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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”
 

Author:

 


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A Simple Powerful Truth

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and purpose of the Bible.

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

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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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Embracing Humility

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

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Doing Your Part to Seek God First

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

 The Blind. AKA: The Palace

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

 Doing Your Part to Seek God First

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Year, New You

Do you ever feel like you are not enough?

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

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

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

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

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


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New Year’s Resolutions Worth keeping

I can hear the audible sigh already. New year resolutions – why bother?
 
Here’s the thing… often we trip over them because of our internal baggage. We start out with good intentions, only to end up in self-sabotage.
• We want to be gentler on ourselves, but continue with negative self-talk
We want to start (fill in the blank), but have no plan • We want to change a behavior, but don’t deal with underlying, contributing emotional issues • We want to get out of debt, but don’t really want to do what it takes • We want to take steps towards a goal or a dream, but allow fear to hold us back
 

What if we made our internal lives a priority this year? What if we focused on what we can do to build our character and energize our spirits instead of yearly external resolutions? A rich internal life makes us a better, more mature person. After all, everything trickles down from our inner lives anyway. This is why God makes the “heart” a priority – for all attitudes, behavior and external issues begin there.

To help you jumpstart, consider these four resolution ideas that will help build your inner life – resolutions that may be worth keeping.

1. GROW YOUR ROOTS

We can’t pour from an empty cup, so we need to pay special attention to soul care. Soul care is neither selfish nor complicated, and it’s absolutely essential to our spiritual lives. Remember, if we’re not learning we’re not growing. We must be intentional about building in regular time to commune with the Lord alone.

Colossians 2:6-10 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

There are many ways to grow your spiritual roots, in pursuit of loving and honoring Jesus while becoming mature in the Lord. Consider adopting this one practice – it could change your life:

Embrace Solitude This is very hard from some people, but a necessary part of growing deep roots. Get alone with God and just BE. Rest in His presence. Meditate on a small portion – even just one verse of scripture – and quiet your spirit. Be still. Be silent. Listen. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak and minister to you. Give Jesus your anxious thoughts. Even if you have a bunch of kids (or grands), find time even if it’s 15 minutes a day. Your spirit will be renewed and your roots will grow deeper. This is not about doing – it’s about abiding in His presence.

2. PURSUE MEANINGFUL CONVERSATION

There are so many talking heads out there competing for our attention – so many opinions and so much noise. Our society seems to have gone off the deep end, reinforcing a general lack of respect for one another, common sense restraint and selfishness. This kind of rhetoric only fosters more division and suffering. Generalized statements tend to throw shame and blame around, solving nothing.
 

When was the last time you had a truly respectful, meaningful dialogue with someone? How about your spouse?

Can you do it even if you don’t agree on all points?

This year, we can purpose to really listen without agenda or bias. Seek to understand first. Ask questions and resist going on the defense. Respectful dialogue fosters mutual respect, clarity and reconciliation. As Christians, we need to be the example in this area. Otherwise, how will others know we are different?

James 1:19, 20 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

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.

3. PRACTICE KINDNESS

Because of God’s gift of kindness to us, we can be free of the bondage of sin and death. Because of His kindness, we can be adopted into His family. One of the fruits of the Spirit is kindness (Galatians 5:22), and practicing this fruit is proof of a transformed life.

Ephesians 1:7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.
 

What are some ways this year you can practice kindness? How can you show kindness to not only those you love, but those you struggle with? How can you practice kindness with yourself?

James 3:13, 17 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom… the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.

2 Corinthians 6:6 We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love.

4. START ONE NEW THING

We get busy with our routines, families, service, work and so much more. Often we forget to replenish ourselves and do things that energize us personally. No one can do this for you – only you can make the choice to recharge.

What brings you joy? What energizes your spirit? It could be breathing in the peaceful air of a woodland hike. Perhaps it’s heading to an art gallery or botanical gardens to breathe in beauty. It could be creating something with your hands. Maybe it’s growing in your craft, journaling in the park or simply making a standing coffee date with someone that makes you laugh.

Figure out one good thing that energizes you and schedule it into your life. Don’t feel guilty about doing it either! Everyone needs a recharge and when that happens on a regular basis, everyone benefits.

So, which resolutions will we make a priority this year? If we build our inner lives, it will grow us and impact the world around us in deeper ways. With God’s help, we can focus on what matters in this new year.
 

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Saturated and Full of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author:
Ken Drew, Elder

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The Power of Teamwork

Throughout my life I have been able to witness the power of teamwork. I’ve seen teamwork at its finest in the Army, corporate America, law enforcement… everyone coming together to further the organization’s vision and goals. We often hear about being part of a team or think about sports teams putting their hands together and shouting TEAM! It’s a common theme used in uniting people towards a common goal.
 
I also feel it’s a word that is taken for granted and not truly appreciated in our culture – even in the modern day church. Everything around us (TV shows, billboards, commercials, social media), tells us to do what is best for the individual and to do what makes the individual feel good or succeed.
 
Teamwork is defined as the combined action of a group of people, especially when effective and efficient. This definition reminds me of the Biblical book of Acts and the beginning of the local church. If you have time to read about the development of the church, you will find it was a total team effort.
 

In Acts 2:45 it says “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had a need.” Can you imagine this happening today? The believers in the book of Acts understood what the word “team” meant and they were willing to give up their own personal possessions to further God’s kingdom. Are you willing to do the same?

 
In 1 Corinthians 12, it talks about one body with many parts. Chapter 12 compares the human body to the body of Christ and the church.
 
Verse 19-22 mentions “a body isn’t really a body, unless there is more than one part. It takes many parts to make a single body. That’s why the eyes cannot say they don’t need the hands. That’s also why the head cannot say it doesn’t need the feet. In fact, we cannot get along without the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest.
 
 
The concept of teamwork is embodied throughout scripture. I want to encourage us to embody the same concept. We are stronger together and we are not meant to do life alone, but rather as a team of believers. We have a common goal in Jesus Christ. Let’s embrace teamwork as Christians and show the world the love of Christ.
 
Check out this song by Casting Crowns that challenges us to be a part of the body and embrace teamwork as Christians. 
Author: Ryan Bivins
 

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4 Things to Do When You Feel Attacked

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

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

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

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

Spiritual Attacks Come When We Least Expect Them

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

Keep in Mind – It’s His Job

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

Remember, God Has Instilled Himself in You

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

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Faith of the Next Generation

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

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The Importance of Worship Together

Why is weekly worship with a local body of believers important? If we profess to be Christ-followers, we practice the teachings of God’s Word and follow the example brought to us by Jesus himself. This includes worshipping in unity, as one body, on a regular basis.

But why corporate worship? Can’t we worship God the way we feel most comfortable by ourselves?

And what’s with all the singing?

The answer? As others have done, I could fill an entire book and reference all the scriptures (there are many) to prove that God commands us to worship, we were created to worship Him and in the end, all will worship Him (willing or not). For the sake of brevity, I’ll address a portion of the question here – a question I’ve been asked many times throughout my ministry.

We endeavor to pare everything down to a few strategic elements in our worship services, encouraging believers to participate fully in this worship process – worship through song, prayer, giving and hearing of the Word of God. This is an active (not passive) process. By focusing our hearts and minds on Him as a body of believers, we are once again united by one purpose. We can’t be “one” alone.
 
We are together, obeying God’s commands and fulfilling the prayer of Jesus when he prayed in John 17:11:
I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.
 
God Certainly Doesn’t Need our Worship, but We Need to Worship Him
 
He knows who He is and who you are! Do you? As humans who are trying to figure out how to live a righteous life in a wicked world, worship does so many things for us as a body of believers. These are but a small glimpse of the power of worshiping together:
 
• It re-focuses our minds, emotions and spirits on Him.
• It reminds us of the Truth of who He is, who we are in Him and who we are without Him.
• It gives us courage to combat the lies of the world and stand strong.
• It convicts us of our sin and propels us to repentance.
• It humbles us, producing gratefulness and other fruits of the Spirit.
• It places God back on the throne of our hearts when our human nature fights to put ourselves on it.
• It heals, restores, forgives and leads us to righteousness.
• It compels us to believe, increases our faith and gives us hope.
• It gives power to do battle with temptation, and the courage to embrace the transformation process.
• It encourages a spirit of unity and reconciliation.
• It allows the Holy Spirit to speak and guide.
• It helps us go out into the everyday world to proclaim the gospel.
• It brings us together and strengthens our common purpose and bond.
 

Consider These Thoughts:

Worship is the strategy by which we interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to the presence of God… Feelings are great liars. If Christians worshiped only when they felt like it, there would be precious little worship. We think that if we don’t feel something there can be no authenticity in doing it. But the wisdom of God says something different: that we can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting… A Christian congregation is a company of praying men and women, who gather usually on Sundays, for worship, who then go into the world as salt and light. God’s Holy Spirit calls and forms this people. God means to do something with us, and he means to do it in community. We are in on what God is doing, and we are in on it together. -Eugene Peterson
 
It’s a Battle of Wills
 
Our willful participation in worship with other believers says something about who we are and what we stand for. Yes, there are times when our hearts are breaking and singing can be a painful experience in obedience. There are times in prayer together when we don’t have words or we have trouble hearing from Him. There are times when we hear the Word of God preached and struggle to focus. God knows this… and He knows you need it anyway. True obedience is rarely easy. It’s a sacrifice of our wills, preferences and pride.
 
And the Singing?
 
Back to one of our original questions. I’ve heard this many times: “But what about all the singing? I’m not a singer! It makes me uncomfortable.” (God never said you had to be a singer and calls you out of your comfort zone) or “I just want to come and hear a message!” (God wants your active participation, not passive hearing). And why is it no one wants to just show up for the offering? Huh, interesting question!
 

I’ll keep it simple with a few thoughts. Why all the singing? Because…

God commanded it. King David made it a mandatory part of worship at the temple and even appointed a whole tribe of people (the Levites) to serve God in this manner, and not only for his reign, but from generation to generation.
The Scripture is full of musical praises, poetry and expression– even whole books of it. That’s how important it is to God.
Music is a powerful force for change – for our whole being, the mission of the body of believers and the church.
Music moves us in ways nothing else does. God knows it, because He created it. We are made in His image, which also means it’s in our DNA to appreciate beauty and creative expression. He also knew that directing an outward expression of song back to Him in praise has the power to soften hard hearts.
Music reinforces. How many of you remember commercial jingles or popular songs from when you were a kid? Yep, something happens when we sing. When we worship in song, we are actually confessing and declaring the scriptures and the many Truths of God through our mouths. When we not only hear something, but sing it out loud on repeat, we retain it and it becomes part of our long term memory.
Brain science (neuroplasticity) is now proving that intentional action like this actually makes new connections through new neural pathways, forming the ability to adapt, change behavior, learn new things and create new memories. Awesome right? But of course, God knew this all along.
 
Indeed, we can “act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting”. With the power of the Holy Spirit, worshipping together as one body – through prayer, song, giving and discovering the Word together – we are following the example of Jesus himself and practicing unity with Him and one another.
 
So next time you meet together as a body of believers, cherish the time to worship together and actively participate. It does me good, it does you good, it does a “body” good. (see what I did there?)
 
Author: Michelle Marx

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Character Over Control And Comfort

Control.

We all want it. We don’t always get it. Sometimes we get it, then decide we don’t want it.

Sigh.

In my life I’ve come to recognize control as an old familiar acquaintance, continually proving that my sense of having it is simply an illusion.
Just when I think I have it, it’s often yanked from my groping hands and there’s not much I can do about it.
 
When we feel like we are in control, we often feel pretty comfortable with it.
 
You may tell yourself you’ve earned it. You may snatch it away from someone else and justify it. You may hoard it, thinking no one can hurt you. You may sacrifice pieces of your character to have it. You may hide behind it.
You may tell yourself you don’t need help. 
You may think if you’re in control, you’re safe.
 
When we feel out of control, we often feel frantic. 
Why are we afraid to let go of it?
 
We feel weak. We feel uncomfortable. We feel ineffective. We feel frustrated and helpless. We feel exposed.
We wonder if someone else will do it better. We feel like we are floundering, grasping. We wonder what will happen and how we’ll deal with it.
 
Could it be that God is more interested in your character development than your comfort?
Could it be that growth requires being uncomfortable?

It seems sometimes Christians get this notion of the “abundant life” (found in John 10) fleshing out as the perfect life, being in control of all circumstances, a comfortable existence, all our dreams coming true, instant answers to prayer and 100% happiness.

All. Day. Every. Day.

But here’s the hard truth: life is not easy. It wasn’t meant to be. This is not Heaven.

When we pray with control in mind, we treat God like a vending machine. 

He is not a vending machine, a genie in a bottle or a drive through. 

He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Maker of Heaven and Earth. And He wants to see you grow in character, know and trust Him infinitely more than He wants you to feel comfortable.

Consider these wise words…

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.  -James 1:2-3
 
Take on an entirely new way of life — a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.  -Ephesians 4:22-24
 
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  – Romans 5: 1-5
 
We grow when we experience discomfort.
That means letting go of our need to control – and our need to be comfortable all the time.
Want to grow in character? Take some steps of faith.
 
Embrace the uncomfortable, the uncertainty.
Let go of your need to control everything.
Hold things loosely and trust that God has a plan.
Let the pressure and discomfort of growth do good work in you, so you will grow in wisdom, Godly character and tenderness.
 
Author:
Michelle Marx
You can read more of Michelle’s writing here.

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Foundations

As a teenager, I got into underground punk music. Friends shared it with me and we started going to concerts regularly, even booking bands to play in Dixon. It started innocently enough. I was attracted to the artists and other people of influence who attended these concerts and helped to spread the word. They sounded convincing, and their lives were clearly dedicated to practicing what they preached.
 
When punks came together, we believed that our shared angst and anger allowed us to see cultural problems clearly and because of our position as outsiders, we were willing to do more about it. Long story short, I spent years of my youth chasing a way of life that had a foundation of sand.
In Matthew 7, Jesus says:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
 
Building your house on the Rock means hearing the words of Jesus and putting them into practice.
Building your house on the sand means not practicing the words of Jesus and/or practicing the words of someone else.
 
Simply hearing or teaching the words of Jesus is not enough. We have to actually practice them and show how we put them into practice. This process is as intentional as it is personal. It’s not just “listen to me” – it’s “listen and watch me as I follow Christ”.
 
Stop for a minute and reflect on your life. What Biblical truths do you actually put into practice?
Take some time to list them. Now hold that thought.
 
All children and teens are developing their worldview right in front of us.
They’re building a home for themselves in this world and that home will either be on a foundation of rock or sand.
 
I can promise you that while this is happening, the enemy will put liars in their path, people who not only speak false ideas but actually put those ideas into practice. Their words will be relentless and their practices will be persuasive.
 
Now think of the Biblical truths you’ve put into practice. How can you share it with the next generation?
It may be the foundation necessary to fortify a soul.
 
Author: 
Phil Arellano
Youth Lead, Foundations Youth Ministry at Faith Assembly

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