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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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Parenting in Difficult Times

What kind of legacy are we leaving our children… especially in our nation’s current situation? What we are facing seems to be a difficult, challenging, and very interesting time in our lives right now. How are we reacting, what are we saying, how are we loving, steering, and guiding our children through this time?

At first things seemed to be going okay. Staying home, watching movies and schooling at home seemed to be “fun” at the moment – until it continued week after week. Those routines seemed to exit the mind as quickly as they came. Schoolwork became a fight, meal times sporadic, screen time continued to increase and attitudes became more evident.
 
Being socially distant is not a normal thing for adults – let alone children – so when it continued week after week it started to affect everyone.
  
Our children are watching our words and actions each hour of the day. How have I handled this? Well, not always with love and patience, but with God’s help and guidance He picks me back up each time I fail and fall. It is so important to remember that God is in control and He is our help!
 

God is our refuge and STRENGTH, a very present help in trouble. Psalms 46:1 

 

We are not alone in this, and we need His help and guidance each day. There is so much information out there telling us what we should be doing and not doing that it can be hard to keep them straight.

The most important thing to remember? Stay focused on the information that is TRUE – that being God’s Word. There are so many truths and lessons we can learn from these experiences we are going through… don’t miss them!

 

In Proverbs 22:6 it says to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” 

 

We have a wonderful opportunity as parents to instill some very good life lessons into our children. When we are pushed into things we are not use to, how do we react and guide our children?

Do we speak truth?

Do we show love no matter what?

Do I point them to Christ?  

 
Personally, this is a challenge for me every single day, but I pray each morning for God to help me choose Godly responses. I know I can’t raise these children on my own so I need to keep seeking out truth to teach them and pray that they choose for themselves to follow him. 
 

When my kids look back at this experience, I pray they will remember how we as a family stayed united and sought after God’s truth through it all.

 

I’m sure they are going to remember the screaming and impatience I had during school work (Lord, help me!) but I sure hope they will remember the strength and comfort we took in God’s word to protect and guide us. He alone is our constant helper and an ever present help in time of need.
 

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! Psalm 121:2

 
How has your parenting been going during this crisis? Whether rocky or smooth sailing, remember His mercies are new every morning. Our Savior loves your children even more than you do! Entrust your heart to Him and allow Him to work in and through you to be the best parent you can be. Parents, you’ve got this!
 
Author: 
Faith Kids lead

 


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Called to be Servants

Have you noticed how affectionately the followers of Jesus were described in the Bible? Many warm names were used to describe God’s children, here are just a few: brothers and sisters, children, believers, disciples, the elect (I like that one), sons and daughters, and one of my favorites – SERVANT.
 
Sadly, many don’t appear to appreciate or have the desire to accept the role of someone who serves. I have to admit; how I act, what I think, what I talk about, and many times the content of my prayers center around my needs and wants – not someone else’s.

Jesus lived and taught something different to those around Him. He gave His life so we could experience freedom from sin and have eternal life with Him, quite the act of a servant. For us salvation not only includes forgiveness and eternal life, it also means taking on the character of Christ and becoming servants of the Father.

This, however, is not the way it shall be among you.  If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of the others – like the Son of Man, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life to redeem many people.  Matt 20:26-28 (GNT)

 

Even though Christ had a huge following, He didn’t look for power, status, or admiration. He came to serve, and He never lost sight of that during His time on earth. The Bible tells us Jesus is our example. It also tells us He was equal to God but humbled Himself to become a man. Just like Jesus, we are one with the Father. Add to that the truth of how we are made in God’s image. It seems reasonable then that serving is a part of our new nature and make-up.

God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus He has created us for a life of good deeds, which He has already prepared for us to do. Eph 2:10 (GNT)

If we struggle with the idea of serving others and are honest with ourselves, it looks like the only thing that stands between us being who God designed us to be and who we are today is… ourselves.

 

Anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal. John 12:25 (MSG)
 
Without a doubt, the Father will honor our hearts and actions when we move from concentrating on ourselves to focusing on how each of us can help a hurting world. Jesus is our Savior AND the Lord of our life. We have one purpose and that is to be His servant to glorify Him.
 

What might be the result of giving ourselves to a life of service as our Savior did? I think it’s this: when we, the body of Christ, share His love and give of ourselves to others, we give God an open door, through us, to affect the world in an amazing way.

 

As for you, my friends, you were called to be free.  But do not let this freedom become an excuse for letting your physical desires control you. Instead, let love make you serve one another. For the whole Law is summed up on one commandment; ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself’. Galatians 5: 13-14 (GNT)
 
This topic is near and dear to my heart so I could go on, but I’ll leave you with a few thoughts to ponder instead.
 
From My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers:

If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain but what He pours through us that really counts. God’s purpose is not simply to make us beautiful, plump grapes, but to make us grapes so that He may squeeze the sweetness out of us. Our spiritual life cannot be measured by success as the world measure it, but only by what God pours through it — and we cannot measure that at all.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. 1 Peter 4:10 (ESV)

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 1 Corinthians 9:19 (ESV)

 
Servanthood has an eternal impact on lives. It willingly involves itself in the needs of others as the Holy Spirit leads us, leaving God to work the results. God is asking us if we are willing to do a servant’s work for Him. What is He calling you to do today?
 
Author:
Church Development

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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 Have a Choice

We have all been hit in some way, shape or form from fallout of COVID-19. Whether it be financially, socially, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually; we can all relate to those areas being affected in our lives. Just like anything else in life though, we have a choice on how we handle those areas affected.
 

Many things are out of our control, but how we choose to respond is within our control.

 
I’ve found the easiest way to justify or make excuses (at least at the time in my head) is to blame someone or something else for my problems. Or if something doesn’t go the way we like at work, home, or whatever area you want to apply it to, it’s easy to point the finger and think in our head, “If I was in charge this wouldn’t have happened”, or “I could do a better job than that person”.
 
While sometimes these statements may be true, we still have a choice on how we respond. It is no different to apply when it comes to the current situation in our world and more specifically our country. I continue to hear the blame game from everyone and everything I read. Sure, things could always be done better.
 

We as citizens of this country – and more importantly as Christians – have an obligation to be in prayer for the situation and for our all of our leaders. We also are called to be thankful in all situations.

 
So instead of complaining about our current situation, let’s all try to focus on being thankful. Thankful that no matter what, no one can ever take my relationship with Jesus from me. I am thankful that he is always in control because Heaven and earth are filled with his glorious presence.
 
Isaiah 6:3 “And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
 

We can’t run the world better than God. Even if we think he is mismanaging things, we can’t know what He knows or see what He sees. He calls us to live by faith and not by sight.

 
2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we live by faith, not by sight.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
 
This is a call to acknowledge His sovereignty by being thankful in all situations. With everything going on in the world, it’s not easy. But we can choose hope, choose gratefulness, choose to fix our eyes on Jesus.
 
Through all the seasons – through it all – He is faithful and if we are Christ-followers, we are secure in His everlasting arms. Let this song minister to your heart today.
 

 
Author: 
Worship Leader, Faith Assembly

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Our Safety and Hope

During this point in time, our days seem to be filled with uncertainty and fear. We all wait for the most recent Covid-19 updates. Most of us are being prudent in following the advice given to us by our government leaders. They tell us to wash our hands frequently, wear masks, keep our social distance, not to gather, and many other suggestions.

I know God wants me to be prudent in how I react out in public to keep myself safe, but I have to remember that it is God who ultimately keeps me safe. I can trust His sovereignty.
 
I was reading Psalms 4 the other day, entitled “The safety of the Faithful”. I’d like to zero in on verse 8.
It reads “I will both lie down in peace and sleep; For you alone O Lord make me dwell in safety.”
 
First of all, David had an awesome relationship with the Lord. The first part of this verse is our responsibility; I will both lie down in peace and will sleep. David was saying that when he would lie down, he would have peace and he would sleep.
 
Why could he say that? Well, let’s look at the rest of the verse.  “For you alone, O Lord make me dwell safety.”
 
David is saying that because his safety comes from God and God alone he can lie down in peace and sleep.
 

Proverbs 18:10 it says “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower, the righteous run to it and are safe.”

Psalm 91:1-2 says “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’.

So, here’s bottom line: we rest and are safe in the arms of Jesus. By knowing this you can have peace and sleep well! Even though we live in a fallen world where we are not immune to the challenges of this life, we can rest in the assurance that God is in control and our souls are safe in His care.

 
Let’s continue to lift each other up in prayer every day and  encourage one another as we walk through this pandemic. We don’t have to be afraid. We have a God that is bigger than all of this. God bless you and keep you safe!
 
Author: 
Elder, Faith Assembly

 

 

 

               

               


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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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Be the Hope – Our Response in Troubling Times

When troubling times arrive at our doorstep, what is our response? Do we fix our eyes on the hope we have in Christ or do we focus on the circumstances around us and wring our hands in worry? As Christ-followers our perspective can – and should – be different than that of the world. We do not have to be slaves to fear. This world is not our home!
 
So can we decide to look at troubling times as an opportunity rather than a obstacle?
 

 

We have a hope that endures

I’m not suggesting we bury our heads in the sand and pretend the hard stuff isn’t happening – that would be denial. We need to be discerning, wise and responsible in light of the challenges presented to us. What I am suggesting is a faith-filled response to the tough stuff life will most certainly throw our way.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
 
As Christ-followers, we have a hope – an anchor for our soul – that the world doesn’t have and cannot give. This hope and peace we have through trusting in Jesus gives us confidence and endurance through trial, not of our own doing, but through the power of the Spirit that resides within us. This confidence comes from the reality that God is still on the throne, still maintains authority, and has eternity in His hands. Big or small, the challenges in our lives are no match for the incredible love and security we have in Christ.
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27
 

An invitation for growth and maturity

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5: 3-5
 
Make no mistake, the hard stuff will come. Sometimes we see it coming, while other times it feels like a major gut punch out of nowhere. There are seasons when we may wonder if the punches would ever stop! The scripture reminds us to not be surprised when the hard things come, but rather to take heart because He has overcome the world.
 
Regardless of how trial rears its ugly head, we are instructed to rejoice – not in the pain itself – but in the fact that we are given an opportunity to grow, to develop perseverance, and build true character. If we are to continue to dive deeper into spiritual maturity, which is God’s will for all believers, nothing grows us faster than hard times if we choose to grow through them rather than duck around them. We have the opportunity to guard our hearts and minds with the truth of the unchanging Word of God, daily let go of our anxiety in exchange for His peace, and stare trial straight in the face knowing who holds the future.
 

A faith-filled response

So how are we to respond in times like these? When the world itself seems to have gone off the deep end, as Christ-followers we can react differently. We can choose to act on faith, not fear. We can choose to be informed and use wisdom. 
 
We can…
  • Dive deep into scripture, cultivate our relationship with Jesus, practicing His presence 24/7
  • Be motivated by love, kindness and gentleness
  • Cling to the Word of God and the truth that will never change
  • Spread hope in whatever ways we can
  • Find ways to encourage and support one another – practically and emotionally
  • Meet needs as the Lord bring them across your path
  • Stay connected in creative ways
 
Remember 2 Corinthians 1:4. The Lord brings our our troubles full circle and redeems our pain.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
 
God bless you and your families as you face these uncertain days ahead, and find ways to bring comfort and hope to others in your sphere of influence. Hang on to Jesus… and be the hope.
 
Author: 
Michelle Marx
Writer/Editor
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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Holiday Blues

The holidays are viewed by most as a time of happiness and rejoicing, but for others it can be a time of painful memories, sadness, loneliness, anxiety and depression. Usually these feelings of sadness are often referred to as the holiday blues and come around the months of November and December. While the holiday blues is not an officially recognized psychiatric condition, it does not mean that the feelings it can produce should be ignored. These feelings can have a major impact on we function each day. 
 

Even people who love the holidays can have having the holiday blues during this busy time of year. The demands and high emotions can leave a lot of us feeling stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted.

 

How should a Christian handle the holiday blues? Let’s face it, just because we are Christians doesn’t mean we are immune to sad feelings, anxiety, loneliness, and the list goes on. Jesus tells us that He will never leave us or forsake us, but This doesn’t mean life is going to always be easy. Jesus knows what we are going through because He himself has experienced life as a man who walked this earth. 

So, here are a few practical tips to help us handle the holiday blues together.

  1. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a depressant and can exacerbate any negative feelings you might have. No, this isn’t a platform to promote or condemn drinking alcohol. But, many people like to have drink. As Christians we cannot rely on alcohol to deal with life’s tough days and hard times. We must rely on Christ and the strength he provides. Psalm 59:17 says You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.
  2. Don’t isolate yourself. Sadness often makes us want hide by ourselves at home. Some may live away from family and feel like they have no one to connect with. Push yourself to become socially connected by serving in your church or volunteering your time for those in need. When we focus on serving other our sad feelings can slowly fade away. 1 Peter 4:10 says Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
  3. Try to exercise regularly. While it can be difficult to stick to a workout schedule when you are feeling down, research has shown that regular physical activity can play an important role in preventing and reducing symptoms of depression. We are to be good stewards of the body that God has given us.
  4. Set limits and have realistic expectations. You can avoid overcommitting by knowing your limits and learning how to say no. That doesn’t mean that you should say “no” to everything, but make sure that you leave enough time for yourself to relax and enjoy the season.

These tips focus a lot on the individual and they are all important. the most important, final tip however, is to fix our eyes on jesus.

 
We must be intentional in spending quality time with him. In our prayer time, our devotion time and our time when we are experience Jesus together as a body of believers. If we are not being intentional in those three areas then it is almost inevitable the holiday blues will catch up with us.
 

This holiday season, offer yourself to Jesus as a fresh offering. Your time, your focus, your conversations, your worship, your body, your health, your family, your thoughts and every part of your being. Jesus is our king and he deserves our praise. Practice a lifestyle that revolves around Jesus, making him the center.

 
Listen to Casting Crowns “Christmas Offering” and make it your prayer this holiday season.
 

Click for video

Author: 
Worship leader, Faith Assembly

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Raising Up the Next Generation for Ministry

For 20 years, I have had the privilege to work at one of the nation’s premier science laboratories owned by the Department of Energy.
 
This laboratory is now over 50 years old – and for those of you in the building and utility business – you know 50 years is about how long these systems last without major reinvestment. I am amazed every day with the physical actions that a very dedicated work force conducts to keep the old place up and running. Actions that not many people know about and most take for granted and so much so, we don’t plan as well as we should to prepare for replacing a seasoned workforce just a few years from retirement.

Again today, as I was hearing about two major waterline breaks and a site wide problem with our building security system, I thought about the parallels in the spiritual world and how critical even urgent it is to grow up the next generation here too.

 
Bringing this a little closer to home at our church – Faith Assembly – there are countless people I call spiritual giants, operating as prayer warriors and servant leaders in any number of our ministries and meeting needs (some of which not many people even know about). Several of these people are retirees, near retirees, and others in the midst busy lives. They serve with a happy heart for the Lord and for the local church body. Importantly, they are mentors and models seeking to raise up the next generation to serve after them and in their footsteps.
 

Without raising up the next generation at our places of employment and churches, how will these places be sustained to not just survive but to thrive?

2 Corinthians 9:12
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
Ephesians 4:12
…to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.
 
If there is no next generation, who will be there to know how to repair the next waterline? In the local body, who will be there to pray and serve in the various ministries God has given us?
 
  • If you are one of our more seasoned spiritual giants, I thank God for you. Keep going.

 

  • If you are a more seasoned person without a specific ministry focus, I also thank God for you and submit it’s never too late to serve in whatever way God calls you. Get involved. There is no retirement in the Kingdom of God.

 

  • If you are one of the not-so-seasoned currently serving the body, I thank God for you and your willingness to be mentored as the next generation. Keep learning, serving and growing. God is using you for to reflect his glory.

 

  • If you are one of the not-so-seasoned not currently serving the body, I also thank God for you and submit that the body needs you. God knows whom He will call; so please be in prayer as to how He wants to use you and be open to His prompting. You will find community, growth, and God will use you for His glory.
Revelation 2:19
I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
 
Over the past 23 years of my service for the Kingdom and my observation of others in service over this same period, I have found time and time again that God is faithful and His promises are true – He equips those He calls! God bless you as you serve.
 
Author:
Elder 

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Exercising Your Faith

What does it mean to exercise your faith? Personally, I think it’s putting your faith into action. Just like the muscles in your body will atrophy without use, so will your faith muscles.
 
Let’s look at 2 Kings 4: 1-7.
There was a widow whose husband was a servant to the prophet Elisha. She says to Elisha, “you know your servant, my husband, feared the Lord and since his passing the creditor is coming to take my sons to be his slaves for payment.” So, Elisha says to her, “what would you have me do? What do you have in your house?” She responds by saying she has nothing in her house but a jar of oil. So, Elisha tells her to go and borrow vessels from all her neighbors – empty ones – and do not gather just a few.
Once she has all she can borrow, she was instructed to shut the door behind her and her sons. Then, Elisha told her to take the jar of oil and fill all the empty vessels she borrowed. So, she did as the prophet had instructed her to do. She started to fill the first empty vessel. When that one was full, she went to the next and the next until she asked her son for another. Her son said there were no more to be filled. Suddenly the oil stopped flowing from her jar. She did as Elisha said and sold the oil. She had enough to pay off her debt and live on the rest.
How did the widow exercise her faith?
 
  1. She asked for help – She knew Elisha was a man of God and knew some kind of help might happen.
  2. She obeyed – had her sons go borrow all the empty vessels they could from their neighbors.
  3. She exercised her faith – she physically started to pour the oil out of her jar into the empty borrowed vessels.
 
Do you think her faith was stronger after she filled all the empty vessels with her little jar of oil? I think she took her faith to new heights.

In Ephesians it says to be strong in the Lord and His mighty power. So, it’s not what we can do, but rather what God can do through us.

It says in Hebrews 12:2 “We should fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”
 

Bottom line is this, whenever your faith is tested; make sure you put your faith into action. You will build your faith in the Lord, but more importantly, the Lord is glorified through the action of exercising our faith.

 
How much exercise have your faith muscles gotten lately? When we take action build them, our faith will get stronger, we will feel more courage, and the Lord will be glorified through us.
 
Author: 
Elder at Faith

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Bread or a Stone – What Will You Offer the Lord?

There isn’t a person among you who would give his son a stone if he asked for bread,
is there?
Matthew 7:9 (ISV)
 
Many of us are familiar with Matthew 7:9. Although this scripture is rich with lesson as it was intended, for our purpose however, we’re going to focus on the topics of asking, giving, and the gift. You and I will remain the ‘giver’ as noted in the scripture, the ‘receiver’ will be God and the gift will remain bread or a stone.
  • The bread – giving of ourselves to serve others. Allowing God to use us to minster to others or share the material blessings He’s given us for the sake of the kingdom.
  • The stone – knowing God called us to move out of our comfort zone to meet the needs of someone else. We reason with ourselves, giving us the opportunity to ignore the need, ignore the call, and give God a stone.

Bread or a stone?

It’s here the bread and stone in Matthew 7 took on a different meaning for me. My husband and I were praying about how God might use us to minister to others. We couldn’t find peace or direction. Did we believed God wanted us to share? Were we allowing a situation to lead us to share? Were we really in a position to do this? These questions kept us in constant doubt. One day as I pondered the need to make a decision, this thought came to me, “if you have bread will you give God a stone?” I didn’t question it nor whom it came from; I knew it was from the Father. What relief that question brought to the decision making – easy peasy when you know what to ask, right?

I would have welcomed it if the thought could have been a ‘one and done’ but – not so. God intended to work more deeply in my heart than I counted on, making sure this question was solidified for me: “if you have bread will you give God a stone?”

I tried to ignore the question.

After trying to ignore answering it, I needed to come to terms with the question God asked me. Unfortunately I had to confess, all my life I decided whether I would serve others when God called me, or I would ignore His voice and serve myself. It grieves me to say, if I took the stones I’ve given God and built a wall with them, I’m confident it would dwarf the Great Wall of China.

The bread God offers us is not to satisfy the needs of our body, but to satisfy the needs of our soul. He gives bread that brings life instead of death. It’s the greatest sacrificial servant act that could ever be offered.
 
Do not work for food that perishes but for food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you because God the Father has set His seal on Him.
John 6:27 (ISV)
 
The bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
John 6:33 (ISV)
 
Jesus told them, “I am the bead of life. Whoever comes to me will never become hungry,
and whoever believes in me will never become thirsty”.
John 6:35 (ISV)

 

He changed my heart.

That’s how Matthew 7:9 changed my heart. When I know the Lord is asking me to serve Him now, and I feel my flesh rise up offering reasons to doubt, I ask myself the question: “Cindy, if you have bread will you give God a stone?” I’ve committed myself to stop and answer the question. It helps me stay centered regarding what is right and who I am in God. Because of this, it has become a precious blessing to serve when He calls.
 
Reason being, I want the Father to have every crumb of bread He desires to do His work – no matter what. What I’ve called sacrifice is really not sacrifice at all! It is disciplining my flesh, allowing the call to serve become a blessing.
 
The next time you’re faced with making the choice to serve or not, take time to ask yourself the question: “if I have bread will I give God a stone?” My hope is you will choose to serve.
 
Author: 
Church Development
Faith Assembly

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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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New Wine – God Pouring New Life into Us

In our church, we sing a song called New Wine. It has a lot to do with the condition of our heart. Jesus said in Mark that new wine is never placed into old wine skins because as the aggressive fermentation process permeates the skin – a previously used skin that is already worn and saturated will burst with the pressure.
 
Mark 2:21 – 22 (NASB) “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”

Mark’s implication is that our hearts are like wine skins, and God is always looking to pour new life from Himself into them. If our hearts are worn and saturated with an older fragrance, an older fermentation, we are not able to receive the new life He wants to pour into us.

Lamentations 3:22 – 23 reminds us, “The Lord’s lovingkindness indeed never ceases, for His compassions (mercies) never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (NASB)
In Isaiah He says, Isaiah 43:19 (KJV) Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
 
As creatures of habit, it’s easy to slip into even spiritual patterns that eventually become stale. While we may be content with the stale condition of our hearts, that sentiment may not be shared by the One who knows us and loves us most.

What God is looking for from us is a soft openness to His continual outpouring of His mercies (Lam. 3). That softness is actually what creates a new wine skin in us.

David said in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me”.
 
Paul put it this way, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. Behold, old things have passed away all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

That softness before Him gives Him the perfect conditions for creating something new in you and me. He pours in His newness of life and we are able to grow in Him as His Spirit permeates through the walls of our heart permanently becoming part of us down to the smallest fiber.

 
He instills in us a flavor and an aroma of His personal presence in us, and His character begins to flow from us as it matures into the fine quality of His vintage or timeless Holiness.
 
But, if we are stubborn, selfish, arrogant, rebellious or sullied by addiction to what we personally want, then He is unable to pour in Himself since the skins – our hearts- are too weak to sustain or withstand Him.

Today is a good day to start over… fresh.

 
Ask Him to create in you a new heart… to do something new in you… and show you how His mercies are new every morning.
 
check out The song, make it your prayer, and surrender to the work He is doing in your life today..
 

 
Author:
Lead Pastor, Faith Assembly

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Trust in God’s Plan

How many times do we say something we believe in our heart, but turn around the next second and do the opposite? When things are going smoothly in life we praise His name with no problem, but what happens when we get a bump in the road? Do we continue to practice what we believe? Or do we question our beliefs, get angry, lose trust, or even turn away from Him? It is so easy to say we trust God, but when things do not go our way do our actions match our words?
 
Look at the life of Joseph. He was thrown into a well, sold by his brothers, thrown into jail for something he didn’t do, yet he continued to trust in God’s perfect plan knowing that God was with him through it all. Eventually Joseph would become a major leader in Egypt who would forgive his brothers and save his family from the famine. WOW! I’m not sure I could say that I would do that – but what an amazing example to hear and be encouraged by.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understandings. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

God has a plan for our lives and much of the time we will not know exactly what it’s supposed to look like – that’s when trust comes into play.

 
Our faith and trust in the one true God needs to be all-consuming in our lives. That way, when we do encounter those bumps we can say with confidence, “God has my back…even when I question the path and things just don’t make sense”.
 
I am preaching to myself as much as I am encouraging you. Practice having trust and confidence that God has you in the palm of his hand and guiding you through life.
Take ahold of his hand and continue walking even when you cannot stand -He will carry you through.

So how can we raise our kids to have faith and trust in God’s plan like Joseph?

 
With God’s help.
Because we can’t raise our kiddos without his help.
 
Be an example.
Our kids are watching our every move. When things don’t go as planned, use those as teaching moments to encourage them to trust in God’s plan. It might be a failed test, a loss on the field, a sick relative, or a disappointment from a friend. It’s not fun to go through those hard times with our kids. But it’s how we will respond and move forward with them after that will be a witness to our unfailing faith in God’s plan.
 
When we fail.
….and we will….daily….just get back up and go at it again. That is what is so amazing about our Heavenly Father…he never leaves us.
 
Author: 
Jordan Bivins

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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.

 
Author:

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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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Share Your Struggles with Your Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says

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

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

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Listening to God’s Call

The calling the Lord puts on your life – what is it?

 
I’m not talking about when you accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. I’m talking about the calling that God puts on your life after that to further His kingdom.
I’m not sure I took this part of my walk in the Lord seriously enough early in my walk. When I first became a Christ-follower, I needed time to mature by reading the bible, praying, and just falling deeper in love with the Lord.
 
Still, when you embrace a love relationship with Jesus, His calling is already there waiting for you to live it out. At some point in our walk, we need pray that the Holy Spirit will show us what the Lord has for us to do through ministry in the Kingdom. The important part here is that the Holy Spirit – and your heart – are in line with His calling, then to obey and follow through with what the Lord has called you to do.
 
God’s calling for you could be serving in the church in some way, a ministry in your community, your neighbors and a multitude of more ways. There is no limit to what the Lord can call a child of His to do, and it is often a combination of areas. Remember though, the calling is to glorify God.
I love how the following scriptures call us to ministry:
Philippians 3:14
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
 
John 15:15
We did not choose Him, He choose us and appointed us to go out and bear fruit and it should abide (accept or act in accordance with this appointment).
 
Ephesians 4:4
There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call.
 
I Peter 2:21 (our example)
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His footsteps.
 
When we talk about a “calling”, it can be kind of scary. However, in big ways and small, His Word lays out what His will is for our lives. Sometimes we make it too complicated. It’s really quite simple: God wants a servant’s heart willing to do what He asks, when He asks it, according to His will and guidance laid out in His Word. What has the Lord called you to do?
 
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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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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”
 

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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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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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