Giving Is An Act of Worship

By Brenda Leisinger, Generous Life Director

OK, so you are probably thinking, what does giving have to do with worship. If you are like me you grew up thinking worship was all about the music, otherwise why would the music director be called the Worship Pastor?

Well, I found out later that worship was about much more than music. Webster defines worship as the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity (God). Did you catch the word “expression”? That word implies actively doing something to exhibit how you feel.

We see the expression of reverence and adoration at the birth of Jesus when the wise men came with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Their giving was intentional, thoughtful, and generous and was a reflection of what their hearts treasured.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).

So, shouldn’t we also worship God with the money and possessions he has entrusted to us?

Our giving should be viewed as an act of worship, not just an item to mark off on our spiritual checklist. Giving has always been a form of worship in the Bible and we are commanded to honor and glorify God in this way.

 “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce;” (Proverbs 3:9).

When we obey this command, we acknowledge that God owns everything, and supplies us with everything, entrusting us to be faithful stewards of His possessions.

When we give generously and sacrificially, it is not because God needs anything from us, but because we want to show our love for him. In light of what Christ has done for us, why would we not want to give Him our best?

And when we worship through giving, we should do so joyfully.

Think about Christmas morning when the people we love are opening the gifts we have selected for them. Gifts that we have given joyfully because we love them. It makes our hearts burst with joy to see the excitement on the faces of those receiving our gifts. Now think about the gifts we give Christ through the church, do you feel the same joy?

You should, because God loves a cheerful giver!

 “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

The reality is you will either worship your money and possessions or use your money and possessions for the worship of God.

Your choice, but I would encourage you to think about what you have that has not been given to you by God and consider if He is worthy of your worship through giving.

Let’s worship the Lord our God and Savior with our joyful, generous, giving and praise him for all that he has done for us!

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)

Biblical Sexuality Resources

Some Trusted Voices on Biblical Sexuality

Juli Slattery https://www.authenticintimacy.com/

Christopher Yuan https://christopheryuan.com/

Jackie Hill Perry https://jackiehillperry.com/

Rosaria Butterfield https://rosariabutterfield.com/

Preston Sprinkle https://www.prestonsprinkle.com/

Sam Allberry https://samallberry.com/

Resources

CVCYouth Leaders Resource Page

CVCYouth Leaders Resources – Dating

CVCYouth Leaders Resources – Pornography

CVCYouth Leaders Resources – Gender Issues

CVCYouth Leaders Resources – Homosexuality

Sex Education Resource for Approximately Ages 2-5 (EARLY CHILDHOOD)

Overall theme:  God made your body special and it’s amazing!

When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner – Ages 3-7. Beautiful book affirming the amazing and unique way God created your child and introducing the idea of the image of God to children.

God’s Very Good Idea by Trillia Newbell – Ages 4-8. Delightful book on the way God created people uniquely and in all different colors and with different gifts. Discusses the idea of the image of God in us as well as explains the gospel.

Colorful: Celebrating the Colors God Gave Us by Dorena Williamson– Ages 4-8. Wonderful book celebrating God’s creativity in all the colors he used in his creation in nature and us!

The Story of Me by Stan & Brenna Jones – Ages 4-6. First book in the series “God’s Design for Sex.” Developmentally appropriate introduction to sex ed covering babies, body parts, good touches – includes a helpful parent guide.

God Made Your Body by Jim Burns – Ages 3-5. Great book to use when you want to explain what sexual intercourse is and where babies come from. Provides the basic foundation that God created our bodies and wants us to honor him with them. Good diversity represented in pictures.

God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies by Justin S. & Lindsay A. Holcomb – Ages 2-8. Helpful book to talk through secrets vs. surprises, when it’s ok for someone to touch their private areas, choosing to show physical affection – includes a helpful parent guide.

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures Jr. by Kristen A. Jenson – Ages 3-7. Introduces the topic of pornography to very young children in a developmentally appropriate way – includes a parent guide.

Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect: Teach Children About Body Ownership, Respect, Feelings, Choices, and Recognizing Bullying Behaviors by Jayneen Sanders – Ages 4-10. Simple language and pictures to address the issue of boundaries with their body and respecting other people’s boundaries.

Sex Education Resource for Approximately Ages 6-8 (MIDDLE CHILDHOOD)

Overall theme:  We can talk about everything in our family and I’m the one you should come to with questions.

When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner – Ages 3-7. Beautiful book affirming the amazing and unique way God created your child and introducing the idea of the image of God to children.

God’s Very Good Idea by Trillia Newbell – Ages 4-8. Delightful book on the way God created people uniquely and in all different colors and with different gifts. Discusses the idea of the image of God in us as well as explains the gospel.

Colorfull: Celebrating the Colors God Gave Us by Dorena Williamson– Ages 4-8. Wonderful book celebrating God’s creativity in all the colors he used in his creation in nature and us!

Creative God, Colorful Us by Trillia Newbell – Ages 6-12. Building on God’s Very Good Idea, this book goes through how God made us different, we all sinned, how God rescued us and how we can now love others.

How God Made Babies by Jim Burns – Ages 6-9. Great book to use when you want to explain what sexual intercourse is and where babies come from. Emphasizes that God is a part of each family from conception to death. Good diversity represented in pictures.

The Story of Me by Stan & Brenna Jones – Ages 4-6. First book in the series “God’s Design for Sex.” Developmentally appropriate introduction to sex ed covering babies, body parts, good touches – includes a helpful parent guide.

Before I was Born by Stan & Brenna Jones – Ages 6-10. Second book in the series “God’s Design for Sex.” Great book to use when you want to explain what sexual intercourse is and where babies come from.

The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality by Luke Gilkerson – Ages 6-10. Seven short lessons to be read with your child discussing anatomy, sex and values around sex. Each lesson has a short opening, scripture passage, points of learning, questions to discuss and a prayer.

God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies by Justin S. & Lindsay A. Holcomb – Ages 2-8. Great book to talk through secrets vs. surprises, when it’s ok for someone to touch their private areas, choosing to show physical affection – includes a helpful parent guide.

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures Jr. by Kristen A. Jenson – Ages 3-7. Introduces the topic of pornography to very young children in a developmentally appropriate way – includes a parent guide.

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids by Kristen A. Jenson – Ages 8-10.

Sex Education Resource for Approximately Ages 9-12 (LATE CHILDHOOD)

Overall theme:  God made our bodies to work in amazing ways. It’s important to treat everyone with kindness and respect.

Christian Sexuality – Excellent online Christian sex education program created by Preston Sprinkle (professor at Wheaton college). Very compassionate and empathetic tone while holding to traditional Biblical values. Series of 12 videos (about 20 minutes each) on topics from dating to masturbation to homosexuality to transgender and more. Our church can send you a link to access the series for free. Please email Mandy DuPar (mandy@sbcommunity.org) if you would like the free link. https://christian-sexuality.com/

The Whole Story – Online excellent comprehensive Christian sex education program with units on a wide range of subjects including short topical videos that you can watch with your child. There is a section of videos aimed at children ages 10-12 and another section aimed at children ages 13-15. $35 for access to all videos for one gender or $59 for both genders. https://thewholestory.thinkific.com/

Before I was Born by Stan & Brenna Jones – Ages 6-10. Second book in the series “God’s Design for Sex.” Perfect book to use when you want to explain what sexual intercourse is and where babies come from.

What’s the Big Deal by Stan & Brenna Jones – Ages 9-13. Third book in the series “God’s Design for Sex.” Chapter book that is intended to be read by parent and child together. Written in a question and answer format.

The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality by Luke Gilkerson – Ages 6-10. Seven short lessons to be read with your child discussing anatomy, sex and values around sex. Each lesson has a short opening, scripture passage, points of learning, questions to discuss and a prayer.

Relationships: 11 Lessons to Give Kids a Greater Understanding of Biblical Sexuality by Luke Gilkerson – Ages 11-14. Eleven short lessons to be read with your child helping to equip them for temptations they will face. Each lesson has a short opening, scripture passage, points of learning, questions to discuss and a prayer. Each lesson has a short opening, scripture passage, points of learning, questions to discuss and a prayer.

Changes: 7 Lessons to Make Sense of Puberty by Luke Gilkerson – Ages 8-12. Seven short lessons to be read with your child to help them understand the mental, emotional and physical changes that puberty brings. Each lesson has a short opening, scripture passage, points of learning, questions to discuss and a prayer.

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids by Kristen A. Jenson – Ages 8-10. Discusses the topic of pornography to children in a developmentally appropriate way. Includes discussion questions, a plan for your child of what to do if they encounter pornography and a parent guide.

Consent (for kids!): Boundaries, Respect, and Being in Charge of YOU by Rachel Brian – Ages 6-10. This very kid-friendly book has lots of comic book-type illustrations and goes through lots of different scenarios and what to do in a non-scary way.

The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls (American Girls Library) by Valorie Schaefer – Ages 8-10. Practical and helpful non-Christian book written for children covering topics from hair and skin care to bad breath to periods.

The Care and Keeping of You 2: The Body Book for Older Girls (American Girls Library) by Cara Natterson – Ages 10-12. Practical and helpful non-Christian book written for children with a more in-depth look at the physical and emotional changes girls will go through.

Resources Just for Parents

How and When to Talk with Your Child About Sex: A Lifelong Approach to Shaping Your Child’s Character by Stan and Brenna Jones. Christian book that helps you think through how to handle sex education with your child at every stage.

How to Talk with Your Child About Sex by Linda and Richard Eyre. Very helpful Christian book that gives you sample scripts of ways to talk with your child about a wide range of sex ed topics along with suggested ages to discuss particular topics.

Touchy Subjects by Craig Gross and David Dean. Helps parents think through how to tackle talking to their kids about difficult subjects like sex, technology and social media from a Christian perspective. Very quick read and geared towards parents of teenagers.

Talk to Me First by Deborah Roffman. This is a non-Christian book so you will need to translate it into your values and perspectives. Can be very explicit but has very helpful information and provides an overall framework for talking with your child about sex. Helps you to think through your values and what you want to communicate.

The Tech Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place by Andy Crouch. Very helpful Christian book that helps you think through the best way for your family to engage with technology.

Right Click: Parenting Your Teenager in a Digital Media World  by Kara Powell, Brad Griffin & Art Bamford (all from the Fuller Youth Institute). Great Christian book to help you handle tech-related dilemmas with your teenager.

Podcasts

How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex with David Thomas and Sissy Goff

Sex Conversations through the Phases

Articles/Websites

Great Christian website with parent guides and culture translator. They have excellent webinars and their weekly culture translator sends out good articles and resources as well. Worth the money to get a membership ($9.99 a month or $99 a year). https://axis.org/ Section of their blog section specifically on sexuality – https://info.axis.org/blog/tag/sexuality

Non-Christian article with ways you can teach your child about consent at different ages: https://everydayfeminism.com/2013/03/teaching-kids-consent-ages-1-21/.

Christian article to help you address inappropriate lyrics in songs with your child: https://connectedfamilies.org/day-7-year-old-sang-lets-go-way-tonight/.

Atlantic article on fewer sex partners leading to happier marriages: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/10/sexual-partners-and-marital-happiness/573493/

Christianity Today article on Transgender conversation: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/podcasts/quick-to-listen/transgender-surgery-sports-bill-legislation-podcast.html

Sexetc.org is a non-Christian website that is run by teens and affiliated with Rutgers University and features polls that parents can use to start a dialogue as well as other resources you can use in preparing for sex education discussions with your child.

Resources to help you think through your values surrounding homosexuality and gender identity issues

Great YouTube video discussion between Justin Lee (Christian who is affirming of homosexuality) and Preston Sprinkle (holds to traditional Biblical view). Long, but excellent and respectful discussion – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHs2SHdSz_Q

“Dear Church, I’m Gay” – Really good YouTube video by Preston Sprinkle with vignettes from people who struggled with how their faith and sexuality could co-exist – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rc6NXB6TP5A

Some Bible passages you should be looking at and wrestling with on this topic are:

  • Matthew 19:4-6
  • Romans 1:26-27
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
  • 1 Timothy 1:10

Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gay vs. Christians Debate by Justin Lee – Autobiography of a Christian wrestling to reconcile his faith and sexuality.

Blue Babies Pink – blog and podcast by Brett Trapp based on his adolescent and young adult journals as the son of a southern pastor came to understand that he is gay. https://www.bluebabiespink.com/

People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue by Preston Sprinkle – Challenges people on all sides of the homosexuality debate to consider what the Bible says and how we should approach the topic of homosexuality in it. YouTube talk based on his book – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGFiDsQcZCg

Embodied: Transgender Identities, the Church, and What the Bible Has to Say by Preston Sprinkle – Accessible book for Christians who want help navigating issues related to the transgender conversation. Article based on this book – https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/april/preston-sprinkle-embodied-transgender-identity-church-bible.html

Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill – Autobiography of his life in coming to terms with his homosexuality and faith and ultimately choosing a celibate life

Christianity Today article on Transgender conversation – https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/podcasts/quick-to-listen/transgender-surgery-sports-bill-legislation-podcast.html

Krzesinska Family Adoption Story

Our Adoption Story

We are the Krzesinski family and we have adopted 4 (almost 5) kiddos. Our journey to adoption was long but the short of it is we felt called to adopt and thought God was calling us to international adoption. The one thing we were sure of was that we did NOT want to be foster parents because we felt that we could not handle the heartbreak of falling in love with a child and then having to say goodbye. Funny thing is that through a lot of prayer both Rachel and I felt called specifically to become foster/adoptive parents locally. We can’t explain it other than through prayer and reading God’s word we both separately felt compelled that God wanted us to make a difference for His Kingdom locally. And that was 6 years ago. We have had a total of 7 kids come and go and 5 come and stay. Saying goodbye to those kids that you have fallen in love with and they with you, is still hard but God didn’t call us to the easy life but rather a life that points to Him and gives Him honor and glory.

What has been a joy related to adoption?

The joy of adoption is undoubtedly seeing God do what He does best. Giving you more grace, more love and more room in your heart when you felt like you had no more to give. It is seeing your family being stretched and molded into something amazing. Seeing our faith and our kid’s faith grow is something I am so grateful for.

What has been a challenge related to adoption?

The hardest part is trusting in His perfect timing. We all like to say that we trust God but when you are holding onto a dream of adopting a child it can get hard. Doubt can creep in and if we aren’t careful we can become impatient.

What is one piece of advice you would give families who are considering adoption?

Our advice is to pray about it.

Layla Krzesinska’s Story (12 years old)

My name is Layla Krzesińska. I have three biological siblings four adopted siblings and one foster brother that my family is in the process of adopting. That makes 9 kids in all. My family has been a foster family since I was six and now I’m twelve. Why we became a foster and then an adoptive family? Well, the most important reason is found in James 1:27. We are all called to care for the orphans and widows. God wants us as the church to care for those who have no one. I think that is pretty amazing that God is looking out for everyone. Our gotcha day was different then we imagined because of Covid, we had an online zoom court hearing but it was still pretty amazing. Family and friends joined us online to celebrate. Family came in from out of town and we had a fun time. My brother, Eli, and I even wrote a song for our new siblings and we sang it to them during our celebration.

The joy related to adopting would be that I’m rarely ever bored. The biggest challenge would be the expectancy for the adoption to be finalized. It can be really hard to be patient and wait on God’s timing.

My advice is if you have thought about adoption, then never stop praying. I have learned this personally especially with my youngest sibling. He came to our home when he was 4 days old and we wanted to adopt him but for a time it looked like maybe God’s plan was different so we prayed as a family. We prayed for God’s best. Not our will or what we wished His will was but we prayed for His protection and His best. His answer didn’t come right away and it was really hard but my mom and dad kept saying that it is during the hard times that our faith can shine the brightest and so through many tears we kept praying and eventually God answered! We have officially been matched as his adoptive and forever family.

Hopkins Family Adoption Story

Our Adoption Story

In 2013, our family started doing mission work in Mokanji, Sierra Leone, West Africa.  We were working with an organization that was doing many things to help this deeply under-resourced village. One area of focus was starting a children’s home for orphans.  That is where we first met Mariama Sesay when she was five years old. We continued to get to know Mariama during return trips in 2014 and 2015. We struggled for a while with the decision to adopt because we did not know how we would only adopt one of the precious kids in the children’s home as we cared for all of them.  One day as we were processing this dilemma, we heard a sermon that talked about the concept of “do for one what you wish you could do for all.” This was just what we needed to hear to move forward with our hearts desire to adopt Marima. In 2016, God opened doors that only He could open and we started the process of an independent adoption. Sierra Leone is a difficult country to adopt from and ebola was raging, but God provided over and over again. On May 22, 2017, ten-year-old, Mariama Sesay Hopkins, finally got to join our family in America forever. It was one of the best days of our lives.

What has been a joy related to adoption?

It is such a privilege to be Mari’s parents. She is the coolest Hopkins by far! She brings so much joy, spice and sparkle to our lives. We learn so much from her! She is very brave and hardworking. She inspires us as she has overcome so much! She has not had an easy life, but she has persevered. We can not imagine our family without her.  Even though she has only been in our home for five and a half years, it feels like she’s always been part of our family.

What has been a challenge related to adoption?

When we were in the adoptive process and it felt like Mari would never come home, we had another adoptive Mom tell us, “Adoption is war. Satan does not want Mari to join your Jesus-loving family.” She was right. It was a war. The process was long and hard and so rewarding.

What is one piece of advice you would give families who are considering adoption?

Do it! Pray. Trust. Obey. Watch…  God will do beautiful, beautiful things.

Adoption Story – Patrick Fucile

My name is Patrick Fucile and I was adopted in December 1990 from Bangkok, Thailand at age 7. I was raised in an orphanage in Bangkok, Thailand. In the orphanage I remember climbing on animal figures, playing musical chairs, and eating rice soup for every meal. While I was in the orphanage, I remember dreaming of going home with my parents. I remember the day the ambassador of Holt International Agency told me in Thai language that I was going home. I was jumping up and down like a kid who got his favorite toy for Christmas! The ambassador took me to the front entrance and pointed to my adopted parents. I remember hugging them for the first time. Once we were able to leave Thailand, we headed home to Missouri as a family. I never experienced cold weather and snow before being adopted at age 7. It’s one of the main reasons why winter is still my favorite season.

Adoption comes with many challenges. When I first met my parents, there was a language barrier. I didn’t know any English and they spoke just a little bit of Thai. It was a huge adjustment for us to learn to communicate with each other. I also struggled with not knowing my biological parents or why they chose to place me up for adoption. The joy of being adopted is the joy in my heart that I got to go home with a family forever and that God never gave up on me. I went from being a young boy in an orphanage with no family, to being adopted and am part of a loving forever family. Adoption has shaped every aspect of my life. I would advise anyone wishing to pursue adoption to be patient in everything.

Adoption Story – Kelly & Tonio

I was serving as a missionary at Love & Hope Children’s Home in El Salvador when I met Tonio. I had taken a leave of absence from teaching and before returning I had prayed that God would change my life forever for having lived this experience at Love & Hope. It was a month later that I met Tonio and only a few months after that I realized this was the life changing story God was writing for us. Tonio was a six year old boy who was the most playful, sweet, and tender child I had ever met. He was full of wonder and so joyful every day. We hit it off immediately and I knew quickly that this little boy had more to teach me than I could ever teach him.

Tonio was born with cerebral palsy and caring for a child with special needs in El Salvador is extremely difficult. I would take him to all of his therapies and try to find the best care for him. Those moments turned into a beautiful friendship and pretty soon we were inseparable. I would read bedtime stories to him, sing lots of songs together and I had a permanent seat next to him at mealtimes everyday. God gave me a beautiful vision for adoption a few months after meeting him. It took me awhile to believe that I could do this because I was not married and I didn’t have a family to offer him. But when I thought about standing face to face with the Lord and asking him if I should do this, the answer was an overwhelming, YES! Why wouldn’t God equip and empower me to do His will? The verse that inspired me and gave me courage was Isaiah 58:10, “and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”

It took two years for us to finalize the international adoption and on August 9, 2014, I brought Tonio home to Ohio. The biggest joy about adoption has been watching him thrive in a new environment but also preserving his cultural background and ties to his friends and family. Although the journey has its challenges, God has shown his power, love and mercy in ways that I could have missed out on. This calling has changed Tonio’s life forever and the life of his children and their children and other generations to come.

Toth Family Adoption Story

We grew our family through adoption in 2012, but it was not by choice.  Kevin and I were married for 12 years at the time and had an amazing 7-year-old biological son, Noah.   Adoption wasn’t something we ever discussed, and it certainly wasn’t on our radar.  We were “one and done” until that September evening in 2010 when we walked out of a Steven Curtis Chapman concert and Kevin looked at me on the ride home and said, “I could adopt!”  I wasn’t sure how serious he was until I found him researching “adoption” online later that night.  That evening was the beginning of our adoption journey, but it was even more than that.  It was the beginning of our family putting our faith and trust in God like never before!  If you want to see God intimately, ADOPT!

After nearly a year and a half of paperwork, social worker visits, paperwork, fingerprinting, more paperwork…we received a call that we had a son in Korea!  Nothing could ever prepare you for that call, especially when it comes 8 months earlier than expected (God).  While we waited for that call, our prayers changed from “asking” God to work through this adoption to “thanking” Him for the promise we knew we were about to receive.  In June of 2012, the three of us traveled to Korea to meet and bring home Eli, who was 16 months old at the time.  I was so excited the moment I saw him that I jumped out of the van, but my seatbelt was still attached!

Once again, “we thought” our family was complete, but again, God had other plans!  We had just sold our home, and we were living in a rental until Noah and Eli finished the school year.  It was a Wednesday in December that I received a text message from a friend who adopted her son from Haiti.  Her social worker contacted her about a 4-year-old adopted from Korea 6 months prior who needed respite care and a possible permanent placement.  My heart sobbed as I read some of the events that took place in this child’s four short years of life, and I immediately sent Kevin a text at work and asked, “How many children did you imagine us having?  And no, I’m not pregnant!”  We prayed and met with our kids and family, and it was evident that God called us to pursue this child, but we received a call just two days later that the current adoptive family changed their mind.  Although Kevin and I were upset, we knew that one less disruption for this child would be the best option.  I wept as we sang, “Do It Again” by Elevation Worship that Sunday at church, not knowing if God would move mountains for this family or for us.  You can imagine my surprise that Wednesday afternoon, just one week from the first text message, when my phone rang at work, and I was told that Sam would be at our house THAT EVENING!  Just four days before Christmas in 2016, we received the best gift ever…Sam!

Looking back, we have experienced joy and we have experienced hardships.  When we didn’t know where the money for an international adoption was going to come from, God provided.  When Eli couldn’t fall asleep at night unless some part of his body was touching me, God gave me the rest I needed sleeping next to him on an air mattress with one arm through the crib bars for nine months.  When a scared four-year-old walked into our home with a traumatic past, God gave us the love and patience needed to help him feel secure.  When Eli’s biological family reached out to us and we wondered how it would make Sam feel, God blessed us with a relationship with Sam’s half-brother in Vegas.

We promised God that He would be evident through our adoptions, and we are always happy to tell others about God’s many miracles!  I am so glad that God chose us and that we said “Yes!”

Worship in Suffering

By Nate Green, Worship Pastor

No one enjoys suffering. Suffering is difficult. Whether it’s suffering for doing what’s right, or going through trials that God has allowed for various purposes that we may not understand, both are hard. So how do we continue to worship God in the midst of suffering? 

Let’s start by acknowledging that suffering is part of God’s plan for all of us that love Him and have been called according to His purposes (Romans 8).

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.           

It is impossible for us to identify with Christ without suffering.

A huge part of knowing Him comes through suffering. The Apostle Paul, who was deeply acquainted with suffering wrote the following to Timothy: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). This kind of suffering should not be confused with suffering for doing wrong, we’re talking about suffering according to God’s will and for doing what’s right as explained in 1 Peter 2:19-25:

“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Unfortunately, we sometimes forget that suffering is part of God’s calling and purpose for each of us. It was prophesied long ago in the book of Isaiah that the Messiah would suffer.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:3-7).

You’ll notice that both in Isaiah 53:5 and 1 Peter 2:24, God’s Word tells us that “by (with) His wounds we are (have been) healed”. We are guaranteed spiritual healing (the forgiveness of sin, renewed minds, being made alive in the spirit, transformed hearts, etc.) through Christ’ suffering. But, we are not guaranteed physical healing in our bodies. Although, in His mercy, sometimes God chooses to heal our bodies (many accounts of this in God’s Word and modern day accounts as well!). In 2 Corinthians 4:16 we are told not to lose heart though our outer self (bodies) are wasting away, our inner self (spirit) is being renewed day by day. I love that God renews us from the inside out even when our bodies are wasting away. 

We don’t need to be happy about suffering, that would be weird! Thankfully, God doesn’t ask that of us or require that of us.  When we suffer, it doesn’t need to be “well with our soul”, as if we are superhuman. It’s normal to feel hurt, abandoned, isolated, and misunderstood in the midst of suffering. After all, Jesus felt these very things. In the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus wrestled with the suffering that He was about to endure. He wrestled so much that He experienced hematohidrosis, a condition that may occur under extreme physical or emotional stress that causes blood vessels that feed the sweat glands to rupture causing one’s sweat to turn to blood. Jesus was in great agony even after praying “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours, be done” (see Luke 22:41-46).

I’m so thankful that Jesus didn’t run away from suffering. He endured it. Hebrews 12:2 reminds us that “…for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” In the same way we’re told to endure the race that is set before us. His eternal presence in Heaven is our reward which causes all earthly suffering to be momentary and light by comparison to this great reward.

I don’t think we’ll ever fully understand suffering in this life. But, if we have a relationship with God we can trust Him even when we don’t understand.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 4:16 – 5:10).

Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:26-28).

In closing, there’s another story in the Bible that has helped me process this topic as I’ve struggled (and still do) understanding why some suffer more than others. In the last chapter of the gospel of John in one of Peter’s last conversations with Jesus in the flesh, before Jesus  ascended to the Father, Jesus tells Peter about his future:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow Me.

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them… When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” (John 21:18-22)

But what about him?? We all have a cross to bear, and our suffering might look different from someone else’s. Our concern shouldn’t be in comparing ourselves and our situations to others. Our concern should be in following Jesus. Just as Jesus told Peter – “You follow me!” we should do the same.

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19).

Faith

By Nate Green, Worship Pastor

Worship is a declaration of faith in God. When we worship God, we get our eyes off ourselves and others and set our hearts on God, the only one who supersedes all things. 

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Therefore, large portions of this worship topic will be directly from Scripture.

When we worship God, by faith, we are declaring the following to be true of God:

  • God is Who He says He is
    • He fulfills His Word
    • The Holy Spirit never contradicts the written Word of God, and He is actively speaking to us today.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:1-3,6)

When we read “without faith it is impossible to please him”, we had better figure out how to exercise our faith!

Hebrews chapters 11 and 12 give us many examples of how faith is worked out and practiced in life and chapter 12 ends with these powerful words “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29).  God’s Kingdom cannot be shaken, and the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church (Matthew 16:18).

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” (1 John 5:4)

Faith doesn’t remove suffering, but faith empowers us to overcome, and God gives us victory in the midst of suffering. We should endure suffering, trusting by faith that God’s sovereign plan is working in and through us. Hebrews 11 and12 are full of examples of having faith in God during suffering. Suffering, according to God’s will, is an act of worship. We press on, looking to Christ Jesus as our example and sustainer (Hebrews 12:1-2).

One powerful example of how faith and worship coincide is found in 2 Chronicles 14. Here is the backdrop; King Asa is reigning in Judah as one of the descendants of King David. Overall, he did what was good and right in God’s eyes. But doing what is good and right does not exclude us from trouble. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” Trouble came to King Asa in the form of an Ethiopian army of 1 million men and 300 chariots that came to attack his kingdom, Judah. King Asa only had an army of 580,000 men. That is a difference of about 2:1, not a good scenario for the smaller army, but here’s an example of how faith in God overcame the odds.

Asa cried to the LORD his God, “O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O LORD, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.” So the Lord defeated the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah… and the Ethiopians fell until none remained alive, for they were broken before the Lord and his army.”  (2 Chronicles 14:11-13)

God fought the battle on their behalf!

In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign, Basha king of Israel went up against Judah and laid siege to it. Once again, Asa was in a desperate place. But instead of asking God for help, he took matters into his own hand by taking the silver and gold from the house of the Lord and sending it as a gift to the king of Syria for help. The king of Syria came and defeated some of Israel’s cities causing Basha king of Israel to withdraw from laying siege to Judah. It worked, but it came at a cost:

At that time, Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you.  Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.” Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in the stocks in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time.”  (2 Chronicles 16:7-10)

God reminded king Asa of what he had done for him in the past, but Asa held onto his pride instead of humbling himself. Anger can be a symptom of pride. Instead of humbling himself, Asa became angry, causing even more damage. “God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).  Towards the end of Asa’s life we read:

Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians.” (2 Chronicles 16:12)

How sad! I am convinced that these outcomes would have been different had Asa sought the Lord as he did at first.

King Asa’s son Jehoshaphat became king of Judah after Asa’s death. Jehoshaphat’s faith was tested in a similar way to his father’s. The story picks up in 2 Chronicles 20:

After this, the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle. Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Engedi). Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.

And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, and said, “O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?  And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit.  O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.

Meanwhile all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly.  And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel.  You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, the LORD will be with you.”

Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD.  And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.

And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say,

‘Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.

And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.

When Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, they looked toward the horde, and behold, there were dead bodies lying on the ground; none had escaped. When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take their spoil, they found among them, in great numbers, goods, clothing, and precious things, which they took for themselves until they could carry no more. They were three days in taking the spoil, it was so much. On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, for there they blessed the LORD. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Beracah to this day. Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy, for the LORD had made them rejoice over their enemies. They came to Jerusalem with harps and lyres and trumpets, to the house of the LORD. And the fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel. So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around.

This story powerfully illustrates a faith that is pleasing to God and moves God to gracious action on behalf of His people. Did you notice how they began worshiping the Lord even before they saw the result (20:18-19)? This was an act of faith! They believed that God would do what He promised to do. King Jehoshaphat put the singers in front of the army (20:21). This was also an act of faith!  Worship is a declaration of faith in God! God did the work and the people received the benefit of placing their faith in God!

There is never an instance in the Bible where God criticizes someone for having too much faith. However, a lack of faith is often criticized by God. Remember, we don’t need a large amount of faith. Faith the size of mustard seed can move mountains (Luke 17:6). The key is relying on God more than ourselves and others, believing He can do what is impossible for us to do (Matthew 19:26). This kind of faith greatly pleases Him.

The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. (Psalm 33-13-19).

Back to School Prayers

Deep down we know that we are to fight back against the spiritual attacks we experience daily by praying, by coming to God, and trusting in His strength, His wisdom and His power.  Human strength and reasoning alone are not going to win the battle over temptation, anxiety, fear, and lies.  We need to fight the supernatural with the supernatural.  For those who are parents and grandparents, especially, you know that prayer is one of the most vital and effective ways you can fight for the hearts and minds of your kids and grandkids, especially as they start a new year of school which means a new year of increased temptations and spiritual attacks.  But sometimes we blank on what to pray or how to pray.  This page is just an easy access point to find ideas and guides in how you can pray for your kids, for the next generation (kids, teens, and young adults) especially as they begin a new school season.

Family Life: How to Pray Big for Your Child

Crosswalk: 10 Meaningful Back to School Prayers for Kids and Grandkids

Crosswalk: 5 Powerful Prayers for Teenagers

Desiring God: The Prayers our Teens Need Most

Crosswalk: 10 Protective Prayers for your College Student’s Whole Year

Bible Study Tools: A Month of Back to School Prayers

Pray.com: 8 Prayers for Kids Going Back to School

For those really wanting to increase their prayers, here is a resource highly recommended by our CVC Kids ministry: The One-Year Praying through the Bible for your Kids