A Counter-Cultural Fruit of the Spirit

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Marriage is an essential place to put this into practice.

 

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

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

The Pharisees blew it.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, think of Jesus.

 

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

 

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

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

Author:

 


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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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Defensiveness and Denial – The Two Issues of Cain

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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Foundations

As a teenager, I got into underground punk music. Friends shared it with me and we started going to concerts regularly, even booking bands to play in Dixon. It started innocently enough. I was attracted to the artists and other people of influence who attended these concerts and helped to spread the word. They sounded convincing, and their lives were clearly dedicated to practicing what they preached.
 
When punks came together, we believed that our shared angst and anger allowed us to see cultural problems clearly and because of our position as outsiders, we were willing to do more about it. Long story short, I spent years of my youth chasing a way of life that had a foundation of sand.
In Matthew 7, Jesus says:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
 
Building your house on the Rock means hearing the words of Jesus and putting them into practice.
Building your house on the sand means not practicing the words of Jesus and/or practicing the words of someone else.
 
Simply hearing or teaching the words of Jesus is not enough. We have to actually practice them and show how we put them into practice. This process is as intentional as it is personal. It’s not just “listen to me” – it’s “listen and watch me as I follow Christ”.
 
Stop for a minute and reflect on your life. What Biblical truths do you actually put into practice?
Take some time to list them. Now hold that thought.
 
All children and teens are developing their worldview right in front of us.
They’re building a home for themselves in this world and that home will either be on a foundation of rock or sand.
 
I can promise you that while this is happening, the enemy will put liars in their path, people who not only speak false ideas but actually put those ideas into practice. Their words will be relentless and their practices will be persuasive.
 
Now think of the Biblical truths you’ve put into practice. How can you share it with the next generation?
It may be the foundation necessary to fortify a soul.
 
Author: 
Phil Arellano
Youth Lead, Foundations Youth Ministry at Faith Assembly

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Psalm 119- Thoughts & Observations

During the past several months we have been studying Psalm 119 at our Wednesday night prayer meeting. I thought I’d share some of the interesting observations our group made as we reviewed the emotions, concerns, and repeated commitment to the Lord referred to by the writer.
 
The author of Psalm 119 is unknown, but many think it is possibly David, Ezra, or Daniel. One thing that is clear, the author loved God and desperately wanted to honor Him in his life! It clearly shows us that the author experienced many struggles, but he always came back to center knowing that God was there for him. He goes through many trials and afflictions, but clings to the truths he has learned from the scripture.
 
I think this is a great lesson for all of us: even during our darkest time, God’s Word and His love never changes.
 
Interestingly, the chapter is broken into 26 sections, 8 verses per section. Each section starts with a Hebrew letter of the alphabet. Some of the words used to refer to the Word of God are; law, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, judgements, word, and ordinances. Look closer and you’ll see one of these words is used in almost every verse.
 
The attributes of God that he referred to frequently: His righteousness, His trustworthiness, His truthfulness, His faithfulness, His consistency, He is eternal, He is light, and He is pure. These attributes are in just about every verse in this chapter. These words are meant as an encouragement when we go through struggles, temptations, afflictions and persecutions.
 
Take time to meditate on God’s provision and trustworthiness in Psalm 119
and I believe you will come back to center – where God is.
 
Consider praying with us on Wednesday night. We have a great time studying the word of God and a sweet time in prayer. I hope to see you soon.
 
P.S.
Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible with only two verses. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the bible with 176 verses.
Psalm 118:8 is the very center of the Bible and says “It is better to trust in the Lord than to trust in people.”  Amen!
 
Author:
Ken Drew, Elder at 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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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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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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