THE FACTOR OF FEAR

Posted by Perry


What do you fear? It's really amazing how many people are afraid of so many things. Common fears are: deep water, needles, growing old in this body, losing my mind, monsters, the dark, flying, falling, failure, criticism, rejection, death, retirement, the unknown...and the list goes on and on.

Do you get the picture? People around us live in fear. Maybe you share in some of those fears. Our fears cause us to make specific choices, all of which are not good for healthy living and our relationships. For instance, if you're afraid of confrontation you may put up with a bad job situation when you don't have to. Or maybe you're afraid of growing old alone, so you make choices to be with people who aren't good for you.

Churches can be gripped with fear. They fail to practice discipline because they're afraid someone might leave. Afraid to try something because we've not done it like that before. Afraid to let something go because they've grown comfortable with it, or because it feels too much like they're losing their heritage. Churches can be afraid to follow God for fear of the unknown, what it might cost, or what it might require. You may have passed up a ministry opportunity because you're afraid. Afraid the kids won't respond to you. You may be afraid of speaking in public. Afraid you don't have anything worth saying. Afraid you don't have what it takes to do the job. Afraid of falling and losing face.

Our culture thrives on the thrill, anxiety, heart-stopping action, living on the edge. It profits from our fears while we all too often live enslaved to them: at work, at home, in our private life. We're consumed with safety. Have you noticed it? Some of it is good. We buckle up behind our airbags and safety cages. We put our baby bed rails closer together. Some high school tracks are rubber now instead of rock. We're insured to the hilt, we've got answers ready and waiting in case the preacher asks us to volunteer for a ministry, and we fight tooth and nail against what is slightly unfamiliar or uncomfortable.

I want you to know that you're not alone. Whether we'd admit it or not, everyone reading this blog is effected by our silent, private fears, whatever they may be. From the very beginning fear has dominated people's lives, to their own detriment, but I also want you to know that God never intended for us to live that way.

Do you remember the story in the Bible about God trying to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land? The book of Exodus tells us the story of God's delivering Israel from Egypt and their journey to Canaan. He told them over and over He was going to give them that land: a land flowing with milk and honey. It's a beautiful piece of real estate that has been reserved just for you. I'm going to kill your enemies, drive out all the land squatters, bless you in every way, and all you have to do is move in and take the land.

Numbers 13 tells us how God instructed Moses to send 12 spies into the land to search it out, explore it, see if it wasn't all He had promised. And He repeated the promise. I'm giving you the land, the key word being GIVING. So they did. Those twelve representatives went, and they explored.

READ NUMB3RS 13:25-14:10a

Notice 11 observations about fear from what you just read:

1. Fear always has a "but"; 2. Fear looks for the obstacles; 3. Fear focuses on the difficulties; 4. Fear spreads like wildfire; 5. Fear doesn't listen to reason; 6. Fear demoralizes and immobilizes us; 7. Fear says "if only"; 8. Fear says "we can't"; 9. Fear longs for the comfort of yesterday; 10. Fear will cause us to act foolishly; 11. Fear of this sort is offensive to God.

Compare this to John 10:10 where Jesus says that He came to give us abundant life. Just like God marvelously delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage, Jesus has delivered us from our slavery to sin. He gave us life, but He wants us to have abundant life. I want you to notice that the abundant life Jesus is speaking of here is found in the context of a personal trust relationship with God: the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep. When the sheep know the shepherd, they trust him, and when they trust him they are absolutely at ease to follow him. You'll never see a shepherd lead his flock out to pasture and hear the sheep say, "Woa! We can't go to that pasture! The hill is too steep. The grass is slippery. There might be wolves over there. We can't possibly eat all that grass. Let's stone this stupid shepherd and get a new one!" No - sheep simply trust and follow.

Here's what you need to hear today, whether you're a 10 year-old kid facing 5th grade peer-pressure, a high school teen so afraid of rejection that you're doing what God doesn't want you doing, an over-controlling parent afraid of failure, a church member who's favorite words are "but, if only, and we can't", or the spouse of someone who's job requires them to be away from home and in harms way every single day." Here's what I want you to hear today: God never intended for us to operate, live, work and relate in fear mode.

There's an abundant life out there that is ours for the taking. Spy it out. Explore what God is trying to give you. But as you listen to the naysayers and the people with the biggest "if only's", remember that God never intended for us to operate, live, work and relate out of fear. Your marriage will never last if you're always worried about infidelity. You'll never enjoy peace if you fear him or her leaving you. God never intended marriages to work that way. School is a tough place to live out your faith. You may be afraid the kids won't like you, afraid they'll make fun of you, afraid you don't really fit in. What are your fears causing you to give up and give in to? What are you fears costing you? God never intended His people to live in fear like that.

Some of you know God would have you share your life with someone. Will your fears of getting hurt or used stop you? You know God wants you to relax and rest. Will you allow your fears of criticism keep you running? Ask yourself this question: what is one thing in my life that fear is keeping me from enjoying the abundance of life God promised me? Just one thing? What is one relationship that fear is destroying? Fear of losing; fear of messing up; fear of not being loved; fear of not being accepted?

Does your fear always have a "but"? You'd be at ease, "but"...You'd be successful, "but"...

Have you been looking at the obstacles in your way?

Focusing on the difficulties?

What relationships at home, work or church are being caught up in the wildfire?

Is your fear preventing you from listening to reason?

Do you feel demoralized and immobilized?

Have you been saying: "if only"

Are your unintentional favorite words, "I can't"?

Are you longing for the comfort of yesterday?

Are you making decisions impulsively or even foolishly?

Are you aware that your fears may be offensive to God?

God never intended for you to live and operate out of fear. That's why Jesus could say His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. Israel didn't know that voice. God spoke to them words of victory and promised them a land of abundance, but they didn't follow. They cratered to their fears...and they died!

How might our futures be different if FEAR WASN'T A FACTOR?

Crazy Hair Night at AWANA

Posted by Sherry

Times are a-Changin'

Posted by Stephen

Busy Time for Children and Youth

Posted by Stephen

Whew! Times are busy, yet very exciting around Central's Children and Youth Department!

Just this week we are paining the upstairs Children's Education Wing as part of our Noah's Ark Renovation! When this is complete, children at Central will step onboard Noah's Ark every time that they come to church! This project will also fit our Children's Education Wing to be better fitted to the teaching method known as "Center-Based Learning." This style will augment our Children's Education Process because they are visually stimulated by the vivid colors and creative paintings, they move from one room to another for different lessons, and they get hands-on instruction in life lessons.

See You At The Pole is also this week! The youth will meet tonight in the youth room to plan and pray for this exciting event! SYATP will begin at 7a at MMS and PHS flagpoles! SYATP is an international event that envelops students across the globe and encourages them to pray for their school, their nation, and their world!

Also this Wednesday is our fourth Awana of the year! We are continuing to grow, so consider helping us in Awana!

To cap off the week, this season's first 5th Quarter is this Friday here at our church! Students will have the opportunity to come after the game and have a great time in a safe environment. More importantly, this will be a unique time when lost and seeking students will be right here in our church. What an opportunity for the Great Commission! We will have video games, basketball, tons of food and desserts, and plenty of space to hang out!

Whew! Please continue to pray for us as we strive to serve the Lord though this busy week of activities!

JOY

Posted by Perry

Joh 16:20 Truly I say to you, You will be weeping and sorrowing, but the world will be glad: you will be sad, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.
Joh 16:21 When a woman is about to give birth she has sorrow, because her hour is come; but when she has given birth to the child, the pain is put out of her mind by the joy that a man has come into the world.
Joh 16:22 So you have sorrow now: but I will see you again, and your hearts will be glad, and no one will take away your joy.
Joh 16:23 And on that day you will put no questions to me. Truly I say to you, Whatever request you make to the Father, he will give it to you in my name.
Joh 16:24 Up to now you have made no request in my name: do so, and it will be answered, so that your hearts may be full of joy.

We tend to equate "happiness" with joy but they are two totally different ideas because they each spring from a different source. One comes from the world around me. The other originates directly from the Spirit of the Living God. Happiness is conditioned by and often dependent upon what is "happening" to me. If people treat me good, if things are going well in my life, then I'm happy. If my circumstances aren't favorable, then I'm unhappy.

Joy on the other hand, throbs throughout scripture as a profound, compelling quality of life that trancends the events and disasters which may overtake God's people. Joy is a divine dimension of living that is not shackled by circumstances. The word in the original language means, "to leap or spin around with pleasure."

To have the fruit of joy ripen in our lives is to recognize the journey involved in getting there. It takes time, diligence, patience, and hard work to make a grapevine produce grapes. Fruit is not instantaneous because it has to overcome weather, bugs, weeds, poor soil and neglect. Likewise, in our journey to joy we're faced with the waves of apathy, the currents of pessimism, the deluge of doubt and the waterfalls of despair. There is no way we can manufacture this fruit on our own.

If we want to see this fruit ripen in our lives, we desperately need the Holy Spirit to prune away whatever it is that hinders our joy and then empower us to make some choices that move us closer to a lifestyle of rejoicing. We need to guard against three common Joy Busters and we need to cultivate some Joy Builders into our lives.

JOY BUSTER #1: Unsatisfied Expectations - Do you ever feel like you're just going through some joyless routines in life? Do you have unsatisfied expectations concerning your marriage, kids, career or some other area of life? Discontentment can rob us of our joy. Paul said in Philippians 4:12 It is the same to me if I am looked down on or honoured; everywhere and in all things I have the secret of how to be full and how to go without food; how to have wealth and how to be in need. There's a mystery about it. He had to "learn" how to live with unsatisfied expectations. Contentment doesn't come when we have everything we want but when we want everything we have.

JOY BUSTER #2: Unresolved Conflicts - Our joy evaporates when we allow conflict between ourselves and another person to go on. Anger clouds the eyes of our heart and obscures our view of God, draining away our joy. The writer of Hebrews says, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."

JOY BUSTER #3: Unconfessed Sin - Guilt can gut your joy faster than anything I know. Sin has the ability to send joy far away. King David writes in the Psalm about this very subject, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long...Then I acknowledged my sin to you...and you forgave the guilt of my sin."

We need to cultivate the following Joy Builders in our lives.

JOY BUILDER #1: Recognize God as Joyful - Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God wins victory after victory and is always with you. He celebrates and sings because of you, and he will refresh your life with his love."

JOY BUILDER #2: Rehearse God's Attributes in Worship - Psalm 66:1-4 Tell everyone on this earth to shout praises to God! Sing about his glorious name. Honor him with praises. Say to God, "Everything you do is fearsome, and your mighty power makes your enemies come crawling. You are worshiped by everyone! We all sing praises to you."

JOY BUILDER #3: Reaffirm Your Commitment to Others - Rom 12:15 When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad. If you're not in fellowship with believers, your joy will leak out.

JOY BUILDER #4: Reignite Your Passion for Evangelism - Luke 15 records how much rejoicing takes place when the lost are found. [lost sheep, lost coin & lost son]

JOY BUILDER #5: Release You Problems to the Lord - Acts 16 gives the account of Paul and Silas being severely flogged and thrown into prison. In verse 25 they were "praying and singing hymns to God..." They turned a tough situation into an opportunity for rejoicing.

JOY BUILDER #6: Remain Close to Jesus - John 15:10,11 If you obey me, I will keep loving you, just as my Father keeps loving me, because I have obeyed him. I have told you this to make you as completely happy as I am.

Here's three steps to help you apply this lesson to your life:

1. Guard yourself against those joy busters that crash into your life like a tidal wave.

2. Identify one joy builder that you need to work on. Pick one that you are weak in.

3. Read through the short book of Philippians for a week. The word "joy" or "rejoice" is used 19 different times. As you read it, ask God to ripen the fruit of joy in your life.

A Lesson from Karate Kid

Posted by Stephen

Watch this clip from the classic movie, Karate Kid:



The whole time that Daniel was doing (what he thought was only) mundane chores for Mr. Mayagi was actually training him in karate by getting his muscles to learn basic defensive moves. Daniel thought he was being duped by the karate master into doing work around the house for free, but he was being systematically prepared for the challenge to come, even while he didn't know what was going on.

This is how God often works in our lives. We get frustrated because of our situation or position in life, but God is silently training us for the challenges that lie ahead. Looking back at my life, I can see the times that I was being trained by God for something he wanted me to do later in life. I didn't appreciate the training, or even know it was happening, but in hindsight, it has proved invaluable to me.

If you are old enough, you can look back at our life and see the times God was preparing you under the radar for such a challenge. If you can't think of any times like that, God is probably preparing you right this moment for a challenge ahead.

Hearing the Good News

Posted by Stephen

At the beginning of this Awana year, I showed a brief video called "The Value of the Gospel." This video was a great way to remind everyone that the Good News is the central idea of Awana.


Last night as I was walking around as Commander, I stopped by Truth & Training's "Counsel Time." They were commending each other on wild hair (because it was "Crazy Hair Night"), and then one of our Truth & Training workers, dressed like a boxer, stood up, and had an "interview" with the Director. The skit was unscripted and very funny: the kids laughed, the leaders laughed, I even laughed!

"I workout 16 hours a day to stay in shape," Boxer Baby Boy Blue said. "Work hard to win, work hard to get to heaven," he continued. The the Director said, "But we can't work our way to heaven! Can we?" (motioning to the children for backup)


The children were hearing the Good News and learning to share it at the same time. They were having a blast and growing deep in faith at the same time.

Later that night I overheard one leader sharing the Good News personally to one of the clubbers, and when I can by that leader again, they were sharing with another clubber.

You see, the Good News is the focus, the vision, and the goal of Awana. Awana is a program that attracts kids and powerfully and personally exposes them to Christ. Awana is all about the Gospel.

Awana Begins!

Posted by Stephen


We are now on our third week of Awana, and God is certainly blessing us! We started our Awana club in the triple-digits and saw good growth on the second week as well!


Three reasons Awana is doing well at Central: 1) people are praying, 2) volunteers are working very hard, and 3) God is gracious!

Please continue to pray for our Awana ministry this school year! There will be many posts on Awana, so stay tuned!

Breaking Out of Debtor's Prison

Posted by Perry


In the American religion of materialism, there are two words more sacred than any other: "Charge It!" Consider this scenario before you do.

1. 30 year old lady has a $3,500 balance on her credit card at 18% interest. She makes the minimum payment each month. How old will she be when she has her credit card paid off? [70 years old]


2Ki 4:1 Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves."
2Ki 4:2 And Elisha said to her, "What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?" And she said, "Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil."
2Ki 4:3 Then he said, "Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few.
2Ki 4:4 Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside."
2Ki 4:5 So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her.
2Ki 4:6 When the vessels were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another vessel." And he said to her, "There is not another." Then the oil stopped flowing.
2Ki 4:7 She came and told the man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest."

This lady has a serious debt crisis. Let's learn from her situation and see what God's answer to her need was. That will provide us with the "principles" which will help us break out of the financial prison you may find yourself in.

FIRST - EVALUATE THE NEED

* What is your situation? Debt gets worse and worse. Just when you think you can catch your breath another bill or "emergency" will come and knock the air right out of you.

Sit down and total up your monthly expenses [list them]. Then total up your monthly income, or get a good estimate. Compare the two with one another. If your expenses are higher than your income you are in the process of going into debt. Either increase the income or decrease the expense. Everyone in the family needs to be in on this process so as not to undermine each other.

* What brought you to the situation you are in? We're not told in our scripture reading how the lady got into such a desperate situation, but there was a valid reason. What's yours? If you don't discover the answer to this question you'll simply be treating a symptom and not the underlying cause. Sometimes it's a failure to recognize the difference between "needs" and "wants" or mayby a failure to put aside some money in the good times to be prepared for the unforseen bad times that are ahead.

*What will you lose if your debt situation doesn't change? The lady of our text was going to lose her children. There are a lot of things you can lose: peace of mind, marriage, and the list goes on. We have a spiritual debt you know. We are spiritual debtors to the almighty God. If we don't deal with our spiritual debt by initiating a relationship with Jesus Christ and allow Him to pay our spiritual debt, we will lose our eternal soul.

*What is your attitude toward the situation you are in? The mother knowing she was going to lose her boys was desperate for a solution. She could have been angry or unconcerned. She could have blamed someone else for the problem. She could have become paralyzed with fear and retreated into her shell. The proper reaction is what our Mom did, she sought wisdom from someone else.

SECOND - SEEK WISDOM

The woman went to the right source of wisdom for her particular problem. She didn't go to the creditor and beg for mercy, she went to God's spokesman, Elisha. She gave him all the information he needed to accurately understand the situation. She didn't let her pride stand in the way and withold valuable information that could sink the entire process. Some wisdom you may receive may sound a little like this: don't live above your means/ take your lunch instead of eating out/ you get out of debt a little at the time/ don't borrow more to pay existing debt/ be obedient to wise counsel/ don't wait too late before seeking help/ it's a sign of strength to seek wisdom, not weakness/

THIRD - TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WHAT'S AVAILABLE

The issue is not how small the jug of oil is or how beneath you the job is or how insignificant your skill is, use it. Turn it over to God and then watch Him work. Examine your resources, talent and skills. Can you work on cars, tutor, sew, do crafts, bake cookies? Take advantage of the time that you have to contribute to the indebtedness. It's easy to concentrate on the negative or always be wishing for what someone else has. Find what's positive in your finances or your relationships and build on that. The woman said, "All I've got is just this oil." However small, anything turned over to God, becomes extraordinary. God asked Moses, "What do you have in your hand?" Moses answered, "just a stick". You know how that turned out...

FOURTH - WORK HARD

I don't know what this mother was expecting when she came to Elisha, but what she got was a difficult job. She had to go to all her friends and neighbors collecting empty jars and fill them with oil. She gathered and filled and gathered and filled until there was no more energy or room in the house. Now what? On top of all my debt, I'm worn out! She found Elisha and said, "Now what?" You know what he said? More work..."sell the oil." Have you ever tried to sell stuff? You can pay $200 for a new suit, but when you sell it in a garage sale you can hardly get $5 for it. Selling is tough! Some people are looking for an easy way out of debt, publishers clearing house, gambling, bankruptcy, etc.. 2Thes. 3:10 says, If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. Psalm 37:21 says, The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives; If you get into debt because of poor decisions, mismanagement of God's resources or selfish desires, don't expect God to drop money from the sky so you can pay off your debt and never learn your lesson. God could have provided for the Mom in our story with a miracle, but she and the boys needed to learn how to make it in a tough world without Dad around. Paying off debts, whether financial or spiritual takes work.

In a spiritual sense, we are all debtors. We are all sinners. Some try to pay off their debt through working hard. But his is one debt that we could never pay off on our own. We keep sinning faster than we can work to take care of it. Our only hope is to allow Jesus to pay our sin debt with His completed work on the cross. He will if you will ask Him. Then let the overflow of the oil of God's joy flood you with life in all its fulness.

Perspective

Posted by Perry


I recently asked my wife, during an afternoon ride in the car, "what is the most important piece of equipment in the house?" After some deep meditation she replied, "the refrigerator, because without it we might starve." Then I asked her what would be next on the list of most important equipment in the house. She said, as if it were a toss up between her previous answer and this one, "the bed where we rest, because without it we wouldn't have the energy to do our work." When I asked her what would be number three I got that look of, "how long is this list?" I assured her it was the last one before I made my point. She thought for quiet awhile because this was the last slot to fill in the survey. She finally said, "washing machine, we need clean clothes."

If you and I had filled in those three blanks we might have given different answers. Every one has a different perspective on life. I rephrased the question and asked it again. "If a pan of grease on the stove top was on fire, and the house was in danger of burning to the ground, you're telling me the most important piece of equipment in our house is the refrigerator, followed by the bed and washing machine. "NO!" she said, it would be the fire extinguisher."

My next question was this, "how far down on the list would the fire extinguisher have been under the washing machine?" She simply replied, "a long way down, if I had even thought of it at all."

We further discussed the reasons and decided the following:

* we don't expect to use the extinguisher every day

* while we see it numerouse times a day sitting on the kitchen cabinet, we don't pay it any attention.

* it just doesn't seem useful in the routine of our everyday life.

Then I made my point. How many other things, or people are just like that fire extinguisher? Given the right situation they are invaluable, but as a general rule they're pretty much overlooked. Can you think of any examples? (spare tire, fever thermometer, poison control phone #, pastor/chaplain, God...and the list goes on).

Let's discuss that last entry, "God". Does He really fall into the same category as a fire extinguisher or further down the list? If He does, we've as much as said we don't plan on needing His help every day. Do you understand God's Holy Spirit came to this earth to indwell (live inside), Christian believers to give daily comfort and guidance.

While we may accept the fact that God dwells with man, is our attitude one that knows He's there, but we just don't pay Him any attention? The reason God created man in His own image was so voluntary fellowship could be exchanged in the relationship. Any time we ignore the other party in any relationship problems are on the near horizon. A vibrant relationship is one in which both parties are serious about the interaction, and not just in a selfish sort of way.

Then there's that third reason. Maybe we just don't see God's usefulness in our daily routine. Oh sure, He's very important when there's a tragedy or crisis. It's just hard to imagine a God in heaven that's interested in the basic structure of our life. Does He really care where we buy our groceries? Should it concern Him whether we saved $ 123 on our car insurance? Would He want to know what our plans for the weekend are? The answer to all the above and any more you want to add is a resounding YES! Jesus has a desire to be our "personal" savior. That in itself says that He wants to "save" us. Not only from separation from our creator for all eternity, but on a smaller and everyday scale, He wants to save us from unnecessary problems in life.

Here's what He said Himself,
John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Sounds to me like Jesus wants to be on the list above the fire extinguisher. He can really add a supernatural dimension to our life if we will let Him have the number one spot on our list.

So here's a question for you. What's the most important relationship we could ever have as we live here on this earth??? Does your actual life reflect your Sunday School answer?