The Cost of Christmas

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

Christmas brings us back to the power of the gospel

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

Christmas reminds us that sin has a cost.

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

 

Christmas led to sacrifice

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

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

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

Michelle Marx

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Entering God’s Rest – Our First Work

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

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

Give yourself space to be quiet.

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

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

Enjoy resting in the abiding – rather than the doing.

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

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

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

Embrace your limits.

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

Drink in the scriptures.

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

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

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Be the Hope – Our Response in Troubling Times

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

 

We have a hope that endures

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

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

An invitation for growth and maturity

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

A faith-filled response

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

 

 

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4 Things to Remember When You’re On the Edge

Have you ever been in a place in your life where you feel like one more major event, circumstance or let-down and you could completely fall apart?
You are on the edge: you hold it together and keep calm or you are about to have a melt down?
Doesn’t it feel like the expectations we have to live up to are just too exhausting?
 

I can honestly tell you this: you are not alone. Over the past two years, I have had some major events in my life that have not only tested my emotions and thoughts, but also tested everything I believe in and the will to keep pushing through those events. By the grace of God and a great support system, I have come out of all of those circumstances a much stronger person… or so I thought.

Every now and then, a little something from each of those events creeps back into my life and thoughts. I feel the weight of things that happened in the past all over again. I feel the wounds they have left behind- in my mind and the inner most parts of my being.

It is usually then that I find myself right on the edge of keeping it all together…

I feel like I’m about to have a good old fashion freak-out moment.

 
Sometimes those freak-out moments may feel like anger, other times it is simply crying out… from the pain of what I have seen and those close to me who are hurting. But, I’m here to tell you, even though these cycle of emotions come and go, there is hope!
 
What has helped me “get off” the edge when I’m feeling overwhelmed with emotions from the past? Here’s the short list:
 

1. Normal – The definition of “normal” is up for interpretation. What I have learned is that my feelings and my reactions are absolutely normal. I am not weird for feeling upset or wanting to cry about past traumatic events. Neither are you.

2. Time – they say time heals all wounds. Not really. It may be a nice cliché, but in real life it takes intentional work to heal through the pain. This is what heals the wounds and grows us. If the pain isn’t dealt with and merely buried in “time” (denial), it will one day rip that scab off with the same intensity as it did 30 years ago. Scars will always be there, but I know with the Lord working in me as I do the work of healing and the buffer of time- this allows us to become stronger. One step at a time. One day at a time. It must be a conscious choice we make every day.

3. A Support System – they say that you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family. If you’re not close with your family, you must still have a support system in place. Usually our parents have gone through something in the course of their lives. They can offer advice or just be there to listen. Be wise about this- choose people who are safe, honest and have your best interest at heart.

4. God – they say to just lean on God in the hard times. It’s so easy to say, harder to do. What I have learned is this: God deeply cares for me and feels the overwhelming emotions with me. When I question God on why bad things happen to good people, He doesn’t get mad at me. He tells me that evil things are not His plan- His plan is for our good. His plan is for all of us to live in eternity with him. But there is a darkness in this world and that darkness (our enemy- Satan) is the cause of those bad things happening to good people.

The bottom line?
When I am sometimes on the edge, God can work in my life if I allow him to. God wants what is best for us, and sometimes being on the edge is just where he wants us. No pain is wasted in the hands of our Savior. He desires to grow us through it. He wants us to reach out and grab his hand, so he can pull us into his loving arms.

 
Check out this song by Elevation Worship called “O Come to the Altar”.
When you feel like you’re on the edge, stop and listen. Jesus is calling and his arms are open wide.
 
Author: Ryan Bivins


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Am I a Peacemaker?

In March, Pastor Jon preached a series on the topic of peace. On one of those Sundays, he spoke specifically about peacemakers.
This caused me think about myself. Could I call myself a peacemaker?

So before I started to investigate the scripture, I decided to look up the meaning of “peacemaker” to find out who, if anyone, could identify as one.

One of the websites listed the basic traits of a peacemaker. I found the information very interesting, primarily because I had to take an honest look at my own strengths and weaknesses in each area. I definitely felt a cringe of the “ouch” factor!

Dominant traits: people pleaser, friendly, trusting, easy going
Basic fear: conflict, chaos, separation
Strengths: warm, open-minded, caring, peace-loving
Weaknesses: avoids conflict, stubborn, indecisive, does not like change

Keep in mind, this is the world’s definition of a peacemaker. (I only planned to use this as a point of reference)
Regardless, I can look at the description above and see myself in every category.

The dictionary says this: A peacemaker is a person who brings about peace, especially by reconciling adversaries (a contest, conflict, or a dispute).

Now, what does God say in the Scriptures?

Romans 12:18
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

Hebrews 12:14
Pursue (to continue or proceed along a path or route) peace with all men and sanctification, without which no one will see the Lord.

James 3:17
But the wisdom from above is first pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering without hypocrisy.

John 14:27
Jesus says He leaves and gives His peace to us not from the world.

Matthew 5:9
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.

Pastor had Genesis 13: 8-9 in his message about Abram letting Lot take the land that he wanted. This was a great example of a peacemaker.

The bottom line: we are all called to be peacemakers.

 
The information on the internet only identifies the possible characteristics of a peacemaker from the world’s point of view.
 
God’s Word says the important part is this:
Pursuing the peace we desire to have
Doing the work toward developing a peacemaker heart
Cultivating the characteristics of making peace with everyone whenever possible
 
We are all called. We are all equipped by the power of His Spirit.
The most effective peacemakers are the ones who follow our ultimate example: JESUS!
 
Author: Ken Drew
Christ-Follower, Husband, Father, Grandfather
Elder at Faith Assembly

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Control Freak

I’m going to be upfront and honest here.
 

I’m a control freak.

I am a Type A personality, having to ensure everything is figured out. I need to be the one in the driver’s seat. Having a background in the military and law enforcement; I have my day planned out, I am task driven and I will make decisions… well, decisively!

Because let’s face it: a so-so decision is better than no decision at all… am I right?

Let’s put the brakes on that thought process for just a minute. As we have been talking about peace this month, I couldn’t help but think of the peace I have missed out on in my own life because of my control freak mindset.

It really just boils down to these simple thoughts:
I’m afraid of not having control of my life and my family.
I’m afraid of not having control of my job.
What if something bad happens?
Can I prevent this from happening to my kids?

Somehow, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.

God tells us in John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
 

I seek to control the world around me, but the world around me will not bring peace to my life. As a result of sin in this world, bad things will happen, loved ones will die, my children may make bad decisions as they grow up and the list goes on.

I cannot control any of these things, but what I can control is my thought process, resolve to focus on God’s word and remember His promises. One of these promises being that he will never leave me or forsake me- in good times and in bad.

 
“Let go and let God”… have you heard of that saying?
I’m working on this very concept in my life and I want to encourage you to do the same.
 
As we release control and let God take over, I know we will begin to find a peace that is only from our Father. A peace that passes all human understanding.
 
He is our ultimate daddy and he cares for our wellbeing more than anyone on this earth.
He wants us to be at peace with ourselves, with others and most importantly with Him.
 
So let’s take the brakes off now and re-examine my first thoughts through this prayer:
 
God, I am asking you to take control. Let my Type A personality be used for your glory and not to try and control the world around me. Lord, help me to slow down in life and not rush to make decisions, but rather seek your council and wisdom first. I ask you Father that as I allow you to take control, you bring a peace in my life that I have never experience before. Help me Jesus to not be a control freak, but rather to let go of control and let you do your perfect work. Thank you for your peace. In Jesus name, Amen.
 
Author:
Husband, Father and Christ-Follower
Ryan leads worship at Faith Assembly

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