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Archive for July, 2018

5 Encouragements for the Spiritual Desert Wanderer

In your daily “quiet times,” do you ever feel like Moses and the Israelites just wandering around the desert waiting for Promise Land?  

You might think that having graduated seminary means that my daily time with the Lord in the morning is full of His Shekinah Glory every time I open my Bible and close my eyes in prayer. 

Let me assure you, it’s not. In fact, if anything, having been in seminary made my times with the Lord dryer and more difficult. I did not expect that this was going to happen in seminary. Yet, I found myself in quite the barren spiritual desert 6 months ago and I had been wandering for a long time. Knowing (some) Greek didn’t help. Knowing the cultural background and context of the text didn’t help. Honestly, it made it worse. I couldn’t just enjoy God’s Word for what it is: His Word! The Bible had become another textbook I had to read. 

Can you relate to this at all? Maybe it’s not because of seminary, but have you ever felt like the Bible was something that you “had to read” and not something that you have the joy and privilege of reading? Have you ever felt like you were in a spiritual desert and your Bible reading and prayer weren’t helping? Are you in that desert now? 

Whether you have been, you are, (or will be someday), in a similar place, let me give you five encouragements that I pray bless you in those times: 

1. You’re not alone. I can’t say for certain, but I think that ALL Christians go through this at some point in their journey with the Lord. Take heart! The spiritual desert you find yourself in has been traveled before and others have made it through. Therefore, you will too. But… 

2. Just because you don’t “feel” close to God in your Bible and prayer time doesn’t mean that you should abandon it. I know many people who simply stop reading and praying during desert times and you know what? It doesn’t help. What would happen if I stopped talking to my wife every time I didn’t “feel” love towards her? If I did this, waiting for the morning where all of a sudden the lights came on, I’d be in the dark for a long time waiting to “feel” love for her. How do I “feel” love for my wife? I spend time with her. I talk to her. I share my heart with her. Spending more time, not less, stirs my affections for her. I believe that’s how it is with God. It’s a relationship after all, right? To put it another way: a sailboat won’t move unless the wind blows the sails. Therefore, raise the sails of your spiritual life (read and pray) and wait for the wind (the Spirit) to blow.  

3. I’ve been using John Piper’s IOUS acronym daily for the last 5 months and it has helped a ton: 

  • I—Incline “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.” (Psalm 119:36) 
  • O—Open “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18) 
  • U—Unite “Unite my heart to fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11) 
  • S—Satisfy “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:14) 

4. Repent. Is there sin in your life that you need to repent of? Could there be some sin that is stifling your walk with God? I don’t know. Only you and God know. But if there is, then I urge you to repent and turn from your sin. Often, this is all it takes.  

5. Beg God to grow your affections for Him. Ask Him to give you the desire to even want to read and pray. Pray this daily, even if you’re in a good spot. This is a request our heavenly Father wants to answer. 

There’s more to be said here, but I’ll leave it at those five encouragements for now.

Everyone is different and everyone’s walk with the Lord is different. I’ve just laid out what I have learned and what has helped me. If this doesn’t encourage you, then go find someone whose Bible-Prayer life is one you want to have for yourself ask them how they do it. Then, go and do the same! 

It’s okay to be in a spiritual desert. It’s not okay to stay there.  

Here’s the really good news though… spiritual desert or not, if you’re in Christ, then Jesus loves you just the same. So take heart, beloved brother or sister.  

 

Gabriel Pech is married to Hannah and they have 3 beautiful children. They have been members at FCC since April 2017. He graduated from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with his M.Div. in May, 2018. The Pech family now lives in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where they are missionaries to the 80,000+ Americans/military members and their families who are stationed there.  

 

 

Posted in: Bible study, Christian Living, Uncategorized

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Some Thoughts on Finances

As the daughter of a frugal woman, (who pinched pennies throughout the Great Depression and never quite accustomed herself to a comfortable retirement), I walked a fine line between practicality and desire.  After four college years with few discretionary funds, I remember going downtown determined to splurge with money from my first paycheck.  First one thing and then another attracted my attention, but each time I would think, “I don’t really need this,” and I returned home rather upset with myself that I still had my money intact.   I don’t know if it was the specter of my frugal mother or a gene that both she and I had inherited from our Scotch ancestors that restrained me but, obviously, whether by nature or nurture, I had developed a conflicted mindset about money. 

Not long after, the fact was impressed upon me that God did not own just a tenth of my income, but that it all came from Him, therefore, it belonged to Him. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1). “Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). The Lord is the owner.  Owners have rights.  Stewards have responsibilities.  I realized that He was going to hold me accountable as a faithful steward of how I cared for what He gave me (Matthew 25:14-30). 

I could not figure out how to be a careful steward without keeping track of how the money given to me was spent, so I began recording expenditures in a college blue book. Then I met Stan who shared my philosophy concerning money. Because he was one of the first I had dated with whom I could trust my money, I married him and happily turned over to him the treasurer’s job in our family. 

We moved to Massachusetts for my husband to attend graduate school while I worked. Money was tight. Our apartment, at first, was furnished with a bed, a card table with chairs, and packing crates. Gradually we added attic furniture from the second-hand store.   

One of the major attractions in Boston is the Freedom Trail that winds its way by historic landmarks including North End church where Paul Revere hung the lantern to warn that the British were coming. The North End was an Italian ghetto. It was the first time I had observed such poverty. During the time before marriage when I shared an apartment with a friend, we had subscribed to several magazines (our substitute for info before the Internet.) One I had paid for was Better Homes and Gardens. From it, I garnered ideas for my “dream home.” It struck me suddenly that better stewardship and contentment would come from viewing more ghettos than dream magazines and I dropped my subscription.  

Stan finished his grad school studies and we found ourselves “stuck” in Massachusetts far from our California home.  Failing to find employment on the west coast, Stan got a good job as a physicist in Boston. Our children were on the way.  God kept us there for ten years until his company downsized. Stan had always wanted to teach physics. God moved us back to California and the next four years were the most exciting period of our lives. We saw God provide for us while living on a part-time teaching salary – a necessary steppingstone for Stan to gain entrance into that profession.   

I remember thinking in those lean years, “Lord, you promised to reward with more those who were faithful with little (Matthew 25:21). “I’ve been as faithful as I know how to be. Couldn’t you give a just a tad more for us to be faithful with?” But it was during those years that our expository preaching pastor came to a passage on stewardship. He challenged us to see what God would do if we gave more than the usually assumed “tithe.” Though we were already pinching pennies to get by, we did and God was more than faithful.1    

The prophet Malachi wrote, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (3:10). 

God has proven to me He cannot be out given. And I am glad that God delayed his abundance for me until late—for he knew that I needed to learn the lesson that the greatest satisfaction comes not from accumulating things which only beget emptiness and yearning for more. Real joy and blessings come in relationships with others and sharing God’s abundance with them, especially with those in need here and abroad. 

If you visit my little cottage, you will notice a wooden packing crate that has served various furniture functions in our home(s) throughout the years.  I keep it as a reminder of God’s faithfulness and how he has abundantly supplied my needs, inside and out, from His glorious riches that are mine through Christ Jesus, my Lord (Phil 4:19). 

Margi Hawks is a widowed octogenarian, a graduate of a Christian University with a degree in Art Ed and a great lover of  History. She is blessed to have been a stay-at-home wife and mom with a career of serving the Lord in whatever way He has directed in the various places she has lived in this wonderful country.  

See also: Pastor Tim’s May 20th sermon on 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 titled, “The Collection,” which you can listen to on Sermon Audio here. In the sermon, Pastor Tim discusses giving in general and makes a few specific points about the tithe as an Old Testament function in contrast with freewill offerings modeled in the New Testament.

Posted in: Christian Living, Security

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What Drives You?

Something has been on my heart and mind for a while. It’s something I have prayed much about and now want to write about: unity. A desire for the unity of our church body burns deep within me. I want to see the body thrive, not divide! As Christians, we rarely end up losing unity over some black and white evil. Rather, we lose it to passions, opinions, convictions, and desires. They are often opinions about very good things, even important things. But are they the MOST important things? So I ask you, what drives you? What are you known for?

Those of you who know me, even just a little bit, know that I am a woman of passion and conviction. In fact, my 19-year-old informed me this past week that I am the most intensely passionate person she knows! A lot of passionate convictions come from truths that I have been exposed to that then become convictions in specific areas of life. However, that does not mean my convictions and passions themselves are THE TRUTH. God has spoken about the most important things and then leaves many areas for us to have to work out. Wouldn’t we love a handbook of exact rights and wrongs for every decision we will ever face?!? But haha! That isn’t how it works and that is a good thing. We would have another religion, but it wouldn’t be Christianity. The lack of this “handbook” helps us to keep our eyes and hearts fixed upon the most important things. So, I ask again, what are the most important things? Are the most important things what you are known for above all else? Or are you more driven by a passion for secondary issues? Now let me make myself clear, secondary issues can be WONDERFUL, NECESSARY, and SHOULD be discussed. However, they should never take a higher place than what God Himself has made a priority.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. I am a homeschooling fan all the way. I love homeschooling. I’m fully committed to homeschool my children because of my convictions. I can give you a passionate rationale for homeschooling and YET, there is no command in God’s word to homeschool. I could look at another parent and say, “If you love your child you will spank them” (Prov 13:24), and I can confidently tell a parent, “You are called to be extremely involved in your child’s life, teaching them God’s ways constantly” (Deut. 11:19). But even though my passion for homeschooling is based on biblical convictions, I could not look at another parent and tell them “If you love your child you will homeschool them.” There is complete freedom to choose your child’s education as long as you are fully involved in their lives with discipline and training. I should be convinced about what I do or don’t do, enjoy or don’t enjoy, eat or don’t eat (Romans 14). Yet I cannot make it an extra-biblical truth that I then use to judge others or become the standard bearer for others. This applies to countless things. And just so you know, I am very passionate about most of these things! Sometimes I find myself on one side and then sometimes on the other. I have close friends on both sides of many issues whom I love dearly. I also value their opinions. However, I never want secondary things to come between me and my brothers and sisters in Christ when we don’t agree.

Let me name a few of the divisions I currently see out there…

  • A conviction to vaccinate or not vaccinate
  • Homeschool, private school, or public school
  • Traditional medicine or holistic
  • Organic/clean eating or being at peace with eating whatever
  • Vegan or meat
  • Breastfeed or formula
  • Political views
  • Starbucks or Caribou haha 😉

I could go on and on. People in our body will have opinions on all sides. Sometimes people form their opinions from a point of view or circumstance that we are unfamiliar with. So many of these topics can lead to great discussions.

Yet, while we should be convinced about what we do and don’t do, our opinions and personal convictions cannot define who we are. We are first and foremost “the called out ones.” We are followers of Christ. We are redeemed by His blood and are here on earth to make His gospel known. We are one family with a grave need to have what God deems the most important things flowing through our blood. His truth, love, and grace are what we need to be known for. When we encounter one another at church, people should be able to say of us, “There is a person who loves the Lord, His word, and stirs me to do the same.” The first thing that crosses their mind shouldn’t be, “There is the homeschool mom, the vaccine-pushing mom, or the breastfeeding only mom.” Let us never cause others to shy away because our passion has overshadowed our love.

God loves unity. He loves unity to the point His Son had to die for it. In Proverbs 6, God says there are six things He hates, seven that are an abomination. When I read through that chapter this past weekend it startled me to find the last attribute on that list along with the others. Do you know what God finds an abomination? It’s not eating meat, being vegan, using essential oils, getting vaccines or where your child is educated. What is abominable to the Lord is “the one who sows discord…” (v.19). This is pretty sobering. I had to take a hard look in the mirror and ask myself some hard questions. Do I make God’s truth or Sarah’s truth most important? I am so thankful for His truth and how it always brings me back to the most important things in life.

As you read this, I am praying for you. I pray that God’s word and gospel will be your driving force. I pray that you will be an imitator of your Lord and Savior. I pray that you will be pointing others to good works (Heb 10:24), love (Cor 13), unity (1 Cor 1:10, Eph 4:13, Col 3:14, John 17:23, Psalm 133:1, Eph 4:3, Rom 12:16), self-control (2 Tim1:7, Gal 5:23 ), to discipline your children (Prov 23:13-14, Eph 6:4, Heb 12:5-11, Col 3:20), to be hospitable (1 Pet 4:9, Lev 19:33-34), and anything else God’s word is undoubtedly clear about. There are so very many truths of God that we can focus on and stir one another up to do the same. I am praying nothing else in your life burns within you more than stirring yourself and others to love in truth. I pray that your name, your Facebook page, your conversations, your Twitter account, yes— that in every single aspect of your life you will be known for your love of God’s word, the unity of His people, and His glory above all else.

Your Sister,

Sarah Bush

Sarah and her husband, Kevin, have five children and serve in missions and fellowship group ministries.

 

Posted in: Christian Living, Church life, Women's Ministry

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