Faith

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by Jeff Foerster

What is this faith thing? We can’t see faith any more than we can see the wind. But like the wind, faith is a mover. Faith bears itself out in actions (James 2). We see the results of the wind, so too do we see the results of faith.

Brian spoke Sunday of extraordinary people. He spoke of people like the wind, who moved mountains because they acted based not on the circumstances they could see, but on the God they set their gaze upon. These people were extraordinary because they refused to yield to hopelessness, despair, or doubt. They were ordinary in and of themselves, but they recognized Him who is outside of the ordinary and placed their trust, their hope on Him.

Faith filters the visible world through the invisible God. Circumstances become means to an end (becoming ever closer with God), not ends in themselves. Hope is not born of “glass-half-full” theology. It does not come with strings attached and predetermined outcomes that must be met to keep it afloat. Faith comes from embracing a vision of the victory of the cross. Jesus shouted “It is finished!” Faith is remembering this: God has secured the victory; what can man (or the world, or the devil and his demons) do to me? (Psalm 56:11, 118:6)

Be sure, dark clouds will gather. Rain will drench and winds will buffet. Storms will test our foundation and movement will come. Fix your eyes upon Jesus and cling to the promises of God laid out for us in the Holy Scriptures. Refuse to follow the ways and priorities of the world which is perishing, but set your eyes upon Him and the victory He has secured.

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Being an Effectual Doer

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By Brian Sharpe

The first weekend of this month was our annual men’s retreat. We have been doing this version of our men’s retreat for the past 12 years, and it is one of my favorite event to participate with. I believe this year’s men’s retreat was one of the best we’ve had.

The reason I believe this year was one of the best is because of how I was challenged. I always love seeing the guys talk, laugh, and play games together. I always love hearing a room full of guys singing praises to our Maker. I usually enjoy the speakers. This year I learned from and was challenged by each of the sessions, especially the first, when Mike Verdonk spoke against passivity. He talked about how, for guys, passivity comes naturally because it is a product of the Fall. Adam modeled it and we all learned it.

I came from the retreat and was really challenged by the areas of passivity I saw in my life. The first morning I was back home we had to get the older kids up for school. My wife is great about getting up with them. No one in our house is a morning person (except for maybe Joel), so mornings can be stressful. Well, that Monday seemed to be a particularly stressful morning. I laid in bed and was listening to the morning unfold when suddenly I realized—I could help the situation. This was a good idea, in theory, until I started to act on my plan. The problem was I should have engaged a lot sooner, and it would have helped everyone involved, even myself. I waited too long and my stress level and the rest of the stress level in the house was too high. I reacted poorly and had a mess to clean up. This all started because of my selfish reaction to the morning. It really stinks (and is nice) when you get challenged and have to act on what you were challenged on. I needed to apologize to my wife and my kids, and I also realized I have to be more engaged in the mornings.  

How often do we hear a message and think “this is something I needed to hear” and do nothing with the information given? James 1:22-23 tell us to not be just a hearer of the Word, but an effectual doer. We live in a country where we are able to hear as many messages as we want each day from as many different speaks as we like. We are not lacking on teaching; where we can lack is in the execution of what God is teaching us through these individuals and messages. I don’t know how many times I have gone to the men’s retreat, church, or any other event and heard a great message and have done nothing with the information that was given, that I had needed to hear and implement in my life. I need to be an effectual doer!   

One practice that helps me is, when we are done hearing a message, we ask “What is one takeaway I want to implement?”  See, I think we sometimes get bogged down with all the changes we want to make, then we don’t make any of them because we can get overwhelmed. This practice of taking away one thing is helpful because then I can focus my time and energy on one area verses many. At this point I am focused on asking the question,
“Where am I passive when I should be engaged?” This is a result of what God is doing in me based on what I learned at the men’s retreat. If you were to ask yourself the question, “What is one thing God is teaching me?”, what would you say? 

Whenever we hear a message we need to ask “What is one thing God is trying to teach me?” We need to seek to be effectual doers, not just hears. God is always working in us; the question is, “Are we willing to act on what He is teaching us to do?” 

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Results, I Want Results!

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By Stan Peterson

Disciple-making is a transformational journey. This journey is not the end, but is simply a means to the end, which is to obey the teachings of Jesus and teach others to obey as well, thus giving glory to God. This should be a joy-filled process. We should be full of excitement about what God is doing in the midst of us and full of anticipation about what God is going to do in our lives and in the lives of those we influence.

 I have often found myself focused on the results. I want to see the results—results of transformation in my own life and in the lives of those I am discipling. Yet when I find myself focusing on the results, I lose focus of Jesus; I am no longer following Jesus, but I’m following my own selfish desires while masquerading in a religious robe. I actually miss out on God’s desired outcomes because I am blinded by what I want and when I want it.

 When sowing to the flesh, I become discouraged, disheartened, frustrated, and tired. I tend to spend more time talking about others than praying for them. I quickly become irritated with others and I find myself snapping at my wife or my children. I am no longer a well of refreshment, but I am one of despair. I am no longer loving God, I am loving myself. I am no longer encouraging others, but I’m causing them to stumble. This is not a grace-based life. A false gospel creeps in, and it places emphasis on a performance-based identity rather than a GRACE-based identity.

 But—Ah, yes, there is a BUT!—when I focus on the glorious grace that was lavished upon me through the Son of God, I am forgiven, I am clean, I am adopted, and I have a new nature, for Jesus is with me unto the end of the ages (Mt. 28.20). I become refocused on the one thing that matters most, and that is being preoccupied with the person of JESUS. I am captivated by His teachings and my desires are transformed from the inside out. And I am addicted to JESUS and hanging out with those who he would hang out with.

The command (any of Jesus’ teachings) is no longer a burden, but it is a delight. The results come, but they come in a way I would have never thought or imagined. God always overwhelms me with His love when He surprises me by His ways. I see this most in the cross, and it creates a desire in me to carry my cross and follow Jesus!

 

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Honoring Those in Our Lives

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By Jim DeAngelo

Mother’s Day is just a few days away, and Father’s Day is just around the corner. Many of us (I included) start scrambling a few days before the event to get the gift together to say, “We love you.”  It is good to honor our parents, wives, husbands, and others on special days, as well as to think about how they have impacted our lives. However, what about the other days? Do we think about those individuals and do we honor them then?

 What does it really mean to honor? I have found this a difficult question to answer and have given it much thought and prayer. I find that my attitude and motive are the significant attributes that define the difference between honoring and dishonoring. Do I avoid someone if I have been hurt? If I do, is it out of fear of being injured again, or am I willing to forgive and to engage them even though I may be hurt again? Do I strive to be close to those important individuals, or do I look for a reason to avoid them or not be involved? 

 In regard to mothers and fathers, God says in the fifth commandment (Deuteronomy 5:16; Leviticus 19:3), “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” 

 For the important individuals in our lives, are we engaged, loving, trusting, praying, supporting, forgiving, helping, and speaking truth with loving respect? I have found this difficult when I perceive a hurt or wound, but I have been profoundly rewarded when I have engaged in love, forgiving and supporting that relationship. It isn’t easy, but it is what we have been commanded to do, and our lives definitely go better when we take this approach. Paul says in Galatians 5:22-23, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” We honor others when we forgive and demonstrate these spiritual fruits in our relationships.

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