Questions on Prayer

Praying according to the will of God is, to be sure, difficult in some ways and easy in others. We can apply other tools that Pastor Chad gave us in week 3 of the series. He taught us how to pray the Bible back to God. We know that when we pray Scripture, we are praying according to the will of God. However, how God applies that scripture – His will – to a particular situation, including our own, it’s hard for us to see.
A child asks his mother, “Mom, may I have something to eat? I’m hungry!“ A mother will, usually, respond positively to that request. It’s her will that her child not be hungry. However, the child may want and expect a fruit rollup. The mom, though, knows that supper will be ready in one hour. She doesn’t want to spoil the child supper. So, she cuts up an apple and gives it to the child. The child “prayed” for something that was in line with the will of the mother. The mother responded positively to the request. But the child still did not get what was expected.
I think things like this happen for us a lot. We should go to God and ask for what we want and need that we understand to be within His will. Then, we trust God‘s response is that He will give us what he knows is best for us.
Perhaps this article will be helpful to you as wrestle with this issue: Prayer in the Light of God’s Will

I personally also feel the tension in another question. How is it possible for us to see ourselves as despicable sinners and as beloved children?

A little boy acted out selfishly in the home. He was playing with his sister. He wanted his sister’s toy, so he grabbed it. She began to cry. She reached out to take her toy back. He pushed her to the floor. The mother saw this happening. She tried to intervene. The little boy became further entrenched in his selfishness. In defiance to his mother, he not only did not give the toy back to his sister, he threw it on the floor and broke it. The mother disciplined him. Part of the discipline was giving him a lengthy time out in his room. Later, she came to the room to comfort him. She told him that no matter what he did or didn’t do her love for him would be the same. She loved him in spite of his selfishness and defiance. She loved him too much to let him continue to act selfishly. She believed better things for him and from him. She embraced him. She kissed him.

Now, that little story I think gets at the issue. It would have done the boy no favor for him to pretend that he wasn’t selfish and defiant. He needed to admit what was true about him. In fact, admitting his defiance and selfishness is something that makes his mother’s love even more amazing. Hopefully, her unconditional love will cause him to be a better big brother in the future.
Many things in the Christian life are paradoxes. We are both selfish sinners and beloved children. At the same time. For me, recognizing that makes me see and seize the mercy and grace of God even more. As the old song says, “Amazing grace. How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.“ we should embrace the fact of our sinfulness as well as embrace the fact of our beloved-ness.

A “Whatever” Attitude Check-Up

By Joe Valenti, Associate Pastor of Youth and Missions

Today I taught out of Revelation 3:14-22 and the “whatever” attitude people can have towards Jesus and how often it’s an authority problem, a passion problem, or a reality problem.

The great thing is that while you might have a “whatever” attitude towards Jesus, he does not have a “whatever”attitude towards you. Please use this resource to check your attitude towards Jesus.

A “WHATEVER” ATTITUDE CHECK-UP

Modified from ‘Crazy Love’ by Francis Chan

A person with a “whatever” attitude towards Jesus…

  • …attends church regularly. It is what is expected of them, what they believe ‘good Christians’ do, so they go.
  • …gives money to charity and to the church as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living.
  • …don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin. They don’t genuinely hate sin and aren’t truly sorry for it; they’re merely sorry because God is going to punish them.
  • …rarely share their faith with their neighbors, co-workers or friends. They do not want to be rejected. They fear others more than Jesus.
  • …gauge their morality or ‘goodness’ by comparing themselves to the secular world. They feel satisfied that while they aren’t as hard-core for Jesus as so-and-so, they are nowhere as horrible as the guy down the street.
  • …say they love Jesus, and He is, indeed, part of their lives. But only a part. They give Him a section of their time, their money and their thoughts, but He isn’t allowed to control their lives.
  • …love God, but they do not love Him with all their heart, soul and strength. They would be quick to assure you that they try to love God that much, but that sort of devotion isn’t really possible for the average person; it’s only for pastors, missionaries and radicals.

A person with a “whatever” attitude towards Jesus…

  • …love others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves. Their love of others is typically focused on those who love them in return, like family, friends, and other people they know and connect with. There is little love left over for those who cannot love them back.
  • …will serve God and others, but there are limits to how far they will go, or how much time, money and energy they are willing to give.
  • …are thankful for their luxuries and comforts, and rarely consider trying to give as much as possible to the poor.
  • …do whatever is necessary to keep themselves from feeling too guilty. They want to do the base minimum, to be ‘good enough’ without it requiring too much of them.
  • …are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control. This focus on safe living keeps them from sacrificing and taking risks for God.
  • …do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to.
  • …probably pray before meals and at bedtime. But that is where communion with God stops.
  • …probably drink and swear less than average, but besides that, they really aren’t very different from your typical unbeliever. They equate their partially sanitized lives with holiness, but that couldn’t be more wrong.

How to Hold Fast

This past week, I asked attenders at Cuyahoga Valley Church for some help with my message from Revelation 3:7-13 on “holding fast.”
I asked, “Be honest… Have you ever been so disappointed by life that you were tempted to let go of Jesus, to not hold onto faith? If so, why? And what has helped you ‘hold fast’ to faith, to Christ? How have the promises of God helped you ‘hold fast’?”
The responses from you were awesome.
When you sit by attenders in a worship service, remember that you are surrounded by heroes, by trophies of God’s grace. Ask others about their faith journey. You’ll be encouraged.
We have a church filled with faithful suffering saints. Below are a few of the incredible replies. Maybe their faith will inspire yours.
“Yep! When 2 of my favorite people passed away from cancer. My sister was age 47 and my Dad just retired at 67. Then my Mom passed away suddenly in June of 2017. I realized that I am not in control of life or death, that ONLY Jesus takes away the pain and I believe in the resurrection with the hope to one day see them again in Glory! Trusting in Jesus and knowing HIS plans are perfect and HE is The ONLY one who Saves..gets me through it all! There is life after death of loved ones here on earth who have gone before us but only if you believe in the resurrection! Easter is my favorite time of year.”
“Yes, when I lost the purity of my marriage. Because of my past, I clung on to my marriage as the only pure thing in the life, when that was taken away the despair was unbearable. It would be very easy to let go of faith and just stop. Through Christian counseling and lots of study and time, I came to know that my only purity can be in Jesus. I have nothing in this world to cling to. It’s a tough truth, but indeed truth. When Jesus said He is the way, the truth and the life. He meant it. Woo hoo!!!”
“When “Christians” told me God’s plan was for me to stay and endure physical abuse. I spent a short time experiencing ptsd and severe depression – walked away from God and started “living hard” – when I quickly figured out that didn’t work, I came back and decided instead of listening to other people’s interpretation of the Word I would find it for myself. Turns out abuse and oppression was not God’s plan for my life and I now know the Word to be able to confidently cling to the real truth – and stay in the light. Now, I am using the lies I believed about myself and God to reach other lost/broken women.”
“I had a heart attack at 46 and laying on that table with strangers all around not knowing if I was going to die or what. Nothing mattered but God! Nothing! I so desperately wanted someone to hold my hand and say it is going to be ok. I kept thinking that God will never leave me, nor forsake me. I tried to talk to people there..lol but they were like, ‘mam we are really busy’ (trying to keep me alive). I just came down to me and God. No one or nothing else. 7 months later 2 more heart attacks and bypass surgery. I felt my life was over. I couldn’t work anymore and the job I had, I loved and God used me there and now my health is gone, my income is less and my husband started to turn away from me to another woman a year half later he left me. I felt like I lost everything, everything I loved was taken away from me, what purpose do I have? It made me cling to the Lord even more. I ain’t going to lie I was angry and depressed but I just kept talking to the Lord and reading his word. Believing he loved me. It is hard at times. I just believe in in his word not my feelings. P.S. My husband is back thank you Jesus! There were times I considered to not pray anymore, that it didn’t matter. But it sure does matter! And to keep singing his praises.
Before Christ… my mom, age 42, died of cancer and left 8 children behind…. I was 19 and 3rd from oldest… youngest sib was 6. I had anger at God and my religion at the time. BUT…. it was that anger that set me on a quest to fill the void in my heart…. on March 20, 1974 I received Jesus’ gift of grace. Church experiences over the years have “done me in!” I’ve learned to keep my eyes on Jesus and off of people, to listen to His voice and move forward when He calls/advises me.
“My desperate struggles with Bipolar disorder shattered all of my former idols and forced me to completely rely on Jesus. His promises gave me hope when I had none. It gave me hope that better days were ahead. Which they were. His Grace was far more sufficient than I ever imagined.”
“When my son was born and I realized it was a death sentence to the life I imagined I would live. Thought God did this to punish me. How I hold fast? I am his beloved child and so is my son. He loves us both so much and I don’t want to turn my back on someone who loves me THAT MUCH! So he didn’t do this to punish me. What promises help me? That he will turn this situation for our good. That if I trust him, he will make a way for Danny and I through this journey….on His pathway, not mine, for His will, not mine. He loves us, period. I trust Him!”
“Yes! When my young son died from a terminal illness–I watched him die inch by inch. It certainly wasn’t “fair”. I was angry and thought I could somehow “hide” it from God. It wasn’t until I finally confronted Him with my anger that I heard Him say, “Now that you’ve been honest with Me we can move forward to what is next”. I had to decide to go forward–to go on–let go of the anger and realize He left me here for a reason. I had to decide if I wanted to really live or to just be alive. I looked back over my life and realized God had never left me and would not do so now even if I left Him. His promises to never leave or forsake me brought me back to Him.”
“I too had great anger at God after my sons death by electrocution which was violent and horrific as I saw it all. Makes me shudder to this day. I was angry so many suffered because of the horrors they witnessed. A dear sister Jackie Deems told me God was big enough to handle my puny anger. By mercy and grace He brought me thru to the other side of the valley of death where I learned to walk above the pain that had hold of this mom’s heart. To God be the glory”
“When I sat in a Dr.’s office 20 years ago and she told me I’d never have children. That changed how I looked at a lot of things forever. He didn’t change. I did. Felt “homeless” for a very long time…..”
“No question, I felt defeated in my battles against temptation,I would ask God for help and would still feel the same and defeated at the end of the day. In the end I would say to whom else would I go He has the words of eternal life,and would visualize myself holding up a shield of faith blindly. The doubts from within we’re overwhelming and scary, and at times I still feel those doubts creep up. I just cry out to Him because I know He is there even when I don’t feel.Him,and He promised to give the Holy Spirit to us if we ask. This has been the darkest time spiritually ever in my life. I am not out of it, but I know He is holding me, there is no one else. The battle is fierce in my life. I know he is faithful because He said He would be ….even when we are faithless, that is an encouragement.”
“More than once my faith was severely tested by a pastor and separately the person who led the bible study that I accepted Christ at and the 2nd by a Pastor caught in a sexual affair with a woman in congregation. Both times I questioned whether Christianity was worth it. The case of the other he was cheating on his taxes and I was the one preparing and signing his return and his wife even yelled at me it was none of my business when I told her what they wanted me to put on the return and sign was false info to evade taxes. She said just mind own business. That severely tested whether Christians were hypocrites.”
“My father died just before my final quarter in college. My first reaction was to go home following graduation to help mom out. I read the verse in 1st Timothy that if one saw a need in their immediate family and had no compassion on them they were worse than an infidel. My spiritual mentor from The Navigators said Mom could take care of herself. He wanted me to go into full time ministry. He said if I didn’t proceed with going into full time ministry that he would wash his hands of me. Became very bitter for a long time, I couldn’t understand why a Godly man would be so ungodly. I felt lonely and abandoned. During that time I saw that God wanted me to just be enveloped in Him alone and stop putting the “white coat” on leaders.”
“When we struggled for so long with infertility & then finally got pregnant & then miscarried. I felt like Jesus had let go of me! I felt like he hated me, like there wasn’t a God. Today: I have overcome many obstacles in my life that have no explanation other than God… what we call “God-incidents” as we don’t believe in coincidence. We had to wait on his timing to grant us our boys! The story of Abraham and Sarah help me stay focused on His promises.”
“I had thought for a very long time that even though I know God is loving, died for my sins, and there’s nothing I can do to deserve it, I kept thinking that I wouldn’t be accepted by God. That He couldn’t love me. I’m horrible person and can’t do anything right, etc. It took a long time and a really awesome Bible study at CVC, that helped me to finally confront that fear and accept God’s grace wholly. It may seem silly or not much of a problem to some, but to someone who grew up in an abusive home it was a huge hurdle to overcome and wouldn’t have happened without God. He is an amazing God who not only loved me through all that, but helped me to forgive and love others.”
“My husband fell into depression four years ago, slept for 6 months straight, no one could help. I waited for a an appointment to open up with his psychiatrist… read Glenn Pembertons book, Hurting WITH God, learning to lament with the Psalms… AMAZING time with Jesus… daily crying, wailing, learning it was okay as many many saints of God had suffered… prolonged suffering… & I was counted among them… AND thru it all… Gods grace was & is sufficient!!!!!!”
“I think we all get to that point at one time or another (bad marriage, holding your child while they suffer, other believers selling you out). But after you have time to ask yourself “what is the alternative” and really think through that to the logical end, it always comes back to the Hope found in Christ. This life is temporary. We need to remember we were bought with a price and on that day, surrendered our will for His. There are so many lives that are touched by the way we navigate through the things that are pressing us down and testing our faith. And come to think about it, if we believe in God’s sovereignty, I’m not sure there is anything we can do to “let go of Jesus.” So if we’re truly in the faith (regenerated), it is really impossible to ever be separated from the love of God found in Christ Jesus aka Perseverance of the Saints.”
“I have been at rock bottom more than once. Praying to God, and believing that He will take care of me has given me a comfort and a warm feeling in these moments that has given me the strength not to give up. And not giving up, learning from my mistakes, and trying the best I could to be consistent has gotten me to a much better place in my life than I ever thought I would be. Having faith is fundamental to having hope. I heard a great quote…. I would rather live my life believing that there is a God, to die and find out that there isn’t….. than live my life believing that there isn’t a God, and then die and find out that there IS.”
“My brother and I were abandoned as babies. When my brother died in Viet Nam, He was only 18 years old. I was 20 years old. I shook my fist at GOD in a drunken rage on the corner of Broadway and Harvard. I lived a dozen years in anger and alcohol. To this day I still struggle with anger! I am not angry with GOD any more,just with myself. When Danny died I lost faith in a LOVING GOD. But like a better man than me, once said, “Where else can I go? Who else can i really TRUST or BELIEVE in?” LORD JESUS/YESHUA I have FAITH, please give me more FAITH!”
“I have just one little thing to share that i feel is incredibly important. As we each walk thru life’s journey there are trials-tears-joy-uncertainties -difficulties and suffering. The Body of Christ indeed is absolutely essential in one another’s journey  because iron sharpens iron. We need one another in good times and bad times… to come along side, to encourage, to pray with and for, to redirect and correct. How beautiful is the body of Christ… what a precious gift from God, the gift of one another.”

REcalibrate Resources

by Josh Stone, Pastor of Community Life and Leadership

Being spiritually healthy comes down to some pretty simple habits in our lives. These habits are called the spiritual disciplines and include: worship, prayer, bible study, serving, and giving. These are the habits of a healthy Christian. At Cuyahoga Valley Church these play out in three environments we call Worship – Groups – Serve.

If you do these things, you will be spiritually healthy. It’s not rocket science. A healthy relationship with God is available to everyone. When we want to grow in your health habits, it’s best to take simple steps toward a healthy life. Here are some steps that I want to encourage you.

Worship

  • Attend at least three times a month
  • Turn off phone or put it on airplane mode
  • Value worship attendance for your children – watch this video on Facebook
  • Sing along in worship

Prayer

  • Pray out loud in your Lifegroup
  • Purchase and use the Valley of Vision
  • Attend the Unshaken Prayer Conference 
  • Engage weekly in missions prayer on Facebook
  • Utilize the prayer room
  • Pray before every work shift
  • Use your commute for prayer

Bible Study

6 Rs to Personal Bible Study from Cuyahoga Valley Church on Vimeo.

 

Serving

Giving

  • Commit to spending the time to talk to your neighbor
  • Assess your personal giving.
  • Strive to increase your giving by 1% this year.
  • Tell your children how much you gave in 2017.
  • Schedule one day this month to give your time to someone in your Lifehouse
  • Engage with the missions drive, loose change for life, etc.

Doubting Your Salvation

by Founding Pastor Rick Duncan

Lots of people here at our church, Cuyahoga Valley Church, have doubts about their salvation. “How can I know that I know that I’m going to heaven, that I have eternal life?” I recently had a member come back and ask me about those exact doubts he was having regarding his own assurance of salvation.


Assurance is a privilege.  It’s one of the highest blessings that you can know in this life.  True believers can sometimes wait for a long time to get assurance.  Sometimes, it can be very difficult for a true follower of Jesus to gain assurance.

But as it says in the Bible, it’s the duty of every believer to make our calling and election sure.  Why?  We’ll have greater peace and joy, greater love and gratitude, and increased strength and obedience to God.

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. I John 1:6

If we claim to have a connection with God but we keep on and keep on stumbling around in the darkness, we’re obviously lying.  Staying in the dark means that we don’t really have a connection with God.  We’re not living what we claim to be living.

But, it feels to me like you are bringing your sin to the light. Yes, you drifted. Yes, you lived in the dark. But now, it’s exposed. That’s a good sign. A very good sign.

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. I John 1:7

This is the verse that is engraved in our weddings rings.  When Maryanne and I aren’t doing very well in our relationship, we know that one of three things has to be true:1) I am not walking in the light; 2) she is not walking in the light; or 3) neither of us are walking in the light.  But if we are living in the light, since God Himself is the light, then we have connections not only with God but also with each other.  The blood of Jesus cleanses us and keeps on cleansing us from all sin.

What is walking in light?  We’ll, there’s the light of the Word.  There’s the light of the Holy Spirit.  There’s the light of the counsel of other believers.

When we “walk in light,” our lives will be open.  We won’t have hidden sins.  We won’t be living as hypocrites – pretending to be someone we’re not.  When we “walk in light,” this will result in deeper ad deeper connections with God and others.

You are seeking to be connected to Jesus or else you would not have written. The fact that you wrote and are concerned is a good sign. You’re seeking to live in the light.  You’re not in the dark.  You’re not hanging out with the wrong crowd.  God has brought you to the point where you can say, “It’s time.  It’s time once again to walk in light.”

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. I John 1:8

If we claim that we’re free of sin – that our fallen nature that pulls us toward sin is now powerless over us, we’re only fooling ourselves. To say we have no sin means that we’re denying the truth about us.  The truth isn’t in us.

Well, you are not denying your sin. That’s a good sign.


If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9 

If we will say what God says about our sins – that we have missed the mark, that we have fallen short – then God can always be trusted to forgive us.  God always does what is right.  He’ll forgive our sins and cleanse us from all the wrongs we have done.

When I was a high school basketball player, back in the 70s, the officials would blow a whistle, call a foul, and the player had to raise his hand.  Now, I was point guard.  I believed that if you were able to foul 5 times before you fouled out of the game, then you should use 4.  So, lots of time, I had to raise my hand in front of the whole crowd as if to say, “Yep.  It’s me.  I fouled that guy.”

This is what confession is like.  God’s Spirit blows the whistle.  He convicts us of sin.  We just need to raise our hands and say, “Yes.  It’s me.  I sinned.  I was wrong.”

You’ve done that. It’s a god sign.

If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. I John 1:10 

If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar – we are contradicting God.  And that proves that His message really has no place in our hearts.

You do see the sin in your own life.  You’re not just saying that you’re simply “struggling” in areas.  You’re not softening the blow.  You see the sin in your own life.  You are not denying it, justifying it, or explaining it away. You’ve owned your own sin.

Note that there is a difference between relationship and fellowship.

If you are a believer in Christ, if you have trusted Him as your Lord and Savior, your relationship with God cannot be disturbed.  You have been made a child of God.  And once in the family, always in the family.

What kind of mother or father would dare to disown a child?  My sons are Duncans.  They always will be.  Our relationship is secure.  They will always be my sons and I will always be their dad.  No matter what they say or do, they are still in the family.  The relationship is secure.  They can be sure they are in the family.

Our fellowship, though, can be disturbed.  When they mess up, they can disappoint their dad.  And until they own up to the mess up, the hang-out time, the goofing off at meals, the conversations in the car will all be disturbed.

The same true with God.  When we confess our sins, we aren’t confessing to restore the relationship with God.  That relationship is secure even when we sin.  But when we sin, we break our fellowship with God.  As our Father, He loves us enough to discipline us when we sin.  Our prayer life is hindered by our sin.  So, we confess to restore our fellowship with God.

See, when we confess our sins, we are confessing sins that have already been forgiven.  When Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished.”  All of our sins – past, present, and future – were judged on the cross. Jesus paid it all.  So, now, we say, “I agree with you, God, that my pride, my sloth, my greed, my anger, my deception, my lukewarmness, my drunkenness, my lust is sin.  Thank you for forgiving me.”

When we confess in this way, the fellowship – the connection – is restored.

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. I John 2:1 

May I say to you, “Get your eyes off of yourself and onto Christ”? Jesus is always taking up our cause – our case – in the presence of God the Father.

Jesus is our Advocate.  It means He’s our defense attorney.  Satan prosecutes believers night and day before the Father due to sin.  The Bible calls Satan our accuser (Rev. 12:10).  So, Jesus intercedes and pleads with God on the basis of His own work on the cross.

You may very well be hearing the accuser’s voice. Hear, instead the voice of your Intercessor.


If you are guilty of a crime, you need to get a lawyer who pleads for you.  And that’s what Jesus does.

And here’s why we can be confident.  He is righteous.  He’s not going to say to the Father, “This guy, didn’t know what he was doing.”  He’s not going to say, “Just let her off with a lesser penalty.”  He won’t argue that way.  He will plead His own merits before the Father.  He will say, “See My hands, My feet, My side, My brow.  See the wounds on My back.  I paid the price for you.  You don’t have to pay.”

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

Jesus died to take upon Himself the wrath of God that we should have suffered because of our sins against God.  He sacrificed Himself not only for us, but for the sins of the whole world.  He is the propitiation, the hilasmos, an appeasing, a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath and turns it to favor

As the perfect sacrifice for sin, Jesus turns away God’s wrath.

Think about the fact that between now and the day you die you will commit too many sins to count.  I know you don’t want to and that you’re working on sinning less.  There will come a day when you will commit your very last sin.  That means that your sin is finite.  But what about God’s grace?  What about the propitiation of Christ Jesus?  That is infinite!  Propitiation is never ending.  Grace is greater than all our sin.  And propitiation will last for eternity.

The longer I live as a follower of Christ, the more I am seeing my own depravity.  The big stuff – the blatant sins – that’s not the problem.  But my heart, my motives…

And when I think that I’m a pastor who has studied the Bible for so many years, I should be so much more holy than I am.  I’m ashamed.  I am more selfish and self-centered than I really want to admit.  I am more lazy and undisciplined than I should be.  I am far more easily hurt than I should be.  My motives are worse than I used to think.  I hate my sin.

I’m understanding more and more what John Newton said, “I am a greater sinner than I ever thought and Jesus is a greater Savior than I’ve ever known.”  This is why we love Him.  This is why we worship Him.

Christianity is not “You must do,” but “Christ already did.”  We spell our faith this way: “DONE,” not “DO.”

Are you living in the freedom of the gospel? Or are you in bondage to religion?  Real slavery is living your life to gain favor. Real freedom is living your life because you already have favor.  Because I possess the benefits of the gospel of Christ, I don’t have anything to prove or anything to protect.  We need to hear less about all we need to do for God and more about all Christ did for us.

Be really excited about having Jesus as your Advocate and Propitiation!


My college coach, Larry Schmittou, gave me a scholarship to play baseball at Vanderbilt.  He saw me playing on a summer league team and took a chance on me.  My parents never could have sent me to Vanderbilt.  Today, tuition and fees alone are almost $40,000.  My coach made it possible for me to get a great college education.  He did for me what I could not do for myself.  And as I reflect on what my coach provided, I am grateful and I want to connect.  A few years ago, we drove through Nashville when Coach Schmittou was then president of the Nashville Sounds pro baseball team.  I wanted to stop and take in a game and thank him.  So, we did.  It was fun to sit there and to reconnect with my old coach.

Look away from yourself and look to Christ! Appreciate enough what He’s done for you.

Start each day with the thought that you are accepted, that you have an advocate, that Jesus has taken the wrath that you should have taken.

Thanks for sharing with me.

Read verses like John 10:28-30, Romans 8:31-39, and 1 John 5:11-13.  Ask the Lord if you can claim these verses for your own life.

My sense is that you have been “wandered from the truth” in the past, but God has used His people to “bring you back” as James 5:19 says.

Watch out! Beware of an over-scrupulous conscience.  We have this tendency to think that we are saved by grace through faith, but then try to stay saved by works.  What God began in the Spirit, don’t seek to perfect in the flesh.

Look at the cross.  Which of your sins did He not die for?  When He said, “It is finished!” why was that not good enough for you?  God is at work in your life causing you to once again see the futility of your goodness.  As you see the effects of ongoing sin, He wants you to come to Christ anew, afresh.  And see that what He did there on the cross was enough.  He’s comforting the afflicted.


O Lord we are not worthy to have a glimpse of heaven and unable with our words to redeem ourselves from sin, death, the devil, and hell.  Nevertheless, Thou hast given to us Thy Son, Jesus Christ, who is far more precious and dearer than heaven, and much stronger than sin, death, heaven, and hell.  For this we rejoice, praise, and thank Thee, O God, that without price and out of pure grace Thou hast granted us this boundless blessing in Thy dear Son through whom Thou takest sin, death, and hell from us, and dost grant to us all that belongs to Him.  Amen.

A prayer of “Praise to God for overcoming evil” by Martin Luther

 

This is He!

In our series RECalibrate for this new year, we have been taking at look at the letters from Jesus to the 7 churches in Revelation 2-3. Letter 2 went to the church at Smyrna. Jesus told them, “When facing ridicule, scorn, slander, or opposition for standing up for the cause of Christ, be…
 
FEARLESS and FAITHFUL!
 
“Do not fear what you are about to suffer… Be faithful unto death.” (Revelation 2:10, ESV)
What does fearless look like?
 
A hot ticket at the theater right now is not just The Last Jedi but The Greatest Showman. One song that’s especially powerful is “This is Me.“ Some of the more colorful characters – many of whom some would call “misfits” (like the bearded lady) – were not invited to an extravagant party. But they came anyway.
 
Below are words from the song that they sung. Listen for the fearlessness. 
Another round of bullet hits my skin
Well, fire away cause today, I won’t let this shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades
And reaching for the sun
We are warriors
Yeah, that’s what we’ve become
 
Won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
Going to send a flood, going to drown them out
 
I am brave, I am bruised
I am whom I meant to be, this is me
Look out cause here I come
And I marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me.
We need to be this fearless! In the film, these characters are seeking to be fearless for themselves. But we are seeking to be fearless for him. For Jesus! We sing not, “This is me!“ We sing, “This is He!“
 
Whenever you hear that song – whenever you see that film – we can remember this message: We who follow Him need to be more fearless and more faithful than anyone, anywhere, any time. 
 

Experiencing Advent

By Chad Allen, Lead Pastor of Cuyahoga Valley Church

The word “Advent” comes from Latin word meaning “coming.” The message of Advent in its most simple form is that Christ has come, and He is coming again. It has a dual nature; combining the reflection of God’s people past waiting for the first coming of the promised Messiah with God’s people now waiting for the second coming of the promised Messiah. Advent is a season of waiting, expecting, and hope.

The message of Advent in its most simple form is that Christ has come, and He is coming again.

Advent traditionally begins four Sundays prior to Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. For hundreds of years Christians have used an advent wreath to symbolize their hopes for the coming of Christ. The evergreen wreath usually symbolizes eternal life and God’s unending love and mercy. There are various interpretations and views as to the color of the candles used in the advent and their meaning, but there is no one “right way” to practice the advent lighting.

The basic practice of lighting a candle each week for Advent centers around a stated understanding of the past and present waiting on Christ. Along with a reading, Scripture verses, and a prayer, the candles are lit as a symbol of remembering Christ’s birth and reflecting on His future coming.

For this advent season, we have selected the following themes for each week as we light our advent candles:

  • 11/26 — ‘Tis the season to be Grateful
  • 12/3 — ‘Tis the season to be Generous
  • 12/10 — ‘Tis the season to be Patient
  • 12/17 — ‘Tis the season to be Hopeful
  • 12/24 — ‘Tis the season to be Worshipful

As we embrace the season of Advent as a caring community. Here are some our of top picks for downloadable Advent guides to consider for your personal and home life.

Free Downloadable Advent Devotionals

  • Family Pick
    This guide is designed to help you point your family toward Jesus throughout this Christmas season. Use these devotions, activities, and discussion questions to interact with your kids as we celebrate the birth of Christ.
    LifeWay Kids Family Advent Guide
    –  Weekly Family Guide to Advent
  • Focused Pick
    To help you focus your attention on the heart behind this special season, Ekklesia 360 created this four-week devotional guide to walk you through Advent. Each week focuses on a specific aspect reflected in the birth of King Jesus—hope, peace, joy, and love. As you journey through this devotional, take time to think through the questions, spend time in prayer, and make time to participate in the activities that involve your family. Our prayer is that as you turn your eyes to the coming Savior this Christmas season, your hearts will be transformed as you remember the birth of the King who came to save us.
    Born the King –  Weekly Guide to Advent
  • High-Intensity Pick
    Created by the Village Church, this book will walk you through the entire Church Calendar. It’ll walk you through the seasons of Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost. Through readings, prayers, songs, fasts and other practices, these seasons reorient our hearts and minds toward the Christian story.
    Seasons: Enter the Story of Jesus – Daily Guide to the 2017-2018 Church Calendar

Tears of Joy and Grief

By Rica Allen

She was weeping tears of joy and had a beautiful look of shock on her face as she looked at the baby inside her belly on the screen through ultrasound. This was a rare case in our pregnancy resource center, as most women coming through our doors are not hoping for the pregnancy they find themselves in.  This woman had been told her whole adult life that she was infertile, not only that, but her boyfriend was also told he was infertile.

As a client advocate, I was in the sonogram room with them and joined in her tears of joy but also cried my own selfish tears of grief, being an infertile woman myself.  My heart ached as I wondered why the Lord would choose to heal this woman’s infertility and not mine.  After all, she was having premarital sex and I am a married woman serving the Lord… some pretty self-righteous thoughts were swirling around in my head.   This was a very painful moment that made me want to run and never go back.  In fact, the only source of comfort I felt in this selfish moment of mine, was from the crafty enemy.  I kept hearing this soothing voice in my head say “you don’t have to keep doing this… it’s too painful, just stop coming”.  It was as if the enemy was rubbing my shoulder and comforting me with this lie.  I would soon learn that satan was desperately trying to thwart God’s plan for 2 young women waiting to be seen.

I am a married woman serving the Lord… some pretty self-righteous thoughts were swirling around in my head.

I tried to pawn off this next client to a new client advocate I had been training… she said no, she wasn’t ready.  So off I went feeling I had nothing to offer this next hurting young woman.  I prayed and asked God to do His thing because I had nothing, I just wanted to go home and never return.  Well God did show up and did do His thing!  This 2nd client came into the counseling room extremely abortion determined.  She was very rough and intimidating, as was the friend she brought in with her for support.  As we proceeded through the intake interview, I thought I would shy away from sharing the gospel and just kind of rush this woman through the process so I could leave.  But God in His goodness, had other plans.

As I proceeded to share out of obedience to Him, I discovered my client (nor her friend) had ever heard the gospel.  As I began to share the “3 Circles” with them, they also informed me they had not even heard of Adam and Eve.  This was shocking to me!  Much to my amazement, both of these women chose to place their faith in Christ that day.  Not only that, after a few weeks of follow up with this client, she shared that she had decided to choose life for her baby!!  She said she felt she had been seeing signs that lead her to this life decision.  I was able to remind her that we prayed the day she was in the center that God would reveal Himself to her in the days to come!  He was faithful to do so for sure!!

But God in His goodness, had other plans.

My point in sharing this is that it goes right along with Joe Valenti’s sermon a few weeks ago.  The idea of “what thing that makes us the most mad, is the thing we are made for.”  For me, this would be abortion, which causes me to respond by serving in a pro life ministry.   Obviously in the flesh, the last place an infertile woman would want to serve, would be counseling women who want to terminate their babies.  But that’s the beauty of this… as beloved children of God, we serve in the Spirit, not the flesh.

God has called me to serve and love these women through a Holy Spirit empowerment.  This is not something I could do on my own.  So, to God alone be the glory!  There is however, an act of obedience we must be willing to take.  Serving comes at a great cost to those who serve.  There is a dying to self that we must be willing to undergo.  I have heard it said that “if it doesn’t feel a little bit like dying, it’s probably not the gospel” we are sharing.  When others can see a willingness to embrace difficulty and pain that results in joyful service, they can get the slightest glimpse of what God has done for us through Jesus.

He left the comforts of Heaven to pursue us needy people.  He came to absorb all the burden, pain and suffering on humanity’s behalf in order to restore us into relationship with God.  He calls each of us to die to self and embrace what we are made for, specifically those things that make us the most mad.  We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus and that is what we must do, whether painful or not.   The joy that results in serving on Christ’s behalf far out ways the pain that can exist in the midst of that service.

Celebrating Unleash

This past weekend we celebrated Commitment Sunday—a major milestone in our UNLEASH campaign. It will go down as a memorable day in the history of our church! God is doing something wonderful among us as He moves us to a whole new level of ministry to our Neighbors, the Nations, and the Next Generation.

As we reported previously, some of our church family members led us off with over $960,000 in advance commitments. Many of you responded at the services this past weekend (THANK YOU!) and many more will respond during the next week or two.  It is up to all of us if we are to reach our potential in making this a reality.

God is doing something wonderful among us as He moves us to a whole new level of ministry to our Neighbors, the Nations, and the Next Generation.

If you missed the opportunity to turn in your commitment card this past Sunday, it’s not too late!  There are four ways you can still turn in your commitment card:

  1. Place it in the offering during the service.
  2. Put it in an envelope and drop it off at the Front Desk, ATTN: Finance Department.
  3. You can mail it to the church, ATTN: Finance Department.
  4. You can make your commitment online at cvconline.org/UNLEASH.

Choose the manner most convenient for you.  Please know that every gift counts—regardless of the amount—and EVERY person in our church makes a difference! Participation in the UNLEASH campaign is about equal sacrifice, not equal giving.

We are encouraging all of our members to engage as we move forward together as a church family to UNLEASH the gospel and reach further in the next season of our church.  Please help us keep the momentum going by turning in your commitment card before Sunday, November 19.  We’ll celebrate the total amount of commitments made toward the campaign during the worship services on that day.  November 19 will also mark the beginning of the 2-year giving period, so that Sunday we will take our first “kickoff” offering toward the UNLEASH campaign. We’re hoping that this will be the largest offering in the history of our church!

Thank you for your enthusiastic participation in this effort to make Christ known in our community and around the world! It is an honor and a privilege to serve with you.

See you at church this Sunday!

Live New,
Chad Allen
Cuyahoga Valley Church | Lead Pastor

UNLEASH – Personal Study #5

Realigning

Read Jonah 4.

For those who have not read Jonah before or if it has been a while, are you surprised when you see that Jonah was angry with God? Why was Jonah so twisted up inside?

How have you seen anger play out in spiritual conversations? How has anger maybe even prevented you from sharing your faith?

Going from Jonah’s home (Gath-Hepher, a few miles north of Nazareth) to Nineveh (about 500 miles northeast) wasn’t free. We don’t know what resources Jonah had to use, such as food, drink, clothing, money for travel and additional food, supplies, and housing but we can be sure this trip took personal investment. All to take a trip he didn’t want to take, in order to reach a people with a message he was grateful for himself, but did not want the cruel Ninevites to experience.

  • Why do people get so defensive, maybe even angry, when it comes to conversations of using our resources for ministry? What does our reaction to the church asking for money to do God’s work of sharing the Gospel and equipping others to share the Gospel reveal about our heart and our thoughts?
  • What are valid fears or reasons people may have to be skeptical of giving to a church?
  • What are unwarranted fears or excuses people may have about giving to church ministry?
  • How do these verses encourage a healthy and mature view of giving to the Lord?

(2 Corinthians 9:7-10; Proverbs 11:25; 1 Chronicles 29:14; Proverbs 3:27)

What principles can we draw from Jonah’s reasoning and God’s responses in Jonah 4:6-10 when it comes to (A) reaching people and (B) having wrong views and attitudes of God’s provisions? How does this reveal that Jonah’s heart was not aligned with God’s?

God’s answer to Jonah in 4:11 should be such an encouragement and motivator for us in unleashing our personal resources for God’s work – That God has great pity/compassion on the lost.

  • How do you find yourself daily thanking God for His great compassion on you?
  • How does your management of God’s resources reflect that?
  • Who are 3 people that you want God to show His great compassion for? Pray for them by name that they will sense God’s love and compassion for them and to come to know Christ.

Also ask God to sift your heart for known or hidden anger that is stunting your effectiveness to live for Him and to share the Gospel with others, and to remove it. Ask God to realign your heart where you have strayed.