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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.

 

 

Posted by Heidi Warner with 0 Comments

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!

 
Posted by Travis Walker with 0 Comments

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!

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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.

Accountability

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

Welcome to the FFC Blog

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From the very beginning of First Family Church, personal growth has been a high value (2 Peter 3:18; Luke 2:52). In fact, it’s one of three key words we use to describe what we do week after week—celebrate, grow, and serve. Whether spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, or socially, growing matters.   

Understanding that, you can see why we seek to employ numerous avenues to help our faith family grow. Whether it’s customized curriculum for our small groups, online classes, series-related books authored or recommended by our pastor(s), seasonal devotionals written by our members, FFTV, the Extra Point podcast, or the recent FFC Bible Institute, we are aware that growing must be a regular pursuit through a variety of platforms.

So we strive to facilitate that within the culture and environment of this local body of believers.  

It’s from that desire that we introduce the FFC Blog—a regular collection of articles designed to help you grow. This blog brings together many gifted writers within our church, trusted people whose experience, knowledge, or understanding will undoubtedly benefit the faith community here.

The topics will vary, but you can rest assured that each “release” will be soundly theological, culturally practical, and vividly personal. Consider this blog an opportunity to peek inside the life and mind of someone growing alongside you from your own church, someone seeking to live out their life in a gospel-centered, disciple-making, world-impacting, God-glorifying fashion. 

You can access the FFC Blog here on our website, or click the subscribe button on the home page. We will also post the link to each new post on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Take your pick. Just don’t miss this opportunity to grow.

Of course, each issue will be archived on our site as well, so you can reference it at specific times when you need a bit of information or encouragement. 

Feel free to share this with others, too. It may only take a few clicks to get the “growth” ball rolling in someone else’s life. 

Our first official post will be dropping next week, written by one of our own FFC members. I’m looking forward to what this blog will become, and hope you’ll grow with me this year.

 

Pastor Todd

 

 

Posted by Todd Stiles with 0 Comments

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