“For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” 2 Timothy 1:5
Words of affirmation are like oxygenated blood to tired muscles. They bring strength when one is weary and serve as building blocks for greater maturity. Let me assure you, every person you have influence with is looking and longing for you to identify growth and godliness that is occurring in their life. The lack of affirmation is often the missing ingredient to a well-developed life.
Like yeast is to bread, so are your affirming words that encourage godly growth. If we are to become strong disciple makers, we must develop the art of specifically encouraging the faith of Christ’s followers. Broad generalities will not do; we must give them particular insight as to how we see them maturing in their faith. Look for windows of opportunity to pinpoint how you see Christ at work in them, and you will become like a mirror where they can see growth in godliness as well.
Never underestimate timely words of true affirmation. If we desire to present people complete in Christ, such words must not be absent in our relationships. In reality they are life-giving ingredients that inspire hope and growth in people’s lives. Everyone benefits when words of grace are communicated from the heart.
Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. Acts 4:13
Confidence in Christ gives us the strength to be calm in our storms.
Storms can be very unsettling. If you have ever been caught in a hurricane, torrential thunderstorm, tornado, or snowstorm, you have come face to face with your own limitations. Case in point: Jesus sending the disciples to cross the lake of Galilee in the face of an approaching storm while He went on the mountain to pray (Mark 6:45-52). Jesus prayed. The disciples panicked. Sound familiar?
You likely will recall what Jesus taught His terrified men when He walked on the water and approached them in the midst of their wind driven trial, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” We even know that He astonished them by completely calming the storm. The storm was necessary to continue to soften their hardened hearts (Mark 6:52) and teach them of His deity, His power, and the peace that comes from His presence. Jesus knows the outcomes of the storm before it even occurs.
As slow to learn as the first disciples seemed to be, they did eventually learn the secret to standing strong in the midst of mayhem. Several years later, some of these same disciples faced a storm of a different nature, one that involved hostility from the Jewish leaders and imprisonment for proclaiming that Jesus is the resurrected Christ (Acts 4:1-22).
This time things were different, because Peter and John were different. They had learned how to find strength in the face of a storm by:
Being “filled with the Holy Spirit”. (v.8)
Trusting fully in the sovereign Lordship of Christ. (vv. 10-12)
“Having been with Jesus”. (v.13)
We, too, face a wide variety of unsettling circumstances and must learn the same lesson. Confidence in Christ gives us the strength to be calm in our storms.
As we journey together through this pandemic, let us continue to grow in our dependence and delight in Christ who is our salvation, security, and hope. Let us look not only at our circumstances; but more importantly, let us learn to just be with Jesus, who is the sovereign Lord overall and over all of us. I invite you to explore our website at www.fellowshipwaco.org and discover how to connect with the ministries, messages, and resources we have to encourage our hearts and build our confidence in Christ.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Dependence upon God assures us of His
guidance in life.
If we are
following Jesus, we truly want His leadership in our life. However, the question we face is, “How does
the unseen God direct the lives of His people?”
How can believers in Christ truly have confidence in His divine
presents to us this timeless principle: Dependence
upon God assures us of His guidance in life.
I have found
the following practices to be of great value in seeking to be actively dependent
upon God, and I pass it on to you so that you may do the same with others:
Dependence upon God is …
to have my way of life daily shaped by the Word of God. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
go of my will by yielding to God’s will.
to God as I pray during the day.
to wise counsel before making big decisions.
by faith in Christ, as one being filled with His Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18-21)
the results to God as I move forward by faith.
(1 Cor. 3:6-7)
cannot see God, we can experience His leading as we follow His precepts and are
filled with His presence. He will lead.
The question is, are we willing to follow by faith?
“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
Ok. I will admit
it. When we made our appearances at the
hospital for the delivery of each of our children, we didn’t have any of the
babies’ names picked out. We just showed
up with a list of possibilities. In
fact, when our fourth child was born, it was hours before we settled on a name.
I am not sure what we were thinking; or
even if we were thinking. After all, names are pretty important – like they
usually last for a long time!
But with the apex of history arriving with the promised coming of Christ, the unveiling of His human name came before the Eternal Son of God entered into humanity. Even before He was supernaturally conceived in His mother Mary’s womb, God the Father revealed the name by which He was and is to be called. His name would be above all other names (Phil. 2:9-10). This would be a name that would speak to His eternal mission even prior to His earthly incarnation. God precisely named His Son Jesus, which is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua (Yeshua), which means “Yahweh saves” or “God is salvation.”
Jesus’ human name spoke of His divine mission of rescuing people from the penalty of their sin and securing salvation for those who will believe in Him. One of the ways God demonstrated to Joseph, and all of the rest of humanity, that Mary’s pregnancy was a divine act, was that He had an angel independently tell both Joseph and his future wife, Mary, that the child’s name was to be Jesus (see Matt. 1:21 and Luke 1:31).
Jesus is not to be just a familiar name, but the continual focus of our faith. Our relationship with God begins and matures as we grow in knowing the depth of who Jesus is and the life that we have in His name. There is something about the Messiah’s name that calms our troubled hearts, gives us courage in the face of our fears, and warms our hearts to the greatness of His salvation. This Christmas let the name of Jesus be on your tongue and rejoice in His presence in your life. After all, there is power in the name of Jesus for, “There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Gratitude is the gift that keeps on giving.
you considered just how great a difference gratitude makes in a person’s
life? The evidence is impressive. A growing body of
research has tied an attitude of gratitude with a number of positive emotional
and physical health benefits. A November
23, 2010 article in The Wall Street
Journal summarized the research:
“Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy, or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly, and have greater resistance to viral infections.”
“Now, researchers are finding that gratitude brings similar benefits in children and adolescents. Studies also show that kids who feel and act grateful tend to be less materialistic, get better grades, set higher goals, complain of fewer headaches and stomach aches, and feel more satisfied with their friends, families, and schools than those who don’t.”
The researchers concluded, “A lot of these findings are
things we learned in kindergarten or our grandmothers told us, but now we have
scientific evidence to prove them …. The key is not to leave it on the
Gratitude is the gift that keeps on giving. As we learn to give thanks in everything, God’s will is accomplished, people are appreciated, God is glorified, and we are blessed in far greater ways than we may have imagined. Christ is the Author and Perfecter of our faith and gratitude helps us savor His grace in the story of our lives. His work in us and through us continues as we grow to express gratitude. The best way to prepare for Thanksgiving is to practice it each day along the way.
“O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”2 Chronicles 20:12
Where we look determines how we live.
Difficulties have a way of demoralizing us. All of us have first-hand experience with hurt and hardships. Try as we might, trials, and even tragedy, are unavoidable. We are fallen people living in a failing world. Job nailed it when he declared, “For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).
So how do we live when life is crumbling all
around us? Must we simply endure the
pain of our problems? Where is the high
road when we feel so low?
When the weights of the world seem to be crushing us down, it is only by looking up to the God of heaven that we will find the help we so desperately need. Do not wait for favorable feelings. They may be few and far between when difficulties lead to despair. Rather, direct your heart back to trusting God and ask Him to change your desire when your flesh is resistant to the idea.
2 Chronicles 20 gives a picture of living by faith in the face of immense difficulties. Follow in these footsteps and find yourself rising above your painful circumstances by: 1) recalling God’s character (20:6); 2) remembering God’s faithfulness (20:7-9); and 3) refocusing on God’s presence (20:12).
We need not fear or be dismayed. God will accomplish His purposes and win our battles – both the ones in our world and in our hearts (2 Chron. 20:15, 20-30). No matter what we are facing, we must learn to rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 3:1; 4:4). Where we look determines how we live. We live by faith in Christ. He is the One who loves us and will never leave us. Look up.
If you are looking for a place to seek and worship God, join us on Sunday mornings at 9:00am and 10:45am or check out past messages on our Vimeo site. We also have several care ministries designed to help you seek God in times of trouble.
Ryan McCreery, Associate Pastor of Ministry Development
This summer over a hundred adults went through the book of Jonah together here at Fellowship in a weekly Bible study. This 8-week study seemed to have a profound impact on those who attended and sought to apply this Old Testament Scripture to their lives. As a way to wrap up the study and summer together, I thought I would share my personal take-aways from Jonah.
I heard many people say, “I am like Jonah,
more than I thought.” I couldn’t agree more. It is easy to read stories from
the Bible and think we would have responded differently. However, when we slide
into Jonah’s sandals and walk a mile in his place, we experience just how difficult
it is following God when we merely consider life from our own perspective.
You see, this book of the Bible is best known for the miracle which took place inside a fish. After being swallowed up, Jonah was in the belly of a big fish for three days, three nights and lived to tell about it. However, the greatest emphasis ought to be given to how God demonstrated His compassion for the people of a foreign city called Nineveh, and His calling on Jonah’s life to share with them His grace. For this is the only book in the Old Testament where God sends one of His people to the “gentiles” – to the nations – to share His desire for them to turn from their evil ways so that He might relent from judging them.
When Jonah received this calling to share, he disobeyed. He thought God’s plan was unfair, and quite frankly, inconvenient and a distraction from what he ought to be doing to serve God. He felt the Ninevites did not deserve God’s love because of how evil they were acting. In fact, as part of the Assyrian nation, the Ninevites were an immediate threat to Israel, Jonah’s country. It did not make sense to Jonah why God would give them an opportunity to repent, so he up and left. Additionally, God’s plan was quite inconvenient for Jonah. Instead of staying safe in his country, God called him to “Arise, go to Nineveh” hundreds of miles away. God encouraged Jonah to live on mission, completely dependent on Him, rather than living for self and doing what looked right in his own eyes.
This book will shake your foundation and get your attention if you are currently living for yourself. Are you like Jonah? I know I am, when living selfishly, apart from God. When I choose to live for myself, I am unconcerned with the people around me and I am following an agenda that best benefits my goals. If things don’t go my way, I merely see it as a setback versus seeing the situation from God’s perspective. People become servants helping me to accomplish my tasks, instead of the opposite. During these times, I certainly do not see the lost the way God does nor exercise compassion toward them.
I think Jonah serves as an excellent example
of a conflicted follower of God. There
were times when he was disobedient and other times when he obeyed. We don’t know ultimately how the end of the
story went for Jonah because of the abrupt ending of the book. However, we can conclude that Jonah was most
miserable when running from God and living in direct opposition to God’s
will. Jonah was most blessed when
turning to God and living for Him.
Therefore, as a believer in Jesus, having received grace and enjoying the steadfast love of God, let us not live like Jonah. But let us intentionally live for God, viewing others the way God does. Let us seek to serve others, rather than being served. Let us look past our differences and see that everyone is made in the image of God. Let’s be kind, gracious and merciful to each another — in our homes, in our church, and in the world. Let’s live with compassion, especially toward those who are lost and hopeless, looking to share about Jesus and the salvation that is only experienced when trusting in Him for the forgiveness of sins. Simply put, let us live for God, extending to others the very thing we have been given — grace and love.
If you joined us this summer, let me encourage you to live differently today, and every day. If you didn’t, then pick up the Bible and read the book of Jonah with this in mind. God’s compassion, grace and love is amazing; so let’s share it with everyone without prejudice, both in action and speech.
Sincerely in Christ,
a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast
love, and relenting from disaster.” – Jonah 4:4