Stress, Out!

“Say it. Right now. What are you stressed about?”

Finding a job passing my economics class cleaning my room talking to people — paying for gas.

I gave the youth only a moment to consider the question, but their answers were quick. Stress was on the tip of their tongues, too frequently tasted to be far away. None of them are even eighteen yet. What happens when they reach adulthood and the “real stress” begins?

What are you stressed about? Do your current worries pop up in your mind in less than a second? We stress about things that have happened, things that could happen, mundane things, work things, fitness things, money things. We even stress about things we know are irrational! My mom used to worry in advance that I might one day decide to go skydiving. She’d say, “The only time I want to know that you’re going skydiving is when it’s over, and you had better start that call with, ‘First off, I’m alive.’” I was years away from the thought of skydiving, and she was already fretting over my decision.

In the midst of stress, it’s hard to be rational. The enemy tries to pack your mind with so many kinds of worry that you not only can’t commit to memory where on earth you put your keys but you also can’t retrace your path back out of stressville.

Please read these questions with the mindset of preparation, not to be stressed but to overcome one of the biggest obstacles to your peace.

Where do you find your value?

Stress is a sign that you are looking for value somewhere other than God.

 

We all want to be valued, right? I haven’t yet met anyone who honest-to-goodness doesn’t want at least one person to notice their worth. We’re designed for companionship (Genesis 2:8), but along with the desire for companionship seems to have sneaked in the imperative for our companions to adore us at all times. What do they think of what I’m doing? Have I gotten any praise lately? If I’m good at what I’m doing, why hasn’t anyone noticed? How do I get them to notice? Do they value the work I’m doing? Do they value me?

Waiting on their value, your mind is performing a high-pressure gymnastics routine on an unstable mat for a panel of fickle judges. You have to perform well, but you’re not sure how. You want to impress, but you’re not sure who. If you are going to place your hunger for value in anyone, place it in the One whose love does not change. God’s value for you is not based on your looks, age, income, history, or any other shifting qualities.

“What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).

If a small bird can’t move a muscle without God noticing, there’s no way you could spend a moment of your life unnoticed by God. He has numbered all the hairs on your head, and unless you have numbered your own hairs, God knows you better than you know yourself! He knows your value, the value that He Himself weaved into you.

 

Where do you place your trust?

Stress is a sign that you are not trusting God. Harsh, I know. We’re quick to say that we trust God, and I honestly believe that we believe we do.

I’ve been challenged in this regard many times. In college especially, I got into such frequent patterns of stress that my roommate kept a constant note posted in front of my desk with the mantra, “Don’t stress before you stress.” At the time, I was literally stressing about how much stress I had in my life.

I suppose I pictured that my parents would respond to my anxious calls with “It’s going to be okay. We’ll take you out for cheesecake tonight and maybe you’ll feel better.” Instead my Dad responded without fail, “Do you trust God?” Ouch. (If you need a swift kick into faith, call Jon Medin and tell him you’re stressed).

Consider God’s Word:

 

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT).

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

You will keep in perfect peace  those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3).

Now consider that these are not obscure verses. You’ve likely heard them before. We know that God’s plan is to prosper us and give us hope; we know that we have an immovable foundation; and we know we have God’s peace at hand. Still, we stress. If that’s the case, can we truthfully say that we take Him at His word?

Please note that you can trust God for one thing and not another. For instance, Tyler and I rarely worry about money. We’ve never had a financial need unmet and haven’t wondered if that would be the case since before we got married. When it comes to peace about our summer schedule, though, I have often gotten lost in Wonder(if-we-can-make-it-work)land.

To echo Gertrude Stein’s thought on the Law of Identity, let me propose: faith is faith is faith is faith. Faith is not fractioned. Its meaning doesn’t shrink to meet our current level of trust. In fact, the very first definition of “faith” listed in the Oxford Living Dictionary is “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” Complete.

Proverbs 3:5-6 directs you to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” All your heart. In all you do. In everything you do. Faith in God is all-in. Is your faith — your trust — in Him? Are you all in?

Where do you invest your time?

Stress is a sign that you have not been spending time with God.

I’m sure I sound redundant to the youth at this point; I’ve said it to them so often. There is only one way to do this. If I’m going skydiving, I’m not gearing up with my leather Louis Vuitton backpack, and I won’t encourage you to do so either, especially since we both have to live to call our moms afterward. If we’re stepping out of the plane, we’re doing it equipped with the proper skydiving pack. You know, the kind that’s filled with a parachute? Because I’d sure be stressed if I was falling 13,000 feet without the right equipment.

Equip yourself with God. Revisiting Philippians 4:7, take note that this verse begins with the word “then” in the NLT. Some translations begin with “and”. Both words indicate that the statement does not stand alone. So what comes before?

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace…” (NLT, emphasis added). Proverbs 3:6 is written in the same manner: “Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” First, seek His will. That means time invested – in prayer, in the Bible, in worship. Next (“and”), He will show you which way to go.

By all accounts, your time with Him will be reflected by peace and discernment. I know you want peace, and you know there’s only one place to look for peace that lasts. But I’m not talking about a 30-second prayer before dinner or a quick 2-minute “God, just please make today good” request. Don’t step out into the day without taking the time to equip yourself.

How do I get stress out of my life?

Put your hunger for value in the Lord. No one’s value for you is as unshakeable as God’s. Gather up all the value you’ve entrusted into other people’s hands and put it all in His. The hunt for value becomes much simpler when you have only to look in one place.

Take God at his word. What better word than the one that promises you a future, hope, and peace!

Invest your time in God. Seek God, every day. Wake up early if you need the extra time. If you’re not sure what to say, just sit and listen. Pray in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit knows what you need for today.
 
-Catherine Lexvold

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Successful Leadership in the Home

...For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God? (1 Timothy 3:5)
 
A phrase often used in business circles is, “The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang.” This saying characterizes the day in which we live. It seems everything is about speed. How fast can we get it done? How fast can we get there? How fast can this machine run? Fast is great! But when it comes to great leaders, God is not looking for someone who will just focus on getting the job done fast. He is looking for people who will get the job done with excellence. 
 
God set high standards on leadership positions in His church. Why? Because He wants believers to have excellent role models in order to become the best leaders in the world. He knows that what is in the head will flow into the body, and He wants His body taking dominion here on the earth!
 
In the day we live, books on leadership in the workplace abound. People have learned how to achieve promotion, how to lead their companies, and how to make it to the top of their profession. Yet at the same time of great leaders abounding in the earth, we have seen marriages fail and families fall apart at alarming rates! What is the answer to this dilemma? We believe the answer begins with a study of leadership in the home. According to 1 Timothy 3:5, striving to achieve a leadership position before it has been achieved in the home is like the old adage of putting the cart before the horse. God knows that whether in the ministry or the workplace, the joys of success achieved are much greater when a person has a peaceful home environment and can enjoy the fruit of their labor. 
 
Architects tell us that the taller they plan to build a building, the deeper they plan and place the foundation footings under the ground in order to support the building and keep it from tipping over. This is a perfect illustration of why God desires that believers have strong marriages and families. He knows that the deeper a marriage and family is rooted in God’s love and unity, the higher that family can build and the more dominion they can take in the earth to achieve greatness for God. 
 
The most basic requirement to be a successful leader in our home is having our priorities in order. We know this means we should first and foremost love God and seek to know Him with all of our heart. 
 
When we consistently maintain God as first place in our life, we are prepared to be a quality spouse, parent, or whatever leader God has called us to be. When He is truly first place in our life, our words and actions will show on a consistent basis the fruit of the Spirit, which is “…love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). With these operating through us, we are able to have healthy relationships in our homes.
 
-Pastors Shaun & Amy

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Why Worship?

“What is the difference between worship and all other music?”

This blog is born out of a question I received from a young lady a couple weeks ago. I had just finished explaining that I don’t include music on my playlist if it’s not worship. “What’s the difference?” Surprised by her confusion, I spent several weeks considering her question.

Before the bulk of my post, I want to encourage those who are reading this. The odds are, if you’ve opened a blog post about worship, you are interested in worship. I see many worshipers on Sunday mornings who are completely after God, overflowing with an eagerness to praise Him, and I have no doubts that the desire runs through us all. After all, we are designed to bring Him glory (Isaiah 43:7). It’s weaved into our very existence.

Whether you are starting or continuing to grow in your knowledge of worship, I hope this post encourages your inherent desire to bring Him glory.

  1. Worship Is Conscious

It’s Sunday morning, right on the dot of service time. You walk into the sanctuary as worship begins and start singing along with the rest of the congregation.

Why?

If we don’t understand who God is and what He has done, what is the distinction between singing along with worship and singing along to Top 40s radio? It’s karaoke. We’re doing it because it feels good and everyone around us is doing it, not because we want to express our adoration for our God.

I encourage you to read Psalm 103. This scripture is certainly not the only one from which we can gain insight about why we worship the Bible is replete with reasons to glorify God but it’s a good start.

Let all that I am praise the Lord…. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases…. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things…. The Lord gives righteousness  and justice to all who are treated unfairly…. The Lord is compassionate and merciful…. The Lord is like a father to his children…. Let all that I am praise the Lord” (NLT).

From Psalm 103 alone, we are reminded that God is forgiving, redeeming, merciful, loving, righteous, just, and compassionate. What wonderful reasons for God to be worshiped! The first step to true worship is understanding Who we are worshiping and why.

Once we understand why we worship, we can move to establishing our focus.

  1. Worship Is Outside of Us (Inward-Focus)

Worship is not about us. I realize this statement sounds obvious, like “Tell me what I don’t know,” so let’s dig in a bit. Here is the same sentence stated several ways:

  • Worship is not about self-reflection.
  • Worship is not about how the song makes us feel (what we get out of it).
  • Worship is not about our personal style or what “touches our heart.”

Inward-focus contemplates the effects worship has on us, asking questions like, “What do I want to receive from worship today?”, “How do these words make me feel?” and “Do I look engaged enough in worship?” These questions are not in themselves wrong; worship does affect us emotionally when we receive from God. However, in the midst of worship, they are a distraction from our true purpose.

Many worshipers, including myself, have experienced moments driving home after a service and thinking, “I just didn’t feel worship today.” Disappointment from a lack of personal impact is the red flag of inward focus. When we’re focused on God, solely on God, worship will not disappoint.

We don’t lose depth when we shift our focus; we multiply it! We don’t lose out on a relationship just because we don’t approach worship as a two-way street. The Bible is clear that God desires a relationship with us (Acts 17:27), and He will give all He has for that relationship (Ephesians 5:25). Worship is our time to reciprocate love in our relationship with God. Out of His total love for us, we receive comfort, life, and strength in worship, but the blessings we receive are the byproduct of our true worship, not the purpose.

It is precisely because we are taking the focus off of ourselves and putting it on God that we can experience life-giving worship. Philippians 4:8-9 says it all:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

When you meditate on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, the ultimate result is that “the God of peace will be with you.” God is everything good! He is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy! Meditating on Him, beyond ourselves, results in His peaceful presence.

  1. Worship Is Beyond Our Environment (Outward-Focus)

Worship is not about the atmosphere. Outward-focus means constantly digesting the world around us how it looks, how it sounds, how it meets our needs, etc: “That guitarist looks too crazy” or “This would look way cooler with more lights and a fog machine” are thoughts indicative of outward focus.

Let’s revisit the Biblical definition of worship:

The primary word for worship in Hebrew is shachah [shaw-khaw’], which means “prostrate (in homage to royalty or God): bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence.” Even translated into the three Greek words, Proskuneo, Sebomai, and Latreuo, the term retains a definition of deep reverence, deference, and awe — face-down emotions. Bow. Fall down. Prostrate.

Have you ever tried to check out the room around you while lying flat on your face? Experience tells me it’s very difficult. True worship isn’t easily distracted; it’s a “facedown” expression. True worship is humble and so completely concentrated on God that it actually distracts us from the world around us!

Worship Is Upward-Focused

Worship is entirely about God. Worship is about what He feels. What He gets out of it. What touches His heart. Worship is not about any of us or the distractions around us (I hope I sound redundant at this point). Really, the list of what worship is not about is so long because the list of what worship is about is so short. There is only one name on that list, and what a deserving name it is!

Worship Him because of His greatness (1 Kings 19:9-18), strength (Joshua 6), faithfulness (Genesis 21:1-7), power and creativity (Genesis 1), justice and forgiveness (John 8), protection (2 Kings 6) and worthiness! Worship God with shouts of Joy (Psalm 95:1), with psalms of praise (Psalm 95:2), with deepest awe (Psalm 5:7). Bow down before him (Psalm 95:6), sing to Him a new song (Psalm 96:1). Worship Him with all of your honesty and the depth of your being (John 4:24).

I have one primary request to end this post: in all you do, do it to the glory of God. Authentic worship the kind of worship that ushers in the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit is the result, not the catalyst, of an authentic life. When we are truly devoted to God’s glory, both inside and outside of the sanctuary, there is nothing that can stand in the way of honor, unity, and excellence in our worship.

Let’s focus on pleasing the Lord and directing all of our worship upward.
 
-Catherine Lexvold, Worship Leader

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I Am

“I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you.
I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.
Let those who are wise understand these things.
Let those with discernment listen carefully” (Hosea 14:8-9 NIV).


God declares in Hosea, “I am…” for those who are heavy laden with sins. He declares hope to those desiring to release their sins, receive His forgiveness and offer up praises to Him. God not only declares that HE IS the God who answers your prayers and cares for you; He also affirms that He will heal you, love you, not be angry with you, refresh you, cause you to blossom like a lily and grow deep roots, make you as beautiful as an olive tree and fragrant like a cedar, and cause you to flourish!

What great promises we have, displaying His loving kindness and mercy to the lost, the backslider, and the hurting. Those who will choose to look to God for shelter and give Him praise as Lord of all receives the great power and joy of becoming eternally fruitful in life, as we stay connected to Him.

Here in Hosea, God’s love points us to the future coming of Jesus and forgiveness we receive through Him. The New Testament (NT) goes on to make approximately 122 references to who we are “In Him” or “In Whom.” As you personalize these statements from the NT, God provides us our own “I am” statements.

As He says “I am” and declares who He is to us, He opens our eyes to who we are. Now as children of God, made right with Him through Jesus, we can boldly declare “I am” all He has paid the price for me to be through faith in Him. As you read and meditate on the statements below, may you rejoice in your new identity in Christ and receive His love in abundance!
 
I am loved by God. (John 3:16)
I am delivered from the power of darkness through His Son. (Colossians 1:13)
I am able to love others with the love of God. (Colossians 3:14) 
I am called with a holy calling, according to His purpose and grace through Christ. (2 Timothy 1:9) 
I am healed by His stripes. (1 Peter 2:24) 
I am increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10) 
I am giving thanks in everything. (1 Thessalonians 5:18) 
I am sharing Jesus with others. (Romans 1:16) 
I am complete in Him. (Colossians 2:10) 
I am surrounded with His favor like a shield. (Psalm 5:12) 
 
-Pastors Shaun & Amy 

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The Power of Praise

We can learn so much about having an effective marriage and family from observing Christ’s relationship with the church and the church’s relationship with Christ. In the Book of Acts, Chapter 16, we find the account of Paul and Silas being thrown into prison. It tells us in verses 25-26, 
 
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 
 
At this point of great trial and affliction, Paul and Silas chose to respond through prayer and praise! This was truly what Psalm 116:17 calls offering to God “…the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” It isn’t that God needs our praise at times of trial and despair in our life. We need to praise Him in order to get our mind off our circumstances and on God’s ability to show up on our behalf. When Paul and Silas did this, they were not only loosed from their chains and jail cell, but all of the prisoners were loosed also! This shows a very important spiritual point; our praise has the ability to not only set us free from the power of darkness, but others as well. 
 
We find another account of the power of praise in 2 Chronicles 20:21-22: 
 
And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went our before the army and were saying: ‘Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever,’ Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. 
 
Praise is powerful! Praise breaks the strongholds of the enemy. God was able to move on His people’s behalf to defeat their enemies because they put their faith and trust in Him through praise! God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He will show Himself strong on our behalf just as powerfully today when we praise Him and even more so now because we have a covenant though Jesus. 
 
When we are in a difficult situation, whether it be marriage, children, or anything else, we can praise Him because He is faithful! We can praise Him because Hid mercy endures forever! After we pray faith-filled and Holy-Spirit-led prayers over our situation, we can praise and thank Him that He is going to to take what the devil intended for our harm and turn it around for our good and His glory (see Romans 8:28). We can believe God that when the dust settles, we will still be standing and we will be all the stronger in our walk with God and in our relationships. 
 
David was called a man after God’s own heart, and we see why in the book of Psalms. He was constantly praising God. In fact, Psalm 119:164 tells us that he praise the Lord seven times a day! If something bad happened, He praised God for being faithful and merciful. If something good happened, he praised Him for the good. 
 
No matter what, David was always praising! He even said when he was going through a great trial of affliction, “But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more” (Psalm 71:14). In other words, the devil just couldn’t shut him up. He was determined to praise no matter what! You know, you just can’t keep a man like that down. One way or another he is going to rise to the top because God inhabits the praises of His people. God will do the same thing for us. Our praise to God has the ability to completely turn a situation around. As Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.
 
Praying abundant blessings over you, 
Shaun & Amy

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