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OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN! 

This past Sunday, I spoke from Acts 5 about the first century church (in Jerusalem) remaining bold and confident in the midst of persecution. They were faced with trial after trial. The Founder and Leader of the church (Jesus) had been taken by force, crucified, and buried. 

Three days and nights later, Jesus arose from the grave, walked the earth another 40 days in His resurrected body, was seen by over 500 people, appeared to the assembled church several times, and then ascended into heaven; right before their eyes.  THIS EVENT CHANGED THEIR LIVES!!! The Apostle Peter and the church stood bold and courageous in the midst of a blood thirsty, religious group of zealots who were hell-bent on stopping Christianity! Where would this boldness and courage come from in the middle of such turmoil? 

The power of the Lord overshadowed this first church by empowering these men and women to be valiant in spite of the opposition. After they were told several times to stop preaching and teaching in the name (or by the authority) of Jesus, they proclaimed, “We would rather obey God than men” (Acts 5:29). Today, some of you may be challenged in your faith to keep proclaiming Christ’s name. Some of you may be weary from the trials and the difficulties of this life. By the grace, mercy, and power of God keep on keeping on! 

OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN! 

If you have yet to truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ let me encourage you to examine the Christian faith. The things that are said in the Bible (God’s Word) have been spoken for thousands of years. They are reliable words, marked by faithful servants who were willing to give up their lives for this cause. The resurrection of Jesus is what differentiates Christianity between all other religions. Christians do not serve a God that is dead! We serve a God that has been risen from the grave! 

He loves you no matter where you are and desires a personal relationship with you! Simply repent (have a change of mind about the direction that you are headed), and by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ call on his name; receiving the forgiveness of sins and a declaration that you now stand righteous before Him!

Jason Sheffstall - Lead Pastor - StoneBridge Baptist Church

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Consider It All Joy

Thanking God for the pain in your life seems like a pretty off the wall concept. What I have learned through the past several years, the pain I have gone through is what has helped shape me into the man of God I am now. Much like a child, being parented, who is disciplined and corrected. Led and loved. Often His/ our discipline is hurtful and painful. It is uncomfortable and raw. Sometimes I believe it is allowed, and sometimes caused. Why? Because I have to learn. Can you relate as a parent? As a child?

Hebrews 12:6
For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”

Are you open to the discipline of the Lord? Are you willing to praise in the midst of hard times? Are you willing to swallow your pride and accept you may very well NOT be right all the time? Are you willing to praise Him in the midst of hardship, turmoil, pain, and persecution?

Often, the hardest times in our life, define what type of people we are. Cowboy up. Praise Him through the pain. THANK HIM for the pain and move on to the promise.

James 1:2-8 (NLT)

2 Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

Dan Ousley - Worship Leader - StoneBridge Baptist Church

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A Life to or Towards!

Pastor Jason said something this Sunday that made me really think during his series, Comparison Trap, "THE MISERABLE BUSINESS OF COMPARISON." He asked the question, " who would you secretly enjoy seeing fail?"

Now before I expound on that I want to premise it with what it means to live a life for Christ and what it looks like when you live a life of worship to Him. I was reading the Psalm's this morning and came across Psalm 37. When I got to verse 4, I felt like my eyes were being opened regarding this subject. It says, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun."

What a life of worship to or towards Him looks like, is this. 1. Take delight in Him. Meriam-Webster's definition is very simple regarding the word delight. "To enjoy very much". 2. Commit your way to the Lord. "to carry into action deliberately". and then 3. Trust in Him, "one in which confidence is placed". What is the result? What is the promise? He will give you, place in you desire like his own. A desire and passion for the lost, weak, hurting, broken, and less fortunate. You will be less focused on your selfishness and more focused on how you can honor Him and what you can do for others. He will make your righteous reward shine. Our desire is to be respected, loved, admired, and seen as reliable. If you want these affections to be true in people towards you, then you must "Commit your ways, ALL OF THEM, to the Lord.

Going back to Pastor Jason's question. I have definitely wished for people to fail in the past. I am guilty. Because I felt sorry for myself, felt like others had it better than me. Wanted other people to experience the same pain and frustration I have. BUT, once I began to truly Delight, Commit, & Trust in Him, those feelings began to subside and HIS desires began to infiltrate my heart and mind. The freedom in that is overwhelming and life changing!

Christy Nockels, a singer-songwriter wrote a short commentary regarding a lifestyle of worship and Psalm 37. She writes, "Living a life of worship, is a life committed to trust God with our desires, gifting, songs and whatever tools we have. "He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn." It's His to promote, not our own. What desires, gifting, songs, tools do you have to commit to God? What are some ways God can use you? What desires do you want to come to fruition? Are there ways you are trying to elevate any of those desires yourself instead of waiting on God? What needs to change so you will let Him lift up your cause? Do you tend to live your life from who or whose you are, or what you do?

Something to ponder, I hope you do.

Dan Ousley - Worship Leader - StoneBridge Baptist Church

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He Is The Great I Am

Twists, turns, bumps, lost, bruised, hurt. Frustrated, depressed, angry, scared. Fear, panic, paranoid, & distraught. This is me. This is me on my best day. This is me on my worst. This is the inner battle. This is the fight I feel like I am almost always fighting. Can you relate? So many of us can and do.

Now, I also feel joy, gratitude, relief, comfort, love, satisfaction, grounded, smart, excitement, & victory. This is also me. Can you relate? How in the midst of such a long list of negative feelings and emotions can one feel the latter? I will tell you. JESUS is how. In the midst of our turmoil and adversity, JESUS makes a way to experience the opposite even in the very midst of it. He is the WAY. He is the truth. He is the light (John 14:6). He is the Light in the Darkness (John 8:12). He is the comforter (John 14:26). He the great redeemer (Titus 2:14). He is our mighty warrior (Psalm 18:1-2). He is our compass (Isaiah 58:11). He is our faith in the midst of fear (1 John 4:18). He is our hope (Exodus 3:13-14).

I may feel so many of these things, but what I feel and what I know are two different things. I KNOW He is good (Psalm 118:1). I know He is faithful (1 Thessalonians 5:24). I know He is strong (Nahum 1:7). I know He is my salvation (Isaiah 12:2, Psalm 62:2, Psalm 38:22, Psalm 68:19, Psalm 25:5). I Know He loves me (John 15:9).

C. Kingsley, M, A, Wrote..
Who was Moses sent to? To the Children of Israel in Egypt. And what sort of people were they? Were they wise and learned? On the contrary, they were stupid, ignorant, and brutish. Were they pious and godly? On the contrary, they were worshipping the foolish idols of the Egyptians. Why did God care for them, and help them, and work wonders for them? Why? Exactly because they were so bad. Just because they were so bad, His goodness yearned over them all the more, and longed to make them good. Just because they were so unclean and brutish, His holiness longed all the more to cleanse them. Because they were so stupid and ignorant, His wisdom longed to make them wise. Because they were so miserable, His pity yearned over them, as a father over a child fallen into danger. Because they were sick, they had all the more need of a physician. Because they were lost, there was all the more reason for seeking and saving them. Because they were utterly weak, God desired all the more to put His strength into them, that His strength might be made perfect in weakness".

Dan Ousley - Worship Leader - StoneBridge Baptist Church

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PREPARED

2 Chronicles 12:14
“And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD”

Lately, the word prepare has been in my mind during my personal devotion times. When I am praying for my family, friends, or my church, the word "prepare" continues to pop up. When I am praying for myself, for God to continue to mold me and use me for His purpose, the word prepare pops up in my mind again and again. 

I have been reading through the book of  2 Chronicles. The Story of Rehoboam, the king of Israel, who was the grandson of David. He inherited the throne when he was 41 years old (same age I am right now). In the beginning of his reign, his heart was sensitive to the Lord.  

However, his seeking the Lord only lasted for three of the 17 years of his reign. Sound familiar? It certainly does to me. During the time I have been in the ministry, I have known many people (one of those people being me, myself, and I) who genuinely loved the Lord at one time and were excited about the things of God, yet they grew cold and abandoned the Lord and His purpose for them. 

How can this be? Why does this happen? It’s because they (I) didn’t prepare their (my) heart (s) to seek the Lord. The word “prepare” means “to establish, fix, or apply.” It conveys the idea of deliberate effort over a prolonged period of time. 

In an excerpt by Andrew Womack, he writes this about David and having a "fixed" heart and mind, "

"David used this word "fixed" twice in Psalm 57:7, which was a psalm he wrote about the time he was hiding in a cave, and Saul, the king who was trying to kill David, came into that exact cave. David’s men tried to get David to kill Saul and seize the throne which was rightfully his, but David wouldn’t do it. Why? Wasn’t Saul trying to kill David? Wouldn’t it have been considered self-defense? No one would have blamed him. He could have gotten away with it and have saved years of frustration and pain in his own life. But David had already prepared, or fixed, his heart that he would not take the kingdom by killing Saul."

The word “fixed” means: “1. firmly, in position; stationary 2. Not subject to change or variation; constant 3. Firmly held in the mind; a fixed notion”. One of the keys to preparing our hearts is to fix our hearts on what we will and will not do before we encounter the temptation. David had already settled what he would do so that there were no options left when the temptation came. Far too often, Christians have not made strong enough commitments and, therefore, succumb to temptation.

I love what David says in Psalm 57:7. "“My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise”

Dan Ousley - Worship Leader - StoneBridge Baptist Church

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Position Yourself for Worship

The act of worship is so simple, yet remains one of the most misunderstood practices within the Christian faith. From idolatry to the utter absence of application, we always seem to find a way to misconstrue, mess up, or misalign our concerted efforts. Now, we know that the obvious answer to our worship woes remains our fallen human nature. After all, misaligned worship is not simply a contemporary woe. Rather, as we comb the Old Testament, we find a plethora of examples of just how off-base the Jewish people were in their own worship practices.

Nonetheless, if your anything like me, you understand your fleshly tendencies, but you do not desire to allow them to remain the source of your efforts. I mean, the Word of GOD commands us to rise above the flesh, and walk whole-heartedly in the Spirit as we have been so faithfully gifted from the very moment GOD plucked us from the clutches of the world (Galatians 5:16-18).

So, what do we do then? More importantly, HOW DO WE DO FIX OUR WOES? Well, the truth is that we fix our woes by fixing the source of our attention. In order to become one whose worship is properly aligned, you must desire to rid your life of competing attentions, and allow GOD to be at the forefront of all your concerted efforts. In his devotional titled “The Man Minute: 60 Seconds Can Change Your Life,” author, and outdoorsman, Jason Cruise puts it like this: “You can choose whether to go to church on Sunday, but you have no choice for worship. You worship by how you live every day, 24-7, because Christ lives in you.

My prayer is that GOD will recalibrate my mind so that I remember that even what I eat is an act of worship.” Worship is not simply that time in which we find Mr. Dan and our worship team in front of us singing songs on Saturday night or Sunday Morning. Worship is a part of who we are, and our worship woes will only begin to fade when we allow GOD to align our hearts and our minds. When we allow GOD to be the source of our worship day-in and day-out, 24-7!

So, I ask you: What is the source of your misalignment? Most likely it is something related to the reality of living in one of the toughest cultures in the entire world. However, please don’t just “go with the flow,” and become stagnant or misaligned. Walk in the Holy Spirit, and allow GOD to help you rise above the “3 M’s” that I mentioned above.  I promise you that it will be well worth it. You will not only draw closer to the throne of GOD, but you will literally become the living example of worship that Paul spoke of in his Epistle to the Romans many years ago…
 
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of GOD, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to GOD, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of GOD, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” 

Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)

Roy Schneider - Interim Student Minister andChildren's Ministry Coordinator - StoneBridge Baptist Church

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This is the Day

Psalm 118:24

This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

This Is the Day

Many Christian parents teach their kids the song to greet each morning, ‘this is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice, we will rejoice and be glad in it….’. I have taught it to my kids and ai am sure that there are parents teaching it to their kids right now. This song comes from our verse today, Psalm 118:24. This Psalm is part of the Halal Psalms, from 113-118, these in particular were sung during the feast of Passover. If you recall in Matthew 26:30 that when Jesus had instituted the Lord’s Supper that when they had finished, they sung a hymn and went out.  They were most likely singing Psalm 118 or one of these Halal Psalms. Imagine the beauty of Jesus singing ‘this is the day that the Lord has made’ as He walked out to the Garden of Gethsemane and prepared himself to die.

This day, this particular day that the Lord had made was orchestrated by the power of the Almighty God, though never violating the will of man from Genesis 3:15,

15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

The promised Seed of the woman, signifying Jesus’ virgin birth and that He would kill Satan but in the process of doing so receive a temporary wound, that of a bruised heel. Psalm 118:24, is a further fulfillment of another prophecy made by Abraham in Genesis 22:8,

And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

Abraham and his only son of the promise Isaac, are travelling to mount Moriah to offer a sacrifice. Abraham knows that God ahs asked for his only son, but Isaac is unaware and asks his dad where the sacrifice was. Abraham offers to us an answer that is a double prophecy, God does provide a ram as a substitute for Isaac, but looking hundreds of years ahead the prophecy tells us that God will provide Himself as the sacrifice. The day that Jesus died on Mount Moriah, called Calvary, for our sins, was the fulfillment of this prophecy. Jesus went out singing, knowing full well, that this day, this particular day was a day that God had planned even before the earth was formed. See Revelation 5:9, 12. 

We are told in Hebrews 10:1-4, that the blood of animals and the sacrifices at the Temple were just a picture of the real sacrifice that was to come in Jesus. Some 250,000-300,000 lambs were sacrificed over the Passover celebration, this went on for about 1500 years before Jesus came and was our full and final payment.

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

The millions and millions of gallons of animal blood that was shed for the sins of men could not ever take away sins. It only provided a temporary covering until Jesus came, to save His people from their sins. His blood washes away our sins forever and they are remembered no more, see Psalm 103:12,

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Micah 7:19, He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

Hebrews 8:12, For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

Do you get the picture? On this day, that day in April 32AD, on that day, the day that the Lord had made. The day that the Lord had planned from before creation, Jesus paid the price to completely cancel our sin debt if we could trust in His death, burial and resurrection for the full payment of our sins. Have you done that? Don’t wait any longer, death is certain to all men and then the judgement. Is this day a day that you can rejoice in? Psalm 118:24

This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Sean Gooding - Pastor - Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church

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He Will Fight Our Battles, Will You Let Him Fight Yours?

Excerpt taken from 
https://www.gotquestions.org/God-fights-our-battles.html

In Exodus 14:14 Moses tells the children of Israel, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” At that moment, they were standing at the edge of the Red Sea, hemmed in by the sea before them and the Egyptian army behind. The Israelites are in a seemingly impossible situation. They were incapable of escaping the situation on their own they needed only to wait for God to move on their behalf (Psalm 27:14). The battle that appeared to be between the Egyptians and the Israelites was in reality between the Egyptians and the Lord (Exodus 14:4).

The lessons believers can learn from the Exodus account can be powerful and life-changing. When Christians trust God to fight their battles, it enables them to circumvent what often accompanies conflict, like panic, fear, and hopelessness (Exodus 14:11–12). There are times when we can see absolutely no way around a problem, just like Israel when they were cornered. It’s quite probable not one of the Israelites ever imagined that the massive sea was going to split down the middle, providing their way of escape. When Christians believe God’s Word (2 Chronicles 20:17), they learn that no battle is too formidable or monumental for God to handle (Joshua 1:5).

Moses gives a review of some of Israel’s history in Deuteronomy 1. In his recap he reminds them of the importance of having courage and trusting God at the edge of the promised land. Forty years earlier, the Israelites had spied out the land and concluded that they were unable to go up against the Canaanites, who were too big and too strong (Numbers 13:31—33). Due to that generation’s lack of faith, they were not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Moses tells the new generation to avoid their fathers’ lack of trust: “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes” (Deuteronomy 1:29–30). As God’s people obeyed in faith, they would find triumph at every turn. “Victory rests with the LORD” (Proverbs 21:31).

Israel, like many Christians today, had forgotten the previous battles God had fought for them all along the way (Deuteronomy 2:7). The Israelite spies had seen “giants” in the land (Numbers 13:33), just like Christians today see “giant” obstacles, complications, and problems that seem too large to conquer. To let the “giants” steal our faith only leaves defeat and a lack of assurance in the God who is in control of every problem, in spite of its size (Romans 8:28).

God is in control, but that does not mean Christians get to avoid the battles in-fact, the Bible states the opposite (2 Timothy 3:12). “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3–4). In order for a believer to live a life of endurance, character, and hope, we must put on our armor (Ephesians 6:10–17) and trust the Deliverer. We “put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). Our confidence is in God, who will fight our battles and bring us safely home (Jude 1:24–25). “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).

Dan Ousley - Worship Leader - StoneBridge Baptist Church

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The Author and Perfecter (Finisher) of our Faith (Part 2)

Will He finish what He started? Of course He will.  Isaiah 55:10–11 says, “As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, . . . So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void”. The word void means “empty.” The remainder of verse 11 explains what it means to “not return void,” saying that God’s Word “will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

The Christian life is fraught with temptation to sin and with much struggle and suffering. Why does God allow this? We should run our race with endurance, looking unto Jesus (who himself suffered). The Hebrew writer says, "You have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise" (Hebrews 10:36). He then says, "Consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls"(Hebrews 12:3).

The example of Jesus "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2) helps us to continue on the true path through every difficulty. "Therefore do not cast away your confidence which has great reward" (Hebrews 10:35).

Through the intercession of Jesus we are able to "hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful"(Hebrews 10:23). Christ’s example of faithfulness through every trial and temptation, helps us to confidently trust him and continue to follow him to the end.

In this world, we will experience trouble. We will experience heartache. And we will experience failure. But your failure does not mean you are faithless. Your ability to cry out to God and get back on your feet is an example of the faith he has authored IN you. Continue the race. Your faith in HIM will get you through.

Dan Ousley - Worship Leader - StoneBridge Baptist Church

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The Author and Perfecter of our Faith (Part 1)

So I have had many discussions through the years, and recently about when I came to know Jesus. Faith has been a huge topic of discussion. Through these discussions I realized when I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life, I didn’t have faith. No, quite the opposite. Let me try to paint you a picture through something you have either seen in a movie, the news, or heard about. Fight or Flight. All of us have either experienced or heard of someone fighting for their life in a desperate situation.

Picture this. You are being held at gun point. The person holding the gun to your head tells you he is going to kill you. You fight to gain control of the gun. You fight to gain control of the situation and not die. Because you know if you don’t fight, you don’t stand a chance. You may still die, but what if you don’t. You don’t have faith necessarily that you can defeat the individual who is trying to kill you. BUT you are desperate enough to fight.  When someone told me about Jesus, and how He died for me. How he paid the ransom for my life. How He WANTS me. I was desperate for that. I didn’t have faith but I had desperation. I didn’t just want it, but I needed it and I was willing to do whatever it took to know and experience God’s love through Jesus. I fought desperately for it. Now, once I came out on the other side and had experienced Gods love and salvation. My faith began to grow. Through discipleship and the reading of His word my faith in Jesus began to flourish and sustain me in my journey. But my confidence only grew because of what I had experienced.  

In Paul’s writings, faith is trust in the salvation that has already occurred (John 1:121 Corinthians 1:30Philippians 3:19). Christ has already secured salvation for us through his life, death, and resurrection. He has already defeated death, taking upon himself the penalty for sin that we deserve, and has given us access to salvation, reconciliation, and adoption.  The confidence that grows in us after salvation, in what Christ has done on the cross leads to trust and obedience (Romans 16:26).  It leads to the perfection of our faith.  C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity “To have Faith in Christ means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him….wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you. The primary act of saving faith though is accepting the promises of justification, sanctification, and ultimately glorification that God has given to us freely through Christ (Romans 3:22-261 Corinthians 15:14). Faith gives us the freedom to let go of our attempts at self-righteousness, allowing us to rest peacefully in the arms of our Savior, being confidently assured of our salvation; not because of anything within us but because of the One in whom we place our faith (Romans 1:16Galatians 2:16-20). 

Dan Ousley - Worship Leader - StoneBridge Baptist Church

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In This Storm

Romans 8:18 
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

At one point or another, we face trials. It seems that, in a Christian's life, problems will forever be a constant. As much as trials can be an undesirable thing for us all, God reminds us that in times of deepest trouble we can still put our faith in Jesus, knowing He has already won the battle. I know this is easier said then done. I fail so often.

We are currently in a sermons series here at StoneBridge called “Stay Positive”. Pastor Jason reminded us of Paul in the book of Acts, chapter sixteen. Paul and Silas were in jail, and in the midst of their “trouble” (verse 25) “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.” As a result of their resolve to praise Him in a truly hard time, miracles happened. They were a witness to the other prisoners. They were instrumental in the salvation of the Jailer, who as a result, surrendered his life to Jesus. I needed to be reminded that in the midst of my trials and troubles, I need to praise Him. He deserves my praise but also through this, I not only allow God to comfort me and lead me through the storms of life, but I ensure to not destroy my witness to those who have yet to surrender their lives to Christ. People are watching you and listening to you. They are paying attention to how you respond to “trouble”. 

Whatever challenge you're going through now, always remember that you're on the same boat as Jesus. And though it may sometimes feel like He doesn't care because He seems to be fast "asleep" (Mark 4:38), know that He has the power to calm the storm and, if we put our trust in Him, we will never be overtaken by the storms of life.

Often the most natural way we respond to problems is to worry, doubt, fight, get angry or fear. Who in their right mind would thank God in the middle of turmoil? But in times of great testing, remember that there is always something to be thankful for and that in the right time we will come out by God's grace and we will come out stronger. I need to be reminded of this daily.

Dan Ousley - Worship Leader - StoneBridge Baptist Church

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ROOTS - Annell Smith - StoneBridge Worship Team Member

Romans 7:15
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 

Worship is a lifestyle, a choice, an ongoing reach toward the greatness of our God. He is worthy of our adoration and praise. He deserves the best we can offer, yet, sometimes we fail to give Him all that He is worthy of. We become distracted and sidetracked. We look around us instead of upwards toward our Father. We fall back into old traps, old patterns of living, that we previously have fought against. And, when we least expect it, we find ourselves invaded by the very things that we once worked so hard to rid ourselves of. These “weeds” can choke the worship out of us, leaving us absorbed with our own self. It can be discouraging when you recognize sin has crept in and overtaken your worship but don’t give up. Christ has set us free and stands ready to assist us in decimating the weeds and looking up to the Father.

Read More of Annell Smith's Blog at https://devotedjoy.com/2019/01/30/removing-the-roots/

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HIDE & SEEK

Psalm 94:22
“But the Lord is my fortress; my God is the mighty rock where I hide.” 

I grew up in a neighborhood with lots of boys, and some of my favorite childhood memories were made playing hide and seek until it was too dark to seek. I had THE perfect hiding spot in the woods behind my Pap’s house – a grove of pine trees lined his property, and the canopies created by the interwoven branches created little “rooms”. I’d retreat to one of these rooms every single time we played hide and seek- it was my hiding place, and all of the boys knew it. I’d crouch down, waiting in anticipation for one of the boys to come near, rustle the bushes, and walk away, pretending like he didn’t know I was there. After he passed, I would run down the hill on the other side of the trees, take a shortcut through the woods, and beat the seeker back to base. It was an unspoken rule that I got to win, because I was the youngest. And the only girl. And maybe because of that one time that I cried and ran home when I lost.

Spiritual hide and seek is a lot like the game we played as kids, except what’s at stake isn’t your pride or the title of Hide and Seek Champion; it’s your joy. Like the boys in my story, Satan knows your hiding place and pursues you there. But he’s not going to pass you by and give you an easy win- he’s playing to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10) Satan knows that my hiding place is comfort. When I’m anxious, stressed, or facing hard things, I default to what is easy and safe to preserve my joy. But guess what? When my well of comfort runs out, so does my joy.  I battle daily to escape my hiding place, because it’s where I can be a “safe Christian”. It’s where I can breathe, think, process and then decide whether my circumstances are worth feeling joy. But joy is not found in the circumstance (Jesus proved that when he willingly gave up his life on the cross – Hebrews 12:2); joy is found in the guaranteed outcome (“…you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” – Psalm 116:11)

So what is your hiding place? Is it self-pity? Negative thinking? Emotional eating? More importantly, what’s your plan to get from your hiding place to base and win the game? You can’t ask God to rescue you from the hiding place that you keep running to. I can’t ask God to use my life to glorify him, and then keep running back to what is safe and known when He starts to do a new work in me. I have to choose God to be my base, running from my hiding place of comfort in faith. (“Rescue me from my enemies, Lord; I run to you to hide me.” -Psalm 143:9)

  It’s not about who you’re hiding from, but who you’re hiding in.”

Natalie Bright - StoneBridge Baptist Church - Worship Team Member

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Is it Really Possible?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Is it really possible?

I shared a scripture last week, Psalms 30:5 “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” I know it is far fetched to think in the midst of grief and tragedy that JOY, or what we think that word means will immediately come the very next day. If anything, it is nothing like that. However, Joy comes in the morning. But when does morning come?

Nothing I have encountered in life or the past couple weeks has shown me that if I go to bed sad or hurt it will be all better the next day when I wake up. Sometimes the morning brings with it a fresh perspective. Rest gives us patience or reserves we lacked the day before.

But it is not JOY, they are means of coping and processing. JOY is something deeper, something more profound. And it comes with more than a good night’s sleep.

 As a follower of Christ, and having his teachings and example readily available to me, I have discovered if anything the very next day seems harder then the first. But I am more experienced in the field of battle then I was the day prior. And because I choose to rely on God, I am more suited to continue the battle for the hope of JOY that He has promised WILL come.

Circumstances usually do not change overnight. Neither do our lives and hearts. We change over time. We see more over time. We strain our eyes to see in the dark until they burn. We want to give up, but we know that if we keep looking we might see something, anything. And then dawn comes, faintly at first, then with growing light. The chill in the air breaks, our eyes begin to make out what lies ahead. Scripture is filled with examples of people waiting for God to fulfill His promises and to bring His promised JOY.

God promised a son to Abraham. Abraham waited, and waited, and waited. During his waiting, he experienced much grief. Sarah deeply struggled to believe that God would indeed be true to His word. When would the joy pierce the darkness? David was promised the kingship. And then he found himself on the run from Saul. Would God ever break through the bleakness of his life and fulfill His promises?

Proverbs 4:18 “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.”

Jesus Endured the Cross

This journey of waiting and enduring for the promise of “Joy in the morning” is made possible only through Jesus, who was well acquainted with grief. As it is written in Isaiah 53:3” He was despised and rejected--a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.” It was Jesus who paved the way for us as He followed His own journey. On that fateful night in the Garden of Gethsemane, He voiced His sorrow, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” He cried out to God for help saying, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Trusting in His Father’s will, the Book of Hebrews tells us that “for the JOY that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus personified the heart cries of His people at the cross. He calls us to cast all our burdens on Him. Because of Jesus and the gospel, we can come to the “throne of grace in confidence and find the help and grace in our time of need.”  We can come to Jesus with all our emotions and cares and know that he hears us, that he cares for us, that he is at work in us.

Finally the example. Luke 22:42-44 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Jesus was in agony on this night, to the point of sweating what was like drops of blood falling to the ground. His grief was palatable, His agony was deep. Then in verse 66 it says “When day came.” So the promised JOY was not when the next morning broke. In fact the very next day was worse than the first. This is the day He would be mocked, tortured, and killed. But JOY did come. Not the first morning or even the morning after. But it did come!

Child of God, stay the course. Work through your grief. Wrestle and feel your sorrow all the while trusting in His promises. Because He will come through for you. Remember, God’s delay is NOT His denial. JOY will come in the morning!

Dan Ousley - Worship Leader - StoneBridge Baptist Church


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Weeping may tarry for the night...

Psalm 54:6

With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;

I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.

The book of Psalms is full of emotion (cries, expressions of grief). King David writes in the middle of pain and fear for his life “I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, Lord, for it is good”. What I love about David, is that he doesn’t ignore his feelings or bury them in the ground; he acknowledges them, but he doesn’t become a slave to them either. David’s problems were terrifying and real but he chooses to express his pain, sorrow and struggles to God rather than letting them dictate his life. Many of the Psalms he wrote ended by focusing on the truth of who God is instead of how he is feeling. Our feelings change but God’s character remains the same.

There’s something incredibly powerful in declaring and singing that God is good and worthy of praise even when our circumstances and feelings are challenging the nature of God’s goodness and love. Worshipping through trials is powerful.

Psalms 30:5

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

It was about 5 weeks ago. I remember telling someone, “I am so tired of being so callused. I just want to feel again.” It was after something very tragic happened. Something most people would absolutely cringe and probably have nightmares over. I have worked in the State and Federal Prison systems for over 18 years and on a Monday, which was no different than any other Monday, A man was killed on my watch. I knew he was as good as dead, and I felt nothing. I did my job, tried to do my part in ensuring he had the chance of “making it” but the blade had hit it’s mark, and the man wielding that weapon had accomplished his mission. Nothing I could have done would have saved him. The assailant was cold and calculated. He waited for the exact time when he knew he could do the most damage, invoking his revenge quickly and efficiently.

Now, I have seen this time and again. Over the years I have seen men do horrible things to other men. Rape, torture, and homicide. I can not remember the number of times I have done chest compressions on someone, plugged a hole in someone's chest with my fingers, cut someone down from a rope, or even looked at a man's wounds as he tried to act like he wasn’t hurt or scared. Up until this point, I never batted an eye. I never gave it a second thought. I have been assaulted many different ways as well, and my bravado would have me chalk it up to “It comes with the territory.” But on this any given Monday, something hit me. I am not sure what it was. Maybe it was the Lord? Maybe. But something made me stop and think, why doesn’t this bother me? I want this to bother me.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t think I entirely lack empathy. I hurt for my loved ones (Friends & Family) when they hurt but not like I think I should. Not like a normal human-being. Not like a real and true christian. Am I a real and true christian? I love deeply, but I don’t think I love like “normal” people. Maybe everyone feels like that?

Be careful what you wish for is a common saying.

On November 6, 2018 our beloved Dog, Henry was tragically hit by a vehicle. It was tragic to say the least. He was alive when we got him to the vet. He was licking my face. Because of his alertness I was hopeful and encouraged that he may be okay. Maybe some broken bones but okay. This was not the case. He was badly broken and would have no quality of life. Our big boy was not gonna make it. My wife and I had to make the hard decision. I watched my wife as she literally convulsed in grief. I tried desperately to hold it together and to be strong for her.

To spare you the details, Henry died as peaceful as possible as we loved on him. We took him home and gave our children an opportunity to pet him, love on him, and say their goodbyes. In that moment as I held his head so our daughter could kiss his face one last time, I broke. My heart broke. I felt something deep. And I wept. I felt.

The next day was harder than I anticipated. I woke up thinking I heard him sniffing at the foot of my bed as he often did in the mornings. But he was not. I wept again. As I drove into town to run errands, I passed a restaurant and a man was walking with a dog that looked so much like Henry. Matter of fact, same breed (Great Pyrenees), and I wept. I was desperate to hold it together. But I couldn't, and I wept. I turned around and pulled into that parking lot. I parked clear on the other side and got out. I just wanted to watch. I prayed for God to take the pain away. I told Him (God) how stupid I felt for being so emotional about a dog. At that moment some 200 feet away, that dog turned around, and saw me. She immediately started running towards me. I froze. She stopped right at my feet, sat down and pressed her head against my thigh and looked up at me. Yep you guessed it….. I wept.  

I got on the ground and just hugged this dog and she just let me. It’s like she knew. My body heaved as I wept over this animal. The owner was gracious and let me and just asked “are you okay brother?” I apologized and briefly explained how me and my family had just lost Henry. He was very gracious and said “take all the time you need.”

Two weeks ago, my nephew and his fiancée lost their baby boy Roman James. And then, this very evening, November 7, 2018 my wife received a phone call her beloved uncle had passed away. How much more can we take Lord?

The answer? ALOT. If we trust in Him.

Look at Joseph. His brothers tried to kill him and then they sold him into slavery. After being bought and “exported” to Egypt he found a nice job. But being a hardworking, wise and handsome young man caused him more trouble than he ever thought. An ambitious lady put her eyes on him. After declining her “friend requests”, he was “sued” for sexual harassment, and because the lady’s husband was not only the offended partner but also Joseph’s boss, judge, and ruler, poor Joseph ended up getting undeserved punishment in jail.

Look at Job. Tragedy struck and Job lost his wealth. Next, a storm took the lives of all his children. Then, a debilitating disease that left his whole body covered with painful boils came in to finally kill him.

Look at David. Even after David had been anointed king and chosen by God, he still had to run for his life.  Some scholars believe he had to run for his life from King Saul between 7 and 10 years. David grew frustrated from his constant running and hiding, having to live in caves and always in hiding, In the last two verses of Psalm 27 David wrote: “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”

Look at Paul. We know the Apostle Paul suffered many trials by the hand of man (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). But beyond that he suffered some type of trial by the permission of God. Paul called it a messenger of Satan and begged God to remove this “thorn in the flesh.” Yet, God chose to allow Paul to suffer with this affliction (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). There are many speculations for what this problem was, but we are not told clearly in the text of the Bible. Whether we know the exact nature of the problem there is a lesson to be learned that can apply to each of us. Paul endured this trial which caused him to depend more upon the Lord. He was told by God that the affliction was to show the power of God through a weakened life. When we are weak, sick, in need, persecuted, or distressed for Christ’s sake, then God can show himself strong for our benefit and for His glory.

Now, I have to say it, I am in no way comparing my plight with these great men. But I want to make sure I recognize the examples. The lessons to be learned so to speak. You see in my grief I realize I have a responsibility to use these situations to teach my children, my wife, and my friends what grieving looks like. How to grieve with grace. How to be vulnerable and transparent. How to allow others to hold you up and support you. How to allow God to work and comfort the broken hearted. How to lean on God, and worship Him regardless of our situations.

Writing helps me process all of this. And if you have taken the time to actually read all of this, Thank you. But even if nobody has made it to this sentence, God has used this to help me put things in perspective. This doesn't mean I am not going to still grieve and hurt. Of course I am. Honestly, as bad as it hurts, I am grateful to God I am beginning to feel again. A deeper feeling then I can remember ever feeling before. Hopefully this is the beginning of breaking my heart so I can do more when it comes to caring for others. Adding value to other people's lives.

It's almost poetic and ironic that God would use the tragedy of losing such a big handsome furry dog named Henry, to break my heart open. Now, I do not believe God orchestrated the accident that took Henry from us. But He can and will use it. Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” I believe the loss of Henry helped me to start feeling again. It is helping me become a better vessel at sharing the love and compassion of Christ to a world who so desperately needs it.

Thank you Jesus for giving us Henry. We love you and miss you Henry, and we are blessed to have had you in our lives. Thank you for loving us so well!

Dan Ousley - Worship Leader - StoneBridge Baptist Church


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From the Valley to the Heights!

We closed out the book of Habakkuk this past Sunday. This  book is great for humanity because it relates so well. 

We learned that everyone wrestles with God from time to time. Habakkuk’s name means, “to embrace or wrestle.” 

Throughout this series “it seemed” like God was not active or present in Habakkuk’s life so he had to patiently wait on the Lord. Because he waited, listened, and “wrestled” with the Lord, the Lord showed up in a powerful way! He told Habakkuk that the Babylonians would be judged as well. 

Although Habakkuk’s life seemed to ride the emotional roller coaster he ends chapter 3 with a psalm of praise to God. Some have stated that chapter 3 would often be sung in the Temple. 

God takes this man from the valley to the heights! When we wrestle with God, and we continue to walk or live by faith, the Lord is able to help us endure. Our circumstances may not change, but God will change us so that we can honor Him and add value to others! 

Jason Sheffstall - Lead Pastor - StoneBridge Baptist Church

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From Wondering and Watching to Worship!

The message this past Sunday has so far been one of my favorites. "Moving from wondering and watching, to worship." Worship is the believer’s response to God. Worship means “to express by attitude and possibly by position one’s allegiance to and regard for deity --"to prostrate oneself in worship, to bow down and worship, to worship.” 

Habakkuk 3:1-19. We should remember all that God has done (v.1-16). We should accept what God is doing (v.17-18). We should trust what God is going to do (v. 19). These are hard lessons, but when you get it, it is life changing. When you stop focusing on your circumstances and start trusting in Him, you will begin to see his promises fulfilled in your life. Yes, even when the bad things happen.

I encourage you to read the book of Habakkuk. What an example of moving from wondering and watching to worship. Will Rhee reminded me of a wonderful song that pretty much sums it up for me. 

https://youtu.be/kseRKxkq5iY

"I can count a million times People asking me how I Can praise You with all that I've gone through. The question just amazes me. Can circumstances possibly Change who I forever am in You? Maybe since my life was changed Long before these rainy days, It's never really ever crossed my mind. To turn my back on you, oh Lord, My only shelter from the storm. But instead I draw closer through these times. So I pray, Bring me joy, bring me peace, Bring the chance to be free, Bring me anything that brings You glory. And I know there'll be days When this life brings me pain. But if that's what it takes to praise You, Jesus, bring the rain. I am Yours regardless of The clouds that may loom above Because You are much greater than my pain. You who made a way for me By suffering Your destiny. So tell me, what's a little rain? "

Dan Ousley - Worship Leader - StoneBridge Baptist Church

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Has God Ever Seemed Unfair?

Has God ever seemed unfair to you? Has there been times when it has felt as if God was not present? Habakkuk felt this way! He had a dialogue with God about his silence and his unfairness. So far, we have learned that the southern kingdom of Judah was in a bad way! They were rebellious, ungodly and disobedient to the Lord. Therefore, God was raising up a group of people called the Chaldeans (the Babylonians). They were a wicked, ungodly, and impetuous people. They did not care who you were or even where you came from. To them, they were doing their best conquer the known world. 

Today, there is a lot of wickedness that abounds, but yet, God is still on His throne. When it seems that God is not present or that He acting unfair, TRUST THE PROCESS! God is working a work in our lives that if He told us every detail about it, it would blow our minds. 

I pray for you to have a great week! Remember, the Lord loves you and He walks with you every step of the way!

Jason Sheffstall - Lead Pastor - StoneBridge Baptist Church

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Continue to Add Value to Others!

John 1:4
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Yes, if you have paid attention, the verse above is the same as last week. Why? Well because these few words continue to shout aloud in my soul. This has been a resounding anthem if you will; in my life the past several weeks. Adding value to other people. As I sat on a beach in Jamaica this past week on a much needed vacation between naps and great food, I was also reading a book. In this book one of the excerpts said this, "His favor (Jesus) is upon you so you can be apart of His plan of distributing favor to others".  

You see, when you add value to others, you leave a legacy. Like the disciples, the apostle Paul, and so many of the early church of Jesus Christ. They left us a road map and inspiration. Albert Pike wrote, "What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal". 

Continue to ask yourself this week, "how can I add value to those around me"? Jesus is calling all of us to do this very thing. Mark 12:30-31 "Love your neighbor as yourself". Step out of your comfort zone this week. Reach out and help someone in need. This is one of the truest forms of worship to our king. 


Dan Ousley - Worship Leader - StoneBridge Baptist Church

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The Just Shall Live By Faith!!

Dear Friend,
 

This past Sunday, we began a new series in the book of Habakkuk. 

Habakkuk is a prophet from the old testament. He had a dialogue with God about the injustices and the violence of people. 

He wondered why God seemed unfair and unjust in his dealings with the southern kingdom of Judah. His basic question was, “God, why won’t you do something?”

God responds by saying, “If I told you what I’m about to do you wouldn’t even believe it.”

What was God about to do? Well, I’m glad you asked. He was about to raise up the Babylonians (A nation that was way more wicked than Judah) to judge Israel. 

The thing that we are reminded of in this book is that when it doesn’t seem right or fair we can remember that God is at work no matter how we feel or what we think about the situation.

In Habakkuk 2:4, he reminds us that the just shall live by faith.  My prayer, is to do the same.

May God bless you!
Pastor Jason Sheffstall

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