Finding Progress in 2018

“Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all his ways.” — James 1:8

2018 is a good time to “un-commit” to everything we are not sure or confident of.

By Tom Yerman

Throughout this year we will be faced with a variety of situations, ideas, and needs that will tug on our hearts: “Do this. Fix that. Do something!” As worthy as each of them might seem to be, over time they can accumulate…and weigh us down.

As these tasks and obligations accumulate, we can find ourselves mentally, emotionally—even spiritually—struggling over one or more of them, causing us to become bogged down. We may even find ourselves wrestling with doubt, doubt not just in what we should or should not do, but also in how we might do something.

The word doubt in James 1:6 is defined as being in strife with oneself, i.e., to doubt, hesitant, or waver.  In James 1:8, the person who doubts is described as being “unstable in all his ways.” The Amplified Bible adds specific detail: “in everything he thinks, feels, or decides.”

The beginning of a New Year is a good time to put aside things about which we are unsure or hesitant, trusting God for clarity and provision at the proper time.

A brother reminded me, “we can’t be totally committed to one thing if we reserve some commitment to things we are unsure of.” As we “un-commit” to everything we’re not definite about, we will find ourselves in a better position to totally commit to that about which we can be fully certain.

In other words, replace doubt about uncertain things with faith in what we know for sure. Faith must embody everything we do!

It is by faith we are saved, and it is with faith that we move forward. Faith is having a settled trust and confidence in God. It’s a practical matter that expresses itself in our daily lives—especially in the way we respond to all kinds of trials.

The stability of our faith affects the stability of our entire person, life, and ministry. As we move forward in the coming year, we must continue not only to maintain a sincere faith, but also to grow a stronger faith.

James helps us understand the importance of developing such a mature faith.

  • Faith produces perseverance when it’s tested.
  • Perseverance builds maturity when we let it finish its work.
  • In maturity, we lack nothing spiritually.

As we strive to live a life of faith distinctively expressed (not vague or doubtless), we must establish our faith, keeping it precisely focused. Our focus must remain on that which is stable and unchanging—something we can fully rely upon, something we can love with all our heart, something we can have an undivided devotion for, and something that is always good.

Let me give some color to that word good:

  • Good provides confidence.
  • Good is precise, flawlessly established with truth.
  • Good promotes a healthy self-image.
  • Good produces high standards.
  • Good points to an unmistakable path and future.
  • Good is proven, limitless, the best—in other words, perfect.

This “something” that is always good is better described as someone—namely, Jesus Christ. He is the one person in our lives who must matter most! Spiritual progress demands his kind of love, devotion, and drive!

Jesus is certainly the only one we can always rely upon to meet our needs and know without hesitation that God is with us: God cannot deny himself; he is faithful. As we keep in step with Jesus, we will find ourselves equipped for every good work—everything we exercise our faith to do. This is why we must consciously keep our mind, our energy, and our faith in Jesus—the one whom we can be definite about.

James 1:16-18 (ESV) states, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

Every good and perfect gift is from God. In his sovereignty and will he has given us a new birth. We are the first fruits, the initial harvest, who live anticipating the redemption of creation. Jesus Christ was born to die that we might live out the why he died—with, for, and in him. Let us “hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (Jas. 2:1) as we put aside the things we are unsure of and move forward in the things we are certain about.

In him, we find the inspiration and ability to progress both inwardly and outwardly. May our steps be firm and our faith rich as we progress and grow in bringing glory to him who loves us most!

The blessing and honor and glory and power are forever his. He is the Creator of heaven and earth and our Maker, who is absolute and infinite Lord over all. He is the Almighty and All-Sufficient One who is Sovereign and King. He is our Banner, our Victory, and our Covering, the completely Self-Existing One who is the great I Am. He is God, and our advantage is in knowing: God is!

I’ve shared my heart in this writing, but I would also like to share this video, which comes from John Piper. I took a moment to sit back, close my eyes, and be refreshed in the awe of the simple but profound fact that, God is. I trust you will be refreshed by it as well.

Tom Yerman is an FCA Pastor ministering at Living Hope Church in Elk Grove Village.

 

 

How to Pray When Tragedy Strikes

By Scott Neubauer

There have been no shortage of heart-wrenching tragedies in just the past few months. 2017 has been the deadliest year for mass shootings in modern history, with Las Vegas and now Sutherland Springs, Texas, being the most recent. In addition, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria wreaked havoc in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico; a major earthquake devastated part of Mexico.

After each one, you’ll undoubtedly begin to see the photos emblazoned with, “Pray For (Insert Location of Latest Disaster or Tragedy)” begin to flood social media. These will be followed by another chorus of those saying thoughts and prayers are meaningless in light of such tragedy.

If we believe that our God is, “a hearer of prayer,” as Psalm 65 says, then true prayer is not trite or inactive: it’s powerful and an entirely appropriate and necessary response in the face of tragedy. But while it’s easy to post, “Pray for Texas,” it’s harder to actually do it.

“How do I pray?”
“What do I pray for?”
“Who do I pray for?”

I’d like to offer just a few ways I believe we can pray biblically when disaster or tragedy strikes:

1. Pray that those affected receive God’s comfort.

Many Scriptures speak of how God comforts the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18, Ps. 147:3, Ps. 94:19, Matt 5:4, Is. 43:2), but if you’ve ever been around someone experiencing grief, you know that they need to be willing to be comforted. The question is not whether God will comfort the grieving, it’s whether the grieving will be open to receive it.

2 Corinthians 1:5 tells us the more abundant the suffering, the more abundant God’s comfort. So when you pray, pray that those affected would be open and ready to receive the comfort and peace that only God can provide.

2. Pray against fear.

Scripture is clear that the enemy comes to, “steal, kill, and destroy,” and one of the ways he does that through tragic events like these — beyond those directly affected — is by bringing a spirit of fear.

If we are not prayerful and confident of who we are in Christ, we can easily become crippled by a spirit of fear. Afraid to go to the mall, afraid to board a plane, afraid to go a large city. Pray for courage, confidence, and peace to prevail over fear, especially in the hearts of Christians. If our Savior has truly conquered death, then there is nothing to fear, not even death.

3. Pray for restoration.

Few people in all of humanity have faced an onslaught of disaster and tragedy like Job, and yet, in Job 42:10, we read,

“And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.”

Our God is a restorer. Our God takes the broken pieces left from tragic situations and turns them into something beautiful. We can be confident in this, and pray towards this end for those facing their darkest hour.

4. Pray for the attackers.

This may be the most difficult prayer to pray.

In situations where an terrorist or attacker has embodied pure evil by taking innocent lives — and survives — we are called to pray for them. Why can Jesus say with such confidence to, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”? Because our battle is not with them. They are not the enemy.

The evil powers and principalities at work in the supernatural realm are the true enemies. When we are praying in situations like these, we must ask God to open our eyes to see the spiritual realm where the real battle is taking place.

How to Pray When We Don’t Know How to Pray

Still not sure how to pray? The disciples didn’t know how to pray. They asked Jesus and He answered. I believe the Holy Spirit will teach us, if we just ask.

“The greatest tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.”
—F.B. Meyer


Scott Neubauer is pastor of Watershed Church in Elgin, Illinois. Read more from Scott’s blog here.

The Safest Place

by John Sprecher

The past few years have seen significant social upheaval challenging the status quo. Prejudice against African Americans mistreated by the police and others has been called out, and the Black Lives Matter movement which began after police shootings in a number of cities. More recently women have responded en-mass to revelations of sexual abuse, assault, and rape occurring in Hollywood and the corporate world.

Sadly, racism, abuse, and other injustice have occurred—some hidden, some exposed—even in the church. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that the church of Jesus Christ holds the only REAL HOPE for our world. The Apostle Peter says that judgment begins “at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17), so when we point fingers at others, we also ought to examine ourselves. For instance, have we been willing to truly obey the instructions written by the Apostle John? “If someone says ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (1 John 4: 20-21, NKJV)

The challenge we face is to define what love looks like in a practical way in our communities of faith. Too often, those who are involved in wrongful behavior simply say, If you love me you’ll allow me to continue to do what I’m doing. Jesus’ comment to the woman taken in adultery is often quoted as justification: “Neither do I condemn you”; but his concluding statement (“go and sin no more”) is conveniently neglected (John 8:11). Real love holds us accountable for our actions and seeks the best for another person. It would probably be beneficial from time to time to remind ourselves of Paul’s definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13, where the primary focus is seeking the best for someone and not trying to maintain power, position, or prestige.

We can learn to love others by stirring our congregations to work for good with other believers, different denominations, and ethnic backgrounds. A number of our churches have intentionally engaged immigrants and those of color by bringing them together to understand each other better, and to care for one another.

As a result of intentional connections over the years, I’ve had the privilege of preaching at Sunday morning services at half a dozen primarily African American congregations in the city where I live. When we know each other, the suspicion goes down and the trust goes up.

I was profoundly influenced as a young teen when a black family joined our all white church in Madison Wisconsin. I will never forget my reaction when my mom told me in the early 1960s that they could not buy a house in a certain part of the city simply because they were black. Something rose up in me that has never left, and I blurted out “That’s not fair, they’re George and Doris.” It wasn’t about race; it was about my friends whose children I played with and with whom we worshiped every Sunday.

The church should be the safest place in the world—especially for the most vulnerable. That’s why we need to do all we can to protect our children, our women, our minorities and any suffering injustice. That’s why we need to truly show the love of Christ who said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13, NKJV). We must lay aside our prejudice, our blindness, and embody the love of Jesus Christ.

John Sprecher, after serving for decades as a pastor in Rockford, Illinois, is now the Lead Elder of the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies in the U.S.

A Fresh Look at Exodus

The Exodus Case, reviewed by Sune K. Andersson

For years I’ve been fascinated with the Exodus story. The miraculous escape of the people of Israel out of Egypt and out from under Pharaoh’s oppressive slavery fired my imagination.

In my early ministry years in Sweden, I was intrigued by the ancient cultures of Bible lands. As student body president of the Community College of Karlskoga, Sweden, I coordinated a tour to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, and Cyprus for our graduating class, which proved to be a vivid visual and emotional encounter with biblical history and geography.

My interest only grew when I enrolled later in a Bible Geography class taught by Sam Smith at Seattle Bible College. Smith gave us an assignment: memorize copious amounts of data and pinpoint the exact locations of biblical places and events on a blank sheet of paper. Since then I’ve given the same assignment to my own students—ministry leaders in Latin America.

Even with all that history, however, I learned so much more—a number of new archaeological discoveries confirming the historical Exodus—in a fascinating book, The Exodus Case. The author is Lennart Möller, a medical doctor and professor at the Karolinska Institute, the medical university of Stockholm, Sweden. Möller’s diverse background includes studies in marine biology, limnology, and chemistry at the universities of Stockholm and Uppsala. His avocational interests, however, also contributed significantly to his research—photography, minerals, scuba diving, and archaeology.

Amazon.com offers a number of reader comments about The Exodus Case:

  • New archaeological discoveries and evidence of Exodus as an historical event.
  • Understand the location of the Exodus…[and the] Pharaoh and Moses conflict.
  • Reveals the discoveries of a team of scientists and researchers who travel in the footsteps of Moses and the Israelites on their journey from Egypt to Canaan.

The book, however, goes beyond the story of the Exodus to cover biblical and ancient history from Abraham to to Mount Sinai (Genesis 11:27 to Exodus 40:38). Some of the questions it addresses include: Is the real Mount Sinai, “Horeb,” located in today’s Saudi Arabia? Where did Moses lead the people of Israel through the Red Sea? Where was Ur? Is there a place where burning sulfur has fallen? Does Mount Sinai have a lot of water in the middle of the desert? Is Joseph in Egyptian history? What about Moses’ role in Egyptian history? What was the route of Exodus?

The book is filled with charts, tables, color illustrations, photos, and even satellite images. It was fascinating for me to read about archaeological evidence of the Egyptian army at the bottom of the Red Sea. In my view, The Exodus Case is an investment well worth it for ministers and Bible teachers who want to gain a greater understanding of the Genesis and Exodus books of the Bible. I believe it will prove to be an excellent resource for preaching, teaching, Sunday school and home school study.

Sune K. Andersson has a M.A. in Missiology from Fuller Theological Seminary and has served as a missionary with the FCA since 1974.

 

Inspirational and Generational

This morning we heard from two young leaders in our fellowship who shared about the importance of having an overflow of God in our lives that impacts our lives and ministries and lasts for generations.

 

 

Daniel Johnson, Associate Pastor of Gracepoint Gospel Fellowship, reminded everybody that “In the Kingdom of God ‘Just-Enough’ is not enough. God wants to give you an overflow!”  He went on to elaborate that we are called to minister out of the overflow of what God is speaking to us, of who God is in us, of His word, and of what God has done and is doing in our lives. If we minister out of the overflow we won’t run dry or burn out!

 

 

After a brief break for fellowship and snacks, we jumped right back into it with Stephen Zarlengo, Young Adults Pastor at Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle. Stephen shared that the idea of generations isn’t something humanity created but is a reflection of the Trinity;  something between the Father and Son. It’s out of that overflow that we came into existence. As the church, we need all generations in order to be the proper reflection of the Father. As we value each generation and what they bring to ministry as we work together we will be able to go above and beyond from generation to generation. He left us with this challenge that the roof of the older generation’s lives would become the floors of the younger generations so that we may take the kingdom to a new level.

 

I ENCOURAGE YOU TO FOLLOW ALONG ON THE BLOG, SOCIAL MEDIA AND ON THE LIVESTREAM IF YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO BE PRESENT…AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION ONLINE: WE’LL BE USING THE HASHTAGS #FCACONVENTION AND#OUTOFTHEOVERFLOW THROUGHOUT THE WEEK SO THAT WE CAN ALL BE PART OF WHAT GOD IS DOING IN US AS A FELLOWSHIP AND AS MINISTERS.