Do What is Right & Avoid What Isn’t

Do What is Right & Avoid What Isn’t

I grew up being a check list gal. If you told me the rules, I could 100% do what you asked. In Church, I was a box checker for character, a rule follower. On the same note, I associated sin and repentance with guilt and shame. 

The moment I had someone explain to me that with repentance, we simply turn from, change our mind about the sin, and align our thoughts, desires, and heart with God, life seemed to make more sense. This deeper understanding in turn helped me in my convictions and ease of repentance. 

I have had the same issue with Moral excellence as a Christian. When I think of those words, my brain floods with everything I’ve ever done wrong, how I am not a “good enough” Christian. But if you actually look up virtue, or moral excellence, one definition is: “the quality of doing what is right, and avoiding what is wrong”

It’s simple. God asks us to do what is right and avoid what is wrong…. 

In our theme verse for the year, God asks us to live in moral excellence so that we can escape the corruption in this world because of sinful desires.  2 Peter 1:9 says, “For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.”

God calls us to do what is right. And he gives us the wisdom to discern

Do what is right. In how we speak to our children, our husbands, how we speak about people. In our work, in our hospitality. In what we watch on TV. What we share on Facebook. What we do in secret, and in the light. God asks us to do what is right, and avoid what isn’t. And when we misstep, he asks us to turn from, repent, and realign our mindset with God’s heart. 

We don’t have to stay stuck in guilt and shame. God has a fruitful joy filled life for us

God gives us a roadmap on how to get through life and experience his promises. That doesn’t mean hard times won’t happen, but he has graciously shared how we experience an abundant life because of HIM. When we choose what is wrong- it brings strife, conflict, exhaustion, frustration, and hardship. But if we choose to walk in what God has called us to, leaving our old ways behind daily, and always looking forward, striving for goodness and virtue… we can experience the life that God promised us.

My prayer for you is that you can shut out any guilt or shame of the past. REMEMBER you have been forgiven, and walk forward, striving for moral excellence so that you can experience the blessings of God, and be a blessing FROM God to others.

We want to thank Lori Johnson for sharing this post.

Do you have any tips for recovering after “putting your foot in your mouth” during conversation?

Do you have any tips for recovering after “putting your foot in your mouth” during conversation?

Let me tell you, you’re in GOOD company. 

Everyone has done this at one time or another. We all say things we regret and we’ve all “put our foot in our mouth”. 

The question is, what do we do after we’ve messed up and said the wrong thing?

First, we acknowledge it. The only way to change is to acknowledge where we’re at and move towards where we want to be. 

We also need to apologize and then move on. God forgives you, most people will understand and will forgive you and you must forgive yourself. 

One of my favorite verses I pray, most days is Psalm 141:3 “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” 

Submitting my mouth to the Lord has helped me “think before I speak.”

Being aware of your tendencies, submitting to God and asking him to help you, and apologizing when you’ve made a mistake will make you a better communicator all around.

We would like to thank Julie Snellgrove for answering this question.

Christ-like Character

Christ-like Character

I have heard the term “moral excellence” many times throughout my life, but I never truly understood what it meant. In my mind, excellence was equal to perfection. Perfectionism and people pleasing have been struggles of mine for as long as I can remember. Because perfection is unattainable, living life in this mind set led to many insecurities, fear, and self-doubt, which led me to believe I could not make a difference in the kingdom. Instead of being bold and speaking up at times when I should have, it was easier to be invisible. When people don’t notice you, they don’t see your failures. I couldn’t be perfect, so I didn’t want to be seen.

Thankfully, through maturing in my walk with Christ and through discipleship, I have been letting down my “shield of invisibility”. I had a choice to make and was ready to step into who he created me to be. I could choose to partake of his divine nature or continue the path of pridefulness and perfectionism. If moral excellence doesn’t mean I need to be perfect, what does it mean? I’m going to be vulnerable and admit that it took a lot of prayer and diving deeper into the definitions of perfectionism and moral excellence for this blog before I truly began to see the difference between the two.  

What I discovered is perfection is striving to be better than everyone else, but moral excellence is striving to be better than what one already is. Perfection puts the focus on worldly characteristics whereas moral excellence puts the focus on building Christ-like character. Webster defines moral excellence as “the quality of doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong”.  In other words, living a life of moral excellence means living with virtue and integrity.

As followers of Christ, we are called to increase in moral excellence so we will not be “ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8). I don’t know about you, but I have spent too many years as ineffective and unfruitful. I would much rather grow in knowledge and virtue and have a heart open and ready to be used by the Lord. So where do we learn how to practice moral excellence? 

First, through the example of Jesus-the only one who is, and ever will be, perfect! The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Jesus and moral excellence is Matthew 4:1-11 when Jesus is tempted in the wilderness. Even through hunger and exhaustion, Jesus resisted temptation (and used scripture to do so).

Second, through being diligent about spending time in prayer and in God’s word. Jesus was able to use scripture in response to Satan’s temptations because he knew the word in his heart. Through reading God’s word and hiding it in our heart, we will learn what Christ-like character looks like and how to respond like Jesus against the corruption of the world.

Across the nation, there seems to be more and more churches teaching “Progressive Christianity”. If you are unfamiliar, this movement seeks to re-define or re-interpret the Bible and the Christian faith. There is also a Christian deconstruction trend all over social media-which has ultimately led to many abandoning their faith. Instead of doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong, so many have chosen to adopt the practices of the world. Peter writes “be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall” (2 Peter 1:10). We must consistently study God’s word, spend time with the Lord in prayer, and choose to stand for biblical truth. Not to show the world how “perfect” we are, but to show them who Jesus is. 

We want to thank Courtney Harper for sharing this post.

What are your favorite life verses that you hold on to?

What are your favorite life verses that you hold on to?

You asked, and we answered! Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some of the questions that were submitted during our 2022 Harvest Women’s Retreat, and the answers from some of the women in our church.

When I let fear start to creep in:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

When I become overwhelmed, I remind my self of who He is:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46:10-11 

When I doubt, I cry out:

… “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 

When I need a reminder of His faithfulness:

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth..” Psalm 121 

We want to thank Sandra Villa for answering this question.

Glorify God

Glorify God

The definition of moral excellence is doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. 

After looking up this definition I thought to myself, “oh yes, I do that”. I have stood strongly to my convictions. Growing up, I chose to strive for moral excellence because I wanted to be a good example to my 3 younger siblings. I withstood the pressures of high school and college without doing the bad things. But then I caught myself wondering what about now and felt God leading me to dig deeper. 

Moral excellence is the pursuit of the moral will of God in every area of life. Not just the big things. Do I do this? Do I show moral excellence in all things? Do my small children who are always watching see moral excellence in me? I found a definition that mediocrity is undeserving of blame but unworthy of praise. I don’t want to be that. I want to be morally excellent. 

In order to be morally excellent we need to have the desire to please and glorify God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 states, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 

To glorify God means we value Him and honor Him in our actions. God is glorified when we obey Him and live the way He calls us to live. I want others to see God in me. 

The desire to please and glorify God isn’t to earn His love but instead is because we love Him. 1 John 2:5 says, “But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him.” 

God wants our willingness to do what he asks of us. He wants us to choose what is right and avoid what is wrong. God loves us and wants the best for us.  Making wise choices sows blessings now and for the future. “Be careful to obey all my commands, so that all will go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and pleasing to the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 12:28

Choosing moral excellence glorifies God, but it is also for our good. Let’s choose to glorify God in all things. 

We’d like to thank Bailey Adams for sharing this post.

How do you introduce a non-believing spouse into attending church, etc.?

How do you introduce a non-believing spouse into attending church, etc.?

You asked, and we answered! Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some of the questions that were submitted during our 2022 Harvest Women’s Retreat, and the answers from some of the women in our church.

There are probably many ways to introduce a non-believing spouse to attending church, but I feel the most effective way is through our life groups. The settings of our life groups are informal and a great place for fellowship and an introduction to people just like you and your spouse. Life groups and fellowship give a great opportunity to invite people to the church in a more comfortable atmosphere.

I would also like to add, there is no greater invitation than living a life of example to our spouses. Jesus is the greatest example of how we should approach an open invitation of salvation to people we love. Galatians 5 tells us about the fruits of the spirit that help us display Jesus in our homes and in our marriages. What does the heart of God look like? Patient? Kind? Gentle? Loving? I think these attributes help us draw our spouses into the open invitation of Jesus.

We would like to thank Crissy Urrutia for sharing this answer.

What Excels and is Best

What Excels and is Best

“ …and this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ- to the glory and praise of God.” Phil. 1:9-11

In this prayer of Paul and in 2 Peter we are called, as children of the Heavenly Father, to pursue the moral excellence of God’s will. To become a reflection of Jesus. I don’t know about you, but this would scare me into not even trying if it stopped there. But we have been given all the promises of God, and His Spirit living within us, to help us accomplish the purpose for which He has called us.

  “ …and if someone takes your cloak, do not withhold your tunic as well.” Luke 6:29

My father had the reputation of following this principle. People would say of him “… if you ask Joe Bontke for the shirt off his back, he would also give you his coat, pants and shoes as well.” He gave whatever he had to help someone in need. Family, neighbors, and acquaintances were always borrowing money, farm equipment, whatever they needed and not returning it or bringing it back broken. I never saw my father angry or worried. My mother would be the one to be upset and angry, telling him he was being taken advantage of and that they were just using him. Dad would just say, “it’s going to be okay, it will all work out”.

I would love to say I take after my father, but truth is I am more like my mother. I did marry a man like my father. Stewart is a good example of the pursuit of moral excellence. He believes and lives, that whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as to the Lord and not to man. Colossians 3:23.

Moral excellence is not merely a matter of what is good over what is bad, but what excels and is best. Going that extra mile. Doing what is right even when no one is looking. It is wanting God‘s will in every area of our life. This includes values, attitudes, priorities, goals, or purposes, how we live and act in our homes, at the office, at church, in our community, one’s hobbies and entertainment.

People are watching us in how we speak, how we act and how we live our lives. The old saying that we might be the only Bible some people will ever read, is true.

A few years ago our son-in-law, Matt Gilleland, came to share with us how God had blessed him at his work that day. Matt was manager of a fertilizer chemical company here in Plainview. One of their trucks broke down around the Clarendon area. It was late in the afternoon and Matt was not able to find a mechanic willing to go check the truck to see if it could be fixed. He had about given up but had one more lead. This man also said no, but while visiting with Matt found that his family farm was next to my family farm. He told Matt of how good my father was to them and how they had been helped so many times. My father left a legacy for his family and his granddaughter’s husband received one of the blessings.

   “… do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of the mind.” Rom.12:1-2

How do we have our mind renewed? We asked the Holy Spirit to fill us, give us faith, wisdom and understanding. We receive the truth of knowing how much we are loved by our Heavenly Father and who we are in Christ. We meditate and study His Word, and this grows our relationship with Him. This is a lifelong journey, not a short weekend trip.

I want to be a reflection of Jesus and leave a beautiful legacy for my family. I never want anyone to wonder if I’m a Christian, but to know without a doubt that I am! When I pass from this life, I want to hear these words from my Heavenly Father “WELL DONE DAUGHTER! WELCOME HOME.”

We would like to thank Elaine Norrell for sharing this post.

Questions Answered – Laura Brandenburg

Questions Answered – Laura Brandenburg

You asked, and we answered! Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some of the questions that were submitted during our 2022 Harvest Women’s Retreat, and the answers from some of the women in our church.

Check out this video to hear Laura Brandenburg answer this question:

“How do you stay faithful in the storm? I’m struggling to get pregnant and want to keep the faith, but I get discouraged.”

Diligently Pursue the Heart of God

Diligently Pursue the Heart of God

My prayers of late come from a place of brokenness, a place of earnest, a place of longing for the nearness of God.

In my study of diligence, I discovered that it means so much more than working hard. I’ve done that my entire life as I grew up in good ol’ West Texas. I know how to work hard. But lately, the hard work has felt more like running in a hamster wheel, sweaty, futile. From a place of requirement rather than from a place of the heart.

2 Peter 1:5 speaks of adding to our faith with “all diligence” the attributes of godliness that follow. I love the rich language of the word diligence. We are to seek God not merely with hard work, but with every effort, with diligence which is sincere and conscientious. Strongs concordance explains the Greek word as “earnest swiftness…we need to quickly and carefully and intensely prioritize God’s truth, adding His attributes to our faith.”

Earnest is “sincere and intense conviction;” it’s real and undeniable; it’s passionate and authentic.

Diligence is “careful and persistent work or effort” or “having or showing care and conscientiousness in one’s work or duties”

Therefore, we need to work with sincere and thorough care when it comes to increasing in the attributes of God. It’s an act of faith, not of works.

The conviction of this word and the prompting of the Spirit have been ruminating in my heart in this personal season of healing and restoration. I have known the nearness of God. I have walked with Him in faith. I have hurt. I have numbed out emotionally to keep from feeling pain-not with substances, but with work some days. With social media some days. With brainless games that help me “unwind” at the end of the day. But it doesn’t only numb the pain. It also numbs the joy. It robs delight. It robs me being fully present with my family, with my friends.

In a moment of quiet, while watering my garden, I prayed a prayer that is vulnerable because it reveals the state of my heart. “More than a move of location, I need a move of the Spirit. May I always seek Him first. May I have a passion about my calling again. May the jaded edges be refined and may hope reside in my heart again.” It’s not that I want to return to the same closeness that I’ve experienced with God in the past. It’s that I long for my heart to beat with His-like a transplant. My very existence depends on Him.

I shared this prayer with a dear friend. She replied, “that we would all pray that prayer with as much sincerity” as me, but honestly, that sincerity comes from a place of utter longing. When we are saved we rejoice because God through the sacrifice of Jesus has taken our utter depravity, our entire incapability of overcoming sin on our own, and He gifts us with, He graces us with, salvation. When we acknowledge our need, how much greater is the satiation of that need?

My initial internal response to her was the desire that no one would experience the pain that provoked such sincerity. And yet, we all already have experienced that pain-the pain of distance from God. Since the fall of mankind in the garden of Eden, we all have.

Diligence looks like hard work, but it’s not. It’s not hard because it is sincere, it’s careful, it’s conscientious. Adam and Eve worked before sin entered the world. Work is good, but it doesn’t have to be hard. May we all diligently pursue the heart of God.

We would like to thank Mary Coleman for sharing this post.

Questions Answered – Bambi Lutrick

Questions Answered – Bambi Lutrick

You asked, and we answered! Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some of the questions that were submitted during our 2022 Harvest Women’s Retreat, and the answers from some of the women in our church.

Check out this video to hear Bambi Lutrick answer this question: How do you surrender to your husband when you are struggling with his reasons for leading you in that direction? (Not ungodly leadership, but inconsistent leadership)

God Sees and God Cares About Your Heart

God Sees and God Cares About Your Heart

Growing up in the church, I regularly heard the word diligence, “be like the ‘dilig-ANT’ Dad would say”, or I’d read “…go to the ant you sluggard (lazy bones) observe her ways and be wise…no one has to tell them what to do…so wake up sleepyhead…”(Proverbs 6:6) Diligence meant working hard, doing what needs to be done and not being lazy! “See a need, fill a need” was a quote from the movie ‘ROBOTS’, that ran through my head constantly. I became very work oriented. If I wasn’t working hard, I wasn’t pleasing my parents, friends, employers, and more importantly God!

My family was a part of a ministry that taught families how to become Character Families. Achieving true success by applying the Character Qualities of Jesus Christ, to life. We taught scriptures, songs, and stories to help them understand each character quality and how to display it. The opposite of diligence is slothfulness – such a negative picture, in my mind, of what we looked like if we weren’t working hard and going, going, going! 

Diligence was defined as ‘Accepting each task as a special assignment from the Lord and using all my energies to do it quickly and skillfully.” Problem was, I lost sight of the ‘assignment from the Lord” part and just accepted every task given to me, and used all my energy to do it quickly and skillfully. I became a “yes woman” (and to be completely honest, I married a “yes man”). Looking back, I realize, that I am STILL very works based. If my kids are not DOING something productive, I tend to give them a job or get onto them asking, “what could you be doing to help?” Sometimes I’ve even seen my husband sitting on his phone, not doing anything productive (in my opinion) and feel resentment in my heart about all the things that need to be done and wonder why he isn’t helping! I had begun to get exhausted as I took on tasks, not wanting to say yes, but saying yes to please people anyway. 

I know there are many of you reading this that feel the same way. As a wife and mum of 5 who homeschools, has a baking business, and helps run a children’s ministry (insert here whatever it is you regularly do), it feels like the work is never done and that we don’t have time to be lazy! “I’ve got to get the kids to this, that or the other sport/school/church event! I’ve got to do this, that or the other thing for my coworker/family member/friend.” Let me encourage you to think about it from a different perspective: God has given me opportunities to be diligent and to do everything I do, with my whole heart, as if I’m doing it for the Lord— seeing every task and activity in life as an assignment specifically from Him and using ALL my energy to do it quickly and skillfully—FOR HIM. Finish the dishes AND wipe the counters-FOR HIM. Teach your children to put their toys and clothes away AND pick up the rubbish—FOR HIM. Demonstrate to them, by example, how to change their perspective.

I’m learning that no one else may ever notice OR care about the work we do as wives, mothers and employees… in some instances it’s even expected-that’s what you’re SUPPOSED to do. BUT GOD! God notices! God cares! God SEES us! If WE can see our day to day activities as individual assignments FROM GOD to grow our character and see Him as our ‘employer’, we don’t need to worry if others don’t recognize what we do for them, nor do we need to wonder whether we are appreciated or be concerned when we are overlooked or taken for granted. Instead, we can be motivated to fulfill the instruction of Ecclesiastes 9:10 “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…” 

Let’s change our perspective to the Lord’s. Let’s take on our daily tasks with the motivation of love and an attitude of joy, and see them as opportunities to serve and be a witness for the Lord. Let’s ask Jesus to be Lord over each aspect of our day, to help us see that ultimately it is He who we are serving, and that with a changed perspective we CAN be content and do every task as if Jesus Himself asked us to do it for Him! We CAN do ALL things through Him who gives us the strength and the empowering of the Holy Spirit to do it.

Am I doing this _____ as if I’m doing it for the Lord Himself and not merely for others? (Colossians 3:23) The DOING of the work is a given. It’s a constant; it doesn’t end. The HEART of the work, the ATTITUDE in which it is done, is the key. THIS is the part that God cares about…and that we should care about.

We would like to thank Bree Elam for sharing this post.

Starting a friendship with a woman you admire is intimidating. How do you approach trying to start a new friendship? Also…any verses to help with friendship?

Starting a friendship with a woman you admire is intimidating. How do you approach trying to start a new friendship? Also…any verses to help with friendship?

You asked, and we answered! Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some of the questions that were submitted during our 2022 Harvest Women’s Retreat, and the answers from some of the women in our church.

Friendships in general are intimidating 😊. You are choosing to share your life with someone else in hopes to be accepted, valued, and loved. 

My advice to you when approaching a new friendship is just this…choose to. 

Everything we do is a choice we make. We can stay isolated, alone, and on the outside looking in, or we can choose something different. 

Every choice is a risk and every risk is just that…risky. 

But I know this to be true: God has godly friends for you and for me and it’s worth the risk to seek out and initiate friendship with women who are godly. Not every friendship you initiate will “work out” but that’s ok. The ones that are supposed to, will. 

I have a 3 invite rule. If I’ve initiated connection with someone 3 times and they aren’t able to make it work and haven’t initiated connection back, then I move on. It’s not personal…I don’t get my feelings hurt over it, I assume God is directing my steps and He has other people He wants me to connect with. 

I think the main thing you need to remember about making friends is that it takes time and intention. 

Here’s a few ideas when initiating friendships. 

  • Invite another mom to bring her kids over to let them play while the two of you visit. 
  • Meet at a park and let the kids play while you visit or pray for your families. 
  • Send random texts with funny memes or funny moments that you’ve had that day. 
  • Meet up for coffee or lunch. 
  • Invite a new friend to ride with you to Lubbock for a quick Sam’s pick-up. 
  • Ask someone to help you make a meal for a new mom or someone who’s just had surgery or is going through a hard time. 

There are lots of ways to connect with new friends, just be brave and initiate. 

Friendships have changed my life and I absolutely LOVE having friends. 

Here are a few of my favorite verses on friendship. 

  • Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
  • Probers 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
  • 1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
  • Job 6:14 “Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.”

May I leave you with this…God has incredible friends for you! I believe in you and I’m cheering you on as you take the risks needed to initiate godly friendships.

We want to thank Julie Snellgrove for answering this question

Whatever You Do, Work at it With All Your Heart

Whatever You Do, Work at it With All Your Heart

I have a 3-year-old daughter who is full of life, FULL of questions, and watches just about everything I do. Anyone relate? 

The other day, I found myself pressing pause on the never-ending task list running through my brain to sit down and color with Charis for 10 minutes. She opened the coloring book to a spot where there were 2 blank coloring pages right next to each other – one for me and one for her – and began carefully coloring. Sometimes she likes to be silly and scribble all over the page, but most of the time, she’s pretty careful to color inside the lines because she has someone in mind that she wants to give her picture to when she’s finished. As we color, she asks me 50 questions about why I’m coloring the flowers purple and the girl’s shoes red, and any other “why” that crosses her mind. Then she says “Mommy, ask me why I’m coloring inside the lines.” I oblige, and she answers, “Because, ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for man. – Colossians 3:23.’” Wow! I celebrated that she’s applying God’s Word to her life in her own little 3-year-old way, encouraged her, and then heard her little voice echoing this scripture in my head the rest of the day.

Life and motherhood are full of opportunities for sanctification, aren’t they? There’s nothing that will spur you on toward Godliness like having your child understand, live out, and speak a biblical Truth that you still sometimes struggle with well into your walk with the Lord.

If I’m being honest, I’m easily distracted. Sometimes I lose sight of the greater picture in the middle of all the things I do daily that seem mundane, tedious, repetitive, unnoticed, and even meaningless. And when I allow my feelings to distract me from the bigger picture, I can easily fall into a pattern of working half-heartedly or even begrudgingly.

Sometimes, though, all it takes is a simple reminder from my preschooler for my heart to remember that I’m a partaker of God’s divine nature and have been given everything I need for life and godliness.

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 

2 Peter 1:3-4

Diligence is part of God’s very nature and is foundational to my spiritual growth.

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-8

When we work diligently, everyone in our life benefits. It brings peace to our own lives, serves those around us in a way that makes them feel the love of the Father, and brings Glory and Honor to God, the One who created us in His image and prepared for us good works to be done while we’re here on Earth (Ephesians 2:10).

When I remember this, I can work wholeheartedly in everything I do, as if I’m working for the Lord and not for man, because I really am working for the Lord and not for man.

When I’m diligent in disciplining my daughter, I’m working as God’s agent for her good and for His glory.

When I’m diligent to keep my home in order, I’m working for the Lord so that my home is a place where my family and others experience the peace of His presence.

When I work diligently in my job, I’m representing His excellence to my sphere of influence and drawing those around me to Jesus. 

Elisabeth Elliot, a missionary, author, speaker, and woman of incredible wisdom, summed it up this way:

This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.

So I want to encourage you today like Charis encouraged me: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for man.

Because you really are working for the Lord.

We would like to thank Catherine Dunn for sharing this post.

What do you do if you are older and think that you have wasted your gifts or didn’t know what they were?

What do you do if you are older and think that you have wasted your gifts or didn’t know what they were?

You asked, and we answered! Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some of the questions that were submitted during our 2022 Harvest Women’s Retreat, and the answers from some of the women in our church.

Just because we are older doesn’t mean it’s too late to use the gifts God has given us.  I’ve found that in different seasons of my life, I have been able to use different gifts.  Maybe you think you have wasted your gifts, when really, you have just been using gifts doing the things that you were called on to do at that point in your life.  For example, as a mom, I used the gifts of administration or service many times, organizing my children’s activities and providing for their needs.  Now that my kids are grown, I have the chance to apply those gifts to other areas of life, like church or volunteer work.  So, my gifts were not wasted when they were used in my family.  I believe that spiritual gifts are useful in all areas of our lives, not just at church.

Sometimes getting a little older gives me more time to practice using some gifts that I hadn’t explored before.  Being older brings with it lots of experiences that have (hopefully) developed some wisdom.  Because I have been through some things in life, I can offer encouragement and empathize with women who are just now experiencing them.  I have testimonies that I can share.  I have had a longer relationship with the Holy Spirit to understand some things that I did not understand earlier in life.

If you do not know what your gifts are, look at the things you are drawn to.  Do you love to give to people?  Do you enjoy organizing things?  Do you enjoy working with children or babies?  Do you thrive on Bible study or telling others about Jesus?  What you enjoy can give you a clue to your spiritual gifts.  Also, ask your best friend or your husband what they see that you are good at.  They can often recognize your giftedness when you have overlooked it.  

If you think you might have a gift but are not sure, why not just try it?  Step out of your comfort zone and take a chance – just once.  You might be surprised at the outcome.  Take a turn at serving in Kid City.  Offer to help by cooking or serve on the greeter team.  Offer to pray for people and write them an encouraging note.  If something grabs your interest, go for it!  You may think that your gift is not an important one, but EVERY gift is worth celebrating.  And it’s never too late to get started.

We would like to thank Sheri Warren for answering this question.

Grow to Become a Diligent Woman

Grow to Become a Diligent Woman

What comes to mind when you hear the word Diligence?

I think of the ant that works away during the summer…I felt like a joyful ant growing up. 

When I was 5 years old, my family would wake up and get dressed at 4:00am, and we’d drive to work the cotton fields.  I would run through the fields carrying jugs of water and placing them strategically under tall weeds to keep cool.  I would go back to grab the hoe and help my family work so we could help the beautiful West Texas cotton thrive without weeds hindering their growth.

My mother was a single mom, and I was her only child until I was a teenager. My grandmother lived with us, whom I lovingly called mom as well, and she practically raised me while my mother worked.  She had twelve children, and some lived with us.  

I sometimes think about how both of my mom’s worked hard all their lives. They were diligent women.

I didn’t get a chance to meet my father until I was older, although I did have eight wonderful uncles that taught me how to tell time, gave me lots of quarters to buy stuff, took me fishing and let me listen to Mr. Roboto by Styx, George Strait, and Neil Diamond – why?  Those apparently were some of my favorites!  My uncles also showed me how they worked hard at their jobs, and they loved softball.  There were so many other endearing memories that were made growing up in a big family.  These were diligent men in my life.

Maybe you wonder like I have – what does it mean to be a diligent person?

Diligent comes from the Latin diligere, which means ‘to value highly, take delight in,’ but in English it has always meant careful and hard-working.  If you’re a diligent worker, you don’t just bang away at your job; you earnestly try to do everything right.

The Bible defines diligence as: “the effort to do one’s part while keeping faith and reliance on God.  In other words, diligence and faith are two sides of the mystery.  One does not know how, despite one’s effort, it all works out; but diligence when combined with faith, assures spiritual success.”

I love to work! I love to be diligent in my work! I take delight in it. I love to display beauty and to exhort others. I love people and I love to let them know, without a doubt, that they are seen, valued, and loved! I’ve come to find out that although hard work is good and I’ve spent most of my life being diligent in most things, the most vital things to be diligent in, are the things that God wants for you and has for you.

I didn’t always have that.  I’ve had great examples of secular hard work.  I didn’t grow up in the church, but since the moment I gave my life to Jesus, I have never turned away.  I am diligent in my love for Jesus! Knowing that He would never fail me, leave me, or turn from me is what has sustained me. I’ve had many moments where I found myself learning about biblical diligence and truths that I had never seen modeled.  Ecclesiastes 3:1, says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”

In 2018, God taught me to be diligent in my rest.  I’ve worked hard all my life and the game changer happened while attending Gateway’s Conference.  I had tears running down my face because Robert Morris’ story – being near death’s door—mirrored my story just the year before.  We were both healed, by the grace of God.  I remember hearing how God commands us – not requests, but commands us— to rest.  I now rest diligently.

It’s very important to find balance.  Sometimes you must pour more into your marriage, children, or work, but always— yes, always— find time to rest.  You are honoring God not only with your body, but with your heart, mind, and soul when you rest.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the human heart…”

Scripture is so important in our day to day lives and I’ve held onto Romans 12:9-11 during different seasons of my life.  It says, “Let love be without hypocrisy.  Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor, not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”

I’d like to leave you with this important truth…spend time with Jesus and ask Him what he wants you to be diligent in during this season of your life.  The Holy Spirit is faithful in hearing and guiding you. God is good, all the time! I pray that your heart becomes diligent – able to make better what has been found in your due season of faith and to take delight in it.  God can saturate you with joy in doing the hard things.

I hope, while you’ve read this that you’ve been able to grasp a bit about me, how I grew up and what my heart is. My encouragement for you is to live out what Matthew 22:37 says, “Love your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul.”  

Grow and be diligent in new things.  Go from glory to glory.  Much love to you my sweet friends!

We would like to thank Mandy Villarreal for writing this post.

What Hinders God’s Divine Knowledge? 

What Hinders God’s Divine Knowledge? 

This month, we’ve been talking about Knowledge from 2 Peter 1:3-8.  

I’m going to get a little nerdy as we think about what hinders God’s divine knowledge. Philosophically speaking, there are four levels of knowledge:

  1. What I know I know. 
  2. What I know I don’t know. 
  3. What I don’t know but think I know. 
  4. What I don’t know I don’t know. 

Let’s toss out Number 4 because these are unknowable, right? If we don’t know we don’t know, then we don’t know. 😊

But what do we know? What do we not know? And what do we think we know, but don’t actually know? 

I can wallow in the 2 and 3 here. I can get frustrated by what I don’t know. And I can get stuck in a place where I think I know better. 

One of our twins struggled with eating from the very beginning. She started losing weight in the hospital, like all babies do, but she lost more than 10% in her first few days and that’s not normal, so we knew pretty early on that she wasn’t getting enough to eat. 

We knew there was a problem. And if you know me, I’m like let’s find a solution! 

Me and Google. We’re going to figure this thing out, right? 

There’s no peace in that, unfortunately.

And it leads to Number 3—where I think I know, but I don’t actually know. 

So I pushed and pushed and around seven weeks, Halle was finally diagnosed with a tongue tie. But she had some other issues as well, and so we had to wait to get it resolved. 

And I wish I could say I was patient. I wish I could say I just trusted that the doctor and other specialists working with her knew better, that they knew what they were doing. 

But the truth is, I just stewed for three more weeks, struggling through seven feedings a day—about seven hours of my day spent trying to will my sweet, colic-y baby into eating. And all the while thinking, if only they’d fix this tongue tie, she would be better. Nothing else we’re trying is working. 

I KNOW if they would just do the procedure, she’d be better. 

Then, we got Halle’s tongue tie fixed around 10 weeks. And it made a teeny tiny improvement in her eating, but not really in her weight gain. 

I thought I knew. But I didn’t actually know. 

James 4:6 says that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. 

Do you know what pride is? It’s when we think we know better. When we think we know everything, God opposes us. And He leaves us there until we figure out that we need to surrender to His knowledge and His sovereignty. 

“I don’t know, but you know” has become one of my almost daily prayers. 

If I focus on what I don’t know, I’m frustrated. If I focus on what I think I know, I’m fooled. But if I focus on Him, I am fulfilled. 

We only have to know the One who knows it all. 

We surrender what we don’t know, or what we think we know, and we humble ourselves before the One who knows. We press in to know Him more.

And so that’s what I did. And true to His word, God met me. And in his graciousness, he gave me a word of knowledge about Halle. Since then He’s given me two prophetic words about her. 

These are not medical diagnoses. They are insights into her heart and her soul and have directed the way that I pray for her and for me. 

Sometimes we have to surrender what we think we know in order to get God’s divine knowledge, in order to be reminded of who He is and what He has accomplished for us and what we can do through Him. 

What unknowns are you facing right now? 

Maybe you’re in the midst of a big decision, and you don’t know which path to take. 

Maybe you’ve got a child who is struggling in this season, and you don’t know how to help them. You would fix it if you could, but you just don’t know. 

Maybe you’re waiting on a promise. You’re waiting on a word God has given you. You don’t know when He’ll fulfill it. You don’t know why it hasn’t happened yet.

God knows. 

Wherever you find yourself, God already knows. He knows you intimately. He knows your situation intimately. He knows all your doubts and your fears and your anxiety. He even knows when you think you know better. 

So, we can just lay it all down and take refuge in this truth: We only have to know the One who knows it all. 

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

True Knowledge Comes in Experiences

True Knowledge Comes in Experiences

Philippians 1:9-11 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.  For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.  May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation – the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus – for this will bring much glory and praise to God.  

Knowledge is the condition of knowing something through experience. Experience is the key – knowledge is easily confused with preparation.  

We can read, research, and learn about something all day long – but until we actually dive in and give it a try we will never have actual knowledge on a subject, whatever it may be.  

Think of a mom – pregnant for the first time: we read all the books, have all the apps, gather all the baby gear – this is preparation. Knowledge grows as you experience the baby’s behavior and must adapt, adjust, and truly learn how to care for the child moment to moment, day to day, year to year. 

Think of school/college/training – we go to class, read the textbooks, do the assignments, pass the tests – this is preparation. Knowledge grows in the real-time work experiences, dealing with people, unforeseen circumstances, working through disasters and victories.

The same is true of our walk with God. Daily we should be reading the Word, praying for guidance, seeking truth, guarding our hearts, listening to the Spirit…. this is preparation.  

When we have prepared and trials come, and we all know they do, we have the ultimate source of life to tap in to. The Word will be readily on our lips to speak over a situation. We will know where to turn for the guidelines and guidance we need. We will have the truths of God hidden in our minds and we will be able to apply His promises over whatever is before us. Our hearts will be prepared to handle the fiery darts the world shoots at us daily. We will be in tune with the Spirit and know how to listen and discern for the Lord’s will and direction.   

This spiritual preparation will allow us to walk through the fire and come out refined – this is how we grow in knowledge and understanding.  Just as Paul prayed in the scripture above, we realize that through Jesus we are able to live pure and blameless lives while waiting on Jesus to return.  We will experience a life filled with the fruits of our salvation and a righteous character will be evident in our lives.  In this knowledge is where we find that true and unexplainable peace spoken of in 

Philippians 4:6 In every situation with petition and thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  

This process of preparing to grow in knowledge that leads to peace has to be continuously repeated until we meet Jesus face to face and He is welcoming us home as good and faithful servants.  

We would like to thank Jill Winders for writing this post

Knowing Him is Knowing Who He Says I Am

Knowing Him is Knowing Who He Says I Am

Growing up I always felt “average”. My older sister, Monica, was super smart…valedictorian, smart and very talented in drama and one act play. I remember her always just knowing things and loving books and reading and oh the theatre, she would shine on the stage. Erin, my younger sister, was gifted in sports. As a freshman in high school, she made the varsity team in both volleyball and basketball. My family spent Erin’s high school career cheering her on in the gym.  

And I was just average. Nothing special, nothing to really cheer for or receive fame for…just average.

Soon after Brad and I got married, we took a group of teens from our youth group to a camp at Oral Robert’s University. While at this week long camp I had an experience I’d never had before, and to this day I’ve never experienced something like it again.  

I was in a small group lecture with a group of kids from our church, and in the middle of this man’s teaching he looked at me, had me stand up, and he said these words over me, “The Lord says you’re brilliant.” And then he proceeded to finish his teaching.  

I was shocked.

Number one, I had never had someone call me out.

Number two, I had never felt brilliant a day in my life. I had always just felt average.

All this year we are looking at 2 Peter 1:1-10 with the intention that as women of God we would embrace His Divine Nature. In 2 Peter, the Apostle Peter is writing to Christians and he’s telling them, “Hey church, don’t forget, by truly understanding or KNOWING Jesus, you can be a part of or partake in HIS DIVINE NATURE.”

Friends…that is GOOD NEWS

In a moment, of me really having knowledge or knowing the truth about who Jesus is and who I am because of Jesus, I went from average to brilliant. When we understand the gospel and the exchange that took place when Jesus died on the cross, it changes our perspective of ourselves, and we begin to see ourselves through God’s lenses. We gain knowledge about the truth of what God says about us and the truth about His power and promises that work within us.  

Being brilliant has nothing to do with me. Being brilliant has nothing to do with the knowledge I’ve received or learned in a classroom. It has nothing to do with what our society thinks is important and puts value on. Being brilliant has to do with God’s Divine Nature.

I still have many days where I feel average and not brilliant. When I lean into the knowledge of who Jesus is and who He is in me, my perspective changes and I’m able to understand and know the truth.  

Friends…if we want to be women who embrace knowledge, women who walk in God’s Divine Nature, we must allow His truth to be planted deep in our hearts.  

An average person like me can gain so much knowledge just by believing what the Bible says!

I hope you’ll stay on this journey with me and continue to allow God to transform your thinking about yourself and ultimately your thinking about Jesus. When we embrace God’s word and allow it to be truth to us, we are letting knowledge be made complete in us. Because of this, we understand more clearly who Jesus is. That’s what I want, to KNOW Jesus more and more…I know that’s what you want, too. 

We would like to thank Julie Snellgrove for writing this post

Knowing His Words are Love and True

Knowing His Words are Love and True

Growing up it seems as if I always knew who God was. I was raised in a church setting and had my salvation by the age of six years old. I had a family who was highly involved in church and I studied his word through many church programs. I knew The Lord, I knew his word, but it wasn’t until adulthood I fully captured the true meaning and depth behind his word. 

Two things that come to mind when I think of KNOWING His word is first, knowing his words are always written out of a heart of LOVE. Our Heavenly Father always has the best intentions for us, no matter how we receive verses or biblical truth. The second thing is that his Word is always TRUE. That means when God’s word says things about you and how you were made in his image, it’s true. I want to explain more in depth on these concepts. 

First of all God’s words are LOVE. Growing up, I didn’t always look at scripture as loving. There’s one verse, in particular that stood out to me. “Numbers 23:32 You may be sure, your sin will always find you out.” That was a little terrifying for me my entire childhood and teenage years. I felt as if there was God lurking in the shadows ready to pounce on me as soon as I messed up. This turned a loving God, who wanted the best for me, into a God who was ready to call me out on my sins, not up to his heavenly realm. I was wrong, though. Every bit of scripture, every testimony in the Bible, every proverb and psalm written, every piece of the Bible, was written with the intentions of love, to guide us in a life filled with abundance and joy and all the fruits of the spirit. That’s when KNOWING God’s words are written out of LOVE that we get to have that entire perspective change.

The second thing that stood out to me is KNOWING God’s word is always true. Even when you don’t feel like you are made in his image. Even when you don’t think you fit the criteria of “Child of God”. Even when you don’t feel like you are forgiven, or accepted, or redeemed. His words reign true until the end of time. I have heard this said before, “if one thing in the Bible isn’t true, that invalidates the entire Bible and God is not a liar.” So on days where I felt less than virtuous or less than called, I remind myself that I KNOW God’s words are always TRUE, no matter what situation I face or what my emotions may tell me.

Knowing God in this way and his words in this way, has changed my life. It has lead me to a deeper, lasting relationship with him. It overflows into my marriage, the way I parent, the way I work, and the relationships I have with others. I want that for you, and I know God wants that for you too. I pray you know God’s words are LOVE and TRUE. 

We would like to thank Sarah Perry for writing this post

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.

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.