Alabatar Jar

Alabaster Jar

Audrey Botts

In the month of February, we celebrated Valentine’s day.  My sweet husband of almost 5 years, surprised me with a trip for two to Cozumel, Mexico.  We boarded a beautiful cruise ship for 5 wonderful days at sea.

We had an amazing time celebrating our love for each other. It’s like we were created for each other.  But life was different for me over a decade ago.  My perception of a blissful marriage was something only found in fairy tales.  

My previous marriage ended horribly, leaving unmended battle wounds. I felt incapable of ever having a healthy marriage.  I felt like a failure to my kids, myself, and God.   I was scared I would live the rest of my life alone and labeled as damaged goods.  Then Jesus came into my life.

Luke 7:36-39 (NIV)

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.  A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.  As she stood behind him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, He would know who this is and what kind of woman is touching Him—for she is a sinner!”

This scripture portrayed my life, a sinful woman laying down her broken life (Alabaster jar) at Jesus’ feet. When I surrendered my life to the Lord, He healed my broken life and restored me to who He created me to be.  

Jesus had his work cut out for Him… but nothing is too Great for my God!  Hallelujah!  I didn’t have to worry about what others thought of me, I wasn’t damaged goods.  He showed me who I was in his eyes.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you are saved!”  (Ephesians 2:4-5)

Our Lord is in the redemption business.  He is near to the brokenhearted, ready to heal them with His love.   So as you break your alabaster jar and pour your oil on His feet, remember the price He paid for you and me.

Lyrics by Gateway worship:

“This alabaster jar is all I have of worth
I break it at Your feet, Lord, it's less than You deserve
You're far more beautiful, more precious than the oil
The sum of my desires and the fullness of my joy
Like You spilled Your blood, I spill my heart
As an offering to my King

Here I am, take me as an offering
Here I am, giving every heartbeat for Your glory
Take me!”

Something About Amanda!

Something About Amanda

By Denise Schmeer

 

A sweet baby girl was born recently into our church family and it sparked a flood of memories about the birth of my sweet girl many years ago.

At that time in my life, I was so very far away from God, but God, in His goodness, was not far away from me. It seemed everything that could go “wrong” with my baby- went wrong.

At just 24 hours old, she apparently stopped breathing and was turning blue in the nursery. But, thank God, a new nurse had just started to work there. She noticed the crisis situation ands saved my sweet baby girl.

The nurse was a NICU specialist and quite familiar with symptoms of newborns. She had just arrived (literally one week before) from the United Kingdom. (How’s that for a God thing?) So my sweet baby girl had to be put on a heart monitor. We had to learn infant CPR and the local power authority was put on notice, so if we lost power, a portable generator would be rushed to our house.

One week later we were able to take our sweet baby girl home! And a few days after that I noticed she was burning hot- something is very wrong, I thought. So we rushed back to the hospital. Our sweet baby girl was diagnosed with viral meningitis, and then we were told a valve in her heart hadn’t closed and she might be blind, deaf, and by the way, there could be some brain damage. Looking back, I wonder, how did I manage without comfort, strength, faith, hope, and peace which only comes from God?

But God is good, and He kept sending people to bring His gifts. He sent my Uncle Joe (who was terrified of hospitals) to come and hold my sweet baby girl- a tangle of tubes and wires attached to her. Only by God’s grace could Unkie Joe have done that! Then God sent the #1 heart doctor and the #1 neurologist in Westchester County to help heal all which seemed to have gone so very wrong.

Yes, the reckless love of God, as the song goes…no shadow He won’t light up, mountain He won’t climb up, running after me. No wall He won’t kick down, lie He won’t tear down, running after me.

So I wonder…how different would that journey in my life, and the life of my daughter, have been if I had known Jesus as my Lord and Savior? The peace, comfort and strength from all those offering prayer on my behalf and that of my sweet bay girl. What a blessing was out there for me, if only I had drawn close to God. But, I’m living proof that God is so good, so kind, so loving- seeking me, even when I wasn’t seeking Him.

Investing In Eternity

Investing in Eternity

by Kellie Tipton

Standing in our worship service at church I became so aware of God’s hand in my life, more specifically in my children’s lives.  I was experiencing worship being led by a team of musicians that consisted of all three of my children.  I stood in awe of His presence and of this moment in time.

When I think back, I remember the conversations with my husband about how we would make sure music was a part of their curriculum.  Each child was to take a few years of piano lessons to begin and then we would give them opportunity to choose an instrument to explore.  As they made their choices we then needed to figure out how to orchestrate their practice times for piano, guitar and drums!  It was an investment and we chose to make it a priority.

Oh, the music they would play, but it sounded so different on this evening.  It wasn’t an overnight progress, it was years of practice at home, at band practices, a lot of conversations and prayer.

For many years we have had a worship team in our children’s services.  It started out due to a desire to raise up worshippers and we had so many of our children who were musicians or had a desire to be one.

Pastor Billy and I started them out observing experienced musicians and eventually they would be given opportunity to play during the practices.  This prepared them for the future opportunities they would be given if they showed they were committed and were faithful to be at practices.

Many children, youth and young adults have been a part of that process over the years and my three children were in that mix as well.  What challenges and what joy to see the fruit of those years as we saw them step into the worship team, step out of their comfort zone and lead worship.  Many have grown up, gone to college, are raising a family of their own and are world changers.

While we have had many seasons, I believe the best is yet to come but right now, in this moment, I am tasting some of the fruit and so thankful for what God has done and what God is doing!

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;

    praise him in his mighty heavens.

Praise him for his acts of power;

    praise him for his surpassing greatness. 

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,

    praise him with the harp and lyre,

praise him with timbrel and dancing,

    praise him with the strings and pipe,

praise him with the clash of cymbals,

    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

Psalm 150

What If I Can't Fast?

What If I Can’t Fast?

by Tammye Hamilton

I plopped down in a chair in the back corner of the sanctuary. It was time for corporate prayer after our monthly Day of Fasting and I was feeling anything but spiritual. In fact, I had a terrible attitude. Then I started to beat myself up for having a bad attitude.  People were praying and I tried, but I was too angry with myself to really focus on the prayer service.

Most people believe that fasting helps you to focus more on God without distractions. When I fast I usually do NOT feel more spiritual.  The longer I go without food the grouchier I get and the harder it is for me to focus on anything

As I sat hunched over on the back row, struggling to join in prayer, I asked myself, and the Lord, “Why is this happening? I fasted all day, not usually something I can do physically, I came to the meeting, I’m expecting great things for our church. Why am I so angry?”

The deeply insightful response in my head was, “Because you’re hungry”.  Well duh. I felt pretty silly.  I felt like the hangry person in the Snicker’s commercial.

Later, after I had a wonderful dinner and truly repented, I began to think more about fasting.  I went to the Word and immediately found Matthew 4:2. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.” Jesus, the perfect Son of God, was hungry. So at least in that way I was like Jesus. (So he fasted for 39 more days than I had. Who’s counting?)

Fasting is hard. If it was easy, what would it accomplish? As I push through my fleshly response to hunger I am doing the hard thing. I am proving I love God more than food. Realizing that it is in the hard places we can most see Him, most hear Him, if we can drown out our screaming flesh. And if we can’t, He is still with us. He loves me when I don’t have a spiritual response to fasting. He forgives my grouchiness.

I like to think He was sitting there beside me on the back row and when I complained He said, “You’re hungry.” He understood because He’s been there. He knows. He probably wasn’t feeling very spiritual either but in His heart He longed to please the Father more than His own flesh. And He was flesh.

So as someone who struggles with fasting, I would like to offer a few tips. Most of these I gleamed from others because, again, I’m no expert.

1.    Get focused BEFORE you fast. Get ready. Get ready spiritually and physically. Don’t indulge on your pre-fast day. Eat consciously. Begin to prepare spiritually. Read the Word, and encourage yourself that you can do all things through Christ.

2.    Fast with purpose. Jesus fasted to prepare for His destiny. Pastor Jentezen Franklin writes, Jesus fasted in the desert before He preached one sermon, before He healed anyone, and before He called any disciples. When Jesus successfully completed His fast, He was prepared for the spiritual battles ahead as He stepped out into His destiny on earth.”  Whether you are voluntarily participating in a corporate fast or have purposed in your heart to fast for a specific reason, we are always fasting for breakthrough. We fast out of obedience and in faith for God’s purposes to be accomplished.

3.    Make sure your fast is more than “not eating”. This was a big part of my issue. I had been traveling the week before but I knew it was the day our pastor called for a corporate fast so I decided I wouldn’t eat that day. I did pray but then I just went about my day. The only thing significantly different was that I didn’t eat at all. So, when I showed up for the prayer meeting, I was unprepared. I had not eaten but I also had not pushed through the hunger into the presence of God. Jesus did it, which means I can do it. Even if I need to eat a little something to keep from hulking out, I can fast, focus and submit to what God is wanting for me.

4.    Give yourself a break. Seriously. If you can’t go all day or 40 days without eating, it doesn’t make you unspiritual. Fasting is a heart issue. Anyone can do a modified fast. You can still deny your flesh and thus open your heart. Evelyn Christenson, who wrote the classic What Happens When Women Pray, could not fast for medical reasons and so she fasted sleep and her time. She rose very early to spend more time in prayer.

He wants us. All of us. He doesn’t just want spiritually focused and on target me. He wants hangry, confused and irritated me. He loves ME. He says I am an overcomer and as I continue to push through, He is right there with me.

In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 1 John 5:3-4

Seeing Through New Eyes


Seeing Through New Eyes.

By Mavis Tipton

It was April 6, 1969, our first Easter as brand-new Christians.  Just three and a half weeks earlier on March 16th, Buddy & I had surrendered our lives to Christ Jesus and made Him Lord of our lives.

I was raised to go to church.  My family believed in God, and in Jesus. We knew the Christmas story of Jesus being born of a virgin, and the Easter story of Jesus being crucified, and then raised from the dead. 

However even though I believed in those stories, I had no clue to their true meaning nor of the significance they could make in my life. I did not understand, because I had not been taught, that I needed to repent and turn away from sin.  (After all I was a good girl, so I thought I was ok.)

In the blink of an eye Jesus forgave and transformed me and set me free of all my sins.  He put a love in my heart for Him.  A desire to live for Him with all my heart, mind, body and soul. 

I had come to a place where I couldn’t trust Buddy to do what he would say and promise to do. Jesus instantly replaced distrust for trust (which only Jesus can do.)

For the first time in my life I saw the celebration of Easter through new eyes and I was filled with thankfulness.

I realized the great price my heavenly Father paid to send His only son to be the sacrificial lamb for the world.  The price Jesus paid by bearing all my sins and the sins of the world upon the rugged cross.  For the blood He shed to cleanse each of us of our sins.  For the stripes on His back for our healings.

That was only the beginning.  Jesus has been my Lord and Savior for 49 years.  He has picked me up when I was down, healed me when I was sick and has kept me in His loving care as only He can do.

He has forgiven me when I have failed, He has filled me with His Holy Spirit, used me for His glory and kingdom.  Provided for us each step of the way.  There is no other god that can do what my God can do.

If you are like I was and only knew the stories of the Bible, but not the truth, I invite you to stop right where you are and simply ask Jesus into your heart to forgive you and be Lord of your life.  Surrender it all to Him, don’t hold back anything, because all that He has to share and give to you is far greater than anything else you could possibly obtain in this world.

May you see Easter 2018 through new eyes, which will compel you to share His love everywhere.

P.S. there is a bonus that comes with becoming a child of the King and that is Eternal Life with God the Father, His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit for all eternity.

Happy Easter

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now I’m found,

Was blind but now I see.

 

 

 

Lord, I Want To, WantTo!


                                                   

“Lord, I Want To, Want To”

By Pat Evans

I can't remember the first time I said this to God, but I know it was usually when I was struggling with obedience.  Being raised strictly, I learned early in life to obey because it's the right thing to do and I feared the punishment of disobedience.  

So, for me, I learned to obey because I was afraid not to.  This mindset shed a negative light on obedience because I associated it with fear and that transferred on to my relationship with God. It was difficult for me to discern whether I was hearing God's voice or whether it was the voice in my head from my past that said, "You ‘have to’ obey or something bad could happen." 

After reading Mavis’ blog from January 28th, I realized she was describing exactly how I felt. She explained the difference between "have to" and desire, or as I called it, our "want to". To review her words, feeling like you "have to" do something because it's required or expected drains us of energy which eventually causes us to give up. On the other hand, if we desire or "want to" do something, it creates determination, motivating us to press on and not give up. Making the choice because I felt I “had to”, never caused the change in me to become a permanent one. Only when God put the “want to” in my heart was it possible for me to overcome. 

For example, I felt that I was lacking passion, so I decided to fast and seek the Lord for a way to create passion in my heart for Him. About the same time, I was asked to participate as a leader in the Passion Propel Series. I quickly agreed as I knew that God had already laid it on my heart to seek Him for more passion.

Though I learned a lot from the passion series and my time with the Lord, I still had not received a breakthrough. However, I did learn that Passion was directly related to obedience. 

On the last day of my fast, I was reading my devotions which “just happened to be” on obedience. Oswald Chambers wrote that the Lord tells us emphatically what we ought to do, but He never meant to make us obey.  Rather, He desires obedience to flow out of our oneness with the Spirit.  

Chambers writes: "...if I obey Jesus in the haphazard circumstances, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God. Then, when I stand face-to-face with Him, I discover through my obedience thousands were blessed." Wow! Think of it!  Every time we obey, we see more of God’s face! This is my motivation to obey Him: Passion and seeing His Face. Passion is the reality of God created out of Obedience. 

 There it is Ladies…My "WANT TO"!

"What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to His voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice…” I Samuel 15:22

 

 

How Flexible For God

Flexible for God

Denise Schmeer

“Thanks, Mom for being so flexible.”  I cannot even begin to count the number of times my adult children said that to me over this past holiday season.  As their plans changed, as their friends plans changed, and as every situation seemed to change at lightning speed, etc. etc, etc. . . .  “flexible” became my middle name.

And I can certainly recall a time in my life when I might have been called many things, but “flexible” was not one of them.  But, God is so good.  He taught me to be flexible, trained me to be flexible, and prepared me to be flexible because He knew a time would come when “life” demanded I be flexible – bend or break.  Flexibility saved me . . .  allowed me to bounce back, so to speak.

How did God teach me?  Little by little . . . at first it was just an appointment that needed to be changed, or a job at work that was delayed.  Then we moved on to snowstorms stranding my children in New York while I waited in a panic at the airport in Florida.  And of course, there was the November when the water pipe burst under the house two weeks before Thanksgiving, I was told I needed a root canal on my back tooth and the optometrist determined there was a hole in my left eye.  But the more I pressed into God, the easier it was to be flexible – roll with the punches and ride out the storms. 
Ahhh yes . . . God was teaching me to be flexible. 

And so recently, I started wondering . . . how flexible am I (are we) when it comes to God?  Am I (are we) ready at a moment’s notice to be flexible and change our plans for what God has for us on any given day?

My Heavenly Father has taught me to happily be ready to change my plans and/or rearrange my schedule for my husband, our children and our friends.  He has prepared me to bend and not break when life seems crazy and out of control.  But what about when God asks me to be flexible?  Am I bending to His will when He calls me to be flexible?  When he calls me to witness and go “out of my way” to do His work, am I flexible?

Am I taking every opportunity to “. . . go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:19)

When God patiently and lovingly teaches us to be more loving, giving, forgiving and, in my case, “flexible,” I pray we remember to use these gifts to spread His Word, shine His Light and glorify His Kingdom.

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and He will establish your plans. 
(
Proverbs 16:3)

Will You Praise Him?

Will you Praise Him?

By Audrey Botts

It is so easy to praise God when life is good and things are going our way, but do you still praise Him the same when difficulties arise in life?

Last year my step- son was experiencing gastric and esophageal pain that was uncharacteristic of your average indigestion.   My husband was concerned, so he took action immediately… he knew all too well what these symptoms could lead to if he wasn’t pro-active in our son’s health.   My step-son’s mother, passed away at the age of 36.   She died of Esophageal cancer.  Her cancer went undetected for a few years before they discovered it. 

Needless to say, we made an appointment with a Gastroenterologist.  The Doctor performed an endoscopy, where she discovered a huge mass in our son’s trachea.  The doctor believed it was cancer and sent it out for Pathology consultation.  My husband’s worst nightmare came to haunt him once again.  We were so scared of losing our son, he was only 20 years old.   

Questions were racing through my mind.  How would my husband cope with another tragedy?  He not only lost his former wife from cancer, but he lost his daughter in an accident shortly after.   We needed divine intervention…we needed a miracle!  

We contacted our church that day and immediately had our prayer warriors interceding for us. We cried out to Jesus and prayed for our son’s life.  The next day we got the Pathology report.  We held our breath as we listened to the doctor say…the mass in his trachea was benign!   Praise God!

  This year our son went in for his one -year checkup and there was no sign of the prior mass anywhere in his esophagus.   God is good.

  We are told to in 1Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 

I am so grateful for the blessing we received, but I couldn’t help but wonder, what if our son did have cancer?  Would I still be able to praise God under the circumstances?   I thought of other families who were currently suffering from their misfortunes and I felt sorrow for them.  Why do they have to suffer?  

Then I read this scripture where it is clear the Lord tells us that we are to have an attitude of joy, thanksgiving, and prayer at all times… no matter what the conditions or circumstances are that surround us.

This verse does not mean that we are to thank God for bad things and tragedies that come our way.  It means that we are to remain joyful no matter what is happening in our lives because we have the Lord, and in Him we shall overcome no matter what is thrown our way.

If this sounds too difficult to do, I can relate to your feelings.  Praise Him anyway and experience the peace that’s worth more than gold.

 

 

 

 

Open Mind or Open Heart?

Open Mind or Open Heart?

by Tammye Hamilton

Open-mindedness is highly valued in our culture. Everyone likes a person who seems open to new ideas. Being open-minded opens the door. It says, “I will listen to you.” It is a good thing.

However, being open-minded only goes so far. It says what you believe is fine, even if it’s different from what I believe. Maybe the way I believe isn’t the only way. It stops at an intellectual level. It isn’t an invitation into your life. There’s no level of change. There’s no transformation, because ideas don’t transform.

Being open-minded is a beginning but it is not who I ultimately want to be.

As a follower of Jesus, I long to be a person with an open heart

Open-mindedness seems accepting, all are welcome.  An open heart still says come as you are but it doesn’t leave you there.  We love no matter what. But we understand that it’s not our love that does the transforming.

As believers whose lives have been dramatically changed, we recognize that just accepting others is not enough. If we are just open-minded we may leave them in their darkness. Just being open-minded never brings change. It doesn’t reach out and say, “Here let me help you. Let me lead you into the Light.”

Jesus set such a good example for us in how He lived His life. He certainly could have been considered open-minded, although it would not have been as popular in the culture of His day.

Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees complained to His disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5)

Rabbis didn’t hang out with those whose lives were entrenched in the world, but Jesus did. He didn’t do it to be accepted and seen as open-minded.  He was with them so they could know Him and He could set them free.

He opened his heart to them AND He made it clear that He was the only way to God. (John 14:6) He opened his heart and brought Truth into every conversation. He changed lives for eternity.

Open-heartedness isn’t just a dialogue. It doesn’t walk away. When we open our hearts we will invite people into our lives. It will get messy. It will not be easy. We will find ourselves in the Word longing to know Jesus better, not to prove a point but to be His hands and feet.

Being open-hearted means we love the lost and hurting. We love them when they are deceived. When they believe things that are contrary to the heart of God. When they are in bondage to lies. As Pastor Aaron Brockett says, “We build bridges of grace that can bear the weight of truth.” 

Only with open hearts can we can show those who desperately need Him that only His love has the power to transform.

 “You are the people of God; He loved you and chose you for His own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity.”

— Colossians 3:12-14

(Special thanks to my daughter, Marybeth, who helped me with this blog. Marybeth is a counselor at Wheeler Mission in the inner city of Indianapolis. Every day she opens her heart with grace to those who need Him.)

Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples

By Jacqi Ballough

“Mom, can I cut up an apple?”

“Sure.”

“Do you want one too?”

“Yes, please.”

Due to the immense apple consumption of our household, my dear husband had just surprised me with a new Apple-Slicer and Corer.  It makes the job of cutting up apples quick, easy, and fun, and the final product is quite amazing: a delicately, spiral-sliced apple in tact without a core.

I watched as my son opened the refrigerator to return with the largest apples he could find. He washed each and within seconds had the first one sliced and on a plate.  Kindly, he brought it to the table where I sat grading his work. Then he returns a moment later with his snack.

“Mom, you know that Proverb that says ‘a man will be caught by his own trap?’”

“Yes,” I replied, bracing myself for the next statement.

Staring down at his plate, my son confessed, “Well, I had picked the biggest apple and thought I saved it for myself, but I just realized that I gave it to you. I was caught by my own trap.”

“What trapped you?” I asked.

“Greed.”

My mind bolted to Bible lessons on greed with Jacob and Esau, but then the Holy Spirit corrected me. I heard, “Meditate on my Word day and night, and confess your sins to one another.” (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; James 5:16) The message to me was clear. I did not need to add to the gentle correction and teaching of the Holy Spirit, which is a sin I often give birth to. I needed to praise my son for listening to His voice and receiving the lesson. He was meditating on God’s Word and confessed his sin when the Holy Spirit pointed it out.

“I am proud of you for listening to the Lord’s voice and learning. That is a great scripture to think about when we are tempted to sin. Thank you for telling me.”

My son said a quick prayer to the Lord asking for forgiveness of the greed and strength when faced with temptation. We then munched on our apples while he excitedly educated me on the horse facts in his book.

Lord, thank you for speaking to us. Continue to guide our family and my son in your ways. Help me to be as quick as he was to confess my sins to others and repent. Forgive me when I have tried to add to your correction and created shame in my son verses joy. You alone are the Mighty Councilor. Give me wisdom and bind Your truth to my heart and mind. Thank you for teaching both of us through the simplicities of life.

“If you set a trap for others, you will get caught in it yourself.” Proverbs 26:27

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

 

 

 

 

 

Allowing Him To Lead

Allowing Him to Lead

By Vicki Molinari

Ouch! The look on my father's face revealed the pain he was feeling. As we swayed back and forth to the music, it was evident I had much to learn about dancing.  The expected smoothness of our movement was interrupted over and over by my missteps resulting in stepping on his toes. 

My mistake, he said was that I was not allowing him to lead me. 

That was an unplanned lesson of love from my dad that would be carried over into my marriage.

You see, I was strong-willed and determined. From as early as I could remember, my independent spirit had resulted in selfish ambitions, with little love realized.

Imagine my surprise when I got married. My once self-ruling attitude and habits collided with a strong man with whom God had blessed me.  My idea of marriage and love was as a starry-eyed bride with a happily ever after mentality.  I knew I loved him, however I was ignorant of what the commitment behind that love really was, allowing him to lead me and knowing he was directed by God. 

Jesus set the perfect example. First, I must yield to His love.  John 4:14 says if we confess Christ, He perfects His love in us.  As He occupies every chamber of our hearts, our lives proclaim the truth that all mankind longs to hear. 

That pure love of our Creator isn't haughty, it is humble.  True love does not stand tall, it bends low.  Jesus demonstrated how true love is sacrificial at its core. The truest love of all stooped the lowest, so we might know the height of his amazing love.  1 Peter 3:18

Three plus decades later, I am very aware of my need for my husband's leadership and true love. He is a servant leader, continually seeking God for ways to serve as he leads me and our family.  Because of his leadership, I realized as a wife, true love stoops to gather the dirty clothes on the floor. As a mother, it bends down to speak kindness to a child.  True love kneels quietly in prayer, instead of spewing words of discord, choosing to be righteous instead of right, servant instead of master and meek instead of prideful.

I did not realize it as a young newlywed, but the heights of love can only be discovered in the depths of surrender.  It seemed unnatural to me and impossible on my own, but with Jesus there was victory.

Dear Lord, cause us to recognize You as our ultimate leader and the lover of our souls.  Show us how to follow our husbands with love, respect and admiration as we love them in the ways that please you.   In Jesus Name, Amen. 

 

It's About Time!

It’s About Time!

by Kellie Tipton

Walking into a busy crowded store I heard someone say, “Well, it’s about time!” and there were two things going on in my mind.  One was relief that it was not directed toward me!  I do try to be timely but have been known to struggle with it and still work on my concept of time to this day!  Ugh But the greater thought was how many times do I pretty much say that to God?

Yes, that may seem ridiculous but there are many times that I am pleading with God about something and just about the time I want to just give up, I see God working.  I am always thankful but many times I am thinking, “It’s about time!” 

The thing is, I know that God’s timing is always perfect yet I struggle in waiting for His perfect timing.  I also know that there are many factors to this timing as well. 

When I am honest with myself, many times I should have acted on something and I didn't or I acted thinking I would “help” God (cough) and had to deal with my “helping” before moving forward!  God’s timing is indeed perfect and He gives us free will to listen for His direction too.  Not always a good combination but I am working on that as well. 

Listening requires being still and not always physically but in our spirit.  Spending time in His Word and allowing Him to speak to us is just as vital.  That is so hard in our busy schedules or our busy minds! 

I am sure God is saying to me, “Well, it’s about time!”

Wait for the Lord;

    be strong, and let your heart take courage;

    wait for the Lord!  ~ Psalm 27:14

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

    and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

    and he will make straight your paths.  ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  ~ 2 Peter 3:9    

Desire or Have To!

Desire or Have To!

By Mavis Tipton

Here we are at the end of January…and how many of us vowed to make changes in our life for the new year?  Are we succeeding or have we already given up and put those vows on the back burner for another time? 

What sparked us to make the changes in the first place?

·      Because others were doing it and it is the first of a new year

·      Need to improve your health

·      Desire to mend broken relationships

·      Create a better work environment

·      Draw closer to God (last but certainly not least)

Desire is:  1. Wish or longing for, craving, 2. A request.

Have to or (Must): something that is expected or required. 

One comes from the heart the other from obligation.

Desire creates determination. It motivates us to press through and not give up.  Have to, in some situations can do the same thing, but for the most part runs out of energy and quits.

Our physical body and spiritual body have much in common.  They both require being taken care of.

Last year my husband had to have surgery on his carotid artery.  There was a blood clot about 1 ½ inches long clogging the artery.  This blockage created a strain on his heart due to lack of oxygen and blood supply.  Blockages can come from genetic reasons, or pour eating habits, lack of exercise etc. Some people desire to be healthy and fit others do it out of ‘have to’ if they want to live.

In our spiritual body the same thing can take place.  Blockages can come from many different things or directions and create a strain on our heart’s relationship with the Father. Which can cause us to not hear as we should, and to lose our desire to please the Father. 

In both the physical and spiritual it is up to us to desire to live in the healthiest way possible.  We can do this by determining to seek the Lord asking Him by His Holy Spirit to fill us with the desire to do our best with His help.

I encourage you today, to be mindful of what the Lord desires for you.  Seek His direction and encouragement. Run the race that has been put before you.  Ask Him to give you the desire, will-power and strength to run the race.

Phil. 3:12,14 “It’s not that I’ve already reached the goal or have already completed the course.  But I run to win that which Jesus Christ has already won for me.  V.14 I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus.”

Don’t be afraid of change, as change can be good.  Share with someone you trust who will encourage you and help keep you accountable in the changes you desire to accomplish. 

Remember every day is a new day, with a new start, so don’t beat yourself up on those days that don’t go as planned, just begin fresh and anew. 

You are not a failure, you are a Child of God. Your heavenly Father loves you dearly.  He cherishes you and only wants the best for you.  Zeph. 3:17

 

 

Frantic Love

Frantic Love

By Tammye Hamilton

The sudden, loud wailing was so startling it commanded our attention.  The young mother who stood a few feet from us at the theme park, sent up a panicked scream. “ALLLEXXX!!” she yelled with all her strength.  It only took a moment to realize that she had lost a child. Security arrived and calmly tried to get information from her.

She never stopped calling her child’s name loudly as she desperately fished his picture from her wallet.  The security guard relayed vital information on her radio. Alex was four years old. He had black hair and was wearing a blue shirt and denim shorts. He was last seen when the family exited a ride together.

Suddenly, they realized he was not with them.  Now nothing else mattered. What people thought of her as she ran this way and that, yelling his name, was of no concern to the distraught mother. Her precious child was missing.

My heart raced as the scene unfolded. I stepped up next to her and tried to reassure her.  She seemed unaware that I was even there as she doubled over in angst.

The panicked look on her face, her desperation, her extreme distress, all said the most important thing was to find her child.  It was such a raw, jarring example of how deeply we as parents love and value our children.

It reminded me of the story Jesus told of the man whose son wandered away from home. The father waited and watched for him to return. Jesus said, And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”

The story Jesus told reflected His own Father’s heart for us.  His heart is desperate for us. His love for us so overwhelming He did all He could to rescue us.

Jesus constantly communicated the Father’s concern for us. He told his disciples, “...the very hairs on your head are all numbered.”

How can we grasp how much God loves us, how He watches over our lives with great care? When we are lost or wander from Him, how His heart must burst to reconcile with us. How deeply He feels the loss of our presence!  How much He longs to keep us close.

Jesus knew the Father’s love for us was the very reason He came to our world. He came through all eternity, outside time and space to find us, when we were lost.  He came for us.

About five minutes after the heartbreaking episode at the theme park began, it ended joyfully as Alex and his relieved father came around the corner and straight into the arms of the sobbing mother.  She couldn’t stop crying.  He was safe in her arms.

See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are!  I John 3:1

 

 

 

 

 

Speak Life

Speak Life

By Audrey Botts

Remember the old childhood line, “I’m rubber and you are glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you”.   These lines didn’t work then and they don’t work now.  Words are incredibly powerful! They can build you up and lead you in a positive direction or they can tear you down and lead you into darkness.

When I was in my twenties, I was in a relationship that caused me to question the stability of my mental health.   This person was a psychology major and labeled me with psychological disorders defined in the A.P.A. (American Psychological Association).   

Basically he was saying I was crazy.  The sad part was that I believed him.  I guess I needed an explanation for the anger and depression I was experiencing during that season of my life. 

It was easy for me to believe the negative words spoken over me.  These words were tearing me down.  Good thing I sought help from a licensed therapist to help me, because I discovered I was not crazy at all.  I just needed someone to help me get through the tough hurdles in life. 

The words that were spoken over me were not true.  I was not going crazy.   Why was I so gullible?   Well I guess I wasn’t very wise in choosing who I let speak into my life. I was young and immature and I really didn’t know how to choose my friends.  What a life lesson to learn.

Be careful who and what you allow to speak into your life.   Know the motive and condition of the heart.

 Matthew 15:18.   “But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a man.”

Proverbs 18:21 “Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”  

We all have been victimized by harmful words and we are also guilty of hurting others too.  Especially when our hearts are filled with anger, selfishness, and other negative stuff.  Unfortunately, we can’t change this condition by ourselves.   Only Jesus can change the condition of the heart, and in turn, our tongue. 

The Lord wants us to use our words wisely and to speak life into the world.  If this is something you are struggling with, ask the Lord for forgiveness and have him change your heart and tongue.  

If you know someone who’s dialogue is not uplifting or negative, step away and pray that the Lord would change their heart. Jesus made it a point to tell us these things in the Bible: 

Matt 12:36. “for every careless word there will be an accounting in the day of judgment.”

Lord, help us to stand before you with a clean heart and an undefiled tongue.  We can’t do this without you.  We give you all the Glory!  Amen

 

 

 

 

Assuming the 'godly thing'

 

It is with great pleasure to introduce Pat Evans to you.  Pat has joined our team of writers, and I know you will be blessed as she shares from her life experiences and how God has guided her on the journey He has chosen for her.

Pat is the wife of Morris Evans and mother of 2 girls, Keely and Carly. She’s been a lover of God as far back as she can remember and has attended Central Assembly of God for 33 years. Pat loves serving the Lord through the ministries of exhortation, teaching, prayer, and the prophetic. She’s been blessed with the opportunity of using these giftings as a Cell Pastor and by being a part of the leadership team for the Women’s Encounters.  Writing is a new challenge for her and she welcomes a new opportunity to serve God in this capacity.

Assuming the ‘godly thing’

By Pat Evans

Sometimes I make decisions based on thinking it's the "godly" thing to do. I mean, it seems like the "Right" thing not to quit when you're being stretched.  

Shouldn't we endure hardships knowing God uses them to draw us closer to Him, strengthen our character, and teach us valuable lessons?

This is the way I thought about my job. I was close to retirement and had only a year and three months to go before I could get maximum benefits. My situation had gotten increasingly stressful and unpleasant at work. Still, in my mind, I convinced myself that I could do this for another year and three months because God would give me the grace. 

One day an incident happened that really added to my stress level and anxiety. Normally, I don't see myself as a fearful, anxious person, but this incident pushed me over that line.

Still thinking I was doing the "right" thing by toughing it out, I purposed in my heart to endure and rely on God for grace and strength to see me through

After all, isn't it usually God's way not to quit when the going gets tough?  Suffering and trials draw us closer and make us more like Him. And wouldn't He want me to receive maximum retirement benefits? That's just good stewardship, right?

A few days later I woke up out of a sound sleep in a panic attack. It took me a minute to even realize what was going on because I had never experienced one before.  As I lay there praying trying to regain my peace, I spoke these words: "Lord, I can't do this anymore". It seemed like it was only minutes before I fell back to sleep.

In my quest to be in the center will of God, He was trying to show me my error.  He spoke to me through my physical body because in my mind I was convinced I was doing the "right" thing. I had put God in a box, thinking I "knew" what He wanted me to do when, in fact, He was trying to change my mind to His Mind.  

Who would think that quitting when things got hard was God's way? I didn't. Though I do believe that sometimes it is God's will to endure for a season, the time had come for me to be rescued and enter His rest.

When I woke up the next morning, I realized that God visited me in that night season. I felt totally free and at peace knowing He had spoken to me.

The next workday, I put in my notice. I am so grateful that my lovingly, patient Heavenly Father broke through my incorrect thinking and taught me not to "assume" anything about His thoughts, ways, and will.  

"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are your ways My ways', declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts."  Isaiah 55:8,9

 

The Wallet Prayer

This month we are introducing two new writers. We welcome Denise Schmeer.  You will be greatly blessed as Dense shares from her heart.

Denise Preziosi Robinson Schmeer

Born and raised in White Plains, New York, Denise visited Florida for the first time when she was four (4) years old and spent the next 40 years trying to return.  The only child of Fred & Del Preziosi, she was raised in a Roman Catholic Church where a foundation of faith was laid for her life.  She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the State University of New York – Albany and worked for Fortune 100 companies in the northeast.  In 1997, she finally made her way to Vero Beach, Florida as a single, divorced mom with her two (2) young children in tow.  Shortly after arriving, she was hired to work at Indian River State College in the Institutional Advancement Department where many wonderful Christians spoke into her life.  In 1999, she became a born-again Christian at Glendale Baptist Church and so began her journey to walk with Jesus.  In 2009, due to an unforeseen turn of events, Denise met and eventually married William Charles “Chuck” Schmeer and became a member of Central Assembly Church.  Together they have grown in faith and commitment to God’s command to spread His word and shine His light.

The Wallet Prayer

By Denise Schmeer

“Go to God in prayer for all things.”  Well, how many times have I heard that or been told that!  And I usually did – for all the BIG things.  But apparently, God really wanted me to learn He truly meant in ALL things – seek Him first in prayer.

So finally – I got it!  How?  Well, God definitely works in mysterious ways!  For me, it started with a phone call from my son, who was in college 1400 miles away from Vero Beach.  It was about 10:30 one evening and the call started with, “Mom, I can’t find my wallet!” 

“OK,” I say, “Did you retrace your steps?”  He replies yes, and goes on to explain how he went to visit some friends and wore these new sweat pants that had shallow pockets, etc.  So I stayed on the phone with him while he retraced his steps, AGAIN . . . and while he searched his desk too.  (You know, maybe he thought he took his wallet, but really left it at home.)  So now, it’s almost 11:00 p.m. and he says he needs to go to Kroger to pick up some groceries.  He assures me he can use the emergency money in his strong box.  “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, mom.  I love you.  Thanks for trying to help me find my wallet.” 

I hang up the phone and for the first time in my life (no exaggeration), I say to God, “God, you know exactly where my son’s wallet is and I believe you can show it to him.  Please, Lord, I’m so far away but you are right there with him.  Thank you, God, thank you.” 

And that was my prayer – immediate and for a small thing – my son’s wallet. 

About 20 minutes later the phone rings and it’s my son.  “You’re not going to believe this Mom, but I found my wallet!” “Where?” I ask.  “Well, says my son, “I drove my car to Kroger and when I came out, I noticed a “light” shining right on my gas cap door.  And the door looked funny, like it wasn’t closed right.  So, I go over to fix it, and when I open it – there was my wallet!  Can you believe that?  I mean, how did it get there?”  He continued to chatter about this seemingly unbelievable turn of events, but I had stopped listening.  I just looked up to heaven and thanked God while both laughing and crying.  “I got it, God,” I said.  In ALL things, in ALL things – go to YOU in prayer. 

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  Mark 11:24 (NIV)

For God, no prayer is too BIG, but no prayer is too SMALL. 

 

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies

By Kellie Tipton

Growing up as the youngest in my family I have found that many of my memories are in fact memories shared by family.  Because of this phenomenon I always doubt if I actually have experienced this memory or if it is one told by my family. 

There is however a specific memory or I should say memories of each year as we approach the Christmas season you would always find us in the kitchen making cream cheese cookies with my mom. 

This has been one of many creations that has been a tradition and many times were gifts to friends and family.  To this day this cookie brings back such happy memories and as my brothers and I started our families, our children have become a part of this tradition.

I will however never forget the time that we were in the kitchen making cookies and my mom was sharing about her childhood and those memories she held dear.

I was older and starting to raise a family of my own.  As I listened to her, it dawned on me that my mom had not passed down a family tradition. 

This tradition started with her.  I started thinking about all the different things we did as a family from birthday to holiday celebrations and I was overwhelmed with an awareness of what my mom and dad had given my brothers and I.  I was very aware of the spiritual significance in this as well.

I knew my parents had determined early on that they were going to provide a stable and loving home for us.  As they went along figuring out what that would look like, they both came to know the Lord. 

While this was a revelation to me, it has been such a beautiful reminder of God’s love and how He makes all things new. 

You may have grown up in a family with generations of family traditions or maybe you can relate with me. We all have the opportunity to begin a new life in Christ and we all have the opportunity to start new things in our life.  This could be a new habit, or a new tradition but it all starts and ends with us. 

As I watch my children and my nieces making Christmas cookies I realize we are passing on to the next generation much more than a tradition. 

This Christmas cookie has become a symbol of God’s grace and mercy. 

So as you celebrate this Christmas season I pray you are reminded of all the gifts that God has given you even before you ever open a present. 

 

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies

By Kellie Tipton

Growing up as the youngest in my family I have found that many of my memories are in fact memories shared by family.  Because of this phenomenon I always doubt if I actually have experienced this memory or if it is one told by my family. 

There is however a specific memory or I should say memories of each year as we approach the Christmas season you would always find us in the kitchen making cream cheese cookies with my mom. 

This has been one of many creations that has been a tradition and many times were gifts to friends and family.  To this day this cookie brings back such happy memories and as my brothers and I started our families, our children have become a part of this tradition.

I will however never forget the time that we were in the kitchen making cookies and my mom was sharing about her childhood and those memories she held dear.

I was older and starting to raise a family of my own.  As I listened to her, it dawned on me that my mom had not passed down a family tradition. 

This tradition started with her.  I started thinking about all the different things we did as a family from birthday to holiday celebrations and I was overwhelmed with an awareness of what my mom and dad had given my brothers and I.  I was very aware of the spiritual significance in this as well.

I knew my parents had determined early on that they were going to provide a stable and loving home for us.  As they went along figuring out what that would look like, they both came to know the Lord. 

While this was a revelation to me, it has been such a beautiful reminder of God’s love and how He makes all things new. 

You may have grown up in a family with generations of family traditions or maybe you can relate with me. We all have the opportunity to begin a new life in Christ and we all have the opportunity to start new things in our life.  This could be a new habit, or a new tradition but it all starts and ends with us. 

As I watch my children and my nieces making Christmas cookies I realize we are passing on to the next generation much more than a tradition. 

This Christmas cookie has become a symbol of God’s grace and mercy. 

So as you celebrate this Christmas season I pray you are reminded of all the gifts that God has given you even before you ever open a present. 

 

Christmas Bonus

Christmas Bonus

By Mavis Tipton

It was December 24th, 1969.  I was sitting in a rocking chair with my precious new baby boy lying in my lap.  He was only 7 days old. 

He was a promise from God’s Word “But seek the kingdom of God and all His righteousness and these things shall be added to you.” Matt 6:33

This promise was given to Buddy March 16, 1969, following the service where Buddy and I surrendered our lives to Jesus Christ.

As I sat looking and loving on my baby, I thought of Mary, Mother of Jesus, and what she went through to bring her precious baby into the world.  My heart was full and over flowing with the love and peace of God.

I was so happy to be celebrating Christmas as a Child of God.  I was blessed to be spending it with my family, and holding the desire of my heart a baby boy.

We didn’t have much money to spend on Christmas, that year, so we drew names.  My father-in-law handed me a gift that appeared to be a shoebox or slippers.  I handed my baby to his grandfather so I could open the gift he had for me.

As I unwrapped it and pulled the paper back, I was surprised to find the box was empty, or so I thought. No shoes or slippers.   As I looked deeper into the box there laid a $50.00 bill.

As I looked up through tear-filled eyes, my mother and father-in-law were smiling.  Their gift to Buddy & I was a true gift of love and sacrifice.  You see, the $50.00 had been Hubert’s (my father-in-law) Christmas bonus.

Christmas is all about love the greatest gift God wants to give the world.  Gifts are to be received, opened, taken out of their wrappings, put on and worn with love.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ will you receive God’s gift to you?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Merry Christmas. 

 Peace on earth and goodwill to all. 

Glory to God in the Highest.

For Unto Us A Child is born. 

I am so thankful for these very special Christmas memories.  I am thankful for the Christmas memories we make each year, as Buddy and I gather together with our son and his family.  None of this would be possible, if we had refused God’s gift to us many years ago.  I love you Jesus, thank you for your gift of love.

Wishing our son Paul a very happy birthday today December 17th.  You and your family bless us so very much.  We are so proud of you and the man of God you have become.  God has blessed you with a beautiful godly wife and three amazing children who each love and serve the Lord.  Thank you Jesus for the legacy you have given us. Truly a Christmas Blessing!