Friday, June 25, 2010

In This World, or Of This World?

by Denise Reed

This Week’s Verse: John 15:19, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (NIV)

Most of us know and love singing the song “Amazing Love.” However, one day as it played on the radio, a certain verse grabbed my attention: “I’m forgiven, because you were forsaken. I’m accepted, you were condemned.”

Then it struck me; what makes us accepted in this world? Are we so worldly that we blend in with everyone else in such a way that no one can tell if we are a follower of Jesus? I knew that this conviction had come from God and it weighed on my mind for the rest of the week.

The very next Sunday we read the story of Stephen in our Sunday School class. The story is found in Acts and it reaffirmed that my earlier insight was from God. Stephen was a man full of God’s grace and power. He was chosen by the other apostles as a disciple of Christ. He did great wonders and miraculous signs, but you know what?

He was NOT accepted by the world. He WAS condemned. Because of his faith he was persecuted and stoned to death. As he died, he mirrored what Jesus said when he died on the cross by saying, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

This man--who was a true follower of Jesus--is a great example for us. Are we willing to stand out in the crowd, or are we trying too hard to be accepted by the world?

Oh, and to top it off, we sang “Amazing Love” during the worship hour that SAME Sunday. Was God speaking to me or what?

Dear Lord, thank you for the great example of Stephen. Help me to never take my eyes off my purpose here in this world. This world has nothing for me, Lord. Help me remember that. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

This week, let’s make a conscious effort to share God’s love with everyone we come into contact with, even if we think they might shun us, or make fun of us. If we are made fun of, we will rejoice!

Power Verses: 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (NIV)
2 Timothy 3:12, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (NIV)
1 Peter 2:11, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage was against your soul.”(NIV)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Happy Father's Day: Who's Your Daddy?

***In honor of Father's Day, this is a re-run of a wonderful reminder to celebrate our Heavenly Father along with our earthly ones this Sunday. It was originally posted in March of 2008.

by Marsha Loftis

This Week's Verse: Psalm 68:5-6, "A father of the fatherless and a judge and protector of widows is God in his Holy habitation. God places the solitary in families and gives the desolate a home in which to dwell."

In this nation of fatherless children, my own being one of them, I wonder, am I teaching her to love on, listen to, lean on, and be guided by the only Father that truly matters?

You see, I am not only raising a 'fatherless child,' I am one too. So I can painfully identify with her and this plight sweeping our nation. In case you were wondering...Yes, she does have a father. So do I. But, unfortunately, what we don't have are Dads... That old saying, “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad," is never more prevalent than in today’s society.

If you don't know a child being raised by someone other than their biological father then I'm sure you are in the minority. Maybe you know a child who has been blessed to not be raised by their biological father. One who is being led, lifted up, and encouraged by a wonderful man who has stepped up to the plate and taken on this awesome responsibility.

My prayer is that every lonely and left out child eventually finds this kind of father-figure. For those who don't seem to be headed for this life-style I pray that those of us in the same situation can teach them to call on our ultimate Father-figure...Our Abba Father!

This concept of having an "Abba Father” was foreign to me until I came to FCC. First, I had never heard the term before. Second, being from an absent-father home, how could some "being" I had never met before love me more than my own flesh and blood father?! This seemed absurd! My study Bible uses this term as "an exceptionally close relationship to God."

I hope I'm not alone in this revelation. I hope everyone "got it" and continues to "get" what God in his infinite love and mercy has to offer. That feeling of being scooped up in your father's arms. That feeling of being loved, cherished, and adored by Our Creator...How awesome is that! He not only made us, He promises never to leave us or be absent from our lives, but to be our Abba Father, Our Daddy.

Even Jesus cried out "Abba Father" (Mark 14:36) and since we have received the Spirit of Sonship, we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Gal. 4:6).

Whatever your station in life, by the grace of God, it is our birthright to call out "Abba Father." When we suffer with him it is so that one day, we may also share in His glory!

Father God, I pray that you'll settle down in the hearts of those who need your comforting presence. Let them know they are not alone. I pray every person reading this, "fatherless" or not boldly proclaims, "I AM A CHILD OF GOD!" In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Join me in getting these verses to the people who need them. Write one out on a piece of paper and slip it into a gnarled and noble hand. Whisper one in the ear of a toddler while you are praying over them. Tell a ten year old, "I hear you're father's a King?!" Let them know they are important to you and to God. Wherever life has left them, God will take them the rest of the way.

Power Verses:
2 Cor. 6:18, "I will be a Father to you and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (NIV)
Romans 8:15, "We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us--an unbelievable inheritance!" (MSG)
Galatians 4:6, "...God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba Father’...God has made you an heir." (NIV)
Deuteronomy 31:7-8, "Be strong. Take courage…God is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down; he won't leave you." (MSG)
*On a personal note, I was blessed more than twenty years ago to have a step-dad who filled in a lot of the gaps my own father didn't. And my daughter’s father is trying to get his life in order so he can be a dad to her.

God is good!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ministry: Hold On Loosely

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: Mark 6:30-31, “The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.”(NLT)

I can recall very few times when I’ve been too busy to eat (ha!) but otherwise I can relate to what the disciples are experiencing in this week’s verse. And many of you can too.

In Mark 6:7, Jesus sends the disciples out two by two to minister to people. In verse 13 we find out that not only did they tell people to turn from their sins, but they also cast out many demons and healed the sick, anointing them with olive oil. All in all, a very successful season of ministry!

Understandable then, that when the disciples meet up again with Jesus as shown in verse 30, they are emotionally stoked about what they’d been able to do. I can just see them trying to talk over each other with stories of the incredible work they’d been doing. And with so many people coming and going all around them, they no doubt attracted larger crowds with their enthusiasm. I wonder if the disciples were thinking, “We can do even more work here among these people! What are we waiting for?”

But Jesus doesn’t send them out again—at least not yet. “Let’s get away from the crowds for a while and rest,” he tells them.

Rest? But Lord, we have so much to do! Who has time to rest when there’s VBS planning, camp registering and packing, song practicing, Sunday school preparing, and church cleaning to do?

In our ministries—Spirit-driven, God-ordained, kingdom-vital ministries—we will have busy seasons. We may thrive on them at times, while at other times we may feel completely wrung out. But regardless of whether we feel the need to or not, we must listen when we hear Jesus asking us to rest and spend time with Him.

If we don’t, that’s like saying, “Jesus, you understand why I can’t be in the Word today of ALL days, right? Today’s the big event I’m doing for you!” Or maybe it’s like saying, “I have to be at the shelter at 6 a.m. to serve your people breakfast, Lord. I’ll catch ya later.” Or even saying, “Lord, I have to get this devotional finished. I’ll pray later.” (Ouch.)

An esteemed worship leader (I think her name is Missy Milbourn or something like that) was once talking with me about the demands of ministry. She shared what helps her keep things in proper perspective. “We need to hold loosely to our ministries, but hold tightly to Jesus.” After all, which do we love more?

As we minister, we must heed Jesus’ promptings and go rest with Him. There we’ll find solace from the frenetic pace, even if we may not want to at first. And we’ll be reminded that He’s the one who sustains us as we carry out His work.

Lord, help us always to hold loosely enough to our ministries to spend time and rest with you. Thank you for grace when we do run ahead or rely on our own abilities. Become our greatest desire. In Jesus’ Name.

If you aren’t currently serving in a ministry, you’re missing out on a blessing. Consider areas you could serve (VBS is fast approaching!). If you do have a ministry (or multiple ministries!) is it difficult for you to slow down sometimes and just rest with Jesus? If so, mark a specific time each day to do this and commit to keeping it until it becomes a habit.

Power Verses:
2 Corinthians 3:5-6, “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”(NIV)
2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”(NIV)
Acts 8:21, “You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.”(NIV)

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Race

by Kathy Lay

This Week’s Verse: Hebrews 12:1, “Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won't let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us.”(CEV)

On a hot, sunny morning last week, I headed off to “Track Day” to watch my kids participate in the annual end-of-school-year tradition. I never expected to be moved to tears by catching a glimpse of heaven while I was there.

You see, there was one little girl who couldn’t quite run. She could walk briskly though, and her enthusiasm was clear from the moment she took her place on the starting line. The other four girls in her heat also lined up wearing remarkable smiles that I noticed, but didn’t attach any particular meaning to—yet.

Even before “On your mark…Get set…” a chant began to swell up around me by the student spectators. “Au-tumn…Au-tumn…AU-TUMN” was repeated with growing volume as the race began.

“Go!” And they were off. Autumn and her competitors left the gate as a single unit, barreling down the track as a power-walking unified force. Autumn led the pack and the others shared happy sideways glances as they allowed her to set the pace. The crowd continued in its relentless encouragement for the duration of the event and as Autumn crossed the finish line just a neck ahead of the other girls, it exploded with cheers of Woo hoo and Way to go! Victory was written on every face because of the triumph of one girl finishing the race marked out for her.

And there I sat stunned, tears streaming down my face, at what I’d just witnessed. (Thank goodness for sunglasses.) What a wonderful reminder of how we are to cheer one another towards the mark we all aspire to reach—a tangible, present-day example of the promise in this week’s verse! We have a heavenly crowd of spectators—all the saints who have gone before—cheering us on in our race from heaven's bleachers.

And because of that promise, we can pass on encouragement and walk with others here on this side of the ultimate finish line.

Father, what a blessing to see the powerful example of grace and encouragement through the kids at that race! Help us adults to copy it. Open our eyes to see those you’ve placed around us to influence and support by the power of Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ Name.

Can you think of people that might need you to walk along beside them to help them stay in the race? Who would be encouraged by your cheering and encouragement to finish it well?

Power Verses:
Romans 15:5, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.”(NIV)
1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”(NIV)
Acts 20:24, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.(NIV)