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.

Serving Man or God

Serving Man or God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing What We Think About

Choosing What We Think About

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

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

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

For real? 

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

How did I get to this place? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change Your Thoughts. Change Your Life.

Change Your Thoughts. Change Your Life.

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

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

Can you relate?

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

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

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

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

Captive – to ensnare, to make it a prisoner

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

So, we could say it like this…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Search me, O God, and know my heart.

Test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Point out anything in me that offends you,

and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Amen.

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

Enjoy the Journey

Enjoy the Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking Responsibility for Our Mindset

Taking Responsibility for Our Mindset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are a few ways we can do this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building the House of God

Building the House of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Created for Community

Created for Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Together in Christ, we are made strong.

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

When JOY is Missing

When JOY is Missing

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

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

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

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

2. Doing God’s will increases our JOY

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

3. Being intentional about seeking and finding JOY:  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 15:13

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

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

JOY in Uncertainty

JOY in Uncertainty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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