FFC Blog

Filter By:

Trending Topics | July

main image

Don’t Waste Your Life.

Seven Minutes That Moved a Generation

I was 18 years old, had just finished high school and vaguely knew the name John Piper, but somehow this sermon found its way to me. Still to this day, this is one of the most powerful sermons I have ever heard. Pastor John Piper is just a man, but for some reason God has chosen to use him to speak to my generation about the authority of scripture, the sovereignty of God and the beauty there is in living your life for God and for no other reason. I am so grateful for great preachers and the internet which allows us to be encouraged and challenged by men far away.

20 Ideas for Dating Your Wife

I think its safe to say that 100% of marriages are hard work. If you disagree with that statement, please take me out for coffee and teach me your tips and tricks. I know better than to think that difficult marriages is a new trend, but it sure feels like things are rough right now in the Christian marriage world. Men, we must fight for our marriages instead of just venting about our marriages. This blog post was very encouraging to me.

4 Books That Made a Priest Leave the Church

This blog post title is definitely click bait-y, and I definitely took the bait, but I'm so glad I did. I love Martin Luther. I love reading about his life, reading what he wrote and studying the impact he made. So, when I clicked on this link I was expecting amazing books written by his contemporaries, instead what was in the blog was even better than that!

Trending Topics | April

main image

How Can Anyone Know About Life After Death?

How Much of You Does God Get?

5 Ways Not To Return From a Mission Trip

Mission trips can be exhilarating. If it weren’t the case, so many wouldn’t be signing up and going out. More Christians than ever seem to be serving abroad in some capacity, whether constructing buildings, or prayer walking, providing a VBS, or doing disaster relief.

While voices have begun to question the necessity, viability, and even benefit of embarking on these trips in the first place, I’d like to address the manner in which we return. We make mistakes not only in the way we go on mission trips, but also in the way we come back from them. Here are five such ways.

Keep reading

Be Here Now

main image

“Be here now!” was the banner that often decorated our walls at my workplace.

It attempted to encourage an attitude of excitement about being somewhere you were required to come in order to make a living. It was a great job and atmosphere, but work is still work. It was hard to be very excited about it.

However, as I moved on to different stages of life, I’ve realized how wise and right that statement is.

Isn’t it easy to wish for the next thing? If Christmas would just come... If winter would be over (or never come)... If Johnny was potty trained... If Sally would only get married... If I could just graduate... If I only had enough money to retire... If we could just get our house fixed up. The list goes on and on.

There's always something to be looking forward to, but only at the risk of losing the moment.

I can’t tell you how many moms have told me not to wish away the late nights with my babies or the “one more story” moments. Each stage can seem to drag on at times, but all stages will pass without returning.

Be in the moment. Be here now.

There is so much to enjoy in the moment that will never be the same in the next one.

Take notice of your spouses changing interests and strong qualities.

Enjoy the living room despite the unfinished basement.

Squeeze every ounce of enjoyment out of your job.

Highlight the best aspects of your friends instead of imagining a perfect one.

Be thankful for whatever salary you have.

I have an accountant friend who just told me how he witnesses regularly the fact that no matter how much money someone is making, it doesn’t mean they don’t have problems. If some problems are solved by the money, they come up with new ones. The people who are happy with a small salary are still thankful with a big one, but those who aren’t content with a small one, aren’t content with a big one either.

Putting our focus on people as they are now and not on stuff as it should be later can go a long way in keeping our hearts aligned with Christ’s.

He knew what was to come in His life on earth, but He still took time for people.

Be here now with the people God has put around you by being grateful for whatever is filling your moment and stage of life. You'll be glad you did.

My Unchanging God in My Ever-Changing Life

main image

Change – unsettling, disquieting, and ominous. It’s a small, six-letter word that can knock the wind right out of you. As a missionary in Haiti, my home is in a place where the sands of time and shadows of change shift slowly. But there are people I love in the States where time is a raging river that carries change at immeasurable speed. Change is impossible to escape. 

Being a missionary in a country that is forever fixed in the sweltering sway of summer has its advantages. Vitamin D deficiency is virtually non-existent. This fair-skinned bookworm has started to take on a skin tone that no longer matches the color of the pages she reads. Precious storage space isn’t necessary for bulky sweaters, coats, and scarves. Your wardrobe is virtually the same for the whole year. The palm trees are always green, the ocean is always blue, and one never has to worry about the treacherous nature of snow, ice, and slush. 

Being a missionary in a culture where the pace of life equals the slow, steady rhythm of a gentle stream eroding a rock bed also has its advantages. The flower of change is slow to take root and even slower to bloom here. You learn to take life day-by-day, moment-by-moment. You learn flexibility and to make the best of the situations you are in. You learn to value quality over quantity, depth of relationship over surface acquaintanceship, and intentionality over casualness. 

Perhaps it is these virtues that weave together to create a web of false stasis around my life, an imagined sense of constancy and permanence. But it doesn’t take long before that facade of predictability is shattered. 

Sometimes it is simple changes that make me smile at the blanket of constancy I cling to. For example, I fly to Haiti in January, leaving the bitterly cold, snow-blanketed plains of Iowa behind. When I return to Iowa in May, my eyes still expect to be blinded by the glare of sun on ice, my skin expects to recoil at sub-zero temperatures, and my ears expect to ring with the silence of gentle snowfall. Instead, the shroud of white has been replaced with a patchwork of recently plowed farms and green sprays of spring, the cold replaced with hints of warmth, and the stillness replaced with the chirps of crickets and hum of cicadas. The Christmas trees have all been tucked away and the rich colors of the season have been replaced with the bright palette of new life.

Other times it is weightier changes that make my heart ache with their heaviness and import – The church I called home for fifteen years of my life is no longer being pastored by my father. My sister’s family grows by nine pounds, one ounce and 19 ¾ inches. The soul of a bright, joyful young man in my home church is no longer for this world but is finding rest and repose in the arms of his Savior. He is shortly joined in Glory by a fellow missionary from my home church who labored hard for the Kingdom and made lasting impact. My kindred spirit, my partner in interpreting and all things adventuring meets a man, dates, gets engaged, and is married. My little brother – my greatest childhood antagonizer, partner in crime, confidant, and friend – meets a woman, dates, proposes, and is married. 

In the midst of change my heart is unsettled, trying to grasp at straws, clinging to what I think I know, and trying to find purchase in a world that is always shifting. And my heart is so quick to jump to the realm of “what-if’s.”

Fear. What if the changes in the lives of those I love causes them to love me less?

Worry. What if my relationships with the people I love are never the same?

Regret. What if I had been able to be present for the entirety of all those changes?

But it is in the middle of these thoughts, this churning of emotions and agitation of spirit, that my heart in all of its flailing finally finds purchase. The Spirit whispers and imprints the words of the Father on my heart – 

I am the Lord, I change not… Malachi 3:6

I am the same yesterday, today, and forever… Hebrews 13:8

In Me there is no variation or shadow due to change… James 1:17

How do I combat the dark hands of change clawing at my throat, threatening to steal peace and stillness of heart? I turn my heart to the One who never changes. Just as David remonstrates his heart to hope in God in the midst of his depression and turmoil in Psalm 42, I must preach to my heart the truth of who God is and what His promises are. God is constant. In a world where the best laid plans often go awry, I can rest in my Heavenly Father who is immutable and unaffected by change. I don’t have to fear the loss of love because I have a profound love that is richer, deeper, wider, and stronger than anything in this present earth (Ephesians 3:18-19). The Redeemer will never love me more or less than He does in this moment. I don’t have to worry about losing relationship because I have identity and purpose in my relationship with a Father who adores His children. The Restorer who pursued me in the wreck of my life will never leave or abandon me (Deuteronomy 31:6). I don’t have to regret not being present. The Creator who sees, knows, and hears is present for me (Psalm 139).  

In the wise and discerning words of A.W. Tozer, “All that God is He has always been, and all that He has been and is He will ever be.” His promises will never be rescinded or overturned. His unchanging nature shines brilliantly against the backdrop of change that is inherent in the world of mankind. And it is in this nature that my heart must rest. 

Just as change is an arrow that points to the immutability of God, it is also an indicator of hope. As hard as it is to swallow, the reality is that fundamentally, change is a good and gracious gift from God. Redemption’s ongoing story is one of change, transforming from one degree of glory to the next (2 Corinthians 3:18). And without God’s sanctifying hand of change in my life, where would I be? The changes God has wrought in my heart and life all happen for the greater purpose of conforming me more into the image of His Son. The changes that God gently, or perhaps not so gently, introduces into your life all fall under His sovereign, omniscient hand that works for your ultimate good and sanctification. It is because He loves us that He changes us, our loved ones, and our circumstances. What hope is found in this truth!

That small, six-letter word has taken on new connotation in recent days; the disquiet is replaced with rest, the unsettledness with peace, the ominous fear with hope. Let change point your heart to the one who is changeless. And be thankful with me that He continues to change us in order to bring to completion His good work in our hearts.

 


Courtney Johnson lives and ministers to the people of Haiti.

 

in Blogs

Selfish Regrets and Irrational Wishes

main image

 

As humans, we are prone to worrying and stressing about life in the present and future leading to holistic negative effects, yet I have found myself also dwelling on memories of decisions and situations I wish would have turned out differently in order to yield results I think would have been better for my life or others’ lives. Everyone has had times of dwelling on the ‘what ifs’ and ‘should haves’ of life when we think, 

“I should have taken the other job.” 
“Life would be better if that would have happened sooner/later.” 
“If we had moved there, then we would be happier.” 

To be clear, I am not referring to tragic events which can continue to produce grieving, sorrow, and righteous anger throughout our time on Earth, nor am I addressing regrets of sin. Sin is a different topic that deals with conviction leading to repentance and freedom of guilt and regret due to Christ's atoning sacrifice and continual intersession on our behalf before the Father. If you struggle with the unnecessary regret of past sin for which Christ has already forgiven you, remember the power of Christ’s sacrifice and the freedom he gives. 

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

Satan will use our life regrets and wishes as an opportunity to turn us away from focusing on God’s will for our lives and our future prize, Jesus. Hebrews 12:1–2, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” 

To fight these regrets and wishes, we must review our Christian worldview. God always gives me peace when I go back to the not-so-basic basics of who God is and how He sovereignly carries out His will globally and for us individually. His way is always better despite our personal feelings and opinions. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Wishing things had turned out differently misinterprets God’s providence because the root of our wish is saying that our plan would have been better than God’s plan. 

If we settle in this state of frustration that our way did not turn out the way we intended, our heart and thoughts will spiral into the cycle of self centeredness, self-pity, comparison, and discontentment with where God has us in the present. These steal our satisfaction in our Maker and turn our focus to ourselves rather than others’ needs and the works God has planned for us (Ephesians 2:10). We are attempting to be satisfied by worldly wisdom instead of relying on the wisdom from above as James speaks of in chapter 3:13–18. The comparison and covetousness then put us at risk for quarreling and adultery as he explains next in James 4:1–5. 

“But he gives more grace” James 4:6 tells us, so in lieu of falling into the thoughts of what “should” have been, ask God to help you remember: 

  • The faithfulness he has rendered to you and will continue to provide in the future. 
  • All aspects of your life are being used by God for your sanctification and discipline. 
  • His good mercy has protected you from temptation, sin, disaster, and additional suffering because your way didn’t play out. 

“God will either give us what we ask or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything he knows.” –Tim Keller

 

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
in Hope

Reversed Prognosis

main image

Like everyone, I hate death.

We should.

It's a result of the Fall, and is due to my, and your, rebellion against a Holy God. However, how glorious it is that God used the Fall, which brought death to all, and turned it upside down to bring life back to His children!

After working as a nurse on a cardiac unit for over a year now, God has assured me that my own death is a healthy reality to think about. Being mindful about my own dying one day leads me to remember Christ's death which brought me life and humbles my soul as an undeserving sinner who daily receives grace upon grace from her Savior.

In the medical world, I have observed many patients who assume that doctors and medicine in our first world country can cure anything.

In America, we have the tendency to avoid thinking about dying because of the abundance of opportunities and resources in our culture and society which give us things to look forward to constantly. The danger in this is that we long for things of the world more than we long for Christ's return and being in Heaven.

I am convicted when I find myself desiring marriage and having a kids more than I desire God. I believe this is a good, God-given desire, but when I start to think, "it would be nice to at least have a family and raise children before Jesus comes back or I pass on", I am not treasuring and longing for God as I should.

Caring for patients who have terminal illnesses has led me to question how I will respond one day if or when I hear similar news about myself. Several times I have been with a patient while they listen to the blunt, cold statements from their physician regarding a poor prognosis.

Driving home from work, I have asked myself, "If I were that patient, what would be going through my head after receiving similar news?" At 23 years old, I imagine I would be grieving all the milestones, future memories, and experiences I was planning on making throughout my life. This would not be a bad thing to grieve; it's to be expected. But eventually, I have confidence that the hope only God can give would set in, for my life on earth is a millisecond of grace in comparison to the fullness of life I will receive in eternity from my Creator.

Scriptural Backup

In Ecclesiastes 2 & 4, King Solomon shares his God-given wisdom to tell us that "It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart." Way to be a Debbie downer, King Solomon! However, humility and longing for the Lord is gained more through trials and suffering than times of abundance and indulgence. Being mindful of how short life is, God heightens my desire to bring Him glory in how I spend my time and how I interact and converse with others.

Christ tells us in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." This world is rubbish; Satan runs rampant, and satisfaction will never be found on this earth because of our rebellion against God. Yet out of His loving jealousy for us, The Good Shepherd laid down His life for our redemption. He wants us, knows us, and is pleased to give us His joy and life.

Revelation 21:4–5a "And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall their be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'" Maybe this is just me, but it's almost hard to imagine what it will be like without trials or pain. All we've ever known is a world where evil and sin exists, but I cannot wait until "death shall be no more!" Many of us will probably have passed on before Christ's return, and perhaps some of us will still be alive on Earth. Either way, our outcome as believers will all be standing, dancing, kneeling, faces planted, etc. (who knows?) before Yahweh in New Jerusalem.

Let us daily remember the complete reversal of the hopeless, and fatal prognosis of our souls which Jesus' death and resurrection provided for us. We, as believers, on this side of heaven, have not even tasted the infinite extent of life our Savior will drench us with in Heaven. I pray His Spirit gives us daily humility as undeserving sinners before our abundantly gracious Savior, to look forward to the continuation of eternal life with Him when we arrive Home!

Listen to John Mark Mcmillan’s song, Death in His Grave here.

Living a Life of Worship

main image

“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.

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