth keeping

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

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

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

1. GROW YOUR ROOTS

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

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

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

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

2. PURSUE MEANINGFUL CONVERSATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. PRACTICE KINDNESS

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

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

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

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

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

4. START ONE NEW THING

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

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

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

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

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Faith of the Next Generation

As my wife and I had our third of five children turn 30 this past week, it was an opportunity to stand back and say thank you God. We wonder aloud how the time passes so quickly! I mean, these five children were just learning to ride bikes, skip stones, climb trees and splash in the crick. In addition to watching our own children grow up, we now have the opportunity as grandparents to do the same with our grandchildren who are growing up as fast as our children did. Instilling faith in the next generation is a privilege and responsibility.
 
We pray all the time that we will be found faithful to have been used by God to have poured into the succeeding generations. When trials and tribulations come (which they will), we pray the next generation will choose Jesus and the principles of righteous living. In a world that competes nonstop for the hearts and minds of our children – and children’s children – with things that conflict with the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control), we need to be deliberate to not just talk about Godly living but model it too. Guess what… when we fail we need to talk about that too.
 
We want the faith of the next generation to be their own. We want their obedience to be out of thankfulness and not simple compliance, so when trials, tribulations, and temptations come, they will make the right decisions… which often are the hardest ones.
Deuteronomy 4:9 reads, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”
 
So as parents and grandparents, we are first warned to be careful and watch so we don’t forget. The strong declaration here is that we too…
-can be distracted
-can forget who and what must be first
-can take the easy way out
-can grieve the Holy Spirit
 
When this happens, the direct consequence is we affect our ability to teach our children and their children, our grandchildren. I am thankful when I am distracted (and my wife never is – wink wink), God gives me as many do-overs as it takes to get it right.
 
Do you need a do-over? God knows we can’t parent or grandparent without Him and appreciates the humility to recognize this early (or late) in our tenure as parent and grandparent. Wherever you are in this process, reach out to Him for help every step of the way. The Lord will bless you with the wisdom, endurance and courage to parent and grandparent in His ways and in His love.
 

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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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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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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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