What Are You Choosing Today?

Each and every day, we get to choose which path our day is going to follow.
 
We can choose to be positive and look at the day with excitement and enthusiasm… or we can be a negative, pessimistic person and look at the things we need to get done with a negative perspective.

We get to choose how our day will start and end.
What a privilege and challenge at the same time.

Psalm 143: 8
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

When we put our trust in Him and listen to what He wants us to do in life, our path seems to take on a positive vibe even when things don’t go our way. It’s not always an easy path to find – but once you do – it is well worth it.

 
Lately, I have tried to make a conscious decision to start my day with a positive attitude.
Does that happen every day? Absolutely not. Do I make it my goal? Yes.
 
Over the past few years I have been dealing with chronic back pain to which no treatments have been successful. There have been so many ups and downs and even though I believed and trusted God would take care of me, I still struggled. It wasn’t until after a recent treatment that made me worse than before, did I realize that I needed to change my prayer life.
 
While driving to church, I heard a song by Natalie Grant. The chorus to “More than Anything” really hit me hard:
Help me want the healer more than the healing
Help me want the savior more than the saving
Help me want the giver more than the giving
Oh help me want you Jesus, more than anything
 
In my mind and prayers over the years, I would ask for healing in His time.
As patient as I thought I was being, I realized I needed to change my mindset of what God was teaching me about himself.
When I decided to turn my wants and physical needs to more of a relationship-prayer life –
focused on learning more about the heart of God – did I come to this realization:

Each day is a gift from God.
I need to live in the moment of where I am right now.
I need to want the HEALER more than the healing.

 
Don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely okay to pray for physical healing – He wants us to pray for it.
But He also wants us to focus more our relationship and the discovery of who He is.
What an amazing God we serve that he tells us in Isaiah 46:4-13
I am your God and will take care of you until you are old and your hair is gray. I made you and will care for you; I will give you help and rescue you. “To whom will you compare me?” says the Lord. “Is there anyone else like me?

 

Matthew 6:26-27
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? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
 
So who are we as Christians to worry about tomorrow (or dwell on our aches and pains) when he promises He will take care of us.
We can remind ourselves of this daily and choose to be a positive, optimistic person – choosing to have faith in God’s great love for us.
 

Choose today to be positive and joyful. Choose relationship. Choose discovery of Him.

 
Author:
Faith Kids Ministry, Faith Assembly

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Share Your Struggles with Your Children

A parent’s love for their child is powerful and unyielding. My own daughter is not even two years old, yet I already know there is no limit to what I would do for her. As parents, we have so many hopes for our children’s future, what career they will pursue, hobbies we want to pass on, and relationships they will have. We also know the difficulty in letting our child figure something out on their own, knowing how much easier it would be to just do it for them or to give them the answers.
 
Yet we persevere, let our children explore new things, let them try to hold a cup of water with no lid, get dressed by themselves, pick a sport.
 
We train and guide them on how to deal with a tough teacher, a friend who was mean, their first breakup, how to make good decisions in life.
 

We hold fast to Proverbs 22:6, praying that our kids choose Jesus someday.

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

 
But all along the way, do we ever let our kids see our own struggles, witness how we deal adversity and how we go to God with our challenges? We so desperately want to preserve our children’s innocence as long as possible, but there will be a day when they will have to deal with an adult-level problem. If they haven’t been shown how to do that, their first instinct may not be to turn to Christ.
 

If you have children in junior high or high school, I can promise you that your kids know when something is wrong.

 
They may not know the details, but they can tell when something is going on – and they worry about it. I have previously worked as a camp counselor for 7 years and have been a youth group leader for over a year. Many of the prayer requests I hear from students are about their family or their parents. Instead of hiding everything from them in the hopes of protecting them, invite them in so they can see how you lean on Christ. They don’t need all the specifics (and it’s not always healthy for them to know every detail), but the more you try to hide, the more they will fill in with their own imaginations.
 

Pray for God’s discernment and be open as God leads.

 
Pray about it as a family, teach them how they can be helpful by praying and listening to God. Show them how you lean on Jesus even when nothing is going right, so when they find themselves in a similar situation, they too will run fiercely after Jesus.
 

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

 
Let’s teach our children how to run to Christ in every situation by letting them see how we do it first. Let’s give them an example to follow when things in their own life seem out of control. By sharing our struggles, we have a prime opportunity to point them to Jesus.
 
Author: 

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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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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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Choose Joy – Use the HAPPY Method

Have you ever heard of SAD Syndrome? I hadn’t until about a year ago. SAD is an acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s is a type of depression related to changes in seasons — it begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue throughout the winter, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. I can see how this has an impact on a person and have even experienced it myself at some point. After it’s been cloudy, rainy, snowy, or cold, all you want is a day to enjoy the sunshine and just be outside. It can start to wear on your emotions and thought-life which can – in turn – cause anxiety, depression and even fear.

At this point in the year, everyone is longing for some warmth and spring-like weather. Something to help us feel alive again and feel happy.

 

Let’s take a quick look at Paul’s life and the situations he faced. Paul was thrown in jail, beaten several times, stoned, robbed, shipwrecked several times, and even faced death – just to name just a few! When we look at a brief snapshot of Paul’s life, we see that no one is immune to pain or trial. It seems to come in waves and in varying degrees throughout our life. But here’s the point: Paul lived a life of gratitude, which in turn allowed him to live a life where he chose joy instead of despair.

In Philippians 3:8 Paul wrote, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…”

 

Paul saw the bigger picture of what his sufferings in life were all about. It was a mindset and a way of thinking he chose to embrace. He realized that the world’s kind of happiness tended to be based on fleeting circumstances, but God’s kind of joy is never dependent on if we are going through trials and sufferings… or not.

 
Rather, Jesus offers life-giving contentment and peace no matter what we are facing. So instead of allowing outside circumstances to control you, follow Paul’s example and chose an attitude of joy that can only come from God. This is the deep kind of joy that circumstantial, temporary happiness can’t provide.

 

We have so much to be happy about in life. Our family, our health, our friends and the list goes on with a multitude of blessings every day. However, if you still struggle to be happy about life, then choose to be joyful about Jesus love for you – so much love he gave his life for you on the cross. He did this so you might have life – and life more abundantly. Once we embrace this and turn our thoughts to Jesus, our circumstances may not change, but our mind will as we begin to see them in the light of Jesus and through his eyes.
 

As we finish out this winter season, I would like to encourage us to focus on embracing joy and choosing happiness in our thinking. Here is a little acronym to use for HAPPY when you are struggling:

H – Help others (there is great joy in helping others)
A – Adjust your thought-life to Jesus’ life and his example
P – Pause and reflect on all your blessings
P – Pray
Y – Yearn for Jesus

Let this Happy Song encourage you and help you remember why we can choose joy every day.
 


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Doing Your Part to Seek God First

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

 The Blind. AKA: The Palace

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

 Doing Your Part to Seek God First

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Year, New You

Do you ever feel like you are not enough?

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

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

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

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

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


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4 Things to Do When You Feel Attacked

Let’s face it, life is challenging. Some seasons are worse than others. Approaching the holiday season is no exception.

 
There is a lot of material out there addressing the subject of spiritual warfare, and it can make you head spin trying to sort it all out. Here are just a few quick thoughts for you to chew on.
 

The Enemy of Our Souls Prefers to Attack Us When We’re Tired

Exhaustion makes us vulnerable. Sometimes the attack comes from people you’d normally think you could trust… and at times, least suspect. Just remember, it’s not them alone. The enemy easily works both angles.
  
Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
 

Spiritual Attacks Come When We Least Expect Them

Not looking? Watch out. Attacks can come our way during moments when we think we’re feeling pretty good or strong. Like a skilled boxer, the enemy is strategic. He uses a quick jab to surprise us, distract us, knock us off balance and mess with our confidence.

Keep in Mind – It’s His Job

God calls our enemy the “accuser of the brethren”. Don’t allow him the satisfaction of making you feel weak or victimized. Claim your rightful identity in Christ, who defeated him long ago. Let your Heavenly Father use the opportunity to continue making you wise as He toughens you up in the process. At the end of all this, he is a defeated foe and he knows it. The last thing he wants is to see you stand strong in the power of Christ, denying your pride and running the race full on.
 
Revelation 12:10 “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.”
 

Remember, God Has Instilled Himself in You

His wisdom is in you. His strength is in you. He has adopted you into His family and He’s given you a purpose in His kingdom.
 
1 John 4:4 “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”
 
It helps to keep things in proper perspective. Take practical care of yourself; it helps to guard against exhaustion. Keep the truth of God’s Word close to you so it feeds your soul and protects your heart. Remember who you really are – a member of God’s family, a precious child of the King, full of His Spirit and resurrection power. When you feel attacked, look to Jesus.
 
Author:
Jon Marx, Lead Pastor of Faith Assembly

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Faith of the Next Generation

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

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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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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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There Is Hope

What do you hope for you in your life? What keeps you pressing forward when life become tough?
For me, there are several things that keep me moving forward.
 
I grasp onto the things that matter.
I hang on to those most dear to me- my wife, my kids, my close friends.
I hold firmly to these concepts:
There has to be something greater than me.
There has to be something greater than this life.
 
Some people call it a higher power, while others refer to a superior being. I call Him Jesus.
 

I believe that deep down, everyone hopes to have a good life- a life filled with the basic needs we all have- love, family, shelter, food, peace and happiness. A life without fear, knowing that things will somehow work out for the best.

Sometimes they don’t always work out for what seems the best, but we can still grasp onto those things in life that give us hope. I want to encourage you with this one thought: THERE IS A HOPE.
 
A hope deep in your soul that confirms there is something bigger than this life.
A hope there is someone greater than the troubles of this world.
A hope that someone that will give you the strength to face your trials, worries, fears and temptations.
 
There is that someone. His name is Jesus Christ. He is our hope.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. If He is for us then who can be against us? Isaiah 41:10

In the face of life’s difficult and heart-breaking trials- death, addiction, lies, betrayal, infidelity, depression, and more-
you can find hope.

We all hope for something. Why not take a chance on God and put your hope in Him?
 
What do you have to lose by putting your hope and trust in a God who loves and cares for you more than anyone else…
more than you can ever possibly know?
 
Be encouraged friend. Put your hope in Jesus today.
Listen to this song by Tenth Avenue North titled “I Have This Hope” and let it sink deep into your soul. 
 

Author: 

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