Are you prepared for eternity?

I love God’s word!

I have a medley of scripture verses developed over the years that the Lord has given me that I recite nearly every day on my “drive to work”. Yup, haven’t been as faithful with this in my work from home status over the last few months, but I am still prompted often to recite it in order to keep it fresh in my mind. I have also recently been blessed with scripture that has encouraged me in this crazy part of world history over the last several months. God’s word helps me keep a right focus, control my fear, and maintain an attitude of worship.
 
My recent blessing comes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and in my Bible is titled “The Coming of the Lord”. I won’t list it here in its entirety but ask you to read it. I have excerpted verses 16 and 17.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first (those who have died having chosen Jesus). After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so, we will be with the Lord forever.

Can you get excited about this truth?

If we can’t get excited about this, we don’t understand the gospel or the second coming of Christ. If we don’t understand what God has prepared for us for all of eternity, we don’t understand the gospel or the second coming of Christ. If we think we would rather enjoy the things of this world and have bought into the worldly notion that heaven will be boring as we simply float around in the clouds singing worship songs, we don’t understand the gospel or the second coming of Christ.

“Therefore encourage each other with these words” – 1 Thessalonians 4:18

The Bible tells us Heaven and earth will be one and God is coming to live with us (Revelation 21) – how incredible is this? Those whose name is written in the book of life having chosen Jesus Christ will help God rule the universe. How crazy cool! Isaiah prophesied this 700 years before Christ, Jesus talked about it during his life on earth, and John saw this 100 years after Christ as he was given this vision in Revelation 21. I pray you have been encouraged as you think deeply about this truth.

I have learned over the years that God’s truth coming alive in our hearts and minds doesn’t just happen, it takes discipline to study, meditate, and marinate (as Pastor Jon reminds us) as God allows and desires us to grow in relationship with Himself.

 

Are you able to make time for getting to know God and ensure you are prepared to meet Jesus in the clouds? I pray everyone reading this will be prepared. If you’d like to talk more about this, please contact us – we’d be filled with joy to introduce you to Jesus and help you grow in Him!

 

Author:

Randy O. | Elder, Faith Assembly

 

 


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The Righteousness of God

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” -2 Corinthians 5:21 
 
Jess and I had communion this last Sunday. It’s a fascinating sacrament. We do it to remember this: the blood of Jesus washes our sin away, and at the same time, God places the righteousness of Christ on us. It becomes the lens God uses every time he sees us. Theologians call it, “Imputed Righteousness.” This righteousness was a concept that I did not understand until my sophomore year in Bible College. But I didn’t learn it in a classroom. 
 
A floor mate of mine loved Jesus. Let’s call him Gus. Gus loved Jesus so much that he became known for it in a dorm full of Bible majors. Like many colleges, I remember we’d have late-night heart-to-heart conversations. Everyone would listen as a guy shared his life story. Then there would be a respectful silence before we responded to build that person up, to encourage them.
 
When Gus was in the discussion, he’d start his response with a slightly longer version of the same thing he said every morning while greeting people. 
 

For example, let’s say I just finished sharing my life story. After the short silence, Gus would get up, put his hand on me, and look me in the eye, “First off, Phil, do you know that you are the righteousness of God? That when God looks at you, he does it with all the limitless love he has for his perfect son Jesus, and it brings him unimaginable joy to even look at you?”

 
When Gus first said something like that to me, I told him I understood. But I’ll be honest; I didn’t, not yet.

It would take a few more mornings of, “Good morning, Phil!”  

“Good morning Gu-”

“Did you know that today, God sees you as righteous?!”

At 26 minutes into the Sunday morning service on April 26, Pastor Jon articulated imputed righteousness. Every time we take communion, that beautiful doctrine is there. I honestly can’t tell you how I grew up all those years in the church and missed it. 
 
However, I can tell you this. Jesus shed his blood so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God. The more you remember that, the more it will change your life. 

And if you remind others, it could change their lives too.

If you’re reading this and desire to know more about Jesus, contact us. It will absolutely change your life. We are here to have that conversation when you’re ready.
 
Author:
Phil Arellano

 


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We Know How the Story Ends

As I listen to the news and the increase in Coronavirus cases, a fast declining stock market, and additional layoffs, I also watch the birds in my backyard. I am struck again that they don’t seem to worry about what they will eat or what they will do next- they just do it. The birds simply follow the instincts God designed into them and they get fed (Matthew 6:26). 
 

Our human instinct

God also designed humanity with certain instincts including to run, hide, and fight during certain crisis situations and I know I have done this well, and sorry to say even against God. Until we get our new bodies as promised in the Bible, our instincts are corrupted by sin. As a consequence of our fallen human state (even though saved perhaps) during this time of great uncertainty, we worry because there is trouble! We worry about how to avoid illness, being able to provide for our families, and yes – even if we will have enough toilet paper to ride out this craziness. 

Are we surprised by this current round of trouble? It certainly could perhaps become the worst many of us have seen in our lifetime, but should we be surprised?

Jesus tells us in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  

 

Do we believe what Jesus is telling us?

One of the two criminals crucified next to Jesus discussed in Luke 23 asked that Jesus “remember him when He comes into His kingdom” and since that criminal placed his faith in Jesus and believed him, Jesus response was, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise”.  

Revelation 21:4 tells us how the story ends and the ultimate paradise where, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 

Jesus knew we would face troubling times

Jesus knew we’d have trouble – that’s why he warned us about this and reminds us that He has overcome! The Apostle Paul further reminded us in his letter to the Philippians that “our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body” (3:20)

Back to Matthew 6:26, Jesus tells us to “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?”

 

We know how the story ends

Do you believe Jesus?   Give Him a chance and you will find Him faithful in times of crisis. It is His nature! He stands ready to draw you unto Himself and transform your heart and mind – even in the midst of troubling times.
 
Author:
Elder, Faith Assembly

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The Bread of Jealousy – You Have a Purpose

 

Barley vs. wheat

While the Jews of Jesus time were capable of making breads of various grains, the two most common grains used were barley and wheat. Barley had a grainier texture and tasted a little bland while the wheat bread was softer and sweeter to the taste. In most cases, people preferred the flavor of the wheat, and would naturally gravitate to its choice over any of the other types, including and especially barley. So, when preparing the grocery list for the family, one might notice the wheat stores were highest in demand all year, so much so that it tended to run out before the next harvest.
 
Here’s where barley comes in to save the day. The barley harvest was generally three weeks earlier than the wheat harvest, and that caused folks to flock the markets looking for the less desirable barley loaves to “make due” until the wheat harvest came in. The barley loaves were meant to keep the belly full, more than pleasing the pallet. The rest of the year, folks would resort to the barley loaves when they were pinching pennies or feeding larger families with children. So, the barley got the nickname “Bread of Jealousy”, always wishing to be loved as much as the wheat.
 

The miracle from His hand

In John 6: 1 – 15 we find the story of Jesus feeding the crowd of five thousand. Did you ever notice that when He borrowed the little boy’s lunch it was consisting of 5 small barley loaves? Like I said earlier, sometimes parents would buy the barley to save money and fill the hollow legs of children, while probably – secretly – keeping a stash of wheat for themselves (kind of like your secret supply of chocolate).
In this case there is an entire crowd of Jesus’ children gathering, and remembering the Passover is quickly approaching, He feels the need to feed them. I find it interesting that in all the times Israel complained about God’s provisions for them in the desert, there is no complaint the bread they’re getting is plain barley and not the sweet wheat.
You know the story. He blesses the meal of barley bread and fish and then feeds the entire crowd… to the point the disciples gathered up 12 baskets of leftovers from the barley loaves. And, before you think the leftovers were from finicky eaters who turned their noses up, the Apostle John notes (John 6:12) the crowd was “filled” full… they all ate to being full.

Here’s one thing I find fascinating from this story. God is a master at using, what we would call, the lesser product for His amazing purposes through His wisdom and power.

 
Perhaps you feel like the lesser product, and you can relate to the “Bread of Jealousy” wishing to be loved as much as what you perceive to be the “preferred bread”. Usually, that’s because we simply can’t grasp the beauty of our own unique purpose. If there was no Barley Bread getting families through until the wheat harvest came in, then they would go hungry and Jesus would have had to find another food to make His miracle.
 
Remember, it wasn’t the wheat that received the miracle from His hand…it was the barley. So a note to all of us barley people… let’s let our Father in Heaven remind us that He has real and important purposes for us in mind.
 
Author:

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Lord, Give Me Faith!

“I may be weak, but Your Spirit is strong in me. My flesh may fail, but my God You never will.”

 
These are the lyrics to a song called “Give Me Faith” written by Elevation Worship. I’m not sure about you, but these lyrics speak to me every single day of my life. I can think of times where I let my wife down by something I said or did. Or times when I messed up by acting a certain way while competing in sports. Or the countless times in a day when I fail God by not trusting what He says.
 

“Give me faith, to trust what you say. That you’re good and your love is great.”

 
God’s word – the Bible – is full of wisdom and is truly the guide to living a life with Christ. I have to continually ask God to help me in my faith of what he says. From everyday situations like how I respond to someone who has made me upset, to major life situations like losing a friend or family member.
 

God tells us in His word that he will never leave us or forsake us.

 
There are countless examples of men and women in the Bible who trust God and live out their faith. We can look at Abraham and his predicament to sacrifice his own son. Was that ever God’s plan… I don’t believe so. God’s plan was for Abraham to take the next step of faith and trust in his relationship with him. We can look at the life of Joseph. Joseph went through a lot of trials and unfair treatment, but he never lost his faith in God and continued to trust him through the those times. GOD NEVER LEFT Joseph.
 

It’s easy to trust God when things are going well, but our true test of faith comes when life gets a little bumpy.

 
Just because we follow Jesus and are Christians, doesn’t mean life will be easy. But we can trust God’s word that He is good and His love for us is great. That he will never leave or forsake us and has a good and perfect plan for each of our lives.

I believe the first step in growing our faith and trust in Jesus is to recite the lyrics that I first mentioned. “I may be weak, but Your Spirit is strong in me. My flesh may fail, but my God you never will.” I know in my own life that this is a daily process to acknowledge that I am a sinner in need of a Savior. Through my weakness, He is strong.

Please take the time to listen to “Give Me Faith” by Elevation Worship. Pour out your heart to God and ask him to Give you the faith to trust what He says. Because He is good and His love is great.
 

 
 
 
Author: 
Worship leader

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Our Hope in Jesus is Secure

HEBREWS 6:19 says:  This HOPE we have as an anchor of the soul, a HOPE both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil.

 

The hope we have in Jesus is that we can run to Him to be our spiritual and eternal refuge—i.e. our salvation, our support, our safe shelter, secure home. Here the Bible calls this hope “an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast”. This is a striking image!
 
The Gospel is more than mere doctrine. Our trust in Jesus realizes for us what an anchor accomplishes for a ship. Since an anchor is fixed and secure, it simply keeps a ship from drifting. This is vital when the storms hit. An anchor keeps a ship fast and secure when wind and waves would sink it or throw it way off course. As long as one’s anchor holds, the ship is safe from any danger.
 

The good news is this: our anchor grips the solid rock—Jesus.

 
I remember singing an old hymn with the following refrain:
 
In times like these you need a Savior, In times like these, you need an Anchor
Be very sure, be very sure, your anchor hold and grips the solid rock
this Rock is Jesus, yes He’s the One. This Rock is Jesus, the only One
I’m very sure, I’m very sure, my anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock
 
The latter part of our verse tells of our anchor entering within the veil. This is representative of being anchored in heaven. Because of Jesus we are anchored in heaven – our true home – and Jesus has gone there before us.
 

Abraham’s life teaches us that in some sense, hope is also a decision. Hope was his decision to believe God and His promises more than what he saw as impossible—something he couldn’t do without God’s help.

 
ROMANS 4:18 states When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, DECIDING TO live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”
 
Like faith, hope is confidently expecting something we do not see. Abraham could have said, “God you created me and you know I’m too old to father a child.” Remember the scripture…
 
If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently. Romans 8:24—25
 
One final thought about hope. God often teaches by using contrasts. Notice the contrasts He uses relative to hope in these verses:
 
JOB 8:13 That’s what happens to all who forget God — all their hopes come to nothing.
PS 33:18 Behold, the eye of Jehovah is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his lovingkindness.
 
What are you putting your hope in today? Are you placing your trust where there’s a sure foundation? Remember, Jesus is the hope we have as an anchor for our soul, a hope both sure and steadfast, and one that promises an eternal home when our faith and trust is in Him. Trust in Him today. When everything else around you may be shifting and unsure, Jesus is steadfast.
 
Author:
Pastor Liandro Arellano

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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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A Simple Powerful Truth

I have known the first stanza and refrain for the song “Jesus Loves Me” for many years even before becoming a Christian, but I never knew until recently that it had six stanzas. Before I share these powerful lyrics, I’ll share with you how I discovered this fact.

While participating in a Bible Exploration Group study – including people from different faiths and no faith – it became apparent the discussion was way too focused on divisive topics (some that have notoriously divided churches). Some of these topics certainly didn’t help people from other faiths (or no faith) to understand the purpose of the Bible – that God loves people! So, I sometimes made it a point to help end the meetings with the simple statement and gentle rebuke: Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.
 

Anticipating questions from this, I reviewed scripture that validates this truth and did a little research. Here is one of the things I discovered…

 

The song “Jesus Loves Me” was written in 1860 by Anna B. Warner and in 1862, William B. Bradbury composed the music and added the refrain. The following are the rich lyrics and refrain to the song:

Jesus loves me! This I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak, but He is strong

Jesus loves me! This I know
As He loved so long ago
Taking children on His knee
Saying, ‘Let them come to Me”

Jesus loves me still today
Walking with me on my way
Wanting as a friend to give
Light and love to all who live

Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide
He will wash away my sin
Let His little child come in

Jesus loves me! He will stay
Close beside me all the way
Thou hast bled and died for me
I will henceforth live for Thee

Jesus loves me! Loves me still
Though I’m very weak and ill
That I might from sin be free
Bled and died upon the tree

Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

The lyrics represent the simple and powerful message of God’s word

and purpose of the Bible.

 
Do you ever think you may not be prepared?
Do you sometimes feel like you’re just not capable to share your faith or explain it?
 
Keep it simple with this message: Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.
 
Author:
Elder at 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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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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