Steady Your Steps through a Connection with God

I have a dear friend who gifts me laminated scripture memory cards, and my recent birthday was no exception. In addition to the Bible verse, my birthday scripture card included a fall color and the shape of a maple leaf, both representing my favorite season.
 
In fact, I received two of these cards so now I have one at work and one on a mirror in my home. I have been blessed with reflection on this scripture verse now for a few weeks, and I pray this will bless you as well.
 
 
I know I have read this verse before, but I haven’t thought deeply about it until I received it and read it every day. Having been introduced to Jesus many years ago at age 34 and surrendering my life to Him at age 35; I had lots of time before age 35 where my steps were “not walking in His ways”. So when I read and pray this verse, I can’t help but remember the consequences of sin (iniquity) having control (dominion) over me. I only stay in my past long enough to remember, and to say Praise God – thank you Jesus for what you did in my life and loving me while I was still just a sinner.
 
 
I realize (thankfully) that I still have the tendency to sin – and maybe not all the same sins that I once did – but until I get my eternal body, this will be the case. I should point out that I no longer want to sin, which is the difference now. In God’s accounting, sin is sin and disconnects me from Him.
 
However, when in a relationship with God through Jesus and I do sin; reconnection is just a prayer away. Praise God…again!

 

We choose to stay connected

God knew for people to truly love him it had to be voluntary. To truly love Him, we must start with the question: who is Jesus and why did He come? Once this is answered, we realize the entire human race as sinners and it is sin that separates us from God, but Jesus came to reconnect people with God. Once reconnected, we have voluntarily entered in to the love relationship God intended and treasures.
When we truly love God, we never want to be disconnected again, and out of thankfulness for what He has done, cry out as the psalmist did “Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.”
 

God is waiting to hear from you

Are you thankful? Have you entered in to this voluntary love relationship? Do you cry out for God’s help for Him to steady your steps to remain connected? He wants to answer! It blesses His heart when we cry out and express our thankfulness for what He has done. don’t wait friend, reach out today.

 
Author:
Elder, Faith Assembly

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Called to be Fishers of Men

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

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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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Washing Whiter Than Snow

The good and bad news about the late April snow fall this year is that snow this time of year doesn’t last long. Good news, because the snow melts quickly… and with it, the end of long cold winter memories. Bad news, because once the snow melts we are left with the dirty messy ground that remains until the new spring growth blooms through.
 
Much like a beautiful sunrise in the morning is a trigger for me to be immediately thankful for what the Son-rise did for me, so too is a beautiful snowfall a trigger for me to be immediately thankful for the Son washing away my sin and cleaning me white as snow.
 
 
Sin is very simply doing things or even thinking things that are not what God wants and represents the dirty messy ground.
In Roman’s 3:23 the Bible says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. The Bible also tells us in 1 John 1:10 “if any one claims to be without sin, they make God a liar”.

These scripture verses make it very clear that people do sin, and it’s this sin that separates us from the God that created us to be His glory.

 
So the Son-Rise, known as the resurrection we celebrated recently at Easter, made it possible for all who believe in their heart and confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord will be called the children of God. This is believing and confessing that God sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our sin through His death on the cross and that three days later, he was resurrected back to life. Hallelujah!
 
I love-love a fresh snowfall, especially when I am sitting in my tree stand in the woods already in prayer with the Lord, and I can watch real time snow covering the ground and everything on it. It just makes me want to shout (even in the quiet of a tree stand), “Thank you Jesus” for washing my sin away and making me white as snow.
Psalm 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions (sins) from us.
Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us settle the matter”, says the Lord. “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

Is your heart messy ground, or whiter than snow? Jesus is the answer. He saved us from our sin (messy ground) and provided a way for a clean slate. Have you settled the matter? When you do, I can guarantee you’ll never look at a sunrise or snowfall the same way as you did before.

 
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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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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?
 
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A Counter-Cultural Fruit of the Spirit

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Marriage is an essential place to put this into practice.

 

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

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

The Pharisees blew it.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Self-Control… those words roll of the tongue so easily, but are so much harder to live out.

I would like to look at this fruit of the Spirit through spiritual eyes, as opposed to the eyes of the world. Bible Gateway discusses self-control as being one of the basic Christian virtues, the mastery of self, and the exercise of restraint. Only through submitting our will to the work of the Holy Spirit can we expect to have self-control.

Self-control is a fruit that needs work on a daily basis. Just look at scripture and witness the choices people made in a moment of temptation. We can see some practiced self-control – and some did not. There are many places we can find the good, bad and ugly regarding self-control in the scriptures.
 
 
Here are just a few examples:
 

Genesis 3
Hello Adam and Eve. What if Eve would have practiced self-control, remembered God’s care and command, and simply said no? What if Adam would have stepped up as the leader God created him to be, said yes to self-control, said no to passivity, and no to temptation? Remember, Satan knew the right words to entice them to commit the first sin.

Genesis 39
Joseph is a slave in Egypt. At one point, the lady of the house tries to seduce Joseph, but he literally runs from her. Joseph made the right choice and used self-control. He resisted temptation, fled from certain death and as a result, fulfilled the destiny God had planned for him.

Proverbs 25:28
“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left with no walls. No walls means no defense, no safety and in time, certain destruction. When we talk of right and wrong on a spiritual level, we are talking about sinning or not sinning. So, when we decide on right or wrong in the sight of the Lord, we are choosing good or evil. And let us not forget – God hates evil – that is what sent His Son to the cross.

Galatians 5:19-23
There are 15 works of the flesh and 9 fruits of the Spirit all noted here. This shows Christ-followers this: we have to work twice as hard on the fruits of the Spirit to overcome the flesh. Our enemy knows the works of the flesh we deal with on a daily basis! Don’t be surprised – he will do anything he can to get our eyes off of Jesus and on to ourselves, tempt us to give in to what satisfies the flesh in an attempt to lead us away from Christ. So, know your stumbling blocks, and when the evil one comes to tempt you, use that fruit of the spirit – self-control.

Here’s the good news: God is always at our side to help us when we call.

 
We must call out to Jesus for help… every day. He has told us that no temptation is new, but is common to all. He has promised He will always provide a way of escape. Our job is to lean on the power of the Holy Spirit, look for the way of escape, and use self-control to take the right path. Lean into Him today, and let Him help you grow in self-control in every way.
 
Author: Ken Drew

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Defensiveness and Denial – The Two Issues of Cain – Part 2

The last time we visited the story of Cain, we looked at his issues with denial – and his refusal to acknowledge responsibility in his relationship with his brother. Today, let’s examine how denial played an even larger role in his relationship with God in Genesis 4:1 – 24.

The story opens with a brief introduction of the main characters – Cain and Abel – the two sons of Adam and Eve. When the boys become men, it’s time for them to take responsibility for their own relationships with God.

In time, they both offer sacrifices to God in worship from the fruit of their own labors. The next thing we know, God has accepted Abel’s offering of animal sacrifice but rejected Cain’s offering of grain. Cain responds to the rejection with anger and despondency. Later, he lures his brother out into a field to talk about it. In a moment of rage he strikes him, killing him.

I used to struggle just a bit with a small sense of injustice for Cain’s sake. How was he supposed to know God didn’t want an offering of vegetables? After all, God instituted a grain offering years later through Moses (Leviticus 2:1 – 15). Besides, this came from him and what he was good at doing. It kind of feels like the parent who doesn’t accept a small child’s art project because it wasn’t good enough.

Thing is, Cain knew exactly what he was doing. He was worshiping God on his own terms without care or concern for how God would feel about it. That’s not a healthy relationship. Let me explain…

 

The expulsion from Eden would have been far more devastating for his parents than we might think. The exclamation point of watching two animals get slaughtered to cover the nakedness of their lives after sin might have been far more personal than we realize… they weren’t likely just farm animals.

God’s covenantal relationship with them was established and sealed with blood, and Cain would have known the story all too well. For Cain, worshiping God on his own terms carries at least some similar characteristics to his parent’s sin. Cain wanted to be in control of the terms of the relationship rather than submitted to the expectations of someone else (God) like his brother, Abel.

Taking control places him beside God, which is similar to the enemy’s sin as well.

Even then, in a moment of mercy, God beckons Cain to see where he is, and to reach out in trust to Him when He says, “7If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7 NIV)

Denial keeps us from recognizing where we truly are by keeping us focused on only ourselves… our rights… our own version of justice or fairness. It keeps us from hearing the heart of someone else and finding the path to wholeness. Whenever that happens, both people are robbed of life. Often times, those effects play out in the lives of others in the vicinity.

 

Take a moment and ask yourself if you’re trying to be in control.

It may help you realize whether you’re in denial in your relationship with God and/or someone else in your life.

God was indeed reaching back to Cain. If only he had noticed God’s compassion before he crossed a line that stole Abel’s life… a theft that affected his parents, himself and all the members of the family he was about to have.

God is indeed reaching to you. Reach back to Him and let Him walk with you to restoration.
 
Author:
Faith Assembly

 


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Defensiveness and Denial – The Two Issues of Cain

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Embracing Humility

On Wednesday evenings, Pastor Jon has been taking us thru the book of Philippians. I would like to take a moment and concentrate on Philippians 2:1-11.  In these verses, we are encouraged to imitate Christ’s humility.
 
Let’s first look at the definition of humility:
A modest or low view of one’s own importance, humbleness. Some synonyms for humility are lowliness, meekness, submissiveness.
 
In verses 2- 5, Paul gives us insight into how to take on some of these positive traits as we interact with one another.
– Be like minded
– Have the same love
– Being one in the spirit and of one mind
– Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit
– Not looking to your own interests but to others
 
End of verse 3: “…rather in humility value others above yourself.”
 
Verse 5: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” So if we have the mindset of Jesus, we serve with a humble attitude.
 
Verses 6-11: ”Jesus, even though He was the Son of God did not use that to his advantage.” He took on a servant attitude as a human.
 
As you read on, verse 8 talks about how Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even the cross.
 
It becomes very clear in these verses that to imitate Christ, we must humble ourselves to our brothers and sisters in Christ and this world – just like Jesus did.
 
Finally in verse 9, God exalts Jesus to the highest place and gives him the name above all names. He states that every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
 
Living by Jesus example and imitating Him every day is what God is calling us to do as His children.
 
His call on our lives?
-To love our brothers and sisters in Christ,
-In unity, to cleave to the same mindset as Jesus
-To embrace being of one spirit,
-To put ourselves aside for the wellbeing of others
 
Sound familiar?
James 4:10 says: “Humble yourself before the Lord and he will lift you up.”
Author: Ken Drew
 

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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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Saturated and Full of God

One Sunday in November, Pastor Mike Gates and his wife (Living Hope Church, Elk Grove Village, IL) ministered to us while Pastor Jon and his family took some time off. During his message, he mentioned their church went through an in-depth study on being saturated by God, their ministries and church.
 
I tried to wrap my head around that idea. How does one be saturated by God? I looked up the definition of saturation and it said “to fill (something or someone) with something until no more can be held or absorbed”.
 
I remembered a message Pastor Jon shared with our church family using a sponge as his example. The sponge represented man. As the sponge absorbs water, it’s like man absorbing God. The result of man absorbing God is ‘saturation’ or the filling of our lives with the Lord’s presence and His ways. After thinking about this further, I concluded there are several areas of life we may need examine.
 

Our lives need to show those around us how the Lord is working in us – of course – but the real question is this: what does our heart really look like? Does it also shows the Lord’s work in it? Pretty important question since the heart is what the Lord looks at to determine where we are with Him. God works from the inside out.

 
How can we truly saturate ourselves with God?
We must actively give the Holy Spirit permission to reveal God to us – His glory, His path and all of His awesomeness.
When this happens, we start to absorb all the Lord has for us.
 

Ephesians 3:19 says: To know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge the you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. 

Acts 7:55 tells us: But being filled with the Holy Spirit he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
 

The bottom line for me is this: to know God to the fullest, serving Him completely requires we allow the Holy Spirit absolute control of every part of our life. By doing this, the natural outcome is to be saturated (or filled up) with God.

 
Let this song encourage you to pursue the fullness of God, allowing the Holy Spirit to consume us from the inside out.
 

Author:
Ken Drew, Elder

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