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Archive for April, 2017

Freedom from Bondage

By Julie Ganschow

The Members of Your Body

“And do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13, NASB).

Offering the members of our body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness takes many forms. Anytime we indulge the flesh to the point of “addictions,” we become a slave to whatever we are worshiping.

My Story

For example, I used to worship the idea of being thin, and so I abused my body to make it that way. I thought I was in control of the situation, but I quickly learned that if I wanted to be thin I was going to have to play by the “thin rules.” Those rules included not eating or not eating much beyond diet soda and popcorn, not cooking, not making foods I knew others would enjoy because I would eat them too and that would violate the “thin rules.”

I thought I was exercising control over my life, and in actuality, I became a voluntary slave to being thin. My days and activities were constantly dominated by “don’t.” Don’t eat this or that, don’t go here or there because they could have food. Don’t go out to lunch with your friends because you will eat. You can’t eat because then you won’t be thin!

This way of life took over my life. I had no freedom or control because what I once controlled was now controlling me!

Our Story

The person who wakes up on their face in the driveway one morning, all foggy-brained from the drunk or high they went on the night before may not understand their slavery. The young woman who rushes to the bathroom many times a day to vomit up her food intake does not understand her slavery either. The young man who clicks on pornography in his bedroom in the dark, seeking harder and harder porn thinks he is only looking for the next thrill. The man or woman who takes the house payment to the casino for one last try at making it rich doesn’t understand what drives them, or that they are no longer having “fun” at this anymore.

Each of these people is real. They are our friends and neighbors, family or co-workers. Maybe one of them is you.

God’s Story

There is only One who can free us from such bondage. We bring His message of hope and truth to the hurting people surrounding us.

The reality about sin is that the Lord is not going to swoop in and take away all our sinful desires. It is going to take the hard work of a changed heart to bring about the changed life we so deeply desire.

At some point, we are going to have to be willing to knock whatever we worship off the altar. Be forewarned: knocking it down will be painful. We cannot expect to claim it in Jesus’ Name and walk away healed and free; that is foolishness. We have built a system of belief and a system of worship around this thing and it colors and influences how we “do” life.

While there are no “easy steps,” there are biblical principles we each must pursue.

  • We must begin with prayerful determination to no longer be a slave to whatever has us bound (Romans 6).
  • We must enlist the help of those around us and make ourselves accountable to them for change (Galatians 6:1-2).
  • We must learn where our pitfalls are, what sets us off, what makes us run to that old comfortable idol.
  • We must make a plan to run somewhere else—like into the throne room of the Almighty God (Hebrews 4:16). It is there that we will find grace to help in our time of need.

There is a reason that Ephesians 4:22 tells us to throw off our old fleshy selves, our old desires, our old objects of worship. It is because they capture us, enslave us, and they grow more and more powerful in our lives. They corrupt us further and further until we believe we are beyond hope.

But we do not have to go back to the grave. In and through Christ we have been set free!

How can God’s story of being set free in Christ empower you to find Christ’s victory over the things that enslave you?

Julie is the Directory of Reigning Grace Counseling Center and a member of FCC.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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Book Review: A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter

Book by Miriam Huffman Rockness

Lilias Trotter was a gifted artist. So gifted, in fact, that one of the premier art critics of 19th century Europe, John Ruskin, said that if she would devote herself to art, “she would be the greatest living painter and do things that would be immortal.”

Lilias was born in England in 1853 to a wealthy Christian family. Both her parents had an acute love of beauty, and they shared their passion with their children. The family enjoyed outings in the country where they gathered ferns and berries. They took an extended trip every year, and delighted in viewing the scenery from the windows of the stage coach. Lilias wept with joy over the beauty of the Swiss Alps the first time she saw them. She captured everything in her sketchbook.

Lilias’ father died when she was twelve years old. Though she had been a believer before this tragedy, the loss of her father softened and spiritually deepened Lilias. She learned to run to her Heavenly Father in times of difficulty, and developed a close walk with God.

In her twenties, Lilias divided her time between her two great loves, working with the poor in the London slums and honing her skills as an artist. But Ruskin, who had taken Lilias under his wing as a student, forced her to choose. He felt that in order to be truly great, her whole energy needed to be focused on her art. Lilias had a decision to make.

Lilias prayed and asked for counsel from her friends. Finally she decided that she agreed with Ruskin. That is, she agreed that she needed to be fully focused on one passion. Later in life she would write:

Satan knows well the power of concentration; if a soul is likely to get under the sway of the inspiration, “this one thing I do,” he will turn all his energies to bring in side-interests that will shatter the gathering intensity.

And they lie all around, these interests. Never has it been so easy to live in half a dozen good harmless worlds at once—art, music, social science, games, motoring, the following of some profession, and so on. And between them we run the risk of drifting about, the “good” hiding the “best” even more effectually than it could be hidden by downright frivolity with its smothered heart-ache at its own emptiness.

And for her, the decision was clear. Lilias felt she could not give herself to painting in the way Ruskin asked and still seek first the Kingdom of God. With great pain and great joy, she chose to focus her life on evangelism. Even though it was what she really wanted, letting go one dream to pursue another still felt like a loss.

Lilias recovered quickly and set off to serve God with a newly focused passion. She applied to the North Africa Mission to serve in Algeria, but was denied because of her poor health. Lilias and a friend went to Algeria anyway, as self-supported workers. They would found the Algiers Mission Band, which would later become Arab World Ministries. Lilias wrote tracts in Arabic and illustrated them, drawing much of her inspiration from nature and the beauty of that desert region.

Lilias and her friend Blanche lived among the people in a crowded city. Over the years, they tried many different programs to gain a foothold to teach about Christ. They taught classes on sewing and on the Bible. They traveled far across the desert to reach small villages with the good news and they opened their home to people in need. It was very hard to disciple converts in a land saturated in Islam, and they routinely worked themselves into exhaustion.

After her death in 1928, people were asked what they remembered about Lilias Trotter. For most, it was her great love for individuals she encountered and her investment in their souls. Scores of people have come to know Christ either directly or indirectly because of Lilias’ willingness to focus on the best, even at the loss of something good. Like Mary listening at the feet of Jesus, she chose the better part.

Lilias’ story is told in detail in this book, but glaring lack in it is the absence of examples of her art and devotional writing. To get a more complete picture of this brave missionary, you might also purchase the book, A Blossom in the Desert: Reflections of Faith in the Art and Writings of Lilias Trotter, a beautiful coffee-table book with full-color reproductions of her art and excerpts from her journals. Some of her illustrated tracts are available to view online for free through Lilias Trotter Digitization Foundation and Project Gutenberg.

Review by Susan Verstraete, church secretary at FCC.

Posted in: Book Review

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I Believe in the Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus Christ has been called the central teaching of the Christian faith, the heart of the Gospel, the cornerstone of our theology, and the basis of our hope as believers. Perhaps that explains why the truth of the bodily resurrection of Christ has been under attack since the very day the tomb was discovered to be empty (Matthew 28:11-15).

Over the years, many have followed in the path of those first chief priests and elders who tried to explain away the resurrected Christ. The ancient Gnostics taught that Jesus switched places with a bystander before the crucifixion and later came out of hiding to appear to His followers. Docetists proposed the idea that Jesus only seemed to have a physical body. Enlightenment thinkers imagined that Jesus swooned at the cross and later woke up in the tomb, pushed the stone away and appeared to His disciples. In our own day, Jesus Seminar scholars marginalize the resurrection, teaching that it was only a metaphor and not an actual event. But the Apostle Paul said, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (I Corinthians 15:17 ESV). We need to have a clear understanding—just why do we believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ?

* Both Jesus and the Old Testament prophets predicted the resurrection. When the Jews asked for a sign of Jesus’ authority, He said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19-22). Other instances include Matthew 20:19, Mark 14:28, and Luke 9:22. Old Testament prophecies include Job 19:25-27 and Psalm 16:10 (cf. Acts 2:31).

* The detailed accounts of the resurrection found in Matthew 28:1-8, Mark 16:1-11, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-18 are eyewitness records of the event. Though each author chose to include slightly different details, the four narratives stand as legitimate historical documentation. Few events in history have as precise detail from multiple witnesses as do the accounts of the resurrection found in the Gospels.

* The Roman guard that stood watch at the tomb (Matthew 27:64-66) knew that falling asleep on their watch meant certain execution. It is preposterous to believe that the same timid disciples who fled the crucifixion would so soon be willing to face the danger of the guard, move the heavy stone from in front of the tomb, steal the body, and were able to accomplish all without waking the soldiers, who were conveniently asleep on duty.

* The empty tomb and the uninhabited grave clothes were enough to convince John of the resurrection (John 20:8), along with the women’s account of angelic testimony (Matthew 28:5-7).

* Many of the details in the Gospel accounts are unlikely from the perspective of the authors and must have been bewildering to them. For example, the fact that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene instead of a man like John or Peter would have been confusing in the male-dominated culture of the day. The disciples had seen Lazarus and others raised from the dead, but never resurrection to a glorified body like Jesus experienced—thus His ability to vanish (Luke 24:31) and to appear suddenly in a locked room (John 20:19). Including these unheard of events in the narrative shows that the authors were recording history as it occurred, not inventing fiction.

* The wounds in Jesus’ hands and side are evidence that it was indeed He who suffered on the cross, not a stand-in as the Gnostics taught. The scars verified by Thomas (John 20:27-28) and the meal shared with the disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:41-43) prove that the resurrection was physical, not a spiritual or solely metaphoric event. You can’t touch a spirit; you can’t have a meal with a metaphor.

* Jesus appeared to many people after His resurrection, including those who knew Him well, like Mary Magdalene (John 20:15-17) and the disciples. He also appeared to over 500 people at one time (I Corinthians 15:6). Nearly all would have been present when Peter preached about the resurrected Jesus in Acts 2:32. We have no record of any of Christ’s contemporaries objecting to Peter’s mention of the resurrection in this sermon, preached before the very people who had crucified Jesus. Many of these same witnesses would have been alive to confirm the testimony of the Gospels when they were written.

* Since the beginning, Jesus’ followers have suffered. The first-century church was brutally persecuted. Thousands of followers, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, withstood poverty, imprisonment, beatings, torture, and death for their belief. Tradition tells us that all but one of the Apostles died a martyr’s death. If they were not completely convinced of Christ’s deity and resurrection, they would not have suffered and died for those beliefs.

* Finally, the entire New Testament confirms the centrality of the resurrection. Belief in the resurrection is a requirement for salvation (Romans 10:9). Resurrection is pictured in baptism (Romans 6:4, Col. 2:12). It is the basis of hope for our own resurrection (Romans 8:11) and the resurrection of other believers who have died (I Thessalonians 4:14). It is the demonstration of God’s great power (Eph 1:19). It is why we are able to hope in God (1 Peter 1:21) and the means by which we are born again (1 Peter 3:23).

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
I Corinthians 15:20

Susan Verstraete is the church secretary at Faith Community Church.

Posted in: Apologetics

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PUSHING AGAINST A ROCK

By Matt Greco

Some years ago I heard a story about a man who prayed and prayed as he asked God to show him what He wanted the man to do.  The man was very specific in his prayer and he asked the Lord to be very specific in His answer.  The man wanted to be sure that he was doing God’s will.

Lo and behold the Lord answered the man.  The Lord told the man in answer to his prayers to go to this certain cabin on this certain mountain and out back of the cabin the man would find a very, very large rock.  God told the man to go push against that rock.

The man could barely contain himself as he thought what this might mean.  Maybe the Lord wanted him to push this rock and find a treasure under the rock.  Maybe he would push this rock over and it would roll down the mountain and cause some great and wonderful chain of events to happen.  Maybe he would push this rock and it would stop on a road and would keep a bus full of children from driving over a dangerous bridge.  Maybe this rock was meant to cut an important path down the mountain, or to scare off a dangerous bear, or…, or…, it seemed that the possibilities were endless.

The climb up the mountain was not easy, but he found the cabin and out back he saw the very, very large rock and he decided to start right away.  He walked up to the rock, set his feet, bent his knees, squared his shoulders, rolled up his sleeves and he pushed…hard!  Nothing happened!  He tried again; his feet set a little farther apart, his knees bent a little lower, his shoulders extra square and PPUUSSHH!  Nothing!  He tried different angles, different techniques, pushing long and hard, pushing in short bursts, but the rock did not move.

“I must be tired from the climb”, the man told himself.  “I will start again in the morning”.  The next morning dawned bright and beautiful and the man, with renewed vigor, set out to push this rock wherever he wanted it to go.  Only one problem; the rock would not budge.  No matter how hard or what angel he tried, the rock was immovable.  He spent hours trying to move this rock, but nothing.  After several hours he questioned the Lord, “This is what you want me to do?  This rock is not moving Lord.”  The answer was quick and clear, “Keep pushing.”

That day turned into a week, that week into weeks, and weeks turned in months.  The rock would not budge.  Daily the man would read from the Word and ask the Lord for direction.  He kept getting the same message, keep pushing!  Every day he pushed, as soon as the sun came out he was pushing.  It seemed that his whole life he had done nothing but push against this rock.

Finally, the man had had enough.  He had pushed on this rock for months with no result and he was ready to have a serious meeting with the Lord.  “Lord, I am done.  I have pushed, and pushed, and pushed against this rock, with no result and I am done, finished!  It hasn’t moved a single inch and I am done pushing!  I wonder if this is really what You wanted me to do at all!  You need to get someone else to move the rook.”

The Lord answered, “I did not ask you to move the rock, I asked you to push against it.  Look at your hands; they were soft, and not used to hard work.  They are now calloused and useful for the difficult labor I have for you. Look at your arms; they are now muscled and tan and able to perform the difficult labor I have for you.  Look at your legs, now strong and flexible; feel your back, your neck.  They are all ready for the difficult labor I have for you.  But more important than all the physical benefits, is the fact that you have been obedient.  You have learned to listen to My Word and because of that obedience, you are ready for the difficult labor I have for you.”

“Forgive me Lord”, the man said.  “You are my Lord and my God and no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.  I am Your servant and I ask that You use me as You desire.”

Whenever I think about this story, I realize that I would have probably done a whole lot more complaining and a whole lot less pushing.  Sometimes it is hard for me to not be in control or at least feel like I have a pretty good understanding of the Lord’s will.  But, He is God, He is sovereign, and He does not require my approval of either His plans or His providence.

You may have found yourself pushing against a rock lately, or maybe you have been pushing against the rock for some time.  Perhaps the Lord is preparing you for something special.  Ask Him, read His Word, and in the meantime, keep on pushing!

Matt Greco is on the missions committee at FCC and serves as the headmaster of Fatih Christian Academy.

Posted in: Christian Living, Men's Ministry

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Heading Up the Road and Killing the Snakes

By Matt Greco

Have you ever met and visited with someone who is considered a legend?  Someone who has risen to the top in his or her field and is now or has been considered one of the best ever?  I have been blessed to meet several “legends” in my lifetime.  Some of those individuals are famous and some of them infamous, but all of them would be considered legends in their respective fields.

While I was in college and a bouncer at a disco club (over 30 years ago), I met and spent several hours with Wolfman Jack.  Parents and Grandparents—you may need to explain who Wolfman Jack was.  My family and I met and had some BBQ with C & W superstar Tim McGraw, which I wrote about in the church’s newsletter several months ago.  I also spent about 30 minutes talking football with all time NFL great Anthony Muñoz.  He was recently voted the top offensive lineman ever!  Anthony and I talked after my son Gil worked out with him. These individuals would be considered legends.

But, I think the greatest legend I have ever met and spent time with is an unassuming 80-year-old man who you all know.  In fact, about 250 of you had dinner with him and his wife the other night.  The legend about whom I speak is missionary Frank Drown.

There is not enough time or space to tell you all the things that Frank has done in his 67 years as a missionary.  You could purchase several books that have been written about his life and his ministry and learn a lot from them.  You could watch the documentaries and the films that have been produced of which Frank plays a major part.  You would be able to learn more about him through those productions.

You could meet with and talk the thousands or even hundreds of thousands that have been impacted or influenced by his and his wife Marie’s faithfulness to proclaiming the Gospel to the nations.  He is probably most famous for rescuing the dead bodies of Jim Elliot and his team, after they were slain by the Auca Indians in Ecuador.  We will not know all that Frank has done for the cause of Christ until we all stand in glory.

If you were to ask Frank if he thought he was a legend, he would probably just look at you and flash that ready smile.  He would probably talk to you about his most recent missionary project in Canada, or about the Huaorani New Testament which is written in the language of the Auca‘s, or about some other project on which he has been working.  In all my conversations with Frank, it has never been about Frank, it has always been about proclaiming Christ and His kingdom

Master Sergeant Bret Holder perhaps said it best.  While visiting with Bret after Frank had spoken at the Missionary Banquet, he said, “If that guy were a Marine, he would have stripes up and down both arms”.  Well said Master Sergeant, well said.

My granddad used to talk about people who had, “… been up the road and killed the snakes.”   I think that Frank help make the road that those guys went up.  He has served in missions for 12 years longer than I have been alive!

There is a saying in Spanish, “The years don’t come by themselves.”  As we age, some things don’t work as well as they once worked.  The Drowns sent me a letter after the banquet saying they wanted to do a better presentation.  Perhaps the next time Frank and Marie are our guests we will do a type of interview with them.  But please don’t lose the importance of Frank’s message, which for me was simple and profound:

  1. Mission work (God’s work) is very hard work, but if God has called you to do it, He will help you do it!
  2. You might have to learn a new language, or go to a different country, or leave comfort behind, but if God has called you to do it, He will help you do it!
  3. Some things might not go like you want them to go (90% of your stuff might not make the trip), but if God has called you to do it, He will help you get through it.

So we can take Frank and Marie’s message about mission work and apply it to mission work or any Christian endeavor.  We can take a look at a couple whose lives have been totally dedicated to serving Christ and understand that if God has called us to do something similar, then He will help us do it.

Matt Greco is the headmaster at FCA and serves on the missions committee at FCC.

Posted in: missions

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