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).


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 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

God’s Presence

By Nate Green, Worship Pastor

Let me begin by saying that I don’t fully understand God’s presence (obviously!), so this isn’t comprehensive, but what I write here are things that we know are true about God’s presence from His revealed Word to us. God’s Word is living and active, His presence isn’t something to just know about, we should experience His presence.  God’s manifest presence and work are sometimes hard to understand, but that’s one of the beautiful things about our God. I resonate with Paul when he wrote the following:

“How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)

So I’ll focus on what we know to be true about God’s presence. Three things I know to be true about God’s presence as revealed through His Word are:

  1. He is the initiator of our relationship, His presence is a gift and those who seek Him find Him.
    1. God is holy and desires fellowship with us. Sin is a barrier to our having fellowship with God. God provided the remedy for the barrier of our sin to be torn down and removed through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
  2. His presence is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1, Entire book of Hebrews and New Testament for that matter : )
  3. His presence dwells within the believer through God the Holy Spirit.

I also want to address some confusion surrounding the topic of God’s Presence and the Worship gathering.

I am deeply concerned about a “worship” culture that could mislead us into seeking an experience or feeling instead of seeking God Himself.

Energy in worship is not the gauge of whether God is present or not!!

We all like to feel good, but feeling good is not the plumb line of true worship and obedience to Christ. Obedience does not always feel good, and feeling good is not our motivation. Love for God should motivate our obedience. If we love Him, we will obey Him” (John 14:15).

Can you imagine hearing the following words from Jesus:

“You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” (Mark 7:9).

Yikes, that gets my attention. We need to be careful to make sure we aren’t just following traditions of men in regard to worship and His presence. Our current American church worship culture would like us to believe that all we need for an excellent worship service (and to draw God’s presence), is a high energy experience with pumping sound, amazing lights, gifted musicians and a dynamic worship leader that knows how to get a crowd moving.

Sadly, these experiences can take place with or without honoring God’s presence. The components listed above don’t make up true worship that is pleasing to the Lord (in fact these components don’t make up any of the New Testament requirements for worship). As a worship pastor I swallow hard to think I could be getting off course if I follow the traditions of men rather than God’s Word and Spirit in these areas! Thankfully God’s Word guides us on what to do!

Jesus says in Mark 7:6-7, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” In Mark 7, Jesus makes it crystal clear that He is not looking for an outward spectacle or display of worship He is looking for obedience, humility and a transformed heart resulting in worship that comes from the inside out. He is seeking worshipers that will worship Him in Spirit and Truth (John 4:24).

There’s nothing wrong with lights, amazing sound systems, and great musicians. But, it would be wrong to depend on these things in order to experience God’s presence. None of these things draw God’s presence – His grace, our faith, obedience, repentance and humility draw His presence and allow us to have fellowship with Him (see Revelation chapters 2 and 3). 

A few years ago I read a book by Daniel Henderson titled “Transforming Presence”. I strongly recommend it. The following is a synopsis of his book as described on the back cover:

Why did Jesus say it would be better for Him to go?

He said the coming of the Helper—the Holy Spirit—was that important. And that the Spirit who so powerfully turned bumbling disciples into unstoppable world changers is alive in us. But misunderstandings, confusion, and contention are keeping us from the abundant, satisfying life God has for us in Him.

Transforming Presence teaches you what Scripture actually says about the indwelling Spirit of God who wants to revive us from the inside-out. It walks you through ten vital practices that will help you have a new experience of the Holy Spirit and shows you how to think, speak, (and sing) rightly about Him.

But be careful, when you approach the Holy Spirit like this—on His own terms—nothing in your life will ever be the same

Henderson writes extensively about human attempts to produce a Holy Spirit type atmosphere within church worship. As if the Holy Spirit was a force out there that needs to be drawn in through external means. The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit dwells with in us. He is working from the inside out in our lives.

Daniel Henderson quotes the following from Andrew Murray in his book:

“To everyone who honestly desires to know that he has the Spirit and to know Him in his person as a personal possession and teacher, we say: Study the teaching of the word in regard to the Spirit. Be not content with the teaching of the church or of men about the Spirit but go to the word… Be determined to accept nothing but what the word teaches, but also to accept heartily all that it teaches.”

As a church we’ve been going through the book of Haggai this summer in a series titled “Building God’s House”. There have been some helpful insights and reminders regarding God’s presence. In the Old Testament, under the Old Covenant, God’s presence was sought through the building of the Temple and through following the Old Testament laws of worship and sacrifice. God gave specific requirements for how the temple structure was to be built as well as instructions for worship within the temple. God’s presence was conditional to the keeping of the covenant between Him and His people, Israel. When the Old Testament temple was complete God appeared to Solomon (the king tasked with its construction) in a dream and said the following:

As soon as Solomon had finished building the house of the LORD and the king’s house and all that Solomon desired to build, the LORD appeared to Solomon a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. And the LORD said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you have made before me. I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’ But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins. Everyone passing by it will be astonished and will hiss, and they will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD their God who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore the LORD has brought all this disaster on them.’” (1 Kings 9:1-9)

God is always faithful and keeps His promises, but unfortunately Israel did not keep their covenant with God and God’s presence departed the Old Testament temple. One sure way of knowing that we are in God’s presence is when we are keenly aware of our sin in light of His Holiness. Just as Isaiah became aware of his sin in God’s presence (see Isaiah 6), the same is true of us today.

God’s presence brings conviction of sin:

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.(1 John 1:5-10 and 2:1-6)

We can’t have fellowship with God and fellowship with sin at the same time. God is Holy and sin disrupts our fellowship with Him.

The Good News about God’s Presence Today:

The good news is that the Old Covenant is now obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). We don’t have to visit the temple in Jerusalem to “find” God’s presence, because that is not where His presence dwells anymore. Instead, we are now under the New Covenant that Jesus has provided for us. It’s a covenant through His blood given for us (see Luke 22:20). Jesus offered Himself, one time, on the cross as the perfect sacrifice made available for all (Hebrews 7:27). The Temple where God dwells is no longer a structure built by men, but is now our body where the Holy Spirit dwells.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

We are the Temple and the Holy Spirit dwells inside of us!! Wow!!

I’m so thankful that God’s presence doesn’t depend on my energy level. In fact it’s the opposite, we fully depend on Him. Remember, “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7), our bodies are broken temples that house the glory of God. We depend on His presence constantly.  “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  “Whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter  4:11)

God’s presence is with us. And thankfully His presence doesn’t depend on our feelings, but on His Covenant with us.

Let’s abide in Him and maintain fellowship with Him.

Selecting Songs for Worship

By Nate Green, Worship Pastor

There are so many worship songs that are widely available and accessible to the church these days. This is good because God’s Word encourages and commands us to “sing a new song to the Lord” (see Psalm 96:1, 98:1, 144:9 and Isaiah 42:10). The challenge for worship leaders is which song to choose with so many great options available. Choosing which song to sing is kind of like going to a Mexican restaurant with 300 options on the menu and struggling to make a decision because it all looks so good! Here at CVC alone (within all the different ministries) we have used over 1000 different songs in the last 10 years. We also highly value the congregation’s ability to participate and sing along, and for that to happen, they need to know the song. So, we have decided to not introduce more than 1 new song on any given Sunday so that at least 3 of the songs will be ones that we have sung before and that our congregation should know.

There are 3 main criteria I use to filter songs for Sunday worship services:

1. Theologically grounded in the truth of God’s Word

2. Congregational – Is the song singable and memorable?

3. Style – Does the song fit within the overall genre of our CVC music culture?

Obviously, the most important of these three is the first criteria.  If we don’t get the first one right, we’ll be doing more damage than good in our spiritual growth and singular focus on what God desires from us in the area of worship – that we worship Him in Spirit and Truth (John 4:23).

Being Theologically Grounded in the Truth of God’s Word

The question is this. Do the song lyrics find their source in God’s infallible, inerrant, inspired, unadulterated Word? If worship song lyrics contradict God’s Word, or muddy the waters and are hard to interpret, then we should not be putting those lyrics in our hearts and minds. The following verses remind us how powerful God’s Word is:

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

  • John 6:63

“As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

  • Romans 10:15-17

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

  • Hebrews 4:12-13

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17

We can all agree that the Truth of God’s Word and His Holy Spirit lead us to Worship Him rightly. But, what if song writers don’t live up to the truth they profess?

Let’s be honest, a lot of the current discussion around song selection is being fed by this question. Should we keep singing songs written by people and churches that don’t live up to God’s perfect standard? This isn’t a new dilemma, it’s something we’ve wrestled with since sin first entered our existence and has been passed down from generation to generation.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as ka propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

  • Romans 3:23-26

Yes, we are included within the category of those who fall short of God’s glory and standard. We must be very careful when taking a position of judgment over others.

A closer look at some of the hymn writers and church denominations of their age had similar issues to our modern day church. I find some great insight in God’s Word to help me navigate these issues.

Romans 3:3-4 puts it bluntly:

“What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?  By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar…”

The context of Romans 3 powerfully speaks to the differences between God and man. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We must be very careful to not become like the Pharisees and hypocrites by looking down on those who have fallen.

500 years ago, when Martin Luther helped spark the reformation, it was necessary to define authority within the church, especially since Luther had repudiated the authority of the Pope and other church officials. “What was left,” Luther wrote, “was the Holy Scriptures themselves.” The only inspired and authoritative Word of God. According to Luther the Word of God was the single source of doctrine and the only infallible guide to salvation. The Latin term he used, “Sola Scriptura,” has served to express this theological position ever since.

There is one who embodies perfect truth, Jesus Christ.  He is our example and one to be followed!

By singing songs written by imperfect people (myself included) who at times don’t have perfect theology/doctrine, we do not endorse everything the songwriter believes or does. We do endorse the truth within a song that is sourced from the Word of God. We endorse songs from God’s Word because it’s the only infallible source.

In Philippians 1:15-18 Paul says,

“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

The principle Paul states here is to rejoice and agree with the truth. We can endorse the truth without endorsing the person that is proclaiming that truth. Paul is also the one who warns us the most about the dangers of false teachers and he encourages us to discern and know the truth. In Acts 17 we see that Paul and Silas commended the Bereans for examining their teachings against the Word of God to verify their teaching.  We are encouraged in God’s Word to not blindly follow leaders, but to test and examine teachings to see if they find their source in the truth of God’s Word.  Later in Acts 17 Paul addresses philosophers in Athens and uses the platform of their “unknown God” to proclaim the gospel to them. In doing so Paul is not endorsing worship of their “unknown God,” but he is seeking to make known to them the one true God so that they may worship Him.   

We will never be able to silence the lies that exist in this world (and that infiltrate the Church), however we can be girded with the belt of truth as we battle the father of lies (Ephesians 6:14). I would rather see that we shepherd our people on how to navigate these waters than to censor everyone we disagree with, because that is truly impossible.

Our job is to help equip others as stated in Ephesians 4:12-14:

“…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

As many of you know, looking for the counterfeit will not help us positively identify the truth. Instead, we must focus on knowing what is True and this will help us identify and weed out a counterfeit (belief, value, action).

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

  • Philippians 4:8

Let us declare through song what we know to be true about our God!