To Worry or To Worship?

To worry is a choice we make. Though we have valid concerns that arise within our lives, we do not have to give way to anxiety regarding those present concerns.  So, though tempted, we do not not have to give way to worry.

Worship, however, is not a choice. We are designed to worship. We will bow our knee and exalt someone or something.   The question for each of us then becomes, will we worship our fear or worship our Creator?

Taking a little closer look, I hope that as Christians we can begin to see that we are designed to worship, not worry. Pulling up the hood and taking a glance at the inner make-up of our soul, this is what you might see - three cups that have the capacity to be filled.  As we make choices to fill the “Fear-Cup” and “Belief-Cup”, they then merge together, filling our capacity to worship. Out of this system flows our thought-life, our desires, our relating, our outlook, etc…  When we allow concerns to overtake us in worry, these worries then fill our “Fear-Cup.”  This then results in challenging and eventually limiting what’s in the “Belief-Cup.”  It’s at this point, as we give way to anxiety, and fear begins to fill our mind, that we find ourselves lifting up our fears and worshipping them.

We see this how this plays out practically in 1 Samuel 13, when Saul is awaiting the prophet, Samuel, to arrive at Gilgal to make the offering.

“The men of Israel saw that they were in trouble because the troops were in a difficult situation. They hid in caves, thickets, among rocks, and in holes and cisterns. Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul, however, was still at Gilgal, and all his troops were gripped with fear. He waited seven days for the appointed time that Samuel had set, but Samuel didn’t come to Gilgal, and the troops were deserting him. So Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” Then he offered the burnt offering. Just as he finished offering the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. So Saul went out to greet him, and Samuel asked, “What have you done?” (1Samuel 13:6-10).

Saul had valid concerns.

  • He was concerned that his men were deserting him out of their fear.
  • He was concerned that Samuel was not coming.
  • He was concerned about his vulnerable position at Gilgal.
  • He was concerned about his personal reputation.

Instead of worshipping God, he gave way to worry, which altered his beliefs.

  • His worries caused him to question his belief in the Lord.
  • His worries led him to question if he could trust Samuel, and the Lord, to be faithful.
  • His worries caused him to doubt that God cared for him.

His actions revealed what he truly worshipped.

  • He exalted (worshipped) his worries.
  • He took matters into his own hands, instead of humbling himself to the hand of God.

Let's reflect back on the verse this Topical Series hinges upon: "Humble yourself to the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6a).  Placing this verse into practice means exalting the Lord at all times, which reveals our worship is to Him.

Perhaps, if Saul had rallied his troops with a resolved trust in the God of Israel, the God who created the heavens, yet bound Himself into a covenant with the people he was anointed to lead, Saul's history might read a little differently today.

- Rob

Season of Harvest

Part 2:Desolate Lands & Withered Branches

“This is what the Lord says, ‘On the day that I cleanse you from your sins, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and waste places will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of being a desolation in the sight of everyone who passes by. They will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste, desolate, ruined places are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then those around you will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted that which was desolate; I, the Lord, have spoken and will do it.”  – Ezekiel 36:33-36

“I am the Vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit…If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and is withered; gathered, cast into the fire, and is burned.” – John 15:5-6

Highland Family,

I am not sure how often I will write each of you throughout this year, but every time I sense the Lord revealing something new I want to share it with you so that you can join us on this journey into a Season of Harvest…

Twelve years ago when the Lord gave us the promise found in Ezekiel 36 we had no idea how he planned to bring it to fulfillment. This past year as the Lord has led us to believe that the season of harvest is upon us and that He is in the midst of fulfilling the words found in Ezekiel, I have been surprised at what the start of that process has looked like. All along I assumed this promise was in reference to what He was going to do in the North Highland community, but what He has begun showing me is that this promise is actually for me and my family. As we have earnestly been praying, both privately and corporately, for the Lord to cleanse us, the Lord has been responding. What He has shown us is that North Highland is actually not the only waste, desolate, and ruined place; rather, as His Holy Sprit has searched us we have come to see that we are also the waste, desolate, ruined place. As our family has continued to humble ourselves in the presence of the Lord allowing Him the freedom to search us we have seen that there are areas in our life that our desolate and withered. For years, often unknowingly, we have tried to restore these desolate and withered places in our own strength. But lately, the Lord has been telling us that we need to allow Him to put those areas in our life to death. God is showing us that there are times when areas of our lives become so polluted and messy that “fixing” is not what’s needed, death is actually needed. So this year, we have allowed the Lord the freedom to take the desolate and withered parts of our life and put them in the grave. This process has required a significant level of vulnerability on our part, but that vulnerability has led to great relief. Trying to tend to, fix, manage, and restore withered and desolate areas is exhausting and often leaves you feeling as if your wheels are spinning but you aren’t actually getting anywhere. Because we were so desperate for relief, the “putting it in the grave” part was easy. However, figuring out what to do after that has not been so easy.

This morning as I was reading in Luke 23-24 the Lord revealed something to me. After the crucifixion, Christ was taken down from the cross and put into the grave. It says that the women who were mourning at the cross went and prepared spices and perfumes for his burial and then watched as the soldiers placed HIs body in the grave. The following day was the Sabbath so instead of going back to the grave to prepare Christ’s body for burial, “they rested according to the commandment”. After the Sabbath the women returned to the grave where they were greeted by angels who asked them, “Why do you seek for the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen.” As I read that, I sensed the Holy Spirit revealing to me that I am like those women. He has told me to lay certain parts of my life in the grave and I have obeyed. However, instead of putting it in the grave, and then “resting”, I keep going back to the grave hoping to find something living amongst what is dead. This morning the Holy Sprit asked me the same question that the angels asked the women that day at the tomb, “Carrie, why are you looking for the living, among the dead? Allow ME to put the withered and desolate parts of your life in the grave. Stop coming back to the grave. Leave it. In My time and in My power I will bring life from what is dead.”

Desolate and withered. Those are words that describe parts of our life at the moment. But as Scripture says, “we do not mourn as those without hope”(1 Thessalonians 4:13). Here is the beautiful part, and the part our family is clinging to right now, the promise found in Ezekiel and in John 15 is that in time He will replant what has become desolate and He will allow us to once again bear fruit, much fruit, and fruit that remains as we learn to continue abiding (resting) in Him. Not striving to fix or mend; not going back to the grave, but resting in His presence.

The interesting thing about desolate lands and withered branches is that both have only one remedy…fire. A withered branch must be destroyed in the fire and a desolate area must go through a process called prescribed burning in order to bring forth fruit. Prescribed burns are used among farmers for one reason – to improve the health of the entire field. In order for a prescribed burn to be effective, conditions must be just right. In fact, there may only be a few hours out of the whole year when conditions are right for a burn. But when the conditions are right and when a prescribed burn occurs, the field is then made ready for new growth. Where there was no growth or growth that has been overtaken by weeds and debris, a burning comes in order to produce new growth.

What a beautiful description of what Christ does in the life of the believer that allows Him complete access! As we allow Him access to our withered branches and desolate places, He brings His purifying fire. You and I often see fire and death as something to be avoided, but Christ sees it as the opportunity to bring forth new life; life that is healthy and vigorously producing fruit. The burn destroys all that has polluted the field and lays it bare so that the new growth can be rich, and pure. In light of that my prayer has become, “Search me and try me Lord; and see if there is any hurtful way in me. Bring to light all that is not of You and give me the ability to put the withered, desolate parts of my life in the grave. Help me learn to rest and abide in You, not returning to the grave, but instead giving you the freedom you need to burn away all the dross so that you can begin replanting that which is desolate – making my life a garden of Eden.”

My encouragement to each of you is to take this journey with us. Pray, as we have been, that the Lord would cleanse you. Give him access to the withered, desolate parts of your life so that, in time, He might also rebuild and replant that which is desolate in you so that your life can become a garden of Eden – bearing fruit, much fruit, and fruit that remains.

Carrie Strickland

Understanding Worry

Today, we covered the first phase of this new Sermon Series entitled: Worry, Worship and the Word of God.  Below is the process that leads us into the vicious cycle of chronic worry, which we covered in this first sermon.

Worry - to give way to anxiety or unease; to dwell on difficulty or troubles (Source: Google).

  • All matters we worry over begin as concerns.
  • Worry, therefore, is our potential response to a given concern.
  • To dwell on concerns, or to worry, deceives us to think that we are investing ourselves into a solution for given concerns.
  • Dwelling on concerns leads to them consuming us - our thought-life, our emotional estate, leading us to give way to anxiety. 
  • These concerns we worry over then lord over us.
  • Giving these concerns authority leads to a fear within us that cripples our ability to entrust the Lord and His Word.
  • This crippling fear results in us deeming a matter too big for God and we begin to doubt that he cares for us.
  • We then feel guilty for having those doubts and feelings, which leads us into a vicious cycle worry, anxiety and guilt.

I also want to invite you to be part of this sermon series, by informing me of what tempts you to worry. Below, there's a question I hope you will answer.  You can send me the info through the following means of communications mentioned. I intend to build sermons around these matters. This will allow us to tackle worry together.  This sermon is also posted on our website, under the "sermons tab."

What concerns tempt you to worry?

Message me your response: 706.987.0457.

Or grab a Communication Card and write it down, then give it to me.

Email me: rob@hopeforhighland.org.

*All info will remain confidential.

- Rob

Worry, Worship & The Word of God

We have completed our series on the Sermon on the Mount.  What a journey! But, like all good joineries, it has come to an end.  Moving on.

Tomorrow, we will begin a topical series called: Worry, Worship and the Word of God.  This is a topical series that reveals how worry impacts our lives.  When worry begins to weigh us down, we will also discover how worshiping our God results in overcoming the oppression of worry in our lives.  Finally, we will learn how the Word of God becomes the staying place for our anxious hearts.
Our central passage throughout this series will be 1 Peter 5:5-7, which states: “In the same way, you younger men, be subject to the elders. And all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because ‘God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.”

We will pick this passage apart and learn how to allow it to navigate us through seasons of worry.

I love you. I love journeying through the Word of God with you.  I count it as one of my greatest joys.

Join us,

Rob

Closing the Sermon on the Mount Series

Highland Family,

We bring our Sermon on the Mount Series to a close tomorrow.  For year and a half, we have centered our time on these words of Jesus.  I hope that we have considered His words and our ways. It is my greatest desire that we would love His Word more than this World; for His Word is life to us. I pray that our love for His Word results in our repentance and leads us to rejoice over Jesus - our Redeemer. As we bring this series to a close tomorrow, we will look at the two foundations and consider our current estate. I hope you can join us.

Grateful to serve you,

- Rob

Season of Harvest

PART 1: A CLEANSING

If you were at Highland Community Church this past Sunday, then you heard Rob and I communicate that we believe God is getting ready to usher our church and our community into a new season - a season of harvest. For those of you who were unable to attend, we wanted to put in writing what was said and prayed for so that as the body of Christ we can begin asking God, in unity, to fulfill His promise.
We started the service by reminding ourselves of the promise God gave our family 12 years ago from Ezekiel 36:33-36. The difference this year, as opposed to years past when we have looked at this verse, is that we believe the fulfillment of this promise is now upon us. In this passage, the Lord says that He is going to bring about a cleansing among the people, and then, after the cleansing, He will begin rebuilding all that is desolate and broken.
We believe the cleansing the Lord is referring to will look like a time of revival within our church and our community. We started the service with a time of personal prayer and reflection because we realize that before God can bring about a cleansing within the community He must first start with His church. We asked God to reveal anything within us that was not of Him and that as a church we would desire truth in our innermost being. We got on our knees before the Lord and begged Him for forgiveness of our sins and asked that He might return to us and show us His mercy and bring healing to our community.
After our time spent asking God to cleanse us as individuals we then moved into a time of reflecting upon John 15. I explained to the church that I started last January going through a study on John 15. What I thought was simply going to be a month long study on that portion of scripture ended up lasting throughout the entire year. Every time I would think that I was ready to move to another part of Scripture, God’s spirit would pull me back to John 15 letting me know that He was not yet finished teaching me and awakening me to the truth and the power of those words. So for an entire year, I read and reread John 15. What God did in me throughout last year is something that cannot easily be explained in words. All I can really say is that God awakened in me an overwhelming desire for my life to be a fulfillment of the words spoken in John 15. A desire for my life to bring forth fruit, much fruit, and fruit that remains. A desire to be the embodiment of John 15:16, which states, “I chose you, and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you.” For several months I earnestly prayed that scripture over my life, my family’s life, and the life of our church. As I continued to pray, the Lord began to reveal to me what was hindering us from producing “more fruit and fruit that remains” in the North Highland community. The answer was found in Mark 9.
Mark 9 tells the story of a father who has a child possessed by an unclean spirit. Jesus inquires about the situation and the father replies that he has a son who has a mute spirit and that the spirit causes his son to try and destroy himself. The father asked Jesus’ disciples to cast it out, but they could not, to which Jesus replies, “You unbelieving generation...bring the boy to Me”. Out of desperation, the father cries out to Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” Jesus responds by saying, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Jesus then rebukes the unclean spirit and says, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” At the end of the story the disciples come to Jesus in private and ask Him why they were unable to cast out the unclean spirit. Jesus’ response to His disciples was, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” As I read this passage I sensed the Holy Spirit leading me to understand that the
same unclean spirit that possessed that boy is the same unclean spirit that hovers over the North Highland community. In the story the father told Jesus that the boy had a mute spirit that caused him to try and destroy himself, but notice what Jesus said when He rebuked the unclean spirit: “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him...”. I cannot tell you the countless conversations Rob and I have had with people living in our community who with all sincerity tell us that they no longer want to let alcohol consume them, and no longer want to abuse drugs, and no longer want to be part of unhealthy relationships. But day, after day, after day, they are doing that which they do not want to do. I also cannot tell you how many times Rob and I have literally begged and asked our neighbors, “Do you know the Lord? He is your only hope!” More times than I can count the conversation ends with Rob or I praying on their behalf, only to see them the next day doing exactly what they said they no longer wanted to do. When I read Mark 9 it was like the Holy Spirit turned the light on and I could finally see what was really happening. The reason our family and Highland Community Church have not been able to bring forth the “much fruit and fruit that remains” Jesus refers to in John 15 is because the North Highland community has a deaf and mute spirit that hovers over it whose influence also brings about a desire to destroy oneself. What does God’s word say about faith and salvation? It says, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Many times in Scripture, you will hear God describe a group of people as “having ears, but cannot hear; having eyes, but cannot see; mouths, but cannot speak”. You also see in Scripture that the Lord is searching among His people for someone who will INTERCEDE on their behalf (Ezekiel 22:30).
This past Sunday morning as our church got on our knees before the Lord, my hope is that as God was searching the Earth that He looked upon Highland Community Church and was well pleased. Because this past Sunday, our church took the authority we have in the name of Jesus through the promise found in John 15:16 and we began to intercede on behalf of the North Highland community, and we began to ask God for greater things. We began to ask God to bind the deaf and mute spirit that hovers over our community and to bind the spirit of destruction. We began to beg that in return He would loose the Holy Spirit to invade our community and convict our streets of sin, righteousness, and judgement and that he would lead us into TRUTH. We began to ask, with one heart and mind, for a harvest of righteousness!
Members of Highland Community Church and/or supporters of Highland Community Church and Truth Spring, I know that this is somewhat of an unusual blog. However, I am convinced that the words found in this blog are the key to us having spiritual victory here in the North Highland community. I am also convinced that our victory will be directly connected to our prayer life. I beg you to please pray. May we find much encouragement and boldness from Jesus’ words found in John 15, “Ask anything in My name and it will be given to you. My Father is glorified by this that you bear much fruit.” This is it! This is the season of harvest! May the Lord fulfill all His promises to the North Highland community as His people, through much prayer, ask for His Spirit to be loosed among us.
How to pray for North Highland in 2018:
1). Ask for God to start cleansing our community, starting with Highland Community Church.
2). Ask God to bind the deaf and mute spirit that hovers over our community whose influence brings about a desire to destroy one’s life.
3). Ask God to loose His Holy Spirit in our community and that the Holy Spirit would convict us of sin and lead us into truth.
“This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” Mark 9:29

- Carrie Strickland

An Abounding Joy.

All,

Being part of the Highland family is one of the greatest joys of my life. I consider it an honor to point you toward the 'enduring love of Christ', as we, together, navigate through the sobering truths of Scripture, seeking to mature, in Christ.  It is my ongoing hope and desire to serve each of you well, in honor of our Lord. Sharing life with each you leads to an abounding joy in my life that is just difficult to put into words.  But I hope you know that it is there.

I thank the Lord for the team He has placed around me.  Starting with my family, to the church leadership, church membership, plus the partitioners and volunteers, then our church partners.  I am grateful for each of you. I remain before the throne of God on your behalf!  I love each of you and I hope that you know that I am here for you, always.

Merry Christmas to each of you, and yours. May the God of salvation draw near to each of us, causing us to realize that each breath we take is a gift He has offered us. May we use this gift to respond in adoration, to Him, alone, who is worthy.

Your Servant,

- Rob