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Tool or Child?

Sitting in my office before first service as is my custom, I prayed for God to use me. I prayed to be a tool in His hands.
This is a very common prayer for me. I’ve learned that I need to get myself out of the way and let God work through me.
I believe God can use us to do great things when we surrender our will to His own. It’s easy for us to focus on selfish
issues about what we want and how we want others to see us, but that doesn’t bring glory to God. To combat that in my
heart, I regularly pray to be a tool used by God. I want to have no other desire than to be used by God. I want His goals
and His plans to direct my actions.

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Thanking God for Difficult Times

My shortest ministry was at a church in Indiana. It lasted a mere matter of months. At the time we were trying
to adopt Zayne, and the adoption was taking longer than expected. I had felt called to take a ministry position at
a church in Indiana, and we were hopeful that the adoption could be finalized before the start date of the
ministry. That didn’t happen, and so I moved over there, hoping it would only be a month before my family
could join me. That one month turned into 2, then 3, then more. I was living four hours from my family, in
another state. Even though the church was accommodating and did their best to help me spend time with my
family, it was unsustainable for me and my family. I eventually left the church.

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Notes on Free Will

Much of becoming skilled in something involves knowing the terminology. If you know all of the medical terms for a particular disease and what they mean, you have the tools to be able to discuss the issue with the medical profession. If you know all the parts of a car and what they do, you’ll be fairly well equipped to be able to diagnose issues. In my sermon yesterday, I made a distinction between Calvinism and my own understanding of the Scripture. In hopes of equiping you with the tools for further study, I want to share a few terms you might need to research the topic more. You will often find Calvinism described in five broad points using the acronym TULIP which include:

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Faith and Culture

One professor of mine said that preachers should always preach with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the
other. Since that time, newspapers have been in sharp decline, but it’s just as important for churches to find the
intersection of God’s eternal, unchanging Word, and the ever-shifting culture in which we live. Our At the
Movies series is an attempt to do just this. It follows the long history of the faith all the way back to at least
Acts 17, where Paul speaks to the men of Athens about the idols in their city and quotes their own poets in his
sermon. My hope is that you will use this fun series to invite friends to come and hear the good news of Jesus in
a unique and creative way. Not only that, I also want us as Christians to see how we can use the cultural starting
points of our world to stir conversations about matters of faith. This week, be alert for the opportunities God
may be setting before you to have conversations that matter with friends and family.

The Gift of Presence

In my Sunday School class yesterday, we discussed how to walk with people through a time of grief. When
someone experiences a loss, sometimes we want to say something to make everything better for them, but we
don’t have words. So our best utterances ring hollow or can even come across as unkind. Ecclesiastes says that
there is a time to speak and a time to be silent (Ecc. 3:7). The only help Job’s friends gave him after his terrible
day of loss was sitting with him for a week (Job 2:13). In times of great grief, sometimes words are insufficient
and the best thing we can do is to simply be present with the one who suffers. The scripture says that the Lord is
close to the brokenhearted (Ps 34:18). Often the best gift we can give is our presence.

Who You Are

The 1991 movie Hook is the story of Peter Pan as a grown up. He’s left Neverland and become a lawyer
in our world. Through a series of events, he finds himself back in Neverland as an adult, facing the Lost Boys. In
one of the dramatic moments of the movie, one Lost Boy, Pockets, sees hints of Peter’s true self in his face
and helps remind him of who he always was.

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The Importance of Little Things: Resist

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
-Author unknown

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Community and Forgiveness

“Community is not possible without the willingness to forgive one another ‘seventy-seven times’ (see
Matthew 18:22). Forgiveness is the cement of community life. Forgiveness holds us together through good and
bad times, and it allows us to grow in mutual love.

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Conversion and Baptism

Sunday we discussed baptism. One point I did not mention is that in every clear example of conversion in the book of
Acts, baptism is explicitly included. I felt it might be useful for you to have a compilation of the conversions for easy
Acts 2:38 – On the day of Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the forgiveness of your sin and you
will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

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Pray Continually

Wow! It was exciting to see God move yesterday (Sunday) in our service. I know I was deeply moved, and I believe
many of you were as well. Remember, though, that prayer is not a one time, one day event. The Bible
commands us to “pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17). Prayer is not limited to a service, a church, or even a day of
the week. God wants to connect with us every moment of every day.

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