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Vineyard Church of Federal Way

Do You Know Your Shepherd’s Voice?

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father- and I lay down my life for the sheep…” John 10:14

If you have time this week, I encourage you to read all of John Chapter 10. I had a hard time choosing a snapshot to insert here. You see, this chapter is about a Shepherd who knows His flock.

Close your eyes and picture yourself as a sheep in a pasture with your Shepherd. As you read through the rest of this message, read it with this picture in your mind.

You know your Shepherd’s voice, with no doubt, no questioning, no hesitation. He leads you. He shows you where to eat, where to drink. He teaches you where to go. He protects you. He loves you. He lays His life down for you.

If you hear the voice of a stranger, you may actually run the other direction. But, because you know your Shepherd’s voice, you may draw close.

In the quiet, in the busyness, in the stress and in the chaos, learn your Shepherd’s voice. How, you ask? By spending time with Him, by being in His Word. This is how we learn our Shepherd’s voice. We learn how to follow Him to the water that makes us thirst no more, to the food that nourishes our soul. We learn to hear Him say “go”. We learn to hear Him say “stay”. The questioning becomes less and less, the doubt becomes smaller.

In your life, in your situation, in your place, spend time with your Shepherd, your Lord, your Jesus this week. Asking Him to speak so you can practice listening. Then when you do hear him, act on what He says!

I pray that Jesus speaks to your heart this week. That He speaks to the cry of your heart. That you can create space to listen in the quietness and can have one ear to Him in the chaos. Come Holy Spirit, may my sister hear You today! Amen.

Pastor Michelle

Carrying Me

Pastor Michelle Paxton, Vineyard Church of Federal Way

This pandemic has brought a lot of things to the surface for me personally. I can only imagine it has done the same in you. Continue reading “Carrying Me”

Come to Jesus

Pastor Michelle Paxton – March 27, 2020 (Pandemic 2020)

After Jesus says “come” to Peter, he steps out of the boat and begins to walk on the water to Jesus. I pause there and think about that simple, yet not so simple miracle. Peter climbed over the boat onto the water to not swim, but to walk, to walk on top of the water to Jesus. To think about the faith Peter must have had to step out, and once again risk, this time probably risking his life.

Matthew 14: 29-31 And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sing he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him…

You can tell that Peter knew he would be just fine if he kept his eyes on Jesus, the one who called him. But, yes here is the but! Whether Peter took his eyes off Jesus, or the wind became greater and then the waves became greater; Peter’s eyes were taken off Jesus, and onto the waves.

Some of you know the practice of keeping your eyes on Jesus, and for others of you, it’s not so much a practice yet, as a longing to be able to do! Both are okay, and actually pretty awesome! The awareness of your need of Jesus, Jesus can work with that! In Peter’s case it was fear of the wind, maybe fear of a storm coming while he is WALKING ON WATER! What is your wind today? Is it fear, loneliness, anxiety, depression, stress? No matter what is taking your eyes away from Jesus, remember… Jesus is still across from you, he hasn’t lost sight of YOU!

Thank goodness this isn’t the end of the story! Peter cried out, “Lord, save me”. The Word tells us he immediately stretched out his hand and caught him! He didn’t let Peter wait there and continue to be afraid to teach him a lesson. He immediately reached out his hand. Even when we get distracted, take our eyes off Jesus, or haven’t even made it to the longing so deep in our hearts; Jesus doesn’t lose sight of us. What I hear Jesus saying in this today is; even when we fail, when our fears, our stress, our “stuff” over takes us, and distracts us from our focus of Jesus, who makes everything right (even if we don’t agree) He is still there; BUT notice, Peter cried out for Jesus to save him.

Start today crying out to Jesus for saving. What do you need to be saved from today? Is it that fear, anxiety, depression, loneliness, stress or something else?

For me, today it’s the anxiety.

Give it to Jesus today, and through this week with me and lets see all of the wonderful things he does in it!

Pastor Michelle

Conflict Anyone?

Pastor Michelle Paxton, Aug. 2017

Dealing with conflict is probably the hardest thing to do, in any situation.

As you know, I am blogging in response to our Pastor’s sermons through this risky topic of sex in the bible based off of the Song of Solomon. Pastor Gary preached about conflict over a week ago, and let’s be honest, it has taken me this long to write about it. Conflict is hard; it is not easy. The part of the bible story we covered is based on conflict in a marriage, but this idea of conflict and how we deal with it can be applied to all of the relationships we have. My history in dealing with conflict is to brush it under the carpet, never to see it again. But, I really do see it again. I either see it in anger & anxiety in myself, distance in a relationship with someone I love, or just in an all-out fight. You know, God has a funny thing he does with me, maybe he does this with you too? He never lets me stay in the place I am, especially when it’s not a good place. God has given me some really good, real life opportunities to learn how to address conflict in my life, in all of my relationships. Dealing with conflict in a healthier way really started in my marriage. My husband has taught me so beautifully how to deal with conflict in a much better way. I won’t go into that today; that is for another time.

This conflict was surprisingly, or really not so surprisingly, about having sex. He wanted to have sex, and she was tired and ready for bed! Sound familiar? Looking at our lives today in the 21st century, the top three issues of conflict in marriage are Communication, Changing goals and Sex. Can you relate to any of these? My husband and I sure can.  Especially the communication one. In church we are focusing on sacred sex in intimacy, but I took away from this sermon the general idea of dealing with conflict in my marriage, and in all my other relationships as well.

In this story out of Song of Solomon, the young women goes to her friends to talk about the conflict with her husband. I can relate. I go to my best friend with a lot of things, especially conflict with my husband. Usually it’s after the fact, “Can you believe he had the nerve to…”, and then we end up laughing about it. Who do you go to when you have conflict in a relationship? Do you go to a trusted mentor, pastor, counselor or close friend? Remember that when we go to others with conflict we are having in a relationship, we are putting that conflict, those negative thoughts we are having, on that person we are going to. So now, that person’s view may be skewed regarding the person you are in conflict with. This story really made me realize how important it is to go to a trusted mentor, pastor or counselor with conflict issues that I cannot deal with on my own.

This also leads me to another thought that my pastor brought up: Thinking the best of others. When we are in conflict with someone, not agreeing on something, it is easy to be negative. So, when you choose your mentor, pastor, counselor or friend to go to with your conflict, where are they going to direct you? Let’s look at this story and see what her friends did. Her friends pointed her back to her husband. They asked her what made her fall in love, what she loved and admired about him. They did not let her get side tracked from her marriage, from her relationship. They brought her back to thinking the best about her husband, setting aside the differences, and responding to the conflict in love, not in anger. This, you all, is the key to relationships! This is the key to not seeing our world end in divorce, broken families, and broken relationships. Is anyone perfect? No, they are not? Can we strive to see a change in our culture, in our cities, in our nation, in our world for better relationships, for better people? Yes, yes we can! We can strive to see that by starting with our relationships. We can pursue conflict with honest love, thinking the best of the other person. We can practice forgiveness, we can set an example for our children, we can teach our children what dealing with conflict looks like in love and in respect.

We can be the examples of change in this world; we can choose to deal with conflict in a healthy, mature, Godly way!

Sex is a Treasure, A Great Blessing

Written by Pastor Michelle Paxton, Aug. 2017

As you know, I have been writing about what our pastor is preaching on at church. This series is on “Sacred Sex: Lessons in Love, Intimacy and Passion”, based on the Song of Solomon book in the bible. This week was especially intense for a couple of reasons. One, the sermon was on the wedding and the night of the wedding… AWKWARD! Two, my husband, our assistant pastor, was preaching… even more AWKWARD! I joked all week that I was going to wear a mu-mu and sit in the back row. He was not impressed with my lack of support!

We looked at the purpose of a wedding and why it is so fancy, such a big deal. But what really, really got me regarding the wedding was the people you have standing beside you. What really is the purpose of your wedding party, your brides-maids and groomsmen? Have you ever asked yourself that? As we have gone through our marriage, some of my bridesmaids are still my closest friends, and some of them, sadly we are not my friends anymore.

For you ladies that are single, dating or engaged to be married… How are you choosing who will stand next to you on your wedding day? This is very, very important, and I wish I had this outlook for my wedding. Solomon explained that he had 60 men in uniform with him. 60 men! That’s a whole lot of men in your wedding party! But why?  Why did he have so many? He has these 60 men because they were his army; his army for his marriage. Solomon knew that if his marriage got in trouble, if he let little foxes into his marriage and they began to torment it and destroy it, these 60 men would stand up and fight for their marriage.

The rate of divorce in the nation is outrageous! Looking at the percentage of divorces is a difficult thing, but I can safely say that 39-41% of all marriages end in divorce based on a survey from 2001. http://www.divorcesource.com/ds/main/u-s-divorce-rates-and-statistics-1037.shtml) Personally, I feel that is way too high. When we get married we all say something like, “To have and to hold, in sickness & in health, ‘til death do us part.” What are we actually saying on our wedding day? “To have and to hold in sickness and in health, and if I feel like putting up with you and fighting for our marriage.” This is why Solomon had an army of men around him to fight for his marriage. Because he knew marriage takes work, it takes sacrifice, it takes sometimes literally, sweat, blood and always tears! I cannot tell you how many times in the last six years of marriage a conversation that turned into a passionate disagreement has ended up with my husband sitting on the floor with me in tears! I should have put that in my vows! But then again, you never know what you’re getting into in marriage. But you do know that it’s going to take work, a lot of work! And it matters who you have by your side, to fight for and support you BOTH in your marriage.

Okay, so that’s the wedding.  Well, a small glimpse but important look at the wedding. Now for the night of the wedding! Let me just start off by saying that, hardly any of us make it to this night without already having sex. Like I mentioned in my last blog, my husband and I were one of the few that had the amazing pleasure of making it to this night without having already had sex with each other. My husband has been married once before, and I have had sexual partners in my past.  It’s not like it was a new thing to us individually, but it was new for us together. We both had hurt and pain that we brought into this night. But, leading up to this night, we both spent a lot of time praying together, talking together and praying alone about our healing. These efforts allowed us to move forward together without our past driving a wedge between us.

Solomon helps us understand that the greatest, greatest gift of all time for our marriage is SEX! He explains that the night of his wedding to his bride is like opening up a treasure. You don’t know what you’re going to get in there, but opening a treasure is a very exciting thing. He then goes on to explain that his bride is that treasure; she is his treasure.

Sex is something to be treasured. In our marriages it is something that we start with together, and that we learn and grow in over time, over the many years of our marriage. Sex is not for ourselves. It is something that God gave us to be able to serve each other with. It’s not about what I like and enjoy. It is about getting to know my husband and finding out what he enjoys, as we grow together. In turn, he will do the same thing for me. Then it is just great all around. Sex is not something we do for ourselves. It is a treasure, a gift given to us to allow us to show our love for each other, and only each other. That is why marriage is so intimate, frankly, because we are the only ones sleeping with each other, so we are the only ones that know this part of each other! It’s special, it’s sacred, and it’s a treasure that only we have opened together!

So single women & men, please think about your relationships and the intimacy in them. I know not everyone reading this is a lover of Jesus. Whether you are or are not, HE still gave us all the same gift. , And trust me, it’s amazing!

Married women & men, pour into your marriages! Men, treat your wife as the treasure she is! Women, treat your husbands as the prince charming he is. Give yourself for your spouse in intimacy and service!  If you’re having trouble in your marriage, ask for help! Marriage counseling is a must for all of us at some point in time.  It’s healthy. God doesn’t intend for us to live this life alone!

Are we still in love? Romance in marriage

One in five adults have been sexually abused. 72% of high school seniors have had sexual intercourse. Oral sex among high school students has become extremely common along with having casual sex and “friends with benefits”. Each week, 26 million adults have sexual encounters with someone other than their spouse! 11 million adults visit pornographic web sites each week. 17% of American men have solicited prostitutes.

Now to look at our media: 6.7 sex scenes per hour on top-rated shows for teenagers. 70% of our TV shows feature sexual content. Almost 100% of sex we are shown is sex outside of marriage implying fornication or adultery.

Talking about sex is a pretty normal thing, I would say. My friends are constantly joking about it. Shows and movies are showing it and expressing it. Am I always comfortable in these situations…? I would say no, not at all! Talking about sex in church… yup, still not comfortable.

Growing up in the church, I never read the Song of Solomon book. One, because it’s crazy hard to understand, and to be honest, it’s pretty weird! One of my maid of honors read a small section of it the morning of my wedding. I just pretty much laughed and said “Well that’s nice, but weird!” So going through this topic in church this summer is a stretch for me (as well as our pastors that are preaching it!)

As a 30 year old women that has been married for six years and has three children, listening to sex being preached is pretty interesting! It really makes me examine my sexual past before my husband, yup, I just said that… because it’s the reality of my life, and perhaps the reality of yours as well.  It also makes my husband and I examine our marriage in the sex and romance area.

Like I said, I grew up in the church, which basically taught “Don’t have sex before you’re married, and keep your clothes on!” Well that’s great advice, but WHY? Maybe if I had the why explained to me I would have been able to understand the emotional and physical damage that having sex before I was married to my forever husband would have on me. That is what I am LOVING about what my pastor is preaching from the pulpit! We are two weeks into this thing and so far we have looked at the power of attraction and relationship killers.

The power of attraction was all about the reality of us being sexually attracted to others.  God created that, and he also created the crazy “can barely walk away” attraction that comes when you’re with someone you’re attracted to. God made this attraction to draw us to the person that we date, get engaged to, and then marry. But as we all know from our life experience and the stats above, this type of attraction often happens before we are married and a lot of the times with people that will never be our spouse. So being attracted to those that we won’t marry is bad? No, it’s not. But what do we do with that attraction? That is the question. I have thought a lot of guys were super-hot.  But then I got to know them and they quickly went down in “hot points” because their character was… not so hot. So maybe if we knew the why’s of not to have sex before we are married we would be able to hold off on acting on the amazing amount of physical attraction that God put in us – attraction that is meant for our spouses.

I was not so fortunate.  I did not stop in the midst of the attraction, talk to God about it, and follow His word. My husband however, thank God, was able to stop and follow what God had for him in our marriage. Through that, I got to see God work in my heart with my past sexual sin and renew my romance with my husband and make it new for him and I together! That is a gift in itself!

Then there is the relationship killers. This is super, super good advice in the bible for when we are dating and when we are married. I love, loved this part! The bible talks about not letting the little foxes get in the vineyard. That relates to us not letting the small things come in-between our relationships in dating and in marriage. I am just going to list the things my pastor listed for us, because it is SO good!

Dating Couples:

  1. Failure to look honestly at yourself and the other persons issues and talk about them.
  2. Pre-marital sex, focusing on the physical and not the emotional or spiritual.
  3. Isolation from other relationships. Feedback from family and friends is important, dating in groups- not just being alone all the time!

Married Couples:

  1. No longer working on your marriage, don’t forget to keep dating!
  2. Letting small resentments build up and not confronting them.
  3. Allowing competition for your heart and mind- OTHER PEOPLE OF THE OPPOSITE SEX, AKA affairs or cheating on your spouse, emotionally and physically.
  4. Not dealing with past baggage.
  5. On or both of us drifting from the Lord. (if you both are Christians that is)

This section of the bible once again ended with this couples struggle.  When it comes to attraction, crazy things happen. This couple in the bible is an example of the power of physical attraction and just wanting to be together but not wanting to awaken that sexual act, and wanting to wait until they get married.

Like I said earlier, there is a lot in these two sermons. This information is so helpful for my marriage as a young women with lots of time and learning to still go, but also lots of things that make me think about how I grew up. Unfortunately, I did not fully understand the “gift” that God intends for sex to be in my life with my husband and ONLY my husband.  I made mistakes that could have really hurt my marriage. If this brings anything up in you I encourage you to comment and share! I also encourage you to process this and pass it on to others, because as you read in the beginning, sex is a strong thing and God made it for husband and wife!

Scrabble & Sacred Sex

When I was about 10 years old, I was playing Scrabble with my parents and some family friends.  At one point in the game, it was my turn to place a word.  I was pleased to be able to score a lot of points with the strategic placement of the word S-E-X on the board. (As you probably know, X is worth a lot of points, especially on a triple letter or word score!)  I was surprised at my parents reaction—a mixture of embarrassed laughter and parental concern—that I had chosen such a ‘controversial’ word.  It was clear their eldest son was on the path toward being a “sexual deviant”.

Sex is one of those topics—like politics and religion—that we tend to avoid in conversation.   You just never know if something you say about sex is going to come across as offensive or inappropriate. Certainly, views on appropriate sexual behavior today range from very narrow to very broad.  It just seems best to keep one’s mouth shut on the subject.

So, why are we going to spend the next six weeks of Vineyard Sunday sermons addressing the topic of sex?  Well, it turns out the Bible has a great deal to say about this subject.  There is even one book, called ‘The Song of Solomon’, which is an intimate–and sometimes explicit–love story that speaks to the heart of all our relationships, whether they are romantic or not.

I hope you can stop by the Vineyard and join us over the next six weeks for what promises to be an interesting and quite provocative series.  It’s called ‘Sacred Sex: Lessons in Love, Intimacy and Passion from the Song of Solomon’. Whether you are young or old, single or married, I promise you will learn vital truths that will improve your life and your most important relationships. I am pretty certain, you won’t view the topic of sex the same ever again.  Unless, of course, you’re trying to win at scrabble.

My Wife’s Medical Miracle: Brittle, Cracking Bone Made New!

My wife Lori almost fainted as she looked at the long stress fracture in her MRI scan (see report). It was a fracture in her right femur (thigh bone), the cause of so much recent intense pain. Her body was failing to create healthy bone, resulting in a spontaneous fracture from regular use. Anorexia at a young age, followed by years of osteopenia, had brought her to this overwhelming moment.

Her doctor was blunt:  “These fractures often do not heal, and a metal rod is the usual solution.  You could try staying off your leg for 8-10 weeks, but I am not optimistic.  You may decide to just put a rod in now.  However, you need to know, because of the weakness of the bone, your femur could still break below the rod.”  Since the second femur bone often fractures within several years of the first, more surgeries were possible and likely.  The diagnosis was bad news.  It spelled out a crippling future for Lori, and bones that may not support her through the remainder of her life.

Lori opted to go on crutches for 10 weeks to give us time to process this diagnosis and to see if the bone would heal.  Her doctor warned that after 10 weeks we would have no way of knowing if the leg was healed, since a healed bone would still show a stress fracture for up to a year on an MRI report or a bone scan.

Lori immediately turned to God in prayer and asked her church family to pray for her for healing of the fracture, protection against further fracture in her other bones, and a reversal of the bone brittleness. She was prayed for by the prayer team at church, with people gathered around to place their hands on her, just like Jesus did to heal people long ago. In addition, the church’s Women’s prayer team came to our house for more intensive prayer for Lori.

Three weeks into this time of waiting and prayer, Lori had a bone scan done to look for the cause of a recent flare up of pain in her back. Doctors were concerned that there were fractures in her spine as well.  The results of the bone scan were astounding.  Not only did it show NO fractures in her back, but it showed NO fracture in her thigh bone either!

Could it be that the Lord had completely restored the brittle femur bone?  Lori sent the bone scan to her orthopedic doctor.  He too was astounded. He had no explanation for why no fracture had been found. He consulted the radiologist who confirmed that if there was a healing fracture in her leg, the bone scan would show it.  Mystified, the doctor suggested that we do another MRI to try to figure out what was happening.  Normally, insurance will not pay for this test so soon after a previous one, but the doctor pushed for it.  We prayed.  God answered, and an MRI was schedule for the following week.

On February 8, 2017, a second MRI was performed on Lori’s femur (see results here).  The results of the test showed no sign of the fracture, which had shown up so clearly only 3 weeks before.  Even if the fracture was in the midst of healing it would show up clearly in the scan (according to the radiologist). Lori’s doctor could not understand the results. He knew what he had seen before, and what he was looking at now.  There was no medical explanation, and no sign of any natural healing. Lori’s bone was simply brand new!

Lori has truly experienced a creative miracle.  In his mercy, God has saved her from a debilitating future.

Lori and I feel incredibly blessed and loved by God.  But we would feel that even if Lori was not healed. We cannot explain why God heals some and not others.  We only know He asked us to seek Him, pray and trust He would do what was best.

At the end of every church service, we pray for anyone who needs God to do something in their life. If you are stirred by this story and need prayer, Lori and I want to invite you to come visit us on a Sunday morning.  We have a loving and gracious prayer team that would love to pray for you.

Pastor Gary

My Very, Very Bad Day – Pastor Gary Georgeson

 

Sometimes, a very, very bad day is a very, very good thing.

Ever experienced a computer problem that ruined your whole day? Let’s be honest. Who hasn’t?

This past week, my Boeing laptop decided it was going to surprise me with a challenge.  When I logged on in the morning, I couldn’t access a whole day of very important web meetings I needed to attend. I also couldn’t get to critical web servers, which I needed to accomplish my work.  My stress began to build.

Getting behind even a part of a day, for me, can lead to huge work problems.  I knew this computer bug could make for a disastrous day, but the fortunately, the Boeing computer Help Desk was only a phone call away. A friendly voice on the line brought me genuine hope.

That hope was slowly and painfully drained, as an all-day running of computer software and loading of updates kept me off my computer, my phone, and my ever-building mountain of work. I was missing deadlines, failing my customers, and getting further behind by the minute!

Funny, though. A day like this would normally leave me with high blood pressure, higher anxiety, and a ‘poor me’ attitude taken out on the very people trying to solve my problem. It didn’t do that to me this time.  Do you know why?  God has been doing something in me lately.  Something that is surprisingly freeing.

God has been bringing new perspective into my life.  He is showing me the real, true suffering and pain of people all around me.  Even though they feel really big, most of my problems are pretty tiny when I look at them with God’s eyes.  Those I love dearly are living under huge physical, emotional, or financial burdens that are affecting their lives. Severe and chronic pain. Loss of a spouse or child. Cancer. Unpayable medical bills. And yet, God promises to be with us in all our problems, big or small.

The problems I often think are so huge, are just tiny bumps in the road.  Yes, all problems are relative, and ours can feel pretty massive to us. But I have notice that I overreact to situations because my perspective is simply too self-focused.   Today, I am learning to be a person who has a Kingdom perspective of the problems in my life—and a compassion for the real problems of friends and family—and the world– around me.

As the sun set on ‘My Very, Very Bad Day’, my tenacious computer technicians solved my stubborn problem, and got me up and running.  I knew I would eventually catch up and minimize the work fall-out (which I did!).  All was good under heaven. In fact, the truth is, was a Very, Very Good Day.

What about you?  Is your perspective keeping you focused on your problems or have you found freedom in this area?  I’d love to hear your comments or questions.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you!  Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock. Isaiah 26:3-4, NLT

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