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Creation Praises Him
 
The colors of fall are gorgeous this year. I have a friend who used to live in Southern Oregon but now resides in Florida. As I send her pictures of the fall colors, she says she gets envious. Florida has palm trees…they are green…all the time!
 
I am in awe of God’s creation. It never disappoints. God’s Word speaks of creation praising Him:
  • Psalm 96:11-12: “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.”
  • Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
  • Isaiah 55:12: “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”
 
God’s creation is constantly praising Him. You and I are part of God’s creation, so we should be in constant praise of Him, too! When I am home and look out my living room window and see the trees swaying in the wind, it makes me think those trees are praising God (“the trees of the field shall clap their hands”) and reminds me to praise Him, too. When the beautiful fall colors overwhelm me to the point of tears, which reminds me to praise Him. When I see a majestic mountain range covered in snow, a pristine mountain lake, a tropical island cove, a lightning storm lighting up the sky, oh, how I want to praise Him!
 
We are blessed by the beautiful gift of God’s creation every day. Shouldn’t we, in turn, feel prompted to bless Him, by praising Him for His generosity, goodness and love to us?
 
“Praise him—he is your God, and you have seen with your own eyes the great and astounding things that he has done for you.” (Deuteronomy 10:21)
 
Janet Perkins
I’ve Never Had Self-Discipline

 

A recent discussion with a young convert went something like this:A recent discussion with a young convert went something like this:
“Hey buddy, what are you reading these days?” (Bible reading that is)
“Nothing, actually.”

I appreciate the honest answer, but I press him some more.
“Why not?”
“Well, I just don’t have any self-discipline.”
“That’s okay. If you are willing to be disciplined, God will take you there. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, ‘God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love and self-discipline.’ When you become self-disciplined you will then know that he did it and it wasn’t your own doing.”
“Well, at least I know where to turn when trouble comes,” he reasoned.
In my mind I am racing to think of some way to motivate this young man to get into the Word regularly and I say, “If you can’t do it for yourself than do it for your wife, kids, co-workers, extended family and others. They need what you will gain by feeding on the Word of God each day. Do it for them.”
I could tell that I had hit the mark by the look on his face, but only time will tell if he took it to heart. Please consider a daily intake of Scripture for the benefit of those you come in contact with and not just for your own edification.

“Holy Father, please enlarge my view to include those who will benefit from my obedience in the spiritual disciplines, so that on those days when I am feeling lazy I will press through that for their benefit. In Jesus’ name.”

Pastor Doug
Heads Up
 
I was listening to one of the Christian radio stations on my way to work the other day, and the morning guys were talking about how we so often are looking down at our phones throughout the day, zoning out from so much of life. One of them said how much it bothers him that we do this…heads down, when we should have our heads up! He quoted Luke 21:28… “…stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near!”
 
As Christians, we can be confident and stand with our heads up every day as we wait in anticipation for Jesus to come for us. With the “Great American Eclipse” behind us now, we can look up with even more awe and amazement than we did with the eclipse. (And, we don’t have to wear the funny glasses!)
 
Now, as we face wildfires like many of us have never seen before, and massive hurricanes bringing flooding to the Gulf Coast and Florida, we can get excited reading about Jesus explaining some events that will take place in the “last days” in Luke 21:25-28 : “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
 
Think of the day that Jesus, whose death on the cross is the redemption for our sins, comes to gather His redeemed unto Himself! Oh, what a day that will be! If we haven’t already passed from this life to the next, we will have the incredible privilege of watching Jesus make His grand entrance that day. (If you haven’t received Jesus as your Savior, this moment will be terrifying as you will realize you will not be joining Jesus for eternity, but will be separated from Him forever. If this is where you are today, why not receive Jesus right now?)
 
So, are you looking down, fixated on the things of this world…social media, shopping, news, fashion, and/or politics? Or, will you be ready when Jesus comes “in a cloud with power and great glory” to gather up His precious redeemed children?
 
Heads up! He’s coming!
 
Janet Perkins
I Can’t Do It Without You
 
I Can’t Do it Without You. Having attempted to live out the Christian life for over twenty years, it has finally sunk into my thick skull that sheer will power and won’t power in my effort to discipline myself is an exercise in futility. I can do it for a season, then I lose momentum and I once again feel defeated. Once the daily discipline falls by the wayside it is just a matter of time before I give ground in my thought life and the words that slip off my tongue.
 
In Jonathan Edwards’ little book called Resolutions, where he resolved to live out his faith with 70 resolutions that he determined were of utmost importance to his walk of faith, his opening line touched on something that is critical to a life of self-discipline. Here it is, “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.” The best we can do is to make sure we are willing and then ask him to enable us. What makes it even better is that he desires this in us as well. First John 5:14-15 reads, “…if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us and… we know that we have what we asked of him.”
 
“Holy Father, it brings great comfort to know that You desire to see self-discipline in me more than I do, so may I find your assistance in every self-disciplined step I take in Your direction. I ask in Jesus’ name.”
 
Pastor Doug Higuera
Substitutions
 
Substitutions. Sometimes they serve a good purpose. Other times they can hurt us. Greek yogurt is a great substitute for sour cream, for example, as it is better for our health. A sports team substitute player can be beneficial to give a leading player a needed rest. There are times in our walk with God that we substitute worldly and selfish things to replace what God wants for us, what is beneficial for us. In reality, the substitute is never as good as the real thing. How often do we look for substitutes in our spiritual life? We enter our relationship with God through faith in Jesus, and we live every day by grace through faith. Jesus is all we need.
 
Gal. 2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
 
We can substitute food for comfort instead of fuel for our bodies, engage in immoral sexual encounters to achieve acceptance, take drugs to numb us, drink alcohol to calm or comfort us instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to. I hear many people say, “Oh, I can’t wait to get home and have a glass of wine…it’s been such a rough day.” As believers, we needn’t rely on the effects of alcohol to calm us. God, through His Spirit, is our great calmer. Theologian Charles Hodge wrote, “Whenever true religion declines, the disposition to lay undo stress on external rites is stressed.” In other words, when our relationship with God grows stale, we are in danger of substituting our love for Him with an external checklist of things to do. Substitutes can lead us astray.
 
Psalm 143:10 – Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
 
Psalm 25:4-5 – Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.
 
Pray these verses from the Psalms in your prayer time to help keep your focus on the Lord, letting His Spirit lead throughout the day, not the substitutions of the world.
 
What substitutes are you allowing in your life?
 
Janet Perkins
Women’s Ministry Team
Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later
 

The old Fram oil filter commercial had the mechanic overhauling an engine while he talked at the camera. He said that if this customer had used a Fram oil filter on a regular basis it could have saved him from costly engine repairs. His closing line was, “You can pay me now (buy the filter) or pay me later (pointing to the engine overhaul). The choice is yours to make.”

Self-discipline is a lot like that. You can discipline yourself or you can be disciplined. The choice is yours. Webster defines discipline as “training that develops self-control, efficiency.” God has paid a great price for you and you are no longer your own, so he will see to it that discipline is happening in your life. When self-control and efficiency are increasing, it is like the oil change commercial, and you are less likely to need that major engine overhaul. This is not a hard and fast rule, though, as we learn from the life of Joseph, David, Paul and many others, as God may be shaping us way beyond the way we would shape ourselves. But keep up on the regular maintenance of a devotional life that includes prayer, Bible study, seasons of fasting, and obedience that affects your words, thoughts and actions, and you just might find that the engine overhaul won’t be as extensive.

“Holy Father, I know you have a vested interest in how my life is lived so as to bring glory to Your name and have me ready for those good works that you have prepared in advance for me to walk in. Please help me to maintain a standard of self-discipline that is realistic and effective. In Jesus’ name.”

Pastor Doug Higuera

Open Hands and Hearts
 
We are born extremely self-centered. From the time we are babies, demanding what we want/need by crying until they are met. When my husband and I attended church a week after our firstborn had arrived, we had an experienced couple of several preteen and teen kids approach us and ask us, “So, has she developed her sin nature yet?” We had to laugh, but it made me think. We are born self-centered.
In this generation we live in now, young people are handed so many things, making them feel entitled. Technology has robbed them of interaction with others so they become even more self-centered. “Don’t bother me, I’m looking at something on my phone; I don’t want to talk to you.”
 
As adults, we are still self-centered. We get miffed when work gets stressful, instead of looking for opportunities to be a light and encouragement in our workplace. We get irritated at people in traffic because we think they are going too slow, and we need to save a few minutes on our driving time. Every time we walk by a mirror, we “check ourselves” to make sure we look good – we become obsessed about how we look, sometimes parading ourselves in a way that does not honor God, according to His Word. There are numerous ways our self-centeredness manifests itself every day.
 
In the New Testament, we see Jesus as an example of NOT being self-centered. One example is in John 13 as we see when Jesus’ time to die was nearing, He spent time with His beloved disciples. He served them by washing their dirty, dusty feet at mealtime – a selfless act of love that shows us humility and human kindness. The Son of God, the Savior of the world, was stooping to a position of servitude, simply to show how much He loved them. He still loves us this way, and He wants us to love others, following His example.
Philippians 2:3 – “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
 
The best way to get our mindset on Christ and not self is found in Psalm 119:36 – “Turn my heart toward your statues and not toward selfish gain.” Being immersed in the Word of God will change us. May we dust off our “selves”, and put on Christ, giving with open hands and hearts to a world that needs Him.
 
Are you self-centered, catering to only you, or Christ-centered, daily serving those around you with joy?
 
Janet Perkins
Women’s Ministry Team

Standing on the Truth

Standing on the Truth of God’s Word. I can just picture Pastor Mark during a few of his sermons, emphasizing this by placing his Bible on the floor, stepping up onto it, then standing on it. A vivid picture of how powerful God’s Word is when we really believe in the Truth bound in it at all times.
 
How often do we go through life not really believing in the Truth of God’s Word? If you are familiar with the contents of the Bible, then you know it is packed with promises, prophecies, unconditional love, solutions, instruction, teachings, worship, praise, and so much more. So, as we journey through this life, we MUST stand on the Truth of God’s Word, which not only will bring us peace and assurance, but makes us honest Christians for all the world to see. Look at this verse:
 
If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. (John 1:6) We can choose to either be liars or truthful in our walk with Christ.
 
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) Jesus implores us to hold to His teaching, thus proving that we truly are His own. His Word tells us He loves us, He will provide for our needs, He promises to never leave us, He is sovereign and holy, He is our Creator and Master…and Jesus died to save us from our sins. When we stand on His Truth, we can have confidence and joy beyond anything the world has to offer.
 
Freedom in the Truth of God’s Word…what a gift! Walking through life with the assurance of the Truth of God’s Word at our disposal at all times brings great contentment, joy, and purpose. Get to know this Truth, then trust it, and live by it…Stand on it! You will truly find freedom.
What are you standing on today?
 
Janet Perkins
Women’s Ministry Team
Restitution
 
“Zacchaeus said, ‘Look, Lord… if I have cheated anybody out of anything I will pay back four times the amount.’” Luke 19:8
I am convinced that one of the most important principles that I picked up on in my early days of learning to walk with Jesus was the principle of restitution. I had repented of the sins that I was conscious of and was resting in the forgiveness that removed the weight of guilt, but there appeared to be something more that I was being called to do. I wrote a letter to my parents asking them to forgive me for the agony I had caused them as a teen. There were other letters and apologies that seemed the right thing to do.
 
Then I was confronted with all that I had stolen during my teen years. “What can I do about that, Lord?” I had moved away from where I grew up so I sent letters and checks to more than cover what I had stolen. I thought I was all done doing that when one day the Lord brought to my attention all the gas I had stolen from a Sears warehouse that had been near my home. Working at a Sears in Medford kind of complicated matters a bit, so I just prayed and asked the Lord how I could make this right.
 
On my next trip down to the Bay Area I called and made an appointment with the manager of the warehouse and brought a check with me that I felt was the right amount. I was somewhat nervous as I could think of many different ways that this scene could play out. I told the manager that as a teen I used to come down on Sunday mornings and steal gas from his trucks and that now I had become a Christian and I wanted to make it right. I asked if he would please accept this check as restitution. His response calmed any fears. “Wow! This is amazing! Just last night in our Bible study we were talking about restitution. Of course I will accept your check.” We talked for a few minutes longer as he wanted to hear how the Lord had prompted me to follow through on this largely ignored practice. I left knowing that I had pleased the Lord and that he had been pleased to prepare the way for me to clear my conscience.

 
I tell this story because I know that some of you bear the weight of unfinished business with someone you have wronged. The Lord has forgiven you, but there seems to be something left for you to do. May I encourage you to write that letter, send that check, make that call, or make the contact that will quiet your conscience. The lightness of heart that follows is worth it.

Pastor Doug Higuera
Final Destination
 
Vacation. Ahhh, can’t wait to go. Being reunited with my loved ones I haven’t seen for a long time. Much planning to do. Preparation. Packing. What to bring? How much money to take? What book to bring?
 
As one who has trusted Jesus as my Savior, I like to think of my eternity in Heaven as my final vacation. Am I preparing for it now? I won’t need to pack clothes, money, reading material, or book flights. God has my date, reservation, and all the other details taken care of already. But, there are things I should be doing in preparation for this trip. First of all, I should be getting to know my God as much as I can by reading and studying His Word every day, talking to Him, and fellowshipping with other believers. Why wouldn’t I want as close a relationship with God NOW, before arriving at my final destination where I will be with Him face to face?
 
Secondly, I need to try to bring as many people along with me as I can! Am I sharing the Good News of Jesus with people so that they will be able to join me? How can I even consider leaving them behind? Is the life I live now one that shows others Who Jesus is through me, so they’ll want to spend eternity with Him, too? I need to be actively recruiting people for the Kingdom NOW!
 
Are you excited about your eternal vacation? There are two options for your destination. If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, it will be a lovely vacation, filled with joy, freedom, purpose, beauty, and love beyond description; if you haven’t trusted Jesus, it will be a lonely, painful one, separated from God and everyone else.
 
Matthew 13:42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
 
Philippians 3:20-21 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.
 
What a stark contract between the above scripture passages! Heaven or Hell? If you haven’t trusted Jesus as your Savior, you can do so today. Not only will you have a better life here and now with Jesus, but eternity…it will be glorious!
 
What is your eternal vacation destination?
 
Pastor Doug Higuera
 

Sweet Relief 

For the last few weeks, I have been enduring some shoulder muscle issues. Because my job requires a lot of typing, my neck and shoulder muscles often take a hit. This current bout has brought some pain to me. Excedrin plus an herbal muscle relaxer have been my friends when the pain gets intense. Once the pain medicine kicks in, there is such a sweet relief as the pain drifts away. My furrowed brow relaxes, my demeanor softens, and I smile more!
 
In this life on earth, we endure pain. Not just the physical kind, but the kind that hurts us emotionally. It can rock us to the core, making us sad, unapproachable, and withdrawn. When a crisis is over, we rejoice in the relief, and once again find the joy in our lives that got buried beneath the pain.
 
For those of us who have received Jesus as Savior, we have the glorious hope of a pain-free eternity with Him. When we walk through Heaven’s door, we will enjoy the sweet release of all the anxiety, fear, pain, confusion, and troubles this earthly life brings. In the meantime, in the here and now as we suffer through pain, be it physical or emotional, we can remember this truth. Jesus WILL bring the sweet relief for all eternity when we enter His presence. This should certainly comfort and encourage us as we plod through this earthly life.
 
Romans 8:18 – For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
 
1 Peter 5:10 – And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
 
Revelation 21:4 – He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.
 
What glorious hope! May we all try to smile more through our temporary earthly pain, and encourage others of this heavenly promise through Jesus Christ. Relief is coming! If you don’t have this hope, won’t you allow Jesus to be your ultimate Pain Reliever right now?
 
Janet Perkins
Women’s Ministry Team