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making the connection | July 15, 2018

July 17, 2018

Thinking about our struggle with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16) can feel hopeless and overwhelming. It’s daunting to even think of how we could begin to combat these issues. But our first step should be to look to God’s Word for encouragement in our fight. In fact, Jesus, Himself, was tempted by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life:

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:1-11, NIV)

Did you catch what Jesus did each time He was tempted? He countered Satan’s lies with the truth of God’s Word. That is what we need to do in our fight to overcome the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Paul encourages believers to do just that in his letter to the Philippians: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8, NIV) Our task of taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) shouldn’t just be about removing the temptations we face, but replacing them with things that are true and pure and praiseworthy. We can’t hope to change the way we think and act by just cutting out the bad. We need to be sure to add the good things of God as well.

So, what would that look like in your life? First, you need to identify the problem. Where do you struggle with the lust of the flesh? What desires for normal needs have grown into lusts? What about the lust of the eyes? In what areas have you moved from appreciating the beauty of things to developing the need to have those things of beauty? And where do you struggle with the pride of life? In what unhealthy ways are you striving for importance and significance?

Next, you need to identify what you could do to remove some of these temptations. Maybe you need to deactivate some social media accounts, implement some tech free days, or not spend time with certain people or at certain places. But remember, this isn’t just about cutting out the bad. So, what good God things could you add to your life? Maybe you need to listen to worship music, read the Bible, get out in nature, or spend time with people who love and support you. Make it a point this week to really think and pray through these questions. When you feel a peace about your answers, take some steps to make these changes. – Sarah Neel

for further study on this topic:

2 Corinthians 4-5, 1 John 2:15-16, Genesis 3:6, Philippians 4:8 

praise set:

This Is Amazing Grace (© 2012 Bethel Music, Seems Like Music, Sing My Songs, Phil Wickham Music, and Warner Chappell Music, performed by Phil Wickham, written by Josh Farro, Jeremy Riddle, and Phil Wickham, CCLI #6333821)

No Longer Slaves (© 2014 Bethel Music Publishing, Seems Like Music, Sing My Songs, Phil Wickham Music, and Warner Chappell Music, performed by Bethel Music, written by Jonathan David Helser and Melissa Helser, CCLI #7030123)

God I Look to You (© 2010 Bethel Music, performed by Bethel Live, written by Jenn Johnson, CCLI #5858163)

Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) (© Edwin Othello Excell, Louie Giglio, John Newton, John P. Rees, and Chris Tomlin, performed by Chris Tomlin, written by Andrew Holt, Mia Fieldes, Natalie Grant, and Seth Mosley, CCLI #7100876)

making the connection | July 8, 2018

July 9, 2018

 I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10b

Who doesn’t want a full life?! So if this is true, why do so many people struggle to find the life they are looking for? I believe it has to do with some faulty thinking of where true life is found. It also has a lot to do with how we evaluate the day to day, whether or not we are actually living a worthwhile life.

I am amazed at how different I can feel from one day to the next about what’s going on in my life. I really like helping people and getting things done. So if I’m accomplishing a bunch of stuff and able to serve some people along the way I feel pretty. However, if I have a week where little gets accomplished and I don’t have an outlet to serve someone, I start to feel unhappy and dissatisfied. Is this how I should be measuring my life – whether I feel happy or not? I know it’s not, because my circumstances can change like the weather and if I rely on them to determine what I do, I will be all over the map.

When I read in the Bible where Paul talks about having joy in the midst of very difficult circumstances, it causes me to question if happiness and joy are the same thing. I realize they are not. Far too often I analyze my life based on my level of happiness instead of trusting God. Joy takes a much bigger view and has more in mind than my immediate state of emotions. When I consider my life being in God’s hands and that He loves me and will help me along the way, I am reminded that even though this day, week, or year might be hard – it’s only temporary. Jesus did this as he lived out his life and was falsely accused, made fun of, and killed even though he broke no law. The Bible tells us, “who for the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross.” Joy requires faith in what God is doing and will do, even though we can always see it right now. This is how we can experience joy when things aren’t going the way we want them to.

In order for us to live life to the fullest, the way God intends for each of us, we need to strive to orient our thoughts and actions towards what He sees as important. If we think the world’s way of living life will satisfy us, we are going to be really disappointed in the end. Just look at all the celebrities that have more and have done more than we will ever get to. Jesus also said that if you want to find your life, you need to lose your life. He is encouraging us that as we live our lives for God’s plans and purposes, we will find true life instead of simply seeking things that bring us immediate fun and happiness. We can’t do this on our own. We need the continual strength and guidance from God’s Holy Spirit and we need to be in relationship with others striving to live life God’s way. God didn’t just save us to keep us out of hell, he also wants us to live our lives for him and not for ourselves.

Scott Nieveen

 

making the connection | July 1, 2018

July 2, 2018

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

We need to begin internalizing this verse by asking ourselves who we really are. To really claim that I am a “demolisher” or one who “takes captive” angry thoughts and feelings, I need to be clear on my identity as a child of God. I need to walk in dependence upon the Holy Spirit as I go about my life. Those who are in Christ are set free, and the verse above is all about maintaining freedom from sinful patterns of thinking and relating to others. The Spirit of God is ever-present to enable and empower us to break the cycle, even if we’ve been tossed around by our anger in the past.

This week, we need to make an important decision. We need to decide how the relationship between us and anger is going to change. Instead of being taken captive by feelings of anger, let’s discover freedom by checking angry thoughts and responses. Instead of being “demolished” and wrecking relationships in anger, let’s choose different responses to these feelings. The way forward can lead to greater freedom in Christ, but we cannot get there by continuing to “bottle up” or “explode” when angry feelings bubble up. –Nate Metler

  • Read – Every single day this week read 2 Corinthians 10:5. Reflect on what this verse says about who you are and how you can respond differently because of your relationship to Christ.
  • Recognize – Watch yourself this week and make note of situations where you commonly allow your anger to take over.
  • Explore – Ask yourself hard questions: Why am I angry? and Should I be angry? These questions can help you to see that you have a choice in your response to feelings of anger. Feelings of anger might be a reflexive response, but acting on and continuing in anger are still choices you can make.
  • Pray – Ask God to help you grow in your ability to deal with your anger.

If you know that managing your anger is a bigger issue for you, consider seeking the help of a counselor, in addition to all of the above. Our partner LifeWorks Counseling at 574-268-0448, would be happy to sit down and talk with you.

making the connection | June 24, 2018

June 26, 2018

Can you believe it’s already the end of June? Where did this month go? Before we know it, summer is going to be over. But there are still so many summery things to do before it ends. We’ve got to hurry up and get busy, right? But hold on a minute…

LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered – how fleeting my life is. (Psalm 39:4, NLT)

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. (Psalm 90:12, NLT)

Maybe, in the grand scheme of things, those life to-do lists we make aren’t all that important. Maybe life shouldn’t be about the fun experiences we want to have or the cool places we want to see but about what God wants for us. Maybe we should really only want one thing – to live. As we learned on Sunday, there are three things that need to happen if we want to live: know Christ, forget the past, and trust God in the present.

  • Knowing Christ – this is an ongoing process. But as we spend time with Him we can grow to know Him better each new day. A great way to grow in knowing Christ more is by spending time in the Word. So, make it a point this week to do just that. Read Paul’s teaching about knowing Christ in Philippians 3:7-14. You can also look at the whole story of Jesus, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus in John 11:1-44.
  • Forgetting the past – this can be really hard. But we don’t have to do this on our own. God is with us and He doesn’t hold our past against us. He is here to help us with this. So, take some time this week to identify the things from your past that you’re still holding on to. Ask God to remove any guilt, shame, or other negative emotions you still have because of the past. Ask Him to help you see yourself as He does – forgiven.
  • Trusting God in the present – this requires action. This means taking the next step. If you don’t act, you’re never going to change. So, identify the thing(s) that God is leading you to do. Be sure to spend time praying about this, asking God to make this clear to you and fill you with courage and boldness. And then, take that first step.

­– Sarah Neel

MIND GAMES

June 25, 2018

 

Do you ever feel like your days are derailed by your circumstances? Like your mood is easily thrown off by your thoughts? If you feel overwhelmed by anxiety, anger, or fear, these aren’t just mere mental battles, but rather spiritual warfare, which can lead to abusive behaviors if not accounted for properly.

Join us for our July series, Mind Games, as we learn how to defeat these strongholds by taking every thought captive and relying on the truth of God’s peace and promises for every circumstance we face.

Services are Sundays at 9 and 10:45am.

making the connection | June 17, 2018

June 18, 2018

Before I die… this message series has caused many of us to step back and think about what’s really important in life. Almost every person I have ever met has some desire deep within them to matter. They want their lives to count for more than just a simple existence on the planet. And if you consider yourself a Christ-follower, there’s much more to consider than what you want out of life. In the same way that Jesus laid down His preferences and eventually His life for us, we are instructed to align our lives with God’s priorities.

This week’s challenge was to consider how we want our lives to play out. Will we simply live them for ourselves, or will we offer ourselves to God daily to see how He might lead us? In Luke 10, we see in the parable of the Good Samaritan, who our neighbors truly are, and those we should be willing to help. And in 1 Peter 4, we are given really clear instruction about no longer living for ourselves, nor allowing our selfish desires to drive our decisions. Instead, we are to use the gifts, personalities, and relationships God has given us to love and help others in His strength. If we’re willing to go through life asking God to help us see situations and people the way He sees them, this will almost always mean we have to give up some pursuit, or stop doing something we are currently doing in order to make room in our lives for what the Lord is leading us to do. And as we do this, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will begin to lay our lives down and make small investments in things that will matter into eternity.    ­– Scott Nieveen

  • Find a quiet place and read through Luke 10:25-37.
  • Now, read through 1 Peter 4.
  • What challenges you in these passages in light of how you are living life right now?
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts into any changes He would like to help you make in your life. Share with a trusted friend what you have learned and what you sense God is wanting you to change in your life.

making the connection | June 10, 2018

June 12, 2018

How many of us can honestly say we want to die to ourselves? Without God’s work in and through us, we probably have little motivation to start this process. This weekend we continued the series Before I Die by delving into 1 Peter 4 which begins, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude‚…” Christ was willing to suffer and die, so we should be willing to suffer and die to ourselves.

As you go about your week, take time to read and reflect on this powerful chapter each day. After carefully reading and rereading 1 Peter 4, consider these questions: What have you spent too much time on in the past? How might God be calling you to grow in relationship with Him or to serve others?

To discern a way forward, we probably need to begin by distinguishing between self-care and self-serving or self-indulgent behaviors. Check out these definitions‚…

Self-care: An activity that strengthens, nourishes, or develops who we are at our core. It supports us in authentically connecting with Christ and reflecting Him to the world.

Self-indulgence: Something that feels really good, but does not have additional benefits. It is an activity that gives us momentary pleasure, but does not move us beyond ourselves.

So, the challenge over the next week is to find and replace a selfish behavior with a way of connecting to God, caring for ourselves, or serving others. To do this, we might begin by looking at behaviors in our lives that fit the definition of self-indulgence. Then, we can look at the encouragement found in 1 Peter 4:7-11. We should also spend time considering the ways God has gifted us. Those gifts are given to us to bless others. Finally, let’s consider these practical ideas:

  • Get off the couch and start moving
  • Choose to eat a healthier snack or skip dessert
  • Step outside and enjoy nature for an hour or so
  • Put down your favorite devices and open the Bible
  • Spend time processing your worries through written prayers in a journal
  • Talk to God – tell Him who you need to forgive, and ask for His help to do so
  • Create something to give away to someone else
  • Tell a friend or family member how much they mean to you
  • Clean out a closet and give away your excess
  • Find a creative way to give money to a person in need

-Nate Metler