Citizens Corner

Happiness and Health through Focusing on God

     Finding happiness and peace in the world we live in can be difficult. Besides the amount of negativity and heartbreak in the news alone, we will also surely face difficult times in our lives that can cause us to lose focus and hope. In Proverbs 17:22 it says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Although these words were written thousands of years ago, science is proving this to be true today.
 
     WebMD explains that “negative emotions such as depression, anger and hostility are risk factors for heart attack and stroke” and that “happiness seems to protect the heart.” There was a study conducted on a group of 1,739 healthy adults living in Nova Scotia Canada for 10 years to determine whether attitudes affected their health. “After accounting for known heart disease risk factors, the researchers found that the happiest people were 22% less likely to develop heart disease over the 10 years of follow-up than people who fell in the middle of the negative-positive emotion scale.” But how do we release the negative emotions that build up inside of us? “When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer,” Psalms 94:19.
 
     Prayer is the best way to slow down our negative thoughts and anxieties and begin to refocus on God and the hope we find in him. In Philippians 4:6-7 it reads, “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your heart and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Dr. Loretta G. Breuning, founder of the Inner Mammal Institute and the author of ‘The Science of Positivity’ and ‘Habits of a Happy Brain,’ explains that when we pray, we can activate neural pathways we developed when young to release hormones such as oxytocin. “Oxytocin is known for its role in maternal labor and lactation, but it also [enables] social trust and attachment, giving us a good feeling despite living in a world of threat,” says Dr. Breuning. “It’s the idea of ‘I can count on something to protect me.’
 
     So when a situation comes up and you’re out of ideas and you are helpless, feeling much like you did when you were a baby, prayer can provide some other source of hope.” Romans 15:13 reads, “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Through prayer and connecting to God, we have an opportunity to, not only release our fears, anxieties, and hopelessness, but we are drawing closer to our creator, we are strengthening our relationship with our Father in heaven and we are becoming healthier, spiritually and physically.
 
God Bless!
 
Cristin Martinez


Small Beginnings

      Have you ever despised your small beginnings? They say there are no small parts, just small actors. I think that sometimes we want the big part, the big house, the big job and so by human nature we sometimes tend to despise our small beginnings. Did you know that with God, there are no small beginnings? Bear with me, you’ll see in a bit. Zechariah 4:10 NLT says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” Sometimes we forget that good things can come in small packages.
 
     Elijah was a brave soul. He went to King Ahab and told him that there would be no rain or dew for the next 2-3 years until he said so. After three years of drought and King Ahab searching for Elijah, Elijah presented himself to the king. King Ahab thought he was a troublemaker, but Elijah called him the troublemaker because he and his father worshipped the idols of Baal and took the Israelites along with them in their worship of them. The showdown on Mt. Carmel ensued and Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal and killed them. It was a victory for the Lord. I’ve left out a lot of really cool details, so check out the story in 1 Kings 18, but what is often overlooked is what happened AFTER the showdown on Mt. Carmel.
 
       You see, after the showdown Elijah said to Ahab that he heard the sound of heavy rain…there were no clouds in the sky, there was no thunder, no rain yet. So, what was happening here?! You see, If you have Faith, THERE ARE NO small beginnings. Elijah humbled himself and bowed to the ground and put his head between his knees and prayed. GREAT beginnings start with humble prayer. Elijah told his servant to go look toward the sea and the servant came back saying he saw nothing, again and again, and again. SEVEN TIMES Elijah said, “Go back”. When you have the vision from the Lord, PRAY IT THROUGH TO COMPLETION,Don’t let negative feedback stop you. 1 Kings 18:44 The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.” DON’T PUT ALIMIT ON WHAT GOD CAN DO WITH YOUR SMALL BEGINNING! 1 Kings 18:45 “Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling, and Ahab rode off to Jezreel.”
 
     God can do far more than we ask or imagine! Remember the 5 loaves and 2 fish that fed somewhere around 20,000 people (5000 men plus women and children…I’m guesstimating). Jesus and his disciples had 12 BASKETS full of LEFTOVERS! What about the church? Jesus started with 12, pouring into mostly the 3, Peter, James, and John…yet it is global now with nearly 2 billion people who claim to be Christian just at this point in time alone. If your faith is as small as a mustard seed (that’s a tiny seed!) just humbly give it to God. Give your “small beginnings” to God and see just what He will do! Remember: A little can go a lot farther when blessed by God!

God Bless,
Stephanie Holloway



When should I rest?

     In my life, I was raised to do a few things. One of them was to work. And not just work but working hard. Work hard for what you want, work hard for what you believe in. Work hard to achieve your dreams and goals. Something I never learned to do well was rest. I have said that I will sleep when I am dead more times than I can count.  Better yet, I have believed it. Work is simply more important than rest, right? I am sure I am not the only one who struggles with rest. I talk with people who are tired all the time, can’t sleep, nervous, stressed, have anxiety, and so much more going on with them being worried about their work. Now, just to shape up the definition, Work = paid job, house chores, grocery shopping, and so on. If you have to do it for the necessity of life, or function, it is work. Cleaning house, cooking, are also work. I enjoy cooking sometimes, but not always. So we spend a huge amount of time actually working, but how much of our time is spent resting or worshiping God?

     This week, I will write about rest, but next week I will be preaching Sunday about worship, and I will write a blog also. Mark 2:27 says “Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”” God created the Sabbath for us, not us for the Sabbath. Fun fact, observing the Sabbath is the only 10 commandment that is a ritual. Think through the others, they regard sin like don’t steal, don’t cheat, don’t have other Gods before me, and more. But, for us, those are the important ones. I think we often times can disregard the commandment to observe the Sabbath. If you are a pastor, a volunteer at church, paid staff member, Sunday’s are not days off. They just aren’t. It doesn’t mean, we don’t enjoy them, it doesn’t mean we don’t love what we do. I care enough about what God wants that I will put aside my day of rest.

     However, you know what I think God would rather me do? Move my day of rest. Taking time on Sunday afternoon to relax or doing things I enjoy occasionally during the week. Maybe its going for a nice drive on Saturday. Working on the car in the garage. Hanging out with friends and family. All of these are rejuvenating to me and help me relax. In the Bible there are 39 things they could not do on their day of Sabbath. Washing, cleaning, cooking, are all included. They could not harvest, they could not do all the things we make excuses for. Because, God wanted them to rest. And you know what hasn’t changed? God wants you to rest too.

     When you refuse to rest you are saying you know better than God. Because God commanded us to rest, so we are disobeying a direct commandment. In the scope of God’s law, and moral law, when we break this law of taking a Sabbath, we are sinning. And all sin is equal in God’s eyes. So, not observing the Sabbath is the same as killing someone, lying to someone. We are leaving the safe haven of God’s grace when we forgo our time of rest. God gave us this precious gift of rest, and we more often than not, throw it back in his face.

     The reason we work so hard is because we believe everything depends on us. I know that I have a day job, where I work 40+ hours at a desk. I know that I am preaching a message almost every Sunday. I know that I do chaplain visits at a job site. I know that I need to spend time with my wife and baby boy. I know my dogs need attention too. I know I need to cook, clean, mow the yard, take care of the cars, and other household tasks. Life is busy. But you know what happens if I take a day of rest? Nothing gets done. Nothing at all. So, on the other days, I need to do more to be able to observe a Sabbath day, a day of rest. What about your life? When was the last day off you took that did not have a honey do list, or a list a mile long because you have been watching the kids all week and trying to keep the house going?

      So, my challenge is to you, take half a day off to do nothing. Don’t clean, don’t work, don’t do chores. Relax, do something you enjoy. Do something that will fulfill your life more. God has commanded you to take a day of rest, take it. Enjoy it. And you know what? Try your best to do it every week, just as God commanded.
 
Pastor Kevin Plain


My God?

               Everyone raised in church must come to a point in their life when they quit living on borrowed faith from their parents, and they make their faith their own.  It’s very easy to glide along and go to church, Sunday school, and church camps year after year because it is what you always did, it’s what your parents always did, or even your grandparents always did.  BUT (I rarely start a sentence with “but” because it’s grammatically incorrect, but there is a BIG BUT here…it’s okay to chuckle at that, go ahead) there are no grandchildren of God, only children.  You are the one that must have faith like a child, not your parents, your siblings, your grandparents, YOU.  In Mark 10:15 Jesus tells us, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
 
                 Jacob had to make the decision his own.  He couldn’t rely on his father Isaac, or his grandpop, Abraham.  No, he had to decide for himself if he would believe in and obey God.  He was on the run from stealing not only the birthright, but the blessing of his brother Esau, fearful that his brother would kill him, and he stopped to rest at Bethel.  Here he laid down and put his head on a rock for a pillow and fell asleep.  He dreamt of a ladder reaching to Heaven and angels ascending and descending upon the ladder.  It was here that God spoke to Him in a dream, and maybe the first time he listened.  We read in Genesis chapter 28:13, The Lord said to him, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.  I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying…”  You see, here we have it in black and white…God was the God of Abraham, his grandfather, and the God of Isaac, his father, but would he be the God of Jacob?  That was solely up to him.  Jacob had a decision to make.  That next morning, he made a vow saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the LORD will be my God…”  There it is, “my” God…not my father’s, not my grandfather’s, MY.
 
                   It’s very easy to fall into the mindset of thinking you’re a Christian because you go to church, you’ve always gone to church or because your family is “Christian”.  Time and again I’ve seen students and even adults make this mistake.  The decision to follow Christ however, to believe in Him and make Him your Lord is not a joint decision or an automatic entry due to association.  It is a very personal commitment that one must make, and one DOES make, at some point in their life…in fact, if you haven’t already made the decision to follow Christ or not to follow Him, in essence, you have.  Your indecision is a decision.  You see, there is No gray area.  Either one follows Christ, or he doesn’t.  The Bible tells us in the book of James, chapter two, that even demons believe and tremble.  You are either all in or you are all out, you can’t have one foot in the door and one foot out.  You can’t serve two masters for you’ll hate the one and love the other or vice versa.  You can’t dabble in Christianity, you can only think you’re dabbling, but it is just a façade.  REAL Christians are known by their fruit…you know, like the fruit described in Galatians…peace, love, kindness, joy, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  (They aren’t in order, but you can look them up, try chapter five.)
 
                 Anyway, my point is, if you want to be a Christian there must come a time in your life when you decide for yourself what you believe, and if you decide you believe in Jesus and ask Him to be your Lord, then the Holy Spirit will begin to transform you.  You WILL be known by your fruit.  Change will happen.  Some things will change more immediately and some over time, but you will begin to learn to surrender to Him.  Making Christ your Lord means you become a slave to Him; he becomes your master.  That isn’t a bad thing, it’s a blessing.  You see, we are All a slave to something, either the flesh (our own desires, or the world) or to Jesus.  His ways are so much higher than our ways, thank GOODNESS!  He loves us more than we can imagine and wants the absolute best for us.  Surrendering to Him is like breathing fresh air, it’s refreshing!  So, if you haven’t made the decision to make Christ your Lord, YOU, not your Grammy, not your Pop, not your parents, but YOU haven’t decided to, I encourage you to do so today, don’t wait!  Jacob made a decision but waited on God’s promises to come true to really commit.  Don’t wait, don’t delay!  God’s promises are true, they are YES and AMEN!  He does what He says He will do!  Every second you delay, you are deciding you don’t really believe.  It takes a leap of faith, and faith takes action, in this case, prayer
 
           If you read this today and decided today is the day, I would LOVE to hear from you so I can pray with you and lead you to some resources to help you in your journey.  You can contact me at stephanie@citizensnaz.com, or feel free to contact Pastor Kevin (I just volunteered him, but it is in his job description, so we’re all good) at kevin@citizensnaz.com. Seriously, we would love to hear your story and see how we could help! God bless! Stephanie Holloway


What is the season of Lent? Should you participate in it?

Growing up, I never heard the words Lent, or Ash Wednesday. I have heard of mardi gras but only in the crazy party kind of way. I didn’t grow up Catholic or with any practicing Catholic friends that I knew. So, as I became a Pastor and was around other pastoral and devout Christian friends with diverse backgrounds, I started to hear about Lent. In my studies, we touched on it but I never really studied it to the point of understanding for me. 
 
So, if you are like me and have had zero or very little experience with Lent, let me tell you what it is. Lent is a period of 40 days before Easter (Holy Week specifically.) It begins Ash Wednesday, which is the day after Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras was meant to be a day of indulgence prior to abstaining from  meat and/or other items for 40 days. This year, Ash Wednesday is March 6th. Lent ends the day before Good Friday on April 18th. Good Friday is April 19th the Friday immediately proceeding Easter (April 21st). Lent was meant to be a season of reflection and preparation before Easter arrives (we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus). The time period is symbolic to the time when Jesus fasted and was tempted in the wilderness where he withdrew for 40 days. 
 
A question you may be asking is why do they call it Ash Wednesday? During Biblical times, through various stories you will see that when people are mourning or fasting they place Ash on their head. Those were referred to as Ashes of Repentance, or repentance ashes. Its an outward expression of repentance and believing the Gospel. So it is Ash Wednesday because it is the entering of a time of repentance, the season known as lent. Lent is called lent because of the word it derives from signifies the lengthening of days that is often occurring during this time. In other languages, such as German, it is known simply as fasting time. Or Spanish and French it is known as 40 days in their languages respectively.  
 
This year, unlike any other year, I have specifically felt called to observe lent. I have never done it. I have never fasted for that long. I always felt that celebrating it was too Catholic, and I am not a Catholic. The reason I believe I am feeling called to participate in lent this season is I feel I need a time of preparation for what God is going to do in my life and Citizens Church. We have seen God move in such mighty ways already, but we are so quick to forget what he has done. We are quick to go back to fearing and worrying about everything. I want this season to be an opening of my eyes, and an opening of my heart to God. Even more so than it is. I want to continually draw closer to him, and I have felt this nagging feeling over the last few months to participate in lent.  
 
So if lent is a 40 day time of fasting, what do they traditionally fast from? (too fast something means to abstain from) In the Catholic Church, they abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Friday’s during Lent. (Dairy, eggs and fish can still be eaten.) That is why you will see fast food restaurants that only seasonally have fish, will have it especially during this time of year. If you are especially devout, they recommend and encourage people to eat one full meal a day and fast the other two meals. You would still follow the first guideline but this would be an additional way to draw closer to God.
 
If you are feeling like me, like you need a time of preparation for what God is planning to do I challenge you to join me in fasting during lent. Even if you just feel you need to draw closer to God, join me in lent. I believe God honors our efforts, not just our results. What should you to fast from? What does God want you to fast from? What gets in the way of your relationship with him? What causes you to lust, covet, lie, cheat or steal? If you looooove Food, I challenge you to consider fasting a enjoyable meal time. If you don’t normally eat breakfast, you can’t just fast breakfast. It’s not a proper fast if you aren’t abstaining from something you enjoy. Fast from whatever is getting in your way if you can. If its social media, TV, food, soda, coffee, tea (any other beverage other than water) if you smoke, drink alcohol, pick something to fast from. If you have a sweet tooth fast from sweets. 
 
For me, I will be fasting two meals a day. I say this not to boast in my strength, but for accountability. Fasting two meals a day is something I have not done for more than four days before. I will now multiply that buy 10. I will need your prayers, and God’s help for sure! I ask that you join me in the fast and when you are challenged in what you are fasting from, no matter what it is, pray. Pray for strength, and pray for God to change your life for the better. Pray for God to use you to change someone’s else’s life. Pray that God continues to use and bless Citizens Church for his glory. 
 
Than you! Pastor Kevin. 
 
P.S.- If you have any questions please feel free to reach out. 


How to Become a Better Communicator

So, you’re called to preach? What does that mean? Where do you start? What do you do? Maybe you’ve preached for years but feel your message falls flat, or your audience doesn’t connect with you at all during your message. How do you become a better communicator? We will give you 7 steps on how to do just that. But first, I want to share a little bit about where we started. This is by no means saying we are now experts, these are the simple steps we are taking to get better week in and week out at what God has called us to do. 

 

Where We Started:

We both answered the call to preach when we were the ripe age of 16. We didn’t know anything about anything. We didn’t know the Bible very well and we didn’t know how to communicate very well. Let’s just say between us, our first few sermons, and even for the next few years, our sermons were subpar at best, terrible at the most truthful times. The church we were in at that time had several people answering the call to preach(20+), so we have heard a lot of different first time preachers. With that also meant having little time for experience, getting to preach 1-2 times a year does not offer for a great foundation in developing messages and discipline in communicating God’s message to the masses.

 

If you struggle, you are not alone:

We have seen many, many first time preachers, or people with little experience or even with a lot of experience and their sermons aren’t hitting home to people, express their frustration. They spend hours agonizing over what to preach and then feel that all their time was wasted. We have seen many speakers and preachers leave the ministry entirely with feelings of inadequacy. The cause may not have been preaching, but I would wager that poor communication was at the crux of the failure itself.

 

This isn’t a new feeling. We (Myself and my good friend and fellow Pastor Johnathon Barlow) have spent hours and hours over years discussing our sermons, discussing what we preach, what we teach, why it is or is not effective. I have heard this conversation for before. Now this is not to say that God does not use those sermons, he does. This is not to say that we need more than God’s word to preachers, it is the very basis of what we do. But, how do we get better at our craft? If you are a teacher, a preacher, a public speaker, communicator in the business world, these will help you hit home with your audience more often.

 

We are going to give you 7 steps to help you become a better communicator.

(side note, this is not an all-inclusive, end to all options list, these are the steps and things that have helped shape our communication style, and the style of many successful pastors around us)

 

1.Spend time in God’s Word. First and foremost, you have to spend time in God’s word. You should spend time learning about God before you can preach and teach about God. How do you learn who God is? Through time in His word (The Bible) and spending time talking to God (in prayer.) Everything starts here, and everything ends here. Every point you make, every message you speak, should be backed by God’s word. If you preach a message on grace, mercy, faith, money, sex, etc., it needs its basis and conclusion in God’s word.

 

2. Care about Your Craft. I believe since you are here, reading this, you probably care a little bit about your craft. Each week the message we bring, may be the only message, or the last message a person hears. Would you be okay with that? One of the most influential people of the last 100 years said this. ““Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again, and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” Did Billy Graham say that? No, it was Walt Disney. Will preaching great messages every week grow your church? Most likely it will. Pew research suggests a staggering 85% of people chose their new churches based on the quality of the message being spoken. Children’s ministry, Teen ministry, Worship, pew vs chair, color of the carpet, all these things are important, but adults want to be in a place with a quality message. You should care about your craft because they care about it.

 

3. Read/Listen to books on communication. I would highly recommend to start with Communicating for change” – by Andy Stanley. ITS A GAME CHANGER!!!!!! For real! It changed my approach to preparing for a message entirely. The book is a key building block for myself and almost every other pastor I know. If they have not read it, I recommend they get it. I have bought the book for staff members because I believe it is so important. It’s a super easy read, you will get done in a day or two. Carey Nieuwhof has a whole course on becoming a better communicator that I have taken. You will find many seminars, books, websites geared towards making a better communicator. This $15 book was my first step, and honestly the biggest influence on it all. Over time, I have taken college classes, went to seminars, conferences, webinars and even web classes to become the most effective preacher I can be. I encourage you to do so as well.

 

4. Listen to top level preachers/communicators, and find aspects of their talks that resonate with you and attempt to work them in to your sermons. Don’t try to be them. Be you, but feel free to take what works for them and mold it into your style, because guess what… they most likely took it from someone they admired as well. When I first started preaching I found communicators I really enjoyed. Over time that has been people like Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, Judah Smith, Steven Furtick, Mark Batterson, and so on. The key is to listen to them and see different styles. Theorist believe that there are really only four major personality types. We are all made up of primarily of these four. You will inevitably connect with some that others do not. I like to listen to pastors or do not like to listen to pastors that some of my best friends love to listen too. Johnathon and I have been close friends since 2nd grade, and we do not always LOVE the same preachers. And that’s ok, and it’s normal. Listen for styling, compare what they do to the book “communicating for a change”, and you will be amazed of how many big time, key leaders follow this style.

 

5. Record and listen/watch back to your sermons. I know, it is not fun, but it’s so crucial in your development as a communicator. You need to listen to what you say and how you move on stage. Do you like what you are saying? Do you have any annoying tendencies? Ed Stetzer, another great communicator and an authority on church planting, gave a message at M19 and showed an email he received about how many times he adjusted his glasses during his message. This person was so distracted by it, they went back and watched his sermon a second time and counted how many times he adjusted his glasses. He adjusted them 70+ times in his 30+ minute message. Basically every 30 seconds. Do you do something similar that is distracting your listeners? Do you want to see your listener’s life changed? Then we as preachers need to be willing to measure what works and what needs work in our speaking and then make the changes that are required to be made for the message to be more effective. Do you cringe at what you say or how you say it? How do you think that makes your audience feel? Instead of saying, that is just the way it is, care enough about your craft to make the efforts to change even your natural tendencies. (Ed did, he starting using a product called Nerd Wax to help keep his glasses in place more)

 

6. Ask a gifted/talented communicator for feedback. If you are in ministry, or even just getting started, you should have people around you that you trust and look up to. I know pastor’s (including my current district superintendent Phil Rhoades) who do a message survey on a regular basis and have people they trust fill out feedback about their message. People that are already attending their churches and listening to them on a regular basis. You can ask a friend that you trust and know they are a good communicator to give you feedback. Johnathon has been one of those people for me, and I have been one for him. I have asked people older than me, and younger than me for feedback. You may need to have thick skin for it and definitely be open to positive and negative feedback. In Citizens Church, we believe being in a culture of feedback is crucial. It is not to tear each other down and nitpick or tell them how many times they touched their glasses. It is a time to give honest feedback to help all involved grow as individuals and as communicators. Without knowing where you are, you will never get where you are going.

 

7. ENJOY THE PROCESS! Last but definitely not least, enjoy the process. You have the coolest opportunity in the world to bring the only message that matters to those who need it. I pray you are going to have fantastic weeks, and I know you will have weeks where you feel like you didn’t bring your A game. Learn from it, grow from it and enjoy it. It’s an amazing opportunity we have been given.

 

Hope this was helpful for any of my friends who aspire to make a difference through the preaching of the Gospel. We love you all!

 

Please share if you know of anyone that might benefit from this!

 

Authored by Kevin Plain & Johnathon Barlow



Hearing God’s Voice

With so many things, electronics, sports, video games, social media, dating, (shall I continue?) vying for a teenager’s attention, it’s easy to understand why a teen, or anyone for that matter, might have trouble listening to God’s voice.  We live in a fast-paced society where if it isn’t nuked, delivered right to your door, or 3D printable then it’s deemed not worth it.  This is exactly why teenagers need to learn the voice of God, learn how He speaks, and how they can tune in to hear Him better.

           So, that’s exactly what we’ve been talking about this last month in RISE Youth.  Most people think that one of the few ways that God speaks is through the still small voice.  While it’s true, He definitely speaks that way, He also speaks in a plethora of other ways, and they’re all right there in the bible. 

           We started our series with learning about Jonah and how God spoke to him through circumstances.  Now this was after He spoke to him more directly, perhaps through the still small voice, we don’t know exactly, but Jonah had ignored Him.  So, God chose to speak to Jonah again in another way, through the circumstance of 1st, a storm, and not just any storm, but one that nearly tore the ship he boarded in half! If that wasn’t enough, God spoke to Jonah again through circumstance, when He directed a giant fish to swallow him whole saving him from certain death.

            There’s a lot of interesting stuff in this story, like how the sailors had asked Jonah to pray to his God and ask for mercy, but Jonah didn’t…he told them instead to throw him overboard.  He had either hardened his heart so much toward the Ninevites, God, or both, that he would rather be thrown overboard than to repent.  He was going to die, yet God in His grace sent a huge fish to save him.  It was here that Jonah finally prayed.

            I don’t know about you, but I don’t want God to speak to me through the circumstance of a giant fish swallowing me, but I have often experienced His “Godwinks”… you know, those crazy, beyond probability coincidental-coincidences that you know that you know had to have been God.  God’s spoken to me in this way many times.  In fact, I once had to wait over the weekend for a score on a college exam (I know, a whole weekend, such a long time right???) but really wanted to know if I had passed the test.  I asked God if I had passed it, opened my bible for an answer (hoping for one through what I would read) and my eyes immediately landed on, “And it came to pass.”  Yeah, that’s right, not only does God speak through circumstances and/or Godwinks, but He has a great sense of humor too. 

           Next we talked about how God speaks through wise counsel and that this isn’t to replace what you are hearing from God yourself but should be used to confirm it.  It’s important to note that however God speaks to you it will not go against His nature or scripture.  We also talked about how God speaks through His peace …sometimes it feels like God hugs, and how when His peace reigns in you it can help you decide right from wrong. 

           We discussed how God speaks through His Word…but that only happens if you READ it!  God also speaks through thoughts, but not all thoughts are from God!  Then, we talked about how God speaks through dreams and visions, both open and closed visions (closed visions being when your eyes are closed whether you are awake or within a dream or dreamlike state, and open when your eyes are open and all you see is what God is showing you).  Dreams are pretty easy, they are mostly like parables and God uses things that are familiar to You in them.

           We also talked about how God speaks through nature, through His still small voice, through the Supernatural, and even Out loud.  I can personally attest to the fact that God has spoken to me in all these ways.  With so many ways to hear God, how can we NOT hear Him?  I didn’t even mention yet how He also speaks through prophets and angels

           The bible tells us to pray without ceasing…this doesn’t mean we do all the talking and none of the listening.  To Pray without ceasing is to live your life in a constant state of conversation with God, you talk, He talks, you talk, He talks, etc.

THIS MEANS THAT WHEN YOU AREN’T TALKING TO GOD, YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING.

           So, as I explained to the teens, YES, it is GOOD to find a quiet place to sit and be still and know Him, BUT, you can also hear God as you go about your daily life with your other senses too.  He talks to us more than we think.  DON’T BOX GOD IN!  Open your spiritual eyes and see Him in the beauty and nature around you.  Allow Him to open your senses, your eyes, your ears, even smell to be able to sense His presence, to feel Him, to know He is there and talking to you.

           Finally, we discussed how Satan likes to counterfeit God, but that God can do anything Satan can, only right and good.  In the garden of Eden Satan used the Supernatural to speak to Eve; he spoke through a serpent.  Yet, God spoke to Balaam through a donkey.  So, my question is, “If something supernatural like that happens to you, how are you going to know if it is GOD speaking to you?”  In other words, “How will you be able to discern the difference between a snake and a donkey?”  The answer is simple really…READ the WORD, MEDITATE on the WORD, MEMORIZE the WORD, for in it, and in Him is the way, the truth, and the life, and sometimes, take time out of your busy, fast lane schedule to just be still and know that HE IS GOD. 



Blog Revival

Blog Revival

 

I cannot think of a better day to “Revive” our blog then on our two-year anniversary of our church being officially organized.

So, what better way to celebrate than to remember what all God has done in the last year at Citizens Church.

      This time last year, God opened the doors for us to move to a more permanent location. The first year and half, we stored all our stuff in trailers and houses and set up our equipment every Sunday and every special event. We had to do some construction to make it our own, but it was really a great place, location and size, and in our budget. We were fortunate enough to have volunteers from our mother church, friends and volunteers from within our church help us build the walls, and the stage. Our volunteers built the background, wired the TV’s, Computer, setup sound and helped put together the chairs. From there we have continued to see God move in leading people to us in our new location and look forward to what year three brings.

      At the beginning of last year and even after the move. We used a thing called tracks. Basically, they were musical recordings without vocals. At the time we only had a drummer and our worship leader. So we did worship with tracks accompanying them. A few months later, God gave us a great guitar player. Then a couple months later God gave us a fantastic piano player. Then again a few months later, God led a bass player/Pastor to our church. Our worship band in the last year went from 2 people, to 5. Went from limited to tracks, to whatever God leads them to play. They have grown tremendously and have great chemistry together.

      Last September we were able to launch our Wednesday night youth. As a former youth pastor, I know that Youth are the future, but they are also the right now. They need direct involvement, direct attention and encouragement. The things they face in school, in social circles and event sports is changing so rapidly. Our hope is to be a safe place for them to be Real people, and show them God’s spirit and how to follow God’s plan for their lives.

      Also in September, we started having Sunday School. I know, I know, Sunday School is old and antiquated and no one wants it. Well, here’s the deal. We talked to our congregation, which ranges in age from our 5 week old son to people in their 70s. We literally have every 10-year gap included. You know what people in their 20s and 30s said they wanted? Sunday School. It is really convenient to be able to have a Bible Study before the service. It’s easier for the kids, it’s easier for the parents. As of January and February, we have Sunday School involvement around 80%-90%. Our Adults have learned about prayer, evangelism and right now are learning finances. Our Children are learning Children’s quizzing with hopes to turn into a quiz team next year. Young and Old both wanted Sunday School and it works, and it works well.

     In November, God led a pastor and his wife to our church. They had spent some time away from the Nazarene Church and time in much needed rest. They felt called to come to Citizens Church, and I felt just with short conversation with them that they were called to plant a church. In the next couple years, Citizens Church will be sponsoring a church plant in the neighboring community of Blue Eye/Lampe.

     Right now, our interim children’s leader is preparing to go to get her Master’s degree and higher education in Kansas City, so we have begun the search for the right person. We know that children and teens ministries are among the most important thing a church can do. Pray for us to find the right person, or people to fill those roles.

Pray with us through the next year. We are praying to see more people come to know Jesus. We are praying and planning to make an impact on those around us in a positive way. We want to see Revival break out in Branson and see our mission and vision come to light. Our Mission of REACHING people with the love of God, leading them to REDEMPTION by the grace of Jesus and seeing their lives REVIVED through the power of the Holy Spirit is just as important and urgent each and every day. Do that we must be fulfill our vision of being real people, who are outward focused, loving everyone to lead the world to Jesus.