• Photo by Jeffrey Wing @jrwing
    Welcoming the Stranger
    anemptytextlline

    Rev. Mike Brill  //Leviticus 19:33-34 //  Immigrant: a person who comes to live long term in a foreign country. This is the definition of the word but in our culture it has become much more. National security. Political positioning. Cultural Identity. Walls.  Fear. Immigration is now a buzzword in our society. But what does God’s Word say about it?

    “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. – Leviticus 19:33-34

    We may have never seen the word immigrant in Scripture, but many times we see the terms sojourner, alien, stranger in Scripture. All of these come from the Hebrew word ger. The meaning of this word in Hebrew is “a foreign-born inhabitant of Israel, a newcomer lacking inherited rights.” This word occurs 92 times in the Scriptures, and the command to welcome the stranger is one of the most repeated in the Old Testament.

    As we look at the command to welcome the stranger in Scripture, may we look for practical ways to love our neighbors, protect the vulnerable, and welcome the stranger.

    The Lord watches over the sojourners;
    he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
    but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

    Psalm 146:9

  • Soul Rest
    anemptytextlline

    Rev. Phil Christiansen  // Matthew 11:28-30 // Balance is a myth. Who do you know personally, that’s living a balanced life? Who isn’t frantically running from one thing to the next, ceaselessly pushing to achieve, accomplish or acquire more? Who isn’t longing for some sense of stability and assurance that the hurry-scurry is worth it?

    Whether you’re a student racing from class to class, extracurricular, work, homework, interspersed with heaps of social media…or you’re a parent raising munchkins, shopping, changing, picking-up, playing, hauling to the doctor, school, practice, game, or dance and still find time for you spouse…or you’re an empty-nester working harder than ever, trying to figure out how to lovingly guide young-adult children, care for aging, ailing parents, and nurture your marriage (now that you have all this “time”)…balance is elusive. There’s always a stretch in a new direction and balancing it all is fleeting, at best.

    What if it’s not really about balance, but about rest? Not lazy-day, sunny afternoon, vacation kind of rest (though that’s great!)—but SOUL REST. Only Jesus makes that possible. When He says, “Take my yoke upon you…” it’s an invitation to intimate relationship and the deepest rest possible. Even while the world swirls around you, Jesus promises that if you will stay very near to Him—like oxen yoked together, teamwork style—that you’ll find rest: SOUL REST.

    Stop chasing the myth. Instead, stay close to Jesus and find the rest you long for as you partner with Him each day.

  • Prayer During
    anemptytextlline

    Josiah O’laughlin  // Ephesians 3:16 // Nobody likes conflict. There isn’t a time in my life where I thought; “You know what… I think I am going to make my social life harder.”  I believe we all strive to have deep worthwhile relationships, but one thing that keeps us from that goal is the “drama.”  If we had just the good parts of the friendship it would be so much easier right?

    As a friend, I believe we experience greater bonds when we choose to engage in conflict with Godly help. I cannot control the other persons response or feelings, but I can add value to the conflict in real time as it’s happening. How? I find that if I am praying for the Holy Spirit to guide us, something supernatural tends to happen.  If my heart in conflict can align with God’s heart the outcome will be far greater than either person could’ve made happen. The verse that comes to mind:

    I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”- Ephesians 3:16

    You hear that?  Call on His spirit and we will be strengthened even in the moments of conflict. It works… Try it.  Pray for peace.  Pray for each of you to not see it as a win or lose.  Pray to let the spirit work in you both, and to communicate as God would have you. Pray your relationship would be fortified. Watch what God does.  God wants it and so do you.

  • Spirit Filled Living
    anemptytextlline

    Mark Shoquist  // Ephesians 5:18 // Have you wondered why some professing Christians don’t look any different from unbelievers? It’s likely because they aren’t living a Spirit-filled life.

    The moment we come to faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit immediately comes to dwell within us. Being indwelt with the Spirit is a one-time, wonderful event that lasts for eternity.

    However, the Bible also tells us to continually be filled with the Spirit, which means to allow the Spirit full access to empower and direct us. It’s different from being indwelt with the Spirit.

    Since I’m a chocolate lover, I’ll use the analogy of chocolate milk to explain the difference. Think of your life as a glass of milk and the Spirit as chocolate syrup. Being indwelt is like generously pouring chocolate into a glass of milk. All the ingredients are fully present to make a delicious glass of chocolate milk. However, unless you stir the chocolate, enabling it to have full influence over the milk, the milk will only continue to taste…well, like milk. Stirring the chocolate is like being filled with the Spirit.

    To take the analogy further, notice the milk doesn’t “muster up” the taste of chocolate on its own. Instead, the chocolate does the work. The milk merely needs to make itself fully accessible to the chocolate.  Same goes for the Spirit in our lives.

    Just how chocolate can quickly resettle at the bottom of a glass moments later, we need to continually be filled with the Spirit, moment-by-moment, asking Him to empower and direct our lives.

    Ask the Lord to fill you and empower you right now, as you go about your day today.

  • Finding Security in God
    anemptytextlline

    Patty Herrera  // Psalm 46:1-2 // “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”

    One of our most loved and used toys in Sunday school is an old durable set of cardboard bricks. The kids love fencing themselves in forts and walls.  It becomes both a place of security and adventure.  The best part is exploding out of walls when the teacher is not looking!

    But kids aren’t the only ones looking for security. As adults we also are drawn to build walls of security and refuge. Sometimes we seek refuge through relationships that offer love and acceptance. Other times we rely on our own capabilities and strength. For some it is building a strong bank account. But in the end, these sources of security are as sturdy and reliable as cardboard bricks.

    The only sure refuge in life is found in God.  Throughout scripture God has called us to explode out of our flimsy walls of self-made security and to embrace a true and lasting refuge in a relationship with his Son Jesus. The great thing is that he has done all the work for us through Christ’s death on our behalf. Trading our crumbling facades for his strong, life-giving embrace offers us freedom from fear for the future and a peace in the storms of today. Let Him be your refuge and strength.

  • Are You Becoming a Better You?
    anemptytextlline

    Dr. Brian Long  // 2 Corinthians 3:18 // My wife Cindy and I are avid Fixer Upper fans. We actually went to visit the Silos, Magnolia Market, Clint’s wood shop, we even ran into Jimmy Don the metal guy.

    Truth be told, we nerd out on a number of different “home improvement” type shows on HGTV and DIY. I’m not sure of the roots of our addiction, but there is just something about seeing the beauty that can be created out of neglected, outdated, overlooked homes.

    What’s more thrilling however, is experiencing the beauty that God can create out of bruised, banged up, broken lives. The God of the Bible is a life renovator! When you surrender your life to his capable craftsmanship as forgiver and leader, he brings beauty from ashes, strength from shame, and a fruitful life from those who feel lost.

    The Bible says, As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him” (2 Corinthians 3:18-The Living Bible). In other words, God is remodeling your life to look like Jesus.

    I love the “big reveal” at the end of the show. What’s more profound is God’s big reveal of redemption in our lives. Philippians 1:6 promises, “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (The Living Bible).

    Are you ready to see your fixer upper?

  • True Present Connection
    anemptytextlline

    VIDEO // We live in a culture that is distracted. Bombarded by countless to-do’s, caught up in work or pursuing our dreams, our phones stealing our attention everyday, we are consumed. Pastor Sam comes into the studio to talk about the plague of endless business and what we can do to stop, breathe, and become more present in life.

  • The Christian Response To Evil
    anemptytextlline

    VIDEO // Our society is divided. Hate is prevalent. In recent weeks past we’ve seen police officers attacked and violence erupt between white supremacists and those who oppose them. Is this a government issue? Is this a free-speech issue? What is the response of the Christ follower? What is the Biblical view of racism and hate? In the CoTF Studio Pastor Mark and Pastor Doug discuss the underlying cause of the hate in our nation and three important ways the Christian can make positive contribution in the fight against hate.