Called to be Fishers of Men

A couple of weeks ago the sermon at our church referenced John 21: 1-14. It is amazing how you can read the Bible and see one thing, and later read it again for God to point out even more truth you had not seen before. That was the case with this passage for me.
 
So in the reference, Simon Peter tells his friends he’s going fishing. They say they’re going with him. Here’s the thing: I know fishing is their trade – and they must eat – but in Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17 – Jesus said he would make them “fishers of men” if they would follow him.
 
They go fish all night and catch nothing. Then as morning comes, they hear someone (they don’t know who at this point) say “Children have you any food?” The answer is no! So, Jesus tells them to cast their net out on the right side of the boat.
 
Now hold up. If I’m in the boat, I’m saying to myself “Are you kidding me, I have been out here all night and you don’t think I’ve tried both sides of this boat? Really?”
 
Back to the story. So they throw their net out on the right side. They end up catching so much they can’t even pull the net in. Simon Peter puts on his outer garment and jumps into the water because he now knows it’s Jesus speaking to them from shore. The rest of the disciples stay in the boat and bring the fish to them. When they get there, they see breakfast is already cooking. “Bring some of the fish you have just caught,” Jesus says.
 
Then I had questions.
 
Certainly there are the miracles that happened:
  • Catching 153 large fish on the right side of the boat – who does that?
  • The net doesn’t break – how?
  • Breakfast is all ready for them when they get to shore. Who made the breakfast and where did the food come from?
After the questions, I had a few thoughts.
  • In this story, Peter reminds me of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus. Peter had to get to shore to be with Jesus, while the rest of the disciples stayed with the task at hand – like Martha. I want to be like Peter.
  • We are all called to be fishers of men. We may share our testimony and not feel we get any responses, but God asks us to keep witnessing – keep fishing. You never know when your net will be so full you can’t bring it into the boat.
Bottom line?
Keep being a fisher of men – even when it feels like no one is listening.
Keep throwing your nets into the water.
Maybe try the right side next time.
 
Author:
Ken Drew, Elder at Faith Assembly

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The Power of Teamwork

Throughout my life I have been able to witness the power of teamwork. I’ve seen teamwork at its finest in the Army, corporate America, law enforcement… everyone coming together to further the organization’s vision and goals. We often hear about being part of a team or think about sports teams putting their hands together and shouting TEAM! It’s a common theme used in uniting people towards a common goal.
 
I also feel it’s a word that is taken for granted and not truly appreciated in our culture – even in the modern day church. Everything around us (TV shows, billboards, commercials, social media), tells us to do what is best for the individual and to do what makes the individual feel good or succeed.
 
Teamwork is defined as the combined action of a group of people, especially when effective and efficient. This definition reminds me of the Biblical book of Acts and the beginning of the local church. If you have time to read about the development of the church, you will find it was a total team effort.
 

In Acts 2:45 it says “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had a need.” Can you imagine this happening today? The believers in the book of Acts understood what the word “team” meant and they were willing to give up their own personal possessions to further God’s kingdom. Are you willing to do the same?

 
In 1 Corinthians 12, it talks about one body with many parts. Chapter 12 compares the human body to the body of Christ and the church.
 
Verse 19-22 mentions “a body isn’t really a body, unless there is more than one part. It takes many parts to make a single body. That’s why the eyes cannot say they don’t need the hands. That’s also why the head cannot say it doesn’t need the feet. In fact, we cannot get along without the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest.
 
 
The concept of teamwork is embodied throughout scripture. I want to encourage us to embody the same concept. We are stronger together and we are not meant to do life alone, but rather as a team of believers. We have a common goal in Jesus Christ. Let’s embrace teamwork as Christians and show the world the love of Christ.
 
Check out this song by Casting Crowns that challenges us to be a part of the body and embrace teamwork as Christians. 
Author: Ryan Bivins
 

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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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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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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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Why Old Testament Sacrifice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thoughts on Preparing For the Ultimate Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why I Believe in Christian Education

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

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

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

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

To know, love and obey God

To pass it on to the next generation

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

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

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

Partner with parents

Communicate and impart the Gospel of Christ

Teach and develop a Christian worldview

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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