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November 9, 2016, 1:11 PM

Christmas @ First

 

Celebrate Christmas At First
 
12/4    -        Annual Tree Lighting 6pm

12/5   -        Ladies of the Lord Soup Dinner 6 pm

12/11 -        Community Christmas Celebration at Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church 6 pm

12/18 -        Christmas Caroling 4 pm

12/24 -        Christmas Eve Candlelight Service 11:30 pm

12/25 -        Christmas Morning Worship 11 am

12/31 -        New Year’s Eve Celebration 7 pm - Midnight

1/1     -        New Year’s Day Worship 11 am
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August 6, 2016, 3:57 PM

Holy Hologram

 

Our God is a holy God. In Isaiah 6, the angels cried out saying, “Holy, holy, holy.” One of the very important aspects of our God is that He is holy.

When God made man in His image, I believe part of the process was to create Adam and Eve with innate holiness. In their state of sinlessness, they were holy like any of God’s creations up until the fall. I believe, however, our bodies are still innately holy.

We were created by a holy God. We are also created in His image according to Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image.” This image is innately holy. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:19, refers to our bodies as a temple: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” The temple is a holy place. In John 2:19-20, Jesus refers to His own body as a temple: “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ ”  

Exposure to Holiness

So, here is a thought I want you to consider: If our bodies, male and female, are holy (fallen though they are), then the more body, the more we are exposed to holiness.

A woman’s body is made only for her husband (who is to protect her), yet women’s bodies are fully exposed in pornography. It is this holiness and the perversion of this holiness that is so attractive to men.

Women are beautiful, but they are also holy! This may be why Isaiah 58:7 commands us to cover a naked person: “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” As Christians, we are to cover the naked, not behold them.

Let’s take this idea a little further about intentionally looking at the nakedness of a woman, like so many Christian men do in the privacy of their home, office, or on their cell phones. They intentionally commit time and effort to lust after women. This is a problem because we are told in the tenth commandment not to lust after our neighbor’s wife. (Yes, all women are our neighbor’s wife.)

So far, we can see that the body is innately holy. We also can see our responsibility to cover nakedness. When our hearts have drunk in the devil’s perversion, we can have one of two responses. We can protect nudity by covering nakedness, or we can consume this holy nakedness in a sexual manner.

Two Responses to Holiness

Let’s go to a story that illustrates the two responses to holiness. Genesis 18 contains the story of three “men” (actually angels) visiting Abraham. When Abraham saw these three men he hurried to meet them and bowed down. He fed the men, heard that Sarah was going to have a child, and then the Lord told Abraham of His plans to destroy Sodom because of its wickedness. Abraham’s response to this, I think, is one of the greatest scenes of intercession ever recorded. In verses 20-33, Abraham asks God to spare Sodom.  

Two of the three angels went down to Sodom. Starting in Genesis 19, the Bible says the two angels arrived in Sodom that evening. Now, take a moment and think about people in Scripture who have seen angels: Joshua, Isaiah, Abraham, and others. Almost always, they are awestruck by them and their apparent holiness, and bow down on their faces. Lot was no different. He responded to these holy angels exactly like Abraham had, and he bowed down.

These men somehow radiated something different about themselves than the ordinary person. These angels were holy, so Lot and Abraham’s responses were very appropriate. You know the story: Lot insisted they come to his house and not go to the square because he knew what happened in Sodom when darkness came.

Lot’s reaction to holiness was to protect. However, the men in the town were defiled by ongoing sexual perversion. These men of the town came to Lot’s house and demanded that he let them have sex with the men.

The townsmen had a different response to these holy angels. They saw them as something sexual to be consumed. These angels, being holy, brought out what was inside the hearts of these men. In their hearts, Abraham and Lot bowed down to, fed, and protected these holy angels. A respect for holiness and the desire to protect what is holy resided in Abraham and Lot. In contrast, sexual sickness and perversion resided in the hearts of the men of Sodom, and the holy angels exposed this.

Holiness brings out who we are. When we see the holiness of a naked woman, what’s our reaction? Is it to protect and cover up this nakedness, as our God would want us to do (and as we would feel better doing, since part of our calling is to protect)? Or do we lust and want to sexually consume the holiness of a naked woman? The latter choice is guaranteed to cause us shame and lead to dread being exposed someday.

You are the protector of the holiness and nakedness of women because you are not just a man, you are a man of God. You can have spiritual eyes to see holiness when you see a woman. As you walk in this clean life, God will bless you. God loves to bless men who protect His holy daughters at any cost.

Article written by Douglas Weiss, Ph.D., is a nationally known author, speaker and licensed psychologist. Dr. Weiss travels the country training professionals in the treatment of marriage, sexual addiction, and sexual abuse. He is currently the executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center. 

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May 6, 2016, 4:17 PM

Why Mothers Are So Important

 

By Dr. Dorothy Kelley Patterson

 

Being a mother is both demanding and rewarding—it is equivalent to a professional pursuit Molding minds, healing spirits, nurturing bodies, and developing potential—this job can be amazingly productive and overwhelmingly rewarding. The results of competent mothering will be passed from generation to generation! For a mother, rearing her children is her mission, life’s work, the opportunity for her greatest legacy.

Yet why do fewer and fewer women willingly and joyfully commit themselves to this task? Children may bring disappointments and sorrows. A mother loses much of her privacy and sometimes experiences radical changes to her entire lifestyle. You cannot pay a woman to do what mothers do for free. Her rewards are not materialistic benefits that fade but intangible rewards of blessings and honor that will last through eternity.

Susanna Wesley homeschooled her children—six hours of daily instruction interrupted only by the most urgent need. Her husband, curious about her methods, decided to observe her home classroom. “I wonder at your patience,” he said. “You have told that child twenty times the same thing!” Susanna responded, “If I had satisfied myself by mentioning it only nineteen times, I should have lost all my labour. It was the twentieth time that crowned it.”

A mother has the potential of her own “greenhouse.” More than automatic sprinkling and robotic feeding of plants is necessary—not simply survival but the delight of fellowship and personal interaction as Mama Gardener “grows” the next generation! The home is essential for the production of moral, social, and human capital—the work forces and visionary leaders needed for the future. This process, when done with excellence, cannot be short-circuited, mechanized, or standardized to one-size-fits-all.

Remembering the screen classic Magnificent Obsession, I want to challenge this generation of mothers to embrace their own magnificent obsession, i.e., complete dedication to the task of nurturing their children—becoming family-obsessed in the sense of being passionately devoted to the high and holy task of preparing the next generation. Such indeed is considered abnormal by many who look at the task of maternity as perfunctory, without need for preparation or training, and certainly not the most important task a woman should pursue. Yet, what a difference could be made if suddenly the home and family, and especially the children, could be treated with the same importance as other professional pursuits.

  • You are equipped to be a “life bearer”—to conceive, carry, and nurture the beginning of life. A mother’s exclusive role in procreation and her unique human tie with her offspring position her to extend her influence far beyond the family circle. She plays a major role in establishing the values and character not only of her children but also of a nation.
     
  • You are appointed to be the rock of strength and haven of protection for your vulnerable children. A mother who is anchored in her own faith and whose character is settled in her own life is going to be a formidable influence on her offspring. Knowing that someone cares for him and is committed to him above every earthly endeavor gives a child confidence for whatever obstacles he may face and serves as a mooring for him in the storms of life.
     
  • You have the opportunity to lay the foundation for all learning. Hands-on, custom training is the order of the day for serious developmental training of the child. The teaching of physical coordination and informal social interaction includes learning first by practicing communication in simple practical ways through ordinary conversation between mother and child. One thread running through the entire process is time and dedication to the task!
     
  • You have the opportunity to make your children feel that home is the happiest and best place in all the world. Mother becomes the Alpha and the Omega of her abode and by her own attitude and efforts regulates the internal policies by which her home is governed. Her daughters have the opportunity to model themselves after her example, and her sons can be inspired by her quiet but consistent encouragement; both daughters and sons are directed by her counsel and overshadowed by her virtues.

The family mealtime is an important key to making home special. All family members must eat. Most like to eat, so there is a natural eagerness and anticipation as well as relaxation to this scene if Mother gives attention to making it special and uniquely a family time. Over the years, my mother, as did my husband’s mother, set a precedent of making family meals memorable. I had a double legacy to drive me to do the same and to give me a unique blend of my childhood family’s very simple but hearty fare with my husband’s childhood meals of ethnic cuisines. I have added seasonal touches and tablescapes and often place favors. My husband has included lively conversation and the discussion of timely topics (never reprimands or chastisement in this setting). I have introduced tips on basic etiquette (his curriculum seemed more successful than mine, I might add).

Conclusion

Perhaps the home is the toughest workplace of all with unrelenting and even unreasonable demands. A mother seems to be on call 24 hours a day without a basic wage, much less any overtime. But we are “working mothers”! The work may be physically, emotionally, and mentally draining—and even boring. A mother may not be recognized or thanked for her selfless labor. Mothers who devote their primary energies and creativities and the bulk of their time to rearing their children do indeed WORK, but they are not paid in dollars and cents. Their rewards rest in the seedbed of their own hearts with lasting memories of their investment in the lives of those whom they love most in the world. The best present I have given my children has been my presence in their lives from conception until now. The best present they have given me is wrapped up in who they have become, the roles they have taken in their own respective homes and the contributions they are making in the lives of their own families, friends, and even with the strangers who cross their paths. They continue to be a joy to my life; and because of their commitment to Christ, they will be my brightest crowns to place at the feet of the blessed Jesus.

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April 12, 2016, 9:19 AM

Suicide Epidemic Among Teens

by Mark Gregston
 

For a teenager to be so unbearably unhappy that he would choose to kill himself is something that is almost too painful for a parent to think about. But with the increasing prevalence of teen suicide, no parent can afford to ignore the possibility. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death for high school students.

Kids look at this world as being more and more hopeless.  And many are choosing suicide as their solution. When I was in high school — a school with 3,000 students — I never knew of any of my peers committing suicide. And even working in Young Life after college, suicide among teens was a very unusual event that we rarely heard of.

Fact is, before the 1960’s, suicide by adolescents happened only rarely; but today, nearly one in ten teens contemplates suicide, and over 500,000 attempt it each year. While suicide rates for all other ages have dropped, suicides among teens have nearly tripled.

Between the sexes, teen boys are more than four times as likely to commit suicide as girls. But girls are known to think about and attempt suicide about twice as often as boys. The difference is the method; girls attempt suicide by overdosing on drugs or cutting themselves, and thankfully most are found in time and rescued. Boys tend to use more lethal methods, such as firearms, hanging, or jumping from heights.

The Warning Signs

Teen suicide is a teen’s last attempt to ease the pain, to make a statement, or it is just a wrong decision giving a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  Teens don’t see the bigger picture; they only see the “right now.”  They get wrapped up in the emotions of the moment and tend to only think about a week ahead — that’s all.  And when you mix immature short-sightedness with feelings of utter hopelessness, some kids think they cannot live with the pain another day. Other kids who contemplate suicide are filled with rage over teasing by their peers or the way they feel they’ve been mistreated by family. They choose suicide as a tragic form of payback.

That reminds me of Kerri. She was the “perfect kid.” She loved church, was involved in mission projects, was adored by her brothers, and stayed away from sex, drugs, and alcohol. Her parents allowed their stunning daughter to date at age 16. But on her first date, the guy tried to go too far, and Kerri was shocked and stunned by the encounter. Her parents asked about the date, and she shared what had happened. Kerri’s father, in the heat of the moment, blamed Kerri. His words verbally crucified his daughter. When Kerri stated that what this boy did made her want to commit suicide, her dad said she didn’t have the guts to do it. Feeling devalued and misunderstood, Kerri decided to show her dad how gutsy she really was. She got into her parents’ medicine cabinet and took 30 sleeping pills. Kerri’s parents had no idea what the fight had done to their daughter until dad came upstairs to apologize, found Kerri asleep, and couldn’t wake her. She awoke a few hours later after being rushed to the emergency room and having her stomach pumped. She wasn’t rebellious; she was just sending her dad a message. If she showed her dad that he was wrong about her being too afraid to kill herself, she could prove he was also wrong about the way she handled her date.

Like Kerri, most teens contemplating suicide give some type of warning to friends or loved ones ahead of time. It can be subtle and or it can be blurted out in a rage.  Either way, it’s important for parents to watch for those threats or warning signs and take them seriously, so their teen can get the help they need.

Parents should be aware of these other warning signs that their teenager may be having suicidal thoughts:

They may begin to isolate themselves, pulling away from friends or family

They may no longer participate in what was their favorite things or activities

They may have recently developed trouble thinking clearly

They may have changes in their personality (darker, more anxious, or non-caring)

They may be experiencing changes in eating or sleeping habits

They may talk about suicide or death in general

They may express feelings of hopelessness or guilt

They may exhibit self-destructive behavior (substance abuse, dangerous driving, recklessness, excessive risk taking)

They may have changes in their personal hygiene and appearance

They may complain about anxiety-related physical problems (stomachaches, headaches, hives, fatigue, blurred vision)

They may have difficulty accepting praise or rewards.

If you see any of these signs in your teen, talk to them about your concerns and seek professional help from a physician or a qualified mental health professional. With the support of family and appropriate treatment, teenagers who are suicidal can heal and return to more healthy thinking.

If you ever hear your teen say, “I’m going to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide,” always take such statements seriously and immediately seek assistance from a qualified mental health professional. Don’t walk away. Don’t wait.  Get them to a hospital immediately, even if they don’t want to go or say they were just fooling with you.

Hospitalization is needed whenever a teen is a danger to himself.  Extreme cutting, bizarre behavior, extreme depression, suicidal thoughts, or excessive drug or alcohol use coupled with emotional issues are just a few of the symptoms that might warrant hospitalization. A parent shouldn’t hesitate to hospitalize their child if they fear for their life. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

It’s also important to be proactive in regard to making sure that the main tools of committing suicide are not readily available to a suicidal teen.  For boys, lock up guns in the house so they are not accessible.  For girls, monitor razor blades and make sure drugs like sleeping pills and pain killers are not accessible in your house. You may need to regularly go through her dresser, purse, backpack and closet to make sure she isn’t storing any herself that she’s bought or gotten from friends. And when a suicidal girl is taking a bath, knock on the door periodically to get a response.

Be Sure to Talk About It

If you see mild warning signs, asking your teen if he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide can be helpful. Such questions filled with love and concern will provide assurance that you care and will give them the chance to talk about their problems. Get them to commit to you that if they ever do have those thoughts, they’ll let you or someone else know.  If your teen doesn’t feel comfortable talking with you, suggest a more neutral person, such as another relative, a counselor, a pastor, a coach, or your child’s doctor.

It’s important to keep the lines of communication open and express your concern, support, and love. If your teen confides in you their loss of hope or control of their life, show that you take those concerns seriously. It’s important not to minimize, mock or discount what your teen is going through, as this can increase his or her sense of hopelessness.

Depression Can Lead to Suicide

Each year, thousands of at-risk teens are diagnosed with clinical depression. Most of the signs of depression are the same as suicide warning signs, so depression needs your attention.  If left untreated or ignored, it can be a devastating illness for the teen and their family and it can lead to suicide.

There are different treatments for depression, but keep in mind that teen depression is often not treated the same as depression in adults. There are medications available to help teens with depression, but typically they are needed only temporarily. Treatment of teen depression must involve regular counseling and close supervision, since some medical treatments can make the depression more severe before they take full effect and begin helping. The good news is that most teens grow out of depression in a few years.

A depressed teen may have been having relational problems at home or is being picked on or bullied at school. But usually severe depression comes from another problem in their life such as an eating disorder, drug addiction, physical abuse, loss, or medical condition. Some teens just need to eat a better diet and get more sleep at night, but depression and suicidal thoughts are not something I’d recommend anyone treat with home remedies. A depressed teen generally doesn’t have the ability or strength to solve their own depression.  Attempting to help “shake them out of it” can cause the depression and despair to deepen, since it only serves to point out their own failure to improve their life.

What’s A Parent To Do?

If you are the parent of a depressed or suicidal teen, it’s important that you try to understand them, listen to them and try not to be accusing. Respect your teen’s opinions and problems and avoid blaming them or yourself for their feelings. Being a teenager is hard today and your child is justified in their feelings, even if you may not agree or understand. When you realize this, you can help your child.

Remain in contact; even if you no longer have any control over your child’s life.  It can make all the difference.  Do what you can to bring family members and the friends they’ve abandoned back into their life. Get out family pictures and videos to show them better times.

No matter what mischief your child is doing in their life, hope is needed more than judgment at this time.  So encourage them by getting them out to experience good things that can add abundance to their life.  Sometimes it helps to ask a positive-thinking relative to take them into their home for a time to give the teen a change of scenery.  Get them on a good diet.  Get them outdoors to soak in some vitamin D.  Regular exercise really helps.  And find a loving pet that they can take care of.  Having the responsibility for a pet can sometimes cause a teen to think twice before taking themselves out of the picture.  It also gives them a “pal” to talk to who is totally loyal and non-condemning.  Finally, plan fun events several months in the future that they can look forward to, and keep reminding them of that date.  For teenagers, the point is to create a bridge to help them get past this period of hopelessness and into a better mindset.

Please don’t be slow in getting professional help.  I’ve seen many hundreds of teenagers who have become different people from medication designed to correct a deficiency in their developing brain.  Others are helped by regular counseling to deal with their inner issues, or with treatment for their drug habit or other addictions in their life.  Get the help your teen needs, before they become a statistic.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director ofHeartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

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February 9, 2016, 12:00 AM

Using God's Name In Vain Part 1

 

Names are important! And God's Name is so important to Him that it makes the "Top Ten" of the commandments that He wants His family to live by.  Remember that the Ten Commandments are God's rules for His family. The Ten Commandments were not given to establish a relationship with God, because the children of Israel already had a relationship with God. The Ten Commandments were not given to establish a relationship with God; they were given to express a relationship with God.  The third commandment is – “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” Exodus 20:7.

Over the years, unfortunately this commandment has been dumbed down. The application of this commandment was always along the lines of not using God's name in anger or using God's name as a curse word and that is a part of this commandment, but there is far more to the commandment than this.  There is one thing we know and that is – God is deadly serious about His name. Here are the top ten commandments, God's top ten, the ten most important things that God wanted to communicate to His children and His family and number three is - "Don't misuse My name." 

We are not talking about some minor issue here. In Leviticus 24, there is the story of a man that was caught taking God's name in vain and when they took the matter before Moses to find out how they should punish him, Moses was instructed by the Lord to give him the death penalty. Misusing God's name was a capital offense.

When you think about it there is a big difference between God's name and our name.  Human beings do not name themselves.  Every one of us was given a name by our parents before we even knew what our name was, but one of the remarkable things about God is that no one ever named Him. We don't tell God who He is - He tells us. God has His own naming rights.  In fact, His name comes before all other names and His name is above all other names and He takes His name deadly seriously. In the Bible a name is more than just a label, it represents the character of a person. 

I don't know about you, but I take my name very seriously.  I am concerned about the reputation that my name carries and that is why we have laws against people who slander, who would call our good name into question, because when they slander your name they slander your person. Jesus Christ had something very important to say about God's name.

If Jesus Christ were to walk onto this platform right now, get behind the pulpit and say to us, "I want to share my most important prayer concerns with you,"  every one of us would grab a piece of paper and we would write down what he told us should be on our prayer list. We don't have to wonder what they are, because when the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He gave them His greatest prayer concerns. Guess what He began with?

In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name” Matthew 6:9.  Jesus Christ said His number one concern is that the name of God be made holy He wanted God's name to be handled with reverence. How do we make sure that we don't misuse God's name?

Be Careful In How You Treat God's Name

Without question we don't really take God's name seriously in the 21st century—at least not as seriously as it was taken thousands of years ago.  When the Jewish scribes were copying the scriptures and they were transcribing God's word from scroll to scroll, when they would come to the name of God (specifically the name of "Yahweh") which we read as "Lord" in our Bible they would put down their pens. They would go and bath themselves. Then they would clothe themselves with brand new clean garments, take a brand new pen, write down that name and then take both the pen and their clothes and burn them. They would then continue to write, but once they came to the name of God, they would go through that same ritual all over again.

My how things have changed! It is obvious that one of the ways that God's name is taken in vain or misused is through profanity.  The word "profane" comes from two Latin words "pro" meaning "out of" and the word "fanum" which means "temple." So, it literally means "to take out of the temple."  In other words, profanity is when you take the name of God out of His holy temple and drag it through the muck and the mire of the world's filthy language.

I remember one time seeing a bumper sticker which said it pretty well.  It read like this: "Damn is not God's last name."  Do you ever wonder why people put the words "God" and "damn" together?  Why don't people say something like, "Buddha damn!"  I believe I know why, because the devil purposely puts it in a man's heart to denigrate the holy name of God, because he hates God so much.

Satan couldn't care less if a false god's name is misused as long as the true God's name is misused. We have a responsibility to remind others to watch what they do when they use God's name in vain. 

There are some ways you can do this that don't have to be necessarily offensive. I realize the vast majority of you reading this never, ever use God's name in that way. Yet, how many of us use God's name as an exclamation point like: "Good God!" or "Oh my Lord!" or "I swear to God!" or "Sweet Jesus!" or even "Jesus Christ!"  I submit to you that every one of those is a flippant misuse of God's name. We misuse God's name when we sign His name to things He would never sign His own name to. 

For example, someone says, "God told me to divorce my husband or divorce my wife and leave my spouse for another person", or "Even though I am a Christian, God has told me it is all right if I marry a non-Christian."  Do you know what forgery is?  Forgery is when you use somebody else's name to get what you want. 

There are a lot of spiritual forgers in the world that misuse God's name by saying, "God told me..." and then they will add something that a clear understanding of the Bible would say is wrong, but they say it that way to justify what they are doing and they misuse God's name.  God says that He will not hold the person guiltless that breaks this commandment. I don't know what all of that means, but I like the way one man explained it.

"One way for a modern American to begin to understand this commandment is to treat God's name as trademark property. In order to gain widespread distribution for his copyrighted repair manual The Bible and also to capture greater market share for His authorized franchise the church God has graciously licensed the use of His name to anyone who will use it according to His written instructions. 

It needs to be understood, however, that God's name has not been released into the public domain. God retains legal control over His name and threatens serious penalties against the unauthorized misuse of this supremely valuable property. All trademark violations will be prosecuted to the full limits of the law. The prosecutor, judge, jury and enforcer is God."

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