Pressing On

Philippians 3-12

Happy Monday to you all! I hope you had a blessed Easter. I love Easter. So much anticipation is wrapped up in it. We have the whole anticipation of Spring, and this years beautiful weather certainly gave us glimpse of this. But we also have the anticipation of celebrating one of the most significant events in history; Jesus death and resurrection.  Hallelujah! He is Risen!!!

I’m so thankful for these marked times to remember. Slowing down to really take in and practice gratitude is so good for the soul.

But, today is Monday. And we all have to head back to reality. And I don’t know about you, but that’s kind of hard. It’s hard to live in the joy of Christ Resurrection when the drive is long and the weather is dreary. It’s hard to live in the joy of our Salvation when our co-workers and bosses are grumpy and snappy. It’s just hard let your light shine when the kids are wining or disrespectful.

Monday’s are just sometimes a let down.

The good news is that whatever you face today, we can be assured that God knows what’s going on. And we can be encouraged that He is cheering us on.

And here’s more good news, we can press on. We don’t have to know all the right things to say. He doesn’t expect us to get everything right every time. God doesn’t expect you to be perfect in your own strength.

Remember, that is what Easter was for. He took your sins and He rose from the grave. He conquered death caused by our sins. And us? We get to live in the light that he did it.
So, today as you face “reality” whatever it may be, lets live in these words:

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12-14

We can persevere. So, even if you have already blown it today, you don’t have to stay there. Just keep going. Keep trying, Keep working on it. And most importantly keep Jesus and the joy that he is alive and is working in and through you in front of you today.

God Bless.

~Rita

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Planning Information for the Allegan Western Days

Western Days 2016 Allegan, MI

It’s that time of year again! Planning is underway for Western Days 2016 at the Allegan County Fairgrounds. This year’s event will be held June 17th-19th. Since this is a community outreach event, our ministry team would like you to be well informed of our tentative schedule of events and of available opportunities for you and your congregation to use your God-given gifts and talents to promote the Kingdom of God and minister to others.
If your primary level of involvement is to promote the Western Days event, you’ll want to be aware of the tentative schedule. Planning this far in advance means that not everything is “locked in” yet and some events may be added or removed, but we have a general idea of what will be taking place. Times will be added to the schedule a bit later and we will send you those updates. As in the past, you can expect the gospel message to be presented in a unique way at each grandstand event.

Sunday June 12th

Pre-Event concert: Tommy Brandt will be performing in concert at the Griswold Auditorium in down town Allegan. Times and ticket prices to be announced.

Friday June 17th

This is a great family night out and a good way to entice hesitant guests to consider spending the day with us on Saturday the 18th.

  •  Back by popular demand: Cowboy Eventing! This event features obstacle challenges for horse and rider teams that mimic what a cowboy might experience “home on the range.” Last year’s obstacles included fire and water challenges as well as cattle sorting. This event provided spectators with plenty of quality riders for whom to cheer, as well as no shortage of laughs. You won’t want to miss this!
  •  Music, Music, Music! Tommy II will be back to host a concert geared towards the youth and the young at heart. Expect uplifting music with a country/rock vibe that will have you stomping your feet, clapping your hands and singing along.

Saturday June 18th

This is our “Big Event “ day and we will have lots happening. There will be complementary food available throughout the day as well as food available for purchase from a local vendor, but feel free to bring a picnic lunch if you’d like. Toss a blanket or some lawn chairs into your vehicle and plan to spend the day with us.

  •  Life Walk: Back again this year, Positive Options will host their annual Life Walk fund raising event. Participants will begin the walk inside the fairgrounds.
  • Garage Sale: A popular event over the past few years, we will once again have a oneday-only garage sale at the fair grounds. Expect to find a wide variety of items available for purchase. All proceeds go towards covering the cost of the Western Days events.
  • Family Bible Camp: This is a unique opportunity for families to learn biblical principals in a truly “cowboy” way. Camp is currently scheduled to run from noon-4pm and will include several learning stations, each complete with life lessons from the Word of God and hands-on activities. Plan to participate in this one-of-a-kind camp with your children or grandchildren.
  • Cowboy Eventing: Because the event was so popular last year, we expect to have more horse/rider teams than can participate in the Friday segment. As a result, we will be continuing the eventing throughout the day on Saturday.
  •  Ronnie Sowle Memorial Bull Riding: This is Saturday’s highlight event and you will not want to miss it! Not only will you have the opportunity to see bull riding up close and personal, the evening will also include music by Tommy Brandt, 2014 Living Legend Award, ICGMA, 2014 Evangelist of the Year Award, 2013 Male Vocalist of the Year, along with many others and an appearance by Annie Schiller and Snickers. Seeing this is well worth staying out late!

Sunday June 19th

Happy Father’s Day! We hope you will join us as we close out our weekend with a pancake breakfast and a community church service. Last year we not only had a multitude of people come forward to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior during the weekend events, we also had over 20 people come forward during the church service to be baptized cowboy style – in a water trough. Plan to lift your hearts and voices together as “The Church,” in Allegan while we praise and worship our Heavenly Father.
If you and your congregation would like to become more deeply involved in this outreach ministry, here is a list of ways you can help. Unless otherwise directed, please contact Sue Sowle for additional information. [sowlesue@gmail.com]

Prayer: Community prayer meetings will be scheduled soon. If you would like your church to be on the email list to receive notification of these meetings or if you would like to host a meeting at your church, please contact Sue via email ASAP.

Evangelism: Above all things, Western Days is an outreach ministry designed to present the gospel of Jesus to a lost and dying world and to minister to the needs of the people as the Spirit leads. If this is an area of passion for you, we could use your help throughout the event. Contact Sue for further information.

Camp Workers: We are looking for several volunteers to help with the family bible camp. Specific positions include registration, teachers and camp guides. We will be happy to train you so no need to worry about experience.

Kitchen Ministry: People love to eat, and we enjoy providing them with food. As in the past, we will have food available at no cost throughout the day on Saturday. We are in need of multiple volunteers to minister to the community through food service.

Chili Cook off: Again, we will be asking the churches to make their favorite chili recipe to share with the group. This has always been a hit and this year it will be judged again with a trophy to be given to the winner! We would love to get a pot from each church in the area! Who’s your best chili maker?

Information, Medical & Security: Those looking to minister in this capacity should be comfortable being on their feet and on the go. The primary responsibility will be to provide guests with information about time schedules & events as well as location of the food court, restrooms, garage sale, etc. We do not anticipate any security or medical issues, however, volunteers should be on the lookout for potential problems and be prepared to assist guests as needed.

Ticket Sales: Once again individuals, churches, or businesses may purchase blocks of concert tickets. These tickets can be used as an outreach tool to invite friends, neighbors, and customers to the pre-event concert on June 12th. Ticket prices to be announced.

Garage Sale: Quality items are needed for this year’s garage sale. Please consider making a donation for the sale. Please send an email to info@westerndaysministries.org to learn how to make your donation.

Flyers: Once again Western Days event flyers will be available for distribution in the community. We are looking for volunteers to put up posters throughout Allegan County and to distribute flyers to businesses or door-to-door. This could be a great opportunity to involve the youth of your congregation.

Banners: Banners to advertise your church or business are available for purchase. These will be displayed at various locations throughout the fairgrounds and will be returned to purchasers after the event. Those purchasing banners may also choose to have ads in the Western Days flyer. Talk to Sue for further details.

Set Up/Take Down: Perhaps you are more of a hands-on, manual labor type of person. No problem, we have a place for you. We could use committed volunteers to help with the set up and take down work during the day on Friday and Sunday. We tend to have a good turn out for set-up and could use some equally committed individuals for take down.

Donations: Western Days Ministries is now a 501C3 corporation under the covering of World Ministry Fellowship. If you would like to make a financial donation to Western Days Ministries to help cover the cost of this year’s outreach events, please visit our webpage at https://www.westerndaysministries.org

On Prayer

Prayer - patricia

I love the soft, sweet voice of the Lord when he wakes me in the wee hours of the morning and whispers, “Shh, get up. Let’s sneak away together and spend some time alone. Just you and me.” Oh that time alone with Him is some of the most peaceful, enjoyable, satisfying hours in my week. To think that the Lord – the one who created the universe – would desire to “sneak away” with me, to spend quiet time alone with me simply takes my breath away! Sounds more like a romance than prayer, doesn’t it?
I think that Christians as a whole have been taught that prayer is a difficult thing. It is something that we must work at, something that requires sacrifice on our part. It seems complicated and difficult; and while we know that the end result will be wonderful, prayer really doesn’t seem like much fun. Growing up, that has been my view of prayer. It is a duty, an obligation, something expected of all Christians. Prayer is expected to grow and increase as one matures in the faith. It comes with formulas and rules and requirements. And yes, it is a privilege to come boldly before the throne of God, but it is difficult, or is it?
Five or ten years ago, if anyone would have told me I would be a pray-er or a prayer leader, I would have laughed in his/her face. I could not sustain 30 min of prayer time on my own and when I prayed with other believers my mind wandered and my thoughts went other places: What was it I needed from the store? Did I finish everything on that to do list? Will this prayer thing take much longer? Sound familiar? But then the Lord began to teach me and I saw such wonderful things happen in the realm of prayer! It was so amazing. I developed some stamina and focus. I learned to follow the Holy Spirit as he led and in doing so, I found myself having the most interesting times praying. But prayer was still something that I did. It was an action that I initiated.
God is so wonderful in that He is always ready to teach us, to bring us to a new and higher understanding of spiritual things. But He waits until we are ready to move forward. He never pushes us.
Personally, I have enjoyed such an increased time in prayer over the past six months I can hardly believe it. To sneak into my prayer room on a Saturday morning and come out three or four hours later thinking “Where did the time go?” was such a strange phenomena. But I loved it! Until just recently. Recently it began to feel like work. And it doesn’t take much time for “works” to become dead. Prayer was becoming difficult and, well, not fun. Lord, what happened?
And there it was – His opportunity to teach me because I was ready to move forward.
I have a quote by Sarah Thiessen framed in my prayer room that reads: “I am the object of the desperate, passionate love of the creator of the universe who gave His life so that He could be intimate with me.”
How’s that for a statement! Read it again. It applies to you as well. God is passionate about each of us and His desire is to be intimate with us on a regular basis! When I first began to consider this, it seemed almost – wrong. Words like “passionate” and “intimate” were words used between lovers, they represented a spiritual taboo so to speak. It was just wrong to think about my relationship with the Lord on that level – intimate and passionate. But that is how He thinks of us.
So, how does this relate to prayer? What if prayer is NOT something that we do? What if prayer is a place that we go? What if we stopped going to pray and instead went to spend intimate time with the Lord? Very different concepts, yes?
And that is exactly the point the Lord was making with me. “Stop trying to ‘pray’ to ‘do something’. Instead, come to this ‘place’, to ‘prayer’ and spend time with me.” That shift in mindset changes prayer from a thing I do to a relationship I have. If prayer is relational, then I do not need to worry about rules and formulas and agendas and all of the other things attached to prayer in the name of religion. And I don’t have to organize it or develop procedures for it. My private prayer time is just that – private, between God and myself, and I am learning to just follow Him during that time.
So, you might be wondering what in the world that looks like. The appearance varies considerably, depending on how the Lord leads. Sometimes it is hours long and sometimes it is considerably shorter. It is the time I sit and have quiet conversation with God as I read the Word and He teaches me, giving me revelation I would never have on my own. It is the time spent in praise and worship where I lift my voice and my hands and my heart to the lover of my soul. It is the time spent on my knees and in tears as He leads me to intercede for others, or as He shows me areas of my life requiring repentance and surrender. It is the time spent speaking and singing in tongues as the Holy Spirit gives utterance. It is the time spent writing journal entries as He helps me collect, compile and process all that He has been teaching me. And sometimes it is the time His peace descends upon me so heavily and so sweetly that I can hear Him whisper, “Go ahead, close your eyes and rest. I’ll wake you up again.” It is time dedicated to Him in which I aim to follow His lead and do what He wants to do. Wow! It almost sounds like a date, doesn’t it? There is that romance thing again.
That small shift in mindset has changed everything! It has resuscitated my “prayer life.” Prayer is NOT something I do; it is a place that I go to spend intimate time with the Lord as He directs. And His direction tends to cover everything the Word says about what prayer should be.

 

~Patricia

Do Not Be Afraid

 

1 Timothy 1-7

Does it ever feel to you like we’re living in a world gone mad? Or that our own everyday is fraught with challenge and uncertainty? … Just me?

I’m a worrier. I used to think it was just my nature to worry. After all, my mom was a worrier too. I have since learned that this is not the case. I do believe fear is natural. It is an instinct that God has placed within us to protect and warn us of danger. But, I’m sure you will agree that fear for self preservation is much different than worry.

So, why do we worry? Or maybe the question should be; what should we do with worry, fear, or anxiety? Or more importantly, what does God want us to do with worry?

Did you know that in the Bible the phrase “fear not” appears 365 times? That’s right, three hundred sixty-five times for various reasons God’s word says, “Fear not.” Seems to me if we searched them out, we could find a reason and a word reminding us not to fear or worry for every day of the year.

And it’s true. God’s word is chalk-full off stories and verses about people who worried. For instance, Deuteronomy talks about the fears of the Israelite’s just as God had given them permission to enter the promised land (Read Deuteronomy 1:19-23) These people had been assured by God that he was with them. Twice he said Do not be afraid. But, still they worried about what they would encounter.

I’m sure you are quite familiar with this story in Matthew 14:22-33

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Who does not love this story? Seriously, what an awesome experience to be able to walk on water! I would hope that if Jesus said, “Come” I would be so bold as to try. But, then I remember this was not smooth water they were on.

I have had the horrible experience of being out on big lake when a sudden summer storm came up once in my life. It was terrifying! The wind suddenly came up and the sky grew dark within just moments. Lightening flashed in the sky and the waves went from little ripples bobbing our small boat along to big white caps tossing us and seeming to drive us further from the shore. It was a very one-step-forward-two-steps-back experience. These were not waters I would want to walk on. But, Peter…ah, Peter just looked and Jesus and said, “If it’s you, tell me to come to you…” And so long as he had his eye on Jesus he was in good shape. It wasn’t until he started to look around that he got worried and began to sink.

This of course teaches us about the importance of perspective. If we are to overcome our fears, and overcome our challenges the best advice I can give you is to keep your eyes on Jesus. And the best way to do that is to know what His word says about fear.

Let me share a few of my favorites with you.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9NIV

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
1 Timothy 1:7

So what can we do about our worry?

There are three distinct things that I do to cast bothersome worries to the curb.

#1

First Remember, that God has a history of being faithful. We find it over and over in his word. God did bring the Israelite’s out of slavery and into the promised land and they did conquer those vast fortified cities. God didn’t even let Peter go under water. Over and over God has proven his faithfulness. And if I may be so bold as to suggest it, I bet if you looked back you could see all the times God has proven faithful in your life. Sure we all face challenges, but as of this moment I am willing to guess, God has seen you through every one of them. And if you are in the midst of something that just seems too awful, too big, or too hard. Trust that Jesus is right there with you. He has not left you or forgotten about you. 

#2

Which brings me to the second thing I rely on for getting rid of worry. I RUN to God’s word. We all have favorite verses or passages of scripture that bolster our faith. Searching out scripture that encourages me not to worry has been a game changer in my life. I will often write these scriptures in my journal, or even better, I like to write them on index cards and post them around the house or even in the car. I’m sure there are even Ap’s for things like this (but I’m not that tech’y) The point is, like Peter we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. Keeping scripture in front of us is a way to walk that out.

#3

Pray. Pray a lot. Then pray some more. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” I think he means it too. Some days it’s easy to hand over what I worry about. Other days it is a moment by moment, breath by breath prayer of my life. “I will trust You.” may be all I can say. And I may have to say it over and over, for I have a tendency to want to take my worries back. Reminding myself to trust God, hands it back over to him. Long prayers don’t mean more effective prayers. Just speak your heart to Him. He’s not afraid to hear anything you say. The more I pray, the more peace I receive. Jesus want’s us not to fear, He has already given us His peace. But it is up to us to take hold of it.

So, let’s keep our eyes on Jesus. Let’s remember that God is with us, so who could be against us? And let’s dive deep into Gods word and remember that we have at least 365 reasons to FEAR NOT.

Dear Heavenly Father,
We know you have commanded us not to fear. Too often we look around at the giants, and the heavily fortified cities. We see the wind and the waves that threaten to over take us. Father God, please help us to keep our focus on YOU.
Let us remember that nothing in this world has ever happened that you did not know would. Let us remember that nothing is happening or will ever happen that you do not know about or have your hand in
Lord let us take hold of the peace you have given us. Do not let our hearts be troubled or afraid.
Thank you Lord for seeing us through each moment of this day.
In Jesus name Amen. 

 

So, what scriptures do you draw comfort from? Tell us how you gain peace in times of worry? Even better, please share a story about how God has gotten you through a hard worrisome time. God Bless.

 

~Rita