the middle - for students in 6-8 grades
Catalyst - for students in 9-12 grades
Discover why truth is the best defence when you're feeling afraid. - KELLY CARLSON
We fight to create the "perfect" body shape ... for parental attention and popularity ... approval, acceptance, adoration, and evidence... we battle for the proof we’re making a difference.
But what about the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7) ... the fight to stay strong and true for Christ all the way to the end? How hard are you fighting for that?
If you're feeling afraid as you live as a Christian, these six steps will help you stay strong for the battle.
While the fight to first choose Christ is a big decision (taking faith, guts, and a willingness to surrender), the fight to keep choosing Christ is tougher. If it were easy, more professing Christians would actually fight for what matters. If it were straightforward, we’d see confident risk-taking instead of insecurity. We’d see a Holy exhaustion instead of cowardice and complaining.
So how do you hold on to God’s perspective, and continue to stay ready in the fight of your life? You've got to keep going, keep training, keep working at it. First step - don't give up.
I am not a boxer. I’m not even a fan of the sport. But I do know this much: One essential way to prepare for a fight is to learn the opponent.
To be ready for the match we must study our opponent’s tactics. We must observe his timing and subtle maneuvers, all the while documenting areas of weakness. From this insight, we can then choose our best weapon of defense.
As an opponent, fear is something to be reckoned with. Fear is relentless. It’s self-created, self-afflicted, and a wretched, manmade bully. Wherever we allow it, and as often as we excite it, fear becomes a part of our story.
Oftentimes, fear itself is creepier than what starts it. Whether we’re in the dark, at an interview, or worried by spiders, or worried by what people will think of us following Jesus, fear is debilitating.
But we can defeat it with the shining power of truth. For example, when you turn the light on, the fear of darkness disappears as you realise there was nothing in your room the whole time.
Truth is real. Which is exactly why the Truth is our greatest weapon. It’s why God’s Word is our defense; our boxing glove, alive and swinging.
Memorizing the following acronym, I believe, may be our smartest move. FEAR. It’s False Evidence Appearing Real.
What comes into your mind when you ask yourself these two questions...
Somewhere in our life, hopes, dreams or family; in our past or present, mind, heart or actions, those two responses will intertwine. Can you pinpoint just where? If you’re unsure, recall the situations and circumstances when you are most hesitant. Note when are you most apt to forget God? When are you prone to self-reliance?
When we find ourselves immobile, self-obsessed, or overly timid as Christians, there's a good chance we’ve allowed fear to reign in faith’s place.
From beginning to end, the Bible records the stories of fearful people. Adam. Eve. Joshua. Mary. Peter fought fear daily.
Ironically, we are all destined to disappoint God thanks to our human weakness. But this is exactly why God sent Jesus.
Jesus entered the ring, not us. This means that even as we fight the battles of earth, Jesus won the war. Jesus finished the fight we would have given up on. You and I have already won because Jesus is our greatest weapon of all and God’s Word is is our toughest boxing glove.
Those wise enough to wear it have not lost a match yet!
As believers in Christ, we must be ready. If fear cannot completely reduce God’s people, it seeks to steal the joy which keeps us moving towards Him. And the moment we think fear has rested, or we can tackle it alone, our opponent rears its ugly head. Over, and over, again. We must stay fit by keeping equipped with God’s Word.
Next time you're afraid, remember the promises of God’s Word and as for His protection and help. Be reminded of what’s True and ignore false evidence. Turn the light on. Train alongside others who also honor God. And finally, in the Name of Jesus Christ, go ahead — throw fear down with the power of Perfect Love (1 John 4:18).
Pride is destructive. Not the pride one takes in his children, job, home or country, but the pride that leads to an arrogant, self-sufficient attitude. Hi, I’m Tom Ellsworth from Sherwood Oaks Christian Church with a minute message.
The story is told that Mark Twain once sat through an exceedingly dramatic sermon of which the preacher seemed obviously very proud. Afterwards, the famous author shook the preacher’s hand and quipped, “Well, yes, it was a ripsnorter all right, preacher, but you know, I have a book at home that has every word in it.” The minister, quite indignant and puffy with pride responded, “Why that’s quite impossible. I would certainly like to see that book, if indeed it exists.” With his characteristic style, Mark Twain responded, “So you shall. I will mail it to you first thing in the morning.” Eventually, a bulky package arrived from the author with an enormous postage-due attached. The preacher paid the charges, ripped open the package and found himself holding a dictionary.
The writer of Proverbs reminds us, “Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall.” God warns us not to be consumed with our own importance. Prideful arrogance always destroys relationships, but everyone welcomes the spirit of humility.
Jill's House is a new memory care facility in Bloomington. They opened their doors in the Fall of 2017. They took over the building that housed the original Jill's House that provided a place for families to live during cancer treatments. It's a beautiful building that has a new life and a new mission.
Heather Kinderthain, Community Relations Coordinator, had reached out to Sherwood Oaks about having a service at their location. We were happy to inform her that we live stream our 11:00am service! Being so new, they did not have the technology to make that happen. No worries, Sherwood Oaks bought them a new Chromebook and an HDMI cord so they can stream the service on Sunday. The Chromebook can also be used by their residents at other times. It was a win for everyone involved.
We'll look forward to hearing more from our friends at Jill's House Memory Care. If you want to learn more about Jill's House or become a volunteer visit them at http://jillshousememorycare.com/.
Author Katherine Mansfield only lived to age 35, but wrote these wise words, “Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only good for wallowing in.” Hi, I’m Tom Ellsworth from Sherwood Oaks Christian Church with a minute message.
In our reflections we tend to celebrate the happy times but regret the disappointing ones and that’s when our wallowing begins. Don’t get me wrong, we ought to celebrate the positive, but life’s difficulties are not worthy of regret. In fact, it is during the tough times that we mature the most. This past summer I taught our grandchildren how to skip rocks. Walking along the shoreline or riverbed, it’s important pick the smoothest, flattest stones – those are the ones that travel farthest. Those smooth stones don’t happen overnight – years of rippling water or pounding surf soften the rough edges and jagged points until the stones bear little resemblance to what they once were.
Such is the story of our lives. We don’t mature overnight, but through years of turbulent moments or stormy situations God softens the rough edges and jagged points until we bear little resemblance to what we once were. Painful? Sometimes, but remember, like a shoreline stone, it is the smooth soul that skips through life and travels farthest.
the middle - for students in 6-8 grades
Catalyst - for students in 9-12 grades
Being a follower of Jesus can be hard ... but in these countries it might get you killed. -HANNAH NAOMI STEELE
Do you ever feel sick of being different? That being teased or excluded because of your faith maybe isn’t worth it?
Being a Christian is hard wherever you are. The Bible actually promises that anyone who is trying to live God's way will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). Hostility to God's people can be discouraging, but the Bible tells us we should expect it if we are trying to live God's way.
When we look around the world, we can certainly see that expectation being met. Open Doors World Watch has recently ranked countries based on where it’s hardest to be a Christian.
The list shows that violence against Christians has increased fastest in Asian countries, with India, Vietnam, Laos and Bangladesh showing the highest increase in persecution of Christian minorities.
5 Worst Countries to be a Christian
Mike Gore, CEO of Open Doors Australia, says that lots of the persecution stems from dominant religious groups rejecting Christianity. For example, Mike says that in India (15th on the list), Hinduism has always been important, but the current government has started to use this “to the point of violently rejecting all other religions”.
North Korea has been ranked the country with the worst persecution for the 16th year in a row, and not surprisingly, 68% of the top 50 countries listed Islamic Oppression as a reason for the persecution.
Looking at these facts, it can feel like God doesn’t know about persecution, or he doesn’t care about it.
But despite these statistics, Mike Gore reminds us that God is still in control.
“It is important when considering these facts to not lose sight of God’s sovereignty,” says Mike Gore. “It can be tempting for us to read stories of persecution and become angry or discouraged. The greater challenge is to continue following Jesus’ command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute (Matt 5:44).”
Open Doors works to strengthen persecuted Christians in over 60 countries around the world.
In one instance, they worked with a Syrian orthodox priest to release 220 Christians. The priest says he was inspired by the way God worked to save his people in the Bible: “I just got fed up hearing of (the) killings and fleeings. It was time to break the mould, and do something daring like Jonathan, the son of Saul, and go into the camp of the Philistines.”
For us, when we see persecution in our own lives or hear about it overseas, it’s important to remember that God is in control.
Jesus lived, died and rose again, and his resurrection promises that the hardship will not last forever. One day all Christians will be with God in a place where there will be “no death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4).
It's an amazing future to look forward to. But as we wait for that time to come, check out these four ways you can care for the persecuted church.