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Losing My Entitlement

They left everything to follow this Man. Some had to make a living off of catching fish. One made his living from collecting taxes. But they chose to forsake these employments. The very things on which they had depended for security and livelihood, they left behind because of this Man. They had never before met anyone like Him. Nobody spoke like Him; almost every word He spoke resonated with power and eternal life. They had never seen anyone do what He could do. They saw Him make a dead man come back to life, simply because He told him to. He even had the ability to tell the weather what to do. He told them that He was, in fact, God in the flesh, and the miracles that He did were proof that He was telling the truth.

Surely, they assumed, they would get some kind of reward from following this Man. After all, they were willing to leave behind everything they knew, everything they had depended on. They were going into extremely difficult and scary situations to heal people who were sick and demon-possessed. They were making real sacrifice for this Man. Surely, they thought, surely they would get some kind of reward. They’d get some recognition, some material possessions, some power. At least they would be able to take some kind of a break.

One of them, Peter, spoke up and voiced what everyone else was probably thinking: “See, we have left everything and followed you. So what will there be for us?” (Matthew 19:20). This is a valid question, in Peter’s mind. Jesus assures him that there would be a time when they would be able to reign with Him, and that everyone who has followed Him would receive eternal life (vv. 28-29). But He is quick to add that when that time comes, the order of things will not be the same as they are now. “But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (v. 30). He then went on to tell them a parable about a landowner who paid each of his laborers the exact same wage; the workers who had worked longer got paid the same amount as those who had not worked as long (Matthew 20:1-16.) Jesus was driving a point home to their presumptuous, proud hearts: In this life, we are entitled to absolutely nothing. He will later go on to tell them, foretelling events to take place in their not-too-distant future, that they will be persecuted, killed, and “hated by all nations because of my name” (Matthew 24:9). This was their reward for following Jesus; this was what they were to face for living in service to God. They were to receive the opposite of comfort and recognition. Instead, they were to receive opposition, hatred, and persecution from the world.

Maybe you, like me, have the same thoughts and attitude of heart that Peter had when he asked Jesus that question. Maybe you have made sacrifices and have suffered for the sake of following Jesus. Maybe you have stood firm on your Christian convictions, you haven’t compromised on the truth of Scripture, and this has caused conflict and division between you and people you love. Maybe you have family members or close friends from your past who want nothing to do with you because you are following Jesus. And deep in your heart, there is the nagging thought: “Don’t I deserve a break from this?” Of course, you wouldn’t actually voice that. You want to keep up a good appearance of spirituality and gratitude. But you can’t help but feel that you have had enough. You have beared up and dealt with so much for Jesus’ sake, so surely you deserve to have some kind of earthly comfort, even some good repute with the world for what you have faced. Surely, God should give you some kind of immediate blessing for this, right?

The tendency to think and feel this is almost universal. Whenever we are suffering for Christ’s sake, or when we have offered some kind of costly service to God, we feel like we are owed something. I have been guilty of this after coming back from short-term mission trips. I would talk about all of the hard service that I did for Christ’s sake, with the hope that someone would be impressed with me, and I would be able to build a good reputation. This comes from lingering pride in our hearts. It comes from a sense of entitlement. We have been influenced by the worldly idea that “what goes around comes around.” This is also referred to as “Karma.” There are some important things to remember when we catch ourselves with this mentality, that will help us to shake off our sense of entitlement.

First, we need to remember that God is our Creator, and we are His creatures. This fact alone is enough to humble is into recognition of the fact that God alone is worthy of honor and recognition. When we understand that it’s through God that we “live and move and have our being,” (Acts 17:28), it moves us out of an attitude of entitlement and into a posture of worship, adoration, and praise.

Second, we need remember our sinful condition. If there is anything that we are entitled to, if we deserve anything, it is the holy wrath of God. We have sinned against a Holy God. We were born into this world with a heart bent on rebelling against our Maker, refusing to submit to Him, “dead in [our] trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). We have committed divine treason. We deserve nothing except for everlasting punishment. But still, God chooses to give us good gifts every single day. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). He blesses every single individual on this earth with breath, sunlight, and food. Christian and non-Christian alike, he gives all of us the experience of living in the world He created; His beautifully-designed world. We can marvel at the wonder of creation. We can look up at the sky and see the incomprehensible vastness of space. We can experience the wonder of holding a newborn baby. He gives us eardrums, and the amazing ability to perceive vibrations in the air that come together to form music. I could go on and on about the incredibly good gifts He gives to every individual. And that is exactly what they are: Gifts. We do not deserve any of them because of our sin and rebellion, and yet, he chooses to give these gifts to us every day.

Thirdly, and most importantly, we need to remember the Gospel. The One who is entitled to every ounce of glory, honor, and power chose to humble Himself. He lived the perfect life we never could, and He died on a cross for us. He took the punishment that we deserve, and He rose from the dead. Because He did this for all believers, we can have true, full intimacy with the God of the universe. We may experience a lot of difficulty in this life, but we can still have complete and full joy (John 16:24). Even in the middle of suffering and opposition, we can have peace that transcends and overpowers everything the world deals us (John 14:27). “In [His] presence there is fullness of joy; at [His] right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). Because of the Gospel, because Jesus has canceled the debt that stood against us by nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:14), we can have complete joy in knowing and experiencing intimacy with God. It is now a joy to follow Jesus, even if it leads to difficulty and trials. Our hope is set on our eternity with Him in Heaven. We can push through trials and hardship because our hope doesn’t come from anything this world can offer us. Our hope is in the reality that one day, we will see the risen Jesus face-to-face, and that we will live forever with Him. This hope gives us the ability to cut off our sense of entitlement. We feel entitled to things when we are setting our hope on what this world gives. But because of the Gospel, we can have joy in our relationship with God now, we can experience fellowship with the Church, and we are anticipating our eternity with glorified bodies on a glorified earth worshiping the glorified Christ. The joy and the hope that comes from the Gospel kills our entitlement. We need to remember the Gospel.

Entitlement is entirely natural and normal. We all experience it, especially when we face trials and suffering for Jesus’ sake. But letting go of entitlement is supernatural; it is something the Holy Spirit must do in us. We must ask for the Spirit to fill us and renew our minds every day, so that we do not get caught up in a prideful attitude of entitlement. And by His strength, we need to remember and believe that God is our Maker, that we are guilty sinners, but we have been reconciled to Him by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are saved by His grace. This is what frees us from entitlement, and equips us to keep pursuing Him, regardless of the trials we face.

Zach Ilten is a member and intern at Faith Community Church. He helps manage this blog page and is working on his M. Div. at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the grateful husband to Becca and dad to Lucy and Micah.

 

Posted in: Christian Living

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What’s That For? Still Yet To Be Determined

My favorite class in college was Anatomy and Physiology. We learned the basics of how the human body operates. When one studies the human body, it is typically broken down into various body systems like the cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine, and neurological systems. When we discussed the cardiovascular system, we learned about the incredible muscle strength of the heart, and its four valves that operate seamlessly to ensure that your body is receiving vitally needed nutrients with every heartbeat. Did you know that an 80 year old person’s heart could potentially beat over 3 billion times in its lifetime?! When we analyzed the respiratory system, we learned about the delicate gas exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide that occurs in the lungs with every breath of air that one takes. The endocrine system is yet another delicate system of checks and balances; anyone who has diabetes or has a family member with diabetes knows the importance of the hormone, insulin, in regulating blood sugars.

The neurological system is the one that I will highlight the most for you. Did you know that the average brain weighs about 3 pounds? There is a principle called the Monroe-Kellie Doctrine that essentially says your brain is composed of 80 percent brain tissue, 10 percent blood, 10 percent cerebrospinal fluid. If there is an increase in one of these components without a corresponding decrease in another, you are at risk for increased pressure in your brain. In the intensive care unit, the doctors will sometimes insert a tube into a person’s ventricles (spaces in their brain) to help drain out some of the cerebrospinal fluid to allow the brain to not have too much pressure and thus reduce the risk of neurological damage. Another cool fact about the brain is that you have 12 cranial nerves. These cranial nerves help you see, hear, feel your face, and see. So next time you are eating a bowl of cereal, be grateful for your trigeminal nerve, the 5th cranial nerve, that helps you chew.

As a Christian, studying the body is like seeing God’s handiwork up close and personal. He is a God of such detail, order, and process.

I said all that to say even though we know so many things about our bodies through science, my favorite line in the Anatomy and Physiology book was something completely different. There was literally a line that said something to the effect, “It is not known what function this [fill in the blank cell] performs.” Our God, the Creator, is an amazing and creative God. There are so many cool things that we know about the body, but we still do not know everything. There are still things that are yet to be determined by us.

God is the God of the known and the unknown, both in our bodies and in our very lives. Psalm 139:14 reminds us, “I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works: my soul knows it very well.”

 

Meagan Cargill is an educator for surgical and anesthesia staff at a local hospital in Kansas City. She previously worked as a nurse in the Neurosurgical ICU.

 

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Be Still

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” – Psalm 46:10

I recently “rediscovered” this verse while listening to an audiobook about a runner. The book was Duncan Hamilton’s For the Glory about the runner Eric Liddell. Eric Liddell is, of course, best known for his 1924 Olympic triumph immortalized in the film Chariots of Fire. As a devout Christian, Eric’s conscience would not allow him to compete in a race because the qualifying heat was held on Sunday. Eric epically went on to win Olympic gold in another race in which he was not favored. Just before the film credits roll, watchers of Chariots of Fire are informed that Eric Liddell died as a missionary in occupied China at the end of World War II, and that “all of Scotland mourned.”

While Scotland mourned the loss of its champion and beloved son, heaven rejoiced to welcome home a saint who was free indeed from a two-year internment in a Japanese prison camp. As detailed in Duncan Hamilton’s book, Eric poured himself out in service to God and others throughout his imprisonment. From organizing morale-boosting games and activities, to the thankless task of carrying out human waste, Eric fought against the destitution, squalor, and despair that surrounded him. As Eric waged spiritual warfare in in that prison camp, he was regularly refreshed by his favorite hymn, “Be Still my Soul.” I grew up singing this song myself, and it still speaks to my heart. The first verse is as follows:

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still.” I say that to my 4-year-old and 3-year-old every Sunday as our family sits in church. My boys have a million and one things that they want to say, do, and experience, but I am telling them in that moment to “be still.” My ultimate goal is that they learn to suppress the cares and distractions of this world and focus in on their Creator-God. If only my own soul would heed my Heavenly Father’s admonition in Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God.”

As a 21st century American, I sometimes question whether it is actually possible to “be still” in any respect. Physically, mentally, and even spiritually it feels like we are always in motion, and usually at a frenetic pace. There is of course the helter-skelter, hustle-and-bustle of life that drains us of our physical energy. We have to get to work on time, fight through traffic to get home, and then wolf down supper in order get to [fill in the blank] activity. We don’t eat right or get enough sleep because we “don’t have time,” leaving our bodies and minds exhausted. Even church life can take its toll with a long list of ministry obligations that add to the strained busyness of our lives. Is it any wonder that our spiritual walks begin to suffer under the strain of such a pace? This is exactly why we must heed the call to “be still” and know that “the Lord, he is God.” (Psalm 46:10; 100:3)

Now when I read the context behind Psalm 46:10, I am forced to contextualize my own troubles with the hashtag #firstworldproblems: my air-conditioned office job has me worn out; my three healthy children are impacting my sleep schedule; my still-functional car has cosmetic damages thanks to a driver’s carelessness. You get the idea, and can perhaps relate. Then again, perhaps your troubles of life go much further and cut much deeper: you were just let go from your job; you recently lost a loved one; a child has left the faith.

Regardless of the severity of our present circumstances, all of us should take comfort from the words of Psalm 46. The contemplated calamities in the psalm are on an international and even cosmic scale:

  • Though the earth gives way (v. 2)

  • Though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea (v. 2)

  • Though the sea’s waters roar and foam (v. 3)

  • Though nations rage (v. 6)

  • Though kingdoms totter (v. 6)

In all these things, “God is our refuge and strength” (v. 1). Whether our troubles are great or small, God is our “very present help” (v. 1). Our confidence can stand firm based on the promise of God’s sovereignty over all things, including nature, the kingdoms of this world, and, yes, the trials that beset our daily lives. In the face of pending natural disasters, we rest in the fact that the earth melts at the voice of its Creator (v.6). The threats of terrorism and nuclear war shall not overwhelm us when we recall that our God will make wars cease and shatter the armies of his enemies (v. 9). Through every discouragement, diagnosis, and death, “the LORD of hosts is with us” (v. 7).

In light of these great and precious promises, let us “be still” even in the midst of our troubles. Though the busyness of our lives may persist, our anxious hearts and racing minds may be stilled and encouraged by the truth that God is not only with us, but for us (Rom. 8:31). Moreover, we would do well to lift our eyes beyond ourselves. The impactful purpose of our trials does not start and end with us. Notice how Psalm 46:10 ends with God being glorified: “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” When we are still, when we remind ourselves of God and who He is, we can be sure that God is working out all things to accomplish his eternal purposes for his own glory. Knowing this, we can “bear patiently the cross of grief or pain” as our eyes remain fixed on the “joyful end” that waits for us with Christ in glory.

By Stephen Freeland

Posted in: Christian Living

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What’s On Your Mind?

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “A man is what he thinks about all day long.” Could that be true? Could what we think about affect what we do, who we become? I believe the answer to these questions can be found in the Scriptures. Ezekiel 38:10 says, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘It will come about on that day, that thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil plan,’” and in Mark 7:21, Jesus says, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.” Every sin we commit begins as a thought. No one accidentally robbed a convenience store, began an adulterous affair, assaulted a neighbor. All of our actions begin as thoughts.

You might be saying to yourself, “I just have harmless little fantasies. I would never act on them. It isn’t a sin to just think about that lady at the office.” But our thoughts affect our feelings, and our feelings affect our actions and behavior. It is a very slippery slope to think we can control our secret sins in the mind. James 1:14-15 says, each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin…” The progression may be slow, almost imperceptible, but if we fix our minds on sinful deeds, or even sinful feelings, it will eventually impact our lives in an acting out of our thoughts, resulting in tragic consequences and often broken lives – our own lives and the lives of others.

I am not just talking about immoral thoughts having the ability to carry us down a dark and dangerous road. Covetous thoughts, bitter thoughts, angry thoughts, thoughts of discontentment and self-hate are all dangerous and have the potential to take us places we do not want to go as Christian men and women.

I, personally, can focus on negative thoughts, which can turn into discouragement and eventually full-blown depression. I was going down that road recently when a sister in Christ from my fellowship group casually asked me how I was doing. Instead of “fine, thank you”, I decided to tell her how I truly was doing, since she asked. “To tell you the truth,” I said, “I am really struggling right now.” She looked at me and asked me a question that hit me right between the eyes – she said, “Are you speaking truth to yourself?” Not “Are you praying? Are you reading your Bible? Are you confessing your sins?” But, “are you speaking truth to yourself?” I was taken aback by the question. I hesitated before answering, “Well, I am in the Word, but I can’t say that I am speaking truth to myself.” That was the end of our conversation that day as we each headed for our seats in our Sunday School class.

I had not been speaking truth to myself. I had been ruminating on negative thoughts about others, fearful thoughts about my family, unproductive thoughts about health issues. None of these thoughts were evil in and of themselves, but as I continually focused and “camped out” in the Land of Fear and Negativity, those thoughts began changing my feelings and my behavior. Many of the things I was focusing on were “true” things, but not The Truth. I started speaking The Truth to myself. “God is sovereign. He is in control of this issue. He is mighty. He loves me and cares about these issues.” I began speaking verses to myself that were encouraging, “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 understanding will guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6). When I sensed myself beginning to spiral down, I would purpose to set my affections on things above, not on things of the earth. (Colossians 3:2) My friend did me a huge favor that day in reminding me to not just read the Word, but assimilate it into my thoughts and behavior.

If your heart has been pricked by this blog, know that Jesus already knows our thoughts. (Matthew 9:4, Psalm 139:1). But He also knows their power to ruin our lives if not kept in check. I suggest starting each day asking Him to be glorified in our thoughts. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). We can ask him to help us to set our affection on things above and not things on the earth (Colossians 3:1-3). And when those thoughts that are not part of our desire to live sanctified, holy lives begin to take over our day, we can cry out and ask Him to take those thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

If you are a new Christian and have no idea where to begin to find the Truth in God’s Word that you want to speak to yourself, start with Ephesians 4:22-32. Paul exhorts the church at Ephesus to “put off” particular sins and to “put on” specific virtues of righteousness. If that passage doesn’t include the sinful thoughts that plague you, I highly recommend a Bible website, biblegateway.com. There, you may look up verses by topic (as well as by reference and key word). Speaking truth to yourself as a habit, will help you to be “transformed, by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

As we know, our brains never stop working. They are ever processing information, analyzing and formulating ideas, opinions, and actions. This is why we must be vigilant and exercise the Fruit of the Spirit of Self Control in our thought lives, for the Glory of God Who alone is worthy.

By Tina Bush

Posted in: Christian Living

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Of First Importance

I just finished going through Exodus in my personal reading time, and it seems that every time I go through the Bible, especially the Old Testament, I keep turning over new stones of insight. I truly appreciate the fact that God grants me those little nuggets of newness in His Word, because so often I can read the exact same Scripture multiple times and not even notice the depth that was waiting to be discovered.

This most recent insight came when I was starting chapter 20 of Exodus, where the Ten Commandments are first mentioned. At the start of the chapter, God had just told Moses on Mount Sinai to be the intercessor between the Israelites and Himself, and to communicate His purposes for them in the Mosaic covenant (Exodus 19:3-8). God did this specifically by speaking to Moses in the hearing of all the people of Israel so that He would be trusted as their God (Exodus 19:9). After giving Moses more directions about consecrating the people to meet Him (Exodus 19:10-11), God came down onto the mountain and revealed Himself in great smoke and fire (Exodus 19:18). After descending onto the mountain God had to tell Moses to warn the people to not approach the mountain or they would perish (Exodus 19:21). And after sending Moses back down to tell the people to beware, God begins to reveal to Israel the Ten Commandments, or “words”, of the covenant. However, it was in verses 1 and 2 of chapter 20 that this new insight was revealed:

“And God spoke all these words, saying, I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

The insight that was hidden beneath the proverbial “mountain” of Sinai was that verses 1 and 2 are the most important verses in the chapter, maybe even the whole book. And I really believe that my awe and wonder of the famous Ten Commandments in the past caused me to miss this insight for so long. These verses are not the Ten Commandments themselves, but everything that justifies the Ten Commandments is found in these often overlooked verses. And here is the importance of these verses: They reveal to us that the primary importance in our lives is to know first who God is and what He has done for us.

Verse 1 tells us that it was God speaking directly to the Israelites. God set the priority of what they would hear first, and they heard it directly from Him. And verse 2 is what they heard first. To begin, It tells us that this God, YHWH, relates to them primarily and of first importance as their Lord and their God. Who God is, is “the Lord your God.” Secondly, in verse 2, God reminds them exactly what He has done for them. He brought them out of Egypt and He brought them out of the house of slavery. These verses are the preamble of the Ten Commandments! Everything that God tells Israel to do in the Ten Commandments should be the response that comes from a person that truly sees who God is and what He has done for them. Why do we not have any other gods? Is it an arbitrary commandment? No! It is because this is who God is and this is what He has done for us. Why do we love our neighbor and why do we not murder, steal, and covet? Because this is who God is and this is what He has done for us. These two truths should drive us to obedience, fill us with thankfulness, and win us to worship. And ultimately, this passage is but a shadow of what was to come in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is God in the flesh, who came to bring His people out of the house of slavery to sin. And this is of first importance.

May the truth of who God is and what He has done for us continue to encourage us to keep the greatest commandment, to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

 

Reese Hammond is a member of Faith Community Church and a recent graduate of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to the beautiful Lisa Hammond and is the proud father of Malachi.

Posted in: Bible study, Worship

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Some Thoughts On Housekeeping

Myra taught me much about keeping house. Like most stay at home moms with young children, I was experiencing the weariness of long days with lack of adult conversation. Then Alan and Myra joined our small Bible-centered startup church in Massachusetts, a state that was 90% Catholic at the time. With two preschoolers the same age as mine and finding a common interest in “arty” things, we decided to get together every Wednesday morning to do those sorts of things. The toys in the downstairs room in their split-level kept our four little ones occupied while we did “our thing” in the kitchen upstairs.

What shocked me when I first entered Myra’s home was the inordinate clutter. She explained that she was a messy housekeeper, but she was clean. I had difficulty figuring that out, especially when our project was making silk screens to print our own greeting cards. We pushed aside the clutter of assorted canisters, condiment jars and a freshly baked pie shell to make room on the counter for our paint and turpentine. Messy house? Yes—but a stream of neighbors freely popped in to join in our activity. Myra and I called it our “Art and Philosophy Hour. With the two of us, we found we could easily turn conversations to eternal things.

In another place far away and another time, Carol, one of those neighbors, and I were brought together again. While her Air Force husband was stationed 15 minutes from our new home in California, Carol, a committed Catholic, and I decided to get together one day a week for outdoor sketching. One morning she was so irritated because a neighbor was constantly telling her that if she didn’t “accept Christ” she was going to hell. She needed to talk to me. She knew I would tell her the truth— so instead of sketching, we spent the morning going through Scripture passages in Romans and John. Friendship evangelism—but it also required that irritating neighbor for Carol to be open to what I would tell her. “One plants, another waters.” I Corinthians 3:6-8

After living ten years in Massachusetts we moved to Marin County, California, the bedroom community of bank officers and other executives employed in San Francisco. Joy Pipkin was the wife of a Sears Vice President. She, too, was a newcomer to our newly found church, as was Marie, the wife of a Coast Guard officer. We decided to get together one morning a week for fellowship and prayer. Since Joy was the mother of two little girls, and Marie’s and mine were in school, we met in her home. In contrast to Myra’s home, I do believe you could have eaten off of her floors at any time. Other women in the church were a bit fearful of inviting Joy to their home for fear it wouldn’t pass her standards. One day I was with a friend who was finishing up her two-week vacation. Asking her how it went, she sighed, “Oh, I was going to ‘Joy Pipkin’ my house but time just went too quickly.”

I have thought of that contrast over the years. Perhaps I shouldn’t be too critical of either Myra or Joy. I began to think about what a “home” is—especially a Christian homemaker’s home. I am fully persuaded on a home of beauty— a place of refuge providing comfort and rest for the family God has given. Do we decorate our homes according to the latest suggestions of those on HGTV or in magazines? Do we aim for a home that looks beautiful, or one that is a place of beauty and warmth to minister in love to others—including the desires of our husbands?

After thinking about my two friends, I considered—what is my ministry for Christ? Does my home reflect that ministry? If your ministry is bringing up small children to propagate the gospel to future generations the home will not look like that of a wife who must be ready to entertain her executive husband’s colleagues. If you minister to unsaved neighbors and your messy house makes them feel utterly comfortable, then God bless the mess.

 

Margi Hawks is a widowed octogenarian, a graduate of a Christian University with a degree in Art Ed and a great lover of history, 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.

Posted in: Christian Living, Evangelism, missions, Uncategorized, Women's Ministry

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God Knows

I have struggled with fear since my college days. The Lord was faithful to show me that walking in fear and worry is a sin, and He was also faithful to give me victory over and over again as I battled the temptation to fear. As life changes, the nature of my fears changes with it. With each new season, the Lord has been faithful again to provide me with the right tools and truth to calm my heart.

(Disclaimer: I want to share a particular fear that I have been dealing with for several years now. I have only spoken to some of my closest friends about it. It is my fear of getting pregnant again. Ironically, there was a season in life when I wanted children, but was terrified of pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Then there was a season when I was pregnant, and terrified of labor and delivery. And here we are, in a new season of not wanting to be pregnant. And what is my fear again? I struggle to share this because I know that there are other women in their own season of struggling with the fear of “What if I can’t get pregnant?” and “What if I lose this baby too?” My heart hurts for you, and I don’t want to be insensitive to those struggles. But I also want to testify to the faithfulness of God in my own battle, because I trust that the nature of God is the same remedy for all situations, regardless of the nature of the fears.)

I constantly find my thoughts walking down this mental road of what the future would look like if I found I was unexpectedly pregnant again. I don’t have to make it past the first turn before I am nearly swept off the path by an avalanche of worries and concerns. Mountains loom in the distant view that seem impossible to tackle:

  • How would we ever afford this?
  • I won’t be able to get all the homeschool done with the kids!
  • I love my new job! I don’t want to give it up.
  • What will my employers think if I quit on them?
  • How will my husband ever have the time to care for all the responsibilities I won’t be able to get to?
  • Who will be my doctor this time?

Sometimes I even find that praying is hard, because I go on a full-fledged trip down this path to pray about each of these concerns. As I verbalize them, the mountains grow bigger and more peaks spring up in the distance.

But the Lord has provided a great source of comfort and a great escape from this temptation. It is this way of escape that is so precious to me and I want to share it with you. What is it? It is simply this: The Lord knows.

The Lord knows.

Sometimes I stop walking toward the mountains and turn my back on them, repeating over and over to myself, “The Lord knows. The Lord knows.” What the Lord knows about me is sufficient for me because of what I know about Him. I know the Lord is omniscient, and knows the beginning from the end. I know the Lord created me and knows all the thoughts and desires of my heart. I know the Lord is the almighty sovereign God who directs my path. I know the Lord is working out all things for my good, to sanctify me and mold me into the image of His son. I know the Lord is the God who Provides.

I can look at each fear and stop it with this one statement: the Lord knows. And so I change my prayers to this:

  • Lord you know we don’t have the money for this. And if He chooses this path for us, He is able to provide.
  • Lord you know that homeschool would seem nearly impossible. And He will provide the strength for what he expects me to do each day.
  • Lord you know that I love my new job! The Lord knows that He gave me this job, and the Lord knows when it is no longer for my good.
  • Lord you know what a responsibility I feel toward my employers. The Lord knows the needs of this ministry and has always met them faithfully.
  • Lord you know how much is on my husband’s plate. The Lord knows exactly what’s best for my husband’s sanctification and will ordain trials in his life accordingly.
  • Lord you know my trustworthy doctor is out of reach now. The Lord knows my sadness and fear here, and will guide and provide for this too.

Every worry, every doubt, every mountain, overcome. Because I know that God will either keep me from the trial I fear, or that the sovereign Creator of the universe has tenderly taken into account every single concern while measuring out the nature and length and intensity of each trial I may face. No detail has escaped His planning, no care of mine has escaped His concern. They are all accounted for, and I can trust Him, because He knows exactly what He is doing!

This is my place of rest. Knowing that He knows silences all my fears. I can stop looking at the mountains that may or not be on the path He takes me. I can look around and enjoy the glory of the path I am on, walking joyfully in the light, without fear.

“He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3

 “For he knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:14

“…the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment” 2 Peter 2:9

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“To Be Fit For God”

When contemplating what I was going to write for this blog, someone recommended that I look to “The Valley of Vision”, which is a collection of old Puritan prayers. Not being a fan of poetry and things of that nature, I immediately assumed I wouldn’t like the book or find anything that I would desire to use. I was very wrong. The depth and sincerity of these writings left me in awe of those who expressed in words an immense reverence and devotion to the Lord. Among these writers are John Bunyan, Isaac Watts, David Brainerd, Richard Baxter, and Charles Spurgeon. These prayers hold profound lessons and theology; I learn many things from each one. I am convicted my selfishness and the lack of worship and depth in my own prayer life. As I read I became aware of the fact that I haven’t the ability to say it any better than these men did, nor do I desire to. I have chosen to share a specific prayer that stuck out to me. I hope you are as blessed as I was when I read it.

To Be Fit For God

THOU MAKER AND SUSTAINER OF ALL THINGS,

Day and night are thine,

heaven and earth declare thy glory;

But I, a creature of the power and bounty,

have sinned against thee by resisting the dictates of conscience,

the demands of thy law,

the calls of thy gospel;

yet I live under the dispensation of a given hope.

Deliver me from worldly dispositions,

for I am born from above and bound for glory.

May I view and long after holiness

as the beauty and dignity of the soul.

Let me never slumber, never lose my assurance,

never fail to wear the armour when passing through enemy land.

Fit me for every scene and circumstance;

Stay my mind upon thee and turn my trials to blessings,

that they may draw out my gratitude and praise

as I see their design and effects.

Render my obedience to thy will holy, natural and delightful.

Rectify all my principles by clear, consistent,

and influential views of divine truth.

Let me never undervalue or neglect any part of thy revealed will.

May I duly regard the doctrine and practice of the gospel,

prizing its commands as well as its promises.

Sanctify me in every relation, office, transaction, and condition of life,

that if I prosper I may not be unduly exalted,

if I suffer I may not be over-sorrowful.

Balance my mind in all varying circumstances

and help me to cultivate a disposition that renders every duty

a spiritual privilege.

Thus may I be content,

be a glory to thee

and an example to others.

(from the valley of vision, page 137)

 

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Rebuke For the Strong, Rejoicing For the Weak

When I was in college, I went overseas for almost 5 months to India with a program called Fusion. My team traveled to a new location every week to train and equip local congregations in strategies to reach their neighbors and plant churches. We were up in the mountains training all day for four days. We were excited by the turnout on day one, when about twenty men and ten women showed up. We spent three days teaching the Scriptures and demonstrating the importance of sharing the Gospel. At the end of day three, we asked everyone to come tomorrow to travel into their villages and share the Gospel.

The next day, we woke up hopeful and excited about what the Lord might do with all the people at the training. Only three women showed up. No men. Discouraged and angry with the people, we thought, “We spent all of this time with them and they didn’t even care!” We even talked about not going at all because one woman’s village was a 45 minute hike into the rainy mountains. If the people didn’t want to go, why should we? Reluctantly, we decided to go.

After the hike, we arrived in the village cold, tired, and frustrated. The team split up. I had a translator and one of the women in my group. I told the woman I would share the Gospel at the first house and she could watch how I did it. In the training we had taught her how to share the Gospel through drawing a story on a piece of paper so that the other person could easily follow. Still mad at how the day unfolded, I went through the presentation as quickly as possible. I said all the right lines and followed the training perfectly. The person I shared with argued against me and wanted nothing to do with the Gospel. So, we went to the next house. On the way there I told the woman it was her turn.

Now, about the woman I was with: She had a rare condition in which all the water in her body was sucked into her stomach. It gave her the appearance of being pregnant while her arms and legs were skin and bones. This all made her very weak (although she did the hike without complaining once!). She looked feeble and had no strength about her. She was small in stature and in command. When I told her it was her turn to share, she immediately stopped and begged that she wouldn’t have to do it. She didn’t know how to do it, didn’t think she could do it well enough, thought it would be better received by the foreigner…etc. Plus, this was her village, so the people already knew her story. Finally, I told her coldly, that the whole purpose of the training was to teach her how to do it and now I commanded her; it was her turn.

Reluctantly, we went into the house. She took out a piece of paper and a pen and began to draw the story. The paper shook in her hands and her voiced quivered and cracked in fear. She repeatedly scratched out the drawing, apologized to the other woman and I, and started over. After multiple mulligans and what seemed like an eternity, she finished. When she finished, I uncomfortably looked up to see the reaction of the woman she was sharing with. In that moment I saw something that would forever change my understanding of God. I saw a changed heart. The woman she was sharing with was weeping. At the end of the Gospel presentation this feeble, weak, small, scared woman asked the crying woman if she wanted to repent and believe. To my shame, she said yes.

I was humiliated and in tears. I found my team and reported what happened and we all prayed, rejoiced, and cried together. We had been frustrated about having to go to this village. We were angry that no men had shown up. We were wondering why God would allow only the weak women to show up and care about sharing the Gospel. Little did we know that God had appointed the salvation of someone in that village, not through the mouth of the strong and wise Americans, but the weak and feeble woman. That day I learned one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned: God is big and He doesn’t need me.

Maybe you read this and you identified with me. Maybe you’re used by God, but you’re self-assured, arrogant, and confident in yourself. My rebuke to you is this: God is big, and He doesn’t need you. God is in the business of humbling the proud. My prayer for you today is that you would humble yourself before God does it for you. Remember who He is. Repent, turn from your evil ways, and acknowledge Him as supreme. Because if you don’t, I promise, He will use the weak to your shame.

Maybe you read this and you identified with the woman. Maybe you want to be used by God but you’re timid, scared, feeble, and weak. My exhortation for you is this: God is big, and He can use you. God is in the business of exalting the weak. My prayer for you today is that you would find comfort in the strength of God. Remember who He is. Rejoice, turn to God, and acknowledge your need for His strength. Because if you do, I promise, He will use even you.

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'”

– 1 Corinthians 1:27-31

Marty Beamer is the Assistant Pastor at FCC and teaches Rhetoric and Worldview at Faith Christian Academy. He will graduate with a Masters of Divinity from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in December of 2017. He is married to Jessica and they have one son, Oliver.

Posted in: Christian Living, Evangelism, missions

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The Blessed Ignorance of Being an American

June of 2010 marked my 26th year of life on earth and it also marked the very first time I ever ventured outside of the United States of America.

Growing up in this country doesn’t really prepare you for many of the realities that the rest of the world faces on a daily basis. At least that was my experience. No amount of National Geographic magazines, cross-cultural documentaries, or guilt-ridden humanitarian infomercials were able to adequately prepare my mind and heart for what I encountered on this short-term mission trip to Cairo, Egypt.

The cultural contrast was jarring from the moment my team and I stepped off the plane. We arrived around three in the morning and quickly discovered why Cairo was nicknamed “the city that never sleeps.” There were men on the sidewalks with rifles in hand, children playing soccer games in the streets, workers driving donkey carts, and many other unexpected sights in the wee hours of the morning.

Throughout the next couple of weeks, we all went through a variety of experiences that I am sure left lasting marks on each of us in different ways. From seeing an impoverished sister in Christ break down in tears for the “privilege” of receiving prayer from us, to ministering to Sudanese refugees who had been forced out of their homeland, each moment is forever etched into my heart and mind. However, there is one moment that stands out from the rest; a moment that brought the full reality of desperation into clear view.

Having just toured a famous Coptic church, our local director decided to take us on a spontaneous stroll through a nearby slum, notoriously dubbed “Garbage City.” To this day I can only assume that his purpose for this detour was to open our eyes to a level of poverty that is unfathomable in our own country. The area gets its name from the fact that its inhabitants quite literally live in, sleep on, and make their livings from garbage.

As we walked the streets, we were all brought to silence by the living conditions that we were witnessing. The smell alone was enough to send someone over the edge. No sewer system. No running water. Just tiny closet-sized “homes” filled with Cairo’s garbage. To avoid making the locals feel like a spectacle (at least not any more than they already did), everyone kept a respectful demeanor and smiled as we passed.

Just before we finished our sobering parade through one of the most despondent areas in the world, a little boy ran up to us with a baby in his hands. Curious as to what he was doing, I turned and faced him. He immediately placed the infant in my arms, smiled at me, and ran away.

Shock is the only word I can use to describe what I experienced in this moment. Here I stood, in the middle of the street, holding a helpless baby whose inevitable future, if there was one, was the utter hopeless reality that surrounded me.

Not knowing what to do, I turned back toward my team who were all staring at me and the baby in my arms. No doubt experiencing similar feelings, everyone just stood there for a moment trying to process the situation. Breaking the silence, my team leader suggested we head in the direction that the boy ran and locate the parents.

The search didn’t take too long. After only about a block or so, I spotted the boy. He was standing with some other young children and a man who I can only assume was their father. I looked at the man and gestured in a way as to communicate the question, “Is this your baby?” The man looked at me with a smile and stretched out his arms to receive back the infant. After passing over the child I returned the smile, nodded in respect, and turned back to rejoin the group.

To this day, the look on that man’s face is burned into my memory. The smile he gave me wasn’t one of joy or even gladness as he received back his infant child. The smile thinly veiled what seemed to be disappointment, sadness, and perhaps even shame. What had transpired had become painfully obvious: this was a desperate attempt on the part of a father to give his child a hope and a future.

Reflecting back on this moment over seven years and two children later, I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like to be in that man’s position. A position where you believe the best possible thing you can do for your child is to place him into the arms of foreign strangers, hoping that somehow that child will escape the fate that you yourself have been subjected to.

As Americans, most of us don’t have categories in our minds for situations like these. It would be very easy, and it is probably very common, for Americans to live their entire lives without any comprehension of what the majority of the global population faces on a daily basis.

However, as Christians, we cannot allow ourselves to hold to an ignorant worldview that filters everything through the American experience. We must realize that this world has been subjected to absolute bondage due to the curse of sin. Our culture does everything it can to mask that reality.

The truth is, we live in a lost and dying world where even living in great abundance is only enough to provide a false sense of hope. The physical desperation experienced by the inhabitants of Garbage City is actually a perfect picture of the spiritual desperation in which the entire world exists.

As recipients of God’s grace, we owe it to those who are lost, living in the mire of their own sin, to bring the only good news that will deliver them out of their hopeless state. Whether they live in Kansas City or Garbage City, there is only one hope:

The Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

 

Logan Cauthen is a member of FCC and is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Lindsey and they have two daughters.

 

Posted in: Christian Living, missions

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