Carol’s testimony was both moving and helpful. If you missed the event, would like to hear it again or if you would like to share it with someone. please use this link.
Archive for Christian Living
Carol’s testimony was both moving and helpful. If you missed the event, would like to hear it again or if you would like to share it with someone. please use this link.
Morning, August 2
“Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”
Our belief in God’s wisdom supposes and necessitates that he has a settled purpose and plan in the work of salvation. What would creation have been without his design? Is there a fish in the sea, or a fowl in the air, which was left to chance for its formation? Nay, in every bone, joint, and muscle, sinew, gland, and blood-vessel, you mark the presence of a God working everything according to the design of infinite wisdom. And shall God be present in creation, ruling over all, and not in grace? Shall the new creation have the fickle genius of free will to preside over it when divine counsel rules the old creation? Look at Providence! Who knoweth not that not a sparrow falleth to the ground without your Father? Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. God weighs the mountains of our grief in scales, and the hills of our tribulation in balances. And shall there be a God in providence and not in grace? Shall the shell be ordained by wisdom and the kernel be left to blind chance? No; he knows the end from the beginning. He sees in its appointed place, not merely the cornerstone which he has laid in fair colours, in the blood of his dear Son, but he beholds in their ordained position each of the chosen stones taken out of the quarry of nature, and polished by his grace; he sees the whole from corner to cornice, from base to roof, from foundation to pinnacle. He hath in his mind a clear knowledge of every stone which shall be laid in its prepared space, and how vast the edifice shall be, and when the top-stone shall be brought forth with shoutings of “Grace! Grace! unto it.” At the last it shall be clearly seen that in every chosen vessel of mercy, Jehovah did as he willed with his own; and that in every part of the work of grace he accomplished his purpose, and glorified his own name.
Evening, August 2
“So she gleaned in the field until even.”
Let me learn from Ruth, the gleaner. As she went out to gather the ears of corn, so must I go forth into the fields of prayer, meditation, the ordinances, and hearing the word to gather spiritual food. The gleaner gathers her portion ear by ear; her gains are little by little: so must I be content to search for single truths, if there be no greater plenty of them. Every ear helps to make a bundle, and every gospel lesson assists in making us wise unto salvation. The gleaner keeps her eyes open: if she stumbled among the stubble in a dream, she would have no load to carry home rejoicingly at eventide. I must be watchful in religious exercises lest they become unprofitable to me; I fear I have lost much already—O that I may rightly estimate my opportunities, and glean with greater diligence. The gleaner stoops for all she finds, and so must I. High spirits criticize and object, but lowly minds glean and receive benefit. A humble heart is a great help towards profitably hearing the gospel. The engrafted soul-saving word is not received except with meekness. A stiff back makes a bad gleaner; down, master pride, thou art a vile robber, not to be endured for a moment. What the gleaner gathers she holds: if she dropped one ear to find another, the result of her day’s work would be but scant; she is as careful to retain as to obtain, and so at last her gains are great. How often do I forget all that I hear; the second truth pushes the first out of my head, and so my reading and hearing end in much ado about nothing! Do I feel duly the importance of storing up the truth? A hungry belly makes the gleaner wise; if there be no corn in her hand, there will be no bread on her table; she labours under the sense of necessity, and hence her tread is nimble and her grasp is firm; I have even a greater necessity, Lord, help me to feel it, that it may urge me onward to glean in fields which yield so plenteous a reward to diligence.
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:
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.
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.
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…
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.
Sarah and her husband, Kevin, have five children and serve in missions and fellowship group ministries.
Have you ever begun your work on Monday and felt so worn-out that it couldn’t possibly be the beginning of the work week? Then you thought about your Saturday and Sunday and couldn’t remember what would have made you so tired this Monday morning? On the flip side, has there ever been a Monday in your life that, though you were busy all weekend, you were still able to face with energy? I know I have experienced both kinds of Mondays, and I’m sure you have too. Rest is something most people do not think they need to be taught about. Many would say, “It’s not getting into bed that I struggle with, it’s the getting out.” Although over-work is a common problem, I believe that many of our struggles with exhaustion are due to the wrong kind of rest. You can do nothing all day and still not feel rested. For this reason, I believe we as Christians need a better understanding of rest that we might live more energetically to the glory of God. My goal in writing this is to persuade you that rest is not so much the absence of activity, but the freedom from our daily duties to work and toil, that we might actively pursue that which satisfies us most in Christ. In order to do this, I will look at two key biblical passages concerning rest, Deuteronomy 5:12-15 & Hebrews 4:9-13, then finish with some applications that will aid us in ending our restless rest.
A Theology of Rest
In the retelling of the Ten Commandments, Moses exhorts the Israelites:
“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).
In this text, we learn three unique reasons why we are to rest (Keller). First, we take a Sabbath rest as a Celebration of our Design. We learn in the Creation account in Genesis that God worked for six days, then rested on the seventh. In the passage above we learn that we are to have a day of rest that models exactly what God did in the beginning. We are to reflect God’s image by resting every seventh day as He rested. Our rest, then, is a celebration of our likeness to God as His image bearers. We learn here that rest is not rooted in the Law but in the Creation account. Secondly, we take a Sabbath rest as a Declaration of our Freedom. The flow of the argument in verse 15 is that Israel is to remember their slavery in Egypt and the Lord’s deliverance. Then the Bible says, “Therefore, the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” Here we see the command to rest is to reflect God’s mighty ability to deliver His people. Because God freed Israel, they were to rest in celebration of His mighty work. The principle for us here is that God is always the Deliverer of His people and rest is a celebration of His might, not ours. Therefore, we are not to seek refuge in working for money without rest, trying to save ourselves. Rather, we rest as a declaration of our freedom from all worldly bondage. God has delivered us and we do not have to prove ourselves or think we are our ultimate provider. God freed us from this bondage which is so common to man. This leads us to the third underpinning of our rest. We rest as an Act of Trust. To rest means we are not working (an obvious deduction), and not working means no money. Tim Keller says it well, “To practice the Sabbath is a disciplined way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running, who provides for your family, not even the one who keeps your work projects moving forward.” Therefore, rest is yet another way God’s people show the world they trust God and revere Him.
Now turning to the New Testament, the author of Hebrews writes:
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:9-13).
Here is the incredible teaching that for God’s people there is a greater Sabbath rest than what Moses spoke of in the Ten Commandments. This is the rest believers have in Christ. The flow of the argument reveals that there has been no lasting Sabbath rest for God’s people. Joshua did not provide it (verse 8) when they entered the promised land; therefore a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people to enter into. That rest is nothing other than Christ and His atonement for the sins of His people. The greater Sabbath rest is Christ’s righteousness that fulfilled the Law and is imputed to those who believe in Him. We strive to enter that rest which Christ provides because the word of God, (the Law), is sharp and revealing. It is so sharp that is cuts us up (because of our unrighteousness) and so revealing of our thoughts and intentions that we are naked and ashamed before the One to whom we must give account. Rest, then, is pictured as life lived in union with Christ. Resting in Christ’s finished work on the cross, rather than in our own works, is the Sabbath rest that is reserved for God’s people.
So How Do We Rest Restfully?
Now that we have walked through two key texts on rest, what do we do with that knowledge? First, we must meditate on the three underpinnings of the Commandment to observe the Sabbath. Do we see rest as a celebration of our design? Seeing rest as a celebration makes us delight in our Creator for making us in His image. Do we regularly take days off from our work as a declaration of our freedom from being bound to the ways of the world? Seeing rest as freedom allows us to stop feeling guilty for not working on our to-do lists, because we know we are free to serve God above all! Do we rest from work, knowing that rest may mean less money, as an act of trust in God as our Provider? Seeing rest as an act of trust is a regular reminder that we walk by faith and not by sight. These three questions are a helpful place to start when looking at why we all need to rest regularly and enjoy that rest, too.
Secondly, we need to let the implications of the greater Sabbath rest become present in our lives. Because Christ has proven us before the Father (made us righteous), we no longer need to prove ourselves through over-work. Because we’ve been given an identity in Christ, we no longer need to make an identity for ourselves in our work. Because we’ve been given fulfillment in Christ, we no longer need to chase satisfaction in climbing the ladder in corporations. Because every selfish motive for work (self-worth, fulfillment, prominence, and glory) is revealed as void and unsatisfying, we can rest satisfied that we are complete in Christ. Rest, as we learn in Hebrews, is ultimately found in Christ. Therefore, our focus in rest is to be Christ, our Sabbath Rest. To rest without a focus on Christ and what He has done for us, is to rob ourselves of the benefits of greater (more fulfilling) rest. This is why I argue that rest is not so much the absence of activity, but the freedom from our daily duties to work and toil, that we might actively pursue that which satisfies us most in Christ. If we know that Christ is the greatest rest anyone of us can experience, then we must pursue satisfaction in Christ as we rest. We are all likely familiar with John Piper’s famous declaration that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” What I am contending is that this principle from Piper is just as important when we are resting as it is when we are talking about the Christian life in general. So when we practice regular rest, our guiding principle needs to be, “What can I do that will make me more satisfied in Christ?” This is the key to enduring and genuine rest, that allows us to enter our work week ready and wanting to leverage every moment for the glory of God by serving people and working with excellence. And isn’t that what we want most as Christians, to leverage every moment for the glory of God?
As a last word of advice, I encourage you to PLAN YOUR REST. If we do not actively plan things that satisfy us in Christ, we will passively waste our rest either being busy-bodies that are tired on Monday or as lazy-bodies not ready for Monday. So plan to spend time in the word of God, growing in the knowledge of your incredible Savior. Plan to spend time in prayer, growing in your zealousness to see God answer the prayers of His saint. Plan to spend some time sharing your faith with friends or a stranger, increasing in your desire to see God worshipped by all and all delighting in Him. Plan to spend time with your family, soaking up those precious moments God has given you, letting gratitude wash over you because God has given you infinitely more than you deserve. Plan to spend time in nature, marveling at God’s creation that cries out in praise and beauty to its Creator. Whatever it is that satisfies you in Christ, plan it in advance so that your to-do lists and other things do not rob you of satisfaction in Christ. May God bless you with restful rest as you seek satisfaction in your Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Endnote: Concerning Deuteronomy 5:12-15, I rely heavily on Tim Keller’s treatment of it in his book, Every Good Endeavor, chapter twelve.
The first time my husband went to Africa a few years ago, it was pretty horrible here without him. He believes Satan was attacking each of the four people on the trip weeks before they left, but especially while they were gone. I ran our family business while he was gone and there was a car accident in a snowstorm among other problems while he was away. I was terribly sick while trying to work full time and still keep up our home with our four kids (including school work, meals, etc). We also received the news that my mother in law’s cancer had spread to her brain. So when he told me that he was asked to go back this past winter, my first thought was to wonder what could go wrong with this trip.
We began praying more intentionally for this trip and for all 3 team members who were going this time. We also set up an agreement with one another so that I would not send him bad news until we were able to establish voice contact with each other. The first trip was not only hard on me, but on him since he was getting messages, but not able to communicate back for several days
Fortunately, communication technology was much improved this trip.For the first part of the trip we were able to talk each day. I looked forward to hearing what work was being accomplished there and he was grateful to hear things were going smoothly here. We didn’t have many problems at home this trip either, which we accounted to God’s goodness and answers to many praying for us.The first Saturday he was there, he was able to contact me a second time. He had checked in at bedtime like he has been doing each day and then again when he was awoken in the middle of the night by a huge cockroach crawling across his hand. He was unable to sleep after that so he could talk an extra time that day.
Then, at 3:30 am Kansas City time, my phone rang with a What’sApp call from my husband. I wasn’t sure what time it was there, but I figured it would have to be early morning by then. I answered by saying “Hello” and then said,“John, are you there?” Trying not to wake anyone else up, I went to our living room repeatedly saying, “John are you there? Is everything okay?” I just kept hearing banging; like things being thrown around the room. Lots of noise here and there, but no talking. I finally said, “John, can you talk? You’re scaring me. Is someone there?” Still nothing. All of a sudden I heard John say “I smell gas” in a really low voice. I freaked out and started crying. I have never been this frightened before in my life. I had this picture in my mind. The group all hiding under a table or something while some armed people were robbing them all while threatening to catch the place on fire after. It was horrible. I did not know what to do. I kept saying, “Please just say you’re okay and tell me why I have to listen to this. I did not know what to do.”
So then I did a selfish thing – I went downstairs and woke up my 17-year old daughter. Remember this is 3:40 am and I am sobbing and shaking. I told her something was wrong in Africa and that her dad had said he smelled gas and that he was not saying anything since that. We sat there listening to more loud noises, like metal hitting the floor over and over. I was thankful for the cockroach that woke him up so we could say that we loved each other earlier. She suggested we stop and pray together. Thank you Lord for giving me this child who reminded me what was most important in my time of need. We prayed out loud and cried harder. Then through the phone we heard liquid pouring and I lost it. I decided I should try to call another friend in Africa to go and check on them. Right when Ashlyn agreed that was a good idea, the phone call ended. I lost it again! I don’t think I have ever felt this kind of sadness before. Nothing can compare to the helplessness I felt. I couldn’t figure out why he would have me listen to this and just not say anything but “I smell gas.” Why would God allow this to be the last time I heard his voice?
About a minute later, my husband called and asked if I had called him. He sounded completely normal.How could this be? I told him that he had called me and explained why I was crying so hard. He couldn’t believe it. He said that his phone had been in the kitchen on the counter far from where he was standing and that he was trying to get the gas stove to work. Yes, he spoke out loud to himself and said, “I can smell gas” in the process, but he had no idea I was on the phone listening. He asked if the sound I heard was a specific loud banging he could reproduce. Yes, it was the same noise we had been listening to over and over, it was just the door to the kitchen! He was also clicking the stove over and over which makes a loud noise too. The worst part was that he was making hot tea so when he poured the water into a kettle near the phone, it made a liquid pouring sound! Yep, the part I had envisioned as gas being poured all over the house was just tea. I couldn’t believe it. They were making breakfast before church where he was going to preach and everything was fine. I kept crying and was able to talk to him for about 10 minutes which was the longest time since he has been gone. I left my daughter to fall back asleep and then went back to bed to try to sleep (which was impossible). Why did this all happen? How could I imagine something that seemed so real?And how did I not once think that he accidentally called me?
When fear begins to creep in and all the “what-if” situations begin to consume our minds, there are several things we need to remember:
Prepare yourself for battle before your fear happens. Don’t let the enemy use fear to seize you and take you captive. Fight him off with the promises of God’s word and His unchanging character. And remember these things in your moment of fear!
Life in this sin cursed world can be downright difficult at times. One of my favorite go-to verses on these occasions is Psalm 42:11, “Why are you in despair O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” “Hope in God for I shall yet praise Him” are words to cling too! There will, in the future, be cause to rejoice even though my soul is, at the moment, grieved to the point of despair. The last part of the verse says: the help of my countenance and my God” – the God who gives us hope even helps our countenance!
When you were a child, did you ever play with those colorful magnetic letters? I did. I decided to put them to use again when I became a mom. Growing up my dad used to remind me, on a regular basis, that I needed to preach to myself. We are blessed, as a church, to have a pastor and elders who do the same thing for us. Our emotions can’t be trusted, they are so easily effected by our circumstances, but God’s word can be trusted! It needs to be our focus, our meditation, our trust, and our confidence so we can persevere. “Persevere” is a word I have on my refrigerator, written in magnetic letters, as a reminder that I must keep pressing on and “keep believing” as Pastor Tim so often reminds us. “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not grow weary (Galatians 6:9). Verse 10 goes on to say…”so then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith”(Galatians 6:10). When we are doing good things for others, especially our fellow believers, it helps us take our eyes off our circumstances. This in turn reminds us that it is the Lord Christ we serve (Colossians 3:24) and in serving others we serve Him.
As Christians we are engaged in a battle. Paul reminds us of whose strength we fight in, of our armor and the importance of prayer in Ephesians 6:10-18:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 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 the wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”
Paul then reminds us of what prayer can accomplish in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Our battle is waged in the mind! In Romans 8:6 we are told, “the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” and in the book of Isaiah 26:3-4 we see that “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, for in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock.”
I find singing and meditating on hymns that contain sound doctrine is another way to focus my mind on the truth of God’s word. Two of my favorites are Solid Rock by Edward Mote and He Giveth More Grace by Annie Johnson Flint. The second verse of He Giveth More Grace says…”When we have exhausted our store of endurance, when our strength has failed ere the day is half done, when we reach the end of our hoarded resources, our Fathers full giving is only begun.”
Let us keep our minds fixed on the white part of the rope which extends throughout eternity and not the small red part which represents our short life here on earth. (In case you missed it, check out Pastor Tim’s Easter Sunday sermon on Sermon Audio)., so that we can one day say with the Apostle Paul:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
“Now may the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in Hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” Romans 15:13.
Jackie Rebiger is a member of FCC. She and her husband, Scott, have ten children and five grandchildren.
An Original Poem
Who is the one with loving care,
that watches o’er us everywhere?
The one with understanding eyes
that lifts our burdens to the skies.
Whose hands create our very lives
and ears can hear our fervent cries.
For peace on earth and peace of mind,
for open hearts and eyes not blind.
Who is this body hung up by nails,
where at his feet a woman wails.
The one that’s mocked and crucified
by those He loves, for whom He dies.
Who is this man so plain, so pure,
He is the Son of God, I’m sure
– Autumn, 1964
Several weeks prior to writing the verses above, I had come home from a long day at work and was eager to get changed into comfortable clothes and relax.
As I reached into the closet for my favorite snuggly sweater, I noticed a small basket of laundry still needing to be ironed. I thought to myself, “I am just too tired to tackle this tonight.” However, as I was closing the closet door, I noticed one of the items in the basket was a blouse I had intended to wear to work the next day. I paused for a moment, gave a sigh and then decided if I could find an interesting TV program to watch, surely I could endure ironing my blouse and a few other items.
I turned on the television, set up my ironing board and went to the kitchen. When I returned, the program being televised featured a choir singing beautiful hymns. I felt refreshed by the music and the ironing was no longer a task.
After the choir finished singing, a very young Billy Graham stepped up to the podium to pray before delivering his message for the evening. His opening statement said he would be preaching on the blood of Christ. He proceeded to explain why it was necessary for Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God, to shed his innocent blood as an atonement for man’s sin: without the shedding blood, there could be no atonement.
Never before had I heard a message on the necessity of Christ’s blood being shed in order for man’s sin’s to be forgiven. This was a pivotal point in my life and a prelude to my salvation.
I am overwhelmed by God’s immense love, patience and great mercy. God is omnipotent, having ultimate power and influence. That fall evening in 1964, I believe the Lord orchestrated “an evening of ironing” for me. It was the exact right time and place for me to hear one of God’s servant messengers enlighten the eyes of my understanding: man’s sin could only be atoned for by Christ’s blood being shed on the cross.
I am so very thankful for all the individuals, family members and various ministries throughout the years who have invested in my life and prayed for me.
My prayer for myself, my family and others is this: may we learn to align our will with God’s and live our lives in His priorities.
Lord God – I am most thankful to you for shedding your precious Blood for me, forgiving my sins and saving my soul.
Sharon Feiser is a member of FCC.
Years ago, while on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, I noticed something that I have often thought about since. How is it that we communicate so much non-verbally? Most have heard that non-verbal communication plays a large part in the way humans communicate, the face being of primary importance. While in a country that speaks a different language, this becomes evident.
My two friends, one after the other, were sharing their testimonies of God’s work in their lives at a church service. There was a translator that would repeat each phrase in Spanish after my friends each would say a phrase in English. What struck me was the look on each of their faces as they were sharing. The glow of the Holy Spirit shone through as they were speaking and waiting for translation. I remember thinking that the testimony of their faces was so convincing of changed lives from darkness to light and that the words being interpreted were just to give the details. The look on their faces needed no interpretation!
I have mentioned that to others as we go on mission trips around the world. The look on our faces will communicate volumes to those we meet and interact with.
As we look at scripture related to this, I see a couple of things. First, there is a look on a face that communicates evil. Regarding the wicked kings of Israel, Isaiah 3:9 says: “The expression of their faces bears witness against them, and they display their sin like Sodom; They do not even conceal it.” Other emotions can come across on your face as well, including fear, anger, irritation, disinterestedness, surprise, and many others. The second look on a face in the Bible that catches my attention and reminds me of my friends on the mission trip, is the look on Stephen’s face as he was being stoned for his faith. Acts 6:15 says, they “saw his face like the face of an angel.” This glowing face reminds us of Moses as he would come down the mountain after being in the presence of God. Now in the new covenant, having the Spirit of God living in us, as believers, our faces are affected – or at least should be!
There is a transformation that occurs as we behold the glory of the Lord, and we are being changed or sanctified as we live this life in Christ. 1Cor 4:6 says that “God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of glory of God in the face of Christ.”
May the Lord’s face shine through us as we interact with one another and with a lost world – with faces of faith!
Dr. Brent Evers is an Elder at FCC. He and his wife, Cari, have three children.