Be Alone with Jesus

Be Alone with Jesus

You want me to talk about solitude? Yikes is what comes to mind for me. I have been one that panics when I am alone.  I was with my family until I got married.  I got married and suddenly the husband is in the picture. Because of many reasons, one being I was very lonely even though I was living with my husband, we divorced.  I moved in with a friend and lived a year, but then I got an ultimatum to move.  I knew I needed to move, but I totally feared being alone. I wasn’t afraid of what could happen to me, but being a people person, it was hard for me to wrap my mind around this concept. I had never been alone, I thought, so how could I move into a place BY MYSELF!  

I was in church, but I didn’t rely on the Lord as much as I could have because I didn’t know that I could.  I didn’t even think about asking God to hang out with me.  Solitude to me seemed miserable.  What do you do when you are alone and lonely?  You find people to be around, and may I say, I didn’t always find the best ones to hang out with.  Eventually I quit going to church, so I found friends “in low places” as Garth Brooks said.  Not all of them were bad, but they weren’t in church where I needed to be.  I should have been seeking after the Lord instead of the wrong people.

I think of the story of Joseph and I relate to him in some ways.  In Genesis chapter 37 is where his story begins.  He has a dream about being “over” his brothers, and tells them about it…I would have told, too.  They take him away from all that he knows and are going to kill him.  And you know the rest of the story; he is taken to a far away place and is put in jail.  He is ALONE, and knows no one. I would have been so afraid.  This is where I didn’t relate; he talked to the Lord a lot.  And he did become great because of his relationship with God.  His times of solitude with the Lord is what got Him through. This is what I should have tried in my times of loneliness.  

And what about Job? Boy did he go through the fire. He was alone even though his friends came around. He might as well have been alone with how they treated him, but he stayed true to the Lord and spent much time of solitude with God and asked God hard questions. Job prevailed because God was right there beside him in his loneliness.  

Here I am today, retired with Dewitt, so we aren’t alone much. I have learned how to be alone and not be lonely. In December of 2010, when I started coming to Harvest, I truly began to learn how to spend time alone with Jesus. I had been in churches for most of my life, but I didn’t hear the good news of having a personal relationship with Him. I was afraid to be alone with Jesus because I thought He knew too much about me and didn’t want to spend time with me. Crazy! I would read the word, but not really hear it and apply it to me.  

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

This scripture is so special to me because I was weary of not wanting to be alone and running from Jesus, the only one I really needed to hang out with.

I cherish my times of solitude now. I read the word and talk to Jesus.  And I ask Him hard questions like Job and don’t feel like I am going to be struck down. I like my alone time so much that I stay in one part of the house while Dewitt is on the other. Sometimes I will text him or call him to ask something of him just because I am enjoying my time alone, and he does the same.  We do sit and talk to each other a lot, but sometimes it is just good to be alone with Jesus.

Here I am in my “golden years” and I am finally content with being me and spending quality time with Jesus.

We’d like to thank Debbie Crosby for writing this post

Surrender to His Voice

Surrender to His Voice

Solitude. The very word used to cause me to catch my breath. I have a big family and quiet moments were rare. But when they did happen, I became filled with fear, shame, or both from traumas that occurred to me as a small child. The trauma manifested into fear in every area of my life and made everything difficult, including relationships. I cried through my entire first semester of college any time I was alone! It was truly crippling and prevented me from living life in the abundance that the Lord wants for His children.

All of that changed around 2014-2015. Some wonderful women tuned into the Holy Spirit mentored me, spoke life and peace to my soul, and eventually my walls began to crumble. The Holy Spirit removed chains and broke generational curses off that I had no idea was hindering me in so many ways. In their place, Jesus brought redemption and a confidence in Him that I had never experienced. He brought me out of a season that had been filled with sadness and impatience, to one filled with hope and expectancy. All of this was accomplished in solitude with Him. When I finally let go and surrendered all of myself to Him, He became my refuge and His spirit ministered to my soul in those moments of abiding with him. He refreshed me and gave me new perspective and purpose for my life.

One day as I sat in my little home with my cat in my lap and my dog laying on the floor by my feet, He told me this season wouldn’t last forever and it wouldn’t always be this easy to find a peaceful moment alone. I thought great! I’ve been waiting for that! But He whispered again to enjoy this moment. Enjoy this season right where you are and this time we have together. Matthew 6:33 states to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” He was asking me to dive deep into this love relationship and commune with Him. 

In every season of life, He beckons us to draw near and sit at His feet. I have found now that I have a family those rare quiet moments seem impossible to find some days. Proverbs 8:34-35 has become my mission. “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord;”

The Lord is always watching and waiting for you and I. I hope we all will find time to answer His gentle nudge and come running to His gates with anticipation for His presence to meet us. I hope we will choose to let the Holy Spirit minister to our hearts today in whatever season we are in currently. It is not always easy in our culture, but it is what we all so desperately need.

We would like to thank Christian Greer for writing this post

Solitude is a Gift

Solitude is a Gift

As I write about solitude, I just want to be clear. I’m not talking about the worlds view or maybe your own. Which is defined as the state or quality of being alone; loneliness, isolation, seclusion. I’m talking about intentional, specific alone times of solitude between you and Jesus in prayer; where you are real, letting your guard down and can share your deepest concerns with him. Where you are strengthened and refreshed from where ever you find yourself in life. You see God gave us this gift of solitude to not feel lonely or shut everyone out, but to have a way out to get out of ourselves and the world around us and step into his divine nature and be with him.

I believe God does things on purpose, I believe that he intentionally moves and allow things in our lives to bring us closer to him and into living a life of solitude with him. He has all the answers for the everything in life we face. I know this is where he was leading me over the past few months.

September of this past year I gave birth to my son. I had a wonderful pregnancy despite some health problems I had to work through. Shortly after giving birth to him, this chain of events started that would take me to an unexpected place in my life for several months. 

Four days after giving birth to him I developed this horrible, rare, post-partum rash, and it stopped me from caring for my baby in a way that I never expected. Then, at two months old, he caught a sinus infection and from there on it seemed like he couldn’t get well. The next month he caught the flu and couldn’t seem to recover. He had continued congestion and breathing problems and was put on numerous medications and breathing treatments. I was so tired, exhausted and full of worry. I was still dealing with my own rash and my sweet baby just couldn’t catch a break. Then in January, after catching the flu, he caught RSV and was put in the hospital, and that was when it all came crashing down for me.

Have you felt like that? Have you ever felt the weight of the stuff in your life piling up on you? Like life just doesn’t give you time to stop and breath. I did; I felt like a woman at the end of her rope. I had not been in a constant place of solitude with Jesus. I had been allowing my circumstances and busyness of my life to keep me from my intentional prayer life with Jesus. 

 This is what the Lord showed me early one morning in the hospital and what I’ve been learning from this season of my life about how to get to a place of solitude.

  1. Be still – Be still enough where you can hear the Lord  

Psalm 46:10 Be still and know (recognize, understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth. 

2. Repent – come back into agreement with what he says about your situation and for not allowing him to speak the answer.

3. Rest – Live in peace and trust God for your circumstance.

Isaiah 30:15 This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will get our help from Egypt. They will give us swift horses for riding into battle.’ But the only swiftness you are going to see is the swiftness of your enemies chasing you!

Even after my son’s hospitalization, he continued to get sick for two more months afterward. You know, sometimes our circumstances don’t change, but God can teach us how to walk through the storms with him and be deeply connected in him. So, I hope friends that you will choose Jesus and allow him to save you through whatever you face. I know he is for you, like he is for me, and may you be encouraged to find your place of solitude with the Lord. 

We would like to thank Brenda Martinez for writing this post

Alone . . . with Whom?

Alone . . . with Whom?

What do you think when you hear the word “solitude”?  I see a vision of myself sitting by a pond with a fishing pole.  And I truly am alone, because there aren’t any fish in the picture.  How about you?  Do you picture a desert island?  A cabin in the woods?  Chances are, no matter what you picture, you envision yourself alone.  

            Solitude can be defined as the state of being alone or withdrawn from society; a lonely life; or loneliness. Sometimes we use solitude in unhealthy ways.  One of these is being alone with our own thoughts. Solitude is not just for being alone when you are in a season of hurt or depression.  When I was a teenage girl, I spent a lot of time in solitude.  I would put on my James Taylor record – “You’ve Got a Friend,” or Carly Simon – “You’re so Vain.” Or whatever my emotions called for at the time.  I was truly in touch with my feelings and my emotions, I thought.  I was lonely, and there was a void in my heart that I needed to fill, but I didn’t know how.  Have you ever felt that void?

Oftentimes when we are alone, we are accompanied by our own thoughts.  Sometimes it is easy for me to fall into over-thinking every conversation, every interaction that I have had during the day.  I wonder if I said anything offensive to anyone if I am doing everything I can at work or with my grandkids.  I wonder … and I worry.  That type of overthinking and self-searching is NOT productive!  It can lead to depression.  That is not what God is looking for in solitude for you and me.

Another misappropriation of solitude is when we keep listening to scripts from the past.  When you are alone, do you hear the voice of a parent, teacher, or other person from your past berating you for something or giving you the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” from your day or your current situation?  Some people mistake this script for the voice of God, but that’s also not how He operates in your time with Him.  

Closely related to these old voices is the voice of the accuser tempting, trying to keep a person overburdened and pushed down.  Scripture has evidence of people who were alone listening to the voice of the enemy and falling for his tricks.  Eve listening to the voice of the serpent.  David listening to his lust when he saw Bathsheba.  Judas listening to the enemy and turning Jesus over to the Jews.  How can we defeat this liar and expose him?  To fight the devil when we are alone, we need to study the Word and learn how it applies to our lives.

(If you’re hearing ANYTHING in your alone time that is contrary to the Word, it is NOT His voice!)

God has specific purposes for us in calling us to a time of solitude with Him.  The first is rest:  Jesus said in Mark 6:31-32 – “Come with me privately to a solitary place and let us rest for a while.”  Solitude brings us to a place alone WITH JESUS.  It is a restful, peaceful place.  

Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. 

We lead hectic lives today!  Do you ever get to the place where everything seems like one more chore?  Even the things that you love?  I do.  Jesus knows all about these feelings.  We need rest, and the way to find that is in a time of solitude with Jesus.  Remember Him saying, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest…  Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Matthew 11:28-29?

Another benefit of solitude is strength.  When we have been through a rough season, or a bad day, our strength is sapped.  We feel spiritually, mentally, and physically weakened.  Isaiah 30:15 says, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.  In quietness and confidence is your strength.  But you would have none of it.’”  Does He think that of you and me?  In times when we feel weak, we’ve given all we can give and we feel spent, we can be restored IF we will wait in solitude, in quiet with Him.  

What was Jesus doing during these times of solitude?  He wasn’t being all introspective or wondering how everyone felt about Him.  He SURE wasn’t listening to the voice of the accuser.  He was basking in the presence of His Father, enjoying fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and regaining physical and spiritual strength.  Jesus did what he did by power and presence of the Holy Spirit in His life.  He loved all His family and friends, but He gained strength from His alone time with His Father.

What are some things that get in the way of us having productive, restorative solitude?

Finding time alone. When Kelly and I were first married, we had a friend who lived in our same apartment complex.  He was a single guy, and every night when I got home from work, he was there!  He would stay for supper, and he would stay and stay until Kelly finally said we needed to have some time by ourselves.  We were newlyweds!  We were very protective of our alone time!  What is crowding in on your alone-time with Him?  Sometimes you have to get assertive and just enforce your time in the Father’s presence.  

Feeling comfortable alone:  I will admit that it is hard for me to be in a quiet house.  I usually want to have the TV or music on always.  I seem to favor distraction and escape.  Early in the morning, though, I love the quiet.  If total silence troubles you, try instrumental “soaking” music.  It fills the silence, but it doesn’t interfere with the voice of God speaking.  

Expectation:  In I Kings 19, Elijah was feeling down.  He needed the presence of the Lord.  He was looking for something BIG!  God told him to stand by the mouth of the cave.  The Lord was not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire. “And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”  I Kings 19:11-12   

When you meet with Jesus, what are you expecting?  Some days will be full of goosebumps and feelings.  Other days will be a quiet, peaceful assurance that you are His.  I challenge you this week to find some time to have solitude with Jesus each day.  See what a difference it makes for you!

We would like to thank Sheri Warren for writing this post

Listen to His Voice

Listen to His Voice

When you hear the word solitude what does that mean to you? According to the Oxford dictionary it means the state or situation of being alone. It could also mean being lonely or in an uninhabited place. Biblically, solitude is the state of being alone and is often considered one of the traditional spiritual disciplines. How do you define your solitude? Your answer to that question may depend on the voices you are allowing yourself to listen to. Those voices could include the world, your own mind or God.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found myself in all three of those situations. Depending on which voice I’m listening to at the time will define my solitude. It’s basically the battle between being alone and being lonely. There’s a difference. Being alone is where you are physically by yourself. Being lonely is an emotional state where you are feeling alone or disconnected from others even when they are right next to you. Solitude, done rightly, can be energizing, insightful and empowering.

Jesus found great importance in solitude. His solitude was being alone. We find in Mark 1:35 where Jesus got up early in the morning and went to a solitary place to pray. He could have prayed anywhere. However, He made solitude a priority. It was a time where He could be in a quiet environment and the only voice He was hearing was that of the Father. Luke 6:12-13 describes when Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray and spent the evening praying to God. In this instance, Jesus was looking for perspective. He was looking for guidance on which of His disciples He should designate as apostles. These men would be the ones responsible for sharing the gospel after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Such an important and critical decision to make.

Look at your five closest friends. Those five friends will be the ones who have the greatest influence in your life. Who are they? How are they influencing you? Jesus was choosing twelve, not five. It was crucial that He chose wisely. He went away, into solitude, for guidance on who was meant to be a part of His inner circle.

We see so many examples in the Bible of how Jesus made solitude a priority. If He did, shouldn’t we? Matthew 6:6 says, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  The greatest rewards are given to people who seek and spend time alone with the Father. His rewards are long lasting, fulfilling and eternal. When we seek recognition and rewards from the world, we find those rewards fade with time and then we are searching for the next reward to fill us.

Our world is big. Despite its size, it’s easy to find ourselves in the state of loneliness. However, our God is even bigger, and He is calling us into solitude with Him. Whatever your trials, tribulations, daily decisions or mountains are, God is waiting to meet with you. He is ready to guide, inspire, comfort, protect and give you peace. Most of all, He wants a deep, loving and personal relationship with you that is best built during times of being alone with Him.

When we allow the busyness of life to take over, we are giving the world permission to beat on us and bring us down. It makes us feel weak and defeated. Through slowing down and finding solitude, God brings us strength, help and empowerment. Psalm 121:1-2 reminds us that our help comes from the Lord. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us the joy of the Lord is our strength. Where is your strength and help coming from? In solitude you will find all these benefits and so much more. 

We would like to thank Kathy Jones for writing this post

Perseverance: It’s Not Easy, but the Rewards are Great

Perseverance: It’s Not Easy, but the Rewards are Great

Who can write about perseverance and not include a sports analogy. Certainly not scripture:  Philippians 3:12-14, Hebrews12:1-3, 2 Timothy4:7…a google search of “Bible race verse” pulls a plethora of other verses referring to races and endurance and hope. Seek them out. Be encouraged by their words. 

For my non-sports minded friend, rest assured. I will move on from sports after a couple paragraphs though. From my limited running experience, I’ve learned how crucial it is to run my race, to stay in my lane. In events, crossing into another lane results in disqualification. In life, a comparison trap brings a lie of disqualification. Briana Villarreal wrote well about persevering against lies (May 12). 

I grasp, I understand perseverance in sports. I do. I get it. You push your body to the limit and keep going. You nourish and replenish and rebuild and you try again. It’s a process of stretching and growing and discipline. It’s not fun. It’s not easy, but the rewards are great. In our society those physical rewards are celebrated. 

In great trials that are physically observable perseverance is acknowledged, supported, encouraged, celebrated. Praise God for the support given in my own season of caregiving for a dear family member through her illness and Heavenly victory. Praise God for the hope we have in Christ. (Isaiah 40:30-31) It wasn’t easy and many days I grew weary and many days my church family encouraged me to persevere. And this perseverance wasn’t easy. It was a season of stretching and growing and discipline. Yet in that season, I agree with what Pastor Brad said Sunday, May 8, “I don’t want to go through that again, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.” Persevering in this season was accompanied with pain, but there was also nourishing, replenishing, and rebuilding. Relationships developed deep tap roots. Faith grew. Forgiveness bore and continues to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. (Matthew 3:8)

These are visible examples of perseverance. But what about persevering through spiritual and mental battles that are not seen? In the same way, they are not easy, but the rewards of perseverance are great. 

Please, please! Walk these trials out in the light with other believers. You are not alone! You are not a burden! My kids are messy, but I still love them. Life is messy, but I still love you. There is beauty and growth and development in coming to the Father who cleans up the mess for us and with us. I love to write, but my drafts are messy with cutting and rewriting and rearranging. There’s beauty in a final draft though I’m sure it could be rewritten again and again. There is beauty in revising and editing life too. We are works in progress, not bound, final copies. 

That doesn’t mean we sit idle, content to have so many words misspelled that we are incoherent. No, we engage the mess and focus on one aspect at a time. Not twenty or even two. (This isn’t about spelling-it’s about what God is calling you to right now-remember also to avoid comparison lest judgement and lies enter the scene.) We are not the author. We are the page. We may have allowed lies onto our page, but God, through Jesus’s finished work on the cross and the power of the Holy Spirit, wants to rewrite our stories into one of righteousness and peace and joy (Romans 15:17). 

We don’t work for our righteousness either though. We need to abide with God. Not trying to do anything for myself when I had a fractured ankle was one of the most challenging and humbling experiences in my life. Abide in God’s love as you seek to know Him

As we persevere, we need to know the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). In Spanish, there are two words translated as “to know”: conocer and saber. Saber is to know facts; whereas conocer is to know people, to meet, to become familiar with. Ephesians 3:19 uses conocer, to be familiar with God’s love-not saber-to know about God’s love. As you persevere in God’s calling and in His promises, my prayer is that you would first and foremost know Jesus. And as you consider His endurance to the cross, “that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3 

 Further, my prayer is this:

“…that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Ephesians 3:17-19 (emphasis added)

PS. Most of the scriptures included in this blog were memorized in part or whole through years of study and life. Embrace where you are at and move forward with the next step that you are called to. Persevere where you are. It’s not easy, but the rewards are great.

We would like to thank Mary Coleman for writing this post

Perseverance Takes Both Patience & Persistence

Perseverance Takes Both Patience & Persistence

As women, we’re good at accomplishing 4,923 tasks in a day. We know how to persevere, right? 

I thought perseverance was this mentality to just keep going, keep hustling, keep working. Maybe it’s a West Texan thing, but it’s easy to get that mindset. I’ll just pull up my bootstraps and get this done.

I’ll feed one more baby. I’ll wash one more dish. I’ll fold one more onesie. I’ll make one more meal.

I’ll put one foot in front of the other, and I’ll just keep going.

That might be worldly perseverance, but it’s not biblical perseverance. 

In our theme verse for this year, Peter tells us that we’ve been given God’s divine nature—and out of that divine nature, we should be increasing in several qualities, one of which is perseverance (2 Peter 1:3-8). 

So what is Biblical perseverance? I believe perseverance takes both patience AND persistence. It can’t just be persistence. And patience isn’t something we muster up with our own strong will or our West Texas moxie.

Patience is a fruit we bear when we spend time with Jesus, when we ask the Holy Spirit to fill up our empty tanks, when we let our Father prune us so that we are branches that can be effective and fruitful.

So we receive patience from the Holy Spirit, but persistence is what we do—our action.

God’s divine nature is IN US. This means that the divine power to persevere is IN US. 

So how do we do this? 

We have to believe the truth of God’s word. We believe that God’s nature is in us. We receive this truth. 

We have to be filled with the Spirit. If we’re not full of the Spirit, then we’re just hustling in our own strength, and it’s not going to get us very far. It might feel like we’re persevering, but our tank isn’t going to make it for the long haul. 

We receive God’s patience when we receive the Holy Spirit, when we welcome him in our life, when we’re connected as the branches to the vine, and then this FRUIT deposits in us.

And when we’re full of patience, we can begin to persist, to endure, to take action again and again and again. 

What are our actions? What are we actually doing? We’re praying! We’re asking, seeking, knocking. What do you want? What do you need today? Have you asked for it? 

Did you give up asking somewhere along the way, when it got hard and God wasn’t moving? Maybe you need to keep asking, keep knocking on that door. If your desire is in line with God’s word, then He will do it. 

We can’t do these things out of order. You can persist ‘til you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t agree with God’s word, and if you’re not full of the Holy Spirit, your prayers aren’t going to have any power—and, worse, you’re going to burn out. You’ll give up praying in the gap, that period we have to endure between when God says He will do it and when He does it. 

Friends, don’t get stuck in the gap. Let’s be women who persevere!

We would like to thank Laura Brandenburg for writing this post

Pressing Past the Lies

Pressing Past the Lies

When asked to write a short blog on this month’s focus, perseverance, I almost wanted to say, “No, thank you.” I didn’t believe that I had really persevered through anything. I felt as though I had let the enemy knock me down and stayed down too many times to even be able to write enough about perseverance. But I reached out to a couple of ladies that pointed out many areas in my life, most I didn’t remember, where I persevered through adversity and stress. 

As children, we are full of dreams and the freedom to believe that we can accomplish those dreams. We don’t have crippling fears. We don’t worry about disappointing anyone. But somewhere throughout life, as we grow and enter adulthood, we pick up lies about who we are and what we can do; A burden that God never wanted us to carry.

We carry fear for so long, it becomes “normal”, a constant presence to which we become numb and blind. It can become so heavy a burden that we isolate ourselves and don’t meet with our sisters in Christ. We may even want to stay in bed and give up on our day… every day, afraid to reach out and let someone know that we’re struggling.

But Jesus, and the vulnerability of our sisters, gives us strength and courage. Reminders on who we are and what we have lived through push us, renewing the fire and dreams within, giving us strength to persevere and pursue once more the joy and peace God promises. 1 Corinthians says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”. Jesus’ overwhelming love catapults us past lies and gives us courage to persevere through anything life throws at us. His love overcomes all fear and doubt.

Vulnerability moment: Lies have held me back my whole life. I found myself deep in depression, unwilling to get out of bed. And it was caused by fear. I believed the lie that I wasn’t good enough to maintain friendships. The fear of allowing others to see me in my mess overwhelmed me, because what if I’m too much and they decide my friendship isn’t worth the mess. What if I fall short of their hopes or expectations? What if I lash out in pain and hurt them?

God didn’t create us to live in isolation. We can’t allow fear to keep us from reaching out to our mentors and friends. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Did you know when you speak, out loud to your sisters in Christ, about the fears and struggles you face, the fight is less daunting? Admitting to our “great cloud of witnesses” the sin we must overcome allows us to lay down the weight we’ve been carrying, and run, with endurance, our race. That is perseverance.

In 2018, I came back from living away from my parents, the church and Jesus. I wasn’t actively running away, but I was a flower that was stuck in dry soil. I was afraid to reach out and make friends because I had been hurt and felt that I had nothing to offer. After a few months of being home, in church and loved on by my parents, God gave me the courage to reach out to a woman I admired. I was terrified to open up and be vulnerable. What if I was too messy? She shared with me that “too messy” is a lie. What if I hadn’t persevered and asked her to meet me for lunch? I would have gone many more months, possibly years stuck where I was. She poured into me, and I am forever grateful for her friendship.

What would happen if we remembered that we don’t need to “have it all together”? What if we laid down the heavy burden of fear? What could be possible if we persevered through the mess and stress? We would find women just like us, reaching for Jesus and bringing heaven to earth. Romans 12:12 encourages us by stating, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Let’s rejoice for the hope He gives us, persevere through trials, and fear, and call out to Jesus and our sisters in Christ. Let’s persevere and run this race!

We would like to thank Briana Villarreal for writing this post

Perseverance in the Waiting

Perseverance in the Waiting

Perseverance is defined as “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” When I think of perseverance, I tend to think about it as completing a difficult task. Sometimes it has been finishing a hard workout, my master’s degree, or the last trimester of pregnancy. You mamas know what I mean! What really sticks out to me in this definition is “delay in achieving success.” God has been teaching me that perseverance can feel more passive, it’s in the waiting for a promise to be fulfilled that we need to persevere

Patience is not a character trait which comes easily to me. I like to jump in with both feet and figure things out as I go. Waiting is boring and passive. Or so I thought. What I have been learning is when we are waiting for our promises to be fulfilled, is when God is doing the hard work inside of us. 

I have been listening to Waiting on God by Wayne Stiles and it’s the story of Joseph and how he had to wait on God for His promises to be fulfilled. When Joseph was 17, he had two dreams that his parents and brothers would one day bow to him. The brothers were jealous of their father’s love towards Joseph and of his dreams. They sold him into slavery, and he became a slave of Potiphar. For many years Joseph waited on God for his promise to be fulfilled. This was not an easy journey for Joseph and there were many trials. Hebrews 10:36 says, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Joseph persevered through his time as a slave and received God’s promise in the end. He interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and saved many lives because of it.

Sarah waited many, many years to have a baby. AT the age of 90 God told Abraham, “I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her.” (Genesis 17:16) What seemed impossible, God made possible. One thing Wayne Stiles discusses in his book is how the bible is filled with the action and not with the waiting. Sarah was a woman just like you and me. I imagine her feeling the same way I do when I’m waiting and questioning God. She probably questioned whether it was God’s will for her to have a baby and if it wasn’t, then why does she have such a desire to be a mom? 

While God has had me wait, I’ve begun to lean on him more than ever before. I think this is why He has us wait. It causes us to ask Him questions and search for answers in His word. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” When the waiting gets too hard, I call on friends to pray for me and talk about what is going on. We weren’t created to persevere alone and in all honesty, we won’t make it if we try to. 

Finally, Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” God has promised us a harvest when we persevere. God’s timing is always best. So, keep doing good in the waiting, keep learning on God, and ask Him questions.

We would like to thank Chelsea Criswell for writing this post

My Secret Place

My Secret Place

Editor’s note: During 2022, we are focusing on the scriptures found in 2 Peter 1:3-11. These verses teach us about God’s divine nature. We pray that as we reflect on God’s nature, you will see all that He has created you to be! For the month of April, we are focusing on God’s characteristic of FORGIVENESS.

There are some things that happen throughout our lives that are beyond understandable. What right does a grown adult have to abuse this little girl of 5 years young with such a vile sexual act that destroyed my innocence to a point of hiding it away in a deep, dark hole for no one to ever find?

Did I ever forget what happened? Of course not. This deep, dark secret reared its ugly head throughout my growing up years into my young married life, and into my life as a divorcee with 3 young children.

I was saved when I was 11 years old at an area-wide crusade in Lockney, Texas with Dr. Wilfred Moore from First Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas officiating.  I can still hear his welcoming voice inviting those who needed Jesus to come forward…so I did. I couldn’t wait to tell my Mom and Pastor what had happened. I joined the church and was baptized that following Sunday. Not even then did I dare tell anyone of my deep, dark secret. I had just accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. All is Good!!  Jesus loves me and I am on my way to Heaven!

I did remarry, my wonderful husband of 46 years, Tim. Between the 2 of us, we had five awesome kids, great friends and family, and a successful business. The most important thing we did NOT have was a place to worship our Heavenly Father or a church family. I knew in my heart that our priorities for our family were in dire need of Jesus in our lives. Through some difficult times in our marriage, we came to our senses and made the best decision for us by “Getting Back to God.” One afternoon a dear person in my life came to me with a devastating story of being abused as a child. Up popped my deep, dark secret that I had kept hidden for almost 30 years. The next Sunday at church I went racing to the altar not knowing if I needed forgiveness or if I needed to be forgiven. You see, the Holy Spirit prompted me for years to settle the matter. Even though I hated what happened to me, I didn’t want to see “him” go to hell for what he did to me. At times I had even prayed for him but never thought about forgiving him. 

Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

I knew I had to forgive this person but there was one problem, he had already passed on, but the need for me was still there. One morning as I was getting ready to leave the house, I saw Charles Stanley on the television talking about forgiving someone who is no longer here. I was captivated by his words. I listened intently and followed his instructions. I sat down across from an empty chair and forgave. God is so good, and it was that simple.

Colossians: 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

There is a beautiful song that describes the Love of Jesus and how he wants to abide in us and us in Him. I hope you relate to these words. I certainly did and do.

THE SECRET PLACE

My heart is like a house

One day I let the Savior in

There are many rooms

Where we would visit now and then

But then one day He saw that door

I knew the day had come too soon

I said, “Jesus, I’m not ready

For us to visit in that room

‘Cuz that’s a place in my heart

Where even I don’t go

I have some things hidden there

I don’t want no one to know”

But He handed me the key

With tears of love on His face

He said, “I want to make you clean

Let me go in your secret place.”

So I opened up the door

And as the two of us walked in

I was so ashamed

His light revealed my hidden sin

But when I think about that room now

I’m not afraid anymore

‘Cuz I know my hidden sin

No longer hides behind that door

That was a place in my heart

Where even I wouldn’t go

I had some things hidden there

I didn’t want no one to know

But He handed me the key

With tears of love on His face

And He made me clean

I let Him in my secret place

Is there a place in your heart

Where even you won’t go?

You have some things hidden there,

You don’t want no one to know.

Well, He’s handing you the key

With tears of love on his face.

He wants to make your free,

Let Him go in your secret place.

I read recently that there are 3 aspects of forgiveness.  We are either granting forgiveness, receiving forgiveness, or seeking forgiveness.  I’ve learned that Jesus is available to see us through all 3.

Ephesians: 4:31-32 “Lay aside bitter words, temper tantrums, revenge, profanity, and insults. But instead, be kind and affectionate toward one another. Has God graciously forgiven you? Then graciously forgive one another in the depths of Christ’s love.”

Sometimes I find myself asking Jesus, “Why me, Lord?” Then right after that thought comes His answer, “Love!” He let himself briefly become one of us to break the curse of sin and death forever.  Even better, He allows access to this freedom by grace through faith. I believe He has forgiven me. In Luke 23:24 Jesus spoke these words from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” That’s Pure Love.

I’m so glad I let Him in my Secret Place!!

We would like to thank Sue Johnson for writing this post.

Forgive like Jesus

Forgive like Jesus

Editor’s note: During 2022, we are focusing on the scriptures found in 2 Peter 1:3-11. These verses teach us about God’s divine nature. We pray that as we reflect on God’s nature, you will see all that He has created you to be! For the month of April, we are focusing on God’s characteristic of FORGIVENESS.

Forgiveness. Does that word stir up anything in you when you hear it?

Anytime you mention forgiveness, your mind can immediately recall an offense that you’ve suffered. 

So, what emotions follow the thoughts of forgiveness? Is it joy at the thought of a relationship restored? 

Do you find yourself feeling a little sorrowful because a damaged relationship couldn’t be salvaged or restored? Does anger come rushing in and take you down a dark trail all the way back to the offense where you find yourself reliving and feeling the pain of the offense all over again?

We’ve all been hurt and abused in some fashion. These offenses, left to fester, can make us bitter, angry, and resentful. We’re robbed of our joy and peace, and eventually we can be physically affected!

So, how do we truly forgive? There are many scriptures in the Bible that address this issue. Let’s take a look at a story that you’ve read many times, and even felt some unforgiveness toward some of those in the story. It’s one of my favorite stories, because it shows the love and tenderness our Savior has toward and for us.

John 8:1-11- This is the story of the woman who was caught in adultery and brought out into public by the religious leaders. She’d  been shamed, humiliated, and threatened with stoning. Now, their purpose was to trap Jesus, but it all backfired on them. In gentleness and love Jesus told each person that if they were without sin, to stone the women. They all ended up walking away. Wait for it… the one part of the story that I had never seen before, until I was faced with having to forgive, was that Jesus stayed with the woman. He asked her where her accusers were, she responded, “there are none”, and the One person who could’ve judged her, condemned her, and stoned her, forgave her! He said, “Neither do I, now go, and sin no more”! Jesus could’ve also embarrassed and humiliated the religious leaders by calling them by name and pointing out their faults instead of simply writing in the dirt, but He didn’t.

Jesus taught all who were there a valuable lesson that day, we ALL fall short, but there is forgiveness and love if we just choose to surrender.

You see Jesus addressed her sin, without condemnation, but He forgave her, and sent her on her way as if she’d never done anything wrong. That’s when I learned the true meaning of forgiveness. No, we don’t forget, only God can do that, but He has given us the ability to choose to give up our rights to hang on to offenses, and to treat others as if they’ve never done anything to us.

Luke 23:34 is another wonderful example. While on the cross, as Jesus was being crucified for our sins, He prayed and asked the Father, “ forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing”! Those are the sweetest words I’ve ever read. If Jesus, dying on a cross for sins I committed, can treat me as if I’d never done anything wrong, how can I hold unforgiveness in my heart? 

It takes a strong relationship with Christ, and much prayer, and surrender to walk this out.

Allow God to help you set healthy boundaries for yourself while you continue to walk in the love of Christ toward others.

I lived a life of  physical, verbal, and sexual abuse from my biological father and my stepfather.

My mother, too scared to know how to protect me, allowed it all. I was sent away to a children’s home to protect the reputation of my stepfather. My marriage suffered offenses that took a few years to work through, but by God’s grace we are stronger than we’ve ever been! I’ve been deeply hurt and betrayed by close friends. I’ve had to learn to let things go and surrender to Jesus so that I can be free to live in His grace and mercy, and to genuinely love others as He does. This is how those in our circle of influence are going to experience and see Jesus and be drawn to a relationship with Him. If we’re going to make disciples, we must follow the example that was set before us. 

We would like to thank Janie Keller for writing this blog post.

Forgiveness is LOVE with a Big Helping of Grace

Forgiveness is LOVE with a Big Helping of Grace

Editor’s note: During 2022, we are focusing on the scriptures found in 2 Peter 1:3-11. These verses teach us about God’s divine nature. We pray that as we reflect on God’s nature, you will see all that He has created you to be! For the month of April, we are focusing on God’s characteristic of FORGIVENESS.

Forgiveness-the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven. Or I prefer forgiveness-love with a big helping of grace and mercy. It’s something we all experience one way or the other. About 8 years ago, I learned what true forgiveness was and how it frees you and changes your life.

Without going into the messy details, I had to confess to my husband that I had committed adultery and because of that, I had also lost my job. I will give a little bit of background to what brought me to this point in my life. I had accepted Christ as a teenager, but never really believed that I was worthy of all He offered. I didn’t know who I was in Christ, or how much love He had for me.  I was under the assumption that if I was saved, I wouldn’t be tempted to fall into the trap of lies and sin the evil one throws at us.  Through a series of events a couple of years prior to my admission, those lies and temptations came in huge waves. The evil one knows exactly how to attack and he did just that!. I began a downward slide into lies, deception, and false identity. The farther I slid, the faster my slide became until I hit rock bottom.

I came home one Friday afternoon and waited for Don to come home. I confessed what I had done and that I had lost my job. Let’s just say it was not pretty. After several questions, comments, and accusations, he had me pack my stuff up and he took me to my mother. He was done. It was over. The evil one had destroyed another marriage, so he thought. But God…

Shortly after accepting Christ, I discovered Romans 8:28 that says,  “And we know that God causes ALL THINGS to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” (Emphasis added) That became my favorite verse and one I held onto. And it’s a good thing because that verse became so real for me.

The first act of forgiveness came from my mother. Although she was very hurt by my actions, she took me in. I know it was hard for her because, when I was 8 years old, my parents divorced because my father had an affair. She had to look past the hurt and resentment of that generational curse to see her child, her child that was lost, confused, scared, and alone. The second act of forgiveness came from 3 dear friends and my sister-in-law. They were all disappointed and confused. I had become very good at hiding all my secrets and lies. These four friends could have decided to look at me with judgment and disdain but instead decided to extend grace and mercy. But the biggest act of forgiveness came from my husband. 

After Don returned home from taking me to my mother, he called our daughters, and he called his family. Our daughters came home to be with Don. Mary, our youngest, came to see me that evening. To say she was upset was a huge understatement. In her honest way, she laid into me and let me know how disappointed and hurt she was. Becky, my logical daughter, knew she needed time to process what she was thinking and feeling. She came the next day. She was very hurt, but she came with grace and mercy. During that Friday night and most of the next day, Don searched his heart. Several members of his family came on Saturday to support him and the girls. They prayed for Don, our girls, me, and our marriage. Don came the next day to talk to me. He realized he would need me to help him get through all this and realized that what God had joined together, no one would tear apart. He took me home. When we got there his family was there. Instead of anyone looking at me with judgment, they surrounded me in a prayer circle. It was not easy for us, but with prayer, love, mercy, grace, a good Christian counselor, and many hours of talking and growth, we are better than ever before.

Forgiveness doesn’t come easy. Was it easy for Christ to forgive the disciples who chose sleep over praying for Him in the garden? (Mark 14:32-42) Or the ones who called for His death? (Mark 15:13-14). Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples,  sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. (Matthew 26:14-16). Another disciple, Peter, denied Christ 3 times after saying that would never happen (Matt 26:69-75). But Jesus forgave these disciples just like He forgave me.

 I recently read a devotional about the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11). A sentence from that devotion really stood out to me. “God’s forgiving grace is greater than all of our sins.” He forgives us when we confess and ask for His forgiveness.

But, what about us? Do we forgive easily when we are wronged? Do we sit in judgment? Do we allow those who have been caught in sin be forgiven? Or do we want to stone that person? And when we are the ones who need forgiveness, do we truly accept it? When Peter denied Christ 3 times, did he hold on to that shame? I think not. Scripture tells us he wept bitterly. What it doesn’t tell us is that I think he asked for forgiveness. Mark 16:7 tells us the angel of the Lord told the women who had gone to the tomb to “go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.” If Peter had not asked for and received forgiveness, he would not have been told to “feed my sheep” (John 21: 15-17). By the way, Jesus asked Peter 3 times if he loved him, and 3 times Peter said yes. 3 denials, 3 moments of grace and mercy.

And what about Judas? When he realized what he had done he didn’t ask for forgiveness. Instead, he hung himself. What if…what if, he too, had asked for forgiveness? I can’t help but wonder what his life would have been like. Maybe he would have had an even greater testimony of forgiveness than anyone.

Forgiveness is hard. It’s hard to extend to others when we are hurt. It’s hard to point out the need to forgive or to ask someone for forgiveness. It’s hard to forgive ourselves when we have hurt those we love the most. I know, personally, I had a hard time forgiving myself. I still have times of regret remembering the pain I caused my family and friends. But I have been forgiven by them. I forgive myself. But most importantly, I have been forgiven by my Heavenly Father.

We would like to thank Hope Warren for writing this blog post.

Forgive and Let God Take Care of the Rest

Forgive and Let God Take Care of the Rest

Editor’s note: During 2022, we are focusing on the scriptures found in 2 Peter 1:3-11. These verses teach us about God’s divine nature. We pray that as we reflect on God’s nature, you will see all that He has created you to be! For the month of April, we are focusing on God’s characteristic of FORGIVENESS.

My walk with Jesus, sadly to say, didn’t start until later in my life. I’m a Whosoever (John 3:16).  

I have always known about God and believed in God wholeheartedly. I believed that the Bible was His word. I went to church. I would read a daily devotional. Occasionally, I read the Bible. I listened to podcasts. I had checked all the boxes.  

But my relationship with Jesus started when I was suddenly awakened early one morning with a jolt and with, what I know now, was the Holy Spirit. In my spirit, He had said that it’s “time to deal with it!” 

I already knew what that meant. You see, I had been sexually abused as a small child. Of course, I had that little tidbit buried deep. I didn’t see any reason that anyone should ever know that. It was one of those things that we bury from our past – you know those deep, dark, secrets that we hope no one can find out about. But I had scars and personality traits that were not meant for me to have. However, I wasn’t sure what to do about it. 

That morning, I suddenly realized God does have a plan for our lives and mine had just started. And  when God has a plan, He also has a way.  

 A couple of nights later, I awoke with another word: study. So that is what I did. Each book I read, and each verse I read, the Lord was teaching me. It didn’t happen fast, but along the way, I was learning how deep Jesus’ love is for me. I could feel my soul healing. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I was learning and healing. Sometimes that help would come through the word, sometimes in a dream and sometimes through people.  

 As I look back and realize where He took me and why, I’m still just as amazed today. When it came to the part of the journey where the Holy Spirit let me know the Father wants me to forgive, that was hard! I had to forgive the ones who hurt me. My first thought was: You must be kidding!! Does He know what they have done? I can now see how I must have looked like a mad customer marching up to the service desk, yelling “I need to speak with Jesus”. 

I remember walking around my house praying and even sometimes, praying VERY LOUD!. I was afraid my neighbors would think I was crazy. 

I didn’t want to do it; I didn’t think I could do it. But the first thing to do is pray. You are talking to your Daddy, and you just must be honest. He already knows what you’re thinking anyway. Here are some prayer starters. 

  • Lord give me the power to forgive. 
  • Lord grant me the grace to forgive. (2 Cor. 1:10) 
  • Pray that God will enable you. (Heb. 12:15) 

It’s hard to hate them when you pray for them.  Make a choice to do it, and God will do the rest

Perhaps one of the most Godlike things we can do in life is to forgive and forget it. When you pray for them, don’t gossip about them, just speak well of them. If there’s a need that comes up and you can meet that need, that’s the full force of forgiveness.  

Here are a few other verses about forgiveness. 

  • Matthew 18:21-22 “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy – seven times”. (This one got me good).  
  • Matthew 6: 14-15 “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” 
  • Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Here are a few things I’ve learned.  

  • If you don’t forgive, it will be a burden that you carry, and it will torment you. 
  • It will open a door for Satan. Once you make the choice to forgive someone and you don’t feel different, don’t let the Satan deceive you, making you feel like you didn’t. How you feel has nothing to do with it. 
  • Once you choose to forgive, trust that God will make your feelings change. 
  • Once you forgive someone, it will set you free.  

God has a plan for your life, I would not have chosen the things that happened to me, but be assured that God does work things out for our good. I see it almost every day. My journey with Jesus just gets better, so do yourself a favor and forgive. 

We would like to thank Julie Duke for writing this blog post.

Godliness Looks Like Love

Godliness Looks Like Love

How fitting it is that our focus on godliness follows our focus on love. After all, godliness is seeking to become more like God, and God is love.

In what is known as the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew five, we are called to be perfect as God is perfect. This verse is preceded with a call to love-especially our enemies-and followed by a caution to not practice righteousness in order to be seen and praised. This calling doesn’t ask us to be perfect and then leave us hanging. Jesus instructs us how to practically walk out this calling. Yet if I turn my faith-based salvation into a works-based pursuit, I miss the mark! 

How grateful I am that I can’t achieve this perfection on my own. It is so much easier to surrender to Jesus’ love and Lordship when I know that “the way in is the way on.” In other words, in the same way that I needed a Savior the day I chose to follow Jesus, my same Savior teaches me, refines me, and loves me-all through the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” (Romans 8:26-27) The Holy Spirit helps us bear the fruit of the Spirit as we stay connected to and abide in the vine (John 15:1-17 and Galatians 5:22-23). As we abide in God, we become the embodiment of love found in 1 Corinthians 13.

Another passage that speaks directly toward living a godly life is found in 2 Peter one. It begins with the assurance that to those who have received faith, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” Praise God that we don’t have to muster up what we need in and of ourselves as that wouldn’t be possible! Yet neither are we called to be passive. Check out verse five through eight for qualities that will keep us “from being ineffective and unproductive in (our) knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So how do I balance the call to pursue godliness with the fact that Jesus already qualified me to walk with confidence into the presence of our righteous and holy God?

1 Timothy 4 says to “train yourself to be godly…(as it) has value for all things” And yet in our pursuit of godliness, we often leave the nourishing truths of the faith for “godless myths and old wives tales” with which we are called to have nothing to do. Today I often reference larger sections of scripture to embed the word of God in our hearts-not in isolation, but also in context. 1 Timothy 4 ends with the reminder that saving “yourself and your hearers” comes by persevering in your life and doctrine. Dear friends, let us pursue godliness without falling into traps and snares that lure us away from life and peace. May God through his Holy Spirit reveal his nature to us and may His nature become our own as we love God and love his people.

We would like to thank Mary Coleman for writing this blog post.

A Surrendered Heart

A Surrendered Heart

I’ve got to start off by being completely vulnerable with you all that for years that word, Godliness, was very intimidating for me. You see it’s a bit scary because as an individual, I know who I am in the most inner part of my heart. I know what I struggle with in my mind and heart. I know the ins and outs of what I do or don’t do when people are or aren’t around. It’s easy to let those things, and even shame, dictate whether or not I feel that I’m capable of living a Godly life and leaving the old self behind.

Certainly, I’m not the only one out there that has felt that way.What do you think of when “living a Godly life” is mentioned? 

I used to think of certain people in my life that love God and seem to have it all together. I would think of the women in our church that look like they had perfect marriages and families compared to me. I would see them walking into church looking like they had it all together. I just knew that they didn’t have any junk they were carrying around like me. But boy was I wrong!

A lot of this way of thinking came from my upbringing. My parents met at a revival and, shortly after, dated and got married. I’m the oldest child and pretty soon after birth, I attended church. The church we attended was a super strict religious church. The beliefs they taught were more about works-based righteousness. You worked very hard to be a good Christian, please God, and also please the people in the church. Your life was only supposed to be good and blessed because of Jesus and yet, if you messed up, God was mad and was going to punish you, maybe even kick you out of His kingdom. That way of life also transferred into our homelife and, to be quite honest, this instilled my belief of how I saw myself in God’s eyes.

The truth is, as people, we genuinely mess up. We have faults and shortcomings, none of us are without those things. Romans 3:23For everyone has sinned and we fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

I can look back at all the times in my life, where I walked as a defeated Christian and was very unsure if godliness was even something I possessed inside of myself. 

All godliness means is the quality or practice of conforming to the laws and wishes of God. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like something we will continue to do throughout our whole lives as a Christian. It’s not just something we arrive at one day.  It’s derived from the Greek word “Piety” in which the original translation comes from the word “Eusebes” (Yoo-Seb-Ace) which means a deep reverence devotion, the type of devotion in how a child is respectfully, devoted and loyal to their parents. 

It’s so simple! All God is saying is that when we come to know Him, He wants us to live in such a way that our lives would reflect that we are respectfully, devoted and loyal to Him because He is our Father and we are His children. 

2 Peter 1:4-8 tells us that by God’s divine power He has given us everything we need for a godly life and also that He has given us great and precious promises. Those promises enable us to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. Every promise listed in that scripture is who God says we are.  If He says it, then friends, let’s start believing it

What God has shown me is that I live out GODLINESS when my DEVOTION to him leads me to do the HARD work for Him.

So wherever you find yourself in this area of godliness in your life. I pray that you give yourself grace. God loves you and He is for you. He is our good Father who has our whole lifetime to perfect His work in us. All He wants is a heart surrendered and devoted to him.

Philippians 1:6  says “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

We would like to thank Brenda Martinez for writing this blog post.

Godliness is a Choice

Godliness is a Choice

Editor’s note: During 2022, we are focusing on the scriptures found in 2 Peter 1:3-11. These verses teach us about God’s divine nature. We pray that as we reflect on God’s nature, you will see all that He has created you to be! For the month of February, we are focusing on God’s characteristic of GODLINESS.

Upon being asked to write a blog about godliness, my first response was, “Me? Write a blog about how to be godly?” So then, I decided to look up the definition of godliness. 

A quick google search said, “the quality of being devoutly religious.”

Well. I didn’t like that one. So I kept searching. 

I stumbled upon the biblical definition of godliness, which says, “the quality or practice of conforming to the laws and wishes of God; devoutness and moral uprightness: to be wise is to live in godliness, reflecting the nature of the kingdom of God in the course of everyday life.” 

That sounded more like it. And to me, this sounds like the act of godliness is a choice. That I am to choose to conform (obey or agree) to live a life that reflects (mirrors) the nature (characteristics) of God every single day of my life. 

So…what are the characteristics of God? He’s merciful, tender, compassionate, love. He never changes, is all powerful, wise, and faithful. He is good and just, gracious, and holy. 

Can I be honest and say that my next thought was… I wonder if my children or my husband would describe me as godly? 

EEEEEK! Time for some repentance, huh? 

The beautiful thing about our God is that He allows us to choose to walk the other way. So, even if looking deeper into godliness was convicting to me, that doesn’t mean I have to live in shame. I get to choose to turn and walk the other way. 

So what does that look like? 

I will start responding to my children in a more tender, compassionate voice. I won’t snap at my husband because his question he asks seems inconvenient to me. I will ask the Lord to help me show love to every person I come in contact with. I will believe that I am filled with the power of the Holy Spirit like the Word says. I will seek wisdom through spending time in God’s Word and with those that I choose to surround myself with. I will let my yes be yes, and my no be no. 

Friends, the choice to live a godly life is a gift. In fact, 2 Peter 1:3 says, “By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.” Y’all, that says God’s given us everything we need to live that out. What a relief that is! 

So rest in this: 2 Peter 1:4 says, “Because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” 

God’s got you, sis. Rest in his promises and seek his face. 

We would like to thank Paige Keller for writing this blog post.

The Essence of Godliness

The Essence of Godliness

Editor’s note: During 2022, we are focusing on the scriptures found in 2 Peter 1:3-11. These verses teach us about God’s divine nature. We pray that as we reflect on God’s nature, you will see all that He has created you to be! For the month of February, we are focusing on God’s characteristic of GODLINESS.

The way my brain works, putting words on paper is not quite the same as speaking them out of my mouth. When it comes to writing, I seem to not have the words to say or the order in which I want them to come out; however, I would never pass up the opportunity to share a word God has laid on my heart. 

Anyone who knows me knows I stay busy with my extra-large family and my work as a therapist. God has graced me with the ability to speak words that are needed in the moment even when I feel I’m not prepared enough. He somehow always fills my mouth with the words I need when I feel inadequate in my own strength. 

When I think of Godliness, like most people, the first thought that comes to my mind is perfection. For many, it is often compared to doing everything right or making the right decisions. 

As God’s creation and His child, the really cool thing is He does see me perfect, not because of what I do or have done, but because of the finished work of His son and our Lord Jesus Christ. 

It makes you think if God can see me in this way, how should I see others? In my line of work, during countless therapy sessions, I have discovered that some of the most humble and gracious people I have encountered are homeless, addicted to substances, and society offenders. Some may know God, others may not, but some say they have an active relationship with Christ. 

They say things like: they depend on God to survive. They rely on Him to live and they call on Him daily. My fleshly instinct may lead me to judge with thoughts like, if you’re a Christian how come you are not being more “Godly” or Christ-like? 

Part of what God has shown me about Godliness is it is not necessarily about a devout religious practice but a reflection of Kingdom work. As much as I see strongholds, I see a work that is in progress that only God will complete. Scripture tells us in Philippians 1:6 that “He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

I may see a person differently that society judges as unworthy or messed up if I have my Kingdom lens on. This is the message shared with us in 2nd Peter 1:3-5. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through or knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. God gives us the assurance that through Him, we can participate in His divine nature that enables us to look past the corruption or sin to see his signature on all creation including His children.”

The essence of Godliness is reflecting the nature of the Kingdom of God in the course of everyday life. In my world, it may mean being dressed in the character of God and look past judgment and shame and guilt to love or help those in need. 

I see parallels in working with clients and patients. In the therapy world, we call it Unconditional Positive Regard. The Definition of Unconditional Positive Regard is when you show complete support and acceptance of a person no matter what the person says or does. This approach is very strength based and helps with empowerment motivation and confidence building. 

I see Godliness as embracing a Kingdom reality of being able to look past human flaws, to long to see people set free from strongholds, to see people the way God sees them. 

We would like to thank Katie Ssejjemba for writing this blog post.

Being Filled with Godliness

Being Filled with Godliness

Editor’s note: During 2022, we are focusing on the scriptures found in 2 Peter 1:3-11. These verses teach us about God’s divine nature. We pray that as we reflect on God’s nature, you will see all that He has created you to be! For the month of February, we are focusing on God’s characteristic of GODLINESS

Godliness. What an inspiring word! I want to be filled with Godliness, overrun with passion and love, consumed by the presence of God, but I fall short every single day. Sometimes I feel so limited in my understanding of what that looks like, but our generous, unfailing Father sent his son, Jesus, to be the perfect example of how we, too, can aspire to be Christ-like.

So what does Godliness look like? Jesus; he prayed, washed the disciple’s feet, fed the hungry, loved people unconditionally, wept with the brokenhearted, healed, forgave, redeemed, and so much more. If I’m honest, this just doesn’t sound like me. But I want, more than anything, to be more like that. So in following Jesus, reading scripture, spending time in prayer, I feel closer, fuller, and more like Him as I immerse myself in His truth.

John 12:49 NIV Jesus said, “For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.” Jesus himself sought to only live securely on the vine of God the Father. He was filled by spending time in prayer, and he sought only to live in a way that would make God proud. Jesus walked daily with purpose. He aspired to reach people with the good news of salvation, and as believers, we are called to do the same.

Are we speaking only what the Father instructed us to? Do we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind? Do we love our neighbor as ourselves the way that Matthew 22:37-40 instructs us? Probably not, but God has given us a road map to success. The creator of the universe has handwritten instructions that can guide our lives in the direction He wants us to go.

I remember as a child reaching up and grabbing a hot pot pie right out of the oven, and it landed on my legs. As my parents tried to wash it off my skin was coming off also. They took me to the ER because  I had 3rd-degree burns. My mother had warned me not to touch the food because it was very hot, and my 4-year-old year old mind was hungry right then and did not want to wait.  In my haste to eat, I wound up injuring myself. Our God instructs us in His word and through the example of Jesus, not to rule over or be domineering in our life, but for our safety. He knows that sin produces pain and emptiness. Godliness in our behavior is for our benefit. All God’s instruction is for our good.

1 Peter 5:8 NIV “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” There have been many times in my life that I have felt the enemy had set his sights on me. In these times, I would press into God to find solutions. He never failed to show me His path. Unfortunately, sometimes I choose my way, and just like the pot pie, I find myself in pain. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “for I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I seek his presence more every day. I want my life to be a reflection of God’s amazing love toward me. I want to live like Jesus, touching people’s lives and making a difference in the world around me. Even though I know I can never be Godly on my own, the Holy Spirit fills me, changes me, and I know God is present and evolving this broken vessel. I now can have hope for my future because of His character. Godliness is our opportunity to show the world His amazing grace and love toward us. So I ask God to give me the wisdom to study, and implement His word into my life and help me reflect His Godly nature.

We would like to thank Jo Rowell for writing this blog post.

My First Love

My First Love

Editor’s note: During 2022, we are focusing on the scriptures found in 2 Peter 1:3-11. These verses teach us about God’s divine nature. We pray that as we reflect on God’s nature, you will see all that He has created you to be! For the month of February, we are focusing on God’s characteristic of LOVE.

As a six year old little girl, my first memory was of fear and hate.  My parents were alcoholics and Daddy was a mean drunk every weekend.  Having an outhouse meant you used a coffee can after dark to relieve yourself.  This was happening one night when my seven year old male cousin walked into the bedroom where I was.  Daddy came in immediately after and whipped off his belt.  He was so mad that I would “allow” a boy to come in while I was using the bathroom.  The whipping didn’t stop until my shoes were filled with blood.  That was when Daddy got worried that I would get an infection.  He laid me on top of an ironing board and poured a bottle of rubbing alcohol on my back and legs.  That was when I not only felt hatred toward me, but I felt hate toward another.  This was how life continued until right before I turned fourteen.

I would spend most of the summer with my cousin in the country.  We would hoe cotton to make money for school clothes.  They were in the habit of going to church on Sunday mornings and I would go with them.  One particular Sunday, there was a missionary conference and different missionaries would do the preaching.  That Sunday evening the one preaching kept talking about how “Jesus loves you”.  It seemed like I was the only person in the room.  

Jesus loves me, this I know

For the Bible tells me so

Little ones to Him belong

They are weak, but He is strong. 

Those words resonated through my soul.  I accepted Jesus as my Savior that evening.  For the first time in my life I truly felt love.  I knew that those words were true.  Jesus loves me!!!  I didn’t even know what the word love meant until then.  Jesus was truly my first love.  

The weekend drunken tirades didn’t stop, but there was something different now.  I knew Jesus was with me and would never forsake me.  1 Chronicles 28:20 says that, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” I felt his presence and knew that I had a loving Father that would never harm me.  Daddy could beat my body, but my soul belonged to my heavenly Father.  

My Father continued to work in my life and I could feel the Lord nudging me toward forgiving Daddy.  I wasn’t easy to persuade, but God never gave up on me.  I eventually succumbed to the gentle nudges and forgave not only Daddy, but Mama as well for not sticking up for us.  I started praying for them both, knowing that they were in the same place I was before I found the Lord.  They didn’t understand love either.  

My mother accepted the Lord first, then when Daddy was ninety years old, he came to know Jesus as his Savior as well.  We have such a loving, merciful Father!  Love is a Person!

I don’t know how I would have survived my childhood without having Jesus’ presence with me and I know I don’t ever want to live a single day without my first LOVE.  

We would like to thank Naomi Jones for writing this blog post.

A Recovering Girl Boss

A Recovering Girl Boss

Editor’s note: During 2022, we are focusing on the scriptures found in 2 Peter 1:3-11. These verses teach us about God’s divine nature. We pray that as we reflect on God’s nature, you will see all that He has created you to be! For the month of February, we are focusing on God’s characteristic of LOVE.

I’m a recovering “Girl Boss”. Present tense because I am still in recovery, so this post will be about my journey so far and not about the finished product. I fully support women owning businesses, working full time, and getting equal pay, but I bought into the lie that I could do everything on my own and didn’t need a man or God to help me achieve big goals. I read all the Rachel Hollis books and attended her movie theater event. I thought if I just applied a few efficiency practices I could be successful!  

I remember reading a blog post about Rachel Hollis’ theories not being based in biblical truth and I just brushed it off. I can’t entirely blame Rachel Hollis for my “Girl Boss” mentality, but what I learned from her intensified this mentality. 

I believe in productivity and achieving big goals, but the part I was missing was depending on God to achieve those goals through me and seeking His knowledge when setting those goals. It got to a point where I was prioritizing my needs and my job over my husband and the needs of my family. 

I knew the life I was living needed to change. God changed my life drastically soon after. He slammed some doors I thought were wide open, I quit my full-time job, and I became a stay-at-home mom. What a transition that was! I never saw myself as a stay-at-home mom, but the Lord did, and He knew this was what I needed. This new role has forced me to completely rely on God’s plan for our family.

You might be wondering, “What does this have to do with our theme of love this month?”  2 Peter 1:3 “his divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life THROUGH OUR KNOWLEDGE OF HIM WHO CALLED US by his own glory and goodness.” The only way I can love my husband and my family, is to first love God and get to know Him better. For the past year, I have devoted time each day to spend with God. 

Salley Sweeney came to Harvest back in October, and then again in January, to speak about loving our husbands. Her message has really helped me to take the next steps to loving my husband even better. The first point she made was about submitting to our husbands. Ephesians 5: 22-30 used to make me roll my eyes and think, “Why should I submit to my husband? What if I’m right or my idea is better?”

Thankfully I married a man who can handle my sass and God gives me grace for it. Verse 28 says, “In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.” This is why wives should submit to our husbands, because he loves us as himself. She went on to talk about respecting, honoring, and prizing our husbands. 

“The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”- Matthew Henry

We love our husbands by being his helper and being by his side. We can love, respect, and honor him better when we put God first. It’s through “our knowledge of Him who called us,” that we can love big.

We would like to thank Chelsea Criswell for writing this blog post.

Empowered in Love

Empowered in Love

Editor’s note: During 2022, we are focusing on the scriptures found in 2 Peter 1:3-11. These verses teach us about God’s divine nature. We pray that as we reflect on God’s nature, you will see all that He has created you to be! For the month of February, we are focusing on God’s characteristic of LOVE.

Empowered in Love

“Seek Me.” The Father beckoned me with one outstretched arm behind him as he proceeded to move forward. He looked back at me and smiled, encouraging me to come along. 


God gave me this short blurb of a vision a few months ago and my first response was to crumple and childishly call out, “Wait for me! I just want to be held.” This is similar to the whines my boys give me when they want to be carried out of our Tahoe and into the house. I often fall into the trap of timidity and blindness to my own abilities in Christ but in that moment God spoke a new word to me, “EMPOWERED.”

It is out of his extravagant love that he has called me, and you, to be more than just held and comforted. In the Song of Songs the lover of our souls meets us first right where we are in our immaturity and needing his gentle affection but it doesn’t end there. Song of Songs 2:10 reads. “The one I love calls to me: Arise, my dearest. Hurry, my darling. Come away with me! I have come as you have asked to draw you to my heart and lead you out. For now is the time, my beautiful one.” My tendency is to shy away from such a calling, making excuses for why I’m incapable but that is when I am living out of my flesh and not realizing the power that is in me through Christ. This month’s focus is set out of 2 Peter 1:3-10 which calls us into his divine nature. 


Everything we could ever need for life and godliness has already been deposited in us by his divine power. For all this was lavished upon us through the rich experience of knowing him who has called us by name and invited us to come to him through a glorious manifestation of his goodness.
2 Peter 1:3.


What a treasure I hold inside me already having all that I need through Christ. He loved me too much to let me live a timid, powerless, unloving and undisciplined life. Instead, he calls me to be empowered with, as verse 8 says, “virtues (that) are already planted deep within.” Verse 9 explains that our eyes are closed when we lack these things because we don’t believe it for ourselves.

Looking back I have clear memories of people who loved me calling me to “arise” when I was blind to what was already inside of me. My husband and I used to work out together, before having our boys, and I often got frustrated with him as he gently encouraged me to jump higher while doing wall squats. I saw myself as weak and tired in those moments but I can easily see in hindsight that he believed in me and my strength. I also had a dear friend tell me once that I could go inside to work out before she arrived. The shy side of me took such offense to her suggestion to start working out by myself. I laugh now but I cried then not realizing that I was fully empowered to walk in that gym by myself and get my workout on. They saw in me what my eyes were closed to. And I can’t even count the number of times I was encouraged to pray and speak out truth by the men and women who knew that I was and am more than able. 

I believe out of God’s loving kindness he is calling you and I to be fully empowered. “For God did not give you a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 When I am timid, my eyes are on myself allowing fear to keep me from sharing and enjoying the love of Christ. There is freedom in experiencing his divine nature and truly believing his word. It will look different for each of us but I’m so grateful that I am called to more than timidity and instead called into his divine power. And what a blessing it is to have a community of women around me pursuing our Father in the same way. 

We would like to thank D’Anna Coleman for writing this blog post.

God is Love

God is Love

Editor’s note: During 2022, we are focusing on the scriptures found in 2 Peter 1:3-11. These verses teach us about God’s divine nature. We pray that as we reflect on God’s nature, you will see all that He has created you to be! For the month of February, we are focusing on God’s characteristic of LOVE.

I can remember being a little kid and dreaming about the husband and family that I would have someday. Love looked like a perfect glass box where everything was right in the world, and nothing ever went wrong. I mean “And they lived happily ever after” was the perfect encapsulation of everything that love was meant to be, right?


Because I was obsessed with this perfect picture of love, I tried to make my life match that. I tried to make my life look as perfect as possible. I swept my junk under rugs, shoved ugly feelings in closets and closed the doors of my heart, only allowing certain parts of me to be seen and explored by God.

See if my heart was a home, I allowed God to enter through the front door, have a seat at my perfectly decorated dining room table for a cup of coffee, but I never invited Him to have a tour of the house. The consequence was that I never felt like I was truly loved or accepted by Him or
anyone else. I was scared that if I allowed every part of my heart to be on display, the ugliness would make them run away.


What changed you may ask? Singleness – that is what changed. See as I was hiding my junk, I was also desperately searching for “The One” that would satisfy my heart’s longing to be loved. I figured to be loved I needed a husband, and before I could have a husband, I needed a boyfriend. To get a boyfriend I just needed to catch his attention and keep it on me.

Spoiler alert: that did not get me where I wanted. I sacrificed perfect love for lust and that is far different. You will never find perfect love outside of God because He is love. I allowed too many red flags to turn into green ones as I reasoned out why I “deserved” this less-then-perfect love. Because remember those closed doors and dirty rugs, those were all reminders of why my love looked less than perfect.

Until one day Jesus stepped in. I was at the end of my rope, and I remember thinking “singleness would be better than this”. In that moment my heart had decided to stop running away from God and instead throw everything aside and run into him and that changed everything.


1 John 4:16 says “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him”.


When I invited God to love me, what I was really doing was abiding in Him. Abide simply means to stay fixed on or stable in; to live in. I allowed God to come live in the home of my heart; not just visit but to stay forever. He had full reign to go into every locked door and look under every rug. Suddenly I wasn’t wishing and lusting after my imperfect love; instead I was being fully saturated and overflowing in the love that never fails, never disappoints, and never leaves.


The thing is, God will never break into your heart. He wants to be invited in. He is gentle and kind. So, the question to answer today is will you invite Him in?

We would like to thank Savanna Ludecke for writing this blog post.

My Mindset About God’s Word

My Mindset About God’s Word

Editor’s note: For the month of September, our focus verse is Colossians 3:1-2. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Our mindset is our responsibility and I pray that you will begin to focus on your life in Jesus.

As I look back across the story of my life, I can see defining moments where I had a specific choice to make that would set me on a specific path…those choices became the moments that God used to bring me into His Kingdom.  

The first time I heard the Lord speak clearly to me about how He felt about me was when I was 16.  I had already made some bad decisions and was living a life of sin, but Jesus met me with a verse in Jeremiah and I heard God clearly say, “This is how I feel about you.”  I clung to that verse and let it take root in my heart.  When I said yes to what the Lord was saying about me, it changed my mindset and placed me on a path of purpose.  

At the age of 17 a leader in my life spoke Romans 8:1 over me.  This verse tells us that we are not condemned when we are in Christ.  Once again, I found myself at a crossroads…I could embrace this truth and let go of the condemnation I had been carrying because of my bad choices or I could continue to live condemned.  I chose to say yes to God’s word.  This promise to me, set me on a path of freedom from my sin.  When I realized I wasn’t condemned I began seeing myself in Christ and I no longer wanted to sin.  My mindset about God’s word allowed me to live in the freedom that His word brings.  

A few years after Brad and I got married I found myself struggling with some of the ways Brad and I were relating to each other.  I felt like he didn’t see or understand me.  We were fighting a lot and I kept thinking…if only I’d explain myself one more time, he’d “get” what I’m trying to say.  But none of my explaining helped.  It just kept putting a barrier of misunderstanding between us.  It was during this time in our marriage that I really learned to pray.  I remember so clearly hearing the Lord tell me “Julie, I love you enough to change Brad.”  Those words brought such peace to my heart.  I knew that I could stop trying to “explain” myself and I could start “trusting” God to change Brad.  My mindset towards my marriage changed. I can honestly say, I’ve seen God do so much in our marriage because I’ve made my mindset about God’s word be what leads me in my actions towards Brad.  

About 10 years ago I didn’t agree with God’s word, and I ran off to accomplish what I thought was best for our family.  We were financially stretched thin, and I decided to take matters into my own hands and take a job.  Deep inside of me I didn’t have any peace, but I thought this would be best and helpful for our family.  The irony was we continued to be stretched thin in our finances even with the extra income.  It was like we had holes in our pockets and all the extra I was making was just falling out.  During this season, God taught Brad and I two specific truths.  One, that unity in our finances is the number one goal.  We needed to come in agreement about money, how we felt about money and what we believed about money.  The second truth we learned was it’s not about the amount of money you make, it’s about your mindset towards God and His promises.  You see, if in the core of my being, I don’t really believe that God is my provider, then no matter how much money I make, it’ll never be enough.  Allowing my mindset to agree with God’s truth about money was the answer to our financial and material needs.  

Recently, God’s challenged me in new areas in my thinking.  Last year a dear friend prayed over me that my imagination would be awakened.  That I would be able to see the beauty and the glory of God.  In general, I’m not a very visual person, and honestly when they prayed that over me, I was a little taken back…like what kinds of imaginations am I supposed to have?  God showed me this verse in Colossians soon after they prayed that, and I began asking God to allow me to see and picture Heaven and being seated with Christ.  This has been so helpful when I’m interceding for my family, friends and church.  

Often, we think the goal of Christianity is Heaven, and although that is an awesome benefit of salvation, it’s not our goal.  Our goal is oneness with Christ.  If we’re ever to walk in oneness with Christ, we must live a life of responsibility towards our thoughts.  

If I can take responsibility for my mindset…I know you can too.  I challenge you, next time you hear God’s word, say yes to it and allow your mindset to be what leads you to victory.

We would like to thank Julie Snellgrove for writing this blog post.

Jesus is our Gift

Jesus is our Gift

Editors note: For the month of December, our theme is “The Gift of Jesus” and our focus verses are found in Luke 2:10-14. “but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

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

What better scripture could describe “the gift of Jesus”?  God gave us His one and only son to give us the best gift:  Jesus!

Can you imagine giving one of your children to save a corrupt and dying world?  I can, in some ways, and I can’t because I was never blessed to have any children.  I know how devastated I was not to have any, so I can’t imagine giving one up, not even one.  So how did God feel to give us His son as a gift?

A few weeks back Amber Curry talked to us at Among Friends about the Samaritan woman that Jesus asked for a drink of water.  She was astonished that a Jewish man would even talk to her, much less ask for a drink.  And Jesus said to her, “if you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”  John 4:10

Living water to a Samaritan woman! This was unheard of in those days, but He offers it freely to us as a gift.

Remember the story of Abraham and Isaac?  The Lord had given Abraham a son in his old age and then He asked him to give him back as a sacrifice.  Abraham was going to obey and the Lord told Him not to lay a hand on Isaac.  The Lord said to him: “…you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”  Genesis 22:12  And God provided a ram as a sacrifice in Isaac’s place.  What a precious gift from God to Abraham!

In James 1:17 he warns us not to be deceived because “every good and PERFECT GIFT is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”  Jesus was and is that perfect gift offered freely to each of us for our salvation. 

As a child, we would go to church occasionally and I would go with friends every once in a while.  When I was in junior high, I went with a friend and was introduced to Jesus as my savior.  I didn’t understand some of what I heard, but I fell in love with Jesus.  I knew I needed Him but still didn’t understand all of the gift of salvation.  I served Him for 21 years at that church, but still didn’t know all I needed to know. I would feel very condemned for not knowing, but I served because I really loved Jesus.  I fell away for a few years because of the condemnation I felt, but I never lost my love for Him.  I lived with condemnation for too long, but He never left me like I left Him. It was a true gift from God that He never left me.  Jesus is my gift!  “For the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT OF GOD is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23 

Now we are in the Christmas season, giving and receiving gifts from our friends and loved ones.  The stress and concerns to get everything done and to make everything PERFECT in our homes.  Decorating with lights and garland and cooking all of the things that our family loves.  These things are all good and a blessing.  But, sometimes during this time we get so busy that we can leave Jesus, our best gift, out of all of the preparations.  I know I have before, but this year I have been trying to let some of it go and focus on the true reason for the season, THE GIFT OF JESUS.  Matthew 6:21 tells us that “where our treasure is, that’s where our heart will be.”  This scripture is usually used when talking of tithing, but if we have Jesus as our treasured gift, He will have our heart.  I know I don’t need anything else!

In Acts 2:38 Peter tells us to repent in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.  Then he says; “And you will receive the GIFT of the Holy Spirit.  This promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call.”  When we think of a good gift to give to someone, tell them about Jesus.  And because God gave us Jesus as a gift, we also get the gift of Holy Spirit.  When you hear the phrase “the gift that keeps on giving”, think of Jesus.  

May the Lord bless you and keep you and may His face shine upon you. May He give you peace during this season of celebrating Jesus, our true GIFT.

We would like to thank Debbie Crosby for writing this blog post.

Unwrapping Your Spiritual Gifts

Unwrapping Your Spiritual Gifts

Editors note: For the month of December, our theme is “The Gift of Jesus” and our focus verses are found in Luke 2:10-14. “but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

December is an exciting time of year. The anticipation of Christmas morning: opening gifts, fellowship with family, singing carols…When I was a little girl, I knew Christmas was coming soon the day that the Sears catalog arrived in the mail! I would sit for hours checking the items that I wanted to add to my Christmas wish list:

  • A new baby doll ✅
  • A new pair of skates ✅
  • A new bicycle ✅
  • A new pair of pajamas ✅

I was always so excited to see the latest, greatest toys and I would picture how I would feel opening those gifts on Christmas morning!

Spiritual Gifts

Fast forward many years later and my wishes have changed. I’m not looking for a new baby doll, unless I’m shopping for my granddaughters. As far as skates, are you kidding me? I don’t need to break a leg…or a hip…I could use a new bicycle or a treadmill and I’m all about a new pair of pajamas. However, the gifts I’ve been searching for lately cannot be found in the Sears Christmas catalog.

What I’ve been thinking about lately are spiritual gifts. I find myself “checking off” my wish list in the Bible just like I did as a little girl with the Sears catalog:

  • The gift of wisdom  ✅
  • The gift of prophesy ✅
  • The gift of healing ✅
  • The gift of tongues ✅

However, God has been speaking to me lately about what these gifts are all about.

Lessons learned

To begin with, all gifts that I check are not gifts that I’m ready to get…yet! As a little girl, I had a long list of wishes, but didn’t always get what I had on my list. My parents loved me so much and wanted to give me good gifts. My parents would’ve never given me a gift that I wasn’t ready to receive. For example, they would’ve never given me a bicycle if I hadn’t learned to ride a tricycle. Or they would not give me a new car until I was responsible enough to use it correctly.

Each child in my family received different gifts. My parents didn’t give me the same gifts as they gave to my brother and sister. They were older than me and had different desires than me. My parents knew that I didn’t want a football and they knew my brother wouldn’t appreciate a Barbie. They were good, good parents and gave us appropriate gifts because they loved us. They got to decide what was best for each of their children!

Just like my parents, God loves me and wants to give me good gifts. 

He knows when I’m ready to receive certain gifts and even though I have them “checked”, He decides when I am ready to receive them.

Maybe I’m ready to receive the gift of wisdom, but maybe I’m not ready to receive the gift of prophesy. Does He love me any less because He doesn’t give me the gift of prophecy? Absolutely not! I have a friend who has received the gift of tongues. Does he love her more? Is she a “better Christian” than me because she received that gift and I didn’t? NO! God is a good, good Father who knows what gifts we need in order to grow His kingdom.

1 Corinthians 12:11 says that “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.” God gets to decide when I’m ready to receive an extra gift!

Be content in all things

As a little girl, I don’t remember a time when I woke up on Christmas morning and was disappointed because I didn’t receive a certain gift that I had checked off in the catalog. I was content with the gifts that I was blessed with.

I am content with the gifts that God has given me through the Holy Spirit. Do I want more? YES! However, I trust Him to give me the gifts when He says I’m ready for them!  Psalm 37:3-4 says to “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Using my gifts for others

I remember one particular Christmas, I received an Easy-Bake Oven. I was so excited to use that gift to “bless” others. My dad ate lots of tiny brownies that I made using this amazing Christmas gift! It was a gift that kept on giving!

God gives us spiritual gifts, but they are not meant to be consumed on ourselves. As we receive, we give it away and then more is given to us. When I feel like I’m not doing enough with my gift, I need to step back and reflect on how God is using my gifts to grow His kingdom. Recently when attending the Holy Spirit class at church, I heard something that struck a chord with me. I heard that we need to “establish evidence of how God is using your gifts that He gave you.” Begin to write down how God is blessing you with the gift of wisdom, or the gift of prophesy. Has He blessed you with the gift of healing? What have you done with that gift? Whatever gift you have received, use it well and I believe that He will bless you with more gifts!

Trusting that your gifts are good

I never doubted that my parents would give me good gifts! Although they threatened telling Santa to put coal in my stocking when I misbehaved, deep down I knew that I would get good gifts for Christmas. You can trust God to give you good gifts as well! Luke 11:11-13 says, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Merry CHRISTmas!

You can trust God, our good, good Father, to give you gifts that you need to receive in His time. I pray that during this holiday season, you unwrap your gifts and receive your spiritual blessings with the same kind of excitement as receiving the Sears Christmas catalog in the mail!

Be Blessed.

We would like to thank Vickie Young for writing this blog post!

Serving Jesus by Serving Others

Serving Jesus by Serving Others

Editors note: For the month of December, our theme is “The Gift of Jesus” and our focus verses are found in Luke 2:10-14. “but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

One of my favorite books to read to my children during the month of December is The Giving Manger. It’s about a dad who carves a wooden figure for his kids each year and this year he carved a manger. The kids are disappointed because they thought they would be receiving something greater. The dad goes on to tell them they will receive more gifts than before by serving one another. Each time they serve someone, they put a piece of straw in the manger. At the end of the book, the dad put a wood carving of baby Jesus in the manger.

This time of year it is so easy to get caught up in my to do list. I get overwhelmed with all of my children’s activities, the traditions I want to continue in my home, and all of the family gatherings. What I love most about the book is how it reminds me that the best gift I can give is to serve someone else. Matthew 25:40 says, “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” When we are serving others, we are serving Jesus

The humble birth of Jesus reminds me that how I serve does not have to be extravagant, but it’s the little things that can be most important. Things like doing a chore for another in my home, serving coffee to a friend, running an errand for a friend or family member, or just being a good listener. 

This next part is for all of my mama friends out there. I’m in a new season myself this Christmas and I am a stay at home mom for the first time. The repetitiveness of chores can be draining at times and I tend to get frustrated with it. Today I had a friend over to my home for coffee and I was reminded that I do the chores in order to serve others. My home isn’t spotless by any means, but today it was a safe space for a friend to bring her one year old and enjoy some social time. To my working mama friends, I would encourage you to save energy to be a servant in your home. I know that I often gave too much of myself to my job and my family would get the little scraps I had left. I’m not saying do your job poorly, but I am saying it’s okay to say no so that you can say yes to something more life giving. 

When we are serving others, whether it be big or small, we are serving Jesus. The heart of Jesus is shown to others when we serve them. I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

We would like to thank Chelsea Criswell for writing this blog post.

We are a Gift of Jesus

We are a Gift of Jesus

Editors note: For the month of December, our theme is “The Gift of Jesus” and our focus verses are found in Luke 2:10-14. “but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” John 3:16. Jesus is our ultimate gift, and this verse is one that I think of often during this time of year.  We have been given the most amazing gift, one that allows us to know Him, walk with Him, and the best thing of all, to live with Him for the rest of eternity.  Nothing can top this gift. 

This season of our life has really shown me that Jesus goes with us no matter where we live or work.  Moving to a new town is an adventure but leaving what you know behind is hard. One thing that it has taught me is that those people we choose to do life with are another aspect of the gift of Jesus.  I look back and I can see all the different gifts in everyone, and I know that all of them combined make up the body of Christ. Everyone represents a part of who He is because we are all made in His image and are equipped with different gifts that we are to use to further the Kingdom of God. 

A few examples are that I see the gift of Jesus in that friend who lives across the street that I can run to whenever I need help with parenting my kids in a kingdom way or the gift of prayer when I call the Pastor’s wife because I am going through something, and I need someone to agree with me in prayer.  I also see Jesus in a friend we can go to when we need help discipling our son because he is going through things, and we want to make sure we are setting him up on the right path.  The gift of love is in a couple that I serve with at church who are always there and give the best hugs and in someone I work with that sees things in me and helps me develop my giftings to give to those around me.   You see, each and everyone of you has a gift inside of you that Jesus gave you that is special. This gift is to be shared with others and when you do, you are sharing the gift of Jesus. I always knew I had friends who could speak life into us but didn’t realize how much of a gift they were until we moved.  What this has taught me is that wherever God places you He has a plan for you and new ways to show you His gifts.  It may not be the same, but it is always for a reason.  

A good friend of mine once shared a word she received, and it was about a glass jar.  When you fill a glass jar with water it eventually fills to the top and overflows.  The water then spreads and touches everything around it.  We are to be just like this jar.  We are to fill ourselves up with Jesus and we do this by spending time with Him in prayer, worship, and the word.  As we fill ourselves up, we will eventually overflow and then everything we touch spreads the gift of Jesus. It could be that hug we give someone at church, the cup of coffee we buy for the person behind us or the friend who reaches out to us because they need help.  Every one of us is a gift of Jesus.  When we are walking in our calling and our purpose, we bring that to those around us.  Love on those around you, spread the gifts that God has given you, and allow those around you to speak life into your life because in the end it is really God speaking to you.

We would like to thank Kaylene Vanbebber for writing this blog post.

The Greatest Gift of All

The Greatest Gift of All

Editors note: For the month of December, our theme is “The Gift of Jesus” and our focus verses are found in Luke 2:10-14. “but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

What a wonderful time of year this is! What makes this time of year special for you?  It might be being with family and friends. Maybe it’s the decorating, food eating and gift buying that brings you joy. What about Jesus? Does He have a place in your life during this season?

Let’s talk about gifts. Gifts are exciting! All the pretty wrappings and the suspense of what is hidden beneath those wrappings. We have all heard and probably sang the classic song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  Someone tried to add up how much it would cost to give the gifts named in this song.  The grand total came to about $15,000! It seems we get all tied up in the busyness of the season and we forget about the simplicity.

Christmas, a wonderful story and a gentle reminder of the true meaning. It is about the gifts. However, it is not about the gifts that can be purchased with a credit or debit card.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is GIVEN, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. “ Isaiah 9:6

The real message is not the gifts we give each other but the gifts God has given to each of us.  His gifts are the only ones that keep on giving.  Let’s look at 4 things:

1. God’s gift to us was a total surprise.  Who would have imagined that Jesus would be willing to leave perfection to come into a sinful world and in human form?

2. God’s gift came to us in humble wrappings. He wasn’t born in a palace.  We all have been taught that He was born in a stable. The reality is He was born in a cave. This cave was a cave where lambs were born to be used for religious sacrifices. The lambs had to be perfect, it was mandatory that they were unblemished. Therefore, they were wrapped in rags to prevent blemishes. We know ultimately Jesus became our sacrificial lamb, which will become another gift in the future. Just as the lambs were wrapped, Jesus was wrapped in cloths or rags and laid in a feeding trough.

3. We don’t deserve this gift. We usually give gifts to those we love and care about. We don’t usually give gifts to those that have been unkind to us. Yet, God still gave us His Son as a gift, because of love, even though the human race had become an enemy of his. They broke religious laws. To top it off,Jesus was already rejected even before his birth when there was no room in the Inn. (Luke 2:7)

4. The gift tells us something about the giver.  Just as we think ahead and plan what we want to give to others, God did the same for us. Through Jesus, our gift, He gave us an opportunity at eternal life. However, we first have to accept the gift. Then we must unwrap that gift. What are you going to do with the gift after you unwrap it?  Push it to the side and think about it later or start utilizing it and discover everything it has to offer?  If we choose to utilize it we will discover that not only is Jesus THE gift but He also brought other gifts with Him. He brought peace, hope, forgiveness, healing and purpose. He also brought a new way to live and see, a joy that can’t be taken and a way to relate to others. He brought so much more that we are still trying to unwrap it all.

It’s not about the gifts that will be under your tree. These gifts are temporary and will be gone one day. Life is about knowing the God who made you and gave you the greatest gift you will ever receive. His gift is eternal and will never wear out. His gift always fits and you never have to return it. Most importantly, His gifts are worth more than $15,000, they are priceless.  Jesus is THE greatest gift of all.

We would like to thank Kathy Jones for writing this blog post.

Being Generous with Our Love

Being Generous with Our Love

Editors note: For the month of November, our theme is Loving Big. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Bug anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” This month, you will hear from the ladies of our church about how to show God’s love to others.

Have you ever given someone a gift that you made or created just for them? I love to write and when I was a girl, I would write stories for my little brother. Since I didn’t often have money, this was something I could give him that came just from me.  As I grew older, I became a little more hesitant about sharing things I write with others, but sometimes, I write a poem or a passage for a close friend or someone I love. And the things I value most are those treasured, handmade gifts that have been given to me. These things are, in a sense, part of the person who made and gave them and that makes them special.

In this passage in 1 John, we see that ‘love comes from God’.  It is both His gift to us and the essence of who He is.  God is giving himself to us when He is giving us love. But this is a gift we are not to keep to ourselves – it is something we are asked to share with others.  

When I was in fifth grade, my mother made cookies for my school Christmas party.  They were sugar cookies with red and green colored icing. We didn’t have much money at the time and cookies were a rare treat in our household.  I remember struggling all the way to school with the temptation to hide the cookies. I didn’t want to keep them all to myself, but I didn’t want to share them with everyone in the class. I only wanted to share them with my friends so there would be cookies to take home and share with my brothers.  Unable to hide a plate of cookies, I ended up setting the cookies with the other goodies for the party, and I was pleasantly surprised that there were a few left after the party.  But I still remember the struggle to share with the kids in my classroom that I did not know or like. 

How generous are we with our love? John gives us a simple command here, “Dear friends, let us love one another,” and there is a love that we can easily offer to others because it flows from God, in and through us. However, I think we’re often called to something more – particularly in regard to fellow believers who worship and fellowship with us. However, if we’re honest, it’s probably not easy for most of us to offer more than just greetings to those we don’t know. Most of us realize that the more we know someone and the more intimate the relationship whether family or friends, the easier it is to love them. John even says this about our relationship with God, “everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 

People need to be seen and known. There are lonely people all around us who are just waiting for someone to see them – really see them – and to know them.  They may know they are loved by God, but still long for loving relationships with other believers. I was once one of those people, and while I had Sunday acquaintances and companions at church, I was still lonely. It was years before I had friends that knew me and encouraged me in the gifts and calling God has placed on my life.  So, to offer love to our fellow brethren, we may have to offer connection – something more than a warm greeting, short general conversation and well wishes for their day. We may need to offer to exchange phone numbers or an invitation to coffee.  I asked earlier how generous are we with our love, but the real question may be, how generous are we with our time?  For it too is a gift from God. So, like John, I encourage you, ‘Dear friends, let us love one another…’

We would like to thank Sheila Campbell for writing this blog post.

Me Love Big?

Me Love Big?

Editors note: For the month of November, our theme is Loving Big. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Bug anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” This month, you will hear from the ladies of our church about how to show God’s love to others.

Loving big.  In I John 3 and 4, the disciple who calls himself the one that Jesus loved gives his readers much counsel on how and why they should love:

“Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.”  I John 3:10

“If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life.”  I John 3:14

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”  I John 3:18

“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.”  I John 4:11

My favorite, though, is I John 4:16: “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love.”  In theory, all these admonitions from John make sense to me, and I know that I really am called to love not only fellow believers, but Jesus even goes so far as to tell me to love my enemies!  (Luke 6:35).  I have found, though, in my own life, that there are obstacles to loving big.  

One of the big ones is rejection.

I was a baby when I was adopted into my family.  My adoptive parents raised me and treated me as their very own, and I knew I was adopted from as far back as I can remember.  It wasn’t a big deal, even though my mom gave birth to my younger brother.  That was my family. One day when we were kids, my little brother said, “Your mom and dad didn’t want you, so they gave you away.”  Well, I told my mom, and my brother got in trouble for saying it, but that stuck in my head.  Those words introduced me to a spirit of rejection that I battled for most of my life, and which still tries to rise up on occasion.

This spirit of rejection can be caused or enhanced because of many life circumstances:  abuse by a parent or loved one, death of a parent or someone dear, negative words spoken by teachers or caregivers, rejection by a group at school or by a boyfriend or girlfriend, failure at a job or school, divorce; the list goes on and on.  As a person experiences these things as a part of life, she may begin to believe that God has also rejected her.  Rejection also has self-fulfilling consequences.  A person feels rejected, so she pushes people away, afraid to get close to anyone, and she often causes the cycle to continue.  She pushes people so far by her words and actions that they reject her, so it’s confirmed that no one wants anything to do with her.  

Rejection causes me to focus on hiding myself, when love wants me to reach out to someone who is lonely, who is hurting, who needs someone to listen and to pray.  Rejection says to me, “Who do you think you are?” Love says, “Who can Holy Spirit touch through me today?”  Rejection’s focus is self-protection, while love’s is ministry.  Rejection is always looking inward.  Love is always looking outward.  

It’s clear that a person can’t go around living in this rejection mode and still fulfill the law of love, right?  In Philippians, Paul tells his readers, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (Philippians 2:4).  The only way I’ve found to move forward is to realize that I AM accepted in the Beloved (in Jesus). (Ephesians 1:6).  The more I receive the love, and believe the love that HE has for me, the more I can open my arms to the people around me and love THEM.  It’s scary, at times, because there is always a risk that people will reject me, but Jesus never will reject you or me.  We can love despite the risk. 

“Whoever walks constantly afraid of punishment has not reached love’s perfection.  Our love for others is our grateful response to the love God first demonstrated to us.”  I John 4:18-19

“Afraid of punishment” means “fear is suspicious” in the Aramaic.  We can overcome our suspicious fear of rejection and love BIG, knowing that we are safely in the family of God, no matter what.

We would like to thank Sheri Warren for writing this blog post.

To Love as Christ Loves

To Love as Christ Loves

Editors note: For the month of November, our theme is Loving Big. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Bug anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” This month, you will hear from the ladies of our church about how to show God’s love to others.

In order to love big, one must first know Love—not just head knowledge, social-media profile, surface kind of know. Rather, a gut-level, day-in-day-out, wash-the-dishes, clean-the-poop, kind of know. It’s knowing relationally through life’s messes and celebrations.   

Head knowledge remains such a valued commodity in our society (in Jesus’ society too)and yet, application of that knowledge makes all the difference. Head knowledge means nothing without gut-level application. Pharisees’ head knowledge and religious application set them apart. Yet Jesus frequently called out this “brood of vipers” as bad fruit condemned to judgement (Matthew 12), as hypocritical blind guides leading themselves and others to destruction (Matthew 23). Jesus contrasted these criticisms with storing up good in your heart and accompanied them with warnings about caring meticulously for appearance while ignoring internal decay. Knowing and even doing what is right is abhorrent without the right heart and motivation.

Our knowledge of love, our knowledge of God who is love, must well up from within. So how do we love? Ask.

1 John 4:15 says, “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.”

Choosing to follow Jesus is eternal salvation, yes, but as believers, we are also called to bring God’s kingdom to earth. Praise the Lord for eternal salvation. Praise the Lord that salvation includes the Holy Spirit who empowers us to walk in love now, empowers us to live in God’s kingdom here on Earth as it is in Heaven. If you have not yet made the decision to follow Jesus, please do today. Contact your Christian friends and we will celebrate with you! Without this relationship, we cannot love. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  

So how do we continue in love? Walk in love? Abide. Remain.

John 15:1-17 speaks of bearing good fruit by staying connected to the vine. Verse ten says, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love.” It’s not a to-do list. Verse 12 says, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” Jesus lay down his life for us, for sinners. Verse 17 repeats, “This is my command: Love each other.” How do I remain in God’s love? Obey. What’s the command? Love each other as Christ loved. Because of God’s love, I am able to love.

Practically, what does loving each other look like? In Jesus life, ultimately laying down his life. Until that point, his ministry was full of loving others. He loved crowds, taught them, healed them, fed them. He took time away from the crowds to remain in God’s presence. He saw what the Father was doing and did it too.

At my house, loving each other looks like doing dishes, scrubbing toilets, watching basketball, reading books, playing games, wrestling, tackling, tickling. Yet these mean nothing unless my heart is right. They are useless acts that drain unless my heart does them out of love. When I walk in love, these acts are life-giving, joyful responses to knowing who I am and whose I am. 

Loving big is patient, kind, humble, honoring. Loving big protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres.

My constant prayer from Psalm 139 is “Search me, God, and know my heart…lead me in the way everlasting.” Friends, our words and actions overflow from the abundance of our hearts. What are you filling your heart with? May love well up from the core of who we are. As we abide in God, may the fruit of our lives be expressed in love.

Holy Spirit, empower us to love big!

We would like to thank Mary Coleman for writing this blog post.

Loving BIG

Loving BIG

Editors note: For the month of November, our theme is Loving Big. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Bug anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” This month, you will hear from the ladies of our church about how to show God’s love to others.

Jesus loves you and He loves me…BIG!! This love is different than the love the world knows or recognizes. The world does not know this love because they do not know Him. As we look around at the world today, it seems as if the spirit of love is hidden or even lost. Let’s be honest, people are messy and sometimes hard to love. Yet our verse for the month, 1 John 4:7-8, tells us to love one another. He’s not just telling us but He is commanding us to love.

What does your relationship with Jesus look like right now?

The past couple of months God placed the following in my spirit: Do you have intimacy WITH me before doing work FOR me? Or are you trying to do work FOR me BEFORE seeking my intimacy?

When we jump into doing work for the Lord before seeking Him, we are relying on our own works, our flesh. That includes loving people. We are called to open ourselves to God’s love so God can love others through us. When we love one another we represent God to the world. When we leave intimacy with God last, loving each other is hard.

What does being intimate with God look like? For me, it’s being in His Word first thing in the morning before the activities of the day begin. Personally, I enjoy following verse by verse studies of what is really being revealed in His Word or diving into a particular topic or theme. I enjoy the stillness and quietness of the morning and just being with Him. Enter in worship music off and on during the day. Your intimate time with God may look different. Whatever that may be, it is CRUCIAL that before you do activities FOR God that you have spent time WITH God. It is in this moment where His Spirit guides and directs you.

Loving others is a call to action. John 13:34 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”. Jesus makes love a priority. Love stirs the spirit and makes an impression on the soul. Genuine love requires more than calling someone tender names. We often think that love is a sweet, sentimental feeling. Biblically, love is self sacrificing, caring and committing. It’s always searching for the good in others. There are so many ways we can love each other. Here are 10 ways to get started:
1. Pray for each other ( James 5:16)
2. Worship together (Hebrews 10:25)
3. Fellowship/ show hospitality (1 Peter 4:9)
4. Serve/ help each other (1 Peter 4:10)
5. Be humble (Ephesians 4:2)
6. Be encouraging ( 1 Thess. 5:11)
7. Forgive (Ephesians 4:32)
8. Be in peace with each other (Romans 12:18)
9. Speak the truth in love ( Ephesians 4:15)
10. Be loveable (Romans 12:10)

Love is not an optional virtue for the believer. It is to be the distinguishing mark of the church in the world. Despite what language you speak or what nation you live in, love has the ability to be understood across the broad expanse of this universe. Since God lives in us, we are to give the love God has given us and give it to the world. It’s a gift to be given and not kept for ourselves. We are called to love again. Will you be obedient? It’s time to bring the light called love into the dark places. The time to love big is now!

We would like to thank Kathy Jones for writing this blog post.

Heart to Serve

Heart to Serve

Editors note: For the month of October, our focus verse is found in Matthew 20:28. It states that, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is calling the disciples (and all who are in Christ) to follow the same path to greatness: humble, sacrificial service to each other.

“Can we go home now?” was the usual complaint from me on a Sunday afternoon. My family was the first ones to show up and last ones to leave any given church event. Serving was modeled for me long before I could walk it out. One of my favorite memories is getting to sneak out of “Big church” and help my mom serve in nursery, but I’m not so sure my heart was in it for serving as much as it was for the snacks.

For many years serving was something that I just did; just did to be with friends, just did to get the approval of my parents, just did to play out the “good” Christian girl. What I didn’t realize was that serving from myself and for myself would lead to disappointment and exhaustion. When we serve out of our own need for approval, we end up pouring from an empty cup. God created us with a heart to serve. It says in Matthew 20:28 “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve”. If Jesus, who was God, was meant to serve, how much more are we, who were created by God, meant to.

Serving is an inside-out reality that requires a constant connection to the Father in order to be life-giving. 1 Peter 4:10-11 says “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen”. We can’t serve without God’s strength. His strength allows us to push past our own desires and love without promise of return.

As you are empowered by Him, He will reveal the desire of where to serve. For some it will be front and center, but for others, it might be more behind the scenes. My call to serve came when I was a teenager sitting in youth group. My desire to help walk students through difficult times and watch them encounter the Gospel stirred my heart to serve in the children’s ministry and then youth. I am encouraged by the bold faith of the next generation. As pastor Brad always says, “there is no junior Holy Spirit”. The wisdom that comes from their innocent faith teaches me how to live unashamed of the Gospel.

Serving was never optional. We must consistently realign our heart to want to serve God first and through that love serve others. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and try serving in a new area. God just may awaken new desires in your heart. Serving, when done from a full cup, leads to the abundant life that Jesus promises us in John 10:10.

We would like to thank Savanna Ludecke for writing this blog post.

Jesus, the Servant

Jesus, the Servant

Editors note: For the month of October, our focus verse is found in Matthew 20:28. It states that, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is calling the disciples (and all who are in Christ) to follow the same path to greatness: humble, sacrificial service to each other.

Have you ever thought of Jesus as a servant? There is no doubt that when Christ came to earth, He revealed his skills as a leader. However, He also showed himself as a servant. He laid aside His majesty to come to earth to show us the love of God. As a result, the action displays the attributes of Jesus as a servant- leader.

Looking back over my life, from youth to adulthood, I feel as though I have always been a servant. I didn’t know enough about Jesus or His word to say my service was a call to be a servant for God’s glory, but I knew I loved to serve.

Even though I didn’t know about Jesus and His word, my mom did. She set the tone for me to be a servant, by her acts of service. 

Reminiscing on my life as a youth and all the ways my mom served her family and the church was somewhat unbelievable. If you ask me, my mom was a Proverbs 31:10-31 type of woman.

A Proverb 31 woman is a noble woman who is productive and ingenious. She can even be intimidating to women who would seek to follow her example. But while everyone can benefit from her example of initiative and hard work the main lesson she offers is her outlook rather than her output. 

All of this woman’s qualities and accomplishments grow out of the fear of the Lord. Fearing God is our central virtue, and this attitude towards God is as crucial for today’s woman as it was then. The fear (respect) of God not only undergrounds our growth in the wisdom but also draws us to the grace of Christ who forgives our sins and equips us for righteous living. 

Another timeless virtue of this woman is her service to others, her husband, her children, her servant, and the poor and needy. She serves them with eagerness, resourcefulness, and strength. She is neither hindered nor demeaned by serving others. Rather, she is fulfilled by it, because godly service is the source of her nobility.

Proverbs 31: Is the saying of King Lemuel, who shares his wisdom that came from his mother, stressing the role a mother can have in building character into her children? The wisdom that King Lemuel’s mother stressed to him is much like my mom’s character.

Because mom was such a loving, and caring woman, I wanted to be exactly like her. I think that’s why, whenever I see a need and I can help, jumping all in with both hands and feet comes natural for me. I don’t have to be front and center. I am ok being behind the scenes. I just love to serve in God‘s kingdom. Serving makes me happy and giving makes me very happy.

We are all called to serve if we are Christians (Christ like). In Matthew 20:28, Jesus says, “just as the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus, as a servant leader, is a powerful example to follow. It would benefit any leader to follow his example. John Scott put it this way: “The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion.”

John 15:12-15 “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends, For everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

Be a servant for Jesus, do what He commands, and He will call you friends.

We would like to thank Georgia Wall for writing this blog post.

Serving is a Sacrifice of Praise

Serving is a Sacrifice of Praise

Editors note: For the month of October, our focus verse is found in Matthew 20:28. It states that, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is calling the disciples (and all who are in Christ) to follow the same path to greatness: humble, sacrificial service to each other.

Each one of us is called to be a servant and have been given gifts used by God to serve others.

1 Peter 4:10 “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

As a child, I was in church and watched others serve, so this was just part of the culture I grew up to know.  I did not question the why, how, or where of these actions. After I accepted Christ as my Savior, then I began to wonder about the gifts that Jesus gave me.  I do not know that I ever actually asked what my gifts were, I just started serving others.  First, I began in the music ministry.  Yes, I sang specials in front of the congregation!  I was never one to speak to a group of people, but I could sing of God’s glory!

There have been several ministries that I have been involved with over the years in different churches: music ministry, children’s ministry, Bible studies, administrative, and hospitality. My husband, Robert, and I now serve on the coffee team and host a life group at Harvest Christian Fellowship.  Serving others also continues outside of our local church in our community and where we work. 

Hebrews 6:10 “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your word, and the love that you have shown for His name in serving the saints, as you still do.”

As I began to pray about my personal gifts, I began to realize how gifts were meant to help others. God wants me to glorify Him and bless others. This is what I am created to do!  I find joy in serving! 

Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.  You are serving the Lord Christ.”

This is one of my favorite quotes from Ann Voskamp: “When you are waiting, do what waiters do: Serve”

Aren’t we waiting for something most of the time?  We wait for God to speak to us, for prayers to be answered, for life changing events, and for changes that come in each season of our own lives.

Serving is a sacrifice of praise. Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, do in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

How are you using your gifts to honor God? Look around and there will always be an opportunity to serve others. Galatians 6:10  “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

We would like to thank Sharon Biles for writing this blog post.

Serving Man or God

Serving Man or God

Editors note: For the month of October, our focus verse is found in Matthew 20:28. It states that, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is calling the disciples (and all who are in Christ) to follow the same path to greatness: humble, sacrificial service to each other.

I am a servant.  No matter how many times I take the gifts test, my number 1 gift is always servanthood.  I have even thought about changing my answers so I can be something more “spiritual”, but it still comes out “servant”. 

Even as a child, I always wanted to help.  I loved helping my grandmother wash dishes, cook and clean. She always said I was too young to help so I would sneak around the house and find something to clean just so I could please her.  I believe this is where I started my journey of serving just to please others.  

In Matthew 25:21 it says “…well done good and faithful servant.”  This is what I always wanted to hear from everyone…look at me, look at me!  I didn’t grow up in the church so I probably didn’t know this scripture, but it is what I wanted to hear.  I was all about pleasing everyone, but not the Lord.

When I started attending church with a friend in junior high, I wanted to please everyone and started doing all I could for everyone in the church.  You see, I was going and hearing the word, but I really didn’t understand it all. I thought I needed to serve people!

When I grew up and got married, I was still going to this church and I was still not saying no. I did everything, except teach. I am not a teacher, and I didn’t know much about what needed to be taught.  I was learning more but still felt so inadequate, so I served more.  I helped with youth, was in the choir, and I was even the church treasurer for a time.  I was doing all I could to fulfill Ephesians 6:7, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.”  I felt that the way to get to heaven was to serve more.  Yes, I had asked Jesus into my heart and really loved Him and wanted to serve Him, but I was a little mixed up about needing to serve God and not just men. Colossians 3:24 says, “Since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward, it is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  This is the part I was missing.  When you serve Jesus, you are serving man also, but you need to have the right perspective and serve the Lord first.  I really started feeling kind of condemned no matter how much I did.  

I left the church, divorced my husband, and decided that I couldn’t measure up.  Because of all I did, it got in the way of just loving and serving the Lord.  I was burned out and was so tired of “serving God”.  I started living in the world and saying I didn’t need Him or church.  But He never left me. He very patiently stayed with me and every chance He got, when I would get out of the way, He tugged at my heart.  Thank You, Jesus for loving me so much! 

This world was not my home and I got tired of living worldly.  It took me several years, but I went on a Walk to Emmaus and headed back to the Lord.  I met Dewitt who is also a servant and together, we knew we wanted to serve the Lord. 

In December of 2010, the Lord led us to Harvest. I finally heard the truth and I got it.  I had heard the truth before, but the key here is that I GOT IT! We loved our church and had a strong desire to serve. I learned so much more about serving and the main thing for me was that you can say “NO” sometimes. Romans 12:11 states, “Never be lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord.  I serve because I love Him and believe that He has saved me from the darkness.  God has freed me from a life of inadequacy to a life of joy and rest. 

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you; then choose for yourself this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:15

I am still a servant and feel blessed that God chose this gift for me.  I serve Him through praise and worship, communion, tithe and offerings, altar team, making coffee, laundry, sewing and whatever else He calls me to do.  I love serving Him.  No matter what I do, I can never out-serve Him.  

“Just as the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:28

We would like to thank Debbie Crosby for writing this blog post.

Choosing What We Think About

Choosing What We Think About

Editor’s note: For the month of September, our focus verse is Colossians 3:1-2. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Our mindset is our responsibility and I pray that you will begin to focus on your life in Jesus.

When I was asked to write a blog post for the September theme of “My Mind is My Responsibility,” I laughed out loud at the email. I hardly felt qualified to write a post like this because my mind and I have been at war for months. 

Only a couple weeks before that email arrived in my inbox, I had my first full-blown panic attack. I didn’t even know what was happening until I woke my husband up from his dead-to-the-world sleep and tried to get out the words that I couldn’t breathe. Howell jumped out of bed, turned on all the lights, and started to pray over me. As he helped me take deep breaths, he told me, “I think you’re having a panic attack.” 

For real? 

Even as my breathing slowed and the pain in my chest eased and the feeling like my throat was closing went away, it still took hours for my heart to slow down so I could fall back asleep. 

How did I get to this place? 

That particular night, I had a bad dream, and when I woke up, I began to dwell on it even more. Fear overcame me like I’d never experienced, and then, before I knew it, I was struggling to breathe. 

But while dreams (and maybe even our physiological responses) may be out of our initial control, I believe I had entertained quite a bit of fear and anxiety in my thoughts in the weeks and months leading up to that point. 

Since then, I’ve asked God to help me learn how to be free from these feelings of anxiety. And in full disclosure, I’m still learning these truths as I share them. 

I choose what to think about. I really, really, really wanted to blame that event on my pregnancy hormones, which I swear are double the amount with twins. And on some level, yes, my hormones are a real thing right now. But just as I’m not victim to my emotions, I’m not victim to my hormones either. So with reluctance, I had to face my role in all of this.  

I have probably long been a what-if, worst-case-scenario thinker. It’s part of my “planner” personality—and God’s okay with my personality. What’s not okay? Fixating on the future more than the present. Becoming fearful of the unknown. Or assuming control of my life rather than surrendering to our sovereign and perfect Lord. 

Bill Johnson once said, “I can’t afford to have a thought in my head that isn’t from God.” Neither can I! So when I’m dwelling on something (almost always at its root, anxiety or fear), I have to ask myself, “Would God want me to think about this?” And if the answer is no, I simply say, “Jesus, help me to take that thought captive.” 

I choose to ask for help. When we’re talking about our minds being our responsibility, let’s not forget that God gave us community and never once expected us to do life alone. When I couldn’t breathe, I automatically asked for help. That feels natural, right? 

Howell already knew the struggle I had all summer with anxiety because I’d asked for help long before that night. I’d been more hesitant to share with friends, family, and my doctor, because frankly, I was embarrassed and felt like I shouldn’t be feeling this way. I would tell myself I know better. I should be standing on God’s truth. And I wasn’t usually this anxious or this overwhelmed with my thoughts, but I’d get it under control. 

After that night, I realized I needed to reach out for help. I needed prayer and support—and you know what? That’s what I got. No one judged me or laughed at me or told me I was crazy (which is honestly how I felt). 

To end, I want to share two verses that I meditate on regularly right now, especially when I’m redirecting my mind to change whatever it is I’m dwelling on. These are my paraphrases for myself, but if you’re struggling with anxiety or stress or fear or worry—whatever label you want to give it—I hope these words will encourage you, and I would challenge you to say them out loud when you feel anxious:

Isaiah 26:3: “God, you keep me in perfect peace when my mind is stayed on you because I trust in you.” 

1 Corinthians 10:4-5: “Laura, you have the authority and the divine power to dismantle and demolish any thought that opposes God and his way of thinking. And you can insist that those thoughts bow in obedience to Christ.” 

We would like to thank Laura Brandenburg for writing this blog post.

Change Your Thoughts. Change Your Life.

Change Your Thoughts. Change Your Life.

Editor’s note: For the month of September, our focus verse is Colossians 3:1-2. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Our mindset is our responsibility and I pray that you will begin to focus on your life in Jesus.

It took a while for me to notice. But one day, I realized my thoughts were overwhelming me. There was a situation in my life that I was thinking about a lot. But at some point, my thoughts were no longer just thoughts. They had become little dictators. Dictators that were demanding my attention, directing my emotions, robbing my peace. And my sleep. I felt trapped and captive by what was going on in my mind.

Can you relate?

The Bible makes it clear that our thoughts don’t have to take us captive. We can take them captive!

“We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10: 4b-5

It sounds simple enough, but how do we do it?

If you look at the Greek words for captive and obey, here is what you will find:

Captive – to ensnare, to make it a prisoner

Obey – submission to what is heard, obedience as the response to someone (Jesus) speaking.

So, we could say it like this…

We must take every thought as a prisoner and make it submit to what Jesus is saying.

When I thought about all the thoughts that had been overwhelming me, I realized I had been letting them run free in my mind. I also realized that almost all of them were not in agreement with what I knew Jesus was saying about my situation. What if I had made those thoughts prisoners as soon as I thought them? What if I submitted them to what the Word says to see if they would even agree? I believe if I had, I would have left space for the Sprit to speak His truth over my situation and to show me His perspective. Oh, how I needed His perspective.

If we want to change our life, we must start examining the thoughts we think. The problem isn’t the circumstance in your life. It’s what you THINK about that circumstance.

The problem isn’t your past, it’s what you THINK about your past.

The problem isn’t your relationships, it’s what you THINK about your relationships.

The problem isn’t your life, it’s what you THINK about your life.

When we change the thoughts we think, we change the life we live! Such a simple statement with such a powerful message.

So, how do we change our thoughts? Where to even start?

A great place would be to repent. It’s where I had to start. What I realized is that I had been exalting all my thoughts higher than the Word of God. I was letting my thoughts rule my life instead of the truth of His Word. Repentance was necessary. Repentance was essential. To repent just means to change your mind. To say, “I’ve been thinking this way about my situation but now I’m choosing to think the way Jesus thinks about it.” Repentance is a gift to us.

The other thing we can do is read our Bible and meditate on what we read. We read all other books, but the Bible reads us. The Word of God has the power to tell the difference between our soul and our spirit. Our thoughts cannot hide from its truth. Do you know why the Word is so powerful? It comes in, finds thoughts that are in opposition with it, and slays them and at the same time, searches for our wounds and heals them. Isn’t that a powerful truth? If we truly believed this to be true, we would make it a priority to read our Bible and meditate throughout the day on what it says.

I hope I have inspired you to begin examining the things you think about. If you have been feeling overwhelmed by your thoughts, I want to encourage you to remember that you are not alone. The Holy Spirit was given to you to be your helper. He can help you move your thought-life from overwhelming to life-giving if you’ll let Him.

Search me, O God, and know my heart.

Test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Point out anything in me that offends you,

and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Amen.

We would like to thank Amber Curry for writing this blog post.

Enjoy the Journey

Enjoy the Journey

Editor’s note: For the month of September, our focus verse is Colossians 3:1-2. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Our mindset is our responsibility and I pray that you will begin to focus on your life in Jesus.

“Since you have been raised to a new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”. Col. 3:1-2

I enjoy a good cup of coffee in the morning, but a big part of the goodness is the kind of cup used to hold the drink. One of my favorites is the one with the little fox smelling a flower and written in bold letters ENJOY THE JOURNEY. It reminds me to not waste a moment of this precious life God has given me. Not on anger, fear, worry, jealousy, condemnation, or unforgiveness, but instead to choose the fruits of the spirit: “joy, love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” Galatians 5:22-23.

Stewart and I love to travel (RVing) and have been blessed to see and experience many beautiful and amazing places. I have discovered in these travels that most of our memories are not of the final destination, but of our journey to get there! Jeremiah 29:11 says “for I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  We know as children of the Heavenly Father our destination (Heaven) is secure in Christ Jesus our Lord. Col.1:12-14, Jn.5:24, Jn.3:16.

It’s in the everyday living (our journey) that our memories are made. In our travels, we have had days filled with such beauty that it takes your breath away, joy and laughter that makes your stomach hurt and peace that is so all-consuming you know it can only come from the Holy Spirit. There have also been times that have made me wonder if I was going to make it through the day. There have been valleys, detours, roadblocks and even fire. It’s during these times I have felt closest to my Lord, where my memories are the most defining and beautiful. Where God’s love, promises and goodness are the most evident.

Romans 8:39 says “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

On one of our trips to Canada, we had set aside several days to visit Glacier National Park in Montana. When we arrived they had several forest fires. After a couple of days of heavy smoke, we decided it was time to move on into Canada. A day trip was planned to visit the little village of Waterton, a little Swiss village sitting by a crystal clear lake surrounded by beautiful, majestic mountains. There is a RV park on the edge of the village next to the Lake. We were told at the Waterton visitor center the RV park was first come parking, no reservations needed. Not knowing Canada’s Park system, we return to our RVs and pack up for a very early morning trip back. Arriving at the upper park entrance, the attendant asked for our reservations. Not having any, we were told all campsites were full in the park. We knew it would take a miracle to be able to stay there. There on top of that mountain, the four of us, with our two trucks pulling our 5th wheel campers and no place to turn around, chose to trust our loving Father and His promises to take care of us! Our mindset is our responsibility! We head down to the village RV park entrance booth and ask about vacancy. God Wink Moment! Two spots just became available, close to the water and right next to each other. What a loving, faithful, good Father we have! 

Our father cares about the big and small things that involve his children. He only asks us to trust him, to set our eyes on the realities of Heaven (Jesus finished work on the Cross), to bring to memory His love and goodness, of the times He turned our ashes into diamonds, our sorrows into dancing, the miracles and blessings He provides for us each day. We have a choice to set our eyes on the things of heaven or the things of earth. CHOOSE LIFE!

We would like to thank Elaine Norrell for writing this blog post.

Taking Responsibility for Our Mindset

Taking Responsibility for Our Mindset

Editor’s Note: For the month of September, our focus verse is found in Colossians 3:1-2. “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”

Have you ever had one of those days where everything seems to be going wrong? The kids are crazy, everything is breaking, you’re fighting with your husband, your best friend is unavailable, and work is just out of control?

I think we’ve all had one of those days. Maybe you’ve even had one this week. Most of the time, by the time the end of one of these days rolls around, the words coming out of my mouth, sound something like this:

– Well, if the kids would have behaved, I wouldn’t be so frustrated.

– If he had done what he said he was going to do, I wouldn’t have this extra work to take care of.

– If the dishwasher would just work like it’s supposed to, I’d be able to get more done.

And yes, those things tend to be true. But what is also true, is what Colossians 3:1-2 says. “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”

Since we have been raised to new life with Christ, we carry a responsibility within us to mind our mindset. What happens on days like this, is that instead of setting our minds on the things of Heaven, we set our minds on the things of earth. Instead of setting our minds on our Creator, we fall into the trap of setting our minds on our circumstances. When we fall into this trap, we end up with a mindset of victimization instead of victory, which is what Christ has won for us. When we see ourselves as the victims, we think we are not responsible, which is the exact opposite of the truth set out in God’s word.

When we allow ourselves to fall into this victimization mindset, we forget the truth that our circumstances don’t make us who we are, they simply reveal who we already are. And if we can stop in these moments, and seek God, they move from being times of torment, to becoming tools of transformation. These moments, these days, filled with frustration and trials, aren’t meant to just test our sanity. They are divine opportunities for us to truly seize responsibility for our mindsets. They are circumstances that God can use to truly change us.

If we want transformation to occur in our lives we have to take responsibility for our mindsets. 

There are a few ways we can do this.

1. Pause, Ponder, Pray – In moments of frustration, when we believe lies that our circumstances make us this way, we need to stop. We need to pause, and really ponder where our thoughts are vs. where they should be. Then, we pray. We seek God for his truth, and we speak it back to him in prayer. We ask him for his divine perspective, and then we declare it over our lives. 2 Corinthians 10:5 calls this “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

2. Choose Gratitude – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” When you have these days, choose gratitude. Something in the atmosphere changes when we choose to offer up a sacrifice of praise to our God, despite our circumstances. So instead of cursing the dishwasher, be grateful you have one. Instead of complaining about our kids, let’s choose to encourage them. Gratitude changes everything, including our attitudes.

3. Call a Friend – Sometimes, we can’t beat this alone. We need to call a friend. And when we call a friend, we don’t just complain and vent. We ask for prayer. We get to the root of our struggles with true vulnerability. Sometimes, we confess our sins. James 5:16 tells us to

 “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

In truth, if we aren’t careful, we can allow most of our days to become days full of frustration. But we don’t have to. We can walk in a life of freedom and victory, because of the work our Savior did on the cross. It’s simply a matter of choosing to make my mindset, my responsibility.

We would like to thank Brooke Kellum for writing this post.

Building the House of God

Building the House of God

Editor’s note: For the month of August, our focus scripture can be found in 1 Corinthians 12:27 where it says that “Now you, collectively, are Christ’s body, and individually, you are members of it, each with his own special purpose and function.” AMP

Think of a home being built and all the people it takes to get it done right! This is just one of many times in life that more than one is needed to accomplish the tasks. We all have our talents that God has blessed us with or lead us to study and gain knowledge in.

Listed below are just some of the many it takes to build a home:

Excavator, Developer, Architect, Engineer, General Contractor, Construction Superintendent, Inspectors, Ironworker, Steelworker, Carpenter, Electrician, Plumber, Pipe Lifter, Masonry, Drywaller, Plastering Expert, Painter, Floor Layer, Tile Setter, Glass & Glazing Expert, Roofer, Heating & Air-Conditioning Expert, Designer and not to mention the Special Trade Contractors such as Artificial Turf Layers and Bowling Alley Installers. 

If even one is missing, the house could not be built properly. Same goes for God’s house. God sent his Son to this earth and when Jesus ascended to heaven, he left a helper – the Holy Spirit. Together the three are one known as the Holy Trinity! Through the Holy Spirit and as believers we are each blessed with our own unique gifts so we can be the best disciples!

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

All my life I’ve gone to church and known Jesus to be with me always. I just didn’t know what it meant to be his disciple. After I experienced a hardship as a late teen, I was ready to give God more, but wasn’t sure how. I soon became part of the praise and worship team which was right up my alley. A few years later I prayed for guidance to be God’s hands and feet in my community. Not long after, offers to join organizations all over town came pouring into my life—so I got involved. For years I’ve served with a happy heart and have seen pieces of God’s fruits for myself and others. 

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Ephesians 1:22

After attending our church, which I know to be a bible teaching, holy spirit moving church, opportunity arose to learn more about the Holy Spirit and I have now connected and grown in my spiritual gifts. I’ve also been helped by so many disciples in my journey with God. The power of unity in the body of Christ should not be overlooked. It is important to be sure you are connected to a church family so you can learn and grow in your relationship with Christ.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing your selves to be my disciples.” John 15: 5, 7-8

 We are here to use our gifts for each other as the body of Christ. Don’t put it off—God is calling you now and how much more blessed you will be so you can also bless those around you. That is how God intended us to experience His joy, peace, and love. We can experience heaven on earth. It is here for the taking. We just need to surrender to Christ Jesus daily and he will provide!

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparable great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1:18-21

We would like to thank Wendy Baker for writing this blog post.

The Cotton Fields of Life

The Cotton Fields of Life

Editor’s note: For the month of August, our focus scripture can be found in 1 Corinthians 12:27 where it says that “Now you, collectively, are Christ’s body, and individually, you are members of it, each with his own special purpose and function.” AMP

Growing up a farm kid, my summer job was hoeing cotton.  For those who know…. you feel my pain.  For those of you that don’t- follow along.  The day would begin before the sun was up: packing the drinks in the cooler that would wait for you at the end of the never-ending rows.  Making sure you were first outside to get the best hoe. The hat that would keep you shaded but make you sweat even more.  The long-sleeved shirt to keep away mosquitos and again, make you sweat even more. The gloves to keep you from getting blisters, and you guessed it- make you sweat even more! Some fields were not so bad – just a few weeds spaced out here and there and could be walked and hoed rather quickly.  Some fields, though, were so overgrown with weeds you didn’t even want to begin.  

Isn’t this how our lives are? Sometimes, not so bad, just a few little issues here and there that can be easily handled without much heartache.  Yet at times, our lives look like these overgrown fields. It feels like trying to sort it all out is so heart wrenching that we would rather not even begin.  

The part of hoeing fields as a kid that made it bearable was that my siblings were there to work with me, sweat with me, talk with me, laugh with me, sing with me, and I am not going to lie – sometimes cry with me.  

Our lives as Christians should be no different. 

In John 16:33, God tells us we will have trials, that the road may not always be easy, we will face hard times.  At some point our lives are going to look and feel like those weedy fields.  There will be times in our lives we need others to walk with us, talk with us, laugh and cry with us.  But most importantly, during these times, we need others to pray with us and for us.  God never asked His people to live this life alone, that was not His intention at all.  

In Philippians 2 Paul challenged Christians to agree wholeheartedly with each other, love one another, work together with one mind and purpose, be humble, think of others as better than themselves, and take interest in others. Paul is encouraging us to have the same attitude as Jesus.

Just like the tools needed to make a day in the field easier – God has given us the tools for this life He has called us to.  He has given us His Word, the Holy Spirit, and other believers that can help us through.   This world we live in is much easier to handle when we have others in which we can count on to go through the weeds of life with us.  People we trust that will point us to the Word of God, ones that will spur us on to fulfill our purpose and cover us in prayer.  

I Corinthians 12:27 says “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”

This is true for the people we live with and around at this very minute.  I encourage you to surround yourself with people that have the attitude of Jesus.  Intentionally seek out those who challenge you to walk in the truth and encourage you when you slip up.  Even more importantly… Be that person for others!

We would like to thank Jill Winders for writing this blog post.

Strength in a Blended Family

Strength in a Blended Family

Editor’s note: For the month of August, our focus scripture can be found in 1 Corinthians 12:27 where it says that “Now you, collectively, are Christ’s body, and individually, you are members of it, each with his own special purpose and function.” AMP

Being the oldest of six in a Hispanic family, I had a big responsibility to help my mom take care of the house and my siblings. Then one day, because of problems within my parents’ marriage, my mother left and my father and I were completely on our own raising the family.  At just 12 years old, I found myself broken, angry, bitter, not knowing where I belonged in my family, and who I was. This led me to believe lies about myself and in general family life.

Then at the age of 14 years old I found myself pregnant with my first child, still dealing with the same issues of my past. But God is so good! He never leaves us where we are at. He is always working on our behalf and for our future. He has done it for me and is still continuing to do his work in my life. I know he will do the exact same for you!   “I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banished them in my furious anger; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will go well for them and for their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.” Jeremiah 32:37-40 (NIV)
When I was pregnant with my 4th child, I came to a point in my life where I had lived in so much brokenness and hurt. I didn’t feel like I was a good person, good mom, good enough for anything. This is when I surrendered my life to God and the real journey of healing began. I came to a place where I was honest to deal with what was in my heart and my past. If we are not careful to find healing in Jesus, we will just pass on all our hurts and sin to our children. After this, God began healing and redeeming this area of my life. It allowed God to start transforming how I was with my children and also our home life.

God has healed my brokenness and has freed me from living in anger and bitterness. God is still healing and redeeming my life but it had to begin with me. 

Here are some truths God has shown me about myself: 
I belong! I am loved! I’m a vital part in my family, desperately needed in the body of Christ. I am exactly who God made me to be and what this world needs. I hope that you will choose to believe and accept this truth for yourself too!

  1 Corinthians 12-18talks about how the human body has many parts and all the parts make up one body. It is the same way with the body of Christ. We, as the body of Christ, have many different parts but are one body and one spirit. Some of us are the hands, feet, eyes, ears and nose. Nevertheless none of us is less than the other. 

Those living parts are also found in your home among your own family members. Every person in my family contributes to the life in my house and we definitely would not be the same if even one of them was missing. 

In 2010, I married my husband, Andrew. Coming into the marriage, I had four children and he had three. The first four years of our marriage, we fought for custody of his children. By 2015, we had won custody of all three of them. In 2018, my special needs niece was going to be awarded to the state so our family stepped in. We said “Yes” to opening up our home to another child.  

Just when we thought our lives were full, God surely didn’t think so! After praying and hearing God for what is right for our family, I had a tubal reversal surgery and here we are welcoming a baby boy in September. 

Having a large, blended family is difficult at times. I’m not a super mom and could never do this on my own strength. It’s always dependent on God and where he leads my husband and me. Through all the hard times (financially, emotionally and blending a family with different backgrounds), I have NEVER regretted saying yes to my husband and to every child God offered to me. 

As I think about the Body of Christ, I can’t help but think how we all look like a blended family, too. God calls people from every race, color, different background and past. He puts us together to form one body, His bride. My prayer is that you, too, will see yourself and your family as Christ sees them, as the body of Christ in both your home and the church.  

We would like to thank Brenda Martinez for writing this blog post.

Created for Community

Created for Community

Editor’s note: For the month of August, our focus scripture can be found in 1 Corinthians 12:27 where it says that “Now you, collectively, are Christ’s body, and individually, you are members of it, each with his own special purpose and function.” AMP

You wake up, ready to serve. You are filled with energy and purpose.

Then comes the bombardment: “You are not ready. You did not prepare enough. You are going to mess up and not be able to recover. Why are you doing this? You are tired. You have too much on your plate. This isn’t going to be worth it.”

You push against the thoughts. “I made a commitment, and I’m going to do what I said I would do.” The kids start complaining, you discover you have a flat tire, and you are running out of time. It would be easy to just give up. You are feeling frustrated, knowing you are under attack,
and you ask God to anoint you with His protection and provision. Finally, you reach your destination, and you are grateful that you showed up.

Does this story sound familiar? You experienced a similar attack before going to church, or helping another person, or going to work, or anything that involves community. The enemy fed you lies such as, “You are not worthy. They do not really like you. You will never be enough.”

You see, the enemy does not want us to gather in community with other believers. Why? Because when we are together, we are stronger. Jesus said, “For where two or three have gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 20:18). The enemy knows there is strength in numbers. Where one is weak, another is strong. Where one can only see a fog, another has clarity. God blesses us when we come together.

We are each unique, with different gifts, personalities, experiences, perspectives, desires, and purposes. We are wonderfully created. We are daughters of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Each of our lives is an integral part of a stunning masterpiece.

“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

When the enemy attacks you with lies meant to keep you from others, focus on the truth: You are a precious child of God. You have a place in this world. You are needed. God has a plan for you. He created you, and He loves you dearly.

God also has a plan for the myriad of individuals we encounter throughout our lives. When we come together to accomplish the things He has written in our hearts, the results are incredible.

We, as women, tend to process our thoughts and emotions when we spend time together and share our hopes, dreams, and struggles. Vulnerability is a beautiful thing. Your story may be exactly what someone else needs to hear.

Be authentic. God created you just as you are for a reason. Every experience you have had can be used to further His Kingdom. If you have made mistakes, you can help others avoid those pitfalls. If you have struggled with certain things in your life, you can encourage others who are
going through the same things. It goes the other way too. The people you spend time with can also help you by sharing their stories.

God works in mysterious ways. Ask Him to open your eyes to the needs of others and to fill your needs. He knows the depths of our souls. Be still and listen for that small, soft whisper that is from God. He will guide you in reaching out. You will know His voice because there will be peace.

Be willing to listen to the perspectives of others. Sometimes they can see things we would never even contemplate. There have been times in my life when I thought I had considered every course of action, and after sharing my dilemma with a friend, I was surprised to find that my friend could see another way. One friend directed my focus to God when she questioned, “Have you asked God about it? Maybe He’s trying to tell you something.”

God did not create us to be alone. We need community. We need the unique perspectives and gifts of one another. We can use our strengths and weaknesses to help each other. As we gather, we can advance God’s Kingdom in a powerful way. God will guide you. Listen to Him.

Together in Christ, we are made strong.

We would like to thank Julia Franklin for writing this blog post.

When JOY is Missing

When JOY is Missing

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

“I’ve got the JOY, JOY, JOY, JOY down in my heart! Down in my heart to stay!!!” Do you remember singing that song as a child? For most of my life, I’ve been full of JOY down in my heart. But if I can be honest and vulnerable, there have been many times that I didn’t feel so joyful. Maybe you are in a season of JOY-LESS living right now! What can you do to get some JOY back in your life? 

1.Refocusing on God is the first step to rediscovering your joy.

Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, who resides in the heart of the believer, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.”  (Galatians 5:22 ESV).  Since God is the author of all these good things, when one becomes a Christian, and is united to God through faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit imparts these qualities to the believer.  Rediscovering your JOY is found by looking back and seeing the faithfulness of God. One of the beautiful things about being middle aged is being able to look back on my life and seeing God’s faithfulness. He is a good, good Father and He will turn our hurts and disappointments to JOY through our lives if we allow Him to.

2. Doing God’s will increases our JOY

The writer of Third John experienced the joy of ministry, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4 ESV).  When we follow the will of God and walk in obedience to His ways, I believe that He will give us JOY in our hearts! 

3. Being intentional about seeking and finding JOY:  

A couple of years ago, my “word of the year” was JOY. I wanted to be intentional about recognizing JOY in all areas of my life.Throughout the year, I looked for JOY signs or scriptures. I underlined them in my Bible and placed JOY signs around my home and in my office. I wanted to seek out and recognize true joy. Was it a year of pure happiness? Did nothing bad ever happen to me? Of course not. I’m sure I had my fair share of disappointments and things didn’t always go as planned, but when you surround yourself with reminders of JOY, you can be confident in the goodness of God. 

4. Ask God to give you JOY within (fruit of the spirit)

Wherever people know, love, and worship God, His love instills a joy, that only He can give, into the hearts of His worshipers. Psalm 51:12 “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you!”

This means that even when we are in the midst of a situation that legitimately brings us sorrow, our inner joy is never taken away.  The very core of our being can still rejoice in the fact that we are forgiven children of God who enjoy an intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe.  Our joy is strengthened when we remember that, no matter what the circumstances, God is with us and He is for us. 

The last verse of the song that I sang as a little girl, “I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart….and if the devil doesn’t like it, he can sit on a tack. ouch! Sit on a tack to stay…”

Satan wants to convince us that our circumstances mean God is not for us or He has abandoned us. That simply is not true. We can KNOW and BE CERTAIN that God’s faithfulness can bring us pure joy. Have faith that as you look back on your circumstances and see that God used your grief, your disease, your sadness, your disappointments…whatever it is you are walking through…to bring JOY into your life.

Have I experienced sadness over circumstances in my life? Absolutely. Have I been disappointed at times? Most definitely. But as I look back, I know that God is good and He wants to fill me with JOY. 

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with ALL JOY and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We would like to thank Vickie Young for writing this blog post.

JOY in Uncertainty

JOY in Uncertainty

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

You know, the Lord always has an interesting way of working things out for me. Of course, it is always for my good. I was asked to write a blog about joy, to which I obviously said, “yes!” and about a week and a half later, I entered into what I like to call a “funk.” I started enduring some personal trails like disappointment and discouragement. And I’m over here thinking, “Lord, I’m supposed to be writing a blog about joy! How am I supposed to do that in the midst of all this?” He quickly reminded me of where my joy comes from and to just share my story.

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you may have seen my post about my funk. I typically try to keep my page positive and full of cute pictures of my kiddos and my family while just sharing tidbits of life and truth. That day, however, I was just honest about what I was going through so that others may not feel quite so alone in whatever it is they might be going through. To be truthful, I didn’t really think much would come of the post, but to my surprise, I was bombarded with support and love from people near and far. I even had people private message me to encourage me or tell me I had been on their heart. It was as if the Lord was say, “See?”

You see, I had been feeling quite lonely, wondering why it seems like I am in a season of pruning. I was feeling left out, wondering when it would ever feel like anyone wanted to include me as their “bestie”. I had spent a day or two, unfortunately, allowing the enemy to creep into my thoughts and convince me I wasn’t good enough for anyone to call friend. One night, with my sweet husband asleep to the world beside me, I laid in bed and just cried myself to sleep crying out to Jesus. I begged him, “if I’m not supposed to have a bestie-type friendship right now, can you please show me how to grow so close to you that you’re my true best friend that I know will never leave me?” It was in that moment that I was reminded of where my JOY comes from.

My JOY doesn’t come from having a picture perfect day with my four sweet kids not fighting and actually obeying what I say. My JOY doesn’t come from everyone on the internet being nice to me and liking all the stuff I post. My JOY doesn’t even come from having friendships. My JOY comes from Jesus! Not my circumstances. Not when everything is going my way. In the midst of uncertainty, God’s word says that we will rejoice and that during various trials is an opportunity to choose JOY. And that JOY comes from Him alone!

So today, I choose JOY! I choose to seek the One from where my JOY comes from!

We would like to thank Paige Keller for writing this blog post.

The JOY of the Lord is My Strength

The JOY of the Lord is My Strength

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

Joy – a feeling of great pleasure and happiness; the emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one deserves; the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.

Do you feel joy all the time?  Nope – neither do I!  Sometimes in our everyday same ‘ole, same ‘ole it is hard to feel joyful and it is hard to find joy, BUT Jesus is with us at all times and that should erupt excitement from within that we can shout out to the world.  Fall into the arms of Jesus and he will fill you with joy! “Allow Jesus to introduce His joy to you.  The joy of Jesus was the absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice of Himself to His Father, the joy of doing that which the Father sent Him to do.  “I delight to do Thy will.” Jesus prayed that our joy might go on fulfilling itself until it was the same joy as His.” – Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest.

We have all walked down roads of trials, disappointments, fear, loneliness…..the list could go on and on.  How we choose to handle those trying times is the outer skin that other people see.  And because we are human, when someone else is hurting, it is our human nature to pay close attention to how they choose to walk their uninvited path.  Joy is a choice.  We are given an opportunity to make choices every second of every day.  Choose joy because no one can take your joy from you!  When your heart knows how to rejoice in God, you have found the secret place of joy that comes from within.  We have to look through the smoky haze of our disappointments and hurt to see the joy of the Lord.  Hold onto the joy with God and your trials will diminish in size and your joy will shine.  God never promised that we would live a perfect life, but He did promise that He would be with us every step of the way. Live in the place God has put you in and live in it well! Lack of hope and joy produces pessimism; don’t let pessimism rule your being.

  “My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can!  For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up in you the power of endurance.  And then as your endurance grows even stronger, it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.” James 1:2-3.  What a mind-blowing verse!  We are promised perfection in our being!  Gladness of heart is a constant emotion, regardless of what is occurring in your life.  “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” John 16:33 – Wow! What more do we need to hear?

My granddaddy would always say, “Be cheerful!” when we parted ways with him.  If you know my husband, Johnny, you know that laughter gushes from his being, so when Granddaddy died, Johnny claimed that saying.  I love hearing him say it because it embodies his life and that is what he wishes for everyone else. 

We do not know what each day will bring and this should be said with an expression of breathless expectation when we are rightly related to God.  Life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty but many times we turn these expectations into fear.  Fear can indwell our spirit and steal our joy.  “For God will never give you the spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7. You don’t learn when your spirit is full of fear.  Joy will accomplish things that fearful intersession may never receive.  Psalms 43:4 says, “Then I will go to the alter of God, to God my exceeding joy; and on the harp I will praise you, O God, My God” . This is so exciting!  God is our exceeding joy – He gives joy to us – all we have to do is receive it!  Shout for joy! Joy is for a lifetime! Be Cheerful!!

We would like to thank Kim Street for writing this blog post.

JOY is a gift from God

JOY is a gift from God

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

True JOY is a gift from the Lord. In scripture, we see that joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Joy comes from believing God, belonging to His Kingdom, and knowing Jesus. Galatians 5:22 says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.” (NIV)

Where is your joy coming from? Where do you seek to get your joy from? What do you run to the most? How are you feeding your mind? From my own experience, I can tell you that when my prayer and devotional life is healthy, I experience more JOY. When I get too consumed by TV or nonspiritual music, I begin to feel empty.

Joy is not necessarily the absence of pain; it is the presence of God. Romans 15:13 says: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” We were made for Christ and while some things are not apparently evil, too much of those things can take our heart away from Christ. We have to remove these broken tanks in our lives to drink the water that Christ has to offer. Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. However, if we only gratify the Spirit, we can miss out on all that the Holy Spirit has to offer. Most of us are missing the beauty of Christ because our hearts are in other places. 

Psalm 16:11says: “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence; with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Joy comes from community. We were not created to be alone. If we are not involved in a community, we are hurting ourselves. As Christians, we are told to encourage our brothers and sisters. We need to constantly remind each other of where our joy comes from. We need to frequently remind each other to focus on Christ. Community is essential on our walk with Christ AND it is essential for joy. 

Another powerful practice to encourage genuine JOY within is daily gratitude and a positive outlook! I even do this with my girls sometimes. Yes, even kids can see the abundance in the feeling of gratitude for what we have in our lives. Jesus at the center of it all. Gratitude can be practiced in a number of ways. One of my favorite ways to practice gratitude is to simply think about three things I am grateful for when I go to bed at night. I also find it helpful to write down those three things I am grateful for each day in a notebook or journal. I keep one on my nightstand, perfect for a routine. Gratitude is one of the most powerful gifts in this world. I know that might seem like a bit of an exaggeration, but from my experience, adding a true gratitude practice to my daily routine has definitely changed my life for the better. Not only has it made me a happier person in general, but it has allowed me to become better at finding the good within seemingly bad situations in my own life. This has made me become more resilient and less vulnerable to negative emotions. I truly believe that the more I feel grateful for what and who I have, the more wonderful things flow into my life to feel grateful for.

John 15:11 says: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

Jesus’ desire for us as his disciples is for our JOY to be complete. I hope this encourages you to begin adding a practice of gratitude into your own daily routine and to find the joy that is within you.

We would like to thank Bonnie McIntosh for writing this blog post.

Finding JOY after Enduring Trials

Finding JOY after Enduring Trials

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

Have you ever had a season where a word just keeps popping up? Every day it’s there, and it quickly becomes a constant reminder of a long-awaited change that is about to take place, one for which you have been praying. This word for me was JOY. I’d see it on billboards, on jewelry, and at the airport. I was reminded of joy every day, while I was living in the middle of the darkest season of my life.  1 Peter 1:6 talks about enduring many trials for “a little while.“  Well, I was living in the “ little while.” Although the wonderful joy was promised, and I was instructed to be TRULY glad- I was also instructed to endure.  

I had an exceptionally long season of waiting on the Lord for a new job. Much to my excitement, I landed a dream job of traveling the world as a lead singer of a cruise line- and not just any cruise line…a world-class cruise line!  I arrived on the ship with every expectation and hope that this new job would be everything I had prayed for. Based on previous experience, I had expected that my new co- workers would rally behind me and encourage me every step of the way. I thought they would be understanding of small mistakes and have my back.  After all, I was a well-seasoned professional; they would respect that, right? WRONG! I wasn’t shown kindness or understanding for the human errors I made. If I asked a question, I was mocked and eyes would roll at me. My worst nightmare in a job environment had come true.  

 At this point a lot of fear settled inside my heart, and I began to question myself and my purpose for being there. Did I truly hear from the Lord on this? Was I meant to be here? Anxiety like I had never known overtook me each morning. At one point I was so oppressed that I just kept my head down backstage in my Bible and I would make no eye contact with anyone. I was extremely lonely and didn’t have a friend to talk to. I could feel the light and joy gradually deplete from my spirit. “I can’t continue the way things have gone” my journal read, “It’s like living in constant fear or dread. I hate it and it wrecks me- Please lead me, Lord”. I was faced with two options: Either God is who He says He is and HE will help me through this, or He’s not. As those hard and miserable weeks passed, I wrote, “I had no idea this new season involved this. It’s been so hard. But God has been so real to me. He has not left me comfortless or alone. His word is right there to catch me.” And catch me it did! 

 God’s word never becomes more real than when you are going through a trial. As I poured into His word, there were 4 simple, yet profound things that helped me break through the darkness and into JOY! 

1. I Looked“Those who look to Him will be radiant with joy, no shadow of shame will cover their faces.” Psalm 34:4-5  Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always. 

2. I Listened – “My sheep hear His voice; and He calls His own sheep by name, the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.” John 10:3-4  

Fear not for I am with you, I have called you by your name, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers they will not overflow you.”     Isaiah 43:1-2  

3. I Let it Go– Three simple words that changed my outlook!  

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger be put away from you. Be kind to one another; forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you,” and “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.” Isaiah 43:18-19  

4. I Loved– I was told by a mentor to just love on them for 6 months and then I would earn their trust. That was a true game changer for me, because that’s exactly what happened!   

This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12. 

I don’t find it coincidental that just before this, in verse 11, Jesus says- “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full.”   

Have you ever wondered how Paul could write to the Philippians, “the book of joy” from a lonely prison cell? Just as he inscribed that book from a dark and lonely prison, Jesus inscribed new joy on my heart through a dark and lonely season. You see, my circumstances had not changed, but I definitely did! Those lonely places where we find ourselves are places the Lord has divinely called us because He has a work to do in us- a beautiful work! So there is wonderful joy ahead! In that, my sisters, you can be truly glad!

We would like to thank Julie Posey for writing this blog post.

Being Obedient in Good Works

Being Obedient in Good Works

Editor’s note: During the month of June, we are focusing on “Created To Do Good Works.” Ephesians 2:10 states that “we are God’s handiworks, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I pray that you will search for ways to be God’s handiwork as we learn from other women.

Throughout my childhood, it was engrained in my sisters and me that obedience brings freedom.  This simply means, if my parents could trust us to meet the expectation of obeying with the little things we were asked to do then we would soon gain more responsibility and freedom.  My parents knew something that I did not at a young age and that is that if I simply obey in a happy way, then I would reap the fruit of obedience: more responsibility and freedom. This same simple concept is now true with Josh and I as we parent our own children.  We tell them often that obedience brings freedom not only on Earth but in Heavenly places as well, for their obedience to us is good and pleasing to the Lord (Colossians 3:20).  

Throughout 1 Samuel, there is a clear theme of obedience and the value that the Lord has on it.  It is demonstrated through two different leaders at the time: Saul and David.  

Saul was rejected by the Lord as a leader because of his inability to obey completely and love others.  When the Samuel approached Saul about his disobedience and destruction he states: 

“Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?  Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than a fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22 CSB

However, David was a man that feared the Lord and was a willing servant and always ready to obey and trust the Lord.  When in process of finding David and anointing him as the next leader, God told Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature because I have rejected him.  Humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 

This is just one example out of so many of the value that God puts on an obedient heart. It is clearly demonstrated through the Bible that when obedience is present and we are able to submit and honor God through our act of willing obedience, good works will always flow freely and naturally.  Ephesians 2:10 is so clear when it states what we have been created for, but it also goes on to say, “God [has] prepared in advance”.   Therefore, we were born with the ability in us to have God’s goodness flow freely from us if we simply just need to obey his voice.  Good things always happen when you are following the voice of the Father.

We would like to thank Mallory Burgett for writing this blog post.