Unity Through Communication

How can you nurture good communication that leads to unity instead of strife? Matthew 7:1 tells us one of the most important keys: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” A very kind and considerate pastor friend of ours once told us two important keys he has learned to communication: 1. Never assume anything about anyone, and 2. always choose to believe the best about everyone. He commented that even if he sees a friend or acquaintance and they don’t acknowledge him, he will not allow himself to think that they might be upset with him or acting rude. Instead he thinks, “They must be extremely busy to have not said hello.” Next he will pray that God will meet their needs for whatever caused them to be so preoccupied, rather than allowing thoughts of judgment towards them. He then chooses not to think about it again.
I find that with parenting or even work relationships, if one of our kids or co-workers seems not quite themselves, there is almost always a deeper reason for it. If we just politely press in and ask questions, they will open up about what’s really bothering them. I once heard a business leader say that he was baffled as to why one of his long-time employees was acting so irritable and forgetful at work. He finally called her into his office and asked her how she was doing. When she said, “fine,” he pressed in: “Well you don’t seem fine. Is your family okay?” She then burst into tears, revealing that her mom who lived five hours away had been diagnosed with cancer, and she had no time off left to help her through the treatments. He told her that their company believed in treating others the way they would want to be treated. He would get special clearance for her to get as much paid time off as she needed. It would have been easy to just judge her poor behavior, but this wise employer chose to press in and find a reason.
His example illustrates an important truth. Some people have difficulty communicating with others because they judge others’ intentions incorrectly. If a person chooses to “read in” to others’ actions and become offended, someone will probably “return the favor” fairly soon. This can happens back and forth in a marriage repeatedly, and it creates havoc. It’s wise to assume positive intent whenever there is room for an opinion. Then others are more likely to give us the same courtesy and mercy in return. Praying for others rather than assuming we know what they are thinking goes much further to build strong relationships with positive communication.
Another great communication key is asking rather than telling. In Matthew 7:7 Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you…” If we are to give God the courtesy of asking Him for something instead of telling Him to give it to us, shouldn’t we give similar respect to our spouse, children, and friends? When people feel others owe them something, they tell them to do things. We should never have the attitude that anyone owes us anything. Strong relationships are built and continue to grow through respect, honor, and kind words.
While a person can probably get away with telling others in some work situations, it’s still not the kind thing to do. Your spouse is not your servant (although we should eagerly serve each other out of love); rather, they are your companion. When orders are given in a marriage, it quickly turns the relationship from one of love and companionship to one of a master and servant. Most people wouldn’t enjoy a marriage like that!
Even with our children, it’s wise to ask them to do things rather than tell them, in order to train them in how to be polite to others. Simple things like asking them to please pass something at the table or asking if they would please pick up their room or do their homework go a long way in training them how to treat friends and their future spouse someday. Polite and respectful people get more opportunities in life and, therefore, are more prepared for success.
Jesus’ said it best in Luke 6:31, “Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”  When we sow seeds of love and respect with our words and actions, over time we will reap a harvest of healthy relationships and blessed communication!
With love, 
Pastors Shaun & Amy

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Financial Unity

Most of us have met people who claim to be a self-made man or woman. They like to think they are not dependent on anyone, including God. The problem with this mindset it that God did not make people to function independent of one another. We read in Ephesians 4:14-16 about this, 
…That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does it’s share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. 
According to this, we see each person plays a part in fulfilling a need to be met in the whole unified body of Christ. As a marriage team, we are also equipped to supply a certain part (our area of dominion) to the body of Christ as a whole. The gifts we have work directly together with our spouse’s gifts to cause growth in the church body as well as in the the body of our own household to edify each other in love. 
We will use an example for this of a couple we know. They are a great illustration of how a couple who is not in full-time ministry can utilize a regular calling to create eternal vision and value. This couple has many gifts that fit together wonderfully, but we will focus on how the husband’s God-given ability in business works together with one of his wife’s God-given gifts to create eternal value. The husband is a very successful businessman and the wife has chosen to be a stay-at-home mother. The husband is gifted in leadership and finances, and the wife has the gift of giving, as talked about in Romans 12:6 and 8, 
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them… he who gives, with liberality… 
The wife, like few people we have seen before, has the gift of knowing when someone needs money and knowing when they are supposed to sow (give) something into someone’s life. The husband is very good at saving for their future, included college money for their children, retirement, and things of that nature, yet most importantly he is very open to being an avenue for God to work through whenever God asks them to give. They both understand that although earthly investments are important, the greatest investment someone can make is investing in God’s kingdom, where moth and rust do not destroy (see Matthew 6:19). 
The wife of this couple has come to us before and said, “You know that young single mom you introduced me to at such and such a place last year, can I get her address from you? She’s been on my heart with Christmas coming up.” Another time she called and said, “Remember that one single woman you used to work with last year? She’s been on my heart lately and I feel like we are supposed to send her something. Can you find out her address?” In each of these cases, it was very timely and very much needed in the people’s lives. 
In addition to being led by the Holy Spirit from day to day, they focus on consistently giving to certain ministries each month in order to build God’s kingdom, which produces long-lasting, eternal value and reward. They have been one of the most consistent givers to our ministry every month for many years without fail. Even when we were still in our preparation stages for college, as well as getting our ministry off the ground, they by faith saw our long-term vision and knew out commitment to its fulfillment. They chose to invest in our ministry vision from God, making it a part of their own ministry vision by becoming financial partners. 
This couple is quite a contrast to the story of the man in the Bible who did not have a Christ-centered vision, but rather, only a temporal one. We find it in Luke 12:16-21, 
The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ so he said, ‘I will do this; I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul you have many good laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
Some people pass over this last sentence, thinking it is condemning people for having earthly investments. It is not. We can see from the life of Joseph in the Old Testament that God encourages saving. The key to this sentence is the phrase, “and is not rich toward God.” The only question we need to find an answer for in our checkbook ledger is: “Are we consistently rich toward God, or is our main focus earthly goods and investments?”
With love, 
Pastors Shaun & Amy

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Renewed Strength

Have you ever felt like you need more strength to get through life? I’d venture to guess in work, home or family, we all feel that from time to time. Today I want to talk about how to gain supernatural strength in challenging times!
In the Bible, it tells a story of when David and his warrior men who fought with him had been away at battle. When they came back one day, they found one of their enemies had captured their wives and children! It says that David’s men were so upset that they wanted to kill him. You want to talk about a bad day! David could understand anything you or I have ever gone through! 1 Samuel 30:6 tells us, “Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”
How can we encourage ourselves in the Lord at hard or exhausting times like David did? There are multiple ways.
I have found when someone is going through a very fierce challenge in life, sometimes they won’t even acknowledge anything good God has done in their past because they are so focused on the negative of today. We have to guard ourselves from getting in an ungrateful mindset no matter how bad it is at the moment.
I once heard someone say that if a big group of people could all throw their own problems in the middle of the floor and take anyone else’s problems back instead, most people would choose their own problems back after seeing how challenging everyone else has it too.
One key in hard times to renew your strength is to stay focused on anything you can thank God for. Take time each morning before even getting out of bed to thank Him for three to five things.
A second idea is to stop and think about victories God has given you in the past, whether small or large, and thank God for those past victories as well.
A third idea, is to listen to encouraging ministers or speakers on a podcast or teaching online.
A fourth idea, is to take a few minutes to surround yourself each day with tranquility. Maybe go for a walk, sit by a lake or garden, or even get a water fountain for a room in your home that you can go have a few minutes of quiet time daily. Another idea for tranquility is to sit and close your eyes while listening to peaceful instrumental music.
A fifth idea to renew your strength, and one of my favorite ways, is by reading encouraging Scripture. I’ll share a few with you of my personal favorites that I have highlighted in my Bible.
Isaiah 40:29-31 NKJV He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Isaiah 41:10 NLT Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
Isaiah 43:1-2 NKJV But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says,“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
Isaiah 44:3 NKJV For I will pour out water to quench your thirst and to irrigate your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your children.
Isaiah 54:11-13 NKJV O storm-battered city, troubled and desolate. I will rebuild you with precious jewels and make your foundations from lapis lazuli. I will make your towers of sparkling rubies, your gates of shining gems, and your walls of precious stones. I will teach all your children, and they will enjoy great peace.
Isaiah 54:17 AMP “No weapon that is formed against you will succeed; And every tongue that rises against you in judgment you will condemn. This [peace, righteousness, security, and triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And this is their vindication from Me,” says the Lord.
Isaiah 51:11 AMP So the redeemed of the Lord will return And come with joyful shouting to Zion; Everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, And sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Anytime you are discouraged in life, remember what author John Mason once said, “Happiness is a direction, not a destination.” You can’t get to where you want to be overnight, but the key is in pointing your vehicle in the right direction! If you make sure that each day, you start your day in the right direction — seeking God, reading His Word, speaking life and blessing over yourself and your family, praying for God’s direction, being thankful, listening to something encouraging, looking at your written goals; these are all things that help point your day and steer your ship in the right direction!
As Robert Schueller once said, “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do!” Remember to read the Scriptures I shared with you over and over whenever you need more strength! And remember David when he strengthened himself in the Lord, then went against great opposition and won the victory! God’s Word will help get you through whatever situation you may face!
God bless you with His peace and joy!
Pastors Shaun & Amy

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We Stand Tallest on Our Knees!

What do you do when you are facing an impossible situation? What do you do when worry is trying to keep you up at night? What do you do when you know you are supposed to be gaining ground in life but it seems like instead you’re standing still or moving backward?
The greatest thing we can do in life is humble ourselves before God on our knees and ask for His help. We will always stand tallest in life when we get on our knees. I once heard someone say, “Anything worth worrying about is worth praying about.”
Just like there are many different types of sports, such as baseball, volleyball, football, tennis, and soccer, there are also many types of prayer:
  1. There is fellowship prayer, such as “Good morning, Father!” It’s having conversation with Him.
  2. Another is thanksgiving prayer, which is one of my favorite! This is when you thank God for all He has done in your life and praise Him in advance for all you are confidently trusting He is yet to do because He is a good God.
  3. Intercession prayer is when you pray God’s promises from the Bible over someone else’s difficult situation with a heart of compassion.
  4. There is also the prayer of petition, when you pray for God’s help over your own life’s situations. One of my favorite prayers of petition is in 1 Chronicles 4:10 from a man named Jabez. This was his prayer, and in my mind’s eye, I picture him praying it earnestly on his knees. “And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain! So God granted him what he requested.” Wow! That’s a great ending to the story – to hear God granted him what he requested.
These are just four ways you can pray. The most important thing to remember is that your Father God is LONGING to be with you every day because HE LOVES YOU! He even encourages us in Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Prayer adds so many benefits to your life! Here are a few of them:
  1. Prayer brings you God’s wisdom (James 1:5).
  2. Prayer brings peace (Phil. 4:6-7).
  3. Prayer reveals God’s answers (Luke 11:9-10).
  4. Prayer heals the sick (James 5:13-15).
  5. Prayer defeats the enemy (Matt. 18:18).
  6. Prayer improves natural situations (James 5:17-18).
  7. Prayer restores what has been lost (Job 42:10).
  8. Prayer overcomes the impossible (Matt. 21:21-22).
God loves to connect with you! No matter what your past or even your present, He is waiting for you with open arms!
-Pastors Shaun & Amy

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Say Hello to the Future

“I think I have a problem with self-sabotage.” As I spoke with this precious woman, she went on to share how her life had finally started improving greatly. She was used to men who didn’t treat her very well, and she was used to not really feeling close to anyone. It was a lonely road that she knew in her heart she didn’t want anymore. She had finally met a man with great potential for the future who didn’t treat her like any of the other men from her past. Everything was looking up, but she just wasn’t content. She wasn’t used to things going well in her life, and when it actually happened, she felt uncomfortable with it. Before long, she chose to walk away from the great guy for someone who treated her poorly again.
The story above isn’t just one person‘s. It’s the story of many. I’ve sat down with ladies who tell me, “I really want a man who treats me right.” I’ve also heard men say, “I really want to settle down and have a family.” The challenge is, once opportunity knocks on their door, some of them run from it. Why? Are they afraid of failing the other person? Maybe they think they aren’t deserving of a great relationship. Maybe they fear they won’t measure up to make the other person happy. Or could it be, maybe they are afraid of success? Maybe they are afraid of the daily habits and work that success takes to maintain, and they don’t know if they want that kind of commitment in life.

I’m sure it depends on the person. Everyone’s story is different. One thing is certain, thoughmany people are afraid of the future, probably because it holds so many unknowns! So the real mystery to solve is this: how can we embrace our future without fear? How can we say hello to what God has for us, even when it is unknown, rather than retreating to the comfort of what is familiar in our lives? 

Think of Sarah (originally Sarai) in the Bible. She was told by her husband that God wanted them to move to an unknown land, away from their family. I’m sure that wasn’t a cakewalk. They had no cellphones, social media, or quick means of travel. Back then, if someone moved away from family, they usually never saw or spoke to them again. Can you imagine the thoughts going through her head? But she did it! She and Abraham became spiritual parents in the faith to us, and they will always be honored throughout eternity for the courage they displayed here on earth to pave the way for the rest of us.
Think of Ruth. After her husband passed, she felt in her heart that she should go with her mother-in-law to a foreign land and take care of her. That’s a bold step! Yet she did it. She trusted God, honored her elders. Look how well things turned out for her. She met a loving man who was even wealthy. God blessed her so much that she even became part of the lineage of Jesus.
Think of Joseph. Although he was born into a family of rude, abusive brothers who sold him into slavery, Joseph kept saying hello to the future. He clearly decided in life that he was going to serve God no matter where he was (remove “at), whether as a servant or as an inmate. No matter what life threw at him, he chose to daily be the best person he could possibly be. He was definitely a taking lemons and making lemonade kind of guy. 
Think of Esther. She went from being an orphan child (remove “and teenager” to being taken into the kings palace, knowing that if she didn’t get the one and only position as queen, she was destined to a life of loneliness with all the other ladies who were “wives” of the king. That had to be a mental and emotional challenge! (remove “to get over) Think of how inadequate and unprepared she must have felt. As far as we know, she hadn’t been trained to be royalty throughout her childhood, yet she embraced the training they gave her in the palace with grace and dignity. The Bible tells us Esther found favor in the sight of key people. She chose to,despite the misfortunes of her past, (remove “she was going to) give the future her best.
Isn’t that really what God wants for each one of us? As a loving Father, He wants to help each of us become the best “me” we can be. The challenge is that we have to believe in the ability God has placed in each one of us, and we have to believe in His power working in and through us.
Can we really become version of us, full of wisdom, grace and powerthat God originally created us to be before the fall of man in the Garden of Eden? God would tell you an emphatic YES! Don’t be afraid of the future! Yes, there are things we all have to overcome, but it is worth it. We really have two choices in life: move backward or move forward. You may think, “Well I don’t want to do either. I want to stay comfortable right where I am. The truth is, however, that the world is always moving forward (remove “and taking advancements), so if we stand still, we are still technically moving backwards.
We can either stay comfortable in what we are used to, which may be seeking out people who treat us with dishonor and disrespect, or we can retrain our minds to expect and display love and honor in the future. I would encourage you to take time each morning and night to visualize people being kind and honoring toward you (and you to them) so that it becomes normal for you. You may need to pray over and continually visualize what a healthy life and healthy relationships look like for you.
Saying hello to the future God has for us really boils down to this: Are we willing to choose and prepare ourself for wisdom in our future? Proverbs 26:11 tells us,“As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” This verse is describing someone who doesn’t want to embrace God’s future for them! Instead, they keep reverting back to their old ways.
What about you? What are you going to choose today? Psalm 4:18 says, “The path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.” Psalm 24:14 TLB says, “My son, honey whets the appetite and so does wisdom! When you enjoy becoming wise, there is hope for you! A bright future lies ahead!” Becoming wise is a choice we make daily — to listen to and read the right teachings about God’s love, people skills, faith, finances, leadership, and most important, to study the Bible! 
God is standing on your side, encouraging you, “My child, choose life! Choose wisdom! Choose to say hello to the good future I have for you!”       

There is a famous poem that says:

Doubt sees the obstacles

Faith sees the way.

Doubt sees the darkest night

Faith sees the day.

Doubt dreads to take a step

Faith soars on high.

Doubt questions “who believes?’

Faith answers “I.”

-Love, Pastors Shaun & Amy

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