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Three “No, but…” answers to our “Are we there, yet?” Questions

Now approaching his 97th birthday, my grandfather reminisces a lot. Many years ago, he built a lake house with his own hands. Lately, he’s been reminiscing about all the summertime trips he made with my sister and I. I think only God could keep track of the number of times we made that drive. As a kid, the dreadful length of the trip weighted on me every time. My sister and I alternated our pesky questions on an infinite loop: “Are we there yet?” “How much longer?” “Are we there yet?” …. (I will spare you. You get the picture.)

I recently found myself in the driver’s seat hearing those indicators of anxious impatience from someone else for the first time. My nephew piped up on a ten-hour drive: “This is why I hate driving to Michigan. It takes forever! Why can’t we fly?” As he said this, each word got longer than one before it. He intuitively used every vocal resource he had to indicate how the trip seemed to keep stretching on and on. He’s four.

A few moments of impatience notwithstanding, my nephew handled our trip very well. (So well, in fact, he’s decided I should play chauffeur on the next long family adventure!) But he reminded me how hard waiting on the Lord in our sojourning can be, especially when: 1) We know the Lord could move faster if He wanted to and 2) We don’t know how long or how hard (or how good, for that matter!) the journey will be. If the hardest part about waiting is waiting without answers we know the Lord could give, then the second hardest part about waiting must be receiving a different answer than the one we were hoping for. This was familiar ground for Christ’s disciples just before His ascension in Acts 1:6-9:

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

I can almost hear my nephew’s tone (even my own!) in the disciples’ voices when they ask Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” What did the disciples want to know? Quite simply, “Are we there now? Are You ready yet? Will you restore the Kingdom now, Lord?” I love Christ’s answer. At first blush, it seems he says something like, “No, and it’s none of your business…” But Jesus didn’t say, “No.” He told them the details of the timing were not for them to know, but then He answered a question they weren’t asking. He told them how He would restore the Kingdom. But first they would have to…. (You guessed it!)… wait on the Holy Spirit. They would be waiting for the Spirit to give them power to bring about the very thing they want to see accomplished, albeit at a much different pace and without a violent overthrow to Caesar’s government. Their view of the restoration was simply incomplete and short-sighted. God’s plan was far more glorious. By God’s design, the restoration would essentially happen one gospel conversation at a time.

Taking this as my first cue, here are three hope-filled “No, but…” answers we can glean from Scripture that speak to our spiritual “Are we there yet?” questions.

  1. No, but we have a commission while we wait (Matthew 28:16-20). I don’t know about you, but often my desire for the Lord to act more quickly is based on selfish desires that seem to multiply anytime I take my eyes off Him. When we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, the Great Commission is ever before us, ever occupying our minds and even our hands. This doesn’t mean we never plead with the Lord to quickly answer us in our need. It does mean that we are, by His grace, able to be found faithful when He does grant that long-awaited answer. “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready…” (Luke 12:35-48).
  2. No, but God hears our “Are we there yet,” prayers as a gracious and patient Heavenly Father. Although grumbling and complaining is something we need to repent of, the Lord has flung His door wide open to receive earnest prayer along the lines of “How long, O Lord?” He’s flung it so wide, in fact, that we have prayers in the Psalms we can pray when the wait is too much for us. See Psalm 13 for just one example.
  3. No, but we can worship while we wait. See one example of an eager wait turning to worship here in  Psalm 130:5-7. Even when we face the bleakest of circumstances, the greatness of our God is not diminished (Habakkuk 3:16-19). His nature is not tarnished. His goodness has not run out. What would happen if we fought our temptations to mumble in impatience with worship? Here’s a small sample worship resources available to help get us started worshipping the God of perfect timing in our waiting seasons:

 

I pray the Lord will answer you quickly when you call to Him. But if, in His providence, you find yourself lingering in the middle of a long, hard, wait, I pray He’ll bring to your mind scriptural truths that strengthen and comfort you. May we wait on the Lord “more than watchmen for the morning,” and more than four-year-olds who are ready to go swimming on vacation!

 

  BJ Rathbun works as an analyst. Her liberal arts education has given her an eclectic work background and a multitude of stories. She most enjoys spending time with her family, church family, and friends.

Posted in: Christian Living

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God Can Change How We Hear

Does this scenario sound familiar? You get out of bed. You shuffle over to the kitchen and make a bee-line for the coffee maker. Once you have your coffee, you head to the couch or kitchen table, and you pick up your Bible. You do this, because it’s what you do every morning. In your early morning stupor, you manage to mutter a few words in prayer, then you open up you Bible, because it’s what you do every morning. You take a few sips of coffee to wake yourself up a bit, and you start to read. Again, you do this every morning. But this morning, the words on the page seem to have the same effect on you as words on a billboard, or one of those inspirational posters. Nothing much more than, “That’s interesting. Time to go on with my day.” Or maybe it isn’t even interesting to you. It’s just nothing.

But maybe you don’t read your Bible in the morning, or your schedule doesn’t allow for a daily devotional time. Fair enough. Consider this scenario then: It’s a Sunday morning, and as you do every Sunday morning, you pile your family into the car and drive to church. You manage to find enough empty chairs to seat your family together. The music starts to play, you read the words on the screen, and you start to sing them, like you do every Sunday morning. You open your Bible to the passage being preached on. Pastor Tim is preaching his heart out. You hear his voice rise with intensity at the glorious truth that he is proclaiming. But the message simply doesn’t stir you nearly as much as he is being stirred. You know you probably should feel something, but you can’t feel anything.

Those are scary seasons. They are scary because the Bible warns about this. I have been reading in Luke about the effect the Gospel message has on its hearers. In chapter 8, Luke describes Jesus traveling with the accompaniment of his apostles and some women, and he is preaching about the kingdom of God everywhere he goes (Luke 8:1-4). Then Luke describes a parable that Jesus tells to a crowd of people, the familiar parable of the sower. The parable should be referred to as the parable of the soils. The seed gets scattered everywhere, but depending on the soil on which it lands, it yields different results (Luke 8:4-8). Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that the parable itself is intended to either impart revelation or harden the hearts of the hearers (Luke 8:9-10). And the content of the parable describes four different kinds of people who hear God’s word. The first kind doesn’t really “hear” anything, because the devil prevents them from hearing it. The second kind craves emotional experiences and get excited about the word of God at first, but then stop believing it when they realize that it brings unexpected trials into their lives. The third kind hear the Word, but it has no effect on them because their hearts are set on other things. And the fourth kind hear the Word, and it has a transformative effect on their lives, wherein they love God’s glory more, they love people more, and become more instrumental in the kingdom of God (Luke 8:11-15).

Jesus then tells them about the purpose of a lamp. No one lights a lamp just to hide it away. It’s put out in the open so that the whole house is illuminated (Luke 8:16-17). Many people use that illustration to encourage Christians to be more involved in evangelism and representing Christ. While that is a valid application of that text, I think that the primary purpose is to illustrate what God is doing. God’s message, His revelation to the world, is not something He is keeping hidden. His intention is to make the good news of the kingdom publicly known. That’s why Jesus says, “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away” (Luke 8:18). God has given direct revelation of himself in a very public way. So in light of having received that revelation, we are to be cognizant of how we “hear,” because we will be held accountable to how we respond to the truth we have received. The person who “has,” that is, who has a receptive, open-hearted, submissive attitude to God’s word, and an eagerness to hear it and respond to it… That person will bear fruit for God and experience an increasing amount of joy in Him. But the person who has a dead, cold, stubborn attitude towards the Word will become harder and harder the more they hear His Word.

Luke next describes the attempts of Jesus’ earthly family to get to him while he is teaching. And Jesus gives this response: “My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21). The sign of having the closest, deepest, most intimate relationship with Jesus is in submitting to God’s word and allowing it to change you.

The way we hear the word of God is of utmost importance. If you can relate to the scenarios described at the beginning of this blog post, know that you are not alone. Some of the godliest people I know have experienced that at some point in their life. But also realize that you can’t afford to sit in this and “wait it out.” This isn’t “just a season.” It is up to you to make an intentional effort to get out of that state of mind. Your soul depends on it.

But you might be wondering, what can I do? How can I get myself out of this? And the short answer is that you can’t do anything. But God can. Once you have recognized the danger of your situation, and you’ve been shaken to the realization that you need help, start by asking God to reveal any unknown sin in your life. The Psalmist cries out, “See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:24) For example, there is a good chance that you have unknowingly elevated someone or something into a place of worship in your heart, where an idol has taken the place of God as the thing you look to for satisfaction and joy. Ask God to cleanse your heart from idolatry.

The Psalmist also cries out, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things in your law” (Psalm 119:18). If you can’t see wonderful things in the word of God, then this is what you need to ask God for. Ask that the Holy Spirit would open the eyes of your heart to the Word of God. Ask Him to bring your heart a fresh sense of awe and amazement in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

And most importantly, be grateful for what God has done for you in Christ. Jesus died on the cross for your unbelief and idolatry. Jesus has set you free from the penalty of sin, but remember, he has also set you free from present enslavement to that sin. Lift your eyes to Him and live, love, and rejoice as someone who is free! And the next time you open your Bible in the morning, or come to church on Sunday, remember what it cost God to redeem you. Remember the love He chose to set on you before you were born. Remember who you are. And hopefully, maybe, there will be something, even if it’s just a flicker, when God’s Word is delivered to you.

 

Zach Ilten is a member of Faith Community Church. He 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, Church life

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Even Thunder Ice

There is nothing like being awed by the beautiful magnificence of God’s creation.  I want to use this post to share my joy in our Creator and my awe at God’s handiwork with you for His praise. May these reflections spur you on as you remember how God has shown Himself an awesome God!

Over the years, I have seen stunning sunrises and sunsets.  I’ve been blessed to be able to visit Almeria, Spain.  It is on the coast of southern Spain between the Alboran Sea and the Sierras of Almeria. I was staying with a missionary when I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. She had set a deck up for her children to play on since there were very few yards in her city.  Looking out over the deck wall, high on the third floor, the sunset was breathtaking. The brilliant rays were shining off the water with the view of the mountains on the other side of the deck wall. I had gotten up early, didn’t have a smartphone then, and my camera was in with the sleeping team. Though I don’t have a photograph to remind me of it, the image is locked forever in my mind.

Another sunset I remember (also before the age of smartphones) was in Oahu, Hawaii.  I’m pretty sure the palm trees and beach had something to do with the gorgeous image I saw.  No matter your vantage point, the beauty of a sunset or sunrise cannot be matched by any electronic light show, man-made kaleidoscope, Pixar art, or even any artist’s rendition.  God’s creation just cannot be reproduced. He is such an artist!  Such a creator!

John and I visited La Libertad, El Salvador a few years ago and I was able to compare oceans.  The Pacific Ocean in El Salvador is completely different than the Pacific Ocean on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii. The sand in El Salvador was a darker sand than I was used to seeing, almost black, as we walked out to the surf.  In contrast, in Waikiki it’s absolutely beautiful white sand, but historic reports from the 1920s and 1930s reveal that sand was brought in from Manhattan Beach, California, via ship and barge, to Waikiki Beach.[1] Although the beaches were interesting, they didn’t catch my attention nearly as much as God’s ocean. The Lord’s ocean is SO beautiful! Now that statement just doesn’t even begin to do the beauty of God’s ocean justice. When I was on both beaches, I had the same feeling of awe.  The powerful sound of crashing waves reminded me of several passages of Scripture:

  • Revelation 14:2 “And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder…”
  • Ezekiel 43:2 “And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory.”
  • Psalm 29:3-4 “The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty”
  • Psalm 104:25-26 “Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.”

Words just cannot describe the ocean fully.  To sit and watch it wave after wave… To hear that sound!  I was in a state of awe, in awe of God’s creation!

Another awe that God blessed me with is the thunderstorm. When I was little, of course the thunder was scary to me, but I was curious to see what in the world was going on out there.  I was drawn to look out and look up.  My grandmother always said, “Darla, get away from that window!”  When I was older, I would go out on the porch during a storm and wonder at the science lessons that told me different things about lightning.  Part of it comes down, but when it hits the positive charge on the ground, we actually see that part the most in a series of spurts. It is just so cool what God has created in thunder and lightning! Now does that lightning scare me?  Well, yes.  I have jumped 3 feet off the ground before.  NO exaggeration.  I was nine months pregnant with my second son and a lightning bolt hit the tree in our yard: a huge 30-foot wild cherry tree.  The lightning not only split the tree in two, it also hit the roof of our doghouse, which was under the tree.  (The dog wasn’t in it!)  It was the loudest sound I’ve ever heard.  When it hit, I was standing in my kitchen and literally jumped up in the air!  I was told it was comical.  It was not that comical to me!  That was when hard labor began.  It was not the easy little contractions that gently make you feel like “Oh, I think my labor has started,” but it was the end-of-the-pregnancy labor that makes you scream.  It was a scene from a very dramatic saga–a pregnant woman doubled over screaming, “I’m in labor!!!” It was a week earlier than my due date.  We lived 45 minutes away from the hospital, so we got a bag together and headed up there.  Every bump and curve coincided with a new scream.  When we arrived, they told me we weren’t even going to see the labor room–the baby was coming and he was coming NOW!  We were only there for 15 minutes and our son was born! THAT’S how powerful lightning and thunder can be!

Mountains are another of God’s creation that have literally taken my breath away. The first time I went to Colorado I remember seeing the mountains in the distance and it was so exciting.  But it took hours of driving after that first sighting to actually arrive in the mountains.  We went to the Rocky Mountain State Park and I was taking in all the views as we drove along.  We drove by very pretty wildflowers, pretty hills and valleys….until we came to this pass.  Our truck came around the bend and it was THE most breathtaking view I’ve ever seen in my life.  WOW!  The vast landscape was so amazing!  Chris Tomlin’s “How Great is Our God” was playing in my headphones, and, I am not kidding–I began to weep.  It was so majestic and so beautiful that it brought my emotions to the surface.  I’ll never ever forget it.  No camera can ever capture the mountains as they are in real life.  It’s no wonder that the Lord used a mountain when He spoke to His servant Moses or that mountains are referred to as “high” and “great” (Revelation 21:10, Isaiah 2:2).

Just the other day we had another of God’s incredible creations:  thunder ice.  It was a rain/sleet mixture turning into ice, creating slick and slushy streets, but it was thundering as it rained the ice. This doesn’t happen very often.  It was so cool!  Then I glanced out the window and the tiny droplets of water freezing on my weeping willow tree in the backyard made a beautiful icy scene before my eyes.  The book of Job came to mind, Job 37:6 and 10, and also Job 38:22 to be exact.  Verse 6 in Chapter 37 says, “For to the snow He says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ And to the downpour and the rain, ‘Be strong.’” And Verse 10 says, “From the breath of God ice is made, And the expanse of the waters is frozen.” Then Verse 22 of Chapter 38 says: “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, Or have you seen the storehouses of the hail”…it is God’s sovereignty.  He controls everything!  Read Job 37 and 38. It’s all there.  Thunder, lightning, snow, rain, beasts, storms, cold, ice, clouds, hot, darkness, light…but Job 37:10 tells it all:  “Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen” (italics are mine).

There are so many other things in God’s creation that I could mention.  (I’m thinking of animals, plants, and insects, just to name a few.) These are just part of our wonderful and marvelous Lord’s creation!  Don’t buy into the world’s “Mother Nature” myth!  That is the enemy trying to take credit for God’s mighty and miraculous wonders.  He is awesome and mighty and greatly to be praised!

“ For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power
and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since
the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.
So they are without excuse.”
Romans 1:20

 

[1] “Where’s the beach? Seeking the origins of Waikiki sand.” by Chris Bailey, Hawaii’I Magazine, February 20, 2009.

 

 

Darla Phillips is a member of FCC. She and her husband, John, are active in many ministries at FCC.

Posted in: Christian Living, Worship

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I Am Not Myself

By Logan Evans

 

I’m not myself lately.

No. That’s the problem.

I am myself.

My nature is exposed sans-gospel the less I am being filled with truth.

I am myself.

All the common traits of my strife and woe lies in how they might affect and impact me.

Not the Church.

Not dear friends.

Not close confidantes.

Not anyone.

Not God.

I am a god unto myself:

I seek my praise and glorify my name and long for all to know me and love me;

I serve myself, for who better to receive it?

And I am unto myself a god of destruction, for these things I seek and desire for myself will be my end.

Who among the sin-ridden could withstand the adoration of the multitudes and not be obliterated by the weight of it all?

And even now I praise myself for how well I construct this image built by words and wonder at my eloquence and dare David or Augustine to put their mortal curse of narcissism in a more profound way. I am bloated with pride and feel confident that my words are surely worthy of marvel

but

when “I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”

This from Paul, a man of high education and privilege of superior training, who, ironically, proved in scripture his capacity for demonstrating high rhetoric and wielding words pulled from a vast artillery.

Yet, he decided that the gospel alone and people being unified in and by the gospel alone was more important than the praise and wonder he could gain from eloquent speech.

And I am a fool.

Towards what end am I working in my eloquence?

Jesus Christ will last long beyond me.

I am insecure and fragile enough to need (or convince myself I need) to be oh-so-well-spoken and well-written for the sake of honor and praise, for without it I would surely diminish and decay.

Not so.

Seeking glory for myself is my undoing. It will end me. I have not the capacity in this depraved and earthly state to rightly handle praise. I cannot handle it and do not deserve it.

Perfection deserves praise.

Perfect, whole beauty.

Too much of a good thing will kill that which is not wholly good.

God is good.

And perfect

and holy in every way

and possesses no sin,

houses no evil.

He is the One and Only capable of handling an eternity of praise.

God is good.

God exists as good.

No one is good except God.

He is the chief Good.

If I am good or am recognized for good, that is God in me. I cannot achieve good without God, not completely. God exists before and after and beyond all else.

No one and nothing is good except God.

To have anything else as the mode and motive of good in my life is foolish.

So, if I am to adhere to the idea of God as chiefly and completely Good and solely deserving, then the implications are extraordinary.

If God is the chief good in my life then

I obey His commands

I love Him

I love others as myself

I love others more than myself

I operate in a manner which correlates with the good of God

I work hard and well using the opportunities and skills and gifts and abilities my good God has given me

I bring attention to Him and His Goodness through my own wonder of His Goodness and do not use the good He has shared with me for my own benefit, but rather use it to demonstrate the Good of God.

I have not good of myself, but only what I have from God.

He is Good and not I.

He is God and not I.

 

Logan Evans is a  member of FCC.

Posted in: Poetry

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“Let the Nations Be Glad” A Hymn Meditation based on Psalm 67

By Matthew Swain

“God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He has an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the supremacy of His name among the nations. Therefore, let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose.” – John Piper

Let the Nations Be Glad

Let the glory of the Lord forever be our joylet-the-nations-be-glad
May redemption be the theme of our song
For by grace we have been saved
And by grace we shall proclaim
To the corners of the earth that Christ has come

Let the nations be glad
Let the peoples rejoice
For salvation belongs to our God
Let the whole earth be filled
With the praises of the Lord
For salvation belongs to our God
Let the nations be glad

Through the ages gone before
Through the trial and the sword
Many saints and martyrs conquered, though they died
Still we’re holding out the cross
Crossing oceans, suffering loss
Shall endure all things to win the crown of life

As Your holy church goes forth
In the Holy Spirit’s power
With the glories of the gospel to explain
Now we pray Your kingdom come
And we pray Your will be done
For the honor and the glory of Your name

Matt Boswell | Aaron Boswell | Matt Papa
© 2010 Dayspring Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.)

Faith Community Church recently had the privilege of sending some of her very own to the mission field.  In so doing, Christ’s command that we “Go . . . and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 29:19) has been fulfilled in part.  Our “farewells” have wrought tears mingled with joy and sorrow as we, for the moment, have come to grips with the sober reality of the sacrifice required in taking the Gospel to the nations.

While scripture can never be supplanted, songs rooted therein can help inform our theological understanding on such matters. Let the Nations Be Glad, a hymn roughly based on Psalm 67, is one example. Stanza one begins with the reality that missions starts first in the heart of man through salvation. God’s glory is most brilliantly on display through our redemption in Christ, which is an unmerited gift of grace (Eph. 2:5). It was British missionary to the Belgian Congo, Charles Thomas Studd, who rightly stated, “The light that shines farthest, shines nearest at home.” The fuel of missions is first fanned into flame by the ever-intensifying reality of Christ and our salvation within the heart of man.

Stanza two connects our present call to the nations with the church past as a means of encouragement. We ought to find solace, comfort, and courage knowing that “a great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) has gone before us in faithful obedience to the Great Commission. We are presented with the paradox that faithful obedience to this mandate, resulting in possible trial, sword, even death will yield a “crown of life.” For this we fear nothing and joyfully “endure all things.”

Finally, Stanza three reminds us that as we carry the gospel forth we go in the power of the Holy Spirit. The text concludes with Jesus’ own words from the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) and with an unmistakable sense of urgency that our call to take the Gospel to the nations is now. Will we continue to be faithful?

Dr. Matthew Swain is the Pastor of Worship at FCC and Assistant Professor of Worship Ministries at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

 

Posted in: Worship

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A Multidimensional God

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in his love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

God is not two-dimensional. He’s a complex, furious, loving, tender, laughing slaughterer of His enemies. There is a perennial tendency to flatten God’s character, to engage in reductionism for the sake of simplicity. Have you ever heard someone – or yourself – say,

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Ezekiel’s Wheel”

“I just can’t worship a God who would…” There’s the sinful, creaturely impulse to make God in our own image. So much mischief follows when we flip the direction of image-bearing. When God created man and woman, he created us in His image; in our sin and rebellion, in our limitations and confusions, we think we should return the favor.

Isn’t it funny how some insist that God receives us just as we are, but refuse to receive Him just as He is.

By Jessica Winstead (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsWho would want a Hallmark God anyway? In what world does sentimental doting Grandpappy God belong? A world made of Precious Moments and Thomas Kincade’s perfection of light? Who lives there? We don’t. We live in a dirty, sweaty, smelly, dusty world: this world that Jesus is redeeming, this world in which His Church is advancing His Kingdom, is a world of pain in childbirth and snuggly toddlers; fighting against thorns and the joy of freely sharing what God has given; temptations to sins that would crush us and the delight of a cold glass of water. Sin infecting us all, and the image of God in us all. Total depravity and common grace.

And in all that messiness, we have a God who can handle it all. Because He doesn’t break bruised reeds, He doesn’t snuff out smoldering wicks, He leads justice to victory. He smashes the teeth of the wicked. He allows the wicked to prosper for a time, and He takes up the cause of widows and orphans. He directs elections, He clothes the grasses of the field, He comforts the lonely, He triumphs over mockers and liars and those who oppress the poor, He causes the mountain goats to give birth, He allows the abominations of the Amorites and Americans to reach their full measure, He tenderly consoles the weak in faith and He castigates the strong in their pride.

As someone else has said well, we must take all of God for all of life. He’s a multidimensional God. We need Him to be.

Joe Bancks is a member of FCC.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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Children Of The Heavenly Father

Words: Karolina W. Sandell-Berg, Andeliga daggdroppar, 1858 (Tryggare kan ingen vara); translated from Swedish to English by Ernst W. Olson in The Hymnal, 1925.

Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in Heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.

God His own doth tend and nourish;
In His holy courts they flourish;
From all evil things He spares them;
In His mighty arms He bears them.

Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever;
Unto them His grace He showeth,
And their sorrows all He knoweth.

Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.

Lo, their very hairs He numbers,
And no daily care encumbers
Them that share His ev’ry blessing
And His help in woes distressing.

Praise the Lord in joyful numbers:
Your Protector never slumbers.
At the will of your Defender
Ev’ry foeman must surrender.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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Right Doctrine, Right Emotions

By Blake Loy

“There never was anything considerable brought to pass in the heart or life of any man living, by the things of religion, that had not his heart deeply affected by those things.[1]

I saw a video on the internet called, “The Worst Worship Ever.”  I will spare you the details, but it absolutely made me nauseous.  What I saw was 10 minutes of emotionally charged jumping and crying and swaying and spinning without even a reference to the Cross of Jesus Christ.  There was a lot of activity and a lot of expression, but was there actually worship?  Worship is our response to God’s self-revelation; which predicates that the truth about God be revealed (in song, in preaching, in scripture) and that we understand it, internalize it, and express it through proper affections back to God.  This insidious, emotional worship, as demonstrated by Youtube, is obviously off-base but it reminds me of two other dangers that even we at FCC are susceptible to.

First, there is the danger of misplaced emotion; that we are moved emotionally by mRight Doctrine Right Emotionsusic and not the truth in the lyrics.  We do everything we can do to avoid affecting some kind of emotional “high” with the songs that we select, the arrangements of music that we use, and the order of service.  This does not mean, however, that there are not people here because of the music.  Not everyone likes a hard drum beat or a heavy baseline, and because we lack both of those things at Faith, I am sure there are many here because they find their expression in our style of music rather than raucous or outlandish music at other churches.  If that is the case with you, beware!  The source of our emotion can only be God the Father as revealed through Jesus Christ the Son through the stirring power of the Holy Spirit.  When our mind processes deep truths about God through song, through scripture, and through the preaching of the gospel, the result is properly placed affections and a proper response in worship.  Jonathan Edwards warns us in his treatise on religious affections that proper affections do not mean proper understanding. Emotions, however, are a good thing which brings me to the next danger that we face at FCC:

Equally dangerous to the emotions that are improperly placed is the total lack of emotion in worship.  We want the deep truths about God to be preached and sung every time we meet at FCC.  This requires a great deal of introspection and thought in our worship.  However, when we truly encounter those deep truths, our souls should be stirred to experience matching emotions.  Ranging from exuberant joy to brokenness and contrition, there are appropriate affections for every song we sing and every truth we proclaim.  It is sinful to perpetually sit in stoic emotionless thought while the greatest truths of all time are played out before us.  As we walk through the stages of the gospel (God, repentance, grace, and thanksgiving) I hope you find that your emotions match the lyrics and that you do not worship passionlessly.  Edwards also warns us that while proper emotions that do not originate from truth do not represent true “religious affections,” if our souls are cold and callous to the truth, we may not have experienced true conversion.

Anyone who has recognized his depravity before God and tasted of the grace which God bestowed to us through Jesus Christ cannot help but be overwhelmed by emotion.  I would encourage you to read John Chapter 4 this week and ponder what it means to worship in “spirit and in truth.”  I will promise to pack as much truth into the lyrics of our songs as I can.  Will you search your heart and worship with appropriate emotions as we lift our voices together on Sunday morning?

In Christ

Blake

[1] Edwards, J. (2004). A Treatise Concerning The Religious Affections: In Three Parts. In E. Jonathan, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Vol. 2, pp. 234-343). Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. (p. 238)

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For Parents: Training your Children to Participate in the Worship Service

By Whitney StandleaTraining

When we first came to Faith it was neat to see all of the young children that participated in worship services with their families. Without any kids of our own, we begin asking questions about how the children were trained to sit still for so long. I tucked some ideas away and believed I would have happy, quiet children in the worship service with me by the time they were a year or two old.

Now that I have a two-year-old and a one-year-old, I can assert that training your children to sit in the service is no easy task. As a greenhorn in reigning in my youngsters, you may be wondering what in the world my intentions are for writing an article about children sitting in the service. What could I possibly say of any value to you? I’m not writing to share my success story or personal how-to’s. Rather, my intentions are three-fold: share resources, ignite vision, and create dialogue.

For parents of infants to teenagers, I wanted to share two helpful resources I have found for dealing with the issue of training your children to sit in the service. The first is an excellent book by Noel Piper called, Treasuring God in our Traditions. In the back of this book is an appendix called, “The Family: Together in God’s Presence.” It is a very short read on the Pipers’ experience of training their own children in the worship service. It includes a biblical perspective on the issue as well as very practical ways to introduce young children to worship. [This can be downloaded for free from www.desiringGod.org.]

The second resource is much more thorough. Parenting in the Pew is a 132-page book by Robbie Castleman with the purpose of helping “parents train children in the only ‘proper behavior’ for church: worship!” Not only is this book a hilarious read with tons of anecdotes, but Castleman provides suggestions for every area of the worship service and covers everything from toddlers to teens.

The thing that impacted me the most about these two resources, however, were not the clever tips and creative ideas. What I valued the most was a recasting of my vision for my children to be in service with me. They helped me move beyond wanting my children not to be a distraction in worship, to wanting them to participate in worship. Castleman explains it by asking whether or not we are teaching our children to “count bricks or encounter God.” Now I am so excited to teach my children to engage in the worship, focus on the sermon, and learn as much as they can about God.

While I think we can all share in that goal, there is a degree of Christian liberty here: using the nursery till your child’s two, four, or never? Gradually introducing them to the service, or full-immersion? Sometimes our different perspectives in these side-issues can lead us to divert from discourse about the main goal. However, I strongly feel that this challenging, significant task deserves to be talked about. The more we can share our struggles, successes, ideas, and questions with each other on this issue, the more we can equip and encourage one another to lead our children into the presence of God.

Posted in: Christian Living, Women's Ministry

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Worship is War

BY ANDREW SHEFFIELD

Worship is war.  The great battle of all time is the battle for worship—thwarworshipe battle to win the adoration and service of earth and heaven.  And when we gather for corporate worship, part of what we’re doing is fighting in this battle.  So we must be serious about our task.  We must be serious about being unified in our task.  We must be serious about being steadfast in our task.  And if we are to be serious, unified, and steadfast, we must above all be focused only on Christ.  He is the object of our worship, and He is the reason we can worship rightly.  So fix your eyes on Him, continuing to come together week in and week out to fight so that Christ will be exalted in His church and in the world.

Andrew Sheffield is Pastor for Worship and Community at Rocky Bayou Baptist Church in Niceville, Georgia.

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