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What Drives You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Sister,

Sarah Bush

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

 

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

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The Face of Faith

Years ago, while on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, I noticed something that I have often thought about since.  How is it that we communicate so much non-verbally?  Most have heard that non-verbal communication plays a large part in the way humans communicate, the face being of primary importance. While in a country that speaks a different language, this becomes evident.

My two friends, one after the other, were sharing their testimonies of God’s work in their lives at a church service.  There was a translator that would repeat each phrase in Spanish after my friends each would say a phrase in English.  What struck me was the look on each of their faces as they were sharing.  The glow of the Holy Spirit shone through as they were speaking and waiting for translation.  I remember thinking that the testimony of their faces was so convincing of changed lives from darkness to light and that the words being interpreted were just to give the details.  The look on their faces needed no interpretation!

I have mentioned that to others as we go on mission trips around the world. The look on our faces will communicate volumes to those we meet and interact with.

As we look at scripture related to this, I see a couple of things. First, there is a look on a face that communicates evil.  Regarding the wicked kings of Israel, Isaiah 3:9 says: “The expression of their faces bears witness against them, and they display their sin like Sodom; They do not even conceal it.”  Other emotions can come across on your face as well, including fear, anger, irritation, disinterestedness, surprise, and many others.  The second look on a face in the Bible that catches my attention and reminds me of my friends on the mission trip, is the look on Stephen’s face as he was being stoned for his faith.  Acts 6:15 says, they “saw his face like the face of an angel.”  This glowing face reminds us of Moses as he would come down the mountain after being in the presence of God.  Now in the new covenant, having the Spirit of God living in us, as believers, our faces are affected – or at least should be!

There is a transformation that occurs as we behold the glory of the Lord, and we are being changed or sanctified as we live this life in Christ.  1Cor 4:6 says that “God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of glory of God in the face of Christ.”

May the Lord’s face shine through us as we interact with one another and with a lost world – with faces of faith!

 

Dr. Brent Evers is an Elder at FCC. He and his wife, Cari, have three children.

Posted in: Christian Living

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You Are Never Boxed In!

By Garet Halbert

All believers battle sin. We all struggle to be and do as we ought in Christ because the desires of the old nature still linger in deepest recesses of our inner being. Whether you have been a Christian for a day or five decades, the Christian life of holiness is always a battle (though it does get easier the longer you’ve been fighting).

So in this struggle with sin, there will be times when we fall short of the desires and expectations He has for us. And in those low moments of sin, we tend to dwell on the causes of our sin. Often when we fall into sin and are either confronted by a fellow church member or convicted by the Spirit of God, the first thing we do is we justify what happened. What I mean by this is that we explain the events leading up to the sin and justify that our actions were caused by those circumstances. Maybe you are struggling with a porn addiction and you are thinking “I wouldn’t look at porn if I was (married, my spouse wasn’t so distant, or whatever your circumstance might be).” Maybe you are struggling with bitterness and covetousness towards others. “ I wouldn’t be so bitter if she would just admit she’s wrong” or “I wouldn’t be so covetous if I could find a job that pays more.” Whatever your struggle might be, the problem that we have is that we justify our sins.  Often we are more concerned with the circumstance than the sin itself. In a word, we act as though our sin happened because we were boxed in and had no other option than to do what we did (or maybe what we are doing even now).

Jay Adams, in his book Competent to Counsel, tells a story of a woman who has an irresponsible husband, struggles as a mother, and ongoing financial stress. In her struggle, she essentially shuts herself off and begins to neglect her responsibilities as a wife and mother. In counseling, the woman says, “ I can’t go on; I can’t take it any longer—I’m in a box and I can’t get out.” Here we see a woman heavy ladened with familial struggles, and she goes numb to her family because she feels she’s “in a box” and has no other choice and cannot go on. Though a tragic situation, the truth is she’s justifying what she’s doing by the circumstance she’s in. Maybe you are just like this woman. “I was boxed in…I wouldn’t have made that choice if weren’t for ________(fill it the blank).” We’ve all been there.

The problem with this thinking, as Christians, is that we are never boxed in. 1 Corinthians 10:13 reads, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” [emphasis added]. As Christians, one of the greatest promises God has given us concerning temptation is that there will always be a way of escape.

Brothers and Sisters, we are never boxed in! As Jay Adams said, “she needed to understand that God provides ‘a way of escape’ with every trial.” And he went on to say, “Christians are never in a box. God can make the walls of the box fall flat like the walls of Jericho; he can open the lid and reach down with his mighty hand and support one through the test; or he can make the bottom fall out. Whatever way of escape God may provide…we may trust that the way out will come as surely as the problem itself.”

What Dr. Adams said in this counseling session is something we all need to hear in light of our struggles. We can be sure temptation will come, but we can also be sure that the way of escape will be there too.

Now to some, telling a struggling wife and mother that she shouldn’t be acting the way she was regardless of her circumstances, is not the right way to address her. That by correcting her you are going to discourage her. There is some truth to that. There is a good chance the woman would be discouraged at this correction, but in all honesty, to confront her wrong thinking by telling her she is never boxed in as a believer is more encouraging than anything else you could tell her! Though the words “we shouldn’t let our circumstances dictate our actions” might seem like cow prods, in truth, they are the most healing words you could ever hear. You are not controlled by the things around you! You don’t have to sin when you are in those situations! Christian, you are never boxed in!

So next time when you are struggling and you think you have no other choice than to sin, remember that way of escape is as sure as the temptation itself. Your God is faithful and He will provide for you, that you may endure whatever comes your way. There is much hope in the fact that as Christians, we are never boxed in when it comes to struggles and temptations. Let the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13 be with you next time you feel boxed in by your circumstances, for as Christians we never truly are.

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: Biblical Counseling, Christian Living

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The Most Depressing Day of the Year

By Dr. Timothy Juhnke

Recently, a psychologist from the UK made headlines when he announced that Monday, January 24, was the most depressing day of the year. Dr. Cliff Arnall devised a formula that was used to determine people’s lowest point. He used the Formula:

[W + (D-d)] x TO
M x NA

A Reporter explained the formula like this: “The equation is broken down into seven variables:

  • (W) weather
  • (D) debt
  • (d) monthly salary
  • (T) time since Christmas
  • (Q) time since failed quit attempt [i.e. failed New Year’s resolutions]
  • (M) low motivational levels
  • (NA) the need to take action”

According to the article, Arnall devised the formula for a travel company that wanted to know the peak times that people book vacation getaways. Wow, nothing like adding an exotic vacation that you can’t afford to help you feel better when you are depressed!

I don’t mean to make fun of people’s depression and anxiety. It is a serious problem, especially if you suffer from it. But the truth is that the world has little hope of finding a lasting solution. Compiling debt to treat the blues only compounds the problem. Similarly, medicating depression and anxiety with pharmaceutical drugs or other substances only treats the symptoms, not  the cause.

Christians are not immune from depression, especially if they engage in the same destructive financial and emotional behaviors as unbelievers. But the believer possesses a solution; we have a prescription from God Himself. When believers focus their attention on the Lord (and repent of sinful behaviors when necessary) they have this promise:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in You. (Isaiah 26:3)

This is the only lasting prescription for peace. I have used it in heavy doses. I am thankful for that the law of diminishing returns doesn’t apply to Scripture and that we could never overdose on it. I am a living testimony that the promise of this verse works better than any drug the world could offer. I have literally experienced physical relief from anxiety as I clung to that verse. And the beauty of it is that there are no side effects. Stay your mind on Jehovah and He will keep you in perfect peace.

Dr. Timothy Juhnke is the Senior Pastor of Faith Community Church

Posted in: Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, Pastor Tim

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Consider the Question: How Are You Feeling Today?

feelingBY JOHN WORLEY

Many caring people ask the question of me on a daily basis here at Riverstone Community, a facility designed for the elderly or the disabled, where Judy and I are residing.  The question is intriguing for one who is in submission to the Lordship of Christ.  For the Christian, how we are “feeling” has a different context than for others.  Let me try to explain what I mean by considering the contrast that exists in comprehending how the context of living in this world effects us.

People’s anticipation of each day’s circumstance, i.e. of coming events and encounters that await them on a given day… this anticipation is based on how they might be feeling at the moment of their contemplation.  However, the Christian’s anticipation, of what is not yet experienced, must rely instead on his faith perspective regarding the reliability of God’s provisions and promises.  Faith’s perspective is assured to “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  (Isaiah 41:10)   How we feel about something, has proven to be notoriously unreliable.  We cannot, perhaps, help having an immediate emotional reaction in many circumstances.  These initial emotions are spontaneous, unguarded and untrustworthy however.  As Christians, our old sin nature is still alive, though no longer in control… not eradicated, and therefore available to be appealed to.  Because God has enabled us spiritually we are accountable to Him for obedience.  We may now evaluate and choose to act out of a disciplined dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

Scripture says of every man, “As he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7a).  We are what we think…what our thoughts focus on.  Attitude determines outlook.  When we lack contentment, it is because we are focused on comparison—comparison of our present with our past, comparison of our experiences with our expectations, comparison of our provisions with our preferences.  Jesus taught us God’s truth, while exemplifying being a servant to God and to others with humility.  He said in John 13:17, “If you know these things, you are happy (blessed) if you do them.”  He might seem to be saying that we feel happy or consider ourselves to be blessed if we “do” certain things (i.e. perform certain “works”).  Jesus is actually saying quite the opposite.  He teaches that if our attitude or perspective is faith based, i.e. reliant upon the truth declared by God, that God will use our obedient responses, enabled by His grace, as a means of blessing us with confidence, peace, joy and contentment.  “Blessed,” as used biblically, means spiritual prosperity …living in satisfaction and appreciation for God’s provisions and protection.  Society’s use of our English word “happy” reveals its meaning through the root word’s origin.  “Happy” comes from “hap,” as in “happenstance” i.e. chance circumstance.  “Hapless” therefore means without luck.  To be happy, in its root sense, means to have good “luck.”

An abiding expression of joy is the blessing of persevering obedience, enabled by the grace of our faithful Redeemer.  We may experience the same life circumstances as those without faith in Christ, but we must never come to rely upon the feelings of happiness or other emotional stimuli for a thankful attitude, contentment and endurance.

John Worley was an elder at FCC from 1996-2016. John went home to be with the Lord in 2016.

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Learning to Be Happy

Learning to be Happy/The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Book by Jeremiah Burroughs, rewritten by Sharon James and Philip Taitjewls

Grace Publications Trust/Evangelical Press 1998

I would like to be writing a review of the classic Puritan work, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs. The reason I am not is that, like so many Puritan works on my bookshelves, there is a bookmark in it about halfway through. I never finished reading it.* Don’t misunderstand, there is gold in the book. It’s just that the complex style of writing and the way words have changed meaning since the 1600’s make the book difficult to read for the fainthearted. That is why I am excited to tell you about Learning to be Happy.

Sharon James and Philip Tait have taken the main points of Burroughs’ best known work and have condensed and simplified them for a modern audience, reducing the original 228 page book to only 62 pages. Obviously, they lose many of Burroughs’ sub-points and much of his nuance, but the result is a challenging, simply written book that even an older child could read and understand. The book is divided into short chapters, most of them are just few pages in length. Tait and James have inserted discussion questions after every two or three chapters. This format lends itself beautifully to family worship, devotional reading or to use in a mentoring relationship.

In both books, Burroughs explains what Christian contentment is, where we find reason for it, how we learn to practice it, why we want jewlit, and how complaining dishonors God. Here’s a comparison of the way “contentment” is defined in both books:

  • …that sweet inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition. (The Rare Jewel)
  • …the deep inner satisfaction that Christians feel about what God has done for them. (Learning to be Happy)

The entire book is a meticulous exposition of Philippians 4:11, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content,” written by a wise and loving pastor to instruct his flock during persecution. Burroughs was born in 1599 in England and was a contemporary of John Bunyan and Richard Baxter. His depth of thought, masterful weaving of Scripture through the book, and his “black belt Christianity” applications left me humbled at the shallowness of my own Christian thought and experience. Whichever book you choose to read, you are sure to be challenged by the content.

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is available through www.ChristianBook.com for $14.99 or from various other outlets. You can read it online for free through Google Books.

Learning to be Happy is available through www.ChristianBook.com for $3.99 or from various other outlets.

Susan Verstraete

*I did finally finish the Puritan work, and it was worth the effort!

Posted in: Book Review

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Deliverance From Sin’s Power Over Our Emotions

BY MARTY BEAMER

I have never thought of myself as an emotional guy. In fact, I have been pretty “anti-emotion”—just ask my wife. I never thought Christians should put much weight into emotions, anyway. How many times have you been led astray by them? In my Christian walk, nothing has betrayed me more than acting how I felt like acting. This is the reason I experienced somewhat conflicted emotions. Usually, they led me to sin. Recently, the Lord showed me my error. I realized it isn’t emotions that lead me to sin but sin that distorts my emotions.

Compass Bulletin Cover Templates(1)

Are we led astray by our emotions? Or are we, emotions and all, led astray by something more insidious?

Have you ever noticed you cannot will yourself to feel a certain emotion? I would love to see you try. Go ahead, decide to be angry and see what happens. Angry yet? How about sad? I could give you an entire list and you could never will yourself to feel a certain way. Yet, how many times have you been angry or sad or jealous and acted on it? You cannot will yourself to feel a certain way, but your feelings can will you to act a certain way.

What does this have to do with sin? The better question is what doesn’t this have to do with sin? What is sin if not your desires (emotions) demanding your will to act against the laws of God? James 1:14 says, “But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires.”  When you see how sin affects humanity one thing is evident: it is has infected your emotions. Further, because your will is chained to your emotions, your will is a slave to sin. But why would God make us this way? Why would so much depend on our emotions when they are so difficult to control?

The Rhetoric Companion for the Modern Student by Edward Corbett and Robert Connors stated something that changed how I will think about this forever. They say, “We arouse emotion by contemplating the object that stirs the emotion.” All at once it hit me. How do you change the emotions? You think. You dwell. You meditate. Isn’t this something Christians are called to do? Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” What does Paul tell these brothers to do? Think about true, honorable, just, pure, commendable things. When you think of these things, this leads to a practice of these things. Only then, according to the text, will you have the God who produces peace (an emotion). Why is Paul telling them to think? Because thinking is what changes your emotions. And your emotions change what you do.

And let me remind you, brothers and sisters, to give new life to your emotions will only happen as you remember the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Therefore…remember that you were at [one] time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:11-13) Daily, call yourself to remember that you were dead with no hope. Remember that you were a vessel of wrath. Remember that God looked upon you with favor. Remember that He gave up His own Son as the ransom for your sins. Remember when you heard these sweet words of truth and your heart was made new. Think. Mediate. Dwell. Remember. Scriptures demand is for all Christians to have a life marked by remembering. The Gospel is not only to change our intellect but our emotions as well.

My call to you today is to remember. Do not neglect your emotions because they are what lead you to sin. Instead, determine to characterize your life as one who remembers, who contemplates and who dwells on the Work of God. Then, and only then, will your life, and emo-tions, be captivated by the Gospel against the power of sin.

Marty Beamer is Assistant Pastor at FCC and an M.Div. and Biblical Languages student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Posted in: Christian Living

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