Lifting My Eyes To The Hills

My recent reflections have been over Pastor Brad’s past sermons on the attributes of God:  God is love, God is good, God is our provider, God is faithful, and God can be trusted. Our life group question following these sermons was, “So, if God is good, why did he allow [fill in the blank]?” This has caused me to think about “mountain top” vs. “valley” experiences. What a joy to be on a mountain high! On top of the mountain, the air is fresh and invigorating. Looking back down at that valley, you recall a difficult path, an environment full of stress, pain, and insecurity. But now, having arrived to the top, you rejoice in God, for He guided your steps. 

Andy Andrews, Christian author of The Noticer, writes, “Everybody wants to be on the mountaintop, but if you’ll remember, mountaintops are rocky and cold. There is no growth on the top of a mountain. Sure, the view is great, but what’s a view for? A view just gives us a glimpse of our next destination – our next target. But to hit that target, we must come off the mountain, go through the valley, and begin to climb the next slope. It is in the valley that we slog through the lush grass and rich soil, learning and becoming what enables us to summit life’s next peak.” 

Together we journey this valley of “coronavirus insecurity” and individually we have other valleys we travel (health, financial, family, etc.). We all desire to get to the mountaintop. No one is excluded in these unsettling walks. Even as I share this blog, the enemy searches my walls for vulnerable places where I am unarmed. It is crucial for me to carry the shield of faith, fortify my walls with the armor of God by wearing His breastplate and helmet, carry the sword of the spirit (the Word), and pray always (Ephesians 6). 

God’s love, goodness, provision, and faithfulness are seen when our eyes are fixed on Jesus. As the body of Christ, God will lead us in an excellent way to serve our Christian family and community (1 Cor. 12:27; 31).   Look around and see God at work in His people; you don’t have to look too far. It might be a life group member offering services to help, an encouraging text or call, a shoulder to lean on, or knowing with confidence you are being lifted in prayer to the Almighty.

In this valley faith grows and the fruit of the Spirit is manifested through God’s people.   

Stop, look, and listen. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The Spirit is at work; His fruit is bountiful (Galatians 5:22-23). I encourage you to share what God is doing during this walk of your life: what has He taught you, how is He directing your path, how is your faith growing, and how is He using you to further His Kingdom? Encourage and pray for one another as we walk through this valley, keeping our eyes on the hills from where our help comes. 

Psalm 121  

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help?  

My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.  

He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.  

Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.  

The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand.  

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.  

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.  

The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in   

From this time forth, and even forevermore.

We would like to thank Darla Newland for writing this blog!

All Things New

How could we have known just a few days ago that toilet paper would turn into gold and that every one of us would face drastic changes in our everyday lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Until this week, it was impossible to imagine a nation with schools and church buildings shut down. Our calendars were full of plans, we had tickets to sporting events, daily routines, family birthday parties, work meetings, standardized tests to prepare for, and plenty of supplies in our hospitals. We didn’t know what “social distancing” was or that just going about our daily lives could spread a virus that could be anything from slightly annoying to deadly. But over the last 2 weeks, we’ve seen our leaders make excruciatingly difficult decisions to save lives at the expense of our freedom and undoubtedly, our economy, for awhile. I think we all realize now that this is no joke.

So the other day, as I spent a few moments quieting my heart with God, He dropped these words from scripture into my heart.

“Look, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5 NLT).

Or another translation says,

“Consider this! I am making everything to be new and fresh” (Revelation 21:5 TPT).

Jesus is saying here that when he returns, everything will be restored completely and there will be no more death, pain, or tears. But we aren’t meant to sit here talking about end times and wishing and wanting and waiting and sheltering in place until Jesus comes. God has always been in the business of making things new and restoring things that have gone wrong. We are called a “new creation” and we get to join with God in bringing His Kingdom—His restoration—to Earth.

Jesus taught His disciples to pray:

“Let your kingdom come, let your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

He is working in us and through us to bring His Kingdom to Earth. Here are some of the “new” things I have seen God doing among us the last 2 weeks:

– In a culture that has worshipped youth and disregarded the elderly, we are protecting the vulnerable by altering our daily lives to limit exposure to those who are most at risk.

– In neighborhoods where we have tended to isolate, we are reaching out to serve our neighbors, realizing that at times like these, we need each other.

– In a society that has been mistrusting and dishonoring of our leaders, we are submitting to those in authority and following their recommendations.  

– In an entitled generation, we are recognizing that our food and supplies are not to be taken for granted; they are provision from God.

– In our fast paced, exhausted way of life, we are finally being made to slow down, stay home and spend time with our families and children.

– We are uniting as Americans in a way that seemed impossible 3 weeks ago.

– We are seeing creative acts of kindness all over the place. I’ve heard of people picking up meals from local restaurants and delivering them to medical personnel who are on the front lines. They are supporting both our local business owners and our healthcare workers. Numerous people are sewing masks in their homes to help with the shortage.

And my favorite one is this: the gathering restrictions have forced the “church” outside its four walls and into our homes. Instead of the church being shut down, there is a new unity and zeal that the American church hasn’t seen in decades. This is bringing Christ and worship back into our homes, while also boosting exposure of His kingdom by utilizing social media to reach those who don’t know Him. As in the early church, we are being dispersed into the world where we can actually be the light!

Jesus is making all things new.

“And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’ And then he said to me, ‘Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.’ And he also said, ‘It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children’” (Revelation 21:5-7).

There are moments when I feel anxiety creeping in, but I choose to believe God’s word and hold to these promises. I hope you will too, but if anxiety becomes a way of life, or if you are in need of any help or support, please reach out to our pastoral staff. We are here for each other and are ready to help in whatever ways we can. We will get through this together!

Let’s encourage each other with this—what new things do you see God doing through this crisis? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

We would like to thank Jill Moudy for writing this post!

Trusting God With Our Business

Editor’s Note: During the month of March, we will be focusing on setting boundaries in different areas of our lives. It’s our prayer that the posts we share this month will inspire you to set healthy boundaries that will help you live the abundant, blessed life that scripture promises, which glorifies the Lord and points those around us to Jesus. 

Have you ever thought you were unworthy? Not smart enough? Not good enough? We’ve likely all had these thoughts before. God created women to be strong, tough, loving, faithful, fragile, bold, courageous risk-takers. And our God tells us WE ARE worthy!

There are some very worthy and strong women in the Bible. Lydia is the epitome of a strong woman. She held church meetings in her home and was a hospitable “God-Worshiper” who spread the Gospel. You can read Lydia’s story in Acts 16. What about the Proverbs 31 woman? She was a hard worker who provided for the needs of others. She was a strong, capable woman who was an investor and entrepreneur who ministered to those around her. God created women to be strong, hard workers, leaders, and He also created them to love and care for their husband and children.  

I was a stay at home mom when my kids were little. As they got older and I had more free time, I decided to enter the work force. My high school dream was to be an attorney, but I never made it to college. I was the owner/editor of the Kress Chronicle for about a year and then opened a manufactured homes dealership. Both ventures were a challenge but very rewarding. God was revealing my passions through those ventures and I eventually found my true calling: selling real estate. 

At this point in our farming operation, we were running out of water, needed new equipment, more land, and our boys had gone off to college, so our “work force” had left the building. After 3 years of successfully selling real estate, Johnny told me if I acquired my broker’s license, he would get his sales agent license and we would open our own office. I thought he was crazy! But after much prayer, we took the plunge. We sold our farm and equipment, and we opened Street Real Estate in 2005. I think most people thought we had lost our minds, and after the first year, I was kind of thinking the same thing! We went from taking a risk in farming to taking a risk in real estate. 

Taking a risk takes trust and courage. We trusted that God would take care of us. The first year was full of stress, hard work, and lots of prayers. Over the years I have learned a lot of things, but the most important is to trust God. You must be willing to work hard and take a risk. 

God will provide us with what we need so we can do what He calls us to do. 

I have confidence that He has placed me exactly where I need to be. Our business has grown beyond our wildest expectations, and we give God all the glory!

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17

I have always made it clear that God is my leader. I put a Bible verse on my business cards, on all of our advertising, on my emails, and on our website. It is a great way to open conversation about God and what He has done for me, my family, and my business. It also makes people feel comfortable talking about their faith when they know I will give my support. I’ve learned in the business world not to be afraid to take a risk because fear is not creative. 

As a business owner, it’s my responsibility to create a culture of integrity. All employers and business owners need to remember that your employees and clients are always watching and listening. While integrity is important, we have to keep perspective and remember who we’re really working for. 2 Corinthians 13:8 says, “Don’t try to impress other people – only God!” God has given each of us gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-11). We need to seek out our God-given gifts, find the gifts of those with whom we work, and create an empowering environment that allows us to use those gifts. 

Here are a few other tips I’ve learned about being a business owner and working with people: 

  • Pray always and about everything.
  • Be who you are and follow your heart.
  • Have a positive attitude – it’s a daily choice. 
  • Quickly recover from set-backs; remember, today I will begin again.
  • Admit when you are wrong. 
  • Don’t ask someone to do something that you are not willing to do yourself. 
  • Choose Joy. Have fun. Learn to walk in the present power of God and enjoy your kingdom of heaven on earth (Habakkuk 3:18). 
  • Be content with what you have. “Stuff” doesn’t satisfy your soul – only Jesus can do that. 
  • Be involved in your church and your community; give back what has been given to you.
  • Love your people. The love of Jesus will show through you and people can see it. Love your clients, employees, vendors, delivery people – show them all Jesus’ love (1 Corinthians 13:13). 
  • Last, but certainly not least, remember to tithe. Johnny & I made a commitment many years ago to tithe. God has been faithful to us and we love to give back to Him; it’s His anyway!

Remember that you are a worthy and strong woman! Be Lydia. Be the Proverbs 31 woman. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your business ways, submit to Him, and He will make your path straight. Lead in your circle of influence and do it well!

We would like to thank Kim Street for writing this post!

Setting Boundaries With Your Time

Editor’s Note: During the month of March, we will be focusing on setting boundaries in different areas of our lives. It’s our prayer that the posts we share this month will inspire you to set healthy boundaries that will help you live the abundant, blessed life that scripture promises, which glorifies the Lord and points those around us to Jesus. 

Time. It seems there is just never enough of it. Not enough hours in the day to do all I need to do, much less all I want to do. But God has been teaching me how to number my days that I might gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12) and to redeem—or make the most of—my time (Ephesians 5:16). He is showing me that my time should be spent on things of eternal significance. What does that mean? For me, it has meant three things.

First, I made a list of priorities, then took that list to God and allowed him to re-prioritize as needed so that he is the one establishing my steps (Proverbs 16:9). Our lists will be different depending on the season we are in, but God desires for all of us to commit each day to the pursuit of honoring and glorifying him. In each moment and season, it is our opportunity and responsibility to show Christ and make him known, but all too often I have allowed opportunities to slip right by because something insignificant was consuming my time. 

Second, I had to set personal boundaries to guard and protect those priorities. Like priorities, personal boundaries are just that—personal. No one but God can truly help you set them, but doing so will be for your good and his glory. The Oxford English Dictionary describes boundaries as “lines that mark the limits of an area, a dividing line.” When it comes to my time, I have learned that I must set dividing lines and limits to keep my heart, soul, and spirit healthy and my life fruitful. Setting boundaries includes learning to say no. As a recovering people-pleaser and yes-girl, saying no has been the hardest part for me. But, as John C. Maxwell said, you must “learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best.

Not too long ago, I found myself once again saying yes to too many good things. Fear of letting others down and, worse yet, fear of what others might think about me if I said no caused me to step out of bounds, which led to bitterness and resentment. God, in his infinite grace, helped me through it all and I actually found joy at the end, but the journey there wasn’t pretty. On another recent occasion, I found myself saying no to a really good thing in order to stay true to my priorities. Great peace washed over me as I said no, but guilt, regret, and envy tried to take over later as I listened to others tell of the time they had.

Saying no is a choice and it is not always easy but God hears and sees.

When the desire of my heart is seeking and honoring him above all else, he rewards me with inner peace and joy that can never be robbed by my negative emotions.

Finally, I had to learn the importance of Sabbath rest. Honoring the Sabbath is the only one of the Ten Commandments we believe is optional. It’s not. God intends for us to set aside time each week to rest and be with him. It’s how he refreshes, renews and sustains us as we pursue all he designed us to accomplish. Sabbath is a gift from God and he expects us to honor it. 

Setting and staying within boundaries takes effort and intentionality. But I have found that when I do, I have more than enough time for all God desires for me to do. The result is a peaceful, joyful, fruitful life that glorifies God!

References:

Cloud, Dr. Henry and Dr. John Townsend. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take control of Your Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.

Morris, Robert. Take the Day Off: Receiving God’s Gift of Rest. New York: FaithWords, 2019.

We would like to thank Melissa Hooks for writing this post!

Drunkenness Vs. Sobriety

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

I have never met a person who doesn’t struggle with meeting his or her needs outside of Christ at some point and in some fashion. It is a battle we all face:  flesh vs. Spirit or life vs. death. 

We find ourselves feeling insecure, so we eat another cookie. 

We are struggling at work, so we spend more time on social media. 

We’ve been listening to negative self-talk, so we criticize and lash out at the ones we love the most. 

We feel stressed by the dishes in the sink, the toddler at our ankle or family dynamics that are less than perfect, so we reach for a glass of wine.

These ways of ‘coping’ are often the small foxes that keep us from living the abundant life Christ has promised us.

Many years ago, the Lord showed me a passage in the book of Proverbs that has stuck with me.

Proverbs 23:29-35

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights, and your mind will imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?”

So, let’s consider alcohol, and how often, in the flesh, we use it to meet our needs, or help us cope. My question to you is this:  Have you embraced the lie that alcohol will help…

You fill in the blank. 

Society has lulled us to sleep on this issue. They have called us “legalistic” for speaking up against the lies about alcohol. They have told us the Bible says not to be “drunk” with wine, not that we can’t “drink” wine. But I would say, I’d rather live a life that relies on the Spirit to meet my needs and comfort my pain, than believe the lie that alcohol is somehow able to do that.

I’ve lost count of how many families I know who have been destroyed by the effects of alcohol. How many church leaders have walked away from the faith and brought pain to the body of Christ because of alcohol.  How many teenagers have found themselves in compromising situations because of alcohol, their innocence stolen from them. How many husbands, or wives, have walked away from their families because of alcohol. 23 years in ministry puts you smack dab in the middle of people’s pain. And each time a person has been effected by the devastation of alcohol he/she will tell you, “In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.”

I’ve loved our recent blog series on walking in the flesh vs the Spirit. It has reminded me that we all struggle, but there is a real God who lives within each surrendered Christian heart, empowering him or her to deny the flesh.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

2 Corinthians 3:17

It is the Spirit that sets us free from the flesh.

It is the Spirit that empowers us to live in victory so that we are not attempting to meet our own needs, but leaning into Christ to have those needs met.

This reality is liberating. When we stop and realize we are living in a way that brings pain to ourselves and others we can repent, turning from our sin, and instead begin walking in the freedom Christ has for us. I would much rather be honest with my emotions, face my pain, and allow the Holy Spirit to bring me freedom, than live in the cycle of hurt that alcohol brings. 

I want to challenge you today. If you struggle with turning to alcohol to meet your needs, be brave and reach out to me. I want to help you find true healing that comes from a living God who knows you intimately and is always ready to meet your needs. 

With all my love, Julie Snellgrove

Chaos Vs. Peace

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit” (3 John 1:2, NLT).

There’s no doubt about it: our physical health and our spiritual health are connected. But when you start bringing up the topic of mental health, most people tend to get squirmy. There is so much stigma around “mental health issues.” But what is it, exactly? And how does taking care of our mental health tie into our role as Christians?

Mental health is simply a broad term for how the chemicals in our brain are affecting our emotions. Those emotions, in turn, will affect the way we react to (and interact with) the world around us.

God has created our brains to work together with our bodies in amazing ways. But because we live in a world that’s not perfect, sometimes people have an imbalance of the needed chemicals in their brain. This might cause them to struggle more than others with depression, anxiety, loneliness, etc.

If you struggle in these areas, does that make you a bad person? No. Does that make you a broken person? No. Does that make you less of a Christian? No.

I love how Romans 7:24 through chapter 8, verse 2 puts it:

“Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

Jesus was in a human body just like we are. He knows the struggles we face.

My friend, let me assure you of this: It is okay to ask for help. There is no shame in taking pills if you need them. Sometimes we need the medications to get our brains on track (putting the chemicals back into balance) before we can make other good choices for our lives. There is no shame in seeing a counselor if you need to. There is no shame in taking care of your mental health, just like you take care of your physical health. The Holy Spirit has freed you of that shame because of what Jesus did! He has broken the power of shame and sin over your life. You can walk in the abundant life He has called you to.

Some simple tips for taking care of your mental health may seem obvious. But so often, these are the first things to go in our own personal lives:

– Getting enough sleep

– Getting enough sunshine/vitamin D

– Surrounding yourself with life-giving friends

– Staying hydrated

– Eating healthy foods

– Keeping active

– Taking time to do things you enjoy

– Going to the doctor: Check vitamin and mineral levels; Check hormone levels; Get on needed medications

– Going to a professional counselor 

You have the responsibility to take care of your body, mind, and spirit. As Mary Oliver has famously written: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Be courageous and take care of your body, so that you are able to do all the wonderful things God has put in front of you to do (Ephesians 2:10; Hebrews 13:21). You are worth it.

Because we live in a world that’s not perfect, we are all broken in some ways. But we don’t have to be defined or labeled by our brokenness. We are new creations (1 Cor. 5:17)!

God has chosen to work through people in building His Church, but people are imperfect. I’m sorry if people in the church have hurt you with their words or their actions. That is not okay. Please forgive me on their behalf for how you have been treated. 

Please know that you have a valuable role in the Church. You have a place here. There is a space only you can fill. All of your story–including your mental health–matters. Don’t hold back because of your struggles. Get the help you need. Be brave and ask for help. And then offer your gifts, your personality, and your heart to those around you. We need YOU.

We would like to thank Heather Dillard for writing this post!

Rude Vs. Kind

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

This morning I’m writing to you from my kitchen table. Even though I’m home today with a little man battling allergies, I’m filled with bone-deep peace. I wish I were a prolific writer, so I could fully describe the early morning beauty outside my window. The sun is weaving through the trees, and y’all, the breeze blowing through my window just speaks of fall. Can I get a collective pumpkin spice latte toast to this changing of season?

The challenge before me today is to write to you, my friend, about flesh vs. spirit in the context of rudeness vs. kindness. I know that the telling of a story is one of the most effective ways to communicate one’s heart. So, on this quiet fall morning, I’m tugging my mind back to a time when my life wasn’t as peaceful as it is today.

Let me set the stage for you. Seven years ago, give or take a few months, I had four children in the home. They were 16, 14, 10, and 2. The older three were all in some form of athletics on top of their demanding school schedules. I was at Wolfforth Methodist in full-time children’s ministry with my fingers dipped into several outreach ministries to keep my heart busy. I was stretched. I was alone. The father of my children was deep in a battle with alcoholism and was losing ground every day. I was hanging on by a fraying thread. 

I am an outspoken advocate for setting your children up for success, but this one Tuesday afternoon I had to make a quick trip to Target for dinner supplies in between work and picking up the older three from three different schools. I had to take my oh-so-exhausted-from-the-day two-year-old with me. It was a recipe straight out of the tattered “How to Raise your Children Better Than Your Parent’s Raised You” handbook. (Not a real book, but you know what I’m talking about, right?)

Disaster it was. He screamed throughout the entire store. Amid the frustrated looks from my fellow shoppers, there was one who stood out. She was on the journey with me. Through every isle and every turn, she was right there. Right there with me with the looks and the sighs and “the I can’t believe you brought your child into the store” frown upon her face. I couldn’t shake her. I bobbed. I weaved. I lingered. She was determined to travel with me. 

Finally, the checkout radiated before me, not unlike my vision of the pearly gates. I handed my little man a hundred-dollar bill to pay the weary cashier, and he wouldn’t let it go. What was I thinking?! He held onto that $100 bill with the same mighty grip he’d use on my red Sonic straw. You know the grip. I looked around to apologize for the wait, and who would be behind me in line? You guessed it! We made eye contact just as she threw her hands in the air and yelled (yes yelled) to all the surrounding shoppers, “Do you see this?! Do you see this?!” It was the final sword piercing my side. I was done. I was defeated. My thread was no longer frayed…it was worn completely in two. I remember climbing in my car that day with thoughts that could only be born of the enemy. I was a failure. I was not enough. I was a burden. I was done.

On this fall morning, I Iook back and wonder what if my fellow Target journeyman would have shown kindness in place of her exasperation…her rudeness? What if she had laid her hand on my shoulder and said, “it’ll be alright. This is just a season.” Would I have been encouraged? Refreshed? Through my story, my heart hopes for you to remember we don’t know the journey that others are traveling. The truth and the life challenge are that we are called to love one another…no matter what. We ALL have the capacity to be kind. It is written in our very DNA. God would not call us to love without equipping us to do so. Loving others is a choice. Rudeness is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Within you is the ability to bring a smile to the weariest of travelers. Challenge yourself to do so. Challenge yourself to live out the blessing of love and kindness. It carries the power to change lives, including your own!

We would like to thank Amy Davey for writing this blog post!