This week I got to spend to some time with friends decorating for Christmas. Between unraveling lights and deciding where everything should go it was crazy, but in those moments God reminded me of winter. Not winter as in the season we are currently in, but winter as a verb, hunkering down for the cold season like our ancestors, and how that relates to relationships and community. These friends and I have endured some the hardest and most intense spiritual winters of our lives together. Through that winter we chose to endure, press through, and be faithful. I’m telling you it was so hard, because in some of those really low moments it would have been so much easier to just throw the towel in and quit, but by wintering together it really strengthened our relationships.
Psalm 74:17 (New International Version) reads, “It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter.” We can look at this verse two ways, but today I want to focus on the spiritual side of seasons. In life and in relationships we will go through seasons. You must understand that not all seasons are easy, life will put you through harsh times, but it is those hard times that will build deep lasting relationships. I love how John Bevere puts it— it is through some the harshest winter that trees bear the best fruit in spring, because the cold forces the roots to dig deeper.
So this week I want to challenge you: Are you enduring a spiritual winter in your life? Are you ready to throw the towel in and quit? DON’T! Endure, stand, and fight for your spring. Know that this season is temporary and God’s promises and the blessings that will come afterwards will be worth it.
1 Peter 1:3-7 (New International Version) - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
We might not understand why we are going through this trial or this winter, but know that Jesus is so faithful, it will eventually end, and that out of this season will come richness. Don’t get discouraged in this season. Fight for blessing, fight for growth, fight for relationships, fight for what God has placed on your heart. It will be worth it!
So as we were decorating and I was reminded of the past season we had endured together, I saw the spring of our relationships. We could go super deep in our conversations and be vulnerable with one another, and we all knew we were safe. Our relationship had deepened so much, and that was only because we had endured a winter together.
Dani Noe, Sozo & Admin Pastor
Can I just say this is one of my favorite times of the year. I love fall and watching the leaves change. When I was living overseas this was one of the seasons I missed experiencing the most. I missed the change in air, because I feel like fall air is so clear and crisp.
As we roll into the season and holiday of Thanksgiving, I feel like there are few things I want us to remember as we move forward. I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (New International Version) says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I love this so much. Not only are we to pray constantly, but we are also to be thankful continually. Being thankful is part of God’s will in our lives. It is through this constant act of praying and being thankful that we shift our worldview and mindset to be like Christ. It shows the world that we are content with who we are, what we have, and that we are at peace within our souls. It is through this start in being thankful in every situation that God can start to quiet the world around us and shift our mindset to align with His. It is through this thanksgiving that we start to fully trust God.
So I challenge you today to think of 5 things you are grateful for. I then want you to remember those things throughout the week and even into this New Year. Let’s really pursue the will of God with praying constantly and with continually giving thanks to our heavenly Father.
Dani Noe, Sozo & Admin Pastor
Have you ever had one of those seasons where everything seems to either go wrong or you just can’t manage to stay well? One of those really hard seasons where no matter what you do everything just seems so difficult?
I have to say this has been one of those seasons for me. I have had such a hard year of getting sick and fighting to stay well. I am one of those people who hardly ever gets sick, even when my boys started preschool and everyone got the flu, I still managed to stay well. However, this season of life has been so tough. I have been knocked down, with some type of sickness, for more days than I can count this season. I feel like it is at least once a month that I hit a wall and am down for the count. Yesterday was one of those days. I had the most awful and painful stomach bugs of my entire life. As I was trying to sleep, just so the pain would go away, I kept hearing God say, “just pray.” So as I would drift in and out of consciousness I kept praying.
Then later today I was spending some time with God and I asked Him why this has been such a hard time. I know several of my friends and even family members who have been having a really hard season of sickness. God reminded me of the verse Philippians 4:4-7 (New International Version), “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again; Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Rejoice! We need to rejoice not just when times are good and easy, but all the time.
The Hebrew word for rejoice, לשמוח (lissemokha) means, “be happy, feel joy or great delight.” Why are we to rejoice in all seasons? Because when we rejoice it turns our hearts and focus on the One who delights in us. When we rejoice it reminds us of our good Father and the many blessings He has bestowed on us. When we rejoice it changes our heart condition from looking inward to looking outward towards heaven.
So I put this challenge out to you and even myself. If you are going through any hard seasons, let the first thing out of your mouth be rejoicing. Rejoice in your heavenly Father! Cry out to the heavens, rejoice in your loudest voice and praise JEHOVAH ELOHIM (our protector).
Dani Noe, Sozo & Admin Pastor
After the sermon on Sunday I came home and asked God, "Why is it that we need to pray without ceasing?" He clearly told me it's because it helps keep our minds, focus, and understanding solely on Him. Living in a world that is contaminated by sin, our minds and focus can quickly get consumed and anxious about things we see. It's so easy to see the forces of darkness as all consuming, but when we switch our focus to the Heavenly we quickly see things from God’s view. Yes the world is a dark place, but God is still the only one who is seated on the throne of supremacy (Daniel 7:9). God is and always will be the one in control.
As I was doing my devotion this morning, God told me to turn to Psalm 23. After reading through it God told me, "That is why you pray without ceasing, because even in times of trials and tribulations I am there to comfort and restore you, but you have to be in relationship with Me to be able to receive it." It's so easy to become either isolated or disillusioned in this world, but when we stay in constant prayer and relationship with God we quickly see that He is constantly there to help, comfort, and protect us. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, why? Because my God is bigger and more powerful than anything the enemy can throw at me. It is through prayer that we build our relationship, our understanding, and our security in our Father.
Dani Noe, Sozo & Admin Pastor
Listen to the sermon referenced on the Freedom Fellowship Podcast: Spiritual Discipline for Life: Prayer
I was recently reading about revivals and how there’s been many that have reached adults but also reached children. The Lord has set a fiery passionate love for Himself within the hearts of immeasurable amounts of children. I want that for my kids. I want that for your kids. I want that for ALL kids…to know the Father’s love in extraordinary ways. I want there to be a generation of kids who love the Lord with their intelligence, who experience the Lord with their heart, and who willingly submit their will to the Lord because they humbly trust Him and follow His leading voice. What God has laid on my heart for this blog is directed mainly at the parents of all kids within Freedom. However, if you’re a regular attendee of our church, I’d encourage you to read on, in order to support and champion parents as they call forth the next generation of God’s children! I have a challenge towards the end of this note, don’t miss it!
In Parenting in the Pews, Robbie Castleman gives testimony to how she raised two boys who love the Lord and were brought up in the church. She holds many similar core beliefs as our church does including the belief that children belong within the body, not hidden in the back. They need to feel a sense of belonging and have a secure understanding that even as children, God has something to offer through them and to them. While raising her sons, after the age of four she would not let any toys, coloring book or books of any sort with her children throughout the ENITRE service, not just worship. Simply put, she called them distractions and even at the pre-school age she did not want her children to receive the message that it was suitable for them to be disengaged in the privilege of worship. Although, I think the methodology lies within the hands of each parent, knowing what their children can handle as far as attention span goes. I agree wholeheartedly that I don’t want only the children’s bodies to be in the same room as the adults but I want their hearts engaged worshiping the Lord in joy and excitement.
How do we make that happen? Can we make anyone’s heart engage with God’s heart? We can’t force anything but if we don’t teach well, if we don’t live our lives in example of what we desire, the outcomes will be so much harder to come by. We’re moving into a season of being proactive not reactive. We are pursuing God and gaining territory for His glory. What a better time to actively go deeper in teaching our kids to worship. I have a challenge…it is simple…you and your family can do it… Here it is:
Worship to ONE song with your kids this week. One. Not more. Not less.
It will take five minutes of your week; 5 minutes if you listen to a mainstream version, 30 minutes if you listen to Bethel. If you have preschoolers, cut the time down to three minutes by listening to a Chris Tomlin version. Tell your kids first that you are only worshiping for one song so they can prepare themselves for a short amount of time and engage easier. Now I’ve always found that if my kids have a solid understanding of whatever we are doing, it is so much easier for them to be present. So feed their brains a little bit before you start. Don’t worry, I’ve cooked up a little brain food to chew on first but if you have another meal cooking don’t let that go to waste!
Why do we sing when we worship? Why do we use instruments?
Do we sing and play instruments because we live in a concert culture? Is it because we want to showcase our church’s best musical talents? NO! NO! NO! So many grown adults have this type of mentality, yet it isn’t the reason at all. The reason is this:
Meaning: To make music, to sing praise
Read that word to your kids. Tell them what it means. Have them write it down. Make it beautiful. Make it bold. Say it loudly, softly, in the craziest voice you have. However you do it, remember that word. It means to make music with instruments or voice in praise to God. This word, in this form, appears 46 times throughout the Bible. Examples of this are:
Judges 5:3 - “Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! I, even I, will sing to the LORD; I will praise the LORD, the God of Israel, in song.”
Psalms 9:11 - “Sing the praises of the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done.”
1 Chronicles 16:9 - “Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.”
It’s a command and let’s not take obedience lightly. Our ZAMAR does not depend on the quality of the sound coming out of your mouth. During your one song, endure the awkwardness of singing out loud in front of your kids. Forge the brave path of singing loudly, out of your heart, offering your own praise with your kids by your side. Make the rule be that they have to sing for that one song too. Before you bring your kids to do this, ask the Holy Spirit to invade your living room. Ask Him to soften your kids’ hearts to the idea of worship. Ask Him to give them the safety to actually respond to Him through this time. Trust the Lord that He will pursue your kids, and also, you!
May you be blessed in the Lord’s favor and love this week!
Christina Noe, Children's Pastor