It has been said that the best way to avoid problems in life is to gain wisdom!  However, someone else rightly pointed out that you gain wisdom by encountering problems.

Truth be told, both of those statements are equally true.  Wisdom helps us avoid problems, but experiencing problems allows us to gain wisdom.  This has certainly been true in my life.  My greatest learning experiences have come from some of my greatest struggles.

Understanding this dilemma fully is probably what propelled James, the brother of Jesus, to write these words, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to youJames 1:2-5

I have never been in a prayer meeting when someone prayed that they would encounter a problem; however, most of us have unexpectedly and unwillingly endured the experience of a difficult trial. How you endure your trial often depends on YOU.  I have seen people slam the door on God when difficulties occur, AND I have witnessed God transform individuals for His glory through the challenges of difficult circumstances.

When you look at your next problem see it as a new opportunity.  Use it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself.  Mold your problem into a chance to empathize and care more about others.  Gain perspective from your difficulties, and learn to laugh and smile more in the good times.

Think about it and have a blessed weekend.

John Mark Caton
SENIOR PASTOR
office: 972.359.7777 x1021
pastor@cottonwoodcreek.org

November has been a month to remember at Cottonwood Creek. With the emphasis placed on missions this month, our church family has participated selflessly for the cause of others. The Mission’s Ministry at Cottonwood Creek exists to equip the people of God to serve and to care for those who are in need. We were able to see this purpose put into practice this month with The Big Give.

Week One – Orphan Sunday – Isaiah 1:17 – Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
• 42 people visited our foster/adoptive families booth
• Brought awareness to our church about caring for children who have no family to call their own.
Week Two – Shields of Strength – Veterans Day
• 76 Veterans from Cottonwood Creek filled out Information Forms
• Sold 240 Shields of Strength Dog Tags
• Collected $6,170.00 to support Shields of Strength
A story from Shields of Strength – Thank you Cottonwood Creek for the outstanding support for Paratroopers within the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery (DIVARTY). Sharing God’s Word with a Warrior is the best way to strengthen and prepare them for combat and the aftermath. (From David Dodd) We support the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg under Chaplain Brad Baumnn.
Week Three – The Gift – Partnership with GAIN Ministries, Operation Christmas Child/Samaritan’s Purse, Pink Heart Funds, McKinney Food Bank, Carter BloodCare, Local/National/International Missions @ Cottonwood Creek
• 159,000 meals packed
• 28,000 seeds sorted
• 86 gave blood
• 25 ponytails donated
• 95 angels chosen from the tree
• 1600 + cans of food collected
• $35,000 raise to cover the cost of the event

A story from The Gift – There was a teenager sitting in the worship service watching the Pink Heart Fund testimony from the platform. After seeing the impact of this ministry, she walked out, called her mom and told her, “Mom, I feel like God is telling me to donate my hair today!” With the support of her mom, who was not even at church Sunday, this precious girl made a sacrifice by caring for others. A true example of what The Gift is all about. We love because Christ first loved us!
Week Four – Thanksgiving Boxes – Supporting families in need in East McKinney for Thanksgiving – Working together with CityChurch in East McKinney.
• Donations received: $1,597.30
• Thanksgiving Bags Filled: 76
• 109 Families were provided meals for Thanksgiving from our church of the 300 that are receiving meals.
A story from Thanksgiving Boxes – A little girl from our church was moved by the Lord to give all of her money in her piggybank to the people who were in need for Thanksgiving. So, she gave Cottonwood Creek a bag of coins that totaled $20.30 – All she had!

In closing, God is at work in and through the lives of the people of God at Cottonwood Creek. Not only were we able to meet the physical needs of so many locally, nationally and internationally, but we were able to show them the love of Christ by caring for their spiritual needs as well. From the example of Christ – Matthew 20:28, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”, our church has followed His example and served well this month.

To hear more stories like this, you can visit our website. http://cottonwoodcreek.org/missions

Also, take a minute to like us on Facebook – On Mission at Cottonwood Creek. https://www.facebook.com/cottonwoodcreekmissions?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Are you envious of other individual’s successes or possessions? The dictionary defines envy as: a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, successes, or possessions. The worse part of envy is not what it is but what it does.

The Bible says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”
Proverbs 14:30

Did you hear that? Envy rots us from the inside out and robs us of any sense of peace we should have with our own successes, possessions and relationships.

In Ecclesiastes 4:4, scripture teaches us: “And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

Being envious is as pointless as trying to catch the wind. Envy does not bring peace. Envy does not provide prosperity, and it does not prompt promotion; however it does cause unrest, bitterness, and a negative self image. There are no advantages to envy; in fact, it will just leave you exhausted and still envious.

My sister-in-law recently lost everything she owned in an apartment fire. As part of the process, she had to write down every single item that she lost. She had to record every shoe, every piece of furniture, every kitchen, bath, and bedroom item that was destroyed. After completing this task, she commented, “Sometimes you have to lose everything to realize what you had to begin with.”

Maybe State Farm had the right idea… every now and then, we all need to make a detailed list of all we have: family, faith, friends, etc. I believe the best way to overcome envy is to stop looking around you and comparing yourself to others. INSTEAD, enjoy your own successes, relationships, and possessions! Chances are good that you have plenty for which to be thankful.

Think about it, and have an envy-free day!

John Mark Caton
SENIOR PASTOR
office: 972.359.7777 x1021
pastor@cottonwoodcreek.org

What is character? From an early age, you are told to have good ‘character’ and to be a person of ‘character.’ People often think that your character is what others think about you; however, that is not true. Your reputation is what others think about you. Your character is who you really are when nobody is around. The dictionary defines character as: having moral or ethical qualities; having the qualities of honesty, courage, and integrity. The truth is that so many of us spend more time focusing on our reputation than we do thinking about our character.

Helen Keller once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”
 Helen Keller, (1880-1968)

If given the chance, most of us would forgo all problems and instead choose a life of ease without any difficulties to overcome, but in doing so, we would rob ourselves of great opportunities to build our character.

The Apostle Paul wrote these words:   That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong  (2 Corinthians 12:10).

So the next time you find yourself suffering through insults, hardships and difficulties don’t see those as attacks on your character, see them as opportunities to develop your character.  In other words, when someone insults you, show him or her grace. When you suffer through hardships, demonstrate endurance. When you go through difficulties, develop the habits of success.

So think about your character today in everything you do and say.
And as you go about your way, remember your reputation is on display
What is on the inside defines who you are.
So have high standards today – and you will go FAR.

Take care and have a blessed day!

John Mark Caton
SENIOR PASTOR
office: 972.359.7777 x1021
pastor@cottonwoodcreek.org

According to the dictionary, the word ‘forgive’ means: to grant a pardon for an offense or debt; to cease to feel resentment against; to cancel all indebtedness.

Forgiveness is nothing short of amazing. One of my favorite passages in all of scripture that talks about God’s forgiveness is found in Psalm 103.

Psalm 103, Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name. 2Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all His benefits— 3who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 6The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. 7He made known His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel: 8The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; 10He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. 13As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; 14 for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. 15The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; 16the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children— 18with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts. 19The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all. 20Praise the LORD, you His angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding, who obey His word. 21Praise the LORD, all His heavenly hosts, you His servants who do His will. 22 Praise the LORD, all His works everywhere in His dominion. Praise the LORD, my soul.

If God can take our worst… our worst words said; our worst actions done; our worst decisions made; our greatest failures performed and forgive them by burying them in the depths of the seas of His Grace, don’t you think it is about high-time we do the same?

Whatever it is right now, or whoever it is right now that is causing you to seethe with anger and un-forgiveness, let it go, and let them go! FORGIVE THEM!

Think about it…and have a blessed day!

John Mark Caton
SENIOR PASTOR
office: 972.359.7777 x1021
pastor@cottonwoodcreek.org

THE GOOD SAMARITAN

As we move into the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, ample opportunities will arise to be selfish or generous, to turn a blind-eye to the needs of others or to take action to help out, or  to be a hoarder or a giver.

In Luke 10, Jesus told the story of The Good Samaritan. My guess is you are somewhat familiar with the story.
Luke 10: 30-37: In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

If you remember the story well, before the Samaritan came along and helped the hurting traveler, two others walked by and saw the man but chose to keep walking. In this passage, we always remember the Good Samaritan, but we pay little attention to the other two individuals who simply passed him by.

The truth is, no one would remember the Good Samaritan if he had not taken action steps to help the hurting man. If the traveler had only good intentions without intentional actions to help, he would have been forgotten. That is why Jesus closed the story by saying, “Go and do likewise!”

Is there someone with a need in your life? How can you help?

Don’t just think about it…take action, and have a blessed day!

John Mark Caton
SENIOR PASTOR
office: 972.359.7777 x1021
pastor@cottonwoodcreek.org

Romans 1:16, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

This week’s blog focus is on Five keys to your Spiritual Growth.
Key number one: We Must Read Our Bible.
Key number two: We Must Do What Scripture Says.
Key number three: We Must Learn To Pray.
Key number four: We Must Learn to Fellowship With Other Believers.
Key number five: We Must Be Willing To Share Our Faith In Christ.

I have noticed a few consistencies over the years. Those who are not Christians and do not share our values do not have any problems talking about NOT going to church and NOT holding to a Christian ethic. Today, there are ever-increasing attacks on those of us who are faithful to God’s Word and believe in Jesus Christ.

Just pick up a newspaper or look at your news feed on twitter, Facebook or the nightly news. Those who do not live as Christians are eager to share about morality, or lack of it. They are more than happy to share about faith, or lack of it. Their vocal presence makes it just that much more important for those of us who are believers to NOT be ashamed of our faith.

The Apostle Paul said in Romans Chapter One, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes”
Romans 1:16.

We do not have an excuse to be silent because we have power. The power is not in popularity, public opinion, or politics; power is in God’s Word, the gospel.

So let us not act powerless today. Let our pride for the gospel stand out to those around us.

Think about it and have a blessed day!
John Mark Caton
SENIOR PASTOR
office: 972.359.7777 x1021
pastor@cottonwoodcreek.org

Hebrews 10:23-25, Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

This week’s blog focus is on Five keys to your Spiritual Growth.
Key number one: We Must Read Our Bibles.
Key number two: We Must Do What It Says.
Key number three: We Must Learn To Pray.
Key number four: We Must Learn to Fellowship With Other Believers.

Fellowshipping is being with, spending time with and doing things with others who also love Christ. Why is that? Because that is where we gain encouragement and strength to live out our Christian values. Probably the best passage in the New Testament that delineates the benefits of fellowship is found in Hebrews, “23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…(Hebrews 10:23-25).

From that simple passage we see three clear outflows of fellowshipping with other believers.
1. Our faith is strengthened. We are told to have an ‘unswerving’ faith.  Being surrounded by believers helps keep us on path.
2. Our good deeds are encouraged.  We are told to ‘spur’ one another on toward good deeds.  Sometimes we need a figurative-swift kick to keep us focused on what really matters- love and good deeds.
3. We get to encourage others. We are told not to ‘give up’ on meeting together.  It is easy to justify not getting together with other believers- Our priorities get off; our schedules get busy, and we, quite frankly, get a little lazy.  We must have this time of encouragement and this opportunity to encourage others.

In other words, when we fellowship with other believers, they build us up while we build them up. It’s a WIN – WIN situation!

Think about it and have a blessed day!
John Mark Caton
SENIOR PASTOR
office: 972.359.7777 x1021
pastor@cottonwoodcreek.org

Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

This week’s blog focus is on Five keys to your Spiritual Growth.

Key number one: We Must Read Our Bibles!

Key number two: We Must Do What It Says!

Key number three: We Must Learn To Pray!

Have you ever considered that you have immediate access to the most powerful person in the universe? Whatever you need, whatever the time, you can call upon Him. His calendar is always clear for you. His schedule is open for your appointment anytime. His full attention can be devoted to you if you will only talk to Him—That’s prayer!

Here is what Jesus said to His disciples, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41

Why did Jesus command His disciples to pray? He tells us that our Spirit is willing but our flesh is often weak.

Jesus wanted His disciples to know that few experiences in life can equal the power of prayer. Why is that? Because as Jesus reminded His disciples, too often our mind and our spirit know and want to do God’s will, but our flesh has a different desire. Jesus knew the battle of flesh and spirit would require prayer. Jesus knew that our human, fleshly desires would often take a different path than the spiritual direction God intended for us. His answer was one word: Pray.

Think about it, and have a blessed day!
John Mark Caton
SENIOR PASTOR
office: 972.359.7777 x1021
pastor@cottonwoodcreek.org

1 Peter 2:2-  Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation

James 1:22-25- Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

This week’s blog focus is- Five Keys to Growing Spiritually.
Monday: Key number one: Read the Bible because it is pure spiritual milk that will grow us up in our salvation.

Today’s Spiritual growth tip: Do what God’s Word says. James, the brother of Jesus said, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. …25but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” James 1:22-25

This passage reminds us that we are to both LISTEN and DO. Listen to God’s Word, and Do what God’s Word says. Most of us know that we should read God’s Word daily; however, we receive its greatest benefit when we read it, apply it, and do it.
My wife and I are in the habit of packing school lunches for our children every day. The lunches are on the counter each morning for them to take and enjoy. However, it is not too uncommon that one of them simply forgets to pack it in their backpack. Thus, the lunch is of no benefit to them.

It is the same way in our spiritual lives. If we simply read the Bible but don’t take it with us, it is of no benefit. Spiritual key number two is: Do What The Bible Says!

Take care, and have a blessed day!

John Mark Caton
SENIOR PASTOR
office: 972.359.7777 x1021
pastor@cottonwoodcreek.org

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