GUIDANCE

BY ETHAN FORTNER

Guidance. It's something all humans seem to have their mind on. Something we always strive for, but we just can’t seem to accept it from the right people. It's also something that a lot of people don’t seek. When they go through tough times, big life decisions, emergency situations that come up, they don’t look for guidance. They just push through their day to day lives and  say to themselves they don’t need or want anybodyor they lie to themselves and let the enemy tell them that they can do it on their own. I'm not sure what category you fall under, or maybe its another category entirely, but I just want to give you some help or "guidance" in the matter.

 See, this blog post in itself is a form of guidance. Maybe you have come here because you are looking for guidance but have not been willing to share what you are going through, or look for personal interaction for it. That is my first look of how to obtain proper guidance. I call this type of issue, "Guilty Guidance." If you are like me, this is a big one to personally struggle with. The Bibe tells us that we need community and people around us to build ourselves up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says this:

 

"Two people are better than one because together they have a good reward for their hard work. If one falls, the other can help his friend get up. But how tragic it is for the one who is all alone when he falls. There is no one to help him get up."

 

The truth is that we NEED people in our lives. We need good friends! The problem is if you are like me, you let the enemy tell you that you can do it yourself, and that if you ask for help people will either judge you or look at you as someone who is weak. 

That brings me to guilty guidance. The Bible says, all fall short of the glory of God. So who am I to think it as a weakness to share that with someone else. I am not perfect, but I don’t want to be vulnerable in front of my wife, my family, my pastors, and my peers. I look at it as a sign of weakness. I look at it as if I'm not as good as they are, or I'm not good enough to get through whatever it is that is going on. You don’t want to share your struggles and ask for help because you feel guilty for "failing" and not being able to do it. You have to understand this, you are not and cannot be perfect. God placed specific people in your life to help you and guide you through the season of life that you find yourself in.

 

The verse listed above says that, "If one falls, the other can help his friend up." The problem our strong minded selves struggle with is that we don’t let the friend see that we have fallen and need help getting up. I want to encourage you that being vulnerable is not something to feel guilty about, but to be giddy about because God has placed someone in your life to help you up from the fall.

 

This verse also says, "how tragic it is for the one who is alone and falls and has none to help him up." Here is how we find ourselves in these situations. Number one, we either tell ourselves that God will help us through it and we don’t need someone else; or two, we ignore the help that God has sent us. 

Have you ever been in that situation where you ask God to give you guidance? You wait for it, or for a sign of some sort and nothing happens. I've been there! It's like asking for directions from Siri and there isn't a signal on your phone. But with this metaphor God provided a physical map. See we keep asking God for guidance and more guidance when the whole time he has placed someone in our life that is asking us how we are doing, or how they can help. God placed it right in front of you! I'm not saying God can't speak to you and guide, I'm just saying he has other methods as well that we tend to ignore because of guilt, pride, or shame.  If you believe God can use you, don't you think we should believe that he can use someone else for your sake too?

 

What I am trying to say is when in search of guidance for whatever situation you are presently in...open up! Open up yourself to other people. Open up your mind to other methods God may be trying to use. Open up your heart to hear, and don't let pride or the fear of failure stop you from letting a friend see that you may have fallen, and just need a hand to lift you up.


EVERY BURDEN.

Recently in our prayer night I really just felt God start to lay on my heart something about this idea of holding on to weight and holding on to burdens. I’m not talking about a physical weight, Im talking about an emotional weight. A weight that when you wake up in the morning it’s hard to roll out of bed because of what you feel like you have to carry with you. These weights can range from small things to little things, from a conflict at work or with a friend, all the way to how you are going to pay for your next meal. We all have weight, but Jesus carried the cross so that we would not have to.

I mean, let’s just ponder on that perspective for a moment. Just think in your mind and imagine the type of weight a wooden cross is to actually carry with you. Jesus went from point A to point B for a distance not only carrying this physical thing that put a load on him, but did it while I spat in his face. Jesus wanted us to understand that no matter what we carry, the thing he carried was the physical symbol of letting us know that we should not have to carry the weight any more.

MATTHEW 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

It’s not a passing of burdens its, and exchange of them. See Jesus is asking us in this moment to come to him, and take his yoke. A Yoke is a wooden cross bar that holds to animals together, meaning in my eyes that Jesus is trying to tell us that his yoke is easy because he is carrying it with us. Not only that but if you lay your burdens and the weight of life at His feet, man He will walk with you through it. Life was not meant to be done alone, it was not even fully meant to be done with just other people. It was meant to be done with Jesus.

Stress is the one thing that I believe is destroying our society today, and we are stressed because the world tries to tell us to do this life alone. Do it with other people. Fellowship is healthy, but I encourage you to talk to Jesus and give him some control and let him know honestly the struggle you are still holding on to. Wake up in the morning excited and light on your feet. Full of joy, laughter, and amusement of what this blessing of a life has to offer.

Psalm 55:22 Turn your burdens over to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will never let the righteous person stumble.

Psalm 31:24 Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.

Philippians 4:6-7 Never worry about anything. Instead, in every situation let your petitions be made known to God through prayers and requests, with thanksgiving. Then God’s peace, which goes far beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your hearts and minds in union with the Messiah Jesus.

10 Tangible Goals

Growing up and even into my adult life, the only thing I can seem to hear this time of year besides “Happy New Year, seems to be, “ Any New Year’s Resolutions this year?.. No? It doesn’t matter anyway, everyone gives up by February anyway.”

I have always been a goal oriented and motivated person. You tell me you want a report done, I want to accomplish it two days before you want it with more detail than you thought it needed. I just love attaining goals. This is why the “New Year’s Resolution” debacle always bothered me… sure there are ways to measure your resolutions, but how do you track them, and more importantly - what have you to show for it at the end of the year?

My father has been and still is in full time ministry. Every single year, he would always pull out a sheet of paper, envelope, napkin or whatever was laying around at the moment and jot down what he called, “10 Tangible Goals” for said year. I remember thinking, “Hmm, that’s a good idea. He’s a smart guy,” and then go about my non essential day. As I’ve become an adult, worked a few professional jobs and now with my husband have planted a church, I realized, this isn’t just a good idea, but a necessity in my life. Not every goal is to go conquer the world, but each one is measurable, attainable, and a betterment to my life spiritually, emotionally, or physically.

I’m going to share my goals (very sheepishly) in a minute as an example to you, but I encourage you this year, in 2019, to create some measurable, attainable TANGIBLE goals. Don’t choose things that aren’t easy to track such as “read more". Write down how many books you want to read this year. You will be better for it. I promise. It doesn’t have to be 10, but I do recommend you prioritize to only 10. The point is to attain these goals, not to be discouraged when you look at your list in June and think, “Yep - that’s not gonna happen.”

Looking back, you will be so surprised what you can accomplish, and there is an unseen power in writing them down and keeping them in your life. What I mean by “in your life,” is keep it in your normal activity. Whether you use a planner, read your Bible regularly, or have a special spot on the refrigerator - keep it in plain sight. Not as a haunting reminder, but as a prioritization for all the plates that spin in your life.

Below are my 10 Tangible goals for 2019:

  1. Get into our new home

  2. Go on an actual vacation that doesn’t relate to church or other familial obligations

  3. Find a running buddy

  4. Run a 5k with my daughter

  5. Play guitar with my worship team on stage by my 34th birthday- however terrible that may be!

  6. Start my daughters college fund.

  7. Pay off my student loan and then save 15% towards retirement

  8. Read 20 books

  9. Run 1000 miles

  10. Plan and save at least 50% for a trip to Disney World- take my daughter on her 7th birthday.

In 2018, We sold our house, began building a new one, hiked the Rim to Rim trail in the Grand Canyon with my father for his 60th birthday, my daughter started kindergarten, I hiked, ran, or biked a total of over 1700 miles and my husband and I completed our first year as senior pastors at Urban Hope Church in Flagstaff. You can change your life, but you have to do it one step, one day and one goal at a time.

Blessings to you this New Year! Seize this year and learn from last year.

Natascha Kling


Without Complaint

BY MYCHAL SEMPRUN

When I was young, like most kids, my mom would give me chores. She would tell me to wash the dishes or take out the trash or whatever. And for the most part I would do it. But every now and then she would have to add a little phrase at the end of her sentence. She would say, “Without the attitude please”. Generally I would just roll my eyes, finish the task and try to keep my mouth shut. Little did I know, my mom was teaching me (or at least trying to) a biblical principle. What I didn’t realize was that as I got older and learned to do what I was asked without complaining, I was being an example to the world around me; and obeying God’s instructions on how to act.

Philippians 2:14-15 says, “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”

Who knew that something seemingly so small could have such an impact? But it makes sense when you think about it, after all joy is a Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). When we start approaching life in such a way that we bring joy into every situation, even the un-savory ones, people notice. By not complaining in scenarios that most might we point to a God that is bigger than our circumstance and/or problems and show that we are not captive to the moment. I know sometimes it can be a little difficult to not complain, especially when we are surrounded by a chorus of complaints on a daily basis; but I believe that when we change our perspective and are intentional about keeping a good attitude, it will not only be a calming voice to the chaotic world around us, but it can also serve as a reminder that God is good, He is in control and wants joy to be an active part of our everyday lives. Joy and complaining don’t play well together, so I challenge you to let go of the complaints, and let the Joy of the Lord fill your life.

Prayer

by Ethan Fortner

Prayer. It’s one the most frequent actions we take as believers. It's even something culture throws around in times of need and times of sorrow. "Sending prayers!" "Praying for you." It’s honestly a pretty repetitive thing we see on a daily basis, but I want to look at prayer even deeper. I want to look at prayer as more than just a kind gesture. I want look at prayer as something we don't always take for granted. Today I have 3 points for you that shed some light on what prayer can do, and how it can possibly open our eyes to the box we put around the power of prayer.

I heard a spiritual leader say one time that "Prayer is our lifeline." Prayer is a two way street. Sometimes we overthink it, and sometimes we can underestimate it. Could you imagine for just a brief minute what life would be like if prayer did not exist? There would honestly be no two- way communication with our God. To be frank, it seems that even a one-way type of communication would be at least limited or  non-existent. Our very communication of thanks, questions and answers would not be available for us to use. Prayer is the lifeline, it's the way God hears us, and how we can hear him.

1.Prayer Brings us Closer

Prayer does just that. Prayer opens up the door for us to literally be in the presence or at the feet of Jesus. This is where I think we "underestimate" prayer. No matter how you look at prayer or how you pray, I think sometimes we tend to jump right into it with out taking a moment to realize what we are about to do. We are literally about to have a one on one conversation with the king of Kings. The one who took himself to the cross, is about to listen to what I have to say. He's not just about to listen, He is about to talk as well. Prayer brings us so close to Him, that it could be compared to having a conversation with someone sitting next to you at a table in Starbucks. It's like having any new or old friend. You don’t trust or feel close to them unless you start talking to them and truly get to know them. Our relationship with God is the same. Yes, He may know us inside and out, but God doesn’t want to just be a fan of us, He wants to be a friend of us. We as believers can’t just be fans of Jesus, we have to be followers. 

2. Prayer Brings us Revelation.

The one thing, the one phrase, or maybe the one verse you need to hear could be sitting on the other side of one prayer. Revelation through prayer comes in many different ways. I don’t claim to know what you have gone through or what kind of trial in life you may be facing, but the one thing you may need to hear, could be waiting for you through a time of prayer. You may be looking for answers through advice, through books, or even through past experiences, but the one answer, phrase, or word could be one moment of prayer away - one moment of time spent at the feet of the Lord. The Bible has a lot of information, and let's be honest we don’t fully understand a lot of it on our own. Prayer brings revelation to the word of God. So to that I same point, you may have already read the one verse or story you needed to, but in prayer God will reveal the meaning or the interpretation for you in that moment. The Word is living and breathing. It says so in Hebrews 4:12. Prayer brings the word of God to life!

3. Prayer Brings us Power

Prayer invites God to move through us. It is not us, but He who is in us that brings the miraculous. When we pray for healing, God hears it. We are not capable- we alone are not able. It's He who hears us through prayer that comes to heal, that comes to restore, that comes to convict and to change. God called us to be obedient to the Holy Spirit, and in that when we pray, it gives us the power to do the impossible. From restoring sight, seeing the lame walk, and even seeing a whole city like Flagstaff shift to a city completely on fire for God. Prayer invites God to move. It invites God to do what only He can do, and invites Him to use us to do greater things.

I encourage you today. If it is easy for you to pray, take a moment before doing so to realize what it is you are about to do. You are about to be in the presence of God himself. Don't underestimate what you are about to do and the power that is in it. On the other hand, if you are someone that finds it hard to pray, understand that God wants to talk to you! It doesn’t have to be super duper spiritual, and you don’t have to say "Father God" or "Lord" every other word. He made you for you, and He loves you. He just wants to have conversation with you, like it was just Him and you having a nice hot mocha at Starbucks. Let's get closer, let's find revelation, and let's change the world!

Comparison

BY ETHAN FORTNER

You and someone or something else. It's you versus another entity, and another entity coming after you. It's you looking at yourself and then looking at someone else. It's called comparison. It is one of the biggest things attacking the very population of our world's soul. See the thing with comparison is that IT is not really attacking you, you're attacking yourself. Comparison is something that would vanish if we just follow what God has to say about us in his Word. There are too many verses for me to count in the Bible that talk about the identity God has given you.

Galatians 1:10 says

"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ."

Comparison is a game approval. What does approval mean? The action of officially agreeing to something or accepting as something satisfactory. So who are you trying to get to agree? Who are you trying to get to find you as satisfactory? If you are trying to win the approval of someone else, your actions to be frank are close to being in vain. Paul is literally saying that if he were to still be trying to please and win the approval of people, that he would not be a servant of Christ . Comparison is a restriction from what God has planned for you. If you are too busy trying to compare and compete with people, you open up yourself to the opportunity to be so busy working on yourself that you forget to work on the things of God. You have to understand as well what God thinks of you!

Genesis 2:7

Genesis 1:27

Psalm 139:4

Psalm 139:16

Psalms 8:5

These verses could go on forever.

See God approves of you! He even approves of you when you don’t necessarily approve of yourself. He calls you beautiful, wonderful, and his creation. Nothing his hands have touched is with a flaw. He made you just the way he intended. And if you say that he wasn't thinking right when he made you, then believe me when I say that he more than likely thought of how he would make you the same day he thought how he would make dragons. His creative juices were flowing, and to think that I was created and thought up the same week God was thinking about how to create dragons, It makes it hard to believe that I was a "mistake". Dragons are really awesome and some how he made me his child.

Comparison holds you back from the thing God has called you to. Just be who you are made to be. People will always find something wrong with you no matter how hard you try. Millions of people still find something wrong with God, and he is perfect! And the best part of it all is that the proof is found in the Bible! God used the imperfect in humans eyes. God used those that thought maybe they were not good enough. Comparison puts a box around your head of what you may think He can do in your life. Don’t compare, be complete.

On day one of your birth, God completed you! He did not make you to look at someone else, he did not make you to feel imperfect. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say we are perfect, but we are who he says we are. Psalm 139:13 says he knit us together in our mothers womb. From the gap between our teeth to the freckles on your face, he knitted it all. He created us in his image, and he is perfect. Don't let your comparison of someone else's looks, calling, and composure stop you from carrying out the one and only thing He knitted with in your heart. Don’t compare, just focus on you being complete.

The Best Way to Start the Day

By Mychal Semprun

“In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” Mark 1:5.

Do you have a morning routine? What does it look like? I find it interesting that Jesus woke up early. He left to a quiet place where he wouldn’t be bothered and he prayed. It is documented more than once in scripture that Jesus was intentional about getting away and praying. I don’t think it is an accident that he did it first thing in the morning. Jesus lived a fast paced life. He went from city to city and was on the move daily. He dealt with countless amounts of people, constantly counseling, teaching, healing and more. John 21:25 says “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” I believe that Jesus started his day in prayer on purpose, because he knew it was important to not lose sight of what is important in the chaos of the world.

We also live in a fast paced world. We have jam packed schedules and marked up calendars. If your life is anything like mine, sometimes there isn’t even time to grab a bite to eat. Dealing with the busyness can be a task and it can be incredibly easy to get lost in the chaos. We can become irritable and no fun to be around if we let the stress creep in. I believe we can learn a lot from the example that Jesus set for us. Getting alone with God at the start of the day sets a tone for the rest of the day. It helps us keep things in perspective and be more aware of what God wants to accomplish in our day. When you start your day with God, it gives Him the opportunity to spend the whole day with you. You can receive a word from him early on and have it to carry throughout the day no matter what is thrown your direction. I encourage you to start your day with prayer. Wake up just a little bit earlier than you need to, get alone with Him and then go on with your day. I believe it will change how you approach this fast paced world and give you peace and perspective knowing that God is with you no matter what the day has is store.

Forgiveness

BY ETHAN FORTNER

This subject is something hard for both parties to talk about. The forgiver and the receiver.I do look at forgiveness sometimes as if you are both, however. Yes, when we say we forgive someone, we are giving them the relief of knowing that It has been forgotten. But I think forgiving someone to an extent gives you the receiving end of something. And that thing is something we all need, and that is peace. Peace of mind, peace of heart, peace in life. I mean think about it, if you never forgive you never let go of a weight that you have held on to for so long. I've met people that have held grudges for years, and they can't really step into the full calling of God, or even be happy because they never forgave someone for something and it has been a burden they have carried for years.

The definition of forgive is this "stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake." It doesn’t say so someone else stops being angry, it says clearly that it means for you as an individual to stop feeling angry, resentful, or offended towards someone.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

I want to focus on what forgiveness does for your soul, and I want to quickly shed light on what not forgiving someone can do to your soul. First, a grudge keeps you on the defense. Subconsciously you could be holding a grudge towards a family member, a co worker, friend, or even your spouse about something that you never really forgave them for. When people express small frustrations or their anger towards you, your first response as a human is to attack back. Your mind immediately will go to that one time, that one place, or that one word that did you wrong. And you will eventually use that in your argument to defend yourself. You can't actually have a real conversation with someone you are holding a grudge against because all you can focus on is the conversation you had weeks, months, or even years ago. Holding grudges holds you back from actually speaking life into person that has hurt you.

Holding grudges changes your perspective. I really want to focus on this because it's something I personally struggled with for the longest time. Holding a grudge changes your perspective so much so that sometimes you can miss the blessing. See as toddler my father left my family, and when I grew older I began to grow this anger, hatred, and rage towards him for leaving us in the dust, but God sent a man to take his place. That being my step dad who raised me, taught me almost everything I know. Instead of forgiving my dad for what he did, however, I held the grudge. And the grudge made my perspective focus on the bad instead of the good. I thought the hurt of my dad leaving was worse than having the blessing of my step dad. It boils down to this: is the blessing better than the hurt? Yes. Because God is the ultimate provider. The problem is our perspective. My biggest regret is because of my grudge, I didn’t take the opportunity to take full advantage of the blessing that was right in front of me.

Don’t let your pride win. Just forgive. And when you forgive once forgive again and again. Forgiving someone even for the deepest hurts frees you even more than the hurts could hold you. Remember this quote. "The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest, and the first to forget is the happiest." Hold a Grudge, and you are the captive. Forgive and you are the one set free. God tells us to love, and love keeps no records of wrong.

Romans 12:20 NIV -I believe that your life must will be blessed through forgiving others. Would you like to choose to forgive for the benefit of others? Maybe your decision can bring an opportunity of redemption for others.

Rooted Soil

BY NATASCHA KLING

 

Psalm 1:3 NLT

They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.

Deep inside every follower of Jesus is a desire to have a visible, lasting impact on the world.

This isn’t our idea – its God’s.

In John 15 Jesus states: (vs 5,16)

Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.

Lasting fruit takes time – it only comes through a journey of putting our roots down deep in Jesus.

Anybody can start a race – but there are far fewer finishers than beginners in the Christian walk.

Neither appearances or short term success impress God – He is looking at the heart.

2 Corinthians 4:18 “while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

3 Soils to be Rooted in God:

 1) The Soil of Intimacy: -We have to develop a lifestyle of prayer and worship; total dependence on God; a secret- place lifestyle

2. The Soil of Service. – Position yourself to receive God’s grace, As you serve God you will find the posture of humility comforting; trust God to promote you rather than you wasting your time self promoting yourself.

3. The Soil of Community: Learn to trust your close friends and God; learn to encourage and inspire, model a standard of honor, learn to lead with vision, but know that you will sometimes take hits.

Each of these are different, but provide necessary steps to trusting in God to the fullest.

God will always develop us before He develops our vision. If we don’t understand this, we will get frustrated, resist him, and end up disappointed.

Embrace the process.

Gifts of The Spirit

Gifts of the Spirit by Mychal Semprun

Have you ever tried completing a task using the wrong tool? It can be extremely frustrating. Certian tools are designed for certian jobs and when used properly should bring ease to the task at hand. For example: You have opened a can of soup with a can opener, right? Piece of cake. Try the same task using a steak knife. It's a little more difficult. Using tools for what they are designed for helps us everyday.

This same idea can be applied to our spiritual life. The Holy Spirit provides us with tools, or gifts, designed to help us with our walk with Christ as well as sharing His word with others.

1 Corinthians 12:7 tells us

"A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other."

And 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 lists some of the gifts.

"To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice ; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge.  The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said"

When we try to walk out our faith on our own, we are doing so without the tools provided for us. But when we let the Holy Spirit guide us we can find these tools that have been provided for us and begin us use them to go deeper in our own walk as well as share the love of Christ with the world around us.

We have all been given a gift of some sort, a tool to be used to help us everyday. If you don't know what gift The Holy Spirit has given you, I encourage  to take some time and ask Him. Once you have your tool and know what it is, I encourage you to begin using it. You, and the people in your life will be glad you did.