Listening to God’s Call

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

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

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The Challenge of Self-Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 


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Saturated and Full of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author:
Ken Drew, Elder

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The Importance of Worship Together

Why is weekly worship with a local body of believers important? If we profess to be Christ-followers, we practice the teachings of God’s Word and follow the example brought to us by Jesus himself. This includes worshipping in unity, as one body, on a regular basis.

But why corporate worship? Can’t we worship God the way we feel most comfortable by ourselves?

And what’s with all the singing?

The answer? As others have done, I could fill an entire book and reference all the scriptures (there are many) to prove that God commands us to worship, we were created to worship Him and in the end, all will worship Him (willing or not). For the sake of brevity, I’ll address a portion of the question here – a question I’ve been asked many times throughout my ministry.

We endeavor to pare everything down to a few strategic elements in our worship services, encouraging believers to participate fully in this worship process – worship through song, prayer, giving and hearing of the Word of God. This is an active (not passive) process. By focusing our hearts and minds on Him as a body of believers, we are once again united by one purpose. We can’t be “one” alone.
 
We are together, obeying God’s commands and fulfilling the prayer of Jesus when he prayed in John 17:11:
I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.
 
God Certainly Doesn’t Need our Worship, but We Need to Worship Him
 
He knows who He is and who you are! Do you? As humans who are trying to figure out how to live a righteous life in a wicked world, worship does so many things for us as a body of believers. These are but a small glimpse of the power of worshiping together:
 
• It re-focuses our minds, emotions and spirits on Him.
• It reminds us of the Truth of who He is, who we are in Him and who we are without Him.
• It gives us courage to combat the lies of the world and stand strong.
• It convicts us of our sin and propels us to repentance.
• It humbles us, producing gratefulness and other fruits of the Spirit.
• It places God back on the throne of our hearts when our human nature fights to put ourselves on it.
• It heals, restores, forgives and leads us to righteousness.
• It compels us to believe, increases our faith and gives us hope.
• It gives power to do battle with temptation, and the courage to embrace the transformation process.
• It encourages a spirit of unity and reconciliation.
• It allows the Holy Spirit to speak and guide.
• It helps us go out into the everyday world to proclaim the gospel.
• It brings us together and strengthens our common purpose and bond.
 

Consider These Thoughts:

Worship is the strategy by which we interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to the presence of God… Feelings are great liars. If Christians worshiped only when they felt like it, there would be precious little worship. We think that if we don’t feel something there can be no authenticity in doing it. But the wisdom of God says something different: that we can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting… A Christian congregation is a company of praying men and women, who gather usually on Sundays, for worship, who then go into the world as salt and light. God’s Holy Spirit calls and forms this people. God means to do something with us, and he means to do it in community. We are in on what God is doing, and we are in on it together. -Eugene Peterson
 
It’s a Battle of Wills
 
Our willful participation in worship with other believers says something about who we are and what we stand for. Yes, there are times when our hearts are breaking and singing can be a painful experience in obedience. There are times in prayer together when we don’t have words or we have trouble hearing from Him. There are times when we hear the Word of God preached and struggle to focus. God knows this… and He knows you need it anyway. True obedience is rarely easy. It’s a sacrifice of our wills, preferences and pride.
 
And the Singing?
 
Back to one of our original questions. I’ve heard this many times: “But what about all the singing? I’m not a singer! It makes me uncomfortable.” (God never said you had to be a singer and calls you out of your comfort zone) or “I just want to come and hear a message!” (God wants your active participation, not passive hearing). And why is it no one wants to just show up for the offering? Huh, interesting question!
 

I’ll keep it simple with a few thoughts. Why all the singing? Because…

God commanded it. King David made it a mandatory part of worship at the temple and even appointed a whole tribe of people (the Levites) to serve God in this manner, and not only for his reign, but from generation to generation.
The Scripture is full of musical praises, poetry and expression– even whole books of it. That’s how important it is to God.
Music is a powerful force for change – for our whole being, the mission of the body of believers and the church.
Music moves us in ways nothing else does. God knows it, because He created it. We are made in His image, which also means it’s in our DNA to appreciate beauty and creative expression. He also knew that directing an outward expression of song back to Him in praise has the power to soften hard hearts.
Music reinforces. How many of you remember commercial jingles or popular songs from when you were a kid? Yep, something happens when we sing. When we worship in song, we are actually confessing and declaring the scriptures and the many Truths of God through our mouths. When we not only hear something, but sing it out loud on repeat, we retain it and it becomes part of our long term memory.
Brain science (neuroplasticity) is now proving that intentional action like this actually makes new connections through new neural pathways, forming the ability to adapt, change behavior, learn new things and create new memories. Awesome right? But of course, God knew this all along.
 
Indeed, we can “act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting”. With the power of the Holy Spirit, worshipping together as one body – through prayer, song, giving and discovering the Word together – we are following the example of Jesus himself and practicing unity with Him and one another.
 
So next time you meet together as a body of believers, cherish the time to worship together and actively participate. It does me good, it does you good, it does a “body” good. (see what I did there?)
 
Author: Michelle Marx

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Character Over Control And Comfort

Control.

We all want it. We don’t always get it. Sometimes we get it, then decide we don’t want it.

Sigh.

In my life I’ve come to recognize control as an old familiar acquaintance, continually proving that my sense of having it is simply an illusion.
Just when I think I have it, it’s often yanked from my groping hands and there’s not much I can do about it.
 
When we feel like we are in control, we often feel pretty comfortable with it.
 
You may tell yourself you’ve earned it. You may snatch it away from someone else and justify it. You may hoard it, thinking no one can hurt you. You may sacrifice pieces of your character to have it. You may hide behind it.
You may tell yourself you don’t need help. 
You may think if you’re in control, you’re safe.
 
When we feel out of control, we often feel frantic. 
Why are we afraid to let go of it?
 
We feel weak. We feel uncomfortable. We feel ineffective. We feel frustrated and helpless. We feel exposed.
We wonder if someone else will do it better. We feel like we are floundering, grasping. We wonder what will happen and how we’ll deal with it.
 
Could it be that God is more interested in your character development than your comfort?
Could it be that growth requires being uncomfortable?

It seems sometimes Christians get this notion of the “abundant life” (found in John 10) fleshing out as the perfect life, being in control of all circumstances, a comfortable existence, all our dreams coming true, instant answers to prayer and 100% happiness.

All. Day. Every. Day.

But here’s the hard truth: life is not easy. It wasn’t meant to be. This is not Heaven.

When we pray with control in mind, we treat God like a vending machine. 

He is not a vending machine, a genie in a bottle or a drive through. 

He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Maker of Heaven and Earth. And He wants to see you grow in character, know and trust Him infinitely more than He wants you to feel comfortable.

Consider these wise words…

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.  -James 1:2-3
 
Take on an entirely new way of life — a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.  -Ephesians 4:22-24
 
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  – Romans 5: 1-5
 
We grow when we experience discomfort.
That means letting go of our need to control – and our need to be comfortable all the time.
Want to grow in character? Take some steps of faith.
 
Embrace the uncomfortable, the uncertainty.
Let go of your need to control everything.
Hold things loosely and trust that God has a plan.
Let the pressure and discomfort of growth do good work in you, so you will grow in wisdom, Godly character and tenderness.
 
Author:
Michelle Marx
You can read more of Michelle’s writing here.

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The Issue with Perseverance

Every now and then, the topic of patience comes up in conversation.
Generally, it seems, patience tends to be one of our least favorite of all topics, unless we’re commiserating how terrible we are at being patient.
At least we get a good laugh at the expense of our patience, and we seem to be able to talk about it.
 
Perseverance though, is one of those topics that rarely comes up. It’s like swallowing a daily dose of Castor Oil™;
even plugging your nose doesn’t help, but you choke it down because some watchful authority figure is making you do it.
Does anybody even remember Castor Oil™… the remedy to all things needing remedying?
 
Talking about perseverance only seems to happen because we’re stuck in a tough season of life that needs persevering,
and some watchful person thinks it’s time to pump your arm with a dose encouragement.
If this is one of those moments for you, perhaps these words might be better than Castor Oil™ for you.
 
Recently, I was thinking about Moses. He certainly seems like a huge hero of Biblical proportions.
(see what I did there?)
 
But, have you ever thought about how tough it might have been for him?
That perhaps he had to pull on his faith and commitment bootstraps just the same as everyone else?
All Moses knew was that God called and sent him. He obeyed, told Pharaoh to let his people go, and stood for God.
He didn’t know just how tough things were going to get by the end of his story.
 
Moses didn’t know yet, that…
 Pharaoh would brutally increase their load – twice
For a time he’d be the most hated man in all Israel
There would be 10 plagues
His family would be significantly stretched & then separated
His own brother would be involved in rebellion against him & God – twice
The wilderness would present one life ending threat after another
Other nations would attack to destroy them 
Their first attempt to enter the Promised Land would be an utter failure
There would be another 40 years of wilderness wandering
After everything he taught them (and they’d been through), very little of it really mattered…they seemed to learn little to nothing
So many people under his leadership would die because of rebellion, hatred of him and hatred toward God
Israel would forever struggle to trust him, believe him, follow him or even like him no matter how much he did for them, it would never be enough
In the end, he wouldn’t even get to enter the Promised Land
If he had known any of this – let alone all of it ahead of time – he probably wouldn’t have answered God’s call.
 
That’s the issue with perseverance…it requires constant doses of faith and endurance.
The only reason we’re persevering is because we are blessed by NOT knowing all that we’d have to face…just like Moses.
 
Thank God for Moses!
He shows us that it really IS one day at a time…one struggle at a time,
and that God is always and will always be faithful to take those steps along with us.
We can rest in His power and press on.
 
Perhaps this prayer may help:
Father, whatever it was that sustained Moses’ focus, faith, and resolve, please help me find it and use it.
Help me to remember you really are there with me…that you sustain me…and because of you, I will thrive. Amen.
 
Author:
Lead Pastor of Faith Assembly

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Disrupted Plans

Recently on a business trip, how did I make the best use of a couple hours of wait time at the airport you ask? By observing people, their various behaviors… and praying for people stressing out when their flights were delayed or gates changed. I have been in their shoes many times and have acted similarly (and regrettably still do sometimes), but God has started to change me from the inside out. Praise God for the work He has done in me – and is still doing in all those professing that He is Lord.

As I sat there, I immediately went to being thankful for what Faith Christian School (FCS) is doing to educate young people. They teach with a Christ-centered world view, and encourage their students to be powerful witnesses in all of life’s circumstances. As FCS prepares to open the new elementary campus, I couldn’t help but reflect on my first introduction to FCS and to Christian education.

Over 21 years ago, we found FCS. It’s been, and continues to be, a powerful influence in my life and in the lives of my family.

I became a brand new Christian at the age 34, and it was the first year of having children at FCS. I found myself studying my children’s text books. I was amazed to read and learn for the first time about God’s plans and influences for every academic subject.

The other powerful aspect (that my wife and I had not experienced before in interacting with teachers at other schools) was the love teachers had for the school ministry and for the children. We have seen this play out time and time again with our children and now with our grandchildren. FCS has been a blessing to my family and many others throughout its 35-year history, and I thank God FCS partnered with us to raise our children.

Proverbs 16:3 came to mind, reminding me to “Commit your work unto the Lord and the plans will be established.”

When I have difficulty establishing the plan, I must remember to ask if I have committed it to the Lord. Doesn’t matter if it is a disrupted flight plan or raising children. How about you?
 
Author:
Elder, Faith Assembly

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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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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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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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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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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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