Values Determine Actions and Actions Show Values

Values Determine Actions and Actions Show Values

By Debbie Walker

Matthew 13:45-46

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. 

When we value something like the merchant valued pearls our actions will show this.  The merchant valued pearls so much that he searched for them.  And then when he found one he acted.  He sold everything he had and bought it.  

This is much like our lives.  When we value something, we will act on it.  Our values determine our actions.  I love hosting people.  Hospitality, making someone feel loved and welcomed, is very important to me.  I will invite people over, cook for them, hang out with them and make them feel welcome. This is because I value hospitality. 

If I say that I value something but never do or show it, do I really value it?  When we are clear on what we value and are intentional about acting on this we provide a much clearer example of who we are. I think evangelism, talking to others about Jesus, is super important.  So, when I am talking to someone I am intentional to steer the conversation to Jesus.  I am intentional on making what I value clear with my words and actions. Grandparents value their grandchildren.  How do we know this? They talk about them and usually show you a couple of pictures of them. There is no question that those grandchildren are valued because the actions of the grandparents show it. 

This was very obvious to me a couple of summers ago when we were hosting a team of 20 junior highers and their youth leaders.  One of our interns loved and valued breakfast.  I don’t mean cereal and bagels. I mean warm hot pancakes, eggs and bacon breakfast.  She valued it enough that she would wake up at 5:30am and cook for the group.  We were doing outreach until 9 or 10 some nights but she was still willing to get up and cook.  Why?  Because she valued breakfast.  

What do you value? If you don’t know, then honestly ask yourself.

Do your actions show what you value? Again, be honest with yourself.  

Our values determine our actions and our actions show our values. 

 

Never Give Up

NEVER GIVE UP

By Robin Houde

Sometimes stubbornness can be used in a way that glorifies the Lord. I’m a stubborn kid at heart and it has gotten me in hot water many times. Over the last few years, however, He has shown me how to use this for His glory. 

There was a tumultuous time in my life when I thought I was never going be able to move past my hurt. Each day the pain, loneliness and abandonment I felt was worse. I longed to be held and for someone to tell me it was going to be okay. I cried out to God night after night to remove the piercing pain and agonizing feelings. Sometimes I felt like He wasn’t hearing me. But every night as I sat on my knees and prayed to Him, He would comfort me and direct me to His Word, where I was reminded of who He is and who I am in Him. These are a couple of scriptures that helped me through this difficult time: 

Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.”

These scriptures reminded me of God’s unconditional love for me. They solidified what I already knew in my heart. Even though I felt abandoned, God has promised that He is always with me, and He will never ever leave me. People abandon us but God never will. In those moments I could feel Him wrap his loving arms around me and I felt comforted and reassured that if I kept my focus on Him and not on my circumstance, I would not only get through what it was that I was going through but I would be made whole again, in my Lord and Savior. 

Lately a few newer songs on the radio have caught my attention. They all have to do with ‘looking up’. God will use all types of media to catch our attention. This time, for me, he used music. Sometimes we get so caught up in our problems that we sometimes forget who we are supposed to turn to in difficult times, where we are to look for help. Family and friends are great to have, especially those that share the same faith, but people can only help you so much. When we look the Lord for acceptance, guidance, peace, or comfort, we find it in a much purer form. God’s also lasts longer and doesn’t come with any strings attached. He asks nothing in return. And He’s actually been waiting for us to seek Him.

Psalm 121:1-2: I lift my eyes up to the mountains - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

So, no matter what this world throws at you, remember who are and who’s you are. Always look up and never give up!

 

Surprised by Pain

Surprised by Pain

By Tammye Hamilton

On our first day in Italy, I made a special memory. I tripped and fell in the lobby of our hotel, sprawling not so gracefully across the travertine floor. I lay there for a minute, wondering if I was hurt, but I was up shortly hurrying back to our room to nurse my dignity and ice my throbbing knee.  

The ice and rest did the trick and I walked quite a bit that evening with very little pain. The next morning, however, as I tried to get up, I realized I had actually bruised my hip when I fell. It hurt! I hadn’t felt it at all when it happened. 

I think life‘s challenges often hit us this way. We get knocked down, suffer emotional pain and think we know where the pain hit us and how badly we are wounded. Then, as we move through our lives, we have experiences that reveal wounds or emotional trauma we didn’t know we had.  

Maybe the pain went deeper than we were able to grasp or perhaps the enemy is lying to us or pressing on an unhealed wound. This can surprise us and throw us off. We thought we were healed. We worked through forgiveness and yet, the pain is real. 

I have found that I like all of my issues wrapped up with neat little bows. “OK, I‘m done with that, it’s over.” Unfortunately, if we don’t deal with these things when they come up, they will begin to control us. 

We know people who have been miraculously healed from severe trauma and others who forgive easily and never struggle, but if that is not your story, I’m here to tell you there is hope.  

First of all we have to realize that sometimes healing is miraculously instantaneous and sometimes it is a process. One day you will wake up and feel so victorious and think it’s all behind you and the next morning you will not want to get out of bed. This is reality for many of us. 

So the first thing is to acknowledge that something is going on. Whether you have unhealed wounds or the enemy is yanking your chain, something is happening. 

This is when we turn to Jesus. The temptation is to start self-analyzing to figure out what is going on. While some soul searching can be beneficial, we can get bogged down here if we try to figure everything out with our minds. 

I find that if instead of focusing on me I focus on HIM, the way out is much clearer. Meditating on His Word, especially when it’s the last thing I want to do, brings clarity and strength to face the battle.

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

I prayed with a woman recently who experienced unspeakable abuse as a child. She is a brave believer who must walk in forgiveness every day to stay free. Declaring the Word is not a religious exercise for her, it is survival. 

Recognizing that experiences can trigger past traumas brings us to a place of total surrender to Jesus. We can’t compartmentalize. We must lay everything that has happened at His feet and when we feel pain attached to the past, we don’t condemn ourselves for not being “over it”. This is the enemy’s scheme to cripple us.  

No, we remember that what they meant for evil, God meant for good, (Genesis 50:20)and that in our weakness His strength is made perfect. (2 Corinthians 12:9).

When painful thoughts bring us to our knees, we declare that, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Still?

Be Still?

By Jacqi Ballough

If you have ever had kids near you, whether on an airplane, in front of you at church, or by you at the movie theater, chances are you have wanted to say, “Please, be still.” Their wiggles can be quite distracting or even create quite the blunder when a stray elbow upsets a drink or pokes someone in the ribcage.

Honestly, I get it. It’s hard to sit still, and I often feel like those squirmy children. In fact, I have the refrigerator magnet “Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10”Its perfect cursive lettering stares me in the face every time I visit the refrigerator. The same verse adorns the front of my journal as well.

Why?

Being still is a real struggle for me. In fact, if I am still, I am probably asleep or close to it. I want to jump around, be productive, do anything, but be still. It is awkward, a bit confusing, and really uncomfortable. 

I am not sure if it is because I lack maturity, am full of excessive energy, or possibly still hang onto some guilt that I “should be” doing something. (I was thankfully freed from this false belief of aggressive striving a few years ago, so if this is you, here is a news flash: We can’t earn God’s approval with our works. He will still love us the same no matter what we do or do not accomplish. Jesus accomplished all through his sacrifice!)

Now I do enjoy quite time, but for me, quite time is walking outside. Many times, I hear the Lord the clearest when I am in His creation and moving, not being still. 

When I look up Psalm 46:10 in the original Hebrew, the word raphais found for “be still.” A better translation to English would mean “to be weak, to let go, to release or surrender.” Based on this translation, to “be still” is a position of the heart; a humble posture before the Lord noting his sovereignty, omniscience, and omnipresence.

I remember as a teenager questioning whether God was real. My parents had diligently brought me up in the church, but those secular questions gnawed at me. How can you “really” know? One restless night I remember crying out to Him, “Show yourself to me, God, so I can know for sure that you are real.” I then heard deep inside, “You know. You wouldn’t be praying to Me if you didn’t.” I fell peacefully asleep and never questioned Him again. I knew.

I learned to “be still” (surrender) and through that I came “to know” God. I had to become less, and He became everything. I died to myself, my want for control, my selfish ambitions, and conceit, and instead humbly sought Him. Head knowledge of knowing Him is worthless compared to the heart knowledge of “letting go” and by faith trusting the Almighty.  

The “being still” led to the “knowing.” Through the loving sacrifice of His son, Jesus, we know with our whole being He is God, Our Redeemer, Our Creator. The Holy Spirit is then able to communicate within us, and we can truly “know.”  

Simply submit all to this belief in Him.

Be still and know that I am God! 

I will be honored by every nation. 

I will be honored throughout the world.

Psalm 40:10

What's Love Got to Do with It?

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

By Audrey Botts

It’s hard to show love and share the gospel to people that are offensive, unfriendly, and heartless to you.  We have the tendency to avoid them or even react to their behavior.   

Jesus never let character flaws get in His way; He looked for the sinners and engaged them with the gospel of God’s love for them.   As followers of Christ, we are taught to go into the world and preach the good news of Christ to everyone…even the mean ones.  Tough!

“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires ALL people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim. 2:3-4

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”Luke 5:32

 To be honest with you, I have difficulties in this area.  I have the propensity to elude places that make me act less than Christ-like.  

I have avoided a certain well-known commercial store in town, which remain nameless, because of the rude people that shop and work there.  

I have come out of this particular store at times irritated and stressed out.   I would only go into that store if I desperately needed something.   

If Jesus would physically appear here on earth, it would probably be one of the first places He would go to shop.  Shop for lost souls, that is.  

So, what does that tell me? He loves them and these are the ones He wants us to reach out to.  Not just the nice ones.  What does love have to do with it?  It means everything.  You can’t share the gospel of Jesus in this dark world, without having the Light and Love of God in your heart.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7.

So back to the store I go. I have tried and I undeniably prayed for love to enter my heart so that I can show His love in this unfriendly environment.  It is difficult, but the Lord has given me grace to navigate this difficult terrain.    

Just last week, I entered this particular store and noticed a slight change in the atmosphere. I noticed that the store placed some of their employees in strategic areas to greet and help people.   I even noticed that some of the sales clerks were even a little friendlier.   It was a small change, but it was change that was in progress…Thank you Lord!

 There are many places we would like to avoid in sharing the gospel, but remember, Jesus found us where we were.  He came down from heaven in love, to save us from darkness.  We were not worthy in any way, but the love of Jesus transformed us into righteousness of Christ.

 

 

With God, We Fly Above the Storm

With God, We Fly Above the Storm

By Denise Schmeer

It was Tuesday, May 17, 2016 and my plan was to leave work early in order to drive my son, Kirk, to the airport.  He was heading to Europe with some friends for a much-needed break from his doctoral work.  However, as the weather started to change for the worse, I thought it wise to leave a little earlier.  Must have been a “nudge” from God, for as I drove from Fort Pierce to Vero Beach, the deluge began.  We have lived through a number of hurricanes and flooding, but this was downright crazy weather . . . tornado level winds and over 11 inches of rain pounded down. 

I called my son at home and asked, “Are you sure your flight is not cancelled?”  He replies, “No Mom, just waiting for the power in the house to come back on so I can take a shower.  See you when you get here.”  Well, more easily said, than done!  

Our street was flooded!  And not just our block, but at least three blocks back!  No way could I take the usual route.  With heart pounding, a few more side street maneuvers and by the grace of God I made it home.  Kirk jumped in the car and off we headed to Orlando airport.

I expressed my concern to Kirk about the wisdom of flying in this “Armageddon” type weather.  He looked at me and said, “Mom, the plane flies above the storm.”  Ahhhh . . . yes!  Of course, and so it is with God.  No matter what is happening in our lives, with God we are above the storm.

But those who trust in the Lord for help will find their strength renewed.  They will rise on wings like eagles; they will run and not get weary; they will walk and not grow weak.  (Isaiah 40:31 GNT)

So Kirk’s flight took off on time and the drive home was just as wild and crazy with wind and rain buffeting the car around like a . . . well, like a paper airplane.  Nevertheless, I was pretty “chill.”  Jesus and I chatted all the way back to Vero Beach.  We talked about everything and anything.  Well, I did all the talking and Jesus just smiled and did all the listening.  

Such a blessing to be reminded that with God, we are always above the storm – no matter what the situation.  If we trust in Him, lean on Him, talk to Him, He is there to advise, comfort, listen, heal, refresh and renew.  We are protected by God’s almighty power, great mercy and strength. With God, we fly above the storms of life – lifted up as on eagle’s wings.  

Enter The New Year With A New Heart

Enter the New Year with A New Heart

By Mavis Tipton

Prov. 4:23 “Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it.” 

This past year was a year of much prayer for Buddy’s heart and overall health.  Seeking the Lord to bring healing either miraculously, or through guiding the doctors.  

After several attempts to shock the heart back into rhythm and it failing to stay in rhythm it was decided to do a Heart Ablation. 

This so far is working, which we are very thankful for. Buddy is being monitored for an extra heartbeat, which doesn’t happen all the time, just once in a while.  

Heart disease can be caused by many different things. Not taking care of yourself, abusing your body, hereditary factors, and the list goes on.   

The heart a small organ the size of a closed fist, yet it empowers the entire body.  It is a complexed strong, delicate organ. Without the heart we will die.

The heart not only allows the human body to function it is the center of our being.  The heart is the mind,emotionsand the willof our soul.  The heart is where the inner man and outer man contact.  

Something that one of Buddy’s doctors said to us, was “you need to get this done soon, as the longer the heart stays out of rhythm, the harder it is to get it back in rhythm.  It doesn’t want to change.”

How true this is for the spiritual heart.  When the spirit-man is neglected and not cared for, he drifts further and further away from his commitment to the Lord, and he develops a harden heart.  The Good News is the Great Physician is there waiting to do ‘heart surgery’ to refresh, renew and restore, like only He can do. 

As the scripture says: “Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it.”

Do you guard your heart more than anything else? The definition for Guard; (protect, keep safe, be cautious.  Defend, a watchful state.  Prevent injury.)  Are you doing these things to guard your heart both physically and spiritually?

God our Father has given us the only tool we need to guard our hearts and that is His Word.  As you read and study God’s Word He directs you.  Holy Spirit speaks to your spirit-man and as you listenand obeyHe protects you from those things that can bring harm to you.

God has our backs, but more importantly our hearts. He only wants the best for His children.   

I invite you to take a moment to come before the Father, and surrender all to Him.  To ask Him to do whatever ‘heart surgery’ He needs to do, so you can “Have a new heart for a new year.”

Matt. 19:26 “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Not Perfect but He Is

We Are Not Perfect but He Is 

By Debbie Walker

Our Christmas celebration wasn’t perfect!  Some of the peanut butter fudge wasn’t cooked long enough and went into the garbage.  The cat partially opened more than one Christmas gift.  One online ordered gift is still yet to arrive. Tears over things not being just the way I wanted may have been shed. Our nativity scene bought the year before on clearance is missing Joseph!  Although, we do have 4 wise men; two of them twins, haha.  

But that’s just it… nothing that we do will ever be perfect and it never will be perfect because we live in a fallen world.  There is nothing wrong with striving to have that perfect family celebration, however, it is okay to have mishaps.  It is not the end of the world when something doesn’t come out just right.  

There is joy in knowing that our Father in heaven is perfect and that He sent His perfect sacrifice for us. We can take refuge in Him. We can strive to do our very best and when things go a bit wrong, it is okay.  We move forward in Christ. 

We will keep hosting celebrations and enjoying the good things and good people in our lives.  These upcoming celebrations will not be perfect but we can have perfect joy in knowing that we have a perfect Father who loves us. 

Psalm 18:30 As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.

 

 

 

Observations of a Bell-Ringer...Those Who Are Called?

Observations of A Bell-ringer . . . Those Who Are Called?

By Denise Schmeer

Woohoo!  I was so excited to be a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army this year.  As a child (and even as an adult), I knew it was Christmas time when I heard the Salvation Army red kettle bells.  Plus, it reminded me of my Dad who very much admired the work of this organization . . . something he experienced as a young soldier serving in Europe during WWII.  

Anyhow, my expectations of this bell-ringing adventure and what happened were somewhat different.  I had no idea so many people would stop and tell me their stories! Who knew . . . as I had hoped to be a blessing . . . I was so blessed.

Every passerby heard, “Merry Christmas” or “Have a blessed day.” Those who stopped to chat . . . well, sometimes I would even have a chance to ask a name or if they would like me to pray for them.  Incredible!!

There was the WWII veteran who remembered how the Salvation Army gave the troops hot coffee when they came into port . . . the sweet grandmother who talked lovingly about her granddaughter up north . . . the woman who said money was so scare she didn’t think she could make a donation, but came back with her husband anyway . . . the adorable little girl with her Dad, who told me she was a Christmas princess . . . the man who told me this funny joke about the little boy who wrote letters to Jesus about wanting a bicycle for Christmas.  The list goes on.

But, what really struck me was how easily people with blank stares and down cast eyes would just light up when they heard “Merry Christmas” and my smile connected with them.  How hungry our very own community is for the love of Christ!  

So let us not become tired of doing good; for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest (Galatians 6:9 GNT)

So for every blessing each of us passed along this Christmas season, with every “Merry Christmas” we spoke into someone else’s life, that we were shining the Love of Christ.  In our own way, we were feeding the spiritually hungry and comforting the lonely heart.  And I pray, that this Christmas renewed and strengthened our resolve to Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all people (Mark 16:15 GNT)

A Cord of 3 Strands

 

A Cord of Three Strands

By Debbie Walker

Every night, my husband and I pray together before going to sleep.  We lay in bed together and hold hands and pray together.  We then kiss the back of each other’s hands and kiss each other good night.  

Honestly, most nights, this prayer is not the fanciest prayer ever. It often is short and to the point…Lord, help us to sleep well. Bless the kids.  Thank you for another day and so forth.  Other times, it will be much longer and include our families, our friends, the people we minister to, etc.…

It is not what we pray for that is most important, it is who we pray to.  We intentionally stop each night and remember the third most important strand in our marriage. 

Our marriage has lasted for over 26 years now and this is mostly due to the fact that we know that we need God to be included so that we are not quickly broken.  

We started out praying together because we heard that we should pray together to help our marriage last.  We even took turns praying; odd days were my turn, even days were his turn.  

Now, it is a vital part of our day.  We go to bed remembering that we need God in the middle of our marriage. This helps us to wake up the next morning being intentional to keep the Lord in our marriage and in our lives. 

When is the last time you prayed with your spouse?  

I encourage you to start praying together each night no matter how long you have been married. Praying together has helped us remember that we are not alone in this journey.  

Ecclesiastes 4:12

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken

 

Sitting on Hope

Sitting on Hope

By Jacqi Ballough 

“What is Hope?” the little girl asked.

My mind laughed at the irony in the question. What my heart and mind yearned to say at that moment was far more than this little eight-year-old could handle. Therefore, I answered, “Hope is the hope-chest my father built for my college graduation present. It sits at the foot of my bed. Sometimes we need to go sit on Hope to think about our words and actions, how they affect us and the people around us.” 

Only moments before, I had asked my son to “go sit on Hope.” As parents, my husband and I discovered Hope was a savior to our parenting difficulties. We don’t have all the answers and sometimes need a break ourselves to sit on the hope Christ gives us. He tells us in the Bible to pray for wisdom, to regard our children as holy, not to discourage them with harsh words or anger, but to build them up and train them up to know Him. 

The times when we send our son to Hope are the very times we are seeking the hope in God’s promises, because parenting is tough. You definitely have to put your selfish ambitions aside and deny the fleshly responses to the insurmountable inconveniences that can crop up throughout the day. Bad attitude. Lack of self-control. Pride. Mischievous antics. Disobedience. Laziness. The list can go on. 

Many times these short breaks of “sitting on Hope” help us reflect on our actions, in light of our knowledge of Christ and his teachings. As parents (and humans in general), we have to take time to seek wisdom on how to respond to different situations. Sometimes it is as simple as praying to God as a family, seeking His forgiveness, and finding a better way to respond next time. Kids and adults alike need to be taught and then sent off to try again. But other times, if warnings and teachings have been ignored, there are more extreme consequences leading to privileges being revoked or extra work to be had. 

So what really is hope? Hope is faith in the promises of that which we can’t see. Webster’s dictionary defines hope as “a cherished desire with anticipation of fulfillment; to expect and want with confidence.”

What is my hope? My hope is in Christ, my Redeemer. My hope is that I honor him by my actions and fulfill my God-given purpose, that my husband and I raise up the son he gave us to glorify His name and carry His Word to all nations; and that our son will be equipped to carry out the purpose God has for his life by the time he leaves our home to begin his own. 

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have HOPE.”Romans 15:4

What is your hope?

The Eyes of The Lord

The Eyes of the Lord

Audrey Botts

When I was a little girl, my family and I moved into a new apartment in Chicago, Illinois.  I think I was around 3 or 4 years old when I found this beautiful painting propped on the floor of my new bedroom.  I think it was left by the previous tenants.  It was a picture of a man in a white robe with a glowing radiance all around him.  He had one hand with two fingers up and the other hand over his bare heart.  I was only a small child, but I wanted to know who this man was.  So I asked my mother and she said “that’s Jesus!”  

Who was Jesus?  And why did he leave his picture behind?   I was very young and naïve, but I remember how captivated I felt by this man in the picture.   I felt like his eyes were always watching me.  I felt strange at times when I was disobeying. I thought that Jesus would come out of the picture to reprimand me.  How silly I was…  I look back and laugh because little did I know that Jesus was not just in that picture watching me, but Jesus was everywhere and his eyes are always upon those that love him.  You never have to feel alone, your faith in God will always be your companion in life. He will never leave you or forsake you.

1 Peter 3:12 says, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer.” 

2 Chronicles 16:19 says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” 

I want to share the lyrics to this beautiful song written by Civilla D. Martin, 

“His Eye is on the Sparrow”

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

 

God Is A lot Like Gravity

God Is A Lot Like Gravity

By Denise Schmeer

If faith is a lot like Crisco (see an earlier blog under my name), then God is a lot like gravity!  This inspired thought came to me after I had a conversation with one of my children.  This particular child was raised in Church, had an encounter with God as a teenager, but casually said to me recently, “Well, I don’t believe in God.”  Now, granted, I had noticed, as sadly happens with many young adults (myself included), the drift away from God, from Church, from what was learned at home.

After this somewhat startling, but not necessarily surprising proclamation, this child went on to talk about Jesus . . . how if Jesus were walking the Earth today, He would be turning over more than just tables in the temple, etc., etc.

Needless to say, I was somewhat taken aback by the “Well, I don’t believe in God.” comment and wise words eluded me.  But it did start me thinking.  It was as if my child thought by declaring “I don’t believe in God,” that somehow God ceased to exist!  How ridiculous is that?  I mean, it is like saying, “I don’t believe in the law of gravity” and expect to just float away.  Will a declaration, no matter how firmly believed, change the Truth?  No, of course not.

Whether this child likes it or not, believes it or not (right now) God is here.  God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Master Creator of the Universe and all which is in it.  

God loves each of us, with an indescribable, unimaginable love. God is calling each of us into a profound and deep relationship with Him.  And I am reminded how very important is it to “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  (Proverbs 22:6)I hold securely to the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and pray for the day my child comes to himself and returns home.

So now, I pray also for all the “prodigals” who have squandered their inheritance, lost their way, and are floating in the absence of the “gravity” which would anchor them to salvation, to their Heavenly Father, to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.  (Luke 15:20)

Dear God, thank you for doing whatever it takes to bring our children home – to call them back to your loving arms.

The Weapon That Promises Victory 

By Vicki Molinari 

“Don’t point it at me and don’t touch the trigger”, he said as he gave us permission to pick up the rifle.
The shop in Williamsburg was quaint and simple with every tool needed to make guns.  They were real replicas from Colonial times. The handguns were simple with brass accented wood bodies.  The rifles were beautifully crafted, yet weighty on purpose. The round bullets would project with great force so the gun must be steady and heavy.
I don’t hold guns often, actually never so this experience was new for me. 
As a parallel to the practical instruction given, was the quiet voice I heard in my spirit.
Don’t point, don’t pull and there is no effectiveness with this weapon.  However, when needed, like in the battle of Yorktown, these weapons were greatly effective to assist in a victory for their freedom!
Today, I find myself fighting my own personal battles of which I desire freedom and victory.
Perhaps you can relate. You have found yourself in a struggle where you are fighting for a victory, too. 
Perhaps it is overwhelming stress at work, a once thriving friendship shut down, you feel like a failure as a mom, you have lost a loved one or maybe you are experiencing struggles in your marriage? 
There is hope and victory my friend! I promise.
It is in these battles we need to pick up our weapon.  
The Bible. 
It is the only weapon that promises truth, peace, joy, love and yes victory when in the midst of our personal life battles. 
When I consider God’s word, I am assured it is sharper than any two-edged sword. It is as a valuable weapon for the believer who uses it effectively.
It says in Hebrews 4:12,
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

If we are setting ourselves up for victory, we must pick up our weapon - the Bible- often. Get familiar with it. Know it’s feel when holding it, perfecting our skills when using it.  We must allow it to penetrate our minds and hearts so that when in battle, we aim with confidence and we shoot/we speak it with power and authority!  
Let’s proclaim victory by using our most effective life weapon, the Bible. 

 

 

Sing To The Lord

Sing to the Lord

By Debbie Walker 

Recently I was at a week-long conference with about 400 people who all serve in the same organization as our family.  Many of these people I have met over the years and consider friends or even family. It is like a big extended family reunion that you want to attend.  

This conference is a great time to catch up and hear about the ups and downs of others’ journeys.  Many of these journeys are marked with the hardship of serving the Lord full-time.  

Conference is also a time to worship and pray together and to be encouraged by speakers.  Each morning and evening sessions were started with worship.  

As the week went on, it seemed that the worship grew sweeter and sweeter.  There is nothing quite as amazing as a room full of people, whole-heartedly worshipping Jesus together. 

Worship was sweet not because we did not have troubles, but despite the troubles we were choosing to stop and sing together.  Life is not easy and there are many times that the tough circumstances of life seems bigger than anything else.  It is at those times that we need to sing praises to the Lord.  We need to proclaim His salvation over our lives. 

It is easy to sing praises to the Lord when we feel blessed and all is going well.  It is not so easy to sing praises when things are going rough.  

Regardless of what is going on in our lives, the salvation we have received through Jesus is more than enough to sing about in our lives. 

Choose in the midst of every day, in every circumstance, to praise the Lord; to sing praises to His name. 

Psalm 96:2 Sing to the Lord, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day. 

 

 

 

  

A Simple Christmas

A Simple Christmas

By Tammye Hamilton 

Remember when a few weeks until Christmas seemed like an eternity? Oh the anticipation of the big day!  

When our children were young, we didn’t put the wrapped presents under the tree until after they were all tucked in on Christmas Eve.  Mainly because we didn’t want them focused on the gifts and what they were going to get but also so they wouldn’t be tempted to guess or peek.  Some surprises are worth protecting! 

I am especially feeling that excitement this year because all of our children and their families will be with us for Christmas. I started planning our time together as soon as we heard they were coming. 

Every year for the past few years, I have chosen a word to represent what I wanted for the holiday season. Last year I chose the word ‘Joy’. I focused on having a joyful season and even though we were a small group for our family, it was joyful. 

This year as we get ready to celebrate our family traditions, I have chosen the word ‘Simple’. That might seem ridiculous knowing there will be at least 21 people in our house, including 6 children under 4. Okay, it is pretty ambitious.  

But somehow I know that it will matter. Like my mother before me, I tend to go a bit overboard this time of year. I put a lot of expectations on myself and I have wanted things to be more perfect than peaceful, but this year I’m committed.

So here’s my plan.  

Simple means simple. I am crossing things off my list that will add stress to this season of joy. I don’t have to decorate every surface of my house. Some of the decorations will stay in their boxes.  Every meal doesn’t have to be impressive. There will be lots of pizza. 

I will purchase and make fewer gifts. If ‘gifts’ is your love language this might be hard.  Gifters need to find the perfect present for everyone on their list. We have a few of these in our family. We draw names every year (big family hint) and our children, who turn everything into a competition, work hard to “out gift” each other. The winning gifts are not the most expensive but the most thoughtful.  Simple is the biggest blessing.  

I will be present.These moments I will have with my family will come to an end all too soon. They will return to their homes in other states and countries. I will spend every moment I have with them.  

If your children are small, you already know how fleeting the years will be. Being present in the moments matter. The way you live these special times together helps to shape your family identity.  

These memories will become an integral part of their futures and what their families will look like. Let their memories be of you simply enjoying togetherness. They might remember a few special gifts but they will really remember and cherish those quiet and noisy moments together.  Keeping it simple eliminates all that pressure and stress perfection wants to put on us. 

When the Son of God was born in that smelly stable so long ago, nothing about it was perfect and yet everything was. He came for us. He came to be with us and to redeem us. 

That is how simple the Gospel really is.  I hope your Christmas reflects that simplicity. Whether your family is large or you are alone, you can marvel in HIs perfect Gift. He came for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hidden Meaning

Hidden Meaning

By Jacqi Ballough

In the center of our home, an evergreen Christmas tree covered with lights and cherished ornaments collected throughout the years is one of the first holiday decorations up. Once the tree is fully lit and adorned, the final touch takes team effort: a red star. Since my son was a toddler, he has climbed upon Daddy’s shoulders and while giggling with delight, set a red star on top. It is a family tradition. 

In fact, I am that person who gets so excited about Christmas that our tree goes up Thanksgiving week. And yes, I love listening to Christmas music beginning that week as well, and buying gifts, arranging the Nativity scene, preparing greeting cards, baking, and hanging the advent calendar! I love all of it! 

Why? It all points to Jesus! 

As a young mother, I yearned to share the true meaning of Christmas to our son and not become lost in materialism. Unfortunately, I didn’t know much but was ready to find out! By God’s grace, I had a friend who gave me a book, The ADVENTure of Christmas, by Lisa Whelchel. It explains the Biblical roots and significance of many of our traditions, even candy canes and Old Saint Nick. Through its short stories and simple holiday crafts, I have learned and taught both young and old for years. 

For instance, did you know circa 700 AD a missionary named Winfrid (Saint Boniface) was supposedly the first person to use the triangular shape of the evergreen as an object lesson symbolic of the Holy Trinity (God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit)? The color green represents everlasting life and the point at the top sets our gaze to heaven. 

And have you noticed the boughs of the tree extend like Jesus’s arms on the cross, reminding us of his loving sacrifice? For us He came, and for us He died bearing “our sins in His body on the tree (the cross), so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness.” (1 Peter 2:24)

Another fascinating legend is of Martin Luther’s contribution to our tradition. He was walking home one December evening amazed by the beauty of God’s creation and the stars in the night sky reflecting onto the evergreen forest. He was filled with awe and wanted to re-create the scene for his family. Therefore, he chopped down a tree, took it home, and set it in the center. Then in an attempt to mimic the stars reflecting onto the trees, he placed lit candles on the boughs. This is a wonderful illustration of how the heavens declare the Glory of God and Jesus is the Light of the World. 

And why do we place the tree in the center of our home? Because our lives are to be centered around Christ. Our actions, words, and heart. He is our salvation, hope, and future. Merry CHRISTmas!

 

 

Just Breathe

Just Breathe

By: Robin Houde

Do you ever find yourself striving to please others? As a woman I have often postponed spending time with God in order to take care of or do something for someone else. 

The bible is filled with stories of women who went against what was thought to be acceptable behavior. These women challenged societal standards as they followed Jesus. Mary of Bethany had a desire to know more about Jesus. She sat at his feet to listen to His word and ignored her chores. When her sister, Martha came into the room to fetch her and scold her for not helping out in the kitchen, Jesus pretty much told Martha that she worried too much.

Luke 10:40 -42 (NKJV)-  Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore, tell her to help me." And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chose that good part, which will not be taken away from her."

Martha was the type of woman who showed her loved for others by serving. Mary however, showed her love and devotion to Jesus by sitting at his feet, listening and learning.

As Mary drank in Jesus' living water, her sister was fretting about getting dinner on the table and cleaning up the mess. It was Martha's natural desire to make sure that everyone else's needs were met but deep in her heart she was becoming frustrated and discouraged. She seemed to feel like Jesus didn't care about her either. How many of us go through life acting and feeling just like Martha? We get so caught up with making sure the needs of others are met that we end up feeling disappointed and alone. When we don't put our trust in God, we become frustrated and stressed out about how many tasks we need to complete. 

Think about the last time you flew on an airplane. As you were getting ready for takeoff the airline staff most likely went through some sort of safety briefing with the passengers. Part of it would have been demonstrating how to buckle your seatbelt and put on your air mask. They always say to put your own air mask on first, then assist others with theirs. This is because we need to have breath in our own lungs in order to help others breathe. We, as believers, have the breath of God in our lungs. If we allow ourselves to soak in God's refreshing word of truth, and if we allow Him to fill us with His Holy Spirit on a regular basis, we'll be so much more equipped to 'save' others. 

God wants you to know that your desire to serve others is important and valuable, however, knowing Him and being in His awesome presence should take priority over everything else. 

Matthew 6:33 (NKJV) - But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.

 

Is Thank You Enough?

Is Thank You Enough?

By Mavis Tipton

Please and Thank You, two little phrases we learn before we can talk, and among some of the first words we say.

In the book “Good Manners, Matter” it tells us that 4 out of 25 good manners we learn tell us to say ‘thank you.’ 

What other words can express thank you, like ‘thank you?’  I don’t about you but sometimes it is difficult to find other words that express what is my heart.

Thank you can be an incredibly powerful pair of words, especially when the person you are thanking really needs to hear them and even better when it isn’t expected.

We all like to hear ‘Thank You’ for the things we do for others, even when we don’t need it or expect it.  It reassures us the act of kindness was needed and appreciated, and cherished.

Being thankful expresses gratitude, being grateful and blessed.

No matter how you may try to express ‘thank you’ differently – it still comes back to those two words.  How powerful they are.

Gratitude helps you to grow and expand; gratitude brings joy and laughter into your life and into the lives of those around you.

Words escape us when we are to trying to say ‘thank you,’ differently and yet ‘thank you,’ is all that is needed and speaks volumes. Thank you shows respect.

How we respond back is important as well. Sometimes ‘thank you,’ makes us feel uncomfortable, but we need to welcome the expression and let the person know their happiness has brought us joy.  “I was happy to do it.”  “I know you would do the same for me or someone else.”

So why am I writing about “Is Thank you Enough?”, because I was in a setting where we were praying, and as this person prayed, they began thanking the Lord over and over, and in the midst of praying said, “Lord is thank you enough?”  Immediately the Lord spoke to me and said “Yes, it is when it comes from the heart.” 

The Bible is full of scriptures that tell us to ‘give thanks.’  They instruct us to praise and thank the Lord.  The Lord delights in the praises of His people.

1 Chro. 23:30 “And each morning and evening they stood before the Lord to sing songs of ‘thanks and praise to Him.”

In this scripture praisehalalmeans to praise, to thank; rejoice, boast about someone.  Halulis the root from which “hallelujah; is formed.  The phrase is a command:  hallelu-Jah (all of you must praise Jah). Also derived from halalis tehillah.  A tehillahis a praise, a psalm, or a song.  The Hebrew title of the Book of Psalms is Tehillim, literally “Praises.”  

The Lord created us to praise and give thanks. When it is done from the heart He never grows tired of hearing it…and yes, it is enough

As we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with expressions of praise and thank you, may each recipient know without a shadow of a doubt it is coming from our heart.  And if you aren’t quite there with it coming from your heart, do it in faith. Please don’t stop with the holidays, may we put into practice every day the following quote. 

Christine Caine says: “Let’s choose gratitude as our attitude.”

Happy Thanksgiving 

And

Merry Christmas

 

On The Radio

A Radio Message from God

By Denise Schmeer

Vacations are great!  There we were my husband and I, driving up I-95 to our final destination – Lake Lure, North Carolina.  The radio was tuned to a Christian station and we were happily singing along with the songs.  Eventually the announcer came on and, seemly without warning, posed this question: “What if tomorrow, we woke up with only the things we thanked God for today?”  

WHAT??  WAIT!!  What did he say?  WOW – to say that his words made my eyes pop out of my head is an understatement . . . a most startling thought for my vacation-focused mind!

Immediately, I found myself assessing what I had thanked God for yesterday.  Then, WAIT, I thought . . . Did I even remember to thank God for anything yesterday? My mind began to race.  I imaged, did I thank God for my children . . . my husband . . . our home . . . the food on our table . . . the country we live in . . . our Church family . . . the clothes on my back . . . every breath I took . . . our neighbors . . . the list in my head went on and on.  Finally, I calmed down, but what “food for thought!” I mean, are we remembering to be thankful in our daily conversations with our Heavenly Father, or are we just giving God a shopping/laundry list of things we need from Him?  How does that verse go?  Rejoice always, pray continuously, and in ALL things give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

God’s will for us is to give thanks in ALL things . . . Hmmmm . . . not just the good things, but in ALL things.  There must be a reason the Scripture says “all things.”  Perhaps because the hard things are what help us grow? The tough roads are what strengthen us and the rough patches are what open our eyes to see our blessing more clearly. As God walks with us through the trials of life, our faith increases, our hearts grow softer, His light shines brighter in us and through us. 

So, I will give thanks for “Mr. Radio Announce” and his wise and thought-provoking question:  “What if tomorrow, we woke up with only the things we thanked God for today?”  

Well, as for me, from now on, when my head hits the pillow and I close my eyes for the night, I am saying to God . . . “Thank you, God today – for everything and I do mean absolutely, everything!”