Give Thanks, Always and Everywhere 

 

Gratitude never goes out of style. Often, the most joyful people are also the most grateful. They find a way to be grateful, regardless of their circumstances. Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk who has lived through a world war and the fascist takeover of his country, has found that gratefulness is essential to joyfulness. Gratitude is woven into the witness of Scripture, even in the unlikeliest of places. Thanksgiving makes countless appearances in the words of the prophets, the psalms and the witness of the early church. We may not be able to give thanks for everything that life hands us, but we can be grateful in every circumstance. Listen to the Feb 25 sermon, “Practice Gratitude.” 

Paul and Timothy, pastors and prisoners, write back to a church that they have founded and give thanks to God for their work and witness. They write that they are grateful for the gift that the church has sent, but they are even more grateful that the gospel message continues to spread by their imprisonment. Paul and Timothy identify as slaves of Christ Jesus and partners in ministry with the church in Philippi. Far from being ashamed of his chains, Paul writes that he is a slave of a slave, that he humbles himself because Jesus humbled himself, “taking the form of a slave” (Philippians 2:7). Paul gives thanks because he has found perfect freedom, which is service to God. Gratitude and joyfulness allow us to share in the mind of Christ by focusing not on ourselves but on others.

If Paul and Timothy can sing hymns of praise to God and write letters of encouragement from the inside of a prison cell, then we can learn to be grateful in all circumstances. Paul models grateful and constant prayer for the church in the hopes that they can discern what really matters through love, knowledge and insight. Paul continues to instruct us in filling our prayers with gratitude. When you saturate your life with prayer, your every word and action will overflow with love. So what are you grateful for right here, right now? In happiness and heartache, we can always give thanks. Gratitude is a constant companion. And joy always follows close behind!

Pastor Matt Potter

On the Road to Eliminating Debt 

 

Mom kindly paid for our FPU (Financial Peace University) class online back in February 2017. I did not take it seriously until we got to the retirement chapter and everything changed from there on. I could not fathom the idea of “retiring broke” like 70% of the Americans. My wife and I sat down and went through everything related to our financial goals and ways to pay off our debt. We followed the baby steps which started with $1000 in our savings. We are now on baby step #2. We have been “gazelling” it since then. We sold our cars, established a monthly budget, planned our meals weekly, closed out non-Dave approved investment accounts, got rid our credit cards, and decluttered our house to sell everything we could possibly can. Overall, we accumulated $245,000 of debt in student loans, car loans, and credit cards and had about left $100,000 when we started FPU (in 2017). To date, we have $78K of debt left to pay, mostly student loans. Our income is $65K/year after deductions. As my mom mentioned, I am in the military (Air Force) and currently assigned in Okinawa, Japan. We have no house payment, and have 3 kids ages 4 and under.

Stephen
FPU University Participant

Train Your Brain

Train Your Brain 

The human brain is an amazing instrument. Weighing less than 3 pounds, containing more than 100 billion neurons, it represents only about 2% of our body weight but uses 20% of the oxygen pumping through our bloodstream. At any given moment, our brains are receiving and processing more than 100 million pieces of information. What we call “thoughts,” are electrically charged chemical reactions traveling through neurological pathways in our brains at a rate of more than 200 miles per hour. An individual brain generates more electrical impulses in a single day than all of the world’s telephones combined. Listen to the Feb 18 sermon, “Train Your Brain.”

But our brain needs training. The Bible tells us that we should take control of our thoughts and train our brain to focus on those things which are good, noble, right, pure, lovely, excellent and admirable (Philippians 4:8). To train our brain, we must develop personal disciplines that help us focus our thoughts so that we can experience the life God intends for us. Many people think that joy is simply an emotional response to our external circumstances. When I experience pleasant circumstances, I will experience the emotion of joy. Without those pleasant circumstances, I will not experience joy. But Christians discover that joy is a disposition of the heart that we cultivate through our thoughts, not through our circumstances.

One way to help cultivate a life of joy by focusing our thoughts is to train ourselves to continually ask two questions, regardless of our circumstances. The first question is, “What’s good about this?” The second question is, “What am I thankful for right now?” These two questions don’t necessarily change our circumstances, but they do change how we think in the midst of our circumstances, which in turn cultivates joy and empowers us to persevere and thrive in the midst of challenge and adversity. Asking these two questions is not meant to create a false reality where we ignore pain and problems, but rather to focus our brains on the presence and promise of God, so that we can see the pain and problems from a new and better perspective. Joy begins with our thoughts, not our circumstances. And if we want to experience the joy that God has for us, we need to train our brain!

Pastor Mark Miller

Is Money a Big Deal to God?

 

“We are a class of imperfect Christians on a journey to engage with our finances in a more perfect way.  Led by the wit and wisdom of Dave Ramsey, we laugh, share, and communicate…and enjoy treats that our leader Bev Boyer so graciously provides each week (even when the roads are covered with snow and ice).  In short, the focus of the class (PEACE) represents our journey:  People Engaging And Combating the #1 Energy drainer: their finances. We are reminded by our tutor, Dave Ramsey, that ‘the Bible talks about money more often than it talks about love and grace.  Think our attitude about money might be a big deal to God?’  If you answered yes to that question, then you understand why we are participating in this course.  The class has met for only a few session so far, but we look forward to sharing our comments and reaction as we progress through the course.” – Dee Swanson.  Click here for more information on Financial Peace University.

“All four of us teachers (me, Joanne Griggs, Tim Miller, and Cameron Miller) have really enjoyed working with the classes.  After our first class was completed (a few years ago), we all looked at each other and said ‘Let’s do this again next year!’  And with each subsequent class, we have seen people come to the first class ‘with fear and trembling’ – sometimes because their own situation was really scary, and sometimes because they were afraid to try to budget.  Dave’s videos soon had us all laughing, both at him, and at all of us humans and our foibles – but he also teaches sound financial principles, and gives you the enthusiasm to begin to do the hard work that is required to re-think your financial life.  As the weeks progressed, we found our class members beginning to relax, and to take control.  By the last class, everyone had a good sense of where they wanted to go, and how to go about getting there.  Financial Peace University is empowering, and it’s a pleasure to be able to provide it for our members and guests.  I can confidently predict that we will offer it again next January(2019)!” – Bev Boyer

Two Questions

Two Questions to Consider 

I love good questions, they help us think clearly and grow wise.  Questions can inspire discovery and innovation.  Whenever I study a passage of scripture, I try to ask questions of the text because I believe those questions help me understand God’s wisdom, and apply that wisdom to my life.  Recently, I was studying Colossians 2:6-7, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, so continue to grow in Him, rooted and built up in the faith as you are taught, and overflowing with thanksgiving.”  Reflecting on this passage allowed me to consider two very important questions. Listen to the Feb 4 sermon, “Two Questions to Consider.”

  1. First question: Have I truly received Jesus Christ as Lord?  There is a difference between having an opinion about Jesus and making a commitment to Jesus.  Receiving Christ Jesus as Lord means more than just believing that He is the Son of God who died on the cross and rose from the dead.  It also means making a commitment to receive Jesus as my Savior and Lord, and to commit my life to Him by seeking to live as He would have me live.  This is what people mean when they talk about having a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”  It is more than an opinion, it is a relationship that requires an intentional decision to be committed.  In the same way that I committed myself to be in a personal relationship with my wife on our wedding day, I need to make sure that I have committed to be in a relationship with Jesus, and that I have made that decision clearly and earnestly.
  2. Second question: Am I continuing to grow in Him?  In other words, am I living out the implications of my commitment to Jesus.  A commitment to receive him as Lord implies a commitment to continue growing mature as a follower of Jesus Christ.  There is a difference between “trying” to become spiritually mature and “training” to become spiritually mature.  Christians are called to “train” themselves to become mature (1 Timothy 4:7).  This requires intentional effort and consistent discipline, so I must make sure that I make time in my daily and weekly schedule to invest myself in Bible study, worship, fellowship and service so that I can continue to grow.

These two questions really summarize the basic steps of the Christian life: making a commitment to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and then continuing the spiritual growth process implied by that commitment. In this way, we become the people we were meant to be, and make the best of our life for the rest of our life.

Pastor Mark Miller