The Cost of Christmas

What do you think about when someone says Merry Christmas? Does it take your mind to warm and fuzzy places? Does it make you anxious? Fill you with joy? Make you sad? Excited? The Christmas season seems like a time that is highly influenced by our history, our gains and losses, and our present circumstances. 

Christmas brings us back to the power of the gospel

The season gives us a chance to enjoy traditions, gift-giving, and precious time with family. We might even take in a special Christmas service to remember the story. But it’s about more than that – so much more.
 
For believers, Christmas brings us back to the power of the gospel. It encourages us to look at the Christ child in light of the cross. It wasn’t glittery, it was less than ideal. Full of wonder, but unexpected. Beautiful, but messy. 
 

Christmas reminds us that sin has a cost.

Without this miracle – the Word becoming flesh – we would be utterly lost, without a way to be reconciled with God. We had dug ourselves a hole we couldn’t climb out of. The cost was too high. But God made a way – He sent a Redeemer.
 
Because of God’s great love for us, He gave his only son to pay the steep price of sin once and for all. Jesus, who laid aside His glory for the glory of the Father, became our Emmanuel. God with us – now and forever! Check out how this translation reads:
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. John 3:16-17 (The Message)
 
This is the good news the angels were talking about when they appeared to the scared-out-of-their-mind shepherds in the field. 
Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Luke 2: 10-12 (NIV)

 

Christmas led to sacrifice

The kingdom of God came in the form of a baby. God became man. The Word became flesh. I don’t think the disciples saw it coming that the Messiah – the one they’d been praying for – did not come to build the Kingdom on earth by revolution. Rather, the real revolution was one of the soul – our sin covered by Jesus blood once and for all. Only the Lamb of God could take away the sin of the world. We now have the opportunity to be clean and free from our past, reconciled to God, and alive in Him forever.
 
Does it mean life is perfect now? Nope. But because of the babe who became a man – this Jesus – we can now live a transformed life in and through His grace alone. We don’t have to earn it. But we can be transformed by it if we choose.
 

So when we celebrate Christmas, let’s remember this gift. The gift that brought healing of the soul. The gift that came at such a high price. Like his coming, our lives may be messy, but because of Jesus, they are beautiful.

 
There’s only one God that stepped down from His throne out of love, to save a world torn apart by sin. There’s only one King that did that for me – His name is Jesus. Do you know him? Check out this song by Marc Martel called How Many Kings below. It talks about just that.
 
If you don’t know Jesus and would like to know more. Please contact us. We’ve love to share more about how He has transformed our lives with you.
 
Author:

Michelle Marx

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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For His Name’s Sake

Lately I’ve been reading the Psalms for my devotions. One of the scriptures I recently read was Psalm 25:11: For Your Name’s Sake, O Lord, Pardon my iniquity, for it is great. The phrase For Your Name’s Sake caught my attention for a moment. but I was so intent on finding food for my current need, I moved right past it not realizing I passed up a meal.
 
A few nights later I landed on Psalm 23. Although it’s a familiar Psalm, the only one I’ve memorized, reading it again was comforting. To my surprise at the end of verse 3, there was that phrase again in Psalm 23:3b … He leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name’s Sake. I’m embarrassed to say after all the times I’ve read this Psalm and memorizing it, I never bothered to dig into what it actually meant.
 
Let’s discover the importance of it together. First, let’s start with a few other scriptures with the same or similar wording:
For you are my rock and my fortress; and for Your Name’s Sake you lead me and guide me. Psalm 31:3
Thus says the Lord God; It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the Sake of My Holy Name … Ezekiel 36:22a
And you will be hated by all for My Name’s Sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 10:22
Nevertheless He saved them for His Name’s Sake, that He might make His mighty power known. l John 2:12
 
I soon realized these words meant for the sake of revealing God’s character and His glory.
 

The Bible is not about me – it’s for me.

In the verses above, we see God addressing a situation or action that occurs for us and for the sake of exhibiting His character and His glory. The Bible is about our Father, His love for humanity, and His desire for a personal relationship with each of us. God is significant to everything, the foundation of our existence, and is our Beginning and our End.
Questions began to pop into my mind. Am I living out God’s character in my life? Do I leave question marks in people’s minds when I interact with them? Do they wonder what kind of God I serve when I act in a way that doesn’t look like the God I say I serve?
 

Our God is righteous.

Psalm 23:3 says He leads us in paths of righteousness (uprightness) so we are upright like Him. God offers us free grace, freedom from sin, a new character (His), and all of the guidance we need to be like Him. As we walk with Him, He calls us to display a character so like His that when others interact with us they can look through us and see Him.
 

What if my lifestyle isn’t upright?

Then who God is won’t be revealed through me. The world will see a distorted view of God and what He’s like. God is trusting us to realize the importance of His name. How we do life reflects on His name and character, and the witness we’re called to be is often tarnished by how we live our lives. Knowing we have the responsibility to live our lives for His names sake is quite a challenge – it calls us to live upright lives.

We can show a frightened and stressed world there is a God who offers them peace and comfort.

 
We have a Father who offers freedom from sin, longs to teach His ways, desires a personal relationship with us, and brings the peace we all long for. Let us embrace His character as a part of ourselves so the world sees Him through us. When we realize the Bible is for us and given to us for His sake, we can be sure He will not allow us to fail in serving Him if we live lives that reflect His character.
 
Author:
Church development at Faith Assembly

 

 

 

 


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Jesus, the Bread of Life

My wife (Cindy) and I will sometimes go to a bread store about an hour from where we live. There is just something wonderful about going into this store and smelling the fresh breads that are being baked. They also give free samples of the breads so you can see if there is any particular kind of bread you may or may not like. We love the Swiss/Dill, Cheddar/Garlic, Cinnamon, and Dakota breads. The other day I was having a piece of the Dakota bread toasted with some peanut butter on it and it was delicious!
 

While I was enjoying the bread, the Lord laid upon my heart thoughts about the Bread of Life.

 
There are many verses in the Bible about this, and here just a few:

Matthew 4

Satan tempted Jesus by telling him to change the stones into bread to nourish his body. His response was that Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

Matthew 26:26

Jesus took bread, blessed it, gave it to the disciples and said “take, eat, this is my body.

John 6:33

Jesus says, “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” In verse 35 Jesus says , “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger ; and he that believes on me shall never thirst.” Jesus is talking about our spiritual lives here.

John 6:51

Jesus talks about being the bread that was sent down from heaven “that whosoever eats of this bread will live forever.” Salvation!

I Corinthians 10:17

“For we being many are one bread, and one body : for we partakers of that one bread” – speaking of Jesus.
 
Here’s the bottom line. Yes, we all need nourishment for these temples God has entrusted to us to use while we walk this earth. The most important part however, is our spiritual health – partaking of the Bread of Life everyday so we can walk the earth spiritually equipped to do His will in our lives.
 
So the next time you look at any kind of bread, take time to think about the Bread of Life – Jesus – and let the Holy Spirit reveal to you the things God is wanting you to hear from Him. He alone is our sustainer, our salvation, and our hope!
 
If you need to talk to someone during these trying times, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to speak with you.
 
Author:
Ken Drew, Elder at Faith Assembly

 

 


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The Servant Leadership Example of Jesus

For each Faith Elder meeting over the last several months we have devoted time for teaching from a book on “servant leadership”.  A book that features Jesus himself modeling various aspects of leadership while he walked on this earth. The deacon board and church staff are also doing the same and as with the elders, each deacon and staff member take their “teaching turn” on different weeks.
 
It has been a super good lesson and reminded me of two important truths. The first is that study has to be intentional by spending time in God’s word to really know him, and the second is the importance of prayer and discussion with like minded brothers and sisters in the Lord. Both are required for growth in relationship with the Lord and with each other – especially in times of turmoil and distraction.    

The “servant leadership” teaching focused on one’s heart, head, hands and behaviors. It was helpful to see how Jesus focused on these areas of teaching and application with His disciples in the gospels. The focus scriptures in each meeting were those with which we were all familiar, but this teaching helped to draw out the deeper purpose of what Jesus was doing. These were applications not just for servant leadership in and around the church (body of believers) but in all areas including jobs, neighborhoods and families. Jesus is our perfect example!

The Heart

The heart was the first topic of teaching since it is the center of one’s being as is stated many times in scripture. Heart change is what moves a person from what is inherently a self-serving lifestyle to a serving lifestyle out of thankfulness for what Jesus has done for us.  It is what drives one’s motivation and intent to lead by serving. It very simply is giving instead of getting.
   

The Head

After the critically important element of the heart, the head comes into play to shape our belief system and perspectives. It is the renewing of our minds by being transformed from the inside out and no longer conforming (or desiring to conform) to the things of this world (Romans 12:2).
 

The Hands

Once the heart and head are engaged correctly, the work of the hands follow since the actions are now aligned with and becomes one’s behaviors.  With the heart, head, and hands working together, it can now be about the “being” of relationship and serving out of thankfulness and not just about the “doing” of the work. 
 

The Habits

The habits in which one seeks to engage was the last area of servant leadership development that is super important to ensure positive and helpful disciplines are maintained. The battle of getting and doing for self (the wrong reason) instead of giving for the Lord can often lead us the wrong direction.  Godly habits that involve solitude, prayer, and scripture meditation – all of which Jesus practiced often throughout his life on this earth – are the example He left us to follow to keep us moving in the right direction.
 
Reading this material may make servant leadership seem fairly simple, but as with many things the application can be challenging. Remember, it took a while for the disciples to get it even though Jesus was the best teacher ever and modeled it perfectly. That said, we can be sure Jesus will be patient with us too as we seek to live the greatest commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” as we seek to become all God created us to be. 
 
Author:
Elder, Faith Assembly 

 

 

 

 

 


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Entering God’s Rest – Our First Work

With the times we live in, it seems like everyone is on edge. I’m fairly certain you feel it. Life is fragile and uncertain, but God invites us on different path – to enter His rest.

Jesus knew His limits and adjusted His daily rhythms on a regular basis – and He was God! He lived by the Father’s guidance and found rest – even when (to the disciples anyway) it seemed as if everything was falling apart. If even Jesus was mindful of limits, why do we feel like we can keep relentlessly pushing without slowing down to tend to our souls?
 
We need God to bring us back to His still waters and restore our souls on a regular basis. This needs to be our first work before our earthly work begins. Check out these 5 practices to help you enter His rest.
 

Give yourself space to be quiet.

Most of us are not good at sitting in the quiet, allowing our soul to be vulnerable before ourselves and God. It can be a raw and frankly, uncomfortable place to be. Because we are so wired to solve problems and fix things, we often avoid what’s really going on inside us rather than quieting and allowing ourselves to hear.

In her article Solitude: A Place for Your Soul to Come Out, Ruth Haley Barton points out the importance of creating time and space for being with what’s real… “to celebrate the joys, grieve the losses, shed my tears, sit with the questions, feel my anger, attend to my loneliness. This kind of ‘being with what is’ is not the same thing as problem-solving or fixing because not everything can be fixed or solved. Rather, it is to allow God to be with me in the midst of what’s real and to wait for Him to do what is needed.”
 

Enjoy resting in the abiding – rather than the doing.

You can relax in God’s presence. Allow yourself to soak in the security and calm assurance you have in Jesus. He says He loves you, He will never leave you, and says not to be afraid. When the Israelite people were faced with the Red Sea in front of them and no way out, Moses said to them, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today…The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14:13, 14) We can relax in the presence of Abba Father, knowing He in control of all things.

Notice the beauty around you – even in the smallest of things.

God speaks to us on a daily basis. Do we hear Him, see Him? All of creation shouts to the glory and beauty of God. Even the smallest of things can point us to His goodness. God is the Author of everything beautiful in the world – from tender affection to the wonder of delicate spring flowers on a mighty mountain. The cool thing about slowing down to notice is it cultivates gratefulness and wonder in our hearts, drawing us back to Him.

Embrace your limits.

Are you stressed and anxious? Tense and triggered? Our body often signals us in ways we often ignore. Lay these before the Lord and mentally/emotionally detach from the stress. Philippians 4: 6-7 says “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Perhaps instead of stretching our limits in every way, we need to embrace them as God-given. Limits keep us grounded, keep us humble, and grows us in wisdom.

Drink in the scriptures.

In Psalm 23, David mentions God’s “rod and staff” and how he finds comfort in them. The good Shepherd guides and directs us through His Word. Find assurance, life-changing truth, and peace through taking in and meditating on His words. We often think in terms of “doing ministry” for Him, but He desires to work in you first. Be still before Him so he can meet you in the stillness – He has ministry to do in your spirit. The Lord is our shepherd – we have all we need in Him (Psalm 23).

Cling to Jesus friends. By entering into His rest first, a solid foundation is built. With His guidance, we find health, wisdom and maturity for all earthly work to follow.
 
Author:
Michelle Marx
Read more from this author on the Michelle Renee Speaks Blog.

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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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