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.

JOY is a gift from God

JOY is a gift from God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Obedient in Good Works

Being Obedient in Good Works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does it mean to Do Good Works?

What does it mean to Do Good Works?

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

“We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!” Ephesians 2:10 TPT

Do Good Works.…oh yeah, easy! Such a simple phrase, yet such a difficult task in the day to day hustle. To me, it’s kind of like a watered down version of the golden rule that your mom used to recite to you when you were being less than kind…”Treat your sister the way you want to be treated!” We hear it all the time and make note, but how often do we really dig into what that truly means? To me, it means actively meeting people in their hardships and pain and serving them even when our humanity is uncomfortable. From my experience, sometimes showing up for people in pain can feel almost intolerable to our human nature, but I think that is the difference between spirit-led good works and good works for reasons driven by human nature. It doesn’t feel natural, but it’s a choice driven by a recreated spirit in Christ.

“However, I say to you, love your enemy, bless the one who curses you, do something wonderful for the one who hates you, and respond to the very ones who persecute you by praying for them. For that will reveal your identity as children of your heavenly Father. He is kind to all by bringing the sunrise to warm and rainfall to refresh whether a person does what is good or evil.” Matthew 5:44-45 TPT

If our purpose as Christians is to further the kingdom of God, then maybe this is our tool to do so, to be an example of what Christ would say or do when met with the pain of another human being. When I think of a person who is actively furthering God’s kingdom, I see someone who is taking the time and energy to meet hurting people where they are and serve them either with their empathetic words, actions, and prayer without judgment.

I believe we all have unique ways of doing good works. God has given EACH of us a destiny to fulfill. He said EACH, not ALL. To me, this implies individuality and it’s no surprise to us that we all have different gifts. For example, I have a precious friend who is great at connecting with teenagers. She pours into them by hosting their church group for dinners in their home, coming up with fun, engaging games for them to play, and her circle of influence is large! On the other hand, good works looks different in my life, like one on one encouragement of smaller kids at work, fostering my own children’s relationship with God, spending time talking to a friend or family member who is feeling down. My circle of influence is much smaller and the season of life I am in changes what good works looks like for me. The core of doing good works is intentionally loving God’s people, and the world needs each of us to show up authentically to show His love!

Back to Ephesians 2:10, the term “recreated” implies there was a before. Earlier in Ephesians, Paul tells us we are naturally prone to be driven by our selfish desires. I truly believe that good works driven by a spirit that is not transformed looks like doing good deeds with selfish intention. When God redeemed and recreated us, He gave us the capability to do those good works with a changed purpose and intention. Not just that, we get to do it joined to Jesus, who fills those gaps in our human abilities that cause us to doubt and shy away from brave, intentional acts of kindness. I don’t know how this lands for you, but it gives me immense peace to know I am not alone in trying to fulfill my calling at home and in my job. I can think of countless times I have been driving to work or struggling in my role as a wife and mother telling God, “I’m just at a loss here, God. I don’t know exactly to do and I feel less than qualified to do what I know you’ve called me to do”. You know what? He has shown up EVERY SINGLE TIME and guided me through. That gives me peace to know that if we come willing and with our intentions aligned with God’s, He will help us because He knows exactly what we need. So take heart. Be Brave. Do the Good Works!!!

We would like to thank Macy Williams for writing this post.

One Yes at a Time!

One Yes at a Time!

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

When I think about good works and the deeds that are pleasing to the Lord, I often think of my father. To me, he was the very definition of a “people person” because he loved everyone. His true good works that caught the attention of many longing and lonely souls during his time on earth were simply loving people as they were. It wasn’t anything fancy or complicated, it was just how he lived. That is what has stuck out to me since his passing – our good works are directly related to how we live!

In John 15:5, it says, “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.” When we remain plugged into the Word and spend more time with the Lord, we tend to produce and bear more meaningful fruit – KINGDOM CHANGING FRUIT! John 15:8 says, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

None of us are perfect and the Lord knows and sees when our branches become a little too heavy and occasionally even break off. But even when we droop from the pressure of this world, all we need to do is ask for help. Ask for the Lord to help hold your branch up or even graft you back into the vine. It’s here in this vulnerable place that He begins to do a new work in us and allows our lives to become more like His. When we know His voice and can follow His direction, stepping out in faith to help a friend or even a stranger becomes a little less intimidating when we know He’s asking us to do so. Sharing our trials with those who may be facing something similar can be encouraging, both to ourselves as confirmation of the Lord speaking to us, and to those in the middle of the battle. Moments like these when others listened and obeyed changed my life.

Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that as children of the King, we were created to do good works. He chose YOU and ME and He has specific plans in mind for our lives. Receive that truth and dig into what He’s calling you to do. It will, in turn, bring honor and glory to Him and change the world, one yes at a time!

We would like to thank Christian Greer for writing this blog post.

Created To Do Good Works

Created To Do Good Works

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

In a world where nothing feels quite “normal,” we have a unique opportunity to impact lives in the most positive and incredible way!    

As believers, we understand that “good works” will not eventually, no matter how hard we try, secure our salvation. In the book of Ephesians the word says, “it is not of yourself, it [salvation] is a gift from God.”  It is only through Jesus Christ that we can be saved!  Sometimes, the harder side for us to grasp, is that salvation WILL produce “good works.”  Ephesians 2:10 says we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  We must realize the purpose for which we are created!  If our lives are filled by the Holy Spirit, then our character and behavior will be like Christ.    

GUYS!! We were CREATED to do good works. It is innate, born IN us, natural, …our very nature to the core of our being!  How cool is that!  Like the scripture says, He prepared these works in advance for us. I encourage you pray and ask that God will soften your heart and prepare your mind to obey His will for you.  What kind of “good works” is He calling you to do?

I would also encourage you to see “good works” in terms of your whole life; not separated by religious activity, but instead throughout your daily walk.  Occasionally, good works are big things, but mostly it is through the small acts of serving others in your daily life.  In my personal life it looks like cooking dinner for my family, tucking my children in safely at night, teaching them to love and shine the light of Jesus, and to think of others above themselves. It might look like taking time to help the elderly lady at the grocery store reach the top shelf or taking my friends’ kids because I know she needs a break.  This is where we are given that opportunity to impact lives in such a powerful way! What do the small, but paramount, good-works look like in your day-to-day life?    

When I am walking hand-in-hand with Jesus, these things are easy — my very nature in Christ! BUT, when I am living in a rush, selfishly….with my task driven list, or separated from God, these things seem quite exhausting!  Sometimes if we just pause for a moment, we will feel the nudge from the Holy Spirit which is God’s incredible way of reminding us to keep up these good works He’s prepared for us.   Let’s agree to walk in the Spirit daily, and I know WE CAN change the world!  

We would like to thank Megan Henderson for writing this blog post!

Send Me, Lord

Send Me, Lord

“I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me’” (Isaiah 6:8, NKJV).

If I can be honest, before I knew God, I never imagined I could be useful to God or that He could use me to share Jesus with others. My idea of being a Christian when I began my walk consisted of a checklist. It went a little like this:

Go to church (check)

Own a bible (check)

Get prayer occasionally (check)

Follow Jesus (hmm–what does that look like?) (check)

Repeat weekly (check) 

The truth is that God wasn’t looking for me to check off a list every week. He was looking for my heart. We see this truth in the book of Samuel: “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:7, AMP). ‬‬

As I began to get to know Jesus, I began to grasp the magnitude of what He did for me on the cross: “But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, AMP). The more I pondered this truth, the more I began to fall deeply in love with Jesus. That love was followed by a deep, burning desire within me for others to know Jesus. I wanted everyone to know what Jesus had done in my life.

I grew up an angry, rebellious teenager. I was a teen mom at the age of 14. I was holding on to so much unforgiveness, guilt, and shame from my past. I had allowed the enemy to whisper lies to me, and I had believed them all. But now, I recognized them for what they were–lies–and I opened myself up to God’s truth and the good news that I was forgiven (1 John 1:9). I wanted to share this Good News, but I wasn’t sure where to start. I began sharing what Jesus had done for me at church, with my family and friends, and even with people I didn’t know at restaurants, grocery stores, and work . 

When we think of impacting the world around us by sharing the Gospel, we naturally tend to think it has to be big. But God has called us to be faithful, even in the small (Luke 16:10). God has blessed my family with opportunities to travel spreading His Good News in places where numbers were vast and others where attendance was low. We’ve entered communities of affluence and also places that were destitute and afflicted with crime. All these places have one thing in common: God moved.

One of my favorite promises from God is “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20, NIV). I’ve always wondered why He started by saying two or three. Why not a hundred? Why not a thousand? Surely He wouldn’t be able to miss a thousand people praying in His name. But the God we serve doesn’t devalue our efforts because of small numbers. He’s looking for obedience that comes out of the abundance of our hearts. Our heart for God leads us into a deep desire to share His love with others and a courage to say, “send me; I’ll go” like Isaiah did. Isaiah didn’t ask God questions like, “How far is it? How many people will be there? How much work is it going to be?” He simply raised his voice and said, “I’ll do it! Send me; I’ll go!”

I ask God that He would give me the strength, courage, and wisdom to make myself available willing to be sent wherever He needs me to go. Through the years, I’ve learned the promises that follow when we submit to His will over our own for the advancement of the Kingdom of God–and those promises are eternal. He needs me. He needs you. Always be ready to share the Good News when and where God asks you to. 

I pray that you would submit to God in everything you do and have courage and boldness to step out in faith wherever you are sent, always inviting the Holy Spirit to guide you and lead you, imitating Christ everywhere you go with your actions and speech, walking in obedience, and loving people like Jesus did.

We would like to thank Cristella Urrutia for writing this blog post.

Follow His Lead

Follow His Lead

Editor’s note: For the month of May, we are focusing on “Influencing the World”. In Mark 16:15 Jesus says to “Go into the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” One of the core beliefs of our church is that “The Church is meant to be the visible body of Christ, sent into the world to glorify God and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.” We pray that you will be encouraged to go out into your world to make His way known.

In our Among Friends Bible Study this month, we are talking about “Influencing the World.” That sounds like a pretty formidable task, doesn’t it? “OK God,” we say. “I’ll get right on that. Right after I get finished changing diapers, cooking dinner, folding laundry…” The list goes on and on. And yet the genius of God’s plan for the world is that we don’t even really have to try. We don’t have to have a title. He’s IN US, and All He’s asked us to do is to follow His lead and share the gospel as we go.

 I can remember attending a summer church camp back when I was in 4th or 5th grade. It was at the end of the nightly service and God’s presence was moving powerfully. One of the camp counselors came over to pray for me, looked me in the eyes and told me, “You’re headed for the ministry.” “Ummmmm….no, probably not,” was my thought. I mean, I wasn’t opposed to teaching Sunday school, but I knew I’d never do something crazy like move to Africa. I mean, isn’t that what you do if you’re in “the ministry”?

 Well, God sure does have a sense of humor. Fast forward 10 years or so and I went on my first mission trip to South Africa. I loved it so much that I went back again the next summer, and by the time I graduated from college, I was ready to MOVE there to volunteer. I served in Cape Town, South Africa for nine months, helping to coach local basketball teams and teaching “True Love Waits” in six different schools. We were able to use that platform to have some after school Bible studies as well.

 It was in one of those classes where I met Junaid. Junaid was a lively South African sixth grader with a scar down his left cheek. I never asked what it was from, but I knew that Junaid didn’t back down from a fight. I happened to be in South Africa when the tragedy of 9/11 took place, and the very next day we were going to Junaid’s school in a predominantly Muslim area. I would like say that the vast majority of our Muslim friends and neighbors showed such compassion and love in the wake of that tragedy, but there were a handful of boys in one of our classes who had a bit of a different mindset.  In the weeks that followed, Junaid told us how he and his classmates were ready to go enlist to go fight against the Americans in Afghanistan. “You want to fight against US?”, we asked him. “No, Miss, not you…the AMERICANS.” I guess it hadn’t crossed his mind that we WERE Americans.

 Junaid made sure we understood that this was a “holy war”, and that he must defend his religion.  One day he got curious and asked us about ours. When we explained that God had sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins, he recoiled a bit.

 “No Miss,” he stated emphatically. “God doesn’t have any children or brothers or sisters.”

 “He does have a Son,” we countered. “His name is Jesus.”

In that moment it was like the Holy Spirit just fell down and flooded that cold, concrete schoolroom with a tangible warmth and love. I could see a small tear welling up in Junaid’s eye as he repeated softly, “Jesus.”

 Then just as quickly as the moment started, it ended when one of Junaid’s friends grabbed him arm and told him it was time to go. On his way out the door, he stopped, turned back, and said, “We’ll talk more next time?”

 We had several more conversations with Junaid. While I can’t tie this story up with a happy ending bow of how he accepted Christ or anything even remotely like that, I do believe that a seed was planted. And somewhere in my heart I fully expect someday to see a testimony of God’s goodness by a young man from South Africa with a scar across his cheek…if not on this side of Heaven then beyond.

 I know we can’t all go to Africa. We’re not all supposed to. Where is YOUR sphere of influence? It might be your home, your workplace, or your family members. There are people all around us each day, and as we go, we have an opportunity to show love…to show kindness…to plant seeds.

 I’d like to leave you with this passage from Matthew 28: 19-20 (TPT), which we know as the “Great Commission.” These were the last recorded words of Jesus on this earth before He ascended into Heaven. He told His disciples:

 19 Now wherever you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 20 And teach them to faithfully follow[a] all that I have commanded you. And never forget that I am with you every day, even to the completion of this age.”[b]He’s with us as we go. And that makes all the difference. 

We would like to thank Becca Wilhite for writing this blog post.

Influencing Other Parts of the World

Influencing Other Parts of the World

Editor’s note: For the month of May, we are focusing on “Influencing the World”. In Mark 16:15 Jesus says to “Go into the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” One of the core beliefs of our church is that “The Church is meant to be the visible body of Christ, sent into the world to glorify God and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.” We pray that you will be encouraged to go out into your world to make His way known.

The sacred-secular divide is the pervasive belief that some things are really important to God, and that other things aren’t. This way of viewing the world isn’t Biblical, but it is deeply imbedded in our culture. So, while most of us would say that God cares about all aspects of our lives, the way we think and talk about our lives often reveals something different about our beliefs. Many times, we don’t even realize that we’ve bought into this sacred-secular divide. I’ll give you an example. I often hear people talk about their ministry as the 1 or 2 hours they spend in a week volunteering at a soup kitchen, leading a small group, or teaching Sunday School. While these few hours are undoubtedly important, they never mention the 40+ hours a week they spend teaching junior high students, working at a factory, or parenting their children. In our churches, we regularly have special commissioning prayers for ministry teams going abroad, Sunday school teachers, or small group leader, but we rarely think of praying over parents, farmers, bankers, high school students, or teachers specifically as commissioned to glorify God through their vocational roles. The average person will spend 90,000 hours working in their lifetime. I’m willing to bet that those hours matter to God. In fact, as believers, every aspect of our lives is not only important to God, but is an opportunity to impact the world for the sake of the Kingdom of God and to bring glory to Jesus.

My husband and I live in South Asia where we run a small textile company. We produce pillows, tea towels, bath robes, and other home goods for wholesale and retail in the US. At first glance, pillow stuffing and cotton material might seem spiritually insignificant, but we’ve learned that God can be glorified in so many beautiful ways when we view our work as an act of worship and an opportunity to influence those around us for His name.  

When we opened our business in 2015, we started with the recognition that this work was sacred ground, deeply valued by God. So, we began by offering prayer for our business and for our employees, who were all from Hindu or Muslim families. Prayers offered turned into prayers answered, and soon Hindus and Muslims wanted to know more about the Jesus who was showing up in such amazing ways. This desire to know more opened the door for us to begin studying the Word twice a week with truth seeking employees. And searching the Word led to obedience to and new faith in the Word become flesh! Just this week, one of our believing employees from a Hindu family took her struggling neighbor to the house of another believing employee who is from a Muslim background so that they could pray for the neighbor in Jesus’ name together. This is the Kingdom of God at work! It starts as small as a mustard seed, just a simple recognition that the mundane moments of our lives are sacred and can bring God glory. And soon, it grows into a big tree where people can come enjoy shade and find rest in God (Mark 4:30-32).

For those of us looking to influence the world, I suggest we start right where we are, with the simple recognition that every moment is an opportunity to impact those around us for Jesus’ sake. What would it look like if we woke up every morning asking God to guide each day? What if, daily, we offered to pray for a customer, school friend, employee, or neighbor? What if we viewed parenting as the most incredible discipleship program that we could ever have the honor of leading? What if we thought about how our work could become less about personal profit and more about Kingdom generosity? What if we invited the people we see on a regular basis to search God’s Word with us over a cup of coffee? To make a Kingdom influence, all we need is a mustard seed! What small steps can you take this week to impact those around you?

Connecting:

If you’d like to follow our business on social media, you can catch us on FB at facebook.com/Ziyada.bemore/ and on Instagram @ziyada_bemore. You can also support our artisans in their journey towards economic and spiritual freedom by shopping at www.Ziyada.org. If you’d like to receive monthly updates from us personally, we’d love to add you to our email list. Just send your email address to kori.covington@gmail.com!

Because of increasing hostility towards followers of Jesus where we live, we can’t have our names associate with mission work online.” Please pray for this missionary couple as they follow their calling to go out into the world and preach the gospel.