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...Like a tree (Psalm 1:3) Online Newsletter

Excerpt from C. H. Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

Morning, August 2

“Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”

Ephesians 1:11

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.”

Ruth 2:17

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.

 

This work is published in the public domain.  

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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.  

 

 

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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.

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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.

 

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Why Aren’t My Rest Days Restful?

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. 

Garet Halbert is a member of FCC and serves as an Elder in Training. He and his wife, Heidi, have two little girls, Selah and Sophia.

                                                                   

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If You Love Me…

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15 (NIV)

The Lord expects us to display our love for Him, and it is to be a daily demonstration in the life of the Christian.

Those who believe Jesus is the Christ are born of God, and those people will love God and love their fellow believers. It is impossible for an unbeliever to truly love God, because they are not capable of it.

One of the displays of our love and affection toward God comes in the form of obedience. Obedience is one of the things God commands of His children. We know it is important because the command to obey the Lord and His Word appears more than 30 times in the New Testament alone! When we love Him we will obey His commands to respond in love toward Him and also to love others.

If you are like me, you struggle with obedience. I have a really hard time obeying in every incidence, even when I know I should. I suspect there are times I allow my emotions to rule over my theological understanding, and so I decide to do what I want to do, rather than following the Scriptures. Those are decisions and choices I think we face multiple times a day! In fact, there are times when disobedience becomes habitual and my heart becomes calloused in a particular area. It is for this reason that regular self-examination is needed.

There is nothing like a time of self-examination to bring humility into my life. Sitting with the Lord and asking Him to open my heart before Him as David did:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. Psalm 139:23-24 (NASB)

Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind Psalm 26:2 (NASB)

I also take time to consider my interactions with others; has a friend commented on something I said or did as not being very Christ-like? Did I react or did I respond with gracious consideration? I am bound by my love for God to consider if those who rebuke or correct me are acting as “Nathan’s” in my life (2 Samuel 12). Are they God’s mouthpiece in those moments?

If you are unsure if someone has pointed out sin or their preference, go to the Word for clarification. It is important to note that we are not bound to obey someone’s extra-biblical expectation, but to obey God’s clearly laid out commands in the Bible.

Perhaps your conviction is heavy by this point in your reading. I don’t mean to add to your burden, but to reveal it and to help you to lighten your load (Galatians 6:1-2). It is so important that we confess our sin to God, and that our known sin is confessed prior to partaking in the communion elements. We must not make light of the sacrifice of the Lord’s sacrifice (1 Corinthians 11:27-30), so agree with Him where sin is present in your life. Take that opportunity to move forward in the grace that He provides.

All of these are disciplines of the Christian life and should be a regular part of your sanctification journey. If you are having a “dry spell” in your spiritual life, you are slipping into old behavior patterns as a result or if the fires are burning low, ask the Lord to examine your heart for disobedience.

With confession and repentance, you will find you have a renewed desire to love, serve, and obey the Lord. You may experience a passionate ignition for the Word and for righteousness as a result. He is faithful to reward those who seek Him.  Spend some time today in self-examination, and remember to express your love for Him.

Finding Hope in Hopeless Situations

My daily meetings with women make it clear that many of you are living with circumstances that you believe are beyond your ability to tolerate.

My goal is to give you hope. Hope is at the center of the gospel story! Hope is found in the resurrection. We must always remember to give hope to people in desperate circumstances. A lack of hope is the reason people commit suicide. They can see no way out, and no change looms on the horizon, so they choose a permanent solution to what they do not understand is truly a temporary situation. I am not being insensitive here, but suicide is not God’s will or His way of handling any situation, no matter how hopeless it appears.

We face many things that feel hopeless; abuse, rape, drunkenness, and so on. Even in these horrible circumstances, hope can be found. One woman told me that her sexual assault was what brought her to Christ, another said her family history of drunkenness and being shuffled to relatives all around the country is what exposed her to the gospel.

Last week I wrote an article about how means all things for the good of the Christian. He allows things for the purpose of our being conformed to the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-29). What a source of hope and security these two verses are! No matter what challenge, pain, or hurt we face along the way, we can be confident that God is using it to prosper us in some way. It is for this reason that I can say with confidence that God is concerned with how we go through things. This is an anchor in the storms of life to know that God is at work for our ultimate good and the fulfillment of His good promises.

When we find security in the God we know and love, we also see with eyes of faith beyond the sorrow and suffering we are experiencing.  We can see the Father who never forgets His child, His plan, or His purposes.

When we take our eyes off the Lord and focus on the present hurt or circumstance, the result is insecurity. We forget the big picture of sanctification and are swallowed up by the fears and fantasies of our minds. This brings hopelessness and even panic. We lose sight of the God of the universe as sovereign and omnipotent, and we begin to think of Him as confused and impotent!

If you have lost your focus begin by returning to the Word and diligent prayer. Suffering and hardship cannot bring our lives to a grinding halt; we must adjust and move on. We must take the initiative and do whatever we can do humanly speaking as well, and then leave the rest to the Lord.

As you read the Word, you will begin to think as He thinks. You will begin to desire what He desires and this will lead you to Christ-like responses.

If this seems impossible to you, I would ask you to consider the type of input that may be affecting your attitude. If you spend more time watching television and reading books and only a few minutes (or no minutes) reading the Bible, you will not see God’s purpose or plan for you. It’s just not possible to respond with a godly response when you have little to no godly input.

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday… Psalm 37:4-6 (NASB)

Commit your life to Him, not only on Sunday or when it is convenient; do it every day of your life. Trust God to take over your world, your home, your children, job, and anything else that you have and do. When you actively and joyfully do this, He will direct your thoughts, plans, and dreams for the day. Yield to Him all that He has graciously allowed you to have and be a steward over. He is completely trustworthy, and loves you deeply.

Yielding also means being flexible. Pray, and submit your plan to God for His approval. Remember that He is the Author of your days, and if He changes your plans seek to see His hand in the new plan and submit to His will. It is not important why God does this, just graciously submit to His will with thanksgiving.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NASB)

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

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That He May Silence The Enemy

Psalm 8:2

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants

You have ordained strength,

Because of Your enemies

That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.

In God’s plan to conquer the world — you do know that He has placed all things under the authority of His Son Jesus, and that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, right? It’s in the Bible 🙂 — in His plan to conquer the world, the humble and weak exult over the arrogant and strong. The enemy and the avenger, those who prey on the weak, who are proud and have no fear of God, are shut up by the praise of little children. This is true and absolute victory, and it is as sure as the Word of God.

May, 2018. There have been two recent news stories from out of the UK regarding small children with grave deformities who, though their parents wished to take them out of the UK to countries where physicians were willing to treat the children, the parents were nonetheless barred by the British High Court from moving their children elsewhere to seek treatment. If you wish to research these events, the children’s names were Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans. Charlie Gard died on July 28, 2017. Alfie Evans died April 28, 2018.

The details of their stories are heart-crushing and infuriating, and this is not only an English Single-Payer Socialized Medicine problem. Neglect and euthanasia may be technically against the law in Kansas and Missouri, but don’t doubt for a second that it happens in secret, with the knowledge, if not the active participation, of doctors, nurses, insurance companies, and politicians. Terri Schiavo was starved to death at the order of an American judge in Florida, though her parents wished to keep caring for her. This is an American sin, too.

As with all sin, not only is the murder and abandonment of the weak a despicable wickedness and injustice in its own right, but it tells a lie about God. When parents murder their unborn children in abortion, they are telling a lie about the fatherhood of God. When governments execute the innocent under their jurisdiction, they are telling a lie about the justice of God.

In Justin Clark’s Sunday School class on the early church, he took us through The Letter To Diognetus, an early apologetic defense of Christianity to the Romans. In it, the author observes that Christians “marry, and have children, but do not destroy their offspring,” that is, in contrast with the Greco-Roman practices of abortion and child exposure. Child exposure was simply taking a baby out to the wilderness, and leaving him to die, by starvation, predation, or by heat or cold exposure. Other early A.D. writings attest to the Christian practice of rescuing the children abandoned to the elements.

This set the early Christians apart. By this they bore witness to the God who loves the weak.

For us here at FCC, in Kansas City, Middle America, I want to zero in on five things we can do to bear witness for God in the face of these horrors, and stand with the great cloud of Christian witnesses who went before us:

(1) If you have participated in abortion or in the abandonment of someone who was frail and helpless, repent. Name your sin, confess it, without any self-justification or rationalization agree with God that it is heinous, and receive God’s forgiveness in the name of Jesus.

(2) Prepare to be deliverers of the weak.

1 Timothy 5:8 reads:

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.

Christian men, this is part of our duty to provide for our families: preparation. Think through the scenarios of caring for your families should they need exceptional medical care. Make sure your medical providers also uphold the dignity of life, and affirm with you that starving, suffocating, or euthanizing the infirm is murder. Be on the lookout for these dangers, before they come.

(3) Pray imprecatory Psalms.

If you’re not already regularly praying Scripture as a practice, please do! Praying Scripture will shape your love for God, will shape your desires to be in accordance with His will, and will help Scripture take root in your soul.

In the face of abortion, abandonment, needless and unjust violence, how many thousands of times have you felt helpless. It’s in these circumstances we should turn to the imprecatory Psalms, and pray God’s vengeance against the darkness. Imprecation means “cursing,” and the Psalms are full of imprecation against God’s enemies. The most widely recognized imprecatory Psalms are Pss 5, 10, 17, 35, 58, 59, 69, 70, 79, 83, 109, 129, 137, 140.

Both Jesus and Paul appeal to the imprecatory Psalm 69 (see John 2:17, 15:25; Romans 11:9-10, 15:3). The Apostles turned to the imprecatory Psalm 109:8 to guide them in replacing Judas (Acts 1:20).

Plead with God to arise in His anger to deliver the helpless (Psalm 7:6), to make the oppressor quake with fear and feel the indignation of God (Psalm 69: 23), to put to shame and confusion those who pursue the innocent (Psalm 70:2), to bring to ruin and swift judgment those who persecute the innocent (Psalm 109).

This does not preclude wishing for the repentance of the wicked. Pray for that too. But as with Church Discipline, when we have come to the place of seeing only hardness of heart and arrogant defiance against the God of Heaven, we ask God to ride to war to defend His name as the God of righteousness, the protector of the orphan and widow.

(4) Stand with Stand With Faith.

Proverbs 24:11-12 reads:

Deliver those who are drawn toward death,

And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.

If you say, “Surely we did not know this,”

Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it?

He who keeps your soul, does He not know it?

And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?

Every month members from FCC gather outside Planned Parenthood and bear witness to the Good News that God has come to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, to forgive sins, and to defend the helpless. We cannot run in and save the babies being murdered, but we can stand as witnesses to the truth. Come out and stand, pray, evangelize, and witness.

(5) Give to the benevolence fund.

If Americans continue to devalue human life even further, the institutions we as Americans have relied upon to care for the disabled and infirm – social welfare and medical insurance programs, public and private homes for the disabled, etc. – will officially and openly begin to abandon and murder those who need extraordinary intervention. We, together as a church, will have to come together to support each other financially as we obey God in caring for the poor and the weak.

Let not any of us say, “I didn’t know.” Let us bear witness to the truth, and let us do what we can to rescue those being carried off to the slaughter. And let the enemy and avenger be shut up by the praise of infants and nursing babes.

Joe Bancks is a member of FCC. Joe is Kate’s husband, and father of four. 

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When Fear Overtakes You

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:

  1. God’s truth. Is what I’m thinking about really happening? Or is it just my imagination running wild? Paul reminds us to dwell on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. (Phil 4:8)
  2. God’s presence. We can be comforted remembering that we are not alone. God is with us. “In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed; In Your righteousness deliver me. Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me. You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength. (Psalm 31:1-4)
  3. God’s sovereignty. God is in control over every situation in our lives.“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.”(Eph 1:11-12)
  4. God’s trustworthiness. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4)
  5. God’s grace. God promises to provide us with his all-sufficient grace for every trial that comes our way. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” Jesus told Paul. And therefore, with Paul, we can “boast all the more gladly of [our] weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon [us.]” (2 Cor 12:9)

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!

 

Deanna Hanson is a member of FCC and helps with our website. She and her husband, John, have four children and own a small business in North Kansas City.

 

 

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The Gospel Cordial

An excerpt from a sermon entitled “The Gospel Cordial,” delivered by C.H. Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington on Lord’s Day Evening, September 20th, 1863. Available for free from the Christians Classics Etheral Library: https://www.ccel.org/ccel/spurgeon/proverbs.xlv.html

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. —Proverbs 31:6, 7.

[T]here is most comforting cordial in the Gospel. Dr. Watts truly sings—

Salvation! oh, the joyful sound!
‘Tis pleasure to our ears;
A sovereign balm for every wound,
A cordial for our fears.

I will take first, the case of a true believer in Jesus who is sorely tried with cares and losses and crosses. I will suppose that you have come in here to-night dreading what may happen to you to-morrow. Perhaps your trouble my brother, is that your business is failing and that want is staring you in the face. Possibly you, my sister, are sorrowing over that dear child who lies in her little coffin in the quiet room upstairs at home. Or it may be that you, my friend, have a sick wife, and day by day you see fresh signs and tokens of the great loss that is surely awaiting you. I cannot mention all the causes of sad heart in the believing members of this great assembly, but my Master has sent me here with his own blessed cordial, which is more than sufficient to comfort every sorrowing saint here.

Remember beloved, that all that happens to you comes in the course of divine providence. Your loving heavenly Father has foreseen, foreknown, and I venture to say, foreordained it all. The medicine you have to drink is very bitter, but the unerring Physician measured all the ingredients drop by drop, and then mixed them in the very way in which they could best work for your highest good. Nothing in this world happens by chance. That great God – who sitteth upon the circle of the heavens, to whom all things that he hath made are but as the small dust of the balance, who maketh the clouds his chariot, and rideth upon the wings of the wind – that same God careth for you with such special care that he has even numbered the very hairs of your head and put your tears in his bottle. You may therefore rest assured that even those experiences which are causing you so much sorrow are all in accordance with his eternal counsel and decree. Doth not this divine cordial make you forget your poverty and remember your misery no more?

I might keep on all night trying thus to comfort tried saints, but I must content myself by giving them just one more sip of this divine cordial, and that shall be this – remember how soon all these trials will be over. Be of good courage, weary pilgrim; the heavenly mansion where thou art to rest for ever is almost in sight; and thou mayest well sing—

My Father’s house on high,
Home of my soul! how near,
At times, to faith’s foreseeing eye,
Thy golden gates appear!

How fast the years fly by, and our trials and troubles are flying just as fast. Beloved, Paul truly wrote concerning “our light affliction which is but for a moment;” for after all, our afflictions are only like a troubled dream, a little starting in the sleep of life, and then we wake to sleep no more for ever. This world is, to the believer, like a country inn by the wayside, where there are many constantly coming and going, and there are such disturbing noises that no one can rest. Well, never mind, thou art only tarrying there for one short night, and then thou shalt be up and away to thine eternal home, to go no more out for ever. Will not this divine cordial make thee forget thy poverty and remember thy misery no more?

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Be Encouraged to Persevere

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.

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