Take Me To Your Leader

By Pastor Mike Rose

As a child I loved watching cartoons.  One of my favorites was Bugs Bunny. To say which sketch of Bugs was my favorite would be hard to do.  There were so many I found immensely entertaining. But there is one sketch that stands out in my mind. Bugs comes into contact with an alien, a fellow cartoon character from another world. bugs bunny

Somewhere in all of the zany interactions that typically take place in a cartoon sketch, either Bugs or the “alien”, I can’t remember which, says to the other… “take me to your leader.” That was a common refrain in that era of television. Anytime an earthling encountered a being from another world, someone, usually the alien, would ask to meet the leader.

 If someone asked you that question, who  would you identify as your leader? Many people don’t like to admit that they follow a leader, instead deceiving themselves that they are totally independent, without outside leadership. However, that is simply a deception. Everyone follows something or someone. Maybe it’s a sports star or a world renowned pop singer. Perhaps you follow a serious minded scientist, philosopher, religious figure, or maybe the ever changing winds of culture beat out the path that you follow. The point remains, we all follow after something or someone.

Who we follow is no small matter because the very nature of following means we are headed toward a destination. On the micro level there are countless leaders with as many destinations. But on the macro level there are only two leaders and destinations; Jesus, to eternal life or Satan, to eternal death.  Jesus spoke of it in terms of a “narrow” or “broad” gate.

gate

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

 The narrow gate that Jesus speaks of is Himself. He alone leads us into the kingdom of God, because He alone gave His life to atone for our sins and He alone rose from the dead to bring eternal life.  sheperdThe good news is this: Jesus is ready and willing to lead you into the presence of The Father where you will find life for your spirit, rest for your soul and grace for daily living.  So who is your leader?  Embrace Jesus. He is a loving, compassionate leader who will lead you in the path of real living.

How an App is Increasing My Prayer Life

by  Danny Lightner

PrayerMateSplash

I say it without hyperbole: An app for my phone, called “PrayerMate”, has had a huge positive influence on my prayer life. I know that praying from an app is not for everyone, but for me it has made all the difference. Let me tell you how to use it.

PrayerMate borrows from the physical world and mimics an organized collection of index cards. Imagine a card file: each of the dividers marks a new category, each of the categories contains several cards, and each card contains a prayer. Now, just take that paradigm and translate it to an app. You create your categories and cards, and each day the app presents you with a collection of items to pray for. It’s that simple!

Below is the list of categories I have created, just so you can see an example of how you could use it as well. I know that there are MANY other things I could pray about, but this is how I have started. I envision adding many other categories and subjects under those categories in the weeks to come.

  • Personal Life: When the Lord shows me something in my life that I need to work on concerning my own character, ministry, life as a husband or father, etc., I add it to this prayer list.
  • My Family: Here I have listed all the names of my immediate family members, praying for at least one of them every day.
  • My Church: Here is a list of all the different ministries at FFC (children’s, youth, missions, etc.), as well as “big picture” things that we are praying through as a church (currently, the issue with our facilities, a more specific vision, outreach events, and more).
  • Unbelievers: There are certain unbelievers I am burdened for, and I pray for them here. These may be people in our family, neighborhood, or at church.
  • The Nations: God is giving me a greater passion for what he is doing around the world, so here I pray for the advancement of the gospel. One of the great features about this app is that you can subscribe to certain feeds, so I have chosen to subscribe to the “Operation World” feed. That means that every day, a country of the world pops up on my phone and I’m given facts and advice about what to pray for concerning the gospel’s advancement in that country.
  • Ministries: Here is where I pray for ministries or missionaries that Sarah and I have committed to support through prayer and/or financial resources.
  • Friends/Family:  When I tell a friend or extended family member, “I will pray for you!”, this is the category that I add them to.

So, there are just some examples of the categories that I have set up so far. Each morning, before my kids wake up and the house starts to get crazy and noisy, I spend time in God’s word (the “515 Reading Plan” right now!). Then, I pray using the acronym TACOS (because food works for me), which stands for:

Thanksgiving, Adoration, Confession, Others, Self

I use the passage that I just read in Scripture to guide my prayer time through the “T”, “A”, “C” items. So, for example, if I just read Ephesians 1, I would spend time in Thanksgiving and Adoration, praising the Lord for adopting me into His family, and then I would enter a time of Confession about times that I fail to remember that I am His child.

When I get to the “others” and “self” portion of this model, that’s when I grab my phone and use PrayerMate. The app is FREE, and it is available for Apple and Android devices.

Why not give it a try?

 

Pushing Past Comfort Zones

By Michael Howland

I am the first person to admit that I am no good at any sports involving a ball, with a few exceptions. As such, I wanted my son Josiah to have the opportunity to try out and learn the basics of sports while he is young. This is mostly so that if he were ever invited to participate, he wouldn’t be embarrassed to say “yes.” (Like I am speaking for myself)

We have been able to enroll Josiah is soccer and most recently have had Josiah enrolled in Upward Football and Upward Basketball. Josiah loves it. The atmosphere is positive and is a great place to learn the basics, while also learning about the Lord, encouraging one another and so much more.

This year we re-enrolled Josiah in basketball, we had him all registered and suddenly I get an email… “We are struggling to find a coach for this team…if no parents step up to teach this team, this team will need to dissolve!” I didn’t hesitate… and typed. One of the most painful emails I’ve ever sent. I admitted, very transparently, that I know VERY little about basketball but I did not want the team to dissolve, so if using me kept the team in existence, I would try my best to learn and guide.image

Not a surprise, they wanted to use me. (Beggars can’t be choosers) They invited me to a training meeting and assured me that everything would go well and I would learn all I needed to know in the meeting and through their online resources. Well, the meeting went WAY over my head and the online resources do have training videos, but regrettably no videos for any of the drills I was supposed to lead the students through. Worse yet, the kids are all ranked according to skill and I looked at my son, who is the 2nd from the bottom on the skill level chart. I look at myself – seeing nothing but a willing spirit to help him. I knew in my own strength, I was not going to be of much help to my son. I NEEDED HELP!

God gave me the vision to ask the men who had taught the Summer Upward basketball camp kids at FFC if they would consider joining me for one night to help me teach the kids what I really couldn’t offer them myself. My theory was that it would be easier to get 8 men to take one week each, than to ask a couple men to help for multiple weeks. To my delight and in much answered prayer, several men stepped up and partnered with me! I was not alone. God even gave me an assistant coach to help out from Valley – who is VERY knowledgeable in basketball. (I feel like I’m really his assistant!) It seems that God just needed me to step out in faith and to surround myself with people who would strengthen areas I was weak in. I knew I could at least offer encouragement to the kids, minimal skill assistance and I could run the devotionals for every practice time.

imageEach week these men have come out, Jamie, Jason, Steve, Erik, Adam, etc… and each time the men have been so wonderful to connect with the kids, encourage them, guide them and give one on one coaching to students who needed some tips and pointers. One even came back a second week because he loved the kids and the sport so much! I couldn’t be more thankful and I have felt God’s presence very much beside me in this.

imageDo you feel God asking you to push your comfort zones? Do you feel insufficient, weak or inadequate? Maybe God is asking for you to take a leap of faith. Maybe there are men or women who ARE stronger that you can intentionally surround yourself with that can help you to achieve God’s call for your life. I am going to do what it takes to invest in my son, even if it means gathering a village to help raise him. God gave Moses and Aaron – when Moses was insecure about his speaking abilities. He reminds us that (2 Cor. 12:9) “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
I am so thankful for the men that have surrounded me , and for the strength the Lord himself has given to help make me a stronger father to my son, Josiah

Whose Job Is It?

 

little girl 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at the list below…whose job is it:

Kissing boo boos?                                             Mom’s

Changing a flat tire?                                         Dad’s

Dishes?                                                                  Big sister

Allow kids to jump on the furniture?       Grandma!

Learn to walk?                                                   The Baby!

Spiritual Training?                                           The Church…. Or is it??

No stereotyping intended here… I just want to chat about some possible misconceptions we might have.  Everyone at our house has done dishes at one time or another and I’ve even changed a tire!  But I definitely DID have the wrong idea about our kids and their spiritual training when they were younger.  Because I was not raised in a Christian home, I really thought I was good to go as long as I brought my kids to Sunday School and Kids Church on a regular basis.
Spiritual Instruction…CHECK!

But then someone shared some different ideas, which I want to share with you. Take a look at the numbers below  of sample week for a child/pre-teen:

168 hours in a week
-60 Sleeping
-35 School
-30 screen time (this is conservative for a lot of families)
-10 extracurricular activity
-10 playing
-10 eating
-7 chores
-3 errands/car time
-3 church

Yes, I know there are lots of variables in your family that would change these numbers.  I’ve asterisked (is that even a word??!!)  the ones that have potential to influence kids, positive and negative.  If you are diligent to bring your child to church every week then you can count on three hours of spiritual input.  Even that is only 2% of a total week or 3% of waking hours!  What’s my point?  Even if you are the MOST FAITHFUL church attender – never missing – never sick – never have any family things to attend out of town…the instruction your child gets here is NOT ENOUGH!

Check this out, from Deuteronomy 11:

18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

I know that it would be much simpler if it said, “Take them to Sunday school once a week and I, the Lord Your God, will be pleased and will cause your kids to be pleasant and joyful human beings.”   Nice thought, huh?

stock-footage-a-father-reads-to-his-children-from-the-holy-bible1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So if this is true and the Bible does say it’s mainly your responsibility (which it does), why Sunday School?  Why Children’s Ministry? Because many of you NEED SUPPORT!  We are your BEST CHEERLEADERS!!!  Let us help you do the best job you can do! Need ideas? Here’s just a few:

  • PRAY together.  Let the kids lead this!
  • Set aside time as often as possible to read a story from a Children’s Bible.   Need a good Bible recommendation? LMK
  • Memorize your child’s Awana verses with them!
  • Bring God into everyday conversation:  When you see something cool – give God credit:  “God makes cool sunsets, huh, kids??”  When something is hard, talk about what God might be trying to teach all of you through the challenge.  It might be awkward at first, but will be a blessing for all of you eventually!  Trust me on this
  • Instead of Sponge Bob (my hubby says it sucks the brains out of little kids anyway! Lol), look up some great video content on Right Now Media!  It’s free – Just ask Pastor Danny and he’ll get you signed up.

An important note…What if YOU are young in your faith?  It doesn’t matter!  Learn and grow together!  Start somewhere!   The more you do it the more it will become a vital and important part of your time with your child.

So, I could break into some sappy song like Wind Beneath Your Wings… Or I could tell you that your child’s spiritual health is VERY IMPORTANT to us and we’ll do everything we can to help you!  (Are you singing the song now???)  When you spend time teaching and praying and sharing about God, it will never be time wasted.  Blessings all around!

GO TEAM GO!!!

 

 

Better Late Than Never

By David Bush

biblical manhood1

I’ve had the privilege over the past few years to be a part of the Men’s Fraternity classes on Wednesday nights. As the leader of a breakout group, I would have the opportunity to facilitate discussion and encourage men to apply the lessons that were taught via video by Pastor Robert Lewis.

One of the points Pastor Lewis made repeatedly was the fact that boys today are missing out on a significant rite of passage that used to be imbedded in the fabric of nearly all cultures. In past generations, the transition from boyhood to manhood was overseen by fathers and the men of a tribe, clan, or village. It was sometimes conferred ceremonially, at other times by inclusion in adult activities.

In the void of this kind of cultural affirmation, today’s adolescents and young men are left to wonder if they possess what it takes to be a man. Our culture is often filling this void with suggestions that manhood is comprised of things that are associated more with rebellion, violence, and unsafe or unhealthy practices than virtue or maturity.

As the father of four boys, I was convicted that I had a responsibility to not only define what a biblical man was, but to affirm to my sons that they were on their way to achieving this goal. I shared with the men in my breakout group my desire to take action in this area, and started to think about what a “manhood ceremony” would look like. Weeks turned to months, and months turned to more than a year. When my oldest son graduated from college, my second son got engaged to be married, and my third son was approaching 18, the realization came to me that it was “now or never” to fulfill my responsibility and commitment.

Manhood Ceremony BUSH

With all of my family home for Christmas break, and my two oldest son’s girlfriend and fiancé in town as well, I executed my plan. Along with one set of grandparents, we all went out for a nice semi-private dinner. Retiring to our home for dessert, I read to all a list of the things that I thought comprised biblical manhood, and contrasted this with what our culture suggested manhood meant. I then affirmed to each of my three oldest where they had met the qualifications of biblical manhood, shared something of the heritage they would now be a part of sustaining, and expressed my love and pride for each of them. I concluded the speech by presenting each with a special commemorative gift.

Will this be a game-changer for my boys? I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that I have had the opportunity to publically express my thoughts, God’s word, and my love and pride in a memorable and tangible way. My boy’s grandparents were able to see how their faith and involvement in their lives was bearing fruit that will pass to another generation. Two likely future wives of my oldest sons were able to hear a biblical definition of manhood and see ways that their men were achieving this. And a youngest son was given a picture of manhood and a goal to strive for.

All this, plus I got to fulfill a commitment I made to my band of brothers. Better late than never.

 

A Thankful Heart…

November 20, 2014 | By Sherri Stufflebeem

thankful heart

When I was elementary age, our ‘California cousins’ came for a visit – two boys that were just a couple years older than my brother and me. We enjoyed lots of antics together!  One thing I still remember – I was so intimidated by their good manners – they were impeccable!  I thought WE had good manners until THEY showed up at the dinner table! They were respectful, did not fight with each other (at least that I saw), and rarely forgot to say please and thank you! I was in disbelief that anyone could be ‘that good’,  and I knew that expectations for my brother and me were going to increase after my parents saw that example! I was right – the bar was raised!  Ugh.

Good manners are definitely important. It makes conversation pleasant and makes interaction with others something we enjoy and look forward to. No matter how much time we invest in teaching this skill to our kids, what’s more important than a well-trained thank you is HAVING A THANKFUL HEART. Sounds obvious.  Sounds even somewhat easy. But it is contrary to our culture and the sinful nature that resides in us!

How.do.we.do.this?  How do we help our kids do this?  Here’s some food for thought:

  • Understanding who we are in Christ is vital. (Gal 2:20, Rom 5:8) We don’t DESERVE anything good. Even so, THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE has chosen to call us HIS CHILDREN. This is a life-changing concept!
  • PRACTICE a thankful heart! LOOK for things to be thankful for EVERY DAY.  Instead of dwelling on the negative, CHOOSE to find the bright spot in the tough situation. “Where is God’s hand in this?” Tell yourself, “HE is up to something good – I just know it!  Even if I can’t see it.”

With Thanksgiving just around the corner and Christmas following, we find ourselves first reminded of the importance of being thankful, followed closely by the pressure of gift giving. How do we keep perspective through it all?  I don’t have pat answers, but I do know that whatever we focus on will become reality.

Maybe we can decide BEFOREHAND what is most important. Instead of letting the TV convince your child of all the toys they need to have, push the off button and take time to read the Christmas story over a few nights (add special treats!)  Spend time talking about the spiritual meaning behind our common traditions (Google is your friend).

We can impact the holidays by what we choose to think and talk about. When you’re together at Thanksgiving, start a list of things you’re thankful for. Keep adding to the list all though the holidays! Don’t forget to add things that are not THINGS!  (good health, how much gramma loves you, etc…)  This will definitely help to develop an attitude of gratitude!

Giving (and receiving) with the right motive is key to having a grateful heart and having a grateful heart can revolutionize the way you live your life.

Joy in All Circumstances…

November 13, 2014 | Anonymously submitted
bag of lemons

Most of my adult life has been spent chasing after joy. I wish I could tell you that means my days are spent at the Father’s feet, fully submitted to Him and experiencing the joy that comes from a life dependent on Him.

Sadly, no. My life has been spent learning the life lessons that we are presented with, where we are given two choices:

Door # 1) Choose joy despite the life circumstances I am faced with, finding my joy in Him and faithfully following where He is leading…

Or…

Door #2) Grumble and complain and cry out to God about how unfair He is being to His child…

Want to guess which door I choose more often than not? While I’m sure the suspense is killing you, I will go ahead and confess that I struggle with finding joy. I will be the first to grumble when my toddler interrupts my sleep (unfortunately, I’m not the mama that jumps out of bed eager for a snuggle at 1AM), the first to grumble when I’m cleaning up a mess, the first to whine at “bad news”, the first to complain when I am inconvenienced, and the least likely to offer to make everyone lemonade when I am handed a sackful of life-lemons.

Yes, Door #2 is the door I turn the knob and walk through time-after-time. I don’t write this to make light, but to point out that while life is tough, one lesson I’ve learned is that my response toward God when circumstances take an unexpected turn is so indicative of what is going on in my heart, what I am clinging to in life, and where God ranks.

A few years ago, my husband lost his job at a local architecture firm. During that time, our then two-year-old daughter became very ill and was hospitalized. Over the following months, I wrestled over and over with God, questioning His goodness, His will, and His provision. More than anything, I wrestled with joy. How could I be joyful when our world was turned upside-down? How could I be joyful, when I couldn’t count on a specific amount of money rolling into our bank account? How could I be joyful when my daughter’s health was at risk during such an uncertain stage of life? How could I find joy when something was taken away?

Over the course of nine-months of unemployment, God continually showed His faithfulness despite my wandering heart. Slowly, He showed me how he had placed our family on the hearts of friends who sacrificially gave, some anonymously and some face-to-face. It was humbling and it was the picture of a God who shows great mercy. He showed how our days were filled with the giggles of two young children, playing and relishing the fact that mommy and daddy were home, oblivious as to the reason why. Those days became known as “family day every day” and it is how we continue to refer to our time at home all together on the weekends. He showed me the value in supporting my husband and encouraging him, even though my insides were shaky. But, He was most faithful in helping me discover joy. Joy in all circumstances. It’s not to say that unemployment was without it’s challenges, but we had joy. We walked in complete dependence on God, not just for our physical needs, but our spiritual fulfillment as well. In return, He filled our hearts with complete joy. It was the greatest lesson in joy I have ever learned. We often reflect on that time fondly. It seems weird, I know, but that’s what makes joy different.

Joy is a heart that is centered on God, who is the source of all joy. John Piper said it best:

He alone is the source of full and lasting pleasure. Therefore, His commitment to uphold and display His glory is not in vain, but virtuous. God is the one being for whom self-exaltation is an infinitely loving act. If He revealed Himself to the proud and self-sufficient and not to the humble and dependent, He would belittle the very glory whose worth is the foundation of our joy.

It’s so true. I had greater joy when our life was stripped down to the point where we couldn’t count on ourselves anymore. We used to be so self-sufficient, and didn’t really need Him much. We ordered our lives how we wanted it, without thinking if we were obedient to where Jesus was leading us. We were “happy” because things were going our way, but not “joyful” because of our complete enjoyment in Jesus. It took stripping so much for me to grasp how I had ordered my life and Jesus didn’t fit.

There are times when my heart wants to wander back to self-sufficiency. When that happens, it’s His voice that I hear calling me back.

” Walk with me. Abide in me. Don’t lean on your own understanding, lean into me. Find your joy in me.” 

Each of us are faced with life’s challenges. Maybe you are in a difficult season of parenting, or your heart is desperately yearning to be a parent. Maybe you are facing illness, financial struggles, or job loss. Maybe you have relationships that need healing or are in a season of trials that has lasted longer than you think you can endure. There is joy to be found not in circumstances going our way, but in the presence of the Lord.

Psalm 16:11 says, “You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Yes, I still chase after joy. I still have to be reminded that my joy cannot be found in anything other than Jesus. While it will be a lesson I am presented with over and over again, in His mercy, He reminds me that no matter my circumstances, He is the source of joy.