FFC Blog

Filter By:
in Blogs

Trending Reads | July

main image

Welcome to Trending Reads, a monthly post from Pastor Travis Walker that includes current articles on all things Christianity, as well as blog posts that will help you grow in your Christian walk. Without further adieu:

How to read the Bible with Gospel eyes

One of the best practices for those who want to make sure that they are gospel-centered everyday—that they are looking into the grace of God in Christ—is to look for Christ in the Scriptures

Most Christians understand that they ought to be spending time in God’s Word everyday but a lot of times that can just look like a checklist of religious duty. No matter what biblical text you’re in, it is important to look for the gospel and Jesus within it. This can be a little harder in the Old Testament and even in some New Testament texts. However, the aim is rather simple: look first and foremost for what God has done, notwhat you are to do...

Continue Reading

Why Teenagers need theology

The world can be really confusing for teenagers. We’re coming of age in a shifting moral landscape, where the most pressing challenges and culture’s loudest critics are ever changing and perpetually conflicting. We see scandals and soundbytes, terrorism and Trump, new sexual ethics and harsh racial tensions, and we wonder, How am I supposed to think about all this?

Secular society throws its own answers our way, but they’re never compatible with a Christian worldview.

I see a better tool to meet the questions of Christ-following teenagers like me: theology...

Continue Reading

Why are we so busy?

Boredom used to be a regular feature in my life.

As a kid, I was bored all the time. This perpetual boredom led me to all sorts of shenanigans, like setting the soles of my shoes on fire or digging a 4-foot deep hole in my backyard, simply because I could (kind of like George Mallory summiting Everest simply because it was there). My discovery that grapevines could be smoked like cigarettes was a direct product of the high volume of boredom in my life.

Even as I got older, I still had long stints of unoccupation. Walking to classes in college. Waiting for a computer program to compile [adjusts glasses and fiddles with pocket protector]. Long drives, doctors offices, waiting 10 freaking minutes for the America Online portal to load (I think I still have several hundred free hours to redeem).

Now I’m literally never bored...

Continue Reading

Why we need to read the Bible like we read other books

As I set aside my Bible reading plan this year in favor of soaking in shorter passages, I realized that I didn’t need to choose between the two—nor did I want to! The benefits and joy of journeying the entire way through God’s salvation story are too good to miss, so I decided to do both.

Last year was the first time I had used a pre-made reading schedule (pdf courtesy of Ligonier Ministries), and it was helpful in numerous ways. I’d encourage you to go through the entire Bible for these 17 reasons:..

Continue Reading

 

Finding Rest and Retreat in Christ

main image

My husband and I recently sat down and calculated the number of baseball games we’ve attended for our boys. The number was somewhere in the mid seventies, and the season isn’t quite over. We have three sons who all play Little League, and one who is currently on another team as well. (Go Outlaws!!)

So, roughly seventy times, I’ve washed uniforms, packed snacks, filled water jugs, and applied sunscreen or winter hats depending on the fickle Iowa weather. I’ve nursed skinned knees, disappointed hearts and wounded pride. Baseball season has worn me out physically and emotionally.

I’ve recently found myself without a smile on my face, and choking on my next breath out of sheer exhaustion. I feel as though I have nothing left to give at the end of the day, and that feeling usually carries over to the next morning. We’ve stretched ourselves to the max, and I’ve got no more bend in me.

I’ve heard the same things from other people lately too.

“I feel like I’m chasing my own tail.”  

“I don’t know if I’m coming or if I’m going.”

“Is my chest supposed to feel this tight all the time?”

“I can’t remember the last time I laughed. I have no more joy left.”

This life has worn us ragged. We’ve undoubtedly said “yes” to too many things and haven’t put healthy boundaries around sacred things. We’ve skipped prayer and quiet time to cram in the unexpected, because we are completely out of any sort of margin in life. My quiet time the other day was spent using my carpet cleaner on an unexpected pet mess. There went my “extra” thirty minutes of the day. Another thirty wasn’t to be found, and my time budget was already in the red.

Friends, I’ve had restroom accidents three times in the past two weeks. Literally. Because I am cutting things so close, I end up making it to the bathroom a bit too late. I think to myself, “I don’t need to go before leaving the ballfields  because I have to drop this kiddo off at home in the next ten minutes. I’ll just go when I get home.” It’s true... I’m not even giving myself time for my own bodily functions, and friends, the scary thing is, I know I’m not the only one. I have verbal confirmation on this.

So what gives? How do we find the right balance?

I don’t know.

I think the “fix” looks different for everyone. Every individual, couple, and family has to make decisions about schedules and commitments for themselves. This unfortunately isn’t a four step solution. However, one thing I know is true and good is the promise we have from our Savior about His abundant streams of rest and grace.

Before Jesus went to the cross to be crucified, He sought out time alone with his Father... our Father (Matt 26:36–46). Scripture says Jesus was sorrowful and troubled. However, rather than hashing out his problems with his friends, he walked away from the noise, from His companions, from the task, and talked with God.

He asked Him questions, laid out His fears, and begged for His mercy.

He let God speak the salve of peace to his burdened, unto death, heart.

He rested in the One who had the answers to the whys and the what ifs.

So in the days to come, I am committing to a few things. First, I will go to the bathroom when the urge first hits. And second, I’m going to rest at the feet of my Savior who is so capable of managing my weakness. He’s so eager to restore my soul. He’s so incredibly good. I’ll breathe in His gentle words. I’ll trust in His historically grounded promises. I’ll let my Creator nurture my weary heart.

And in all my frailty, I’ll listen and obey.

Posted by Marti Skow with 0 Comments

"But I Can't Forgive"

main image

“You don’t understand. I simply can’t forgive him.”

There have been multiple times while working with people who have been hurt deeply that I have been told this exact thing. The person would insist that forgiveness was not possible. 

As I have explored the why behind someone making this bold statement, I realized there is more than just resentment and bitterness behind the words. At first, I often thought the person was just choosing to be hateful instead of embracing what was best for them and mandated by our understanding Lord. I thought I was seeing the results of a cold heart and unloving spirit showing its ugly head, despite the reminders of God’s forgiveness toward us for every sin we have or will ever commit. 

However, what I discovered, in many cases, was that these dear people didn’t understand what forgiveness really meant.

Many of us have heard the catchy phrase, “forgive and forget.” So much so, that people have started to equivocate the two words, thinking that forgetting is the same as forgiving. They aren’t the same! 

I realized that some people were saying they couldn’t forgive because they knew they couldn’t forget what was done to them, at least not anytime soon, and perhaps never. They were being honest in admitting that they couldn’t commit to forgetting something they knew they weren’t going to; and they were totally right. Unless you have brain surgery or something of the sort, you aren’t going to be able to simply forget a memory you have stored away. 

One reason I was forced to explore their reasoning further was because God promises that when we face temptation to sin, He will always give us a way out so that we don’t have to sin (1 Corinthians 10:13). If that is true, then it couldn’t be true that these people couldn’t forgive, since God has commanded us to forgive others.

The problem was the fact that they thought they had to forget in order to forgive.

It was so freeing to them when they realized that forgetting had nothing to do with it. Our goal is to be like Christ, who is God incarnate. Does God forget our sin? No. He is God. God is omniscient (knows all). He doesn’t all of the sudden just “forget” our sin. He chooses not to recall it (Isaiah 43:25).

So if forgiveness isn’t forgetting, what exactly is it? Well, what does God do with our sin if He doesn’t forget it? He no longer holds it against us. He doesn’t bring it back to us and shove it in our faces (Psalms 103:12). Forgiveness is committing never to bring that sin up again for that person’s harm. That includes not bringing it back up to that person, others, or yourself. That is still quite a lot to swallow. Clarifying forgiveness doesn’t make it easy, but definitely doable. 

On a practical level, that means that when you forgive someone, you are not allowed to remind them of it again. You are not allowed to talk about what they did with other people in a way that would be harmful to them. You are not allowed to dwell on it yourself.

Now this is where the difference between forgetting and dwelling on it comes in. It isn’t wrong to remember it (you can’t help it), but you aren’t allowed to continue thinking about it when you remember it. You can’t replay it over and over, and remember how angry it made you feel, and consider the best ways of revenge, etc. When the memory returns, strive to remember that you’ve committed to forgive them just like God has forgiven you, and then move on to a new topic of thought. Not always easy, but right and best.

There can be times to bring that sin up to that person again, if there is a recurring pattern, but that would be an example of bringing it up not for their harm, but in order to help them see a pattern of sin in their life that needs to be addressed. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to forgive it, but we could rightly bring it up in order to help them be more like Christ by changing that pattern in their life.      

Thank the One who not only gives us commands that are best for us and show His beautiful character, but also gives us the ability to follow them. Committing not to bring up a sin to someone, others, or yourself in order to harm the offender is one of the ways God brings peace to us that is beyond our understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Lessons We Can Learn From the Mormon Church

main image

As I write this blog post, I am with our Utah Mission Team as we conclude our 2016 trip to Manti, Utah. Our team this year consisted of 37 folks; 26 from First Family Church, and 11 from Crossway Community Church in Wisconsin, where John and Jenny Andrus are members. Keith and Nikki Ryan and their two oldest daughters also joined us from their new home in Reno, NV.

The most exciting aspect of our Utah Mission Trip is seeing our young people engaging in ministry and in street evangelism. What else can top seeing a 14 or 15-year-old student sharing their faith and the gospel with an LDS student of the same age? This is the cherry on top of all of the hard training and preparation for the trip!

Nothing can help cement the gospel into the heart of a young person like being forced to defend their faith in conversation with a person with a very different belief system.

––

Utah is a changing landscape when it comes to the LDS church. Not unlike the evangelical church, the leadership team in Utah sees a massive shift towards secularism within the younger generation of Latter Day Saints. Because of the Internet and the influence of television and movies, the Mormon church is struggling against a tide of secularism that is invading their ranks.

One Manti veteran who is on his 17th annual trip to Utah told our team he has seen a seismic shift in the last 10 years. There was a time when he knew what answers to expect when in conversation with a Mormon regardless of the age. Now, he sees a distinct difference between the older generations (35 years and up) and the younger generations. The younger generation sounds more "Christian" in their conversation, but they are just as lost. This makes witnessing to them even more difficult, because their doctrine is a blend of Mormonism and Christianity, yet they are missing the essential elements of the gospel, and are therefore unbelievers.

There is still a tremendous need for solid, Christian churches in Utah. Those who live in Utah tell of news reports that suggest as many as two-thirds of Utah Mormons are not active in the church and are transitioning out of Mormonism, but instead of turning to a healthy church, they simply fade into agnosticism or even atheism. One Utah resident, who is active on a weekly basis ministering to Mormons, told our team there is a tremendous need for churches that would simply focus on reaching families who are transitioning out of Mormonism.

Our Church Is Not Immune to the Influence of Secularism

For those of us who are comfortable and secure in our Christian homes and churches, we need to observe what is happening to the Mormon Church and how it is being impacted by the secular society in which we live. Sometimes it is easier to see how trends like secularism are impacting someone else than to see how the same trends are impacting us.

As I watch the shifting landscape within the American Church, I see several trends that suggest to me we are approaching a tipping point within the Church. Each generation must struggle with new dynamics within the culture and how they impact the church. The last major shift within the Protestant church happened in the 1960s. Visit with our grandparents, who were Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, or any of the other mainline denominations, and we would learn how orthodox and doctrinally sound these churches were in the mid-20th Century. Yet, we would also see liberalism invading the church and destroying the institutions of the church, starting with the seminaries.

In response to the shift to liberalism, we saw the the rise of the Evangelical Megachurch movement. By the mid-1970s, churches like Willow Creek Community Church and Saddleback Community Church were starting to form, and by the mid-to-late 1980s, these churches were transforming the model and philosophy of the church. They were no longer strongly tied to a denomination, and essentially began to serve as their own denomination in areas of missions and church partnerships.

Today, I believe we are seeing a shift away from the Megachurch model. Many of these churches are becoming murky in their doctrine and beliefs and continue to follow the impulses of culture in an effort to grow their church. These multi-million dollar corporations continue to expand their influence through franchises and largely human-driven efforts, but their impact is diminishing. In 10 years, I believe we will see many of these Megachurches following the way of the mainline churches--physically large an impressive, but spiritually dead.

Over and over again, starting with the Tower of Babel, we see God frustrate and ultimately abandon movements by man that begin to build upon the strength and wisdom of man. God desires a faithful people who have one desire––to worship Him in Spirit and Truth. It is His Kingdom and His dominion, but man is often motivated by building his own kingdom and spreading his own dominion. Even when we do so in the Name of God, our motives can easily become infected with pride.

For me, this has been one of the lessons we need to take away from our time in Utah. It is a blessing to see our young people growing in their faith and striving to share the gospel with others, but at the same time, we are not immune to the disease that is impacting the LDS Church. The world and its ways are attractive, and each generation must make the choice whether to go the broad, inviting way of the world or follow God along a narrow, ancient path.

Thus says the Lord:
“Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’"

The Peril of Complacency

main image

In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo and his company are commissioned with the daunting and dangerous task of dispatching a special ring––an object of nefarious power. It is an undertaking riddled with jeopardy and peril. But in just a short amount of time, the perceived success of the initial part of the expedition causes some within the company to relax and forget the formidable and exposed nature of their endeavor. Only a short time into the journey, vigilance gives way to complacency.

This mental leisure leads to a poignant scene in Peter Jackson's film The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), where the unwitting hobbits teeter into a tavern called The Prancing Pony. Upon entering, their sober acuity is replaced with a lackadaisical spirit as they carelessly indulge in a time of revelry and amusement. Watching from the shadowed corner of the frolicking room is a man who himself is not carousing or joking––but is soberly watching them. Unbeknownst to the hobbits, at the exact time they have lowered their defenses, a vicious group of murderous pursuers are closing in on them. At the apex of the hobbits complacent gaiety, this ranger (who we later know to be Aragorn) whisks the ring-bearer away to a hidden room. The ranger sternly asks a fretful-looking Frodo, "Are you frightened?" With an aghast look on his face, Frodo says "Yes." The ranger tersely retorts "Not nearly frightened enough. I know what hunts you."

com-pla-cen-cy
/kəmˈplāsənsē
noun
An uncritical satisfaction and settling after success that often leads to digression
Linked concepts: Lethargy, carelessness, inattentiveness, laziness
 

Spiritually speaking, my own propensity is to be more like Frodo than Aragorn. My natural fleshly disposition is to drift toward comfort and carelessness. Over time, I find myself cutting corners in the disciplines of Bible study, prayer, fasting, and meditation. I find myself rain-checking prayer with my wife. I find myself losing ground with family worship at home. I find myself postponing commitments to evangelize, encourage, and edify others. Complacency is the constant battle of the committed Christian.

And for the inattentive Christian, complacency may shipwreck them.

Because complacency stems from pride and self-sufficiency, it produces ruinous effect––it ravages, desecrates, pollutes, and victimizes lives, families, and churches. Many biblical examples serve as an example as to the clandestine power of complacency. It misled Moses. It corrupted Lot. It betrayed Achan. It ruined Solomon. It sabotaged Uzziah. It imploded Israel. It outflanked Peter. It polluted Laodicea. It infected Demas.

And it continues to wreak havoc today. In fact, it has ambushed and obliterated many of my own friends and even some of my ministry co-laborers. No believer is immune from this slippery villain; not even the pastors of First Family. We must not allow complacency to infiltrate the bulwarks of our hearts, marriages, homes, or church.

My friends, vigilance is necessary (1 Peter 5:8). The word vigilance (γρηγορέω) means to be conscious of danger and not fall asleep; to pay careful attention for pitfalls and threats; to guard something of great value.

My friends, we cannot become spiritually sluggish or self-secure––believing somehow that our profession, our church attendance, or our past success will make us immune to the calamitous effects of complacency.

No, it is a sinister enemy that will slither into the crevices of any inattentive believer.

Instead, we must fight the wiles of our flesh (Rom. 7:14–23); we must stay alert to the subterfuge of Satan (1 Pet. 5:8) and dispel his lies with divine weaponry (Eph. 6:11); we must strangle pride and forsake the notion of self-security (1 Cor. 10:12); we must not waste time on trivialities (Eph. 5:15–16); we must endure hardship and strive for sanctification (Phil. 2:12); we must prioritize prayer to keep us alert (Col. 4:2); we must guard our hearts from contaminating influences (Prov. 4:23); and we must work together, not independently (1 Thess. 5:11).

In the end, Frodo and the hobbits realized the precariousness of complacency and the value of vigilance.

May we as well.

12345678910 ... 1213