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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.  

Posted in: Bible study, Christian Living, Security, Uncategorized

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Some Thoughts on Finances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in: Christian Living, Security

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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.

                                                                   

Posted in: Christian Living, Uncategorized

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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.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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A 10 Point Theology for Getting Rid of Clutter

By Susan Verstraete

A friend of mine lost nearly everything she owned in a house fire. About a year later, I asked her about what she had learned through that trial. Looking back, she was surprised to remember all the people who expressed envy. “Don’t take this the wrong way,” they said, “but I really wish this would happen to me.”

What were they thinking? That the clutter in their homes was out of control, and the only way to be free involved the fire department.clutter

I can relate. My husband and I have reached the point in our lives where having fewer possessions is an attractive goal. Clutter causes us stress. I can’t protect my husband from workplace frustration or from traffic or from a thousand other irritations in life, but I can get rid of excess clutter and organize my home so that he can always find the scissors and the tape on the first try.

Still, though, I am often ensnared by the promise of a better life through consumerism. We never have a shortage of items to purge during my annual sweep through our home. How else can I explain accumulating five crockpots in slightly different sizes? There are just two of us. We don’t need five crockpots.

Here’s what I preach to myself as I’m combing the house for items to give away:

  1. Jesus said that life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. Luke 12:15
  2. Spiritual life can be choked out by clutter, which is part of “the cares and riches of this life.” Luke 8:14
  3. God is pleased when we give things away cheerfully.  2 Cor. 9:7
  4. Sharing our excess goods is one way to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Luke 3:11
  5. One of God’s names is Jehova Jira – God who provides. If we give away something and end up needing it later, we can trust God to provide. Phil. 4:19
  6. Giving to those in need stores riches for us in Heaven, and is an expression of love for the church. Luke 12:33
  7. Sharing what we have pleases God. Hebrews 13:16
  8. Everything we own has been given to us by God. We are only stewards of our stuff. Psalm 24:1
  9. God is not a God of confusion, but of order (think about how this is exemplified in creation). An orderly home reflects God’s character. Genesis 1
  10. Hoarding goods “just in case” can be a way of trusting my stuff to keep me safe instead of my God. Psalm 31:6

Sometimes it helps to remember that one day I will be called to give up everything. No physical item will go with me to Heaven. There’s nothing I own that I need to be perfectly happy and at peace with God—certainly not five crockpots.

Susan Verstraete is the church secretary at FCC and works in the women’s ministry.

 

Posted in: Women's Ministry

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Going Through the Wilderness

In our most recent Elder meeting, we discussed what seems to be a great increase in the amount of FCC families who are currently “going through the wilderness.”  And it’s sometimes hard to reconcile the sovereignty of God in the affairs of life and also watch your brothers and sisters being squeezed and purified.

I was reminded of a sermon we heard several months ago from Deuteronomy 8 dealing with the wilderness.  Read the chapter again and then meditate on the main points below:

  • Wilderness experiences are extended periods of time
  • All self-reliance is destroyed in the wilderness
  • He leads us into the wilderness so that we may learn to live on the Word of Godwilderness
  • Wilderness wanderings are the right-of-passage for God’s people
  • If you’re a child of God, you will be led into the wilderness
  • He leads us into the wilderness so that He might miraculously provide for us
  • He leads us into the wilderness to mature us

My last wilderness experience took eight years to go through.  It was an extended period of time.  But the Lord destroyed my self-reliance in many areas.  I was brought back time and time again to the truth of God’s word.  Would I have chosen eight years in the wilderness on my own?  Absolutely not!  But I’m glad He took me through it.

We most recently saw this as we finished the book of Revelation.  Jesus is preparing His bride, the Church.  Part of that preparation means going through the wilderness.  Brothers and sisters, keep the end goal in mind.  If you’re a believer, you will be going through the wilderness at some point if you’re not already in it.

Embrace the wilderness and know that the Lord who bought you with His own blood loves you enough to take you through it.

D H – for the Elders

Posted in: Christian Living

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COULD I WRITE ABOUT IT IN A COUNTRY AND WESTERN SONG?

By Matt Greco

Most of you know who Tim McGraw is but until I returned from Argentina, I was not sure who he was.  Tim McGraw is a MEGA SUPERSTAR in the entertainment world.  He dominates the Country & Western music scene (over 40,000,000 sold), has had several crossover musical successes, has had critical acclaim in the movies (he was the dad in both Friday Night Lights and The Blind Side), and has his star on the Hollywood walk of fame.  To use a sports example, he has hit over 500 home runs in pro baseball, he is a stand out for the special teams in pro football, and he has made the team in pro basketball!mcgraw

I had a chance to meet Mr. McGraw when he was in town giving a concert.  His tour manager is the sister of my wife’s best friend (no kidding), so we got backstage passes and free barbeque! My family and I had about three minutes with the guy.  I asked him how he managed to be a performer and a family man. He told me that he and his wife (superstar Faith Hill) never tour at the same time.  He said that way he can focus on work on the road and focus on the family at home.

Then he asks me what I did and I told him I worked for a Christian school and a church. For about 30 seconds he lost the aura of Country & Western / Hollywood superstar and he asks, “Do you have any advice for dealing with a 13-year-old daughter?”  I looked at him and said, “Prayer!” He smiled and nodded and it was about then he had to leave and go do his show.

In those moments I realized that Tim McGraw and I were exactly alike.  Well, he is younger, better looking, world famous, rich, can sing, and can act, but other than that we are alike.  He worries about things that money, fame, and a great singing voice can’t solve.  Both of us are concerned about how to raise our children, how to do our jobs, and how to lead our families.  If we had had more time we might have talked about other things.

Now I may never get another chance to talk to Tim McGraw or anybody else famous, but I will interact and talk to hundreds of people every year and so will you.  You can bet that they worry about their children, their marriages, their jobs, what happens when they die, etc…!  We can help them find the answer because we have a relationship with the answer and the answer is Jesus!

JOHN14: 6JESUS IS THE WAY, AND THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.   Jesus sets the standard when He said that He is the way, the truth, and the life.  There is no problem that Jesus cannot handle.  Whatever the circumstance, large or small, Jesus is the answer.  Do you know this?  Do you understand this?  Do you live this?  Could you explain it to someone who asked you?

1 PETER 3:15 – BE PREPARE TO GIVE AN ANSWER. As believers, we have a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus and through that relationship we have hope.  Peter instructs us to be prepared to give an answer to those who ask about the hope we have, but to answer in a respectful and gentle way.  Whether we are talking to the famous or the infamous, the rich or the poor or anyone in between, we can and should share the wonderful answer that Jesus Christ is for all who believe.

Matt Greco is a member of FCC and the headmaster of Faith Christian Academy.

Posted in: Christian Living, Men's Ministry

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Home Management 101

BY ANGELA SWAIN

Home Management. These two simple words can evoke a range of emotions and describe many different kinds of experiences—excitement, success, failure, and even stress! Whether single or married; with or without children; young or old; home-owner or home-renter; large bank account or small, most of us desire to manage the stuff-of-life well. We want to be good stewards and be found faithful with all the Lord has given to us or entrusted to our care. From health and home maintenance, monthly budgets, retirement savings, daily schedules and meal planning, to ministering to the needs of others and loving well the people in our lives, this ever-growing list of desires and responsibilities can leave us feeling overwhelmed and exhausted—especially during seasons of sacrifice. Knowing how best to steward over these areas requires wisdom and help, yet there are as many different definitions, opinions, and philosophies on the subject of home management as there is air time on talk radio or shelf space at the local bookstore.

An Improvised Laundry - Princess Beatrice Camp Beaumarais, Calais by Beatrice Lithiby (OBE) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

An Improvised Laundry

I am certainly no expert on the subject.  Even now there exists a mountain-sized pile of unfolded clothes on my dining-room table.  Thanks to a disorganized and cluttered (again) back-door entry, along with another rousing game of “find-the-kid’s-missing-belts-and-shoes,” I lost my temper—en route to church! And despite our poignant efforts to eat healthier and watch our food budget, my children received yet another dose of the golden arches. After all, my overloaded calendar didn’t account for dinner on this week’s busiest night.

But no matter my royal mess-ups or continued failures, I have learned some valuable home-management lessons over the years. Thanks to the wisdom, counsel, humility, and transparency of some amazing women in my life, I have learned a key lesson which undergirds everything I do as I strive to be a good steward. While I do think it is critical to develop a gospel-focused philosophy of stewardship and also create and implement a practical plan for managing the home, the greatest lesson cuts to the heart of the matter: learning to be content.

Better a little with fear of the Lord than great treasure with turmoil.  Proverbs 15:16

Mary Cassatt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Young Mother Sewing by Mary Cassatt

Stewardship describes our responsibility as believers. Webster’s dictionary defines it this way: “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” Stewarding over what we have been given involves more than mere oversight. When we consider how best we may care for the things God has graciously given to us, it is important to realize that we can only do so with humble hearts of thankfulness. Such hearts will recognize from whom these various gifts and resources came and on whom the spotlight will shine when they are cared for well and carry out their divine purpose. From food, clothing, and shelter to relationships, how we use our time, and seasons of testing or renewal—all that we have, all that we need, and all that we experience is a precious gift from a Sovereign and Gracious God. Even our act of obedience and worship through tithing echoes the same. “…who has ever first given to Him and has to be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:35-36).

The Apostle Paul also helps us connect a direct line between recognizing this sovereign rule in our lives and being content with what we have when, in Philippians 4:11-13, he states,

“I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little and…a lot.  In any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Contentment is often considered a state of being happy or satisfied. Certainly, Christ was Paul’s portion, and he was satisfied—never striving after vain things. In fact, any gain to him he considered loss “in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord . . . so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him” (Philippians 3:8-9).

But that’s not all Paul has to say about the subject. In 1 Timothy chapter 6, Paul teaches that if godliness is not promoted in either doctrine or in teaching, there runs the risk of believers becoming discontent. And discontent, he warns, leads to a whole host of potential sins—from ongoing envy to a form of godliness used as a means to gain material possession.  But the form of godliness with contentment, he says to us, is a great gain! To this, he admonishes us to “avoid the foolish and harmful desires and temptations which plunge people into ruin and destruction—that by doing so, we may be kept from wandering away from the faith or being pierced by many pains” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Most importantly, He reminds us of our humble and needy status before a holy and sovereign God, “For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these” (1 Timothy 6:7-8).

Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Rembrandt, St Paul At His Writing Desk

Paul is not the only one who recognized God’s sovereignty over circumstance and possessions.  You may also recall that Job, after hearing the final bit of news regarding his profound and tragic loss of both material possessions and family members, “…stood up, tore his robe…fell to the ground and worshiped, saying: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of Yaweh!’” (Job 1:21).

What about you, friend? Do you find yourself in a difficult season?  Do you have a physical need? A deep spiritual need? Perhaps you have plenty. Or, are you dealing with pride or sense of dissatisfaction—wanting more or struggling with your portion? For what are you waiting upon the Lord? Do you have a heart of thankfulness in any season?

I admonish you to remember that your ultimate act of stewardship is entrusting your soul to God’s sovereign watch-care.  To love Him. To serve Him. To obey Him. To trust Him completely. He is a good Father who longs for each of us, as believers, to look more and more like Christ. And it is Christ Himself who reminds us not to worry about our needs but to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. May we forever “…be content with what you have, for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

Angela Swain is a member of FCC.

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Posted in: Women's Ministry

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