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Three Squares…

January 29, 2010

Just imagine, it is Thanksgiving afternoon and the smells of all the delicious comfort foods are wafting around. Now as your mouth waters and your stomach growls, please continue to read this after your snack. Now that you are back, what if you skipped that morsel of food, what if you fasted from sunrise to sunset? (Side note, fasting was only commanded once under the Law, during the Day of Atonement, see Leviticus 16:29-31.) So fasting is not a requirement by God, but a time to focus yourself on God. Fasting is one of those things that is great to do and is even suggested to do while you are feeling grief, repentance, and petitioning a serious prayer to God. So are you only a true follower of God if you fast? No, you are a true follower of God when you are living your life completely out loud for Him, personal fasting can be a great part of that.

Read Isaiah 58 (See Here) I believe this passage follows more on the line of what we are doing and our actions toward others. If we are to fast and worry that the Lord is not noticing us, do we really have faith in Him? The struggle is not new, though if we are only giving our God face time, Sunday time, and making no effort to live for Him then our fast is worthless.

Here Isaiah is writing to warn people that your service and actions toward God is deeply personal and the focus should be on Him. Him only! Now who are we living for? Do we live for God to be uplifted, glorified, and magnified or for us? In verse 4b if the focus is not on Him, do you really expect to be heard? Like everyone I want to be heard, I want others to see me as a true man of God, not the sinner that I still am. So often I need to make sure that I have not lost focus on why I do what I do, to make sure that the glory deserved to the Lord is directed to Him. It is so not me. Humility is hard, living your life out loud is hard, not just living it, but also to glorify Him. I can not imagine life without God, but so many times we don’t live a life for God. As you go through the text, verse 8 jumps into the “Then your light will break forth”… our blessing will be given. God has promised to strengthen us and our light will make the darkness like the noon day. His desire is for us to live our life out loud and always making sure that the life we are living is for Him and not for us. God desires to do amazing things through us, we just need to let Him, and get out of the way. He knows it all, so don’t worry, He sees your ministry.

Many Blessings,

Mark A Williams

Minister of Involvement

Northside Christian Church

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January 29, 2010 Posted by | Mark | | Leave a comment

Desires Come in Four Flavors #1

January 27, 2010

Growing up in a frugal family, going out for ice cream was a once a year activity. In my family, it’s called your birthday. Even on the greatest day for a kid, there were restrictions. I could get any ice cream flavor I wanted except for one – the bubble gum flavor. My mom thought that swallowing gum was bad. She can go ahead and read this article then – http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1608/is_11_20/ai_n7635455/

Guess which flavor I couldn’t stop dreaming about getting? No, not the strawberry silly! The bubble gum! I had to have it more than a baby needs love, more than Eve needed that forbidden fruit, more than the Cavs need Lebron.

We get like that sometimes when it comes to our desires. The next four weeks I’d like to venture into the four flavors desire comes in. The spiritual reality is that each one of these desires has a God-designed foundation in our lives. Let’s look at the first flavor –

Flavor #1  Material Desires

We all have material desires – desires attached to money and clothes and cars and houses. Do you like money (is the Pope Catholic?)? In Acts 16 we read about Lydia, a businesswoman dealing in textiles who also happened to be the first Christian convert in Europe. She had an eye for design and a flair for making money. Imagine the passion and drive it would take for a woman to succeed in business in the ancient world. She was good enough at it that she owned her own home, and it was a large enough home that it become a part of her ministry. Lydia’s home become the first meeting place of the first church in the history of Europe. Of all the churches built over all the centuries – Notre Dame, Westminster Abbey, and the Sistine Chapel – the very first one in Europe was the home of this Philippian businesswoman named Lydia.

Maybe you have a flair for money. You enjoy money. You don’t admit it to anyone at church, but you do. You love being surrounded by beauty, design, color. This isn’t a bad thing because God created beauty, He loves beauty.

If these material desires choke your generosity, cause you to live in debt, or create chronic dissatisfaction, then it’s time to say no. We could take all the good, material things God has given us and invite Him to brainstorm on how we could use our homes, cars, stuff to please Him. That’s what would be truly beautiful. As the Spirit flows, God will give you a creative, new ideas about how to share what you have, just as he did with Lydia.

Have a great week guys, keep praying for Haiti.


Zach

January 27, 2010 Posted by | Zach | | 3 Comments

Dreams do come true

January 22, 2010

Last Friday as you were reading “No Pain/No Gain” I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt in the wonderfully warm skies of Orlando, Florida. I went with my family to spend some time with a certain mouse. On my visit that day I saw the caption “Where dreams do come true” and as I started to think about this week’s post, it kept going over and over in my brain–“Where dreams do come true.” Do dreams really come true? I had a great dream; I just can not remember what it was. Most of the dreams that I remember are often to see and figure out something that is yet to come. I dream of Heaven, what will it be like? As I was reading through 1 Peter this week, I came across a passage that nearly jumped off the page, so very alive. In 1 Peter 1:10-12 “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”

As I read this passage, I noticed that the prophets had been foretelling the salvation that Christ was to bring. Most importantly they were dreaming, looking for the answers that they had foretold. They could not figure out when, dreaming and desiring to know they searched for answers. The prophets were not only looking for the salvation that Christ was to offer, but also dreaming with fear the suffering He was to live through. Their dreams started as they prophesied the coming of the Christ by the direction of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dreams, does it get any better than that? The dream presented in this passage for each of us to have is the salvation that is offered by Christ. This whole process even intrigued the angels. The angels were so enthralled to understand and see how that process was going to save man. They longed to see how we were to be saved as God gave the Prophets and the angels only part of it. This allowed and encouraged them to dream and anticipate what, how, when the plan was to happen. We are redeemed of our sin by the grace and salvation that Christ offered to us, we receive the Spirit that came on the Prophets in the Old Testament.

This now should challenge us to understand that we have only been given some instructions to live by. Reinforcing the scripture in 10-12, if we continue on and read 1 Peter 1:13-17 “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” We do not know the whole plan that is to come, nor what will happen tomorrow. We need to be preparing for Him. Just like the prophets and angels we need to look ahead and search and dream what God has planned for us. If you completed the dream of salvation please understand that God desires us to dream with Him still today. We need to dream with Him and find ways for Him to be glorified. God has so much in store for us that we need to prepare ourselves the understanding that God so desperately wants to “live out loud” in your life.

God Bless,

Mark A. Williams

Minister of Involvement

Northside Christian Church

January 22, 2010 Posted by | Mark | | 1 Comment

Seven Reasons Why I Love A Larger Church

January 20, 2010

People are going to have their opinions about the size of a church, and many aren’t going to make Northside their home because of it’s size. I respect the opinion of a person who doesn’t like a large church, but I can’t help but wonder what they’re going to think of heaven – it’s going to be HUGE!

Northside Christian Church has become a large church, which is a blessing for those of us involved in its growth. Sometimes though, it can be intimidating for those unfamiliar with a church of our size. It might seem that a large church could be cold and formal, might neglect its people, and might perhaps even compromise its purpose. But this isn’t true about us. There are some wonderful advantages to a large church, specifically, our church at Northside Christian.

1. A Large Church is Scriptural
The first church began with 3,000 members (Acts 2:41). These people met in homes, but they also met together in the temple courts (Acts 2:46). When the church was alive, it grew rapidly (Acts 6:7)!

2. A Large Church Can Provide Rich Fellowship
In a large church, fellowship is provided through many small group opportunities. There are Bible study groups, sports leagues, women’s and men’s and youth groups, etc. There are numerous Adult Bible Fellowship classes, most with their own mission projects, and socials. Through participation in Adult Bible Fellowship, you have the best of both worlds: the intimacy of a small group and the inspiration of a large church.

3. A Large Church Provides An Excellent Opportunity For Evangelism
It is much easier to invite others to come to church with you if the church is large. There are many special services and quality programs that provide opportunities for Christians of all ages to invite friends and family members. The un-churched are much more likely to attend a large service in which they do not feel threatened. When they begin to feel comfortable, the truths of the Gospel begin to sink in.

4. A Large Church Provides Many Opportunities For Service
Some people assume they are not needed in a large church. However, in a large church, there are many opportunities to serve because there are more responsible positions to fill! You will find that opportunities abound for you to use any talents with which God has gifted you to edify the Body of Christ.

5. A Large Church Is Inspirational
There is something about a large number of people that creates excitement and generates energy. Jesus said He wanted His ‘house to be full’ (Luke 14:23). It’s inspirational to sing and share with many other Christians. It is thrilling to hear a large choir, to enjoy an excellent drama, or to see a group of grade school children participate together in a Christmas musical.

6. A Large Church Has Positive Influence
There is strength in numbers. One large church has an opportunity to witness and to influence our community in a very positive way. We can also have a positive influence in missions and world outreach. Our size enables us to provide meaningful support ministries to those who need special attention.

7. A Large Church Prepares Us For Heaven!
In Revelation 7:9, the apostle John described his vision of Heaven: ‘I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne…wearing white robes.’ A large church on earth prepares us for what it will be like in Heaven!

Keep these seven things in mind when you’re out there during the week bragging about what God’s doing at Northside!

Zach

January 20, 2010 Posted by | Zach | | 3 Comments

No Pain/No Gain?

January 15, 2010

I have heard many times in my life that if you feel it, whatever it is, then it is working. You need to feel the burn, feel the pain—oh but not too much pain. So when is it too much? How do you feel after a long day working in the yard? This past fall, the family and I put a patio in the back of our house. This was very hard work, taking three days to dig a ditch to build a foundation with retaining wall blocks. After many tons of gravel were shoveled, placed, tamped, and leveled we were ready for the retaining wall blocks each of them weighing 82 pounds. After two and half days of shoveling, three days of lifting, placing, moving and finally setting the large blocks, I felt the burn—oh boy did I feel the burn. I was physically in pain after day five, but when it came to lay the pavers in place, I was past the burn and ready to go. As my family helped carry and help with leveling sand and placing the pavers, they were starting to feel the burn, for me no there was no challenge because I had triumphed over the burn.

As I strive to live my life out loud, I first had to understand that I need to feel the burn. I started by understanding that when we first strive to live for Him and to live my life out loud, I needed to be struck down. In 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”

As you read through that scripture we can see that God understands that we have pressures, persecutions, frustrations, and failures. He promises that we will not be crushed, perplexed, not in despair, and not destroyed. As we journey to live our life out loud, we need to understand that it is our lives that are showing who Christ truly is. We are simple clay pots, fragile, nothing special to look at, plain. So the simplicity of the pot develops who Christ is and shows that it is not from us but an “all-surpassing power” that He has, and only from Him, nothing from us. As we take our fragile lives around this world we are the vessels that will truly show the light of Christ. It is not because of a perfect life that we living but a life that is showing signs of stress. The stress cracks, and fissures are exposing His light to this world. Paul wrote in Galatians 6:17 “Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” He was trying to convey to those criticizing his ministry by showing that he truly belonged to Him, the Christ. Are we living a life with pain for Him, are we suffering? If there is no pain then are we truly living for Him. A life living out loud for Him will not be easy, it is definitely not a bowl full of cherries. So if there is no pain are you really gaining for Him? Life is hard, living for Christ is hard, the pain comes when we ultimately stand for Him, by consistently, truly and adamantly living our lives out loud. The litmus of your life is your struggles and strife but not living in despair or feeling abandoned because He is there with you. The greatest reminder in all of this is that with Him, we will not face anything that we are unable to bear. He just desires to be seen through you. So live your life out loud, for Him and let Him been seen by all.

God Bless,

Mark A Williams

Minister of Involvement

January 15, 2010 Posted by | Mark | | 2 Comments

A New Year, an Improved Church part 2

January 13, 2010

The New Year brings one word over any other word to those who didn’t like how the previous year went: determination. New Year resolutions will not become a new year’s reality without determination. To be a better spouse, or parent, to lose weight, to read our Bible more, to floss twice a day – these things don’t just naturally happen overnight. There’s no potion to drink. It takes determination to make it happen. And it’s the same when improving the church. We won’t become the movement Jesus intended us to be without determination.

Now I thought that sense we are reminding ourselves of God’s purpose and setting new goals it would be good to study again Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church. Paul wrote the book of 1st Thessalonians to a group of people who were absolutely determined to make a difference in their part of the world for Christ.

1st Thessalonians 1:1-3 (NIV) Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice Paul describes the characteristics of a “Determined Church” right at the very beginning. He indicates they had a work that proceeded from their faith. They had a labor that was the result of their love. And they had an endurance that was the product of their hope in Christ Jesus.

Now if you look at those verses closely you see a familiar pattern; Faith, Love, and Hope. Most of the time we think of it as Faith, Hope, and Love as it is recorded in 1 Corinthians 13. But anywhere the world sees God’s people, the church, they should see, feel, experience faith, hope, and love. Loving God, loving people, and serving daily (NCC’s mission statement) means that we have faith in God, give others hope for this life, and share our love in serving Him and them.

Can you feel it? We’re changing to become more like Him with every act of faith, hope, and love! We’re becoming a determined church!

Zach

January 13, 2010 Posted by | Zach | | 1 Comment

The First Breath

January 8, 2010

Last month I had the privilege to help bring a new baby into the world. The little boy, born prematurely at his home, took his first breath moments before I got to his house. I had the amazing opportunity to assist in the clamping of his cord, assisting his dad in cutting the cord, then to suction him, stimulate and warm this brand new beautiful baby boy. As the wonderful cry happened I quickly flashed through the birth of my children, a joyous and amazing time. Only to be grounded by the understanding that it was be my responsibility to make sure he was okay, breathing, warm, having enough oxygen; I had no nurse to pass him off to. Fear set in, but he needed me to take care of him. I took care of his needs, and when he sucked his thumb, grasped my finger, he brought joy to my life. We all are created to bring joy to our heavenly Father. He desires us to live for Him and to serve on His behalf.

In Ephesians 2:10 we read “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Our life is to be lived in a way that allows us to do what God has prepared us to do. That little boy was created, and at his young age served me in a way that I can not even put into words. If you go to the beginning of that passage Ephesians 2:1-9 “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

We are all made alive in Christ and need to understand that when we took the first breath in our relationship with Him, we were made alive. Now that we are alive, we need to live our life out loud. Now take another deep breath, roll up your sleeves and get ready to be delivered out of our old habits and find a new life. Cut the cord from the things that separate us from God, suction out the gunk of this world and allow God to do with you what He has prepared. This is why we all come to Him like a little child. The little boy will grow to desire more and more from his parents. God wants us to grow in our relationship with Him. So as you grow, remember you are alive in Him. Now grab onto His hand, let Him lead you and show you how He wants you to “Live Your Life Out Loud.”

Many Blessings,
Mark A Williams

January 8, 2010 Posted by | Mark | | 4 Comments

A New Year, an Improved Church

January 6th, 2010

The New Year is a time when we plan for our future. We have to think and pray and focus again on our purpose as Christ’s church.  We have to dream some new dreams and set new goals. This past Sunday, Northside took a simple step for God to reach the lost, one dollar at a time. Collectively, as a church, we are each giving one dollar to meet the needs of those in our community who don’t have the blessings we do. But this is just a start, we must continue to think and act like God.

There are some churches who settle with just trying to have inspiring worship services, some good programs and rich fellowship.

We don’t, we can’t just have that!

All of that is good but it is not enough. We are the Body of Christ that meets at 7615 Ridge Road in Wadsworth Township. As Christ’s body we are to seek to do His Will! One of the on going desires of God’s heart is that we do all we can to Reach One More for Him.  That is our slogan, “Reaching One More.”

Our concern for reaching as many people for Christ as we can must never become a casual thing.

It is the thing!

I was with a group of preaching ministers not long ago and we were talking about the different challenges that we face in our churches. And one of the ministers said when it comes to evangelism and discipleship; we don’t do either one of them very well.

Now I know this guy well and I know that he is torn up inside because that is why we exist, to bring people to Jesus so their lives can be changed. Did you know that’s why we exist? So the friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and strangers around us can be adopted into the family of God.  So their sins can be forgiven. And once we are forgiven – we are to grow up spiritually and do all we can to make a difference in another person’s life.

That is what the gospel is about!

And while all of that is true – it is so easy for churches to lose their focus on what is really important. It is easy for churches to begin to settle for what they want and are comfortable with instead of what they have to do to reach out to others.

Our natural tendency is to turn our focus on ourselves. On what encourages us, on what we like. But as soon as a church buys into that attitude and philosophy – it begins to die. Not over night but eventually. Once a church is no longer willing to sacrifice, to give, to serve, to reach out and disciple others, that is the day that it begins from God’s perspective, a slow and agonizing death.

That’s not us. We’re going to live by showing love to those in need; one dollar at a time!

Zach

January 6, 2010 Posted by | Zach | | 1 Comment

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January 2, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happy New Year

It is hard to imagine that 2009 has come to a close. So much has happened this year for me professionally, personally, and spiritually. It has been a journey filled with many successes as well as lows. So as I reflect on the whole year, I realize it started to turn in January when Ben Ruprecht and I met and discussed his calling for ministry; wow—now he has accomplished a lot in a year. His desire for ministry has fulfilled a plan that started over two years ago, as I have pulled myself out of my comfort zone, an area that I have been a permanent fixture. Being in children’s ministry for over 14 years “that I said I would never do”, I have witnessed many struggles, triumphs, life changes, God moments, and God blessings. God has been so amazing with me over this past year and I am really not shocked by that, as He has always been since I recognized that at 16.

Now as I look at 2010, today starts a whole new year that I already know will cause some fear and stress with my oldest graduating and going off to college. As we look to find the things that we need to make a stand on, a resolution, it is amazing that we all set off the year to do something new, better, stronger, more intense, fruitful, and finish it. My goal is! So what is your goal for the year, are you really preparing yourself to press on toward it? In Philippians 3:12-21 we read “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, 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, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Paul writes out his goal, so the easy question would be: is this your goal? I know that this is a simple and highly memorized verse in the Bible. This passage is quoted often to set standards in one’s life and to let us understand that Paul was striving for something. It also reminds us that Paul is not perfect and still needs to work hard, having a goal in place so he will not lose it and fall into the trappings of life, sound familiar?

I myself have the attitude where I would rather be spontaneous and at the same time have a plan, that’s weird. Though my desire to be spontaneous and yet have control has many limits and creates frustration for myself and those around me, I know that so often we feel that it limits God if we set goals and expectations for our lives. God does not want us to sit around and be complacent and wait for Him to move us, His charge was: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20. Therefore and go, we need to get up and go, make a plan and set forth what it is for us to achieve the goal. We all ultimately have the same goal, so let’s get together this year and work in a harmonious body of believers here at Northside. This year make your goal and resolution to be that you will accomplish what Christ desires from you. Therefore get up and go, dig into the living Word and see what God wants from you in 2010. I pray that you start this year desiring to be more like Him and striving to follow His goals for your life. So let us all get up and go and “Live Him Out Loud”.

Many Blessings,

Mark A Williams

January 1, 2010 Posted by | Mark | | Leave a comment