Challenged to Pray

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This weekend, you may have walked away from David Chotka's lessons with questions. You might have been challenged to review, renew, or change items in your prayer and devotional life. You might have even realized that you have some gaps in your Biblical knowledge that you need to fix. I fit into all three and am completely ready to tackle this spiritual challenge.

Being challenged spiritually is a lot like being challenged physically. You have a choice, you can leave things as they are now, knowing that you will fall into an unhealthy lifestyle. Or, you can do the hard work and over come the challenge, becoming healthier and stronger for your next challenge. In fitness they say you are 30% more likely to succeed if you post your goals on social media, as such mine are below.

I downloaded 50 day's in prayer by David Chotka from https://alliancepray.ca/resources/ and I plan to work through it. I also downloaded an app called Echo, which is like a digital prayer book, but it also sends me reminders every few days, so I get more in the habit of a dedicated prayer time. 2nd I am committing to start reading one book a month that isn't a devotional or testimonial, but rather something deeper, study type material. Lastly, I decided to post this, because frankly I need that 30% increase in success for forming some new, stronger, habits.

Thanksgiving through a different lens

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It occurs to me that a lot of us express thanksgiving in rather general terms. We know we ought to be thankful; but aren’t very passionate about it. Perhaps, we’ve just become too contented. 

Last Sunday, my own contentment suffered a huge reality check. As pastor to a Vietnamese congregation, I have heard some of their individual histories. But they became much more real in the showing of a brief video during our Thanksgiving service.

Toan’s thanksgiving begins with the recollection of his flight from the chaos of his war-torn homeland. The black and white news-photo says it all: too many mal-nourished people on a vessel likely to collapse at any moment. In their desperation, they raise an old sheet upon which are the letters S.O.S. in the hopes they will be rescued by a passing vessel. But the reality is that few survive, and he is among that minority.

His next picture is more recent. Toan is surrounded by members of his family. By all appearances, they have become what some might call, “successful.” But this is not the story of a self-made man. God had rescued him for a purpose—and for that, he is truly thankful. 

His presentation really moved me. I realized that as much as I may think I know my congregation, I can’t really identify with their experiences. And there are so many similar stories. My new friends have much to teach me about God’s love and mercy in the circumstances of daily life, and my need of daily thankfulness!

Pastor Doug Allen

Cultivating Gratitude

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We know it to be true; you reap what you sow (Gal. 6:6). But not only do we reap what we sow, we reap after we sow and reap many times more than we sow. One seed, given enough time and the right conditions, can produce abundantly more than the original seed.

This weekend we celebrate the one time of year when this should come natural to us. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time when we pause, thank God for His blessings and for the people around us. It’s a time for parents to teach the important lesson of gratitude and counting one’s blessings.

But if thankfulness has not been cultivated in your life the other 364 days of the year, one weekend or one family dinner will not make a difference. You will still find yourself wanting for more of what others have or focusing on what you do not have. You might be stuffed with pumpkin pie and turkey, but overflowing with ingratitude. It won’t be a pretty sight. 

That’s because first and foremost, gratitude is a spiritual characteristic. It’s even part of the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in your life (Eph. 5:17-20) and part of a life that pleases God.

Take some time each day to give thanks to God for His blessing and your life. Model this to others around and you will find that they change, because you’ve planted and cultivated something that affects every day, not just the holiday we’ve called Thanksgiving.

Three Crosses Retreat

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Last weekend I had the privilege of joining a group that went to the Three Crosses Retreat in Huntsville. It was a rich time to meet with the Lord and hear His still, small voice. At the crosses I wrote this small poem as I reflected on what Christ's death and sacrifice mean to me.

MEET ME AT THE CROSS
Unashamed, I kneel before the cross
I lay down, I lift my hands
I feel a heart of cold, hard stone
Only you can change it, only you alone.

This cross is a quiet place
I come to hear your soft, still voice
I leave this heart of cold, hard stone
I hear you say, “You are my own.”

This cross is a harsh place
Foolishness in the eyes of men
I leave this heart of cold, hard stone
For the power; your love that’s grown.

This cross is a precious place
It calls me deeper, closer to my Lord
I leave this heart of cold, hard stone
To know your heart, the love you’ve shown.

This cross is a transforming place
It shows me the path, your way for me
I leave this heart of cold, hard stone
I will live for only you alone.

This cross is a blessed place
I lean in to hear His voice
He gives a new heart, filled with love
His Spirit in me, coming down from above.

Pastor Dwayne

Which way do you row?

Today I am picking you up from wherever you are and putting you in a rowboat. This rowboat has all the supplies you need to live, but you will be alone, and in the middle of an ocean. How helpless would you feel? Do you paddle, do you stay where you are, which direction do you go? How many hours will you spend paddling to only realize you haven't gotten anywhere.

Many people are trying to figure out what they are doing with their lives, they are lost, often just as lost as you would in this rowboat. It's hard to know which way to go when you have no sense of direction. Do you choose this career path or that one, this course or that one, go out with friends tonight, or stay in? All choices we have to make at some point in our lives.

The difference between you and an experienced sailor is they would wait till night, find the north star, and know which direction to go from there. Once they find true north, picking a direction and rowing completely changes. It's hard, it hurts, but they have a direction, a purpose to row towards.

Maybe you don't know what you are going to do in 5 years, in 1 year, 1 month or 1 day. If you have found the north star that’s half the battle. Just keep rowing.

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Many of us are familiar with the verse in Lam. 3:23, which says that “the Lord’s mercies are new every morning.” It was during the youth canoe trip to Kawartha Heights Prov. Park that I experienced God’s Word in a new and fresh way. I read Psalm 19, doing an exercise that I’d designed for our group. It is a wonderful passage that speaks of the ways God communicates: through the silent voice of nature, the written voice of the Word, and the inner voice of our conscience (morality). One phrase jumped out that day. Verse six says “the sun rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.”

Remember that we were out in the wilderness, camping during the heat wave that affected the entire eastern side of the continent. There was no air conditioning or ice-cold drinks. Our tents were hot, the shade was hot, and you could fry an egg (or a body) in the direct sunlight. That’s where verse seven came in, which says that “the law of the Lord refreshes the soul.” I recalled from past study that the word “refreshes” is the same word for quenches, or cools. It was exactly what we experienced when we found the one place we could get away from the heat of the sun; the cool, clean water of the lake. It was a welcomed, fresh, new lesson from the Word of God.

I can do all things

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The funny thing about life changing experiences is that they only really change your life. You can try and explain the situation, the emotions, and the impact, but unless the person was there, and touched in the same way something always gets missed in the communication. I’ve tried to explain to a few people about my race two weeks ago, and I watch how their eyes gloss over.

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There was one thing that happened that I wanted to share. In the mist of the hardest physical and mental thing I have done in my life, God was there. I wanted to give up, and He gave me a moment of peace. I turned around to walk backwards up a particularly steep hill, and caught a view of the green valleys, farmland and trees. And it was a clear reminder of how far I had come, and what God had made. Then a verse came into my mind, and like a babbling fool, I chanted it to myself through the rest of the race. “I can do all thing through Him who gives my strength.” Philippians 4:13

There are going to be events that you go through that no one else is going to understand. Struggles that people just don’t get. But the great thing is that God is there. He fully understands and wants you to know He is there with you.

How has your life changed with Christ in it?

Some people think a like this word art. They can listen to a song, read a passage, or hear a sermon and it all becomes a jumble of words. Some phrases are more powerful then others, some stick out, and some won't leave their mind no matter how much they try. This week Pastor Dwayne spoke on 1 Peter 5 vrs 1-3.

Pastor Dwayne asked the question of how has your life changed with Christ in it? Peter was already serving Jesus when he was 'pre-pentecost". He spoke without thinking, acted without weighting consequences, and was controlled by fear. And his "pro-pentecost" moment changed him profoundly to speak with power, act in obedience, serve in humility, and trust in God fully.

Looking at the word art the phrase, "as God wants you to be," sticks out most to me. What would our lives look like is we actively presuded "as God wants you to be"?

What phrase sticks out to you?

I am with you

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I admit it... this week has been a tough one. Nothing wrong really, I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed all week. Stressed over silly things like getting laundry done, losing my mailbox key, or not working out. And then there is this song that has been going around my head all week.😩 (AHHH!!!!) GT and the Halo Express's version of Isaiah 41:10. When was the last time you heard God's voice, Pastor Dwayne asked us on Sunday. Well.... 🎵DO NOT FEAR FOR I AM WITH YOU. DO NOT BE DISMAYED FOR I AM YOUR GOD. I WILL STRENGTHEN YOU, STRENGTHEN YOU AND HELP YOU. I WILL UPHOLD YOU WITH MY RIGHTEOUS RIGHT HAND. 🎵 - Remember to actually listen when God speaks... cause He's been singing at me all week -and I honestly had a duh🤔🤭 moment like 20 mins ago stressing over what to post this week. God is Good.