fear

Overcoming Anxiety & Fear- Part 3

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Sometimes, following God’s path leads you right through some fear-inducing situations. Whether the danger is physical, financial, emotional or anything else, fear can paralyze you, keeping you from doing what God commands. If you want to follow Jesus effectively, you need courage! 

1. Read

Joshua 1:9 [NLT]  “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua had very real fears in multiple areas – fear of injury, fear of failure, and fear of rejection. God’s command was to rise up and step forward, right into the danger, because He was with Joshua every step of the way.
  •  What’s an example of something in day to day life that you’ve shied away from because it was intimidating? 
  • What’s something God wants you to say, do, or stop, which intimidates you? (It can be a one-time thing, or a recurring way of life.) Get specific, what are the fears attached to that thing? Do those fears change God’s expectation for you?

2. Challenge

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 [NLT]  “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.”
Sometimes, courage needs a good dose of endurance – not every scary season is a short one. With God’s help, though, you can hang on, and accomplish great things for Him.
  •  Think back on a time in your life where it was hard to hang on spiritually. How long did it last? What most helped you to hang on? 
  •  What were some good things that came out of it? 
  •  Courage is contagious. What are some ways you could share your story of having courage and hanging on through the fear? Who in your life might benefit from your testimony?

3. Prayer Focus

Spend time in prayer calling out specific times when God was with you, whether you realized it or not at the time. Thank Him for each one, and reaffirm your trust that wherever He leads you next, and whatever He asks you to do, He will be with you.

Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

Life is a Highway: Detour

1. Power Verse

John 16:33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
What’s up: “Trust In God!  Don’t Forget, He Has Never Failed You Yet!” This week, we conclude our series called, “Life Is A Highway”.  In this series, we learned that life is a lot like a highway.

2. Activity

On a sheet of paper, draw two dots with several inches of space between them, and label the dots Home and Store.  Ask your kids the following questions:
  • Can you draw the best way to get from Home to the Store?
  • Why is that the best way? (it’s the shortest)
  • Is the shortest way the only way?
  • Is the shortest way always the best way?  
  • What are some reasons to take a different route? 
  • Can you draw some other ways to get from Home to the Store? (help them draw some curvy lines that connect the two dots)
Sometimes we have a goal or a dream we want to accomplish in life, and the way to achieve it seems pretty obvious.  We work hard and take all the steps needed to accomplish the goal, but sometimes things happen that cause us to detour from our goal. 

3. Discussion

  • What are some things that might force us to take a detour?
  • How do we feel when we have to take a detour?
  • Does a detour mean that we’ll never accomplish the goal?
Detours in life are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean God has abandoned us.  Trusting God may seem hard, but it’s the only way to ultimately achieve our goals.  God isn’t surprised by detours! 

4. Prayer Focus

Thank God for leading you on life’s highway.  Ask Him to help you through times when you feel like you’re not accomplishing your goal.

Count Your Blessings

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count your blessings

It’s late Monday night and all is quiet at the Rhodes home.  Everyone is in bed except me and it’s in these rare quiet times that I get to reflect back on the day.  Let me give you some of the information that is constantly swirling through my head in regards to Abundant Life.

  • We had 590 in church on Sunday including 100 children.
  • We are set to have the largest “Speed The Light” missions giving year of any church in the history of the Illinois district.
  • Our team going to Panama is shaping up to be the largest team I have ever taken.
  • We continue to see new families every week and more and more of them are not Caucasian.  We are tearing down racial barriers in the river bend!
  • Over the past three years we have accomplished approximately $750,000 of renovations and improvements on the two campuses and we have done all of this with cash, remaining debt free.
  • Last week we launched our small group/discipleship emphasis with about twenty different options for our congregation with groups available every day/night of the week in several different communities and a variety of times.
  • We have two rows of youth sitting front and center on Sunday morning worshipping God!
  • We have several of our staff and laity that are at various levels of completion of the Illinois School of Ministry with several taking their last courses and several who have completed all the educational requirements for ordination.
  • My staff are intelligent, hard-working, loyal people of God!
  • Our deacons are 100% behind my leadership.
  • Among our core there is a growing hunger for God and we’re praying it spreads.
  • We have great youth, children, and senior adult ministry.
  • We had a great August financially and we are ahead for the year with the summer behind us.
  • We have awesome worship, technology, and facilities.
  • I am working toward one of my long held goals of earning my doctorate.

Literally this list could go on and on.  Then why am I sitting here tonight feeling down and as if I can’t make any progress?  Why is my heart heavy and my Spirit downcast?  Simply put, because I got a single piece of news this week that was not in this same positive direction.  The news didn’t include any conflict, no one was angry, there was no staff problem or anything like that, it was just one piece in a very big puzzle.

Why then with all of these great pieces of information can I not take my eyes off the single negative piece?  I think there is something wrong with me.  In fact, I think there is something wrong with all of us.  In the midst of the favor and blessing of God we can forget all that He has and is doing for us.  Our fallen nature has an amazing ability to completely captivate our thoughts.  We literally stop seeing the forest for a single tree!  What can we do about this when it happens?  I think a man named Johnson Oatman Jr. had it right when he penned these words in 1897.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Refrain:

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your blessings, see what God has done!

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

Those are the words to an old Hymn entitled “Count Your Blessings”

The psalmist David said it this way…

Psalm 103:1–5 (ESV)  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Already just having written these out I feel better!  Let me encourage you to do the same.  When life begins to get you down, remember all that God has done for you.  Rehearse in your mind the blessings that He has poured into your life.  You’ll find friends, family, and opportunities. I bet you’ll find a very long list.  After thinking about these take a moment and reflect on your greatest gift, your salvation.  I suggest that in no time, like me, you’ll feel better!

Well that’s enough for tonight.  It’s almost midnight and there’s more to do tomorrow!

Blessings,

Pastor Roy

What Draws You Closer to God?

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darkness

What draws you closer to God? I was working on a few chores around my place this past weekend and as I was working, my mind was dwelling on a difficult situation from the past. I had heard a comment earlier that day that reminded me of a very difficult leadership situation that I had dealt with some years ago. It was a great season of learning and faith development and as usual for me, the catalyst for that growth had been fear. As my mind reflected back on this time it dawned on me how often it takes fear to move me closer to the Lord. Frankly, I want something better. How about you?

In 2 Timothy 1:7 we read

…“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (ESV)

Said more simply, the spirit that God gives us doesn’t make us afraid. Rather, this spirit convinces us of the power that we have in and through him, confirms and demonstrates his love for us, and enables us to control ourselves.   His Spirit does not reduce us in any way but rather builds us up.

God’s desire IS that we would be in close relationship with him, and I believe that he WILL allow fear to drive us into him, but that isn’t his best plan, just the one that we leave him with after we’ve been too busy for his kindness, gentleness, and the still small voice that invites us into his presence. It’s as we disassociate with the Holy Spirit’s voice and the Word that our merciful Father, who knows we are ill equipped to face this world without his presence, allows circumstances or thoughts to cause us fear and thereby moves us close to him once again.

Think about how full the churches were immediately following September 11, 2001. People were afraid and turned to God for solace and hope. Wouldn’t it be much better if through devotion and discipline we kept ourselves closely attuned with the Holy Spirit’s voice and in regular times of reverence and worship our faith grew and grew. That love and revelation would be the context of our growth rather than fear.

Today, I’m committed to the pursuit of His presence motivated not by fear, but by a genuine desire to know him more fully and to walk from sunrise to sunset with a profound sense of his presence.

Blessings!

Troubled World

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troubled world

What a week we have had!  The bombings in Boston, the explosion in Texas, and a seemingly non stop barrage of media stories about gun control, same-sex marriage, and lets not forget North Korea!  Fear abounds in our nation.  As of this morning the city of Boston is shut down because of a remaining at-large bombing suspect.  North Korean leaders continue to spew a rhetoric that seems likely to end in some sort of military conflict and there is a palpable distrust within our nation for our own leaders.  As a nation we face what seems to be an unavoidable financial crisis due to our daily increasing $16.8 trillion debt, and many of the institutions that secure our nations ability to survive are under attack.

Wow!  How then should the church respond?  With FAITH!

Jesus said, in Matthew 24:37:

“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”

GREAT NEWS!  Jesus is coming again!

When fear and trouble abound people look for answers, peace and safety.  You and I know that there are no real answers, peace or safety without Jesus!  In the midst of all of these situations you and I must live a life that demonstrates that real faith makes a real difference!  This is not a time for the wringing of our hands and hiding in our homes!  These are the days when we need to aggressively advance the Kingdom of God through a demonstration of a peace-filled life made possible through a faith grounded upon the Word of God and confirmed by the Holy Spirit through our daily communication with our Father.

These are the days when arguments against Christianity can be destroyed if you and I will live what we say we believe.  You see nothing else offers any hope.  Atheists, Agnostic Intellectuals,  and those without Jesus and His word sit paralyzed with fear and offer no hope for those in a similar state.  You and I cannot be those people.  Rather, with faces and hearts turned heavenward we must live a life that reveals the power of the faith within us.  We were made for just such a time.

I believe that God is raising up leaders for a great harvest of the lost.  I want to be one of those leaders!  Do you?

Blessings