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Sermon Questions | February 7th

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Historically, how did God pull the Jewish people through this trial?

When it comes to God’s people and the topic of persecution, it is good to keep Isaiah 55:8-9 in mind:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts. 

James is writing to the Jews in the diaspora, and many commentators believe his epistle is one of the earliest New Testament writings dated between AD 45-48. This would place James’ epistle within the context of Acts 8, which tells us, “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (v. 1).

As we see throughout the New Testament, the Lord was to use the instrument of persecution to drive the church into all parts of the known world during that first century. Most of the apostles, including James, were martyred at the hands of the Roman officials, and the tension between Jews, Christians, and the Romans continued to increase with each passing year. 

In AD 64 Rome itself burned and the emperor at that time, Nero, blamed the Christians for the devastating fire. Persecution of historic proportions followed. Both the apostles Peter and Paul were executed in the persecution following the burning of Rome.

This tumultuous decade culminated with the siege and ultimate destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Romans. The destruction of Jerusalem was not in response to Christian agitation, but was instead a response to an open rebellion by the Jews. With the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple, commonly known as Herod’s Temple, was also destroyed, thus bringing to an end almost 500 years of temple worship in Jerusalem.

How did God pull the Jewish people through this trial? Clearly, God has his purposes and plans for our lives that are many times beyond our understanding. As we learned in our recent study of the Book of Job, while God allows the existence of evil in the world, He is not the author of evil. In fact, as we saw in Job, God is in fact restraining the natural evil intentions of mankind and of the Devil who is the author of evil.

The fact that there are representatives of all 12 tribes living today, and that God has restored Israel to the promised land, with Jerusalem as its capital is evidence of God’s ability to maintain a remnant for Himself and restore the Jews to the Land. Many theologians, including me, believe that God has set aside Israel as the focus of His presence on the earth today during this time when the earth is ruled by the gentile nations. There is coming a day, however, when God will rapture the Church and His focus will again be the people of Israel, not the church. The last days, referenced as the “time of Jacob’s trouble,” or “the day of the Lord,” are a uniquely Jewish experience in which Israel and the Jews are at the very center of the world’s attention, not the church.


How do you reconcile the issue of increasing immigration and movement of refugees during this time of Islamic terrorist aggression with this passage? Some say this is a matter of discrimination or partiality.

The issues surrounding refugees and immigration are complex with many factors and motivations to consider. We live in an age where global terrorism is a sad reality and, unfortunately, anxiety drives a great many people. We must pray for our elected leaders to have wisdom in these matters. 

However, while we must take great care before evaluating the hearts of others, it does appear that some commit partiality when they subtly minimize the value God places upon each human being, including those who are hurting and in flight from oppression. Similar to the situation in James 2, Christians today can become comfortable with those who seemingly have it all together while fearing and neglecting those who have less to offer, such as impoverished immigrants. Believers must remember that refugees are also made in the image of God and many are brothers and sisters in Christ. We should see them and care from them as God sees and cares. 


How do you feel we are oppressing people in today's time?

James speaks of the financial oppression in 2:6. I think the best contemporary example of this is when Christians either lose their job, their business or pay a fine because of their unwillingness to embrace same sex marriage. The bible clearly teaches that this type of sexual perversion is sin. There had been a lot of money spent to pass laws to make the biblical view on marriage and sexuality illegal and its only going to get worse unless the law is changed.

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in Gifts

Gallbladders, Bad Backs and Spiritual Gifts

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It was my senior year of high school, and I was playing on a volleyball team at the Iowa Games in Ames. I was playing at the net, went up for a hit, came down wrong, and suddenly, my back failed to do its job of supporting my body. I was on the floor, had to be carried off the court, and went to the hospital to make sure there wasn’t something extremely wrong.

I literally had no strength in my legs, and it took several hours before I was able to support myself safely. I was out for the rest of the tournament.

Even today, I struggle with the reality of having a bad back. If I push myself too hard, like move my furniture all over the house, I’ll pay for it for days with a sore back and limited range of movement.

Unfortunately, the lesson of slowing down isn’t a pill I’ve been too eager to swallow.

Once again, in the busy month of December, I found myself without the effective service of my back. I can’t even honestly pinpoint what I “did” to put my back out, but I found myself, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, hobbling around like I had an extreme interest on what I was seeing on the floor.

I was out of commission.

Unable to do the simple tasks I was accustomed to doing in order to care for my family.

Carrying laundry baskets was out.

Bringing in groceries...nope.

Emptying the dishwasher...nada.

After days of misery, I acknowledged the fact that I needed to seek help for the condition of my back. It wasn’t getting better, I was getting more and more frustrated, and I needed improvement if I was to have any hope of pulling off my Christmas “to do’s.”

So, I headed to the chiropractor for treatment and very very slowly, things began to improve.

Shortly after my back went out, a friend of mine offered (demanded) to come over and said, “You better have something for me to do when I get there.” And, because she knew my mental state was in just as much disarray as my physical body, she brought me a fancy coffee to drink while I watched her clean (mom clean) my kitchen. She left me with lifted spirits and scoured sinks.

It was relief.

About one week later, my mom and grandmother showed up for a weekend of Christmas cookie decorating. While they were at my house, my 86-year-old grandmother caught our family up on at least five baskets of clean, but unfolded, clothing. She sat in our basement for hours folding our unmentionables.

‘Acts of service’ is her spiritual gift, one of which I’ve been a recipient for decades. She often laments the fact that she doesn’t have any “talent.” She wishes she could decorate like my mom, play instruments like my husband, be clever like my oldest son, or more humorous like me.

She sighs and often remarks, “I’ve just always been good at cleaning and ironing. How boring.”

I adamantly disagree.

I simply cannot count the number of times my grandmother has blessed me and my family through her acts of service. When she visits, my kitchen is always tidy. Something a mom of three boys is always thankful for. She constantly asks what she can be doing to help me.

She’s scrubbed, cleaned, ironed, folded, vacuumed, dusted, swept and scoured while at my house. On her last visit, she even bought me a bottle of glass cooktop cleaner to try out. She’s perpetually making sure she’s meeting my needs in terms of housework while she’s here. It’s always a gift I can’t thank her for enough.

Although I’m sure hours of folding laundry in my basement with my excessively loud boys doesn’t exactly rank high on her “Top Ten Ways to Spend My Christmas Vacation”, it has blessed me more than words can express.

Isn’t that the way it goes most of the time? Our “regular,” acts of service and the hum drum outpourings of our meager talents can literally mean the world to someone else. In my misery, I wasn’t looking for a new Lamborghini or diamond broach, just someone to put a little bleach in my toilets and elbow grease on my kitchen counters.

My friend came at the perfect time to both lift my spirits and clean my kitchen. My grandma didn’t shy away from asking me repeatedly how she could most help me during her visit. Receiving the blessings they bestowed upon me through their spiritual gifts is exactly how God designed this thing to work.

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10)

I struggled for years with the fact that my husband can rip a funky riff on stage, and I could only sniff a funky rip from my kids’ pants. My spiritual gifts do not require me to employ a nice voice or guitar, but rather a pen and teaching tools, a sponge and soft scrub and a mixing bowl and measuring cups. But, like the the gifts my husband uses on stage, my gifts have been administered to me for the exact same purpose: to serve others.

But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our unseemly members come to have more abundant seemliness, whereas our seemly members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. (1 Corinthians 12:18–25)

This December, as I laid around my house pouting about the uselessness of my body, Christ’s body came to serve me. If it weren’t for people willing to employ their “less honorable” gifts on my behalf, I could still be wallowing in unfolded laundry and grimy dishes.

Friends, God has so creatively designed each and every one of us for the express purpose of glorifying Himself and serving one another. For some of us, it looks fancy and glitzy and full of glamour. For others of us, it looks dirty, smelly, tedious and full of gaseous emissions.

But, for all of us, it looks like an outpouring of grace bestowed upon us by our Creator to bless one another.

As the digits on the calendar have rolled over yet again to this new year, I encourage each of you to jump in and start using your gifts to serve the body. You might think of yourself as the gallbladder of the body of Christ, but trust me, someone is in desperate need of a functioning gallbladder right now!

By withholding your spiritual gifts from the rest of the body, you are doing a disservice to the healthy function of the Church. We need each other, gallbladders and all.

So make this your year. Purpose to figure out just exactly how God has gifted you to increase the effectiveness of the church. Whether it’s trying out for the worship team or throwing out the garbage after nursery school, you have been promised it will bless others in a way no one else can.

For more information on how to serve at FFC, visit:


For information about our next spiritual gifts class visit:




in Joy

The Journey into Joy

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If you're a believer who, like me, is grieving the death of a loved one, James' exhortation to "Count it all joy my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds" can feel both inspirational and impossible.

On one hand, his promise of spiritual purpose and meaning in the midst of heartache and loss is hopeful. On the other, the chasm between the pain of a loved one’s death and joy feels insurmountable.

Grief is a unique trial, in that there is no resolution this side of heaven. From the moment we lose a loved one—a child, a parent, a best friendlife is pervasively, fundamentally altered. Like the optical illusion that relies on positive and negative space to form either a vase or two silhouetted faces, life is suddenly defined by both what's happening and by what's not.

When the empty space left by our loved ones looms large, the ache is soul deep and penetrating.

Yet, it isn't that we as grieving believers don’t want to shift our focus away from pain to joy—the challenge is how.

On this journey into joy, Christ's prayer in Gethsemane offers guidance: "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:39). In that moment, Christ surrendered. Not just to a gruesome death but to the redemptive plan of a sovereign God.

So we also surrender.

Not to our pain and sorrow, but to the truths we know about who God is and His redemptive work in our lives.

And in surrender, we open the door to joy.

Dear friends, this is not an easy task, because it requires that we first feel and then put words to our pain. It is this process of putting words to our struggles, and then offering them up in surrender, that keeps "count it all joy" from becoming a superficial platitude.

In other words, it is as we place our sorrows within the context of God's character and promises for us as believers that our focus can shift to the spiritual reality that fuels joy.

Biblical joy is more than just happiness here on earth.

It is an emotion born not out of understanding, but out of our celebration that Christ loves us enough to strip our souls of sin and transform us to be more like Himself.

As we take these steps of both surrender and celebration, Christ Himself will lead us into joy.



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New Year's Resolutions from an Old Dead Guy

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It's the second week of January; how are your New Year's resolutions going?

Is this year truly going to be the year you turn over that new leaf, or will 2016 be similar to last year? I hope and pray that 2016 will be one marked by growth and accomplishments for you. 

A website called statisticbrain.com predicts the following top 10 New Years resolutions for 2016:

10. Spend more time with family 
9. Fall in love
8. Help others in their dreams
7. Quit smoking 
6. Learn something exciting
5. Stay fit and healthy 
4. Enjoy life to the fullest
3. Spend less. Save more.
2. Get organized.
1. Lose weight.

Is your resolution for 2016 on this list? These resolutions are honorable, but I can’t help thinking that the majority of them are still pretty selfish and shortsighted, aren’t they?

Can I challenge you to compare this list to the Puritan preacher and reformed theologian, Jonathan Edwards? He created a list of 70 resolutions, beginning with this foreword: "Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake."

If you read through his 70 resolutions, you'll find that, in true Puritan practice, most of his statements beginning with the word "Resolved" have to do with reflecting on his spiritual life, refining his character, or readying himself for earthly death/meeting Christ.

It is as if Edwards was answering the question, “How can I please God more this year?”, instead of “How can I be happier?”

I find this amazing. 

Here are a few that strike me as good examples for us in 2016:

5. Not just to lose weight, but to never lose (or waste) one moment of time honoring his heavenly Father.

37. Not to go to bed earlier, but to go to bed every night and confess the sins of the day.

65. Edwards resolves to exercise more, not for physical gain, but to exercise himself in spiritual habits. E.g. Bible reading, prayer, memorization, etc. 

Please don’t hear this as guilt ridden or judgmental.

I'm realizing that the older I get and the more in love with the Gospel I become, the more I desire to please the One who saved my wretched soul. These thoughts are just encouragements to help you in this regard, and not steps to help you earn God’s favor.

Let’s not forget that 2000 years ago, Christ fully earned the favor of God and imputed that favor to us the day that we believed. 

Would you consider, right now, making a few “eternally focused” New Year’s resolutions?

Here are a few of mine. Please, sometime this year, ask me how I am doing on these:
- Read 1 book a month that is for my spiritual growth.
- Share the Gospel with those on my “white harvest” card.
- Read a book of the Bible for my quiet time often, instead of small chunks.

What would our church look like if all of us committed to honoring and pleasing God more with our lives in 2016?

Let’s commit to making resolutions this year that have eternal, rather than simply earthly, value. We have a choice whether we lay up treasures on earth or in heaven, for where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also!

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Living a Life of Worship

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“Life is busy.”

It’s a quote we hear often, and there is truth in it. 

We all seem to be very busy. Busy with good stuff, busy with not-so-good stuff. With these busy lives we are all leading, we need to be living a life of worship even when we are “busy.”

I am a work-from-home mother of four, business owner, wife of a self-employed business owner, daughter, sister, friend, etc. The list goes on and on for all of us.

We are so many things, and these things require so much time. 

But the only thing that truly matters is the fact that I am a Daughter of the King! If I am leading a life of worship, all the other things I am fall into place!


I often think about my time in college, and the hours upon hours I spent at the Cedar Falls Panera. I would almost go daily. In fact, I had my own booth, and they knew my name and my order! It was a bagel and a coffee, because, well, I was on a college budget. 

But the time I spent in that booth formed who I am today.

God met me in that booth and His Spirit taught me what it means to live a life of worship! I meditated, prayed, studied, was discipled and discipled others in that booth. 

For that season of life, I will forever be thankful. It taught me that regardless of my circumstances, I can always worship! 

Do I have that kind of time now? No way. 

Do I miss that? Yes. 

But my season has changed, and therefore, getting creative with living a life of worship is a necessity. 

Make Time

It’s not going to happen unless you make it happen.

Ask God for help in this area. Step away from the electronics and the to-do list. Rest in Him.

“Be still and Know that I am God.” 

Psalm 46:10 is not only a command, but a promise as well. God wants us to be still and rest in Him, and then as a result of that, we can not only know he is God but know Him. 

How insane is that? The creator of the universe wants us to know Him. 

Why? Because He is what is best for us and He knows that, so throughout the Bible He is encouraging us to stop and just be with Him!

Songs, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

Ephesians 5:19 says ”speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” 

I love music, but even if you don’t, singing is an incredible way to worship God, whether in private or out and about. 

Sing with your spouse, your children, or whoever you are with. Teach them the words of hymns. They aren’t “old school” in a bad way, but the truth and doctrine interwoven in hymns will encourage your heart. 

Pray the Psalms/Memorize Scripture

Scripture memory can seem daunting at first, but once you commit to it, it’s fruits are plentiful. Being able to recall the words of God is life giving. 

You don’t have to have a Bible in front of you to know God’s Word. 

Throughout the Bible, the words “I have hidden your word in my heart” are repeated, so let’s follow that lead and truly memorize His Word. 

I would encourage you to start small with this, and work your way to larger portions of Scripture. I'd suggest trying Psalm 23, Psalm 139, Romans 5:8, and John 3:16.


Did you know that God loves when we talk to Him and talk about Him? 

In the past, I have had many women come alongside me and disciple me. They walked through a season of life with me, and those relationships are ones I will always hold dear. 

I was also able to disciple a few woman, and that was always an incredible experience, and so humbling. I would encourage you to find someone to meet with regularly to pray, talk about what you are learning, read together, and sing together. 

Doing life alone is never what God intended! Community is necessary and life giving. 

When we are in heaven with Him, we will be singing and praising God with the angels. Worship will be what we do in Heaven, but we don’t have to wait to start worshiping Him! 

Start now.

Posted by Bekah Riker with 0 Comments
Tags: busy, life, worship